We are living in an era of delusion at Westminster and Holyrood - Euan McColm
The day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a small government reshuffle, last week, the newly appointed Minister for Brexit Opportunities, Jacob Rees Mogg, wrote a column in The Sun, inviting readers to get in touch with details of petty EU regulations they want to see scrapped.
The flaw in Rees-Mogg’s crusade was that - as he and his fellow right-wing Eurosceptic wing-nuts keep telling us - Prime Minister Boris Johnson has “got Brexit done”.
If this is truly so and we have “taken back control”, then what EU regulations had he in mind when he reached out to the red top’s readers?
Of course, what the Prime Minister’s black-eyed ghost butler was really doing was attempting to to gee-up the Brexiteers who fell into line behind Johnson during 2016’s EU referendum campaign. With the Prime Minister fighting for his political career over a series of illegal lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street, Rees-Mogg wished to change the subject.
Perhaps those sending green-ink replies to Rees-Mogg will include the Tory MP for Dover - and Brexit fanatic - Natalie Elphicke who, I kid you not, stood up in the Commons last week to complain about “miles of traffic jams” in her constituency caused by checks - necessary post-Brexit - on lorries coming into the port.
Straight-faced, Elphicke told MPs the traffic jams were not the fault of Brexit but of “Brussels bureaucracy”. How dare the EU treat the UK as if it has left the EU?
Rees-Mogg’s mission in government is now to find opportunities arising from a process which has caused huge damage to the economy, weakened the UK’s standing on the international stage, and created tribal divisions among the electorate.
We are invited to ignore the evidence that Brexit has been costly and damaging and to indulge in the delusion that the sunlit uplands are just over the brow of the next hill.
The Prime Minister is now surrounded by delusional characters. If Rees-Mogg isn’t delivering another unblinking defence of Johnson on Channel 4 news, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries - who carries herself at all times like a woman who’s been asked to keep it down in a restaurant - is on Sky, insisting the Prime Minister is innocent of all charges of wrongdoing whatever they may be. (Lest anyone think Dorries a complete stooge, she did say last week that she would “probably” withdraw her support for the PM “if he went out and kicked a dog”.)
In this era of delusion, Johnson and his lickspittles cite the getting done of Brexit as their great achievement while, through the pages of The Sun, asking voters to help them get Brexit done. It’s the Brexit paradox - it is process both achieved and yet to be achieved.
Former Prime Minister John Major’s remarks about Johnson and the current state of government during a speech on Thursday were dismissed by allies of the PM. Major has never been a fan, they said. This was all about grudge and nothing about reality.
But some of Johnson’s colleagues will have heard Major talk about the need for honesty and integrity in political leadership and they will have cringed. Can they really continue deluding themselves that Johnson, a serial liar, will somehow change?
While the Tories talk nonsense about Brexit, Labour continues to be scared to talk much about it at all. Keir Starmer and other senior figures may have been staunchly in favour of remaining in the EU during the 2016 campaign but the fact so many traditional Labour voters backed Brexit and subsequently supported the Tories in the 2019 general election has paralysed them on this issue.
Yes, the politics of this are hard but someone is going to have to start telling the truth about the consequences of Brexit at some point. Labour should pay especially close attention to what Rees-Mogg says and does in his new role. (Here’s a clue - there are no Brexit opportunities so whatever he says will be rubbish and you should tear it apart).
With the UK government trapped in the chaos of a scandal caused by the Prime Minister, it’s hardly surprising that the SNP has been ramping up talk of another referendum.
I wonder, however, whether the nationalists have shot themselves in the foot at a time when the UK government has never looked more corrupt.
Senior nationalists - including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford - have chosen now to put about the myth that, post-independence, the UK Government would continue to pay the pensions of Scots.
If anyone has the faintest idea what these SNP politicians are playing at, perhaps they would let them know. Asked about the payment of pensions in an independent Scotland, the straightforward and reasonable answer would have been that they’d be paid by the Scottish Government with funds raised by taxation. That’s how the UK pension is paid and there would have been nothing controversial about the SNP suggesting a similar system would operate post-independence.
Instead, nationalist politicians have doubled down on the lie that the UK Government would pay Scots’ pensions after the break-up of the Union.
I have no idea what they think this will achieve. Unquestioning supporters may accept this rubbish as fact but those voters the SNP must persuade to back independence if a second referendum is to be won will not easily be convinced that their pensions will be paid by a foreign government.
The delusions of nationalists - whether they’re talking about Brexit opportunities or the payment of pensions in an independent Scotland - are degrading our politics.