The build-up to the election campaign, with its unexpected and unpredictable twists and turns, was proof we’re living in abnormal times. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, things from now on in can only get curiouser and curiouser.
‘I don’t know whether there is anything particularly exciting about the air in this particular part of Hertfordshire, but the number of engagements that go on seem to me to be considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.’
Like every other character created by Oscar Wilde, Lady Bracknell had a way with words.
But those lines from the Importance of Being Earnest could easily transfer from Hertfordshire to Westminster. Where the number of startling developments of late has been way, way above the proper average.
For a start, there’s a handful of high-profile politicians who’ve told voters to back the side they’ve spent their entire careers fighting against. On that front, any more than zero is above the proper average.
In addition, dozens of serving or ex-Labour and Tory MP’s will not be standing for re-election. That also is well above the proper average.
If you include those who quit the two main parties, to sit as independents or to join other groupings in recent weeks, then it looks like there’ll be nearly ninety new faces on the Tory and Labour benches after the election!
That’s so far above the proper average it leaves Richter ricocheting off the scale.
And it presents us with a gloomy prospect.
The vast majority of those quitting, either the party or parliament or both, are basically the sensible people. The moderates. The pragmatists.
It’s possible, come December 12th, that Bojo will get the clear majority he’s after and will, to coin the phrase, get Brexit done. Or at least get it started, more of that in a moment.
It’s also possible that Labour gets a clear majority, in which case Jezza will try to renegotiate Britain’s exit terms from the European Union and hold another referendum. Or something. Maybe.
Then again, the Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, also fancies her chances as PM.
Shame the Monster Raving Loony Party isn’t what it once was. Screaming Lord Sutch would obviously have been another dead cert, if he weren’t, well, dead.
Truth is, the polls point to an altogether different but more likely scenario. Another hung parliament, with everyone ducking and weaving, no one really in charge, and the newly-elected droves of diehards hating one another more than ever.
In short, a gathering that makes the last lot look as exciting as a silent film played on the radio.
We’ve had a few choice Parliaments over the centuries. The Short, the Long, the Rump, the Barebone, the Merciless. This could become the Potty Parliament.
Not mad, mind. Just so infantile they still have little accidents sometimes.
It’s not a good sign when the two main parties can’t even agree on what the election is actually supposed to be about.
Both sides have already committed tens of thousands of pounds to target voters on social media. It’ll probably spill over to the millions in coming weeks.
So far Brexit has not featured in a single Labour advert. Whereas from the Tories not a single national ad does not mention leaving the EU.
Still, at least they’re agreed on one thing. The voters need to be bought. With cash.
Hence the spending splurge announced, in what adds up to a bunce bidding war, with the Conservatives promising to borrow billions, to pump into public services.
Labour are too, but then they always do. And get accused of recklessness by the ever-so-prudent Tories.
Makes you wonder what the Prime Minister’s game is. Could be one particular cartoon in The Times is on to something.
It shows the Queen, wearing a huge fur coat but telling him it is of course all fake. Bojo, who has a copy of the Tory manifesto sticking out of his pocket, is asking himself ‘how the hell does she know?’
Maybe he’s channelling Churchill’s craftily crafted bravado. He is after all pictured at one campaign event doing the trademark victory sign.
And it’s not like he hasn’t learned the lessons of history. The Darkest Hour movie suggests Winnie had to be told it’s best not to do it the other way, as that means up your bum.
Actually, he almost certainly knew that perfectly well.
But, back to Britain’s relations with other European nations now not then, here’s another miserable thought for those who’re so bored with Brexit the very word makes them want to eat their feet.
On something like a best-case scenario, from Bojo’s perspective, Britain will finally be out of the European Union by the end of January. Except that we’ll be anything but finally out.
There will then be the small matter of the so-called transition period, in which we’re supposed to be sorting new trade arrangements.
That’s to say getting down to the details. A far cry from just a statement in principle that we’re on our British bikes.
And, given that something like half of all our trade is with the EU, there’ll be a monumental amount of nitty-gritty to get through before we’re there.
Some say it’d take decades to do the job properly. Or at least years. Years, that is, that aren’t currently on offer.
What with the three Brexit extensions we’ve already had, the planned two-year talkathon has been cut in half. Though at least on that point we can probably share a thought with our French friends.
The word that sums it up is ‘merde’.
Or, to use the more polite terminology favoured by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, ‘this negotiation will be difficult and demanding, for one reason the time will be extremely short’.
And that’s just about getting us started. Line up the leftover undotted I’s and uncrossed T’s and they’ll stretch halfway to the moon and back.
What was that the great man said? ‘This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’
Perhaps the most pertinent word there, if applied to the present situation, is indeed perhaps. Perhaps not, more like.
All the more reason, argues the newly formed pro-remain alliance of Lib Dems, Greens and Welsh Nationalists, for just cancelling Brexit while we still can.
They’re hoping, by agreeing not to field candidates against one another in seats they’re in with a chance of winning, that they might just get their way in the upcoming Potty Parliament.
It’s a runner, of course. But then again, it’s always possible the moon landings really were faked, and that the CIA actually did take out President Kennedy.
Whatever, watch this space, and take cover when parliamentary playtime starts again.
There’s every chance it’ll look like Mr Wilde’s subtitle for the work we started with. ‘A trivial comedy for serious people’.
That’ll be you and me then. Watching our future being tossed around like a will-o’-the-wisp.
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.
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