I started this piece weeks ago when it seemed a total certainty that our very own oaf Emperor and Trump-lookalike, would be crowned the leader of the Conservative Party, and consequently the leader of our nation. I’ve found it difficult to complete this piece as, like 50% of our nation, I am weary of saying, you couldn’t make this up. (Those of you over the pond – does it remind you of something? We are indeed a divided nation.) But I must finish this, because ever since I began this blog I’ve always said – face the reality. But what is reality these days? Btw, the oaf slightly blotted his copybook during his first week of campaigning, but that seems to be of no consequence to the very few people who’ll be voting for him (see below for who these people are) so he’s still the most likely candidate. And yes, that is a reference to the Matrix. But more about that anon as I’ll backtrack a bit.
In the middle of June Conservative MPs ran around, busily plotting and voting. There were 10 candidates: Boris Johnson, the favourite; Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary (don’t be fooled, he’s a dubious character masquerading as the only adult in the room); Michael Gove, a false friend, who, stop-press, is a friend once more! He wants a job; Dominic Raab, a juvenile who doesn’t know his geography; Andrea Leadsom, the grinning Leader of the House but not really a leader; Matt Hancock, nicknamed ‘tigger’ for obvious reasons, he’s another child; Esther McVey, not on my radar; Sajid Javid, he tries hard but no; Rory Stewart; interesting, but an old Etonian all the same; and Mark Harper, who?
One by one these rather under-par candidates were whittled away and by June 20 we had Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt as the two contenders to be the leader of our nation. Consequently, these two have been involved in hustings (the last one being in London today 17July) which have mainly been love-ins between Boris and his acolytes with Hunt’s audiences not quite as enthusiastic as he’s not-quite-as-loved as Boris. Meanwhile voting papers have gone out in a very inefficient manner as, apparently, some voters have received several voting papers and others none. The result of the vote will be announced on July 23. But for those of you outside the UK what astonishes a great many of us here is that these voting papers are only for 160,000 or so assorted Tory types.
Yes, the people who are voting for the nation’s leader are not the electorate but rank-and-file Conservative party members who are mainly white, male, and older with four out of ten of these members over 65.
And here’s the thing; two thirds of these Conservative members want a no-deal Brexit. And unbelievably a recent poll conducted by YouGov found that a majority of these party members (54%) believe that exiting the EU is more important than preserving their own party. Gosh! Furthermore, a majority of these members see Brexit as more important than preserving the integrity of the United Kingdom. As in, if exiting the EU means Scotland and Northern Ireland breaking away from the UK, so be it, which is, actually, astonishing. Wow! Conservative (with a small c) they are not!
People who voted to leave the European Union were absolutely entitled to. I have never indulged in a shouting match with those who voted the way they did, and won’t start now. Look back at some of my earlier posts where I aimed to understand why people voted to leave. I get it that people see the EU as dysfunctional and yet, I’d still prefer to stay. But this? This do-or-die belief that a no-deal is the way to go? Do you remember that once upon a time pundits, politicians and the media spoke of a ‘soft’ Brexit? With the UK retaining some links with the EU. That’s absolutely gone out of the window. But belief in the unravelling of the actual union of your nation and the breakup of your own party? That has to be nearing stupidity of the highest order.
And the belief that we can do it, we can go our own way, we won the war on our own (err, no we didn’t) has not been helped by the fairy stories emanating from the two candidates who are vying with each other to be the most macho in their stance towards the EU. Not only do they say they will consider a no-deal they also say that they’ll renegotiate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, which is NOT POSSIBLE, because our agreement has already been negotiated! This is where I cannot believe how these two men dare to put about such a misrepresentation of the reality of the situation.
Can I remind my overseas readers that the Withdrawal Agreement is exactly that, it is a 585-page document negotiated between the EU and UK on the way we are leaving the EU. It is not a trade deal, and furthermore it has not been ratified by the House of Commons. Within it, three areas are agreed: i) Citizen Rights; ii) the money we pay (which is, btw, what we owe and not a fine, as some Bexiteers seem to think) and if we don’t pay it we would be financial pariahs; and iii) the Irish backstop. I repeat there is nothing within the agreement about trade, those negotiations come during a transition period after we have left the EU.
But if our new best beloved leader cannot redefine and renegotiate a new withdrawal agreement what will he do? If we do go down the no-deal route there will be no transition period and all EU laws applied to us will cease immediately. As in overnight we would leave the single market and the customs union, and we would have no trade deals in place anywhere else apart from the (very) few agreed at the moment. Instantly, all goods coming in from the EU would have to have customs checks, which will lead to humungeous delays at ports and businesses will lose billions of pounds. And this from the party of business! Oh, no, wait a minute Boris has been heard to say ‘f… business’.
And yet, and yet, it is a near certainty that these party members will vote for Boris.
About reality. In the film The Matrix all human life is reduced to serving alien life forms. Their servitude is gained through aliens delivering a digital artificial reality that seems ordinary and mundane, much like real life but is, in fact, a fiction, a smokescreen covering up the awful reality of their literal bondage. Neo breaks free from this bondage and sees the truth of their lives, but the majority remain trapped in their limbo.
Which is much like the Conservative party and, critically, its membership which is trapped in a misremembered past. The real world is that we are a small nation who really should be part of a larger whole, especially with regard to trade. The imagined world is of a small nation gladly going it alone. But this imagined world will have a hard time dealing with the chaos that will arise from a no-deal.
I’ve ordered the Naomi Klein book, The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, to look deeper into what I think is happening. There is anger out there, quite rightly so, as no political party has dealt with the loss of jobs that have come through the demise of our major heavy industries such as steel and ship building. And then we’ve had years of deliberate austerity with what most of us in the UK see as essential services being cut to the bone – need I say more. And somehow that anger is fixated on the EU. Clever, I think. Because there are those in the Tory party who believe that we need to leave the EU to get away from those unnecessary regulations that the EU imposes. Who benefits from us leaving the EU? Follow the money, I’d say and see below for further reading.
Yet, despite a change of Prime Minister, with no change within the House of Commons the stalemate remains. So, although it is a near certainty that Boris will be voted in, with him wanting to deliver any type of Brexit, no matter what, it is also likely that a no-deal comes about, which the House of Commons will block. Hence, there is also a good chance that we might have a General Election in the Autumn.
I say might as it remains to be seen how many Conservative MPs will vote for their downfall.
Penny Kocher 17 July 2019
P.S. My next piece will be after the 23July when I look closer at the new Prime Minister.
Molly Cato, Will a no-deal Brexit make most of us poorer. The Guardian, 24 July 2018
John Harris, Want to know what a Boris Johnson government would look like? I have just the book. The Guardian, 7 July 2019
Lisa O’ Carroll, EU expected to reject outright Johnson and Hunt’s backstop plan. The Guardian, 16 July 2019