Coward! Traitor! Lily-livered careerist! These are some of the nicer compliments being paid to Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Theresa Villiers, John Whittingdale, Priti Patel – and just about anyone suspected of being at heart a Cabinet Brexiteer – by some newspapers and many Eurosceptics. Why won’t they denounce David Cameron’s renegotiation as the failure and sham it is, eh? Why don’t they just RESIGN?
For better or worse, this isn’t my view. Being a Cabinet Minister offers chances to work for the county’s good and the party’s interest, and all the Ministers named above are doing good work: Javid in working to end the public sector closed shop, Gove in reforming prisons, Villiers at helping to keep Northern Ireland’s political institutions together, and so on – whatever they may or may not think of the Prime Minister’s draft EU deal.
So if any of them or any other Minister, in Cabinet or out, is unwilling to quit they have my sympathy. Furthermore, resignations would leave the Government even more firmly in the hands of Remain. However, that doesn’t mean that they simply have to go along with the draft deal or stay silent while the Prime Minister, on the one hand, pushes the putative In campaign and, on the other, pulls at their sleeves urging them to stay silent.
All any Minister who is dissatisfied with the agreement or wants to leave the EU anyway – or both – is to follow where Chris Grayling has already led. Which is exactly what Whittingdale has now done. By saying, when asked in an interview whether he would rule out backing Brexit: “I wouldn’t”, he has sent a very clear signal of intent in relation to the renegotiation and referendum – along the lines suggested before by this site.
By speaking in a similar way, others could follow. Oh, and a final thought for anyone weighing up doing so: the Prime Minister isn’t in much of a position to sack anyone who does so – at least, not without taking a bit of a risk with party unity, which he has already strained with his graceless reference to Associations. After all, Grayling’s still Leader of the House – and as happy as a dog with two tails, at least as far as I know. (It is tails, isn’t it?)