Take courage, Brexiteers, as you go into battle…
Many of our readers will dutifully have studied the numerous articles that have appeared in this and other media about Brexit. I admit to having contributed more than my fair share of them. But now that the vote on Theresa May’s deal is truly upon us (unless she suddenly postpones it again), I feel it is rather late in the day for long, thoughtful argument. Here, instead, is a series of short points to encourage the troops as they go into battle:
At the weekend, Mrs May’s team put out the story that “a very British coup” was in prospect. MPS trying to prevent Brexit were conspiring to seize control of parliamentary business from the Government, they briefed. They are saying this to frighten wavering Leavers into backing Mrs May’s deal tomorrow. It is not an effective threat, because Mrs May’s deal itself prevents Brexit in all but name. We are in an odd position in which roughly four fifths of a Parliament that voted through the legislation to withdraw from the European Union is actually trying to stop it.
The fact that Mrs May’s aides are crying wolf does not mean that there are no wolves. It would seem the wolves are in sheep’s clothing – the extremist moderates, led by Greg Clark, Chukka Umunna, Oliver Letwin, Yvette Cooper, Hilary Benn, Nicky Morgan and Dominic Grieve. Such people are dangerous and desperate. Police have issued a warning to the public not to approach them.
Mr Speaker Bercow’s motto on his coat of arms says “All Are Equal”, which is a strange claim when only a tiny proportion of the population is permitted a coat of arms. When deciding last week – arbitrarily, and against the advice of his clerks – to change the rules of the House so that a business motion could be amendable, Mr Bercow spoke movingly of “the firm and continuing conviction that I am right”. That is his real motto.
If John Bercow succeeds, and the Government can no longer manage the business of Parliament, the British system by which we are governed through Parliament will collapse. This will be presented by some as a victory for the rights of MPS, but it looks more like the Divine Right of Bercows.
There is one other point to be made to the poor, outnumbered Leavers in Parliament, buoyed up only by the support of roughly 17.4 million people. You are in a game of bluff which is only really beginning now. Your opponents will try to scare you with claims of overwhelming force. Wait until you see the whites of their eyes.
I recommend a tweeter who goes by the name of Titania Mcgrath (“Activist. Healer. Radical intersectionalist poet”), but is in fact a great satirist. Her main technique is to appear to agree with a politically correct proposition as she points out the absurdity of its logic. Last week, when the most fanatical of all moderates, Lord Adonis, praised Mr Speaker for his “brilliant job” standing up for the Commons “against a government trying to undermine Parliament”, Titania tweeted: “Thank you, Lord Adonis! For the sake of democracy, Parliament urgently needs to take back control from the electorate.”
These are very serious times, of course, but here are a few things that never fail to make me laugh:
Lord Mandelson upholding the democratic rights of the British people to vote the right way over Brexit.
Sir John Major writing that: “Any government should think very carefully before forcing through a vote that has few real supporters within Parliament, widespread opposition from without, and one that would leave the country vulnerable to decisions made by others.” That is an exact description of the Maastricht votes, forced through in the early Nineties by one John Major.
The pro-remain chap with the ringmaster’s top hat who appears in every television news item. I hope the BBC is paying him.
My friend Nick Boles threatening to lay down his political life for the Norway option, seemingly on the Beyond the Fringe principle that “we need a futile gesture at this stage”.
Sir Nicholas Soames. As he announces his retirement, Andy Murray has been widely praised for persuading the Scots to emote in public. Why? The reason to admire Murray is that he is a great tennis player, not that he has given his fellow countrymen permission to blub on screen. Nowadays, every news bulletin is tear-stained; every grievance is presented as heartbreak; every sports star, unless over the moon, is sick as a parrot. It is both boring and manipulative.
Speaking as a non-scot, I think I can say without bias that the lack of public emotion has been part of Scots’ success all over the world, which has been in disproportion to their small numbers. What we non-scots admire so much are those virtues that are sometimes dismissed as “dour” – persistence, probity, stiff-necked courage, dry humour – the qualities of a nation that produces granite, not olive oil.
We all know, of course, that under the severe Scottish exterior often lurks a passionate nature, but it is more romantic because it is largely hidden. The bagpipes make others weep, but only if the piper retains his self-discipline as he plays.
Once the Scots start to break down in front of us, the more self-pitying aspects of Celtic culture start to come to the fore, which is enough to make you cry out loud.
READ MORE at telegraph.co.uk/opinion