Saturday, 7 September 2019

I NEVER LIED TO YOU, I’VE ALWAYS BEEN COOL [196]


It is Friday 6th September, and Sky News is handed a leaked Government memo. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister since Wednesday 24th July, is “proroguing” Parliament (discontinuing the session without dissolving it) for five weeks, and is seen as a move to disrupt efforts to ensure the United Kingdom leaves the European Union with a deal on trade and other matters. 


The memo, in Johnson’s handwriting, had been presented the day before, in redacted form, during a court case aimed at stopping the prorogation, and stated that, “the whole September session is a rigmarole [REDATCTED] to show the public that MPs were earning that crust.” 


Just as Donald Trump had been defending the use of a Sharpie pen to draw around the state of Alabama on a map indicating the path of a hurricane, indicating it had been forecast to hit it, but won’t anymore – breathe in, breath out – the redaction was to hide something embarrassing, rather than sensitive: “girly swot Cameron,” referring to the Prime Minister before the last one. David Cameron, Boris Johnson, and Johnson’s brother Jo, all attended Oxford University, and because Boris Johnson “only” achieved a 2:1, while the other two have firsts, they are “girly swots,” a remark made in 2013, while Johnson was mayor of London.


Two days earlier, on Wednesday 4th September, Johnson shouted across the floor of the House of Commons, at Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Opposition, “call an election, you great big girl’s blouse.” Corbyn was among those calling for one previously, as one way of resolving the deadlock in Parliament over Brexit, but when it became clear that Johnson could call one for after the current Friday 31st October date for exiting the EU, the withdrawal of that support became a further way to frustrate the Prime Minister...


...not that Boris Johnson couldn’t do that by himself. On Tuesday 3rd September, the first day Johnson spoke in Parliament as Prime Minister, twenty-one Conservative MPs were effectively kicked out of the party for voting against the Government for a bill aimed at preventing the UK leaving the EU without a deal - these included Sir Nicholas Soames, Winston Churchill’s grandson, and former Chancellors of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Kenneth Clarke. Earlier the same day, another Tory MP, Phillip Lee, walked across the Commons floor to join another party, wiping out the Government’s one-seat majority before the vote even happened. On Thursday 5th September, the aforementioned Jo Johnson, also an MP, resigned from the Cabinet, writing on Twitter that, “in recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest – it’s an unresolvable tension and time for others to take on my roles as MP & minister.” On Saturday 7th September, the Work and Pensions Secretary resigns as both a Cabinet member and a Conservative - Amber Rudd described what happened to her colleagues as an act of political vandalism.


Along with other defenestrated MPs like Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve and Rory Stewart, Johnson had effectively removed the more moderate voices from his Parliamentary party, pushing the Conservatives further to the right. Perhaps it will render Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party obsolete, but it could make the Conservatives obsolete before then – on Thursday 5th September, Johnson made a speech stating he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit, leading to questions about why officers from West Yorkshire Police were being used as a backdrop, especially when one stood behind the Prime Minister needed to sit down.


As a girly swot, a big girl’s blouse, and someone politically slightly left of centre, who doesn’t consider themselves a Leaver or Remainer because they didn’t want the entire poorly-executed mess of Brexit in the first place, mainly because it served to answer existential questions within the Conservative Party rather than in the wider United Kingdom, this last week has been especially hard. I can’t be as laid back as Jacob Rees-Mogg about it – in the moment that picture was captured of him slouching across the Commons front bench, he looked like he was waiting to be painted, but only as a fool. The only reason I have felt the need to recount the last week is to make it clear to myself that it happened. Future school children will be taught Brexit in history class, by which time more sense will have been made about what happened, due to the one thing I currently cannot have: hindsight.


The last week in British politics will ultimately prove that Boris Johnson’s most satisfying performance will have been as a guest presenter of “Have I Got News for You” – he was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Entertainment Performance in 2004, alongside Stephen Fry and Paul Merton, ultimately losing out to Jonathan Ross.

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