Bollocks to Brexit?

Brexit demonstration flags outside parliament

Campaigning for the European Parliament elections is under way. The Lib-Dems have a snappy slogan (see title), but the remain parties don’t have the coordinated strategy they’d need to make a breakthrough. And Labour is still looking both ways. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, that’s nothing compared to the problem the Tories face.

Asked if they had any suggestions how they might extend their pitifully short life expectancy, one of the Spitfire pilots in the Battle of Britain suggested rear view mirrors.

A Messerschmitt Bf 109 whizzing up your tail was after all a shortcut to the next world if you didn’t see it coming.

Which is pretty much where Theresa May’s at right now, except it’s in slo-mo.

She’s agreed to meet the group of top Tories who traditionally determine a leader’s fate, the so-called ‘men in grey suits,’ for a little chat this week.

They plan to paraphrase a dear little ditty from World War One: ‘Bonsoir old thing, cheerio, chin-chin, Nah-poo, toodle-oo, goodbye-ee!’

No great surprise there. The Euro elections, costing the British taxpayer a cool hundred and fifty million smackers, are only taking place in the UK because she broke her promise to get us out.

The Conservatives don’t want to take whatever seats they do manage to get, which looks like not many. It’s reported an internal poll puts them at sixth place in the popular vote.

Little wonder they’re mounting an, ahem, low-key campaign. But a damp squib is still a squib. Looks like theirs won’t even be that.

Truth is, they might just as well not bother. A survey on a sympathetic website last week suggested more than half of Tory members will bat not for their own side but for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.

A clear statement, if ever there was one. Fact is, Farage doesn’t even need to say bollocks to the lot of you. He’s on a roll and he knows it.

It’s likely the Tory propaganda machine will try to paint him as an opportunist with links to extremists.

But that promises to be as much water off a duck’s back as Jeremy Corbyn’s scary suggestion that he’s selling snake oil.

Ok, the metaphors are getting out of hand here, but so’s everything else.

Threats against MPs have soared since the Brexit referendum. London’s top cop told a Commons committee last week that female and ethnic minority MP’s were the chief targets.

The police are even investigating a UKIP Euro election candidate’s quip about raping Labour MP Jess Philips. Some joke.

It all fits to the narrative of parliamentary psychosis. The referendum result three years ago proclaimed a narrow majority in favour of leaving the EU, but gave no clue how.

Since then the commons, which used to house groupings of like-minded folk coherently arguing their respective cases, has become a ragtag of factions with one mantra: my way or no way.

The conventions of party loyalty, cabinet cohesion and general give-and-take have gone by the board.

It’s reported donations to the Tory party have dwindled to such a trickle that paying the bills for its London headquarters is becoming a problem.

And calls for Theresa May to quit – from senior folk on her own side – have become ordinarily, boringly normal. As have clear indications from the dozens of potential replacements that they’re up for the fight.

She’s already said she’ll go as soon as she gets parliamentary approval for the departure deal she painstakingly negotiated with the European Union.

But for as soon as read sometime never, given the mood of collective intransigence gripping the place.

The man leading the group of top Tories she’s meeting in coming days has said she could take that opportunity to name the day. Or at least give a timetable.

Oh, and by the way, in that same BBC interview this guy also refused to rule out himself joining the disorderly queue to replace her. You really couldn’t make it up.

And that sense of despair and disbelief at what is, or rather isn’t, going on at Westminster has clearly become embedded. Both in Britain and in Europe.

Thoughts in Brussels are already turning to what happens if we get to the new October 31st departure date with still no plan in place.

The man who runs the show, European Council President Donald Tusk, has said he believes there’s a thirty-per-cent chance we’ll change our minds and opt for staying put anyway.

An element, perhaps, of wishful thinking there. But likewise from the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, suggesting a second referendum could be part of a healing process.

Opinion polls are now consistently saying a so-called people’s vote would indeed reverse the decision taken in June 2016.

That would certainly be a result. But part of a healing process? La la land.

We hacks wondered, after the 1975 referendum confirming our membership of the bloc, whether the naysayers would take it lying down. And we know the answer to that.

But, then again, we’ve always been a bit funny about European involvement in our own domestic affairs.

First off we put up stiff resistance to the Roman invasion. But then, when things got sticky on their own turf and the legions snuck off in a hurry our lot were left floundering.

The story goes what was left of the British governing classes regularly sent delegations to Rome asking them to send their chaps back.

History repeats itself? Tragedy? Farce? Remember another old song?

The world has gone mad today, and good’s bad today, and black’s white today, and day’s night today… anything goes. Anything goes.


Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

Former Sky Correspondent Peter Spencer shot in front of his The Pink Palace home in Cornwall. He looks off camera holding a glass of brandy in his right hand

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