Two and a half weeks ago, a man in a T-shirt told a group of special advisers that their job was to make sure Britain leaves the EU on 31st October “by any means necessary”. The phrase was first used by Jean-Paul Sartre in his play Dirty Hands. It was repeated by Malcolm X in a speech in 1965. “Any means necessary” means – well, any means necessary. It doesn’t exclude violence. It doesn’t exclude lies. It doesn’t exclude anything. “Any means necessary” means: just effing get it done and I couldn’t give a shit about the price.
The man in the T-shirt is called Dominic Cummings. He’s the guy who led the Leave campaign to victory, by ruthless use of data science, ads on Facebook and a campaign slogan, “Take Back Control”, which captured the imaginations of the British people and a coterie of billionaires.
Take Back Control? You’re telling me. Our new Prime Minister appears to have handed control of the entire country to a man who will rip up everything – the civil service, the constitution, representative democracy and oh, by the way, the “will of the British people” – to crash the United Kingdom out of the EU without a deal.
The British people, as I’ve said about a million times in the past three years and two months, never voted to leave the EU without a deal. The Leave campaign literature was clear that we wouldn’t leave until a deal was in place. “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.”
The Leave campaign literature was also full of lies. Turkey’s 76 million people “are joining the EU”, said the Facebook ads. Nope, we have a veto and they weren’t. EU immigration “is crippling the NHS” said another. Actually, you’re more likely to be treated by an EU migrant than queueing behind one. Seven per cent of NHS nurses and 10 per cent of NHS doctors are from the NHS. Or were. They don’t feel welcome and are flooding home to countries whose currency isn’t collapsing. And then there’s the old favourite that the EU was “taking” £350m a week that could have been spent on the NHS. It wasn’t. But never let a fact get in the way of a good story.
It took heroic journalism by people like Carole Cadwalladr to expose the illegal activity: the fiddling the books, the incorrect reporting, the exceeding of spending limits. Leave.EU and UKIP have always denied that they used Cambridge Analytica to target voters during the Brexit ballot, but two weeks ago an ex-staffer from the data analytics firm told the head of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee that she “had strong reasons to believe” that the data scraped by Cambridge Analytica from millions of Facebook users without their consent was used by Leave.EU. The Leave campaign were using “any means necessary” long before it became official Government policy.
The Leave campaign were using “any means necessary” long before it became official Government policy.
No vote in British history has been as sacred as this one, in an “advisory” referendum, born from criminal activity and lies. Never mind that the British people were told that they were voting for a deal. Unless a miracle happens, they’re not going to get one.
The first thing our new Prime Minister did, when he walked through the doors of Downing Street, was install a new Government of “true believers”. I don’t want to be rude about anyone’s intelligence, because the size of our brains is not in our control. But what we do with them is, and it’s hard to think of a British cabinet that has chosen to use its brains in less constructive ways. The key criterion was clear: blind faith. Blind faith in Brexit, whatever that might mean, and blind faith in the new Prime Minister, who had promised to “deliver” it, “do or die”.
And so Penny Mordaunt, a true Brexiteer and a highly competent Defence Secretary, was the first to be sacked, because although she really did “believe” in Brexit, she had been careless enough to support Boris Johnson’s rival in the leadership race. In the new “do or die” regime, it’s one strike and you’re out. Turncoats, on the other hand, are welcome. Amber Rudd and Matt Hancock had always been clear that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster. But they didn’t mean it! Oh no. Cabinet job, you said? Where do I sign? Yup, blood is absolutely fine.
Cabinet job, you said? Where do I sign? Yup, blood is absolutely fine
Since then, the message has been clear and chilling. The new T-shirted Robespierre at No 10 runs a regime of iron discipline, which starts in the early hours and ends after midnight. The morning meeting is at 7.55am. The precision is meant to chill the blood. Special advisors have been told that any unhelpful leaking will lead to instant dismissal. Helpful leaking is fine, of course. Officially, there will not be an election. But of course there will be an election. If it isn’t triggered by a vote of no confidence, our PM will call it. But he will make damn sure that it is after we have crashed out of the EU.
It took just a day to realise that the new Government is essentially the Brexit party by another name. And every single policy announced in the last three weeks has been intended to steal their clothes. There is, for example, a strong link between support for capital punishment and support for Brexit. More than half of leave voters want to bring back the death penalty after Brexit, according to a YouGov survey.
And hey presto, we have a Home Secretary who has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty! Those comments, says Priti Patel, were “taken out of context”. The context, or one of the contexts, was a Question Time appearance in which she said that “I would actually support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent”. Which seems pretty damn clear to me.
In the past couple of weeks, she has said that she wants criminals to “feel terror”, that she wants tougher sentences for criminals, 20,000 more police officers on the streets and increased use of stop and search. Never mind that the new policing minister says that there will be huge “logistical challenges” in recruiting them and that a former government law officer has said that there aren’t enough lawyers to bring suspects to trial. Never mind that there is literally no evidence to suggest that increased stop and search works. These are not policies. They are slogans. They are hard-right electioneering headlines, designed to capture the votes of people who prefer slogans to research.
They are hard-right electioneering headlines, designed to capture the votes of people who prefer slogans to research
Our Prime Minister is not talking to the EU. He has decided that the backstop he supported in Government and voted for, the backstop which is the only logical outcome of the “red lines” that the British Government set out, is “anti-democratic” and has to go. He has instructed everyone to stick the words “anti-democratic” on to any mention of it. He wants a deal without a backstop. He wants a silver pony and trap to Mars. Perhaps the EU will decide at the last minute that it would like nothing more but to betray Ireland and the Good Friday agreement and indulge our new Narcissist in Chief. But it seems a bit unlikely.
And so, for the first time in modern history, we have a Government that is planning to wreak social and economic disaster on the United Kingdom for no apparent reason except the vanity of our new PM. And its tactics are working a treat. The new Tory/Brexit/Monster Raving Narcissist party is racing ahead in the polls. Support for the Tories has risen from just 13 per cent in June to 31 per cent, according to a new poll in The Sun. The Institute for Government has confirmed Dominic Cummings’ pronouncements that Parliament has run out of time to block a no-deal Brexit. But even if it hadn’t, the Labour party wouldn’t help. Jeremy Corbyn wants nothing more than the disaster of no deal to start his Venezuelan revolution. But he won’t get it. The mass job losses won’t kick in until Christmas and the new hard right Tories will have won their five-year term well before that.
There will be a recession. Of course there will be a recession. The pound has tanked and the Office for National Statistics last week reported the first fall in quarterly GDP for six and a half years. Food prices will go up. The poor will pay the biggest price. But who cares about the poor? Not Dominic Cummings. Not Dominic Raab. And certainly not the man who was getting £275000 a year for a weekly column at the Telegraph that took him 10 hours a month to write.
Yup, the turkeys voted for Christmas, seduced by a bunch of liars. And those liars, or what Sartre would call “dirty hands”, are now running our country.