There have been many moments during the continuing Brexit debacle when I have wondered quite what the UK has come to. This piece by Robert Peston was another of those. In it he says that ministers in the UK Government are left trying to guess what government policy is on Brexit – they don’t know, and the PM is refusing to tell them. She’s off to Brussels today to put her government’s latest request to the EU leaders – but it seems that she’s the only member of her government who knows what she’s going to say. And I’m not entirely convinced that she knows either.
A cynic might suggest that that’s the only reason she’s not telling them – she doesn’t know herself – but I suspect that’s only part of the story. The balance in the Cabinet is such that, if she actually comes down in favour of anything, a number of them are likely to respond by resigning; in Schrodinger’s cabinet, the uneasy truce can hold only until someone opens the box. Dysfunctional as a description doesn’t do justice to the position in which we find ourselves; this is on a different scale completely.
How cabinet members square their consciences with the idea that they are bound by collective responsibility but haven’t a clue for what is an interesting if rather academic question. I suppose that the spoils and trappings of power help, but at least a few of them must surely be starting to wonder whether it isn’t time for a change. I’d be surprised if some of them at least weren’t starting to wish that the UK had a written constitution containing a properly thought-through 25th Amendment with a handy Section 4. Still, even without that, custom and practice shows that the Cabinet can remove a PM when they are left with no choice. That day is surely approaching.