Alex Massie

Who can spare us from this Brexit disaster?

Text settings

God help us all, because no-one else can or will in these present circumstances. If you wished to apportion some blame for the shambolic state of British politics these days you will not be short of candidates to bear some measure of the opprobrium they all, to one degree or another, deserve.

Spare us from Theresa May whose definition of Brexit hemmed her in from the very beginning. Spare us from a Prime Minister who learnt nothing from David Cameron’s failures and continued to prize Tory unity above almost everything else and continued to do so long past the point at which it became obvious to everyone else that Tory unity was both unattainable and, more importantly, undesirable. Spare us from a Prime Minister who lacks the emotional intelligence to run a kindergarten, let alone a country.

Spare us from Nick Timothy, too, whose interpretation of Brexit contributed hugely to May’s blundering. Spare us from a big brain who failed to appreciate that gaining some measure of “loser’s consent” was vital if an orderly and satisfactory Brexit was to be achieved. But no, the 48 per cent were written out and written off, treated as though their views were of no importance. We’ll do it our way even if this means doing it exceedingly badly. Because we are the thinkers, you see.

And spare us from David Cameron, whose complacency and lack of iron contributed mightily to losing the referendum in the first place. Spare us the memoirs of a man who allowed cabinet ministers to campaign against government policy without having to sacrifice their jobs. Spare us from that blithe assurance that everything would be all right in the end because chaps like us are the sort of chaps who know what we’re doing because that’s what chaps like us are like.

Spare us from Boris Johnson, a charlatan in knave’s clothing whose personal ambition committed him to Brexit even as he harboured significant doubt it was the ideal course for the country. Then spare us from the floundering Johnson who, once found out, renewed his commitment rather than accept the complexity of the situation in which the country found itself. Doubt and compromise must be eliminated in the pursuit of purity. If in doubt, double-down. Please, in the name of God, spare us from cakeism.

Spare us the cockamamie certainty of Jacob Rees-Mogg and his ERG ultras, too, forever shifting the goalposts towards a faster, harder, bonkers Brexit of a kind even few of the fanatics themselves countenanced as far back in the mists of time as 2016 and 2017. Spare us this piffle about Britain consigning itself to “vassal state” status, this pretence that Brittannia unleashed will be free to do as she wishes in an inter-dependent world. Spare us, too, the absurd implication that France and Germany are not free countries, that only Britain has access to the magic elixir of national liberation.

Spare us David Davis and the suggestion Brussels was irrelevant because the real action would take place on a London-Berlin axis. Spare us the heroic ignorance of the EU exhibited by Brexiteers who never cared to learn anything about their adversary and then wondered why their mighty plans failed to survive any kind of contact with the opposition.

Spare us Liam Fox for all the obvious reasons.

But spare us this iteration of the Labour party too and spare us, most especially, Jeremy Corbyn. A leader who has never missed an opportunity to underwhelm. Spare us the cynicism, too, of a Labour party led by people who pretend to be in favour of the EU while secretly welcoming Brexit. Spare us the mendacity of people who are in favour of every kind of Brexit except any kind of Brexit actually offered to them. Spare us the miserable idiocy of a Labour leader who deceives his own deluded followers by claiming Britain can have all the benefits of EU membership without being a member of the EU. Spare us from having to decide whether this is the result of low political cunning or simply because he’s an ocean-going simpleton. Spare us from magic grandads.

Then again, spare us the hopelessness of Vince Cable, a leader whose repeated suggestions the referendum result could be ignored without consequence are as complacent as some of the forces that led to the referendum result in the first place. Spare us from narcoleptic leadership, too.

Spare us from Nicola Sturgeon as well, whose commitment to a second Brexit referendum is partly about reversing the Brexit mistake but also, at least in part, an each-way bet that whatever its outcome will advance the cause of Scottish independence. Spare us from politicians whose good faith is at least partly open to question.

Spare us from the People’s Vote people too, of course, so hellbent on avoiding a clumsy, awkward, complicated Brexit they’re prepared to risk, and indeed make more likely, the outcome they consider the worst of all. Spare us their piety, too, and their conviction the original result is illegitimate chiefly because it was the wrong bloody result. Spare us their sneering at Leave voters and their barely-suppressed ecstasy whenever there’s bad economic news or the prospect of some new, sky-darkening, calamity ahead.

Even so, spare us from the demented Leavers who cannot accept they won. They wanted the ball but now they have it they discover they do not know what to do with it. Nothing can ever be their fault or their responsibility. They have won their Brexit only to discover it’s the wrong kind of Brexit.

Spare us Nigel Farage and his cancerous intimations of betrayal and the preparation of an entirely mythical stab-in-the-back thesis in which a glorious prize was stolen from a people whose myriad reasons for voting Leave are reduced, conveniently, to fit with whatever Farage and his ilk happen to think on any given day.

Spare us this parliament in which personal ambition, extraordinary stupidity, faithlessness, narrow considerations of partisan advantage and general halfwittery outweigh any and every consideration of the national interest. Spare us this parliament in which the overwhelming majority who are against a No Deal Brexit nevertheless vote in ways that make a No Deal Brexit significantly more probable.

Most of all, spare us the people, who created this mess in the first place. Spare us the gathering sentiment this all amounts to a grotesque national failure, no matter where your own views and preferences happen to lie.

But I’m afraid all of that is impossible. There is no sparing us any of this.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSociety