It speaks volumes about the quality of our politicians in Party Conference season that rugby player Scott Baldwin’s petting of a Lion is not the greatest act of self-harm we have witnessed this week.

First published in October 2017. | Updated in October 2019.

Welsh rugby player Scott Baldwin put his hand through a fence to pat a Lion on the head with predictable results, well predictable for everyone but him apparently. It speaks volumes about the quality of our politicians in Party Conference season that Scott’s petting of a Lion is not the greatest act of self-harm we have witnessed this week.

At the Tory Party Conference in Manchester, many politicians have popped up to tell us we should start roaring like a Liar… sorry Lion, and stop talking down Brexit, as if the act of a subtle snigger, or a rant about the stupidity of it all, would be enough to make Brexit shrivel up and cry in the corner.

Liam Fox wants us to know that he has 40 trade deals ready and waiting to roll for the minute we are free of the shackles of the EU. The world is waiting for us. He particularly wants us to know that the little local difficulty about Bombardier, and the 4,000 jobs now at risk in Northern Ireland, are in fact the result of a row between the USA and Canada and nothing for us to worry our pretty little post-Brexit heads about. The slightly awkward thing about this is the USA and Canada actually have a trade deal with each other, so the fact that this kind of fallout can happen does not bode well for Little Brexit Britain.

Liam Fox

Next up, David Davis, who briefed The Telegraph that he intends to stand aside in June 2019 and let Boris run the Brexit transition, presumably giving Boris the opportunity to do for Brexit what he has this week attempted to do for Libyan tourism. Every one of them appears to believe that if they keep saying what they will or won’t accept enough times, that the EU will suddenly write it into its rulebook, it’s a touching faith somewhat on a par with sticking your hand through the fence and patting the wildlife.

David Davis

Then Jacob Rees-Mogg, old Lord Toffingham himself pops up to declare to a fringe meeting that we should think of Agincourt and Waterloo. Yes, because thinking about battles that took place hundreds of years ago will be an excellent model for trading in the 21st century, in the same way, that getting rickets would be excellent preparation for the Olympics I imagine.

He went on to say if Brexit did not happen then he would probably ‘flee the country.’  We would all love to flee the country Jacob, but you are intent on taking away our rights to live and work in 27 countries. At least if Brexit failed you would actually be able to flee.

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Finally, Boris Johnson threw his hat in the ring, pretended he had dropped it accidentally and put it back on his head again. A man who represents Britain on the world stage playing at being our Foreign Secretary, chose to read Kipling at a Myanmar temple nearly causing great upset, and then followed up by declaring that Libya could be another Dubai if they cleared away the dead bodies.  An obscene gaffe on a par with suggesting that Auschwitz could be lovely if they installed a sauna. Unsurprisingly he still has a job because Theresa May is handcuffed to his wrist and going through the Brexit motions like only a hostage robot can.

Boris Johnson

In her big speech to the conference even she choked and spluttered over her promises to uphold the British Dream... Umm... the British Dream? What is that? A British dream of endless tea with biscuits that stand up to a proper dunking? The British dream of orderly queues and a world where they get to feel superior to foreigners for not understanding English, while not bothering to speak a syllable of another language themselves. At the moment whatever we are dreaming it’s possibly as a result of being fed a diet of hateful rhetoric day after day for years on end. It’s certainly giving us sleepless nights.

Whatever it was May wants us to firmly believe that what she is offering is caring, compassionate Capitalism v Venezuelan CorbynLand. I don’t know what this means. Maybe she is offering a foot rub while you queue for a food bank as opposed to just standing in the People’s Queue for the People’s Foodbank of CorbynLand. Either way, it’s not a dream that sounds attractive, and it makes the prospect of having a Lion nipping at your fingers seem like a pleasant option.

Someone who appeared to have woken up from a bad dream was Alan Duncan who found himself doing a little Brexit truth-telling on how it might have been just a ‘tantrum’ over migration that led to the Brexit vote. Imagine the scale of the tantrum they will have when they find out the extent of the impact on their jobs and well-being. In fact, they don’t need to imagine, the Government could tell them, by releasing the impact studies they are carefully hiding away so as not to scare those of a nervous disposition. It’s tantamount to sticking the big posters advising rugby players not to stick their hands into a Lion enclosure in the drawer and throwing away the key.

If that wasn’t enough Minister for Small Business Margot James warned us ‘there is a little bit of an over-optimistic attitude’ about trade with the Commonwealth. Oh, you think?  Surely Liam Fox has not been leading us on in an ungentlemanly fashion. This was swiftly followed by Priti Patel deciding to let us all know that high public spending and all these regulations (yes again) are not good for us. Presumably low public spending and no regulation is part of her British Dream. Most people’s recurring dream is having to undergo an exam or other important life event and then discovering you are actually naked and everyone can see you.

There we have Brexit negotiations in a nutshell.

Even as Theresa May’s speech stuttered to a close, the letter F fell off her backdrop leading some wag to proclaim that not even the set could give an F. The camera panned to Amber Rudd growling at Boris to stand up and clap and he duly obliged.

And so Tory Party Conference is over, and the crack team moves on to secure a British Dream Brexit. It’s accurate because the only way we are getting a successful Brexit will be in our dreams.

It all makes the Lion petting antics of a rugby player look quite sensible by comparison.🔷

Share this article now:

[This is an original piece, first published by the author in on 4 October 2017. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

Creative Commons License
(Cover: Theresa May at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)