Jo Johnson sees Theresa May backing a second referendum – and he’s not alone

Written by David Singleton on 29 November 2018 in Diary

It wouldn't be the first time the PM has changed her mind about a major democratic excercise.

New top Tory Remainer Jo Johnson was radiating optimism when he appeared on ITV’s Peston show on Wednesday evening.

Asked about whether Theresa May could stay on if there was a second referendum, the former transport minister said he could see another major volte-face coming from the prime minister:

"It’s quite possible that she could change her mind as she did on the question of whether or not there would be a snap election in 2017… 

"Government policy is government policy until it isn’t and at the moment government policy is that there shouldn’t be a further referendum. My expectation is that as and when the vote goes down the government will be looking for a way out of this mess."




As things stand, this is not exactly conventional wisdom in Westminster.  But it comes as John McDonnell has said that a second EU referendum will become “inevitable” if May loses the crunch Commons vote on her Brexit deal and refuses to call a general election.

And one of the best-connected Tory commentators in the country is now not ruling it out either.

The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth has written about what May can possibly do get her deal to pass through the Commons. In a similar vein to Johnson, he suggests that if MPs won’t get behind the deal then the PM could try to get the country behind it instead:

"There is one route that might work for her: a second referendum. If the Commons won’t back her deal, then maybe the country will. I know that the idea of May proposing a second referendum seems outlandish—and I’m not suggesting that Number 10 are currently keen on the idea. But given that she can’t pivot to Norway having defined the referendum as being about free movement and that she doesn’t want either no deal or Remain, then what other options does she have?” 

Could it really happen? Watch this space. Especially if the prime minister announces that she is going on a walking holiday over the Christmas break...




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