Friday, July 01, 2016
The entire political class have taken leave of their senses. Both during the referendum campaign and since the result was announced, their behaviour has bordered on the clinically insane.
Of course, you should never underestimate their uncanny ability to make everything about them. But the unedifying orgy of self-indulgence we have seen over the past week has plumbed new depths of cynicism and opportunism.
Yesterday's Tory leadership contest fiasco resembled a Whitehall farce scripted by David Chase, the man who created The Sopranos. If you ever doubted that politicians are an alien race apart, then here was conclusive proof.
Following David Cameron's inevitable resignation after his humiliating defeat at the ballot box, the Conservative Party in Parliament decided that the best response was to form a circular firing squad.
If you ever doubted that politicians are an alien race apart, then yesterday's Tory leadership contest fiasco was conclusive proof
Instead of sober reflection, they embarked on an incestuous bout of infighting and jockeying for position, as the real world looked on aghast.
As I wrote on Tuesday, only inside the Westminster village could anyone in their right mind interpret the most momentous decision the British people have taken in half a century as a clear message that: What we want is Stephen Crabb.
Yet here was someone most people have never heard of being touted seriously as the saviour of the nation, despite the fact that he was on the losing side in the referendum argument.
Crabb is now one of five names that will go forward to Tory MPs before the field is whittled down to two and laid before the wider membership.
Home Secretary Theresa May is the odds-on favourite.
When 17,410,742 people put their cross in the Leave box a week ago, how many of them thought that what they were really voting for was to install Mother Theresa as Prime Minister?
After all, she had rarely been seen in public for the past five months, having spent the referendum campaign hiding behind the sofa.
Yet now, if the polls and the bookies are to be believed, she will be in overall charge of the negotiations to extricate Britain from the EU — something she didn't believe in.
May announced her candidacy in a tartan trouser suit that made her look like one of the Bay City Rollers — an outfit presumably intended to reassure voters north of the border that she would protect Scotland's best interests, too.
The one name conspicuously missing from the list was the early front-runner Boris Johnson, who withdrew from the fray after being comprehensively shafted by his Leave colleague Michael Gove. During the campaign, the two men had been joined at the hip and it was assumed that they'd run on a joint ticket.
The first we knew of a rift between them was when an explosive private email from Gove's wife, Mail columnist Sarah Vine, fell into the wrong hands and was leaked to Sky News.
Even so, no one predicted that Gove would chuck his own hat into the ring, especially as he had once said that he was prepared to write 'on parchment in my own blood' a guarantee that he did not want to lead his party or become Prime Minister.
It was a promise he restated during one of the televised referendum debates. Then again, he is a politician, so we shouldn't be too surprised that he's gone back on his word. They all do.
At heart, every MP dreams of making it to No 10. They're all living in their own movie. Politicians don't have friends in any meaningful sense, just disposable alliances. Their principles are infinitely flexible when it comes to career advancement.
They talk frequently of loyalty, but none of them actually means it.
The Goves and the Camerons were supposed to be bosom buddies, but that didn't stop Call Me Dave sacking Gove from the education department to appease the teaching unions and the so-called 'Blob'.
In return, Gove knifed Cameron over Europe and now he's knifed his ex-New Best Friend Boris, too.
Gove may be an impeccably mannered chap, but he's clearly a student of the Cosa Nostra and now appears to fancy making the leap from consigliere to Godfather. Be careful what you wish for, Michael.
As for Boris, he has suffered the same fate as his hero Winston Churchill, who was also discarded immediately after his finest hour.
As for Boris, he has suffered the same fate as his hero Winston Churchill, who was also discarded immediately after his finest hour
The first we knew of a rift between Michael Gove and Boris Johnson was when an explosive private email from Gove's wife, Mail columnist Sarah Vine, fell into the wrong hands and was leaked to Sky News
Whether, like Churchill, he can make a comeback remains to be seen. But after a brilliant campaign, Boris didn't do himself any favours by deciding to lay out his vision of the road ahead in his newspaper column, rather than in public — and appeared to back-pedal on his promise that a Leave vote would drastically reduce immigration.
Nevertheless, he had earned his crack at the leadership and the conspiracy to keep him off the ballot paper is yet another affront to democracy. So is the suggestion that May and Gove might stitch up a deal to prevent party members even getting a vote on who becomes the next leader and occupant of Downing Street.
Gove may be an impeccably mannered chap, but he's clearly a student of the Cosa Nostra and now appears to fancy making the leap from consigliere to Godfather.
There have been far too many affronts to democracy over the past week, particularly from resentful Remainers who have howled petulantly from the rooftops about the electorate stupidly voting the 'wrong' way.
The notion that they will still try to scupper Brexit, either in Parliament, by holding a second referendum or by trying to force a General Election, is monstrous.
I suppose I should mention the turmoil in the Labour Party, which has also suffered a nervous breakdown. Labour MPs have interpreted the Leave vote as an opportunity to force Jeremy Corbyn to resign and replace him with one of the Eagles.
Not that I care what happens to him, or who comes next, but it should be pointed out that all along Corbyn has shown little enthusiasm for the EU and if he did, as reported, vote to Leave in the privacy of the polling booth, then he was more in touch with the mood of the British people than 80 per cent of MPs from all parties at Westminster.
And there's the rub. When it came to the EU, the overwhelming majority of the political class — including the woman who may well become our next Prime Minister — were on the wrong side of history and at odds with the people they are supposed to represent.
We have had a week of lunacy, whining and navel-gazing at Westminster, time which should have been devoted to working out how quickly the will of the people could be implemented in an orderly fashion
Where's the leadership from anyone? Certainly Theresa was missing in action during the campaign. Most of the Cabinet backed Remain and went along with Cameron and Osborne's disgraceful efforts to bully and terrify people into doing as they were told.
There certainly aren't any outstanding or obvious leaders on the Tory ballot paper, nor within Labour's ranks either.
Once again the political class — not that they've shown much class lately — have been obsessed with settling their own petty scores, squabbling among themselves and advancing their own careers rather than getting on with the job in hand.
Lest they need reminding, the British people have just given them a clear mandate to get Britain out of the anti-democratic, corrupt EU racket. That's what they should be concentrating on right now.
Instead, we have had a week of lunacy, whining and navel-gazing at Westminster, time which should have been devoted to working out how quickly the will of the people could be implemented in an orderly fashion.
They also need reminding that this wasn't just a rejection of the EU, it was a revolt against the entire political class, whose antics over the past week have been an insult to the magnificent exercise in popular democracy we have just experienced.
And unless they get the message, this revolt won't be the last.