Why did Sam Gyimah quit his government job? A moderate remainer, a pragmatic politician, and a driven minister – that is, until last Friday. He decided that he couldn’t stomach the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal anymore, even though – he tells us – he has never tried to make his career about Brexit. How many other Tory rebels are like him, and is the Prime Minister really listening to their concerns? On the other hand, do rebels like Sam Gyimah know what they are unleashing if they vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal next Tuesday? James Forsyth writes in this week’s cover piece that voting it down is sailing the country into entirely uncharted territories. James and Sam both join Lara Prendergast on this week’s Spectator Podcast. It’s a sobering listen – the gist is that no one quite knows what’s going on, and the future on Brexit isn’t necessarily brighter. But knowing all that isn’t enough to dissuade passionate MPs who conscientiously object to her deal. Sam now believes that the only way to break the deadlock is to hold a second referendum:
‘The situation in parliament is that there is a blocking minority for every option available. Brexit is an issue that crosses party lines. So I think that the need to have another referendum in order to resolve deadlock is increasingly likely.’
It might be difficult to imagine, but Europe is hardly talking about Brexit at all. France is buckling down for another weekend of violent rioting by the gilet jaunes – the Yellow Vest protestors (the major tourist sites are to remain closed tomorrow, for fear of rioting). When I dialled up Sophie Pedder, Macron’s biographer and The Economist’s Paris Bureau Chief, she said, ‘I can’t believe you’re not all talking about Paris’. Indeed, Gavin Mortimer, The Spectator’s man in France, reports that he has never seen anything like it. On the one hand, the riots are a level of violence that Brits can barely picture, yet the protestors have widespread mainstream support. They were initially incensed by Macron’s fuel price hikes, but with no leaders and no easy demands, the gilet jaunes has now morphed into a movement of anti-Establishment, anti-inequality anger. Sophie said:
‘En Marche was all about listening, about campaigning on the ground. That was part of its identity. But Macron seems to have lost that while he’s been President, and he needs to show that he is listening.’
And last, Lara also talks to Harry Mount and Cosmo Landesman, two of our favourite contributors. Harry writes in this week’s issue that Brits are forgetting the value of modesty – young and old, man and woman, we’re turning into a nation of braggarts. That humility which so attracted Cosmo’s parents to the Britain of the 60s is now gone, partly because of social media, and partly because of Thatcherism (Cosmo’s theory). And in the end, journalists may be some of the worst show-offs around. Do give this episode a listen.