Sunday was the third anniversary of the Brexit Referendum. Who on that day could have imagined that things would have got so terribly bad so terribly quickly? And who could have thought that three years on the likelihood of them getting even worse was getting stronger every day?
I am indebted to the writer and broadcaster Tom Sutcliffe for the quote of the week. This is from the memoirs of the Victorian political novelist Antony Trollope, which Trollope gave as his justification for writing perhaps the greatest political novel of the time “The Way We Live Now”;
“Nevertheless a certain class of dishonesty, dishonesty magnificent in its proportions, and climbing into high places, has become at the same time so rampant and so splendid that there seems to be reason for fearing that men and women will be taught to feel that dishonesty, if it can become splendid, will cease to be abominable.”
Boris Johnson’s entire political career has been one long deception, a pretence in which he plays the role of a cheerful, cheeky, patrician but plain spoken man of the people whilst entirely pleasing himself about what he does and how he does it. It has been mendaciously self promoting and self centred in the extreme.
He is of course a proven and confirmed liar, indeed he has lost jobs for lying, and he is on record as having – inter alia – agreed to help an old Etonian friend (a convicted criminal) in a desire to beat up a journalist. But he is still more than likely to be the next Prime Minister not least because his opponent lacks energy and conviction. Moreover it may be that Johnsonian dirty tricks are the only reason that Hunt made it through. Johnson allegedly wanted him in the final ballot to make his victory easier and managed to arrange it through judicious voting by his key allies.
These are all shoddy things to contemplate this Sunday morning. But there are worse, and those lie in the dishonesty of the policies he claims to be pursuing, and particularly his approach to Brexit which is, to put it bluntly, arrant, dishonest, nonsense. It can solve nothing, and will result in a financial and political disaster.
We all remember the completely untrue assertion about saving £350 million, written on the side of a bus. But Johnson doubled down on it and this week is doubling down on supposed Brexit solutions which have already been comprehensively rejected by the EU.
Take Johnson’s claims that he would aim to secure “something along the lines of the Brady amendment and the Malthouse compromise”.
Let’s unpack that. The Brady amendment did secure a majority in the House of Commons in January. It postulated “alternative arrangements” to the Irish backstop as the key which would allow May’s withdrawal proposals to pass but no one since its passage has been able to define what those alternative arrangements would be and the EU has been very clear that any change to the backstop is, in those or any other circumstances, simply not possible.
So five months on the “Brady amendment” remains in the realm of political fantasy with not a fact to back it up.
Similarly the “Malthouse compromise”, which was devised by Johnson’s former deputy when he was Mayor of London, has never been anymore than a type of “what if” speculation.
The so called “compromise” is a form of managed no deal which, it is claimed, would give the best prospect for a clean withdrawal. But whilst that is still being peddled by Johnson and his cronies, it was specifically and completely ruled out by the EU months ago, and again this week by the Irish Taoiseach .
In fact the EU has already put in place its own arrangements for a no deal and has no interest in making things easier for the UK.
This would be, in fiction, a gripping tale. A proven liar and political fantasist, on the verge of taking the highest office in the land, is peddling non existent political solutions to a grave crisis just to get him into office with not an idea about what he would do then.
But it is not fiction, it is fact. It is a further escalation of the worst political disaster I have witnessed in my 65 years, more than 30 of which have been spent in front line Scottish politics.
And unless Scotland walks away from it – and him – it is likely to drag us down along with the whole of the UK.