James Chapman, former chief of staff to Brexit secretary David Davis, plans to create a new political party in a desperate attempt to prevent the United Kingdom from leaving the European Union. The new party will be known as “the Democrats” and will probably adopt a centrist platform designed to draw in disenchanted members of the Conservative and Labour parties.
Over the past few days, Chapman’s has stepped up his criticisms of the Conservative government. In a statement yesterday, he castigated members of Parliament for failing to “stand up for the interests of their constituents.” “It’s time for all of those with consciences to put nation before country,” continues the statement, “and make sure we are Great Britain once again — not the Little Britain of Nigel Farage and Vladimir Putin’s wet dreams.”
That statement, strongly worded as it was, was mild compared with some of his recent tweets. He has been extremely critical of Davis, calling him “a sexist, lying, lazy incompetent boor.” He also accused him of bad behavior toward Labour MP Diane Abbott: “I was with DD when he leered over @hackneyabbott. He was drunk, bullying, and inappropriate.”
The prospects for a new party, even if it functions only as a temporary, grassroots Brexit-opposition movement, are unclear. In June, YouGov found that 70 percent of Brits think the government should move forward with Brexit, but they disagree on whether to pursue a hard break with the EU or a so-called soft Brexit. According to the BBC, the latter “could involve keeping close ties with the EU, possibly through some form of membership of the European Union single market, in return for a degree of free movement.”
Chapman’s Democrats might be able to pressure the Conservative government to make concessions that permit a continued close relationship with the EU. It is unlikely, however, that this new party will stop Brexit from occurring in some form.
On the other hand, Chapman’s comments about David Davis could affect who becomes the next prime minister, especially if Theresa May steps down before the next general election.
The Independent reported this week that “almost half of the public believes the Prime Minister should quit before the next scheduled general election in 2022, as dissatisfaction with her leadership remains high.” Only 29 percent of Brits want her to remain prime minister through the next election. Working in May’s favor is the fact that none of her probable successors have high poll numbers. The BMG poll cited by The Independent found that 28 percent of those surveyed didn’t know which conservative would be the best successor, and another 28 percent didn’t think any of the options were particularly attractive. Boris Johnson received the most support (16 percent), followed by Jacob Rees-Mogg, Ruth Davidson, David Davis, and Philip Hammond each hovering around 5 percent.
Davis is certainly in the mix to succeed May should she step down, and other polls have shown him with higher levels of support. One survey showed that he has about 20 percent support, while Johnson has 10 percent. Interestingly, Rees-Mogg was left out of this survey, yet still gathered around 12 percent support from people who wrote him in to the Other category.
‘A new party to be called the “Democrats” whose aim is to overturn democracy? Humpty Dumpty would approve.’ — Jacob Rees-Mogg
Rees-Mogg, who has developed quite a cult following this summer, could stand to benefit from Chapman’s denunciations of Davis. In addition to damaging Davis’s image, they have provided an opening for Rees-Mogg to hone his pro-Brexit credentials. Last week, he tweeted against Chapman’s anti-Brexit party: “A new party to be called the ‘Democrats’ whose aim is to overturn democracy? Humpty Dumpty would approve.”
During a BBC radio segment with Chapman, Rees-Mogg continued this line of criticism, saying, “I think most people in the high levels of the party and across the Conservative party and the nation have accepted the democratic result of the referendum a year ago.” He also suggested that Chapman should change the name of his party to “The Oligarchs.”
It remains to be seen whether Rees-Mogg will throw his hat in the ring, but Chapman’s vigorous tweeting certainly doesn’t help Davis’s chances and could open the door to a dark horse. As for Chapman’s hopes of stopping Brexit, he’ll probably be disappointed. It would be ironic, in fact, if Chapman ended up hurting Davis’s image to the point of propelling Rees-Mogg, one of the most ardent supporters of Brexit, to 10 Downing St.