July preview – the heat is on May as Corbyn sweats it out on Brexit

Trouble brewing for May and Corbyn: Red Roar's guide to the month ahead in Westminster.

When, in fifty years time, the histories of the first quarter of this century are written, it is unlikely that Danny Dyer’s “mad riddle” outburst on Thursday night’s Good Evening Britain will feature heavily but if – and it’s a very big if – the Brexit process somehow goes into reverse this might well have been the moment it began.

Dyer is from London, and you can hardly get more metropolitan elite than working as a successful actor, but he’s also an unmistakably working class voice and, more significantly, he was a leave voter in 2016. His tearing into Brexit and its ultimate – if unwilling – author in David Cameron was authentic in a way that a thousand media appearances from Chuka Umunna could never be and lacked for nothing in brutality.

As in acting, in politics timing is everything. Friday’s Guardian said Dyer’s second and final “twat” has been compared with Samuel Beckett, but maybe the real comparison should be with another fabled resident of Paris – Napoleon’s “lucky general”. Dyer struck just as things are about to get very difficult for a lot of people. For we are about to enter July, the most dangerous and explosive month in any political year. Politicians are tired, bored and desperate. Tempers are short and – to be frank – drink is often taken. Forget the Ides of March, July is what any political leader should beware.

Here’s is Red Roar’s guide to what is likely to be one of the hottest and most politically combustible Julys in recent memory.

The Tories run out of road

Things might be bad in the Labour Party, but if you want to see real hatred, ask a Brexiteer Cabinet minister what they think of Theresa May.

It seems unlikely that the Cabinet at the end of June will emerge unchanged into August. But it is hard to see who will jump first – though at the time of writing Michael Gove seems the man most likely.

The reason is that Theresa May appears to have finally grasped that it doesn’t matter how good the recipe looks, nobody in the EU27 is interested in her cake baking. She now has six weeks to find something that the EU will want to buy – especially on the Irish border – or her claim that “no deal is better than a bad deal” will be tested in the real world and the inevitable catastrophe that would follow is likely to place her in poll position to win the contest no one wants to win; being named the worst PM since the War (other leading contenders David Cameron and Anthony Eden).

May’s problem is that her favoured option – a single market in goods – still isn’t acceptable to the 27 and so she’ll have to go even further (By doing what?). Meanwhile even the goods compromise is a step too far for Boris, Gove and Davies (though Liam Fox is said to be willing to accept anything so long as he keeps his job).

In the past May’s approach to these confrontations has been to kick the can down the road. But we’ve now run out of road.

Corbyn’s own Brexit riddle

As we revealed yesterday, Unite are set to join the other major unions in backing continued membership the single market. Unite’s hardening position is a sign of the strength of their executive council, and the weakness of McCluskey after his bruising reelection campaign last year.

On top of all that, it seems that Momentum and the left are increasingly agitated by Corbyn’s position of passivity in front of the Tories on Brexit. The size of last Saturday’s London “March for a People’s Vote” – and the hostility of much of the crowd to Corbyn – has left more than a few of them in shock: how can it be they are being outflanked as opponents of the Tories by the likes of Owen Smith and the “melts”?

More than that, the dawning realisation that Corbyn’s position on the Single Market essentially rests on pandering to anti-immigration feeling is causing moral disturbance. Keir Starmer’s most recent wheeze of saying he wanted a Single Market – just not this one – took in a few journalists but a lot of people on the left saw it as an exercise in triangulation.

This month will see important votes in Parliament on customs union and the EEA/Single Market and so Corbyn’s line will be tested yet again. Last time a majority of Labour backbenchers defied the whip on the EEA. The next vote is likely to be even more fraught for the whips office. Corbyn’s uneasy compromise on Brexit is already under strain from two directions – a substitute number of Momentum members want him to commit to a second referendum and a majority of members at Unite, which is slavish in its support for Corbyn, are said to feel the same.

It’s my party (or is it?)

Corbyn’s team have presented proposals to the trade union general secretaries’ “contact group” for party reform that would, in effect, turn the PLP into delegates who simply enact the will of their local GCs. The lazy assumption is that, with Corbyn now in full control of the party apparatus, the proposals will go to conference and get approved, this making the Corbyn revolution permanent.

But there is a reason we’ve had to wait three years to get this far – the unions don’t really buy it. They like the extended negotiating process of the national policy forum – after all negotiation is something unions do very well – and they can see right through Jon Lansman’s claims to want a “member led” party.

Whether the GMB and Unison will want to clash openly with Corbyn remains to be seen, but the deal is a long way from done.

July’s NEC meeting will be interesting. ‘Interesting’ in the sense as the Chinese curse, that is.

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