I feel sick. I’m not just saying that. I feel really, really sick. It would be nice to think that the horror show unfolding on our screens was a sophisticated piece of performance art, some kind of elaborate joke. Ta-da! Just kidding! Nearly had you fooled there!
You didn’t really think we were going to do that, did you? No leader in the world would commit such a crazy, self-destructive, sadistic and senselessly cruel act of self-harm! The maddest Big Man leader in the maddest banana republic wouldn’t do it. Kim Jong-Un wouldn’t do it. Even Donald Trump wouldn’t do it. There are limits, for God’s sake. We’re a civilised country. We used to have an empire! Calm down, dear. Get a grip.
Here’s the terrible news. This is not performance art. This is happening. In our country. Now.
It feels like 100 years since Theresa May stood at a lectern outside No 10 and cried because she had failed. She cried because she had always wanted to be Prime Minister. She cried because she loved the job, even though she looked as though she hated it. She cried because she hadn’t managed to “deliver” something called Brexit, which she never wanted in the first place, and which no one had even heard of five years ago, but which has now split the country in half and wrecked businesses, friendships, marriages and jobs. She cried because she just wanted to “get it done” and other people had stopped her, and it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t her fault. She cried because someone else would now get the glory, and her job.
There was a time when every single Tory MP seemed to be queueing up to replace her. There were votes. There were media interviews. There was posturing and peacocking and pop-up chats on Twitter and Instagram from those wannabe PMs who had managed to work out what they were. And then there was a TV debate. A truly terrible TV debate. A short man called Rory was so excited to be in it that he ripped off his tie and nearly fell off his stool. A plump man called Boris was so annoyed to have to be there that he couldn’t be bothered to answer any of the questions. He was going to win anyway, so what was the point? He could have been curled up on his lover’s sofa, with a nice bottle of Shiraz, a paint box and some wine boxes ready to be made into buses.
He could have been curled up on his lover’s sofa, with a nice bottle of Shiraz, a paint box and some wine boxes ready to be made into buses
Nobody “won” the debate, but nobody needed to win the debate. This contest isn’t about argument, for God’s sake! A wax model with a blond wig could win it! But even the wax model would have to appear occasionally, and so would the plump blond man. His team decided that Gove was a threat. Gove, they agreed, would give Boris a run for his money. So they encouraged a few people to pass their votes on to somebody they thought wouldn’t.
On Thursday 20th June (which now feels 99 years ago) the news emerged that Jeremy Hunt had joined Boris Johnson in making it to the last two. Reason, perhaps, for both of them to have a nice evening relaxing with their partner or wife. Hunt may have done. Boris may have done. But by the early hours of Friday morning neighbours of Johnson and his lover, Carrie Symonds were so alarmed by the sound of shrieking and smashed crockery that they called the police.
Symonds was heard shouting “Get off me!” and “Get out of my flat!”. She was also heard shouting “You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.” Which certainly seemed to echo the views of the still quite large chunk of the British population that hasn’t yet shared Boris’s bed.
Boris’s team went into overdrive. Nothing to see here. Just a lovers’ tiff. We all have those rows, don’t we? Those ones where we trash our property, scream that our partners are violating us and our neighbours have to call the police. You don’t? Oh well, poor you. Perhaps you also give a straight answer when someone asks you how many children you have? You do? Boringsville. We’re the new Tories now. We’re wild!
Last Monday’s front pages were plastered with photos of Boris and Carrie looking “loved up”. Boris also looking a fair bit podgier than he does at the moment, and with significantly longer hair. When was the photo taken? Boris refused, 26 times on just one programme, to say. Andrew Mitchell, a former chief whip, told Emma Barnett on Newsnight that it was “a matter for the gutter press”. He wouldn’t say which member of the campaign team had authorised the release of the photo. He wouldn’t say when it was taken. And this is just a photo! Heaven help anyone who might, for example, want some tiny piece of detail about exactly how Boris plans to “deliver” Brexit in a way that doesn’t do catastrophic harm.
The past week would have been prime entertainment for anyone who lived on Mars. British Prime Ministerial candidates out-do each other in willy-waving! I’m tougher than you. No, I’m tougher than you! These wealthy, white public school boys have had a lovely time, strutting on stages, wandering around garden centres, sipping tea and eating cake as they tell elderly white Tory members about their plans to wreck the country. “I’ll take us out on 31stOctober do or die” said Boris happily. The next day he told them that the chances of a no deal Brexit were “one in a million”, but the next day he changed his mind.
Sure, it was a shame for the people whose jobs and businesses would be destroyed, but he would just look in them in the eye and tell them it was “necessary”
Hunt, too, is as the wind blows. A few days ago, he thought it would be idiotic to stick to an arbitrary deadline, if a few days or weeks could give us a better deal. Now he has decided that he will stop talking to the EU at the end of September and, if nothing is sorted, go for the full English, artery-wrecking, Union-wrecking Brexit. Sure, it was a shame for the people whose jobs and businesses would be destroyed, but he would just look in them in the eye and tell them it was “necessary” so that the world could see that British politicians did what “the people” wanted. You can’t make an omelette etc.
Except that the British people did not tell British politicians to leave the EU without a deal. They have never, ever, ever, ever, ever voted on any such proposition. The Leave campaign’s literature said that we would leave with a deal. “There will be three stages of creating a new UK-EU deal,” it said, “informal negotiations, formal negotiations, and implementation including both a new Treaty and domestic legal changes. There is no need to rush. We must take our time and get it right.”
It also said we’d have £350m a week to give to the NHS, and, no doubt, free champagne on tap to everyone and golden ponies to ride to work on, but let’s not resurrect painful memories, shall we?
Lots of commentators are writing soothing columns saying that Parliament won’t let us leave without a deal. Really? Show me the evidence. John Bercow has just ruled out an amendment that would have blocked the Government from spending money, in the event of a no deal Brexit, without Parliament’s consent. MPs love to say that they will block a no deal Brexit, but they have shown precious little sign of it so far.
Any Tory MP who decided to do it would be literally wrecking their career. You might think a few lost jobs is a small price to pay to save the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people. That, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be how most MPs see it. And anyway, they can’t just vote against no deal. To stop Brexit, you either have to revoke Article 50 or hold another referendum, with the option of Remain. And most MPs still won’t say they support either.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t decided what his Brexit policy should be
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t decided what his Brexit policy should be. More than three years after the referendum, he still can’t make up his mind. Many MPs, even Labour MPs, now think literally anything is better than a Corbyn government. It’s tempting to agree with them. Jeremy Corbyn is not fit for public office. Boris Johnson is not fit for public office. Both want Brexit. Boris wants a magic Brexit that saves the Tory party and turns him into Churchill. Corbyn wants a “Tory Brexit” that does as much harm as possible, so he can ride in on a white horse and turn us into Venezuela. We are between the devil and the deep blue sea. Actually, we’re between the devil and the devil.
There might be a vote of confidence. If enough people vote against the Government, there might be an election. God only knows who will win it, but there’s no sign that that would solve the problem. And the EU have had enough.
The EU think that after a few weeks of no deal chaos, we’ll be begging to negotiate. That might well be true. In the meantime, jobs will be lost, people with cancer will have failed to get the drugs they need and businesses will have gone down the pan.
We need a miracle now, folks. Not a unicorn, but a miracle. Fingers crossed. Do or die. Let’s all pray we don’t.