So, what has happened in the inexorable soap opera since last time? A newly “confident”, “proactive” government led by Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, has been installed, on the strength of 92,153 largely elderly and right-wing voters (that’s less of a mandate than IDS or even Ken Clarke achieved in 2001!). Supposed “evil mastermind” – who really just came up with an obvious populist slogan and used data harvesters like Cambridge Analytica – Dominic Cummings, a non-Tory Party member, is apparently holed up in a bunker, able to sack Chancellor Sajid Javid’s advisers with immunity and not consulting Saj. All was going swimmingly according to the majority of the British Press; a claim that later unravelled, as it became clear Johnson had planned to prorogue Parliament since 16 August, and that his “negotiations” with the EU were a “sham”. In addition, he’d won support from more moderate Tories by writing a letter to them that specifically ruled out prorogation.
You see, exactly a week ago, on 28 August, Johnson claimed he was going to “prorogue” Parliament, a legal but irregular and badly spirited move to exert executive power to stop MPs debating, shaping or having any sort of say over a potential “No Deal” exit on 31 October. This move induced outrage from liberals, the left and the shrinking band of Burkean One Nation Tories.
On Monday, a dog was moved into 10 Downing Street. As in the days of the General Strike in 1926, the BBC closes ranks for the establishment. If anything, here, less subtly than Reith managed! This “journalism” is the sort of puff pastry indispensable to those in power and long has been, as satirised by the great Terence Rattigan in his TV play for the cross-European The Largest Theatre in the World strand, ‘Heart to Heart’ (BBC, 1962). The play contains a cat which is utilised by the ironically named, newly appointed government minister Sir Stanley Johnson (Ralph Richardson) for the purposes of deflection, when he is in trouble over corruption allegations in a live TV interview. Johnson, like another of that name, is a self-portrayed “family man” whose heartrending pet story does fool a lot of the people, on this particular occasion.
And so, to Tuesday, and, remarkable scenes: Brexit literally tearing the Tories apart. A chancer of a Prime Minister, found out, completely out of his depth: refusing to do the sensible EEA compromise and actively articulating a desire to send this country off a cliff-edge by running down the clock. He is beneath contempt, as is his oily, smug lieutenant Jacob Rees-Mogg, who apparently knows better about risks to medicine in the event of a “No Deal” Brexit than consultant neurologist David Nicholl.
The 1960s-born posh politicians really are a “class apart”. Cameron, Osborne, Gove, Johnson, and Rees-Mogg were all privately educated and went to Oxbridge, similar to their key, right-wing journalist backers like Allison Pearson, Toby Young and James Delingpole (while Pearson and Young went to Comprehensives, they have done nothing for the cause of equality in education since). Such privilege does not on its own explain these people and their destructive and arrogant acts and words, but is clearly one factor.
This 2011 exam paper shows what Etonians are being trained in: anti-democratic rhetoric to “win” control over a putative 2040 dystopia. Seems the Cameron-Johnson era is planned as at least a forty years project:
Our favourite haunted Victorian pencil also claimed the “Illuminati” were behind Tory rebels. Let that sink in: a UK government minister using conspiracist, coded anti-Semitic language of the Alt-Right in the House of Commons in response to Jewish MP Oliver Letwin’s points. They really are nasty pieces of work, many of these Brexiter Tories. Jacob Rees-Mogg is one of the very worst. Exceeding the irksome sight of IDS picking his nose, Rees-Mogg pompously wittered on for what seemed like millennia and had to be asked five times before admitting he didn’t know that Johnson had planned prorogation since 16 August. He also fell back on vapid Panglossian optimism about what WTO terms would mean, persistently evading the questions of several MPs including the Father of the House, Ken Clarke.
In contrast, Letwin made the sensible point that it is no sort of viable “bargaining chip” to threaten No Deal to the EU across the canyon if it means you may actually have to jump into the canyon yourself. 21 Tory MPs voted against the pro-rogue government and will earn a decent footnote in the history books. Another, Dr Philip Lee, joined the Liberal Democrats midway through Johnson’s speech, a touch of absurd but effective theatre that notably derailed Johnson’s already rambling flow. To the surprise of the liberal and centrist intelligentsia, Corbyn was able to thoroughly outpoint Johnson in Parliament, countering his blustering, populist incoherence with a reasoned and impassioned case against prorogation and for a sensible way forward.
When the 328-301 Parliamentary defeat was announced, John Bercow seemed to delight in telling a red-faced, rattled and shouting Michael Gove to calm down and behave. You may recall I gave qualified praise to Gove earlier this year for voicing truths on the difficulties of No Deal; yet, he has now thoroughly tied himself to the Johnson project, which either genuinely wants No Deal or wants to get other Parties to “take the blame” for stopping it. I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised that Murdoch’s man, a libertarian, warmongering Cameron-Blairite right-winger, would be fully behind a right-wing power-grab. An intelligent, but thoroughly misguided man, cannot now pretend he is any better than Nigel Farage. He is the elite, and he rages against constraints on his own power.
Ultimately, what will linger most from today’s scenes in the House of Commons are the images of Johnson’s angry, bully’s mug and, of course, Jacob Rees-Mogg lounging around the front bench as if he personally owns the place, not listening to his fellow parliamentarians – now, was he dreaming of nanny, the Illuminati or how his global investments are going to do after a “No Deal”? Perhaps this right-honourable member for the 18th century had forgotten that there have been cameras have been installed in and have televised the House of Commons since 21 November 1989. And, thus we can see him and what he is as clear as day.
There’s no better way to finish now than with two of Twitter’s best responses: