Euan McColm: Blind faith of Leavers begins to beggar belief

Andrew Bridgen should feel ashamed of himself for spouting such nonsense. Picture: Peter MacDiarmid/Rex/Shutterstock
Andrew Bridgen should feel ashamed of himself for spouting such nonsense. Picture: Peter MacDiarmid/Rex/Shutterstock
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It was a display of such idiocy that, having performed it, any normal person would have locked themselves away to burn with shame for weeks. And, even when the first sting of humiliation had faded, it would haunt them, flickering into cringe-inducing memory, for years to come.

Asked during an interview with BBC Radio Ulster about the impact of Brexit on the question of a hard border in Ireland, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen made the utterly baffling claim that all English people are entitled to an Irish passport.

Bridgen, a Brexiteer (of course) said: “We have a reciprocal agreement where I can go to Ireland and ask for an Irish passport, and someone from Ireland can come to the UK and ask for a British passport. We have that system. That’s the system we have, isn’t it?”

Yet again, an enthusiastic advocate for Brexit is challenged on the detail and responds with a tissue of utter bollocks.

In the interests of political balance, let me also, at this point, draw your attention to remarks made by the Labour Brexiteer MP Kate Hoey who tweeted her unique solution to the Irish border issue: “If a backstop is such a good idea to sort the border issue why do we not go for a backstop around the entire British Isles then Irish Republic can be part of it, too?”

Brexiteers have talked a lot of rubbish over the past few years but Bridgen and Hoey have really distinguished themselves, earning their place at the top of the dolt-heap now clogging up progress in Britain.

One wonders what point Bridgen thought he was making. If Brexit is a disaster, you can always become Irish, perhaps? That’s hardly the stuff of “taking back control” and “sovereignty”, is it?

Whatever his intention, Bridgen should be fully embarrassed by his contribution to the debate. Which of us wouldn’t be? You go on a national radio station as a member of parliament to discuss the subject of greatest importance to you and you display ignorance of such magnitude that, surely, every single thing you say from this point onwards will be met by scepticism… You’d lie awake at night, your muscles clenching, your mind racing, replaying your humiliation on a loop, wouldn’t you? Years later, it would come to you in a flashback and you’d wish your body could fold into itself and keep on folding until you were the size of a matchbox.

But self-refection, like clarity on Brexit, is scarce, these days. Bridgen and Hoey blunder on, unabashed.

Like all ideologues, this pair of numbskulls offer absolute certainty over clarity. They don’t care about details or facts. They just want to accomplish their wretched project. Who cares if they’re a bit woolly on the details?

Even the most ardent Brexiteer, hearing Bridgen’s remarks, should have been appalled – and concerned. If this is the calibre of thinking upon which Leavers are to depend during this period of great turmoil and uncertainty then God help them.

I wonder whether we’re becoming so used to politicians lying to us that the time when stupidity such as Bridgen’s might have damaged his career are long past. A politician said something laughable? There’ll be another one along in a minute and what he’s going to say is a real doozy.

The pathological inability of politicians in today’s tribes of Leavers or Remainers, Unionists or Nationalists to contemplate the possibility that they might be mistaken means an end to progress. Political debate is no more than two furious zealots screaming “No!” in each other’s faces.

And still the charlatans brazen it out. Bridgen’s king over the water, Boris Johnson, has not the slightest concept of shame. The bold claims he made before the EU referendum in 2016 have collided with reality and come off worst. But can you imagine Johnson pausing to reflect on whether he may have been (and I am being charitable here) mistaken? Of course not. Instead, he thunders on, bluffing and backtracking and using the caulk of his tiresome Bertie Wooster schtick to cover the cracks in his arguments.

It is now, surely, evident that every 
time Prime Minister Theresa May proclaims a Brexit deal benefitting both the UK and the EU is imminent, no such thing is the case. The leaders of the remaining EU countries continue to make it clear that they feel no obligation to offer concessions to the UK. This is just one of the warnings dismissed two years ago by Leavers as the stuff of “Project Fear”.

Those who led the Brexit campaign and insisted departure from the EU could be achieved swiftly, easily, and at huge benefit to the economy have long since been exposed as chancers. Confronted with evidence of their deceit – one could, for example, spend days watching footage of now No-Deal Brexiteers insisting in 2016 that nobody was suggesting the UK should leave the single market – they do not flinch.

The decision by a judge during a recent tribunal to agree that an SNP councillor’s belief in Scottish independence should be seen as a philosophical one, akin to religion, throws into sharp focus where we are, right now.

In arguing that his political belief should be treated the same under the eyes of the law as a religion and not simply regarded as an opinion which deserves no protection, Chris McEleny laid bare the mindset of the modern political tribalist. No outcome could be so bad, no warning so dire that the faithful adherent would question his belief.

Churches may be reporting dwindling congregations but the same blind faith that once filled pews now sustains political argument. One doesn’t require to see evidence that Brexit will lead to a bright new further for the UK, one simply has to believe it will and it will be delivered.

It’s time, I think, to bring back the currently unfashionable idea of the long dark night of the soul. There is not, so far as I can see, currently a single senior political figure in the UK who would not benefit from a period of quiet contemplation.