Clear the debris, and the question looms large. Did Boris Johnson lie to the Queen about why he wanted to suspend parliament for five weeks? The Supreme Court will be working that out this week, on live television. And, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, there could be a lot of votes in it, for and against.
During so-called ‘quiet’ times in the trenches during World War One, everyone would brace themselves for a dawn attack. Then, when it didn’t come, they’d settle down to brekkie.
It felt a bit like that last week. Pot shots, the odd burst of artillery fire, but nothing really to write home about.
However, the Big One could come at any moment. And, throughout, there was what was euphemistically termed ‘wastage’. The steady trickle of death and maiming.
For example, for General Johnson, the ruling by Scotland’s highest civil court that shutting up shop was unlawful.
He told the Queen it was so he could get on with tarting up the lovely speech she’d be making next month, to mark the re-opening of parliament. And nothing at all to do with stopping pesky MP’s getting in the way of Brexit.
Hmmm, M’luds begged to differ. One of them put it this way. ‘This was an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities’.
In short, bellowed the Mirror next day, ‘Boris lied to the Queen’.
And when the case moves up to the Supreme Court in coming days there’ll be one almighty hoo-ha as it’s splattered all over the telly.
Of course, there are plenty who say it’s politicians who do politics and judges should just get back in their box.
But if they do proclaim loud and clear that our Prime Minister is a fibber-fox – to the queen of all people – it can’t do a lot for Brand Boris. And could even lead to parliament being recalled.
And it’s not like the man doesn’t have form.
Sacked by The Times for making stuff up. Sacked by his party leader for lying about an affair. And enthusiastic traveller on Vote Leave’s Brexit bus, whose central claim was refuted by just about everyone, including the country’s official statistics watchdog.
But then again, some of his wilder ideas as Prime Minister have also beggared belief. Like, maybe, wriggling out of parliament’s instruction to seek a Brexit delay if he can’t get something sorted with Brussels.
Plus, actually, only just complying with its other instruction, to jolly well hand over details of Operation Yellowhammer, the civil service worst-case assessment of the consequences of crashing out of the EU.
What’s been reluctantly confirmed, though, is that riots on the streets, food price rises and reduced medical supplies are judged to be real risks.
MI5 brutally suggests society is ‘four meals away from anarchy’. Meaning the agency believes Britain could be quickly reduced to large-scale disorder, including looting and rioting in the event of a catastrophe that stops the supply of food.
On top of all that – hold the front page, nation of pet-lovers – the British Veterinary Association’s getting in a tizzy too.
They’re worried about the availability of some animal medicines, and short shelf-life products such as vaccines. And suggest anxious owners get in touch with their vets pronto.
Talking of wildlife, the Commons Speaker John Bercow, who’s stepping down on October 31st or at the next election, whichever comes sooner, told a Tory minister/critic he ‘couldn’t give a flying flamingo’ what he thought.
And Mr Speaker’s not letting up. Promising ‘procedural creativity’ to help MPs prevent a no-deal departure, if the prime minister tried to bypass their newly-enacted law effectively insisting he doesn’t even think about it.
One waggish Times commentator said of Mr Bercow ‘he is 20 per cent backbenchers’ champion, 20 per cent scourge of the executive and 30 per cent insufferable little tit’.
Whatever, whatever, he certainly won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Or forgiven by the hardcore Brexiteers in parliament.
But where do we actually go from here?
Boris Johnson is off to Brussels shortly for a little chat about a new deal with the president of the European Commission and the EU’s chief negotiator. Which suggests he is at least going through the motions.
And there’s talk of wiggle room over the biggest block to reaching an accomodation, over the border between the north and south of Ireland. The so-called backstop.
It’s said the hardline Democratic Unionist Party, vital to Bojo’s survival until he sacked 21 of his own MP’s, may not be so determined after all to scrap plans designed to prevent scary-looking lookouts getting erected.
Seems there could be tiny room for itsy-bitsy movement, even though they’re giving mixed messages.
Makes you wonder how many angels can dance on the end of a needle. Though in Northern Ireland that often depends on whether the pretty little fluttery things are of Protestant or Catholic persuasion.
Trying to make sense of this little lot makes extrapolating pure logic from Alice in Wonderland look easy.
But let’s try and keep things simple.
It still looks like Johnson’s best, and maybe only hope, is to somehow bluster through to mid-October, then spook MP’s with Hobson’s Choice. A marginally reworked departure deal or the risk of chaotically crashing out.
Of course, if there is an extension until the end of January, the heat might seem to be off. But, after more than three years of diddly-squat progress, three months is nothing.
And there are signs that more Labour MP’s are wavering in his direction. Thus making it feasible – just – that parliament could go for it. Even though the original plan was kicked out no fewer than three times earlier this year.
There could, however, be a neat little caveat that says we need another referendum. Just to confirm there’s nothing fishy going on. Though it could be argued, by both sides, that mermaids have more fun anyway.
Although it’s also perfectly possible that the European Union will indeed grant the three-month Brexit extension that parliament has demanded the government asks for.
In which case, there probably will be a general election in the interim, with Bojo pitching himself as The People’s Prime Minister, and hoping and praying not too many of them swing behind Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
Certainly the only group that really knows where it stands is the solidly remain Lib Dems.
To say Labour isn’t too sure is like suggesting the English Channel is rather busy and quite wet.
Word is that over in Brussels they’re tearing their hair out at the party’s ‘mad’ Brexit policy. With one source suggesting ‘their divisions and magical thinking are as bad as anything the Conservatives produced — perhaps worse’.
Looks like another fine mess? And the rest.
Perfect timing then for the man who unleashed Brexit on us all to publish his memoirs.
David Cameron’s already said he thinks Boris Johnson and Michael Gove behaved ‘appallingly’ in the run-up to the referendum. And how he enjoyed a spliff with the missus. Cool?
His book, called ‘For The Record’, is doubtless stuffed full of denials that he promised people the choice, even though there was little public clamour for it, just to appease Brexit ultras.
And, doubtless, he’ll deny any suggestion that he makes Neville Chamberlain look like Al Capone with nukes. Again, just for the record.
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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