The Tory accidental coup
The story of Brexit is almost surreal enough for a political fiction parody, except it would be deemed too crude, too unrealistic. Seen from a distance it is almost fun.
Allow me to clarify something. I am neither for nor against Brexit. I think it is a bad idea but it is none of my business. Somebody else’s toy.
What interests me are the mechanics through which the British people are being driven into wrenching changes for the wrong reasons.
Scene A. An overconfident Prime Minister chooses to appease “backbenchers” (what a concept) and the defeated eurosceptic wing of the Tory party with the promise of a referendum, instead of confronting them. The EU was not worth a divisive fight, since he was sure his opponents would bpw to popular pro European will.
Scene B. He gets goaded into promising to heed the (heretofore consultative) referendum. The promise goes into the election manifesto.
Scene C. During the referendum campaign, several prominent Tories fight for the Leave camp, hoping to garner party support for the leadership succession fights. The prime minister campaigns for Remain, so tepidly it is hard to tell. Again, choosing not to pit half the party against its other half, and delegating the Remain campaign in the Labour opposition.
Scene D. Labour manages to shoot itself brain-dead, for all practical effects deserting the campaign. As a result of both defections, marginal groups such as UKIP get lots of airtime for silly claims.
Scene E. Polls and common sense tell the young and educated that Brexit will be rejected. They go to the beach. Older and more bitter people mobilize to vote instead. Brexit wins by the slimmest of margins.
Scene F. The Prime Minister, instead of owning up to the mess he’s created and finding a way to un-botch the consultation, chooses to acknowledge the ridiculous result and drop the mess on the party’s lap.
Scene G. The party makes an increasing mess of things as eurosceptic leaders shoot each other and themselves in the feet, or are randomly back stabbed. When the dust clears, Theresa May is left with the mess, the pledge to leave, and no idea how to do it.
Scene H. Instead of figuring out what Brexit means (or what the UK wants it to be) before moving ahead, May fires the gun blindfolded. Yes. Without a plan, a target status for the end of the process, nothing. No wonder: she’s actually put the worst Leave troublemakers she has in charge of designing the exit. They are unable to produce much except merriment in observers.
Scene I. Centrists on both side of the aisle moot incredible ideas about a new platform or party to bring back sense to politics.
Scene J. After being driven to do all the wrong things by shrill tabloids and fear of backbenchers, May is spooked by the centrists and calls snap elections. Under the pretense of needing parliamentary unity (she had it), she tries to lock the Tories in with her, and incidentally to give the Tories a larger majority using the patriotic reaction of Britons rallying in the face of disaster. If they succeed, they’ll lock down a blank-cheque majority they don’t know what to do with. And they’ll probably dump May as soon as they find out what it is. The hint of financial scandal is not even her strongest weak point.
In short. The Tory majority and leadership did not want Brexit. They did not want to heed the flawed referendum. The did not want to fire the Brexit process without a clear destination. And yet they’ve managed to do it all, and probably break the prosperity of their country, for the lack of a spine. The spine needed to stand up for their beliefs, to acknowledge a mistake, to break a pledge driving them all off a cliff.
They’ve busted their own twice-successful Prime Minister without elections and changed the constitution of their country without a legitimate mandate, for all the wrong reasons. Like Mr Bean in a specially painful comedy.
They could not have hijacked their own country this far if they had been trying to do it on purpose.