Like a drunk with a kitchen knife. That was one response to the text sent to The Spectator last night. The person who sent the text likes to be known as “Downing Street”, or sometimes “No 10”. He likes to have a code name, like a James Bond villain. In fact, the text was very clearly sent by Britain’s unelected pantomime-villain-in-chief. He is, of course, called Dominic Cummings.
The political editor of The Spectator, James Forsyth, works with Mary Wakefield, the daughter of a baronet who happens to be Dominic Cummings’s wife. He has probably been to dinner parties at their £1.6m Islington town house, which has a “tapestry room” and a library.
This, by the way, is how the new anti-establishment establishment live. Until he finally pissed off his long-suffering, cancer-surviving wife Marina Wheeler, Boris Johnson was just down the road in a house worth £3.75m. Yes, it’s a little bit confusing that the new anti-establishment establishment live in Georgian houses, work in the media or in government and have, you know, money and power. But if you think it’s weird, you’d better wake up. The new anti-establishment establishment are now in charge and they’ll do literally anything to stay in power.
If you think that’s an exaggeration, then you just have to look at their words. “Any means necessary” was the phrase Dominic Cummings used in an early meeting with special advisors when the new regime came to power. And “any means necessary” is what they have been using. Lying. Breaking the law. Making threats. Planning, in fact, to trash the joint.
When the Supreme Court ruled, unanimously, that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom had acted unlawfully in proroguing Parliament, he announced airily that he “disagreed” with its judgement. When a Scottish court ruled, as it did yesterday, that there was no need for further action to ensure that he complied with the Benn Act (to seek an extension to Article 50 if there’s no deal in place) because Government lawyers had already given assurances that he would, “Downing Street” announced that it would “respect” the law and that we would “leave on 31st October”. One of these statements can’t be true, or at least it couldn’t in the old universe, where there was something called truth and something called a lie. In the new have-your-cake-and-eat-it anti-establishment establishment, you can say whatever you like.
In its text last night, “Downing Street” said “the negotiations will probably end this week”. So far, so obvious. There haven’t been any negotiations, because there wasn’t anything to negotiate. Boris Johnson promised to come up with an alternative to the backstop in 30 days, which he didn’t, and then cobbled together any old bollocks on the back of an envelope, so he could at least say that his “proposals” had been rejected by the EU.
His “proposals”, by the way, included not one border, but two. They included customs checks in Northern Ireland, which he had said would not be needed, because it would be possible to have everything he wanted – “frictionless trade”, leaving the customs union, no hard border, dancing golden unicorns – because, well, you know, because he’s Boris and he has always got what he wanted. Adoring wife and mistresses. Free “technology lessons” from a pole-dancing ex-model. A free pass, to everything, all the time.
The “proposals” were, of course, designed to fail, because Boris Johnson never wanted actual negotiations. He wanted the appearance of negotiations. The negotiations were, as “Downing Street” itself said some weeks ago, “a sham”.
This morning, a phone call with Angela Merkel essentially confirmed that the discussions were over. The “No 10 source” said she “made clear a deal is overwhelmingly unlikely” and that the UK “cannot leave without leaving Northern Ireland behind in a customs union and in full alignment forever”. As a number of commentators have pointed out, this is not the kind of language Merkel uses. The phone call has clearly been given that special No 10 spin. But of course a deal is “unlikely”. Johnson’s “proposals” threaten the Good Friday Agreement, peace in Northern Ireland and the integrity of the single market. So of course the EU couldn’t agree to them. Which was the plan.
So now we’re into the blame game, which is also part of the plan. Blame Merkel. Blame Varadkar. Blame Tusk. Blame the Supreme Court. Blame the legal system. Blame Parliament. Blame business. Blame anyone on the planet who doesn’t think a “pure”, “clean”, economy-wrecking, business-bankrupting, NHS-disrupting Brexit is an excellent idea.
And on the economy, by the way, it’s pretty clear. Today the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that even a “relatively benign” no-deal Brexit would push UK debt to its highest since the 1960s. Borrowing is likely to rise to £100bn and total debt will soar to 90% of national income. This is way beyond any damage Jeremy Corbyn could do to the economy, even if he nationalised everything. This is the kind of damage you see after a war. And our new anti-establishment establishment would like you to think it is a war. Even though it’s a war it’s waging on its own people.
That Cummings/Downing Street text doesn’t get any nicer. “If this deal dies in the next few days,” it says, “then it won’t be revived. To marginalise the Brexit Party, we will have to fight the election on the basis of ‘no more delays, get Brexit done immediately’.” Sorry if you got confused there. You’re right that the word “have” gives the impression that there isn’t a choice. The Tory party will “have” to “marginalise the Brexit Party”, apparently, because that’s what it will take to save Boris Johnson’s career.
And then the threats start. “We obviously won’t give any undertakings about cooperative behaviour.” Everything “to do with ‘duty of sincere cooperation’ will be in the toilet”. Nice touch there, from a Government. “In the toilet”. The “main effect”, says the text, “will probably be to help us win an election by uniting the leave vote and then a no deal Brexit”. History, it ends breezily, “is full of such ironies and tragedies”.
So there you have it. “Downing Street”, or Dominic Cummings, or Boris Johnson, or whoever the hell is writing the script for this bad mafia movie, knows it’s marching us to tragedy. And it doesn’t give a shit. It has yet to be seen if the British people fall for it, but the polls suggest they might.