Euan McColm: Toad chorus means we'll all be ruined together by No Deal

By the time Boris Johnson was lying to the nation, on Friday morning, about his entirely repellent actions during the EU referendum campaign, I was almost out of outrage.

Boris Johnson visits JCB HQ in Rochester on Friday to give his speech. Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty

But I still had a few drops in the tank.

After delivering his latest pitch for the Conservative leadership (dressed up as a speech about the need to unite a country divided by Brexit) Johnson invited questions from journalists in the audience. Channel Four’s estimable Michael Crick rose to his feet and made the point that, during the referendum campaign, Johnson had made absurd claims about the prospect of millions of Turkish citizens flooding into the country if the UK didn’t leave the EU (Turkey was not and still is not even a member of the EU) and didn’t this show that he would say anything if it meant winning a vote?

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Without the decency even to blush, Johnson insisted he had said nothing about Turkey in 2016. Of course he had, and the TV footage and newspaper articles that showed he had were soon doing the rounds on social media.

This is where we are now. A senior Tory MP – a man who was twice voted mayor of the great city of London – is taken seriously as a potential future prime minister despite the fact he can’t open his mouth without lying.

Not for the first time, last week, I felt my blood boil.

Johnson is just one of the band of cynical, self-serving toads – men and women whose professed commitment to the good of the country (barely) conceals their naked ambition or their wild-eyed ideologies – now destroying what little decency is left in our politics.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, still adored by the cultists who elected him in 2015, 
is every bit Johnson’s equal in the 
cynical toad stakes. After the Prime Minister’s withdrawal deal was put out of its misery by a Commons vote on Tuesday, Theresa May offered all opposition leaders in the house the opportunity to meet her and discuss ways in which this political impasse might be breached.

The SNP’s Ian Blackford, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable (is there anything more quaintly British than the polite way he is taken seriously?) and others across the Commons took her up on the offer because… well, because at a time like this, that’s what grown-ups do.

Corbyn, of course, did not.

The leader of the opposition’s insistence that he would not meet the PM to discuss progress on Brexit unless she was to take the No Deal option off the table was all the proof we needed that this is not a man serious about finding a solution. A No Deal Brexit is unavoidable if MPs from across parliament cannot reach an agreement on how to proceed. No Deal is the default.

And, with his insistence that Article 50 should be triggered promptly after the referendum, setting the UK on course for departure from the EU on 29 March, Corbyn’s dabs will be all over a No Deal Brexit should it come to pass.

Labour members might hunger for a second referendum but Corbyn – a career-long Eurosceptic who would have us believe he voted Remain in 2016 – will take Brexit at any cost because, in order for him to build his socialist utopia, what now exists must be destroyed.

The Labour leader is a man whose politics were forged in adolescence and he’s damned if he’s going to betray his teenage self now. And if people have to lose their jobs, if the economy has to tank, thanks to Brexit, so be it because, one day, he’ll have rebuilt society (spoiler – he won’t).

Weary of the Labour leader’s pathetic posturing, I looked closer to home for reassurance that someone might be taking this very serious situation at all seriously.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has done an excellent job of persuading a certain breed of liberal-minded voter south of the border that she possesses a unique wisdom. Every time she appears on national TV, you can be sure that numerous English voters will bemoan the fact that they cannot vote for SNP candidates.

But, when it comes down to it, she’s every bit as monomaniacal as the Brexiteers she so disdains. The chaos caused by the UK’s decision to leave the EU was, she said for the umpteenth time, proof that it was time for Scotland to go it alone.

Back in 2014, any suggestion that the break-up of a union might prove chaotic, might usher in a period of turmoil, might divide a nation, was dismissed by Sturgeon as the stuff of “Project Fear”. Now the chaos of Brexit is proof that independence is the only way forward.

How the break-up of the UK would be any less messy than extrication from the EU, I have no idea, but Sturgeon – every bit as cynical as Corbyn – doesn’t want to get bogged down in tiresome matters of reality.

As home secretary, promoting petty Little Englander policies designed to appease the right of her party rather than serve the interests of the UK, Theresa May was every bit as cynical as Corbyn or Sturgeon. Now? Now she’s just rather pitiful.

The PM’s task – to deliver a policy which she believes will harm the UK – is a miserable one, made all the more so by the fact she requires the assistance in her quest of opposition politicians who hold their ideological purity above anything as grubby as co-operating with an opponent.

Brexit stands to do terrible damage to the UK economy and to our standing in the world. It is a petty wheeze designed by petty nationalists and mis-sold as an act of empowerment.

Anything – and I really do mean anything – that might mitigate against the full-on disaster of leaving the EU without some kind of deal must be considered.

If Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon don’t start putting the interests of people before their ideological obsessions, they will be very bit as responsible as Theresa May for the inevitable No Deal Brexit that follows.