Are we learning, rather painfully, what happens when you let journalists take over? Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are political hacks, by instinct and experience, so perhaps it is not surprising that Brexit is starting to look and feel like a post-modern sequel to the novel Scoop.
Deadlines, panic, laziness, brilliance, incompetence, disaster, highs, lows, sheer bloody madness — this is the new politics. Triumph snatched from the jaws of disaster, and then days later the reverse. It makes for great copy, and is (go on, you can admit it) very funny. But is it any way to run a country?
What sort of professional other than a journalist would pull off a great political coup, put himself on the brink of power, and then decide to take a few days off? That seems to be what Boris Johnson has just done. What sort of professional other than a journalist would insist for days that he was happy to play second fiddle, and then freak out about deadlines, and dramatically knife Boris in the back? That seems to be what Michael Gove has just done. The only hope now for the Tory party and the country is that, somehow, Gove and Boris will find some way to kiss, make up and file something half decent before edition, by which I mean come together in the national interest and lay out a reasonably coherent vision for post-referendum Britain before economic and/or political armageddon hits.
It can be scary. Still, no matter how wracked our nerves are, it's not as if anybody desperately wants the career politicians to reassert themselves. They wing everything, too. They just leave out the jokes. Anybody who thought David Cameron didn't make up his premiership as he went along clearly hasn't been paying much attention.
A switch is happening in the media-PR-political complex which is our establishment. For a long time, in the Blair and Cameron years, spin was boss. A creep like Alastair Campbell or George Osborne would tell the political hacks what to say and they would say it. The pols would control the narrative, as they say. Well, now it seems the reverse is true. The hacks have ’taken back control’ — and the narrative is bananas.
Of course I think it’s brilliant, and possibly healthier in the long run for democracy. We are all peeking behind the curtain at last, and it looks like a very amateur production indeed. But then I'm a journalist too, I suppose, so you can't trust me.