After a week of rumours of Brexiteers plotting to topple Theresa May, the PMP’s Deputy Political Editor Daniel Reast explains why the ERG wants to burn your house down with their neo-liberal economics and why controversial American economist Milton Friedman would be proud of the Conservatives and ‘their’ Brexit.
If anyone happened to be stranded on an island this week, my envy knows no bounds. The people of Westminster rejoiced over the announcement of a finalised draft Withdrawal Agreement for Brexit. The value of the pound shot up in response to this very temporary optimism. But allow me to describe, by way of analogy, the overall mood of the last few days: imagine walking down a charming high street in the height of summer. Now imagine that a pigeon has shat on your brand-new cardigan. That cardigan is now on fire. You are now also on fire.
The high street is suddenly transformed into your school classroom where thuggish bullies are teasing you and teachers are berating you for being stupid. And your cardigan is still on fire.
Brexit has provided journalism with an abundance of solid material for analogy and metaphor. The undisputed reigning empress of comparisons is the Guardian columnist Marina Hyde who recently was awarded with Commentator of the Year at the 2018 Comment Awards. Her regular comparison is with the Game of Thrones series, which is a resplendent hamper of intrigue and disaster that is eerily close to Westminster politics. Replace castrations and incest with ERG gaslighting and Corbynista cults, and you’ve got yourself a new spin-off.
The problem with analogy is that it’s all very funny and easy to poke at the belly of the beast. But for many people in the UK, the political developments are firmly a matter of life and death that is ignored for the ‘sexier’ soundbites. I have recently followed the Beehive events hosted by anti-Brexit group FinalSayForAll which allows an open forum for people to share their concerns and experiences in a supportive and committed group. Brexit has gotten so severe that these support groups are necessary to vent anger, when a government should be fully operational and working in everyone’s interests.
It’s clear that Brexit was never about the will of the people, nor was it addressing the concerns of despondent communities. Not exactly a shining display of utilitarian policy when the ERG are throwing darts at a Theresa May shaped dart board. Like the incredible 1980s gameshow Bullseye, the ERG are playing for exciting prizes and hard cash. They’ve decided to risk all their success and gamble, but will they win that speedboat?
I’m certainly tired of seeing Lord Snooty and his pals interviewed over the delivering of Brexit. Seems that the media has lapped up the noble maverick image of Jacob Rees-Mogg, and propelled it to near royal proportion.
Seriously, what is it with British politics that produces these aristocratic, bumbling, slimy soliloquists whose knowledge of English history is more prominent than their ability to show genuine human emotion?
Boris Johnson, 2012. (The Telegraph)
I can remember seeing Boris Johnson ziplining with two British flags grasped in his meaty claws and believing him to be just a circus clown with a better tailor. Rees Mogg has now supplanted Johnson’s image, and while he evades any normal signs of human expression, there is no question of his lust for cameras and newspaper columns.
But for this honourable beanstalk to lead a no confidence challenge against Theresa May at such a tense point, isn’t just shameful it’s also a waste of time.
For the no confidence vote to be called, 48 MPs must submit their letters to Graham Brady to trigger a challenge. I hope Brady was prepared with dishcloths to wipe the goat’s blood from all those signatures. If there is a challenge, then all Conservative MPs would vote by secret ballot to back or break Theresa May.
The de facto deputy, David Lidington, has said she would win a no confidence vote without a doubt. The ERG faction is obviously aware that May will win a vote and continue to serve unchallenged for one year. But it’s this challenge that distracts the government, the wider Parliament, and media from their overall aims: a no-deal Brexit. They have explicitly made clear of their support for no deal.
ERG Deputy chairman Steve Baker has led media awareness for a ‘world trade deal’ in the event of no deal. He was also a supporter of the Institute for Economic Affairs report in September calling for low tariffs and minimal regulation of the economy after Brexit.
Join up the dots and you will find that the picture is a ghastly prospectus for a post-Brexit economy. The ERG faction has neo-liberal economics at its very core, and Brexit is sturdy vehicle for their travels into a monetarist paradise. Milton Friedman would be immensely proud of the UK Conservatives, who have championed the destruction of anything even remotely paternal in favour of an oligarchic politics.
If only there was a united and influential political party that could hijack the Brexit vehicle, and turn it into the greatest act of self-preservation since Jeremy Bentham got into his cupboard at UCL. It goes to show that no matter where the compass points, there will always be a bunch of entitled nobheads trying to burn your house down. Constitutionally of course.🔷
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com)