Oh. My. God. The headline I have seen has just made me gasp out loud.
We are, of course, all used to surreally shocking headlines. Trump wants to buy Greenland. Bolsonaro turns down more than £16m of aid because he would rather see the “world’s lungs” burn. Our Government has told another porky pie. *Stretches*. *Yawns*. Time for another coffee. Almost time to start thinking about lunch.
But “Government to ask Queen to suspend Parliament”. Now that is a headline to make you choke on your gluten-free oats. Our unelected Prime Minister has just instructed his lackeys to announce that he will be asking the Queen to suspend Parliament from 9th September for five weeks. The intention is clear. MPs will then have almost no time to pass laws that could attempt to stop a no-deal Brexit. The Queen’s Speech would take place on 14th October. The country formerly known as the United Kingdom would leave the EU on 31st October, with or without a deal and probably without. When Boris Johnson talked about leaving “do or die”, he clearly meant it.
For the past three years, anyone who dared to mention the 1930s has been instantly slapped down. We are, apparently, being melodramatic. We should, of course, bear in mind “Godwin’s law”, the internet adage that asserts that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches”. Boris Johnson isn’t Hitler. Nor is Putin, nor is Orban and nor is Salvini.
But. But. But. The malign events that shape our history start as a slide. Somebody powerful tells a lie and isn’t challenged. They tell another lie. Soon, the lies are flowing so freely nobody bothers to challenge them anymore. Yes, they know some people will suffer because of those lies but what can you do about it? And if you tell a lie often enough, people start to believe it.
Since our unelected Prime Minister marched into No 10 on 24th July, the lies have become a torrent. One minute he tells us that the chances of a no-deal Brexit are “a million to one” and the next minute he says it’s “touch and go”. One minute he says we can “easily cope” with it and the next we see the papers he has commissioned which tell us that it will lead to serious shortages of fuel, medicines and food. Those papers, called, for some reason, Operation Yellowhammer, were leaked to the Sunday Times. The Government said it was “an old document” and a “worst case” scenario. It has since been confirmed that it was a “base case assessment”, and that “old” meant two weeks.
When the papers were leaked, the Government launched straight into the kind of deflection tactics well tried and tested by Trump. Instead of addressing people’s concerns that they might, for example, not be able to get their cancer scans (something, by the way, that some people have told me is already happening, because they “can’t get the isotopes”) it accused former ministers of leaking. It even pointed the finger at the former chancellor, Philip Hammond.
Those papers were not available to former ministers because they were, you know, new. “No 10 manifestly lied about this,” said an ally of Hammond, “to distract from the truth about no-deal: just as they’re lying about the true impact of an undemocratic no-deal.” Philip Hammond has since written to the Prime Minister to ask for an apology. Let me say that again. The person who was, until a few weeks ago, the second most powerful person in a Tory Government has written to a Tory Prime Minister to demand an apology for telling a lie. These are not normal times.
It isn’t normal to accuse MPs of “a terrible collaboration” as our Prime Minister did in a recent Facebook Q & A. He was talking about those MPs who wanted to block an event his own research has shown would cause the nation catastrophic harm. Johnson has written a biography of Churchill. He knows very well the historic associations of the word “collaborate”. That, of course, is why he used them.
Yesterday, a tweet from No 10 accused MPs of “plotting to cancel the votes of 17.4 million people”. As I have said about a million times, nobody voted for a no-deal Brexit, because it wasn’t even a thing. All the Leave literature said the UK wouldn’t leave the EU without a deal. They are not plotting to “cancel” anything. They are trying to make sure that Parliament, which, in a system of representative democracy represents the people, is allowed a voice in one of the most significant events this country has ever faced.
And now we see the response. Our new, unelected Prime Minister is determined to make sure Parliament does not have that voice. It may or may not be serious about getting some kind of a deal, if it can suddenly find an alternative to a backstop wedged down the back of a sofa. Good luck with that. If it can’t, and the general consensus now is that it’s extremely unlikely, it will force this country into a situation which, at the very least, will cause a recession. And it will make damn sure that Parliament can’t stop it.
When Dominic Raab raised the possibility of “proroguing” Parliament during the Tory party leadership contest, everyone thought he was a crazed fanatic. Now we have a cabinet stuffed full of them. And we have one running our country.
When Charles I prorogued Parliament for the second time in 1640, he blamed “some fewe cunning and ill affected men”. He has gone down in history as a tyrannical ruler who rode roughshod over Parliament, split the country and triggered a civil war. The scars endured for generations. Oh, and he was executed outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall. All those posh dinners, all that strutting and peacocking and all those flowery speeches, couldn’t save him. Let’s see how long this show of strength lasts.