Why wasn’t the British government better prepared for Brexit?
This is the question being asked right now by all the disgruntled Remainers who can’t quite get over the fact that they didn’t win.
And my answer is: are you deluded, mentally ill, a bunch of bitter, vexatious, reality-denying tossers or what?
Which is to say that the answer is so bleeding obvious I find it an insult that you should feign to ask.
Just cast your mind back to that distant and half-forgotten era all of five days ago when David Cameron still appeared to be a vaguely credible Prime Minister and Jean-Claude Juncker was so confident of a Remain victory that already he was boasting about how extravagantly the EU planned to shit all over us once we’d handed back the prison warders the keys.
Remember? Good. Then what you’ll also recall – now that it has all come flooding back to you – is that at the time the prospect of Brexit was literally unthinkable.
It was, I suggested, about as likely as me going to a bar and picking up a supermodel; then taking her home; then discovering that, no, she wasn’t in fact a ladyboy or Bruce Jenner or anything like that, but she was a really hot chick who actually wanted rampant sex. With me.
What made it unthinkable was that all the experts had lined up to tell us it was. First came President Obama warning us that we’d be banished like naughty boys to the back of something called “the queue”; then came all the other bigwigs from the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the Governor of the Bank of England and the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, all variously confirming with the expertise and authority of their office that no actually it would be worse than that: markets would crash, property prices would plummet, businesses would hurry to relocate, the pound would become as worthless as the Zimbabwean dollar, men would say openly that Christ and his saints slept etc. Oh, and also, of course, World War III would break out.
That last contribution came from David Cameron, whom you probably won’t remember now, but he’s the Prime Minister whose main career achievement – indeed possibly whose only career achievement – was to change Britain’s laws on gay marriage.
Look, I like gays as much as the next red-blooded heterosexual Dad. Some of my best friends are gay, one of them, unfortunately, being Milo. Plus, I was an enthusiastic instigator of homosexual acts at my prep school – I virtually invented it – so I know what it’s all about. I like gay clubs, gay music, gay culture. At Glastonbury just now, I queued up to join the Meat Market gay club where a handsome youth in drag at the entrance patted me down and affectionately squeezed my testicles while my wife looked on. In fact, if I didn’t prefer girls I would DEFINITELY be gay myself.
All that said, I think Gay Marriagewas an utterly silly thing for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to be wasting parliamentary time on – especially when it proved so divisive to the party Cameron professed to be so keen on uniting.
In today’s Mail the ever-shrewd Dominic Lawson argues – and I think he’s right – that it was partly the Gay Marriage thing that we have to thank for the EU referendum. The division it caused within the Conservative party meant that Cameron needed a sop to please those on the traditionalist wing of his party who might otherwise defect to Nigel Farage’s UKIP. That was when he promised the Referendum…
But I don’t think we should be remotely grateful to Cameron for this unintended consequence. Rather I think we should be absolutely bloody livid at the mess he has left his country in as he prepares to bow out as Prime Minister.
Yes I know I was nice about him immediately after his resignation speech. But that was three days ago when I was still in shock over the Brexit result. Now I’ve had time for a bit more reflection, I can see his disgraceful, petulant, arrogant behaviour for what it is.
Cameron’s unforgivable betrayal of his responsibilities was to take the side of the democratically unaccountable Brussels elite against the British people.
He didn’t need to do this – and when he came back from his renegotiation attempts clutching nothing but a bag of beans, he could so easily at that point have said: “Looks like the EU just isn’t interested in negotiating. Maybe invoking Article 50 will concentrate their minds.”
Instead, he chose to double down, and support Remain more wholeheartedly than ever. In the absence of evidence that the EU was good for Britain – which clearly he was incapable of producing – he instead resorted to the dire, mendacious bully tactics mentioned above. Not only that, but he cynically hijacked the entire apparatus of the Civil Service – with the full support of the sinister mandarin Sir Jeremy Heywood. – to try to crush the brave minority of Leave MPs such as Michael Gove and Boris Johnson in their tracks.
This is what is so dishonest about the Remainers’ question: “Why doesn’t the government have a plan?”
Because – obvs – the government, taking its cue directly from the top, made damn sure there wasn’t a plan.
As for the supplementary question – “Well why don’t Gove and Boris and co have a clearer plan?” – that’s pretty disingenuous too because again the answer’s obvious:
Because, damn it, they were fighting for the near-impossible on a wing and prayer. Unlike Remain, they didn’t have the full resources of the government, the European Union, the big banks, the corporations, the trade unions and the BBC behind them. Indeed, David Cameron and the Civil Service made sure they were treated like pariahs, even to the point of denying them parliamentary briefings.
Attacking Boris and Team Leave for lacking a credible plan is a bit like going up to the Beatles in their Hamburg club days and demanding to know why they haven’t yet sketched out Sgt. Pepper.
Back to David Cameron. He was the man who made this mess – not by instigating the referendum (a good thing!) but by so arranging it that if he lost then the winning side would suffer.
This may be good dirty politics but it is very, very poor statesmanship.
Can you imagine Margaret Thatcher doing such a thing – shafting her country in order to vent her petty pique over a rival? Of course you can’t. But that’s exactly what Cameron has done to his enemies in Leave.
He won’t forgive his former advisor Steve Hilton for pointing out how badly Cameron blew his opportunity to change British politics for the better.
He won’t forgive Michael Gove – whom he considers his made man – for betraying him by putting ideological principle before loyalty.
He certainly won’t forgive Boris Johnson whom he cordially despises.
What Cameron will be hoping now is that his personal referendum disaster may turn into a Pyrrhic victory for his enemies. He’ll want Boris Johnson to lose the fight to become Prime Minister; he’ll want a Remain candidate to win instead – someone like Teresa May – and perhaps, ideally, sabotage the EU negotiations so that we end up with some sort of grubby compromise whereby we might as well have Remained in the EU for all the difference it makes. He’ll want, in other words, what the majority of British people demonstrably don’t want. Vengeance before country.
I was never much of a fan of Cameron while he was Prime Minister. His capacity to disappoint was almost limitless.
His final act – resigning in a fluster in order to poison the wells and salt the fields for the side that democratically defeated him – is, I fear, entirely typical of the man.