So this might not be a bad moment to pour oil on troubled waters. One of the leitmotifs of this pro-Brexit site is that it has been principled and brave of pro-Leave Ministers, such as Priti Patel, to risk their careers by breaking from the Prime Minister over the EU referendum. And so it has been.
It is thus worth making the point that many pro-Remain MPs have also been brave and principled in their own way. Principled, because they have long-standing convictions about Britain’s place in the EU. And brave, because they have been sailing, some for a long time now, against the headwinds of Party opinion. Consider the following:
- Ken Clarke: He was dead wrong about the Euro – and is so, in this site’s view, about the EU issue more broadly. But he has been holding fast to the cause for the best part of 60 years, during which period he has also been a reforming Health Secretary – Clarke paved the way for the late Blair and Coalition reforms – and one of the most effective Chancellors in modern times.
- Nick Herbert: The legend seems to be abroad that the former Home Office Minister has switched sides. I can find no evidence for this: in my experience, he has always been pro-Remain. I suspect some have confused being anti-Euro with pro-Leave. He is taking to his role with Conservatives for Reform in Europe and ConservativesIn with relish.
- Ben Gummer: His father is one of the country’s enduring European romantics who, unlike most others of his generation, is growing older disgracefully on Twitter. The Health Minister is somewhat less combative and rather more careful, but has a solid background in the arguments. No-one could fairly accuse him of taking a view to further his career.
- Damian Green: He has plugged away at the European cause, in season and out, with intelligence and resourcefulness. If these were automatic qualifications for Cabinet membership he would be running a department.
- David Lidington: To the Europe Minister has fallen the task of coming to the Commons to explain the Government’s policy when his seniors have been, for one reason or another, unavailable. He has had to balance his pro-Remain views with dealing with maintaining aimiable relations with pro-Leave MPs, and has somehow managed to stay on his feet.
- James Cartlidge: I single Cartlidge out among the pro-Remain members of the 2015 intake not only because he is one of the relatively few members of it who have signed up to ConservativesIn – they are a small proportion of the whole – but because of the relish and gusto with which is making his case in the Commons.
There are others whose pro-Remain views are rather less well-established, but I will let these pass for the moment (and it is fair to say that they have their equivalents on the pro-Leave side of the argument).
With Ministerial promotions, constituency selections and a leadership election to come, tempers will fray, and maybe worse. Today, we offer a modest olive branch. Tomorrow, it’s back to business as usual.