- 13 Sep 19
Boris Johnson’s first two months in Number 10 have been a masterclass in misjudging the mood of his party, and rubbing the neighbours up the wrong way. With Big Phil Hogan newly appointed as EU Trade Commissioner, things might be about to get even worse for the Eton mess. And as for Mike Pence...
T here were times when I thought I was going to gag. I knew it was all bullshit. Theresa May made noises about a frictionless border. A seamless border. She talked up how important it was to respect the Belfast Agreement. All that nonsense.
She may even have half-meant it. But it was obvious – not just to me, I imagine – that this was just verbiage. I said it in Hot Press at the time and have been proven right: when push came to shove, Britain would use Ireland to try to force a better deal from the EU. The border would be a convenient political football. The British wanted to have their cake and eat it. In their desire to fatten themselves at someone else’s expense, the border offered a very convenient bit of extra leverage.
The reality is that no one who argued for Brexit gave a shit about the Six Counties, or even about Northern Ireland. The issue of the border was never discussed. Leading Leave campaigners have since admitted it: they never gave what might happen – or even what might be supposed to happen – in the North a moment’s thought. And when they were finally asked about it, they played a game of pass the parcel. No one wanted to be the one to go on British television to explain what would need to be done on the island of Ireland, because no one had a clue even what their position was supposed to be.
Oh fuck. The bloody Irish are causing problems again. Typical.
It was nothing more than a pesky detail.
Whatever about the bunch of grotesque misfits who drove the Brexit ‘Leave’ campaign – check Nigel Farage, Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson, Aaron Banks, Michael Gove and co. – the reality is that the Conservative Party would have been perfectly prepared to sell their Northern Irish DUP lackies down the river. The Brexit process has been dogged by so many might-not-have-beens that it beggars belief. It is a shit-show like no other in living memory. But perhaps the most crucial of all of these is this: where would we now stand if Theresa May had not decided to go for a totally unnecessary general election in 2017.
May had a decent working majority. But polls suggested that she would wipe the floor with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in a general election. Her advisers convinced her that she should call a snap vote. The fools. The opposite happened. Now, in the brutal arithmetic of a hung parliament, she could only form a government with the support of the appalling, reactionary sods in the DUP.
Seldom can ten MPs have wielded a more poisonous influence on the democratic process than Nigel Dodds and his ridiculous crew, including the odious Ian Paisley Jnr.
The DUP had supported Brexit. Indeed, their support led to them being directly involved in breaking the law, by allowing £282,000 to pass through their bank account, before it was used to pay for advertising, which brought the Vote Leave campaign above its threshold of legitimate expenditure on the election. Channelling it through the DUP was a sneaky, dishonest ruse. It worked, helping the Leave campaign to win the referendum. But it was electoral fraud. In a different system than the current British one, people would end up in jail because of this.
Hopefully someone from the DUP will in the long run.
As it happens, the party’s Leave stance was totally unrepresentative of the people of Northern Ireland, where the electorate voted 55.8% to 44.2% in favour of remaining in Europe. Theresa May thought she had squared the DUP, with the provision of £1 billion in government investment in Northern Ireland – and that they would do the right thing for people in the North, by agreeing to a temporary border down the Irish Sea.
Obviously, Theresa May’s team were stupid as well as incompetent. In whatever deal had been done between the Conservatives and the DUP, May failed to secure a binding commitment in relation to supporting the government’s position on Brexit.
The extent of that basic error would soon become clear. The Northern Ireland-only ‘backstop’, maintaining a common regulatory policy for the island of Ireland, was agreed between the British government and the EU. The Irish government were happy with that. And then the DUP saw what they interpreted as a unique opportunity to play silly buggers. They insisted that they didn’t want Northern Ireland to be treated differently to anywhere else in the UK. Of course, this was hypocritical rubbish.
They do want the Six Counties to be treated differently to the rest of the UK in relation to abortion. The party has also adamantly opposed the introduction, in the North, of same sex marriage, which is now fully legal in the UK (as well as Ireland). But the truth doesn’t matter to the DUP, any more than it did to the Leave campaign. They were in a position to wield a totally disproportionate level of power. Because they could, they did.
They fucked Theresa May. And her deal.
PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL
Throughout this monstrously absurd saga, the law of unintended consequences has come into play again and again.
The DUP couldn’t believe their luck. They saw themselves as queen-makers and for that ultimately very short window, they were just that. How they strutted! Suddenly what they said in the House of Commons – normally yawn-central – carried weight. The TV cameras followed them around and they pronounced their rotten politics for all of the UK and Ireland to hear. The world watched. A lot of people – especially in their precious UK – were laughing, fit to cry. How fucking ridiculous is this? These neanderthals, stuck in the 1930s, are dictating the future of the entire failed State of the UK. Give us a fucking break!
It was indeed ridiculous. And bound to come to a grisly end.
Because after Theresa came The Liar.
It really is hopelessly tragic that the Conservative Party could elect as their leader an individual of such exceptional lack of fitness for high office as Boris Johnson. This is the man who consistently, and deliberately, spread lies about the EU in his columns in the Telegraph – because this is precisely what he was paid to do. To tell lies. This is the cad who had two speeches written – doubtless each of equal, pompous, self-serving conviction – as he dithered over deciding which side of the Brexit debate might accrue more political capital to him in the long run. He chose Leave not out of any conviction, but because he deemed it in his own political and personal interests.
The Liar and his chief of staff Dominic Cummings had a cummings plan. Once he was installed as Prime Minister, Johnson would put the wind up those Euro rotters by saying that the UK were going, deal or no deal, on October 31st. It was do or die. They’d tell their Irish inferiors where to get off on the backstop: it’d have to go. Straight away. Before they’d even deign to sit down to discuss anything else with anyone! Take that, you bounders!
The more they shouted, the more obvious it became to the adults in the room – in Brussels, Dublin and London – that these twats had not even been potty-trained yet.
But, of course he wanted a deal! “And we are making progress,” Johnson bellowed, like a cartoon version of King Lear, wailing at the approaching thunder and lightning, while fart bubbles came out of his arse. So why were civil servants being taken off diplomatic duty and dragooned into No Deal preparations? Of answers, it emerged, he hath none.
The announcement by Boris Johnson that he would prorogue parliament was intended to be a masterstroke. The effect was to provoke a rebellion among moderate Tories, on an unprecedented scale. Some MPs resigned from the party. Others crossed the floor of the house to vote in favour of the motion preventing the Prime Minister from leaving the EU without a deal. The 21 MPs involved were summarily stripped of the party whip. Even someone of the stature of the current Father of the House, Kenneth Clarke, an MP for 49 years and six times a member of Cabinet, was turfed out.
The final element in the Cummings plan was to call a general election, and to fight it on a People .v. Parliament ticket. But that too failed, at least for now. The opposition had seen it coming. Their collective resolve held firm. In his first week of parliamentary scrutiny, Boris Johnson had lost six crucial votes.
People in Europe, and elsewhere across the world, watched all of this aghast. The UK’s approach to the challenges of Brexit has been a shambles since the outset. They had assumed that the German car manufacturers would put pressure on Angela Merkel sufficient to force her to insist on a favourable deal being given to the UK. Instead she, and the French President Emmanuel Macron, stood firm. Michel Barnier’s team were given the job of negotiating a deal. The EU 27 would line-up solidly behind whatever they hammered out.
Boris Johnson started out as if he wanted a deal, but on terms that would be dictated by the UK. “The backstop must go!” he declared. This may, of course, have been nothing more than the theatre of the absurd brought to a new level entirely. Did Prime Minister Cummings – sorry Johnson – and his underling know that this had about as much chance of flying as Tweetie Pie in a coven of feral cats? Or had some genius worked out that the way to bend the EU to your will was to shout, roar and point fingers at them?
What was clear from the outset too was that Johnson was playing to the worst of the local gallery. The “undemocratic backstop”. Get the phrase out there. Repeat ad nauseam. Get the loonies in the DUP to parrot it whenever they get a chance too. If we say it often enough, some dumbasses will believe it.
But the more that Boris Johnson proclaimed that he wanted a deal, the more obvious it became that he was lying. And the more obvious it became that he was lying, the greater the realisation that you couldn’t believe even a single word he said. It was all meaningless waffle, trotted out for effect.
The ultimate spoofer.
British parliament had his number now. They went for the jugular, demanding that the ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ No Deal plans concocted by Dominic Cummings and the rest of the new Tory hard Brexit inner coterie be published. The motion, brought by former Tory MP Dominic Grieve, also directed Johnson to disclose messages relating to the suspension of parliament that had been sent by his senior adviser Dominic Cummings, and various other aides, via WhatsApp, Facebook, other social media and both their personal and professional phones. Grieve told parliament that he had information from public officials that such correspondence contained a “scandal”. To add even more spice to the political stew, Monday saw Big Phil Hogan appointed as the EU Trade Commissioner who Boris – or whoever follows him into Number 10 – is going to have to sweet talk into any future deal.
CONFUSION AND ARROGANCE
In the middle of all of this bluster and bullshit, Ireland was treated to a visit from the US Vice-President, Mike Pence. Alarm bells should have rung immediately when he decided to stay in the Donald Trump-owned Doonbeg, in Co. Clare. The Tánaiste and his officials would have to travel to the wilds of Clare to meet him. Nice.
Pence is a deeply unsavoury character but Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, made sure that he was greeted with the usual hospitalities. It was a dirty job, but somebody had to do it... Pence did not show his hosts, or Ireland as a nation, anything like the same level of respect. In Dublin on the second day of his visit, he started to tell the mere Irish what to do. He announced that the US supported Brexit – not exactly news – and then instructed the Irish and the EU to negotiate with the British “in good faith.”
The arrogance of telling us what to do was one thing. But there was also an accusation implicit that the EU – and Ireland – had, until now, been acting in bad faith.
This highlights a central tactic of the new right: whatever your own transgressions might be, accuse your opponents of being guilty of the same only worse. It doesn’t matter that you know there is no truth whatsoever, in it. Your job is to muddy the waters. Confuse people. Get them to a stage where they are too fatigued to care.
The reality, of course, is that the UK government has consistently acted in bad faith. And now they have a serial liar and bully at the helm in Boris Johnson.
The good thing is that Mike Pence’s words had no impact whatsoever. The position of the EU has been consistent throughout. But they have also shown flexibility. They want to find a solution that’ll work – for the EU and Ireland first, but also for the UK. The constant dithering, confusion and arrogance on the British side has made that impossible so far. In that context for Mike Pence to come here in an attempt to throw his weight around borders on the psychopathic.
So which of our two visitors is the bigger pig? It is a tough question. But we will go for a dead heat and a share of the spoils. They are both seriously horrible people.
Remember where you read it first.