THE parallels are almost oppressive. Successive Tory leaders, from Margaret Thatcher to David Cameron, have experienced painful party rifts over Europe. The most telling was John Major’s battle in the 1990s with anti-EU Tory rebels over the Maastricht treaty, which set up the single currency. Now, as Theresa May fends off coup attempts from her own backbenchers, Tim Bale, a historian of the Conservative Party at Queen Mary University of London, detects a whiff of those days in the air. Indeed, many ardent Brexiteers cut their teeth causing trouble then.
The problems for Theresa May are a lot bigger, however. Brexit is a far riskier proposition than arguing over a treaty. The economy is in worse shape now, with sterling weak and growth forecasts being cut. Today’s far-left Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is a more disturbing alternative than his predecessors were. As Mrs May prepares for an EU summit next week, she might echo Mr Cameron’s one-time hope that the party would…Continue reading