The first few days into Boris Johnson’s premiership epitomised what the public is to expect from his leadership. The Cabinet and special advisors now form a crisis beyond Brexit to democracy itself.
First published in July 2019.
My thumbs were beginning to ache on the day of Boris Johnson’s coronation. Twitter feeds were bursting with analysis and commentary; a fantastic performance by Westminster correspondents. One by one the names were read out. Before us was a sinister Ark captained by the Prophet, marching his disciples onto the deck of Downing Street. The line of names, none surprising but all horrifying, were crossed off the list. Boris had achieved a quiet coup — with himself as the decorated Generalissimo.
This festering bloat of bodies sat around the Cabinet table now represents a government with a single purpose: do or die. Boris said it himself, a rallying call to extremist and moderate alike. “Hallelujah! I have been to the mountain top!” he cried out. “Our destiny is set into history, we shall build Eden!”
Pundits were correct in saying the cabinet reshuffle was more like a purge. Faces new and old brought in to replace the team of wets who had stood in the path of a pure Brexit for too long. Philip Hammond, David Lidington, and David Gauke all joined with the passionate Rory Stewart in resigning their positions before the new king could clean his court. A subtle move. Four ministers resolute in their opposition to a no-deal Brexit. Indeed, the former chancellor has seemingly formed as a leader in a rebel alliance, joining unlikely faces of revolt Dominic Grieve and Oliver Letwin. The Observer reported of a secret plot to end Johnson’s plans being organised by parliamentarians, including Keir Starmer. Such talk makes me think we are living through a John le Carré thriller.
Maybe there’s a chance that our weary politicians can actually do something to halt the impending crash of no-deal. Cross-party talks, a simmering dialogue of a ‘Remain alliance’, even Johnson’s fanatical persistence to the plan are twinkling signs that a firm block to no-deal could be realised.
For all the new government gives, the people respond in kind through anger and frustration. But Boris Johnson, the flappy-haired jester, is just a patsy. His exuberance and patriotic fervour mask an administration which is set to break records for its distance from its people. The Cabinet are a hodgepodge of power-hungry nihilists. Reading into their backgrounds is like walking through a chamber of horrors.
The real concern is not politicians, but special advisors. Dominic Cummings, the strategic wizard of Vote Leave, was called into Number 10 and now sits as Grima Wormtongue beside the throne. People should be rightly angry by this move. Not only did Cummings oversee the provocative campaign in 2016, he was later found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to give evidence to a committee on voter manipulation. He attacked the committee for ‘grandstanding’. And now this man is one of the most powerful men in the country.
Cummings is an idealist, a philosopher-king. He’s Isaac Newton being hit on the head by an apple, only to throw the apple at a local vicar. MPs are rightly concerned about the mysterious man, whose influence is set to seriously influence how the role of Downing Street is working. Indeed, the Liberal Democrats are hot on his heels. But joining Cummings at the top table of this vampire’s feast, are a few more select names from the Vote Leave universe.
To head the Boris Johnson social media team is Chloe Westley, a member of the controversial Taxpayers’ Alliance team and representative of the UK branch of Turning Point, the pro-Trump pressure group. That’s a red flag to start with. But there’s been huge criticism of her appointment due to her support for the far-right activist and infamous Islamophobe Anne Marie Waters. Joining Dominic and Chloe is another prominent Brexit name, CEO of Vote Leave Matthew Elliott. He’ll be joining Sajid Javid at the Treasury. Because that’s a brilliant idea – the man who controlled a campaign which broke electoral laws, now ‘advising’ on economic policy. You couldn’t make it up.
Look beyond Brexit. If it goes ahead with no-deal (the chances are worryingly high), this caravan of shady individuals and neoliberal architects will be at the helm of government. Who knows what social experiments they wish to carry out on British politics. Given the shared links and ideology, we’re heading for a low tax utopia without public services or social security, where the poor perish and the rich are gods.
The construction of this team is not by chance – and Brexit is just the first step towards their brave new world.🔷
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