A few weeks ago we all witnessed Donald Trump using the US army as part of a shameless political stunt as the mid-term elections loomed. He sent thousands of troops to border areas claiming they were there to prevent a marauding ‘caravan’ of migrants breaching the US border. Most people with more than the half dozen brain cells bouncing around under Trump’s orchestrated coiffeur knew what the game was. There was no imminent danger to the US, but flashing around some military might got some attention.
Little did I suspect we’d see the same transparently cynical actions in the UK, but it seems Theresa May is not above taking a few leaves out of Trump’s blotted copybook.
It’s already been made abundantly clear to her that her Brexit deal is about as popular as a razor wire enema with UK MPs, just as the EU27 have questioned which part of “Non” she doesn’t understand. Faced with the prospect of a thunderous defeat she knows she can’t avoid forever, she’s resorted to gunboat diplomacy, literally.
While a 10 year plan for the NHS has been put on hold just before another winter crisis, a further £2bn is being plucked from the magic money tree to further the Brexit fantasy. Plans are afoot to re-organise our most busy ports, and storage facilities are being hastily commandeered to allow food and essentials to be stockpiled as part of a post-apocalyptic scenario worthy of a scene from The Walking Dead. Elsewhere, memories of the Berlin airlift are stirred as private planes are chartered to bring in drugs and other urgent goods for when the borders and the skies are closed to us.
The no-deal cliff-edge, ruled out as an act of monumental self harm prior to the aborted ‘meaningful vote ‘ in Parliament, has now been resurrected, not out of pragmatism or common sense – both of which left these shores some months ago – but in an obvious and quite brazen attempt to rattle some sabres and cages.
The cover story of course is that our plucky ministers are swinging into action to head off the worst outcomes of us crashing out of the EU, but the obvious sub-text is that our dead duck PM really, really means it this time. It’s her deal or the abyss.
But it’s a pit of misery entirely of our own making. There is of course another alternative – that we cancel the whole stupid idea and direct the money, the resources and the time that has been wasted over the past two and a half years towards something more productive.
Brexit is a failed project. A busted flush. The fantasy has had a good run and now it’s over. The referendum asked one simple binary question and sidestepped all the consequences of a result no one expected to see. Ever since, a parade of deluded and deceitful politicians, media pundits and assorted hopefuls have lined up to spout insubstantial platitudes and write cheques with their mouths that the rest of us will be expected to cash.
In the past few weeks parliament has descended into a depth of farce beyond even the wildest imagining of the most creative political satirists. Important votes are cancelled on a whim, others are called for with little purpose other than the appearance of doing something, anything, except what really needs to be done. Both sides of the political divide are paralysed by their own inability to be honest with those in their ranks that support the dream of Brexit. To accept a reality they have wilfully ignored since 2016.
Both leaders have instead pointed to a distant light, telling us it’s the sunny up-lit hills of freedom and shouted down those who have spotted that in fact it’s actually the approaching headlights of a steamroller.
As this crisis unfolds, one would imagine that the House would sit fixated on the problems created by their own pointless bickering, intransigence and incompetence and move towards the only sensible solution that has presented itself. In the absence of any discernible backbone or moral fibre from our chosen leaders, a second vote, put to a populous now seemingly far more familiar with the implications of the various flavours of torment on offer would seem to be the only answer. Yet both leaders are hell-bent, quite literally, on avoiding this solitary face-saving escape route. Instead they’d rather play games with each other, practicing a staggering level of brinkmanship and bravado with all our futures.
The most consuming question of this week would seem to be the exact wording of a mouthed outburst of exasperation from Jeremy Corbyn after a particularly sustained tongue-lashing from Mrs May. Did he say “stupid woman” or “stupid people”? Perhaps it was “stupid wombat” in a humorous, but some might say apposite, reference to Michael Fabricant’s hairpiece.
I’m as opposed to misogyny as the next cisnormal male, and I agree that calling a woman in Theresa May’s position ‘stupid’ would be unacceptable, but when we’re faced with the potential of armed troops on the streets and planes falling out of the sky, I think MPs perhaps have more pressing matters to attend to. But apparently not! Instead they waste half a day of Parliamentary time bickering like schoolchildren over an alleged verbal faux pas, jumping to their feet to castigate and demand apologies, while others brought in lip readers to pronounce on the exact phrasing.
Presumably the next step will be to engage clairvoyants or perhaps insist on an MRI scanner to determine exactly what is running through any MP’s mind at any given point. Yes that may be a more boring and vacuous exercise than listening to David Beckham reading the telephone directory, but it passes the time doesn’t it? I mean it’s not as if Westminster has anything better to do. Not like there’s any sort of impending existential crisis on the horizon or anything like that.
If you get to be Prime Minister you’re hardly likely to be stupid. But I can think of many other epithets and adjectives that would have been more apposite in Theresa May’s case – reckless, incompetent, irresponsible, naive, ill-prepared, dishonest, pig-headed, blinkered, pompous, self-interested, disingenuous, uncaring, dismissive, ambitious, criminally dangerous or traitorous perhaps, but probably not stupid.
A few weeks ago I was prepared to give May the benefit of the doubt, that she was trying to achieve the best result she thought possible, at least within the limitations she’d set herself and in view of her own apparent doggedness (or pig-headedness depending on your perspective) to see Brexit through. But to now flirt openly with the idea of a no-deal as part of some last ditch negotiation ploy is beyond contempt. Not only is she pushing a potential outcome that would be devastating for the country, she’s also trying to bounce MPs into supporting a deal that she herself knows is worse than the one we have now.
As the clock runs down towards a second parliamentary vote, May is of course hoping that MPs will blink first and support her deal as the only option. A cynical manipulation of parliamentary politics that leaves a real chance that we could crash out in spite of our best endeavours and intentions. Running things this close to the wire is dangerous and unpredictable, especially in view of recent events.
Given the increasingly alarming preparations being made for a cliff-edge Brexit, the idea that we could all wake up at the end of March and find ourselves in a banana republic is no longer as outlandish as it seems. But I suppose those who advocate a no deal outcome would point to the fact that at least the bananas could now be bent, even if there won’t be any in the shops to buy.