Vote For Chaos!

‘Sir’ Lynton Crosby, the Tories’ Aussie election guru, thinks Tory HQ a pushover.  Like an arms manufacturer dealing with the MOD, it’s money for old rope.  Treeza May is so very different from David Cameron that she’s employed the same old conman, and he’s recycling the same old slogans.  Pity Jezza’s brother’s a meteorologist, otherwise she could even re-use the slogan about the Opposition leader stabbing his brother in the back.

Our excitable ‘strong, stable’ PM seems to be moving into a manic phase right now.  It’s not serving her well.  When Cameron talked of “a coalition of chaos”, and employed actors dressed as salmon to follow Ed Miliband in public (Salmond, geddit?), he did, bizarrely, sound plausible.  Treeza’s use of Crosby’s re-heated sound bite simply sounds silly.  What prospective coalition?

And yet.  Crosby may be a lazy old plutocrat, but this time, and purely by accident, he may be on to something.  The “coalition of chaos” might be a thing.

The real “coalition of chaos” is, of course, the Tory Party, in which predominantly Remain-voting MPs, led by an ostensibly Remain-voting PM, has been hijacked by the far-right ultras in the party (and their UKIP paramilitaries).  Brexit means Brexit is the very definition of chaos, throwing all our laws, our trading relationships, our medical research, our financial services, our universities, our motor manufacturers, and much else into real chaos.  They have no idea where they stand.  They can’t plan for the absolutely unknown future. That’s 100% gold plated chaos, and we have it right now.

But the vicar’s daughter, brought up in the smug, hypocritical wing of the CofE, can’t see the mote in her party’s eye.  She wants to project a project of chaos onto the other side.

Certainly her opponents aren’t exactly giving a masterclass in sly strategic thinking, nimble tactics, sparkling speeches, nifty stunts.  But that’s just a failure to be competent. A long way from chaos.

The chaos we need is the counter-chaos that can stall the Tory-Brexit project.

We were pretty close to it.  If Corbyn had refused to back the vote on an early general election, and used guerrilla tactics to make May’s parliamentary strategy difficult, frustrating and time-consuming, that would have edged it closer.  The Electoral Commission dossier might have compelled the CPS to charge sitting Tory MPs with electoral fraud, causing a series of by-elections in difficult seats.  Sticking to the 2020 election timetable, the Tory majority could have been hacked back, and Brexit exposed as the dangerous delusion it is.  Moreover, the cuts from 2010 on are only now really beginning to be felt.  Austerity itself was about to become palpably real to voters, and harder to explain away.

But that might-have-been moment has passed.

So now we need a concerted, cross-party campaign to re-engineer a chaotic House of Commons.  That means disciplined tactical voting to try to prevent Tory gains, and to re-take as many marginals from them as possible.

She might look like queen of all she surveys, but May has some disadvantages in this election.  The overwhelming sense that this will be a pushover for her could induce complacency and depress turnout.  And to win big, she needs a high turnout.

Brexit did significantly raise turnout on the previous year’s general election, and it also added new voters to the electoral roll.  But will they turn out again, in a general election? No one knows.  For if May wants to energise the voters who voted Leave, she needs to make this a Brexit election. But the more she makes it a Brexit election, the more she motivates Remainers to get out there and vote.

This matters in our ‘First Past the Post’ voting system, but in odd, unpredictable ways.  The Leave and Remain votes were not distributed evenly across constituencies, but pile up in some, and are thinner on the ground in others.  John Curtice, who has crunched the numbers on both voting patterns in 2015 and the 2016 referendum, says that he cannot see how, in many seats, the Brexit vote might make a difference to the outcome.  Moreover, this election will be fought on current boundaries, not the 2020 boundaries which will give an additional advantage to the Tories.  The reality is, we have no way to gauge how things will move.

The campaign proper has not yet started.  The rules governing how broadcasters cover it have been loosened, giving more room for interpretation to editors.  We know what the partisan press will do.  We know that the Tories will spend big on social media, particularly Facebook.

But this won’t just be a replay of 2015, still less of 2016.  We once saw voters parroting Tory slogans that “Labour broke the economy”, and “Tories will bring down the deficit”, and Labour simply lacked the means to correct them before they passed into that deadly deceit, “common sense”.  In 2016 simple phrases like “Taking Back Control” resonated in ways that the bloodless Cameron couldn’t counter.  But this time, voters are taking the piss out of Tory slogans, groaning and gurning on Question Time, or churning out “strong, stable” memes on social media.  We know how the trick’s done, now.

In this election there is no hope of a normal outcome.  So to preserve democracy, which means ensuring that the battle goes on, we need to produce chaos in the next Parliament.

Because right now, “strong government” means something very dangerous.

Votes Without Democracy

Elections used to be rowdy affairs.  Politicians held meetings in the street, went on walkabouts, shaking hands with unvetted passers-by, kissing babies who bawled their protest. Getting pelted with eggs was quite normal for a politician.  Prime Minister Ted Heath had a pot of red paint chucked over him by a young woman in Downing Street, back then a normal London thoroughfare down which any citizen could stroll.  Heckling was normal, abusive heckling an occupational hazard, and flying fists not unknown.  Elections could be electric, dangerous.

The good old days?  They were good, not because of incivility, or affray. The joy of a little bit of chaos is that this is how the philosophical basis of democracy was modelled to voters in the most demotic way.  Democracy as debate, disagreement, robust argument.  Facts were facts, without alternatives, news was news, not fake, and separate from opinion in our newspapers.  In local hustings meetings, anyone could turn up and ask questions, and all candidates, from the British Union of Fascists to the Communists, could sit alongside Conservative, Labour, and Liberal rivals as of right.  This is idealising the past, but not excessively.  Most people, in their guts, understood that a variety of views was not only permissible,  but desirable. It was how the system worked, how social solidarity was sustained.

Elections today certainly don’t feel like that.  The voters are expected to be passive, except in designated sports arenas, chaired by a Dimbleby.  Parties try to game the system, but it’s a rigged game, with money heaped upon one side only.  Social media is not like yelling in the street, because on Twitter only your own side can hear you scream.

This feels like voting.  It doesn’t feel like democracy.

The 2017 General Election has been called, so says Theresa May, so that a Tory government with a solid mandate for Brexit can show its strength in negotiations with those who are still our EU partners, and will remain neighbours in perpetuity.  What contemptuous nonsense.

Britain was pretty evenly divided at the referendum, and a government with a slim majority and a fractious opposition seems like exactly the right reflection of the “will of the people”.  Humility and cooperation might have better respected the vote – had the referendum vote been a democratic one.

I’m not disputing the fact that the larger portion of the electorate, 37% in total, voted the Leave the EU.  It is the ‘Winner Takes It All’ mentality which needs to be challenged.  That mindset is profoundly anti-democratic.  It assumes that all other strands of opinion are not legitimate.  It permits no space for further discussion, for nuanced thought, for people to look at how things develop, and even to change their minds.

That’s the atmosphere in which this election is taking place.  Democracy? Don’t make me laugh.  This is the Coronation of Queen Theresa by popular acclaim of her humble subjects.  Her peers are not the likes of Angela Merkel, a wily politician, but plainly a cooperator, not a control freak.  Does May really want to place herself alongside Putin and Erdogan?  She held Trump’s hand.  She also appears to hold his plain, partisan contempt for political opponents.

Parliament was prorogued only this week. The candidates have not yet been selected.  The manifestos (at least all but the Tory one, one supposes) have yet to be written. The official campaign won’t start for a couple of weeks. And yet….

And yet this feels like an election without democracy.  The winner has been chosen, the scale of the victory decided, and the front pages written.  They are the masters now.

Cats In A Sack Politics

Barely a week since the vanity election of Theresa May was called, and already we see what’s going to happen.

Tories are pack animals. Polite, oh so moderate Open Britain, which bent over backwards to be inclusive has been deserted by Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve.  Why? Because Open Britain started to do something – something that targeted Ultra-Brexit nut job Tory MPs.  And when it comes to anything that might hurt their pack, they run back snapping and growling to their own.  Because a Tory win – and big- beckons.  And that matters much more than the national interest.

We see clearly that Brexit, whichever side individual Tory MPs are on, remains in their eyes primarily a struggle for the soul of the Conservative Party.  To hell with the country. The sad, and revealing, thing is this: that the rest of us, the non-Tories, ever thought otherwise.

For we, too, have heard the starting gun, leapt off the blocks, and promptly set about beating one another up, leaving Brexity Tories to stroll their way to a landslide.

In this election there are only two major parties standing.  The Brexit Party, and the Anti-Brexit Party.  And now we have to start acting like that.  Our cats in a sack act is politically inept.  Worse.  It is morally culpable.  Brexit will magnify Tory distain for public services, and serve as a cloak to cover their privatisations, cuts and handouts to their own, and we are aiding and abetting their assault and larceny.

So let’s examine the Anti-Brexit Party.

The Anti-Brexit Party is fractious.  So are the Tories. But we revel in our divisions. We yell them from the rooftops, and parade them in public for the general derision of the electorate.  Oh, the vanity of small differences!

Labour has a leader who is temperamentally unsuited to the role, an inexperienced and divided Front Bench, a sullen PLP, and a mass membership too many of whom mistake a big friendly rally for success.  But it has the greater number of MPs, and most of its voters, and almost all of its MPs, are Remainers. This is simply a fact.  No Anti-Brexit Party can do without Labour, and properly empowered, Labour has some big hitters, with solid, ministerial experience, who could be a huge asset on the campaign trail.

The Liberal Democrats have played a poor hand (8 MPs in 2015) very well.  They have been able to use Brexit to erase memories of the time they had a strong hand, and squandered it, in 2010.  Brexit has energised them, never mind that they have their own Eurosceptic wing.  They have emulated the Tory trick of looking united in public, and it works for them.  But they cannot win this election, and even those of them who believe that they can replace Labour as the Opposition must know this to be a long term goal, not remotely achievable in a few short weeks from where they stand now.  So if they really are an anti-Brexit party, they have to start thinking about how to co-operate with others.  Which primarily means Labour.

Scottish and Northern Irish politics has different dynamics to England and Wales.  Where nationalism is involved, they have little interest in a ‘progressive alliance’, as it is irrelevant to their primary cause.  In any case, they (Ulster Unionists excepted) aren’t an impediment to the Remain side, and this general election will be decided by what happens in the regions of England and Wales.

And there’s the Greens.  Only one MP, but she punches way above her weight.  The Greens have genuine local traction in many places, and have shown a constructive willingness to lend their voting strength, where it might be useful, to other parties.  We saw this in Richmond, where the Lib Dems were able to defeat Zac Goldsmith, and we see it now in Ealing, where they plan to assist Rupa Huq for Labour.  Examples of mature, clear-sighted political strategising from which bigger parties ought to learn.

So what is necessary in this election campaign is that the Anti-Brexit Party needs to stop attacking its own side.  Labour – leave the Lib Dems alone, no matter how irritating you find them.  Lib Dems – so you don’t like Corbyn? He doesn’t matter.  Stop irrelevant attacks on Labour and train your guns on the enemy.  Everyone on the ground start cooperating.  If it’s a Lib Dem seat with an anti-Brexit MP, Labour shouldn’t stand against them.  If it’s a Labour seat, ditto.  In marginals, especially three way marginals, make a hard-headed assessment of which party has the best chance of taking, or retaining the seat, and make it happen.  If Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin could work together in the 1940s, surely this kind of enlightened self-interest could work?

And imagine the difficulty the Tories would have facing a United Front?  If their narrative faced a single, carefully-honed, counter-narrative?

Imagine.  Because odds-on, we’ll be fighting, cats in a sack style, until we emerge, bloody and limping on June 9th into a world even bleaker than the one we woke up to on May 24th 2016.

And it’ll be our own fault.

The General Election Of Doom

Considering how much is at stake in 2017, for the first time in my life I find myself struggling to be excited by an election.  It’s interesting, in much the same way that it’s hard to resist a brawl in a pub car park, as long as you’re a safe distance away.  I’m all for anti-heroes, but every character in this drama is utterly unlikeable.

So let’s review it as theatre.

It’s not always a good idea for the playwright also to be an actor, but this is Theresa May’s script, and she’s written herself the leading role. I’ve sympathy for women of a certain age looking for meaty parts, but honestly, who wouldn’t have preferred Helen Mirren?

May, the writer, is no Will Shakespeare.  Nuances of character, fatal flaws in the stuff of greatness, psychological depth and social sympathy are exactly the sort of fluff May despises.  Her heroine is a glamorous woman, the sort who gets photographed by Annie Leibovitz for American Vogue, yet she’s also able to don jeans and Barbour jacket for a trot around some ghastly northern place to show she’s a ‘woman of the people’. Preferably white people (casting, please note?).  The villain? That’s more complicated.

A conventional plot might see one adversary as sufficient, but not May.  She’s lined up a veritable chorus line of baddies.  There are the 27 foreigners, for starters.  German, French, Belgian…right down to the Maltese and the Croatians.  But it’s OK – they’re all white.

Someone told her you need a bit of comedy, so she’s written a role for Wilfrid Brambell as Leader of the Opposition.  Brambell brought great pathos to his portrayal of Steptoe Senior, and will surely do so again in this role, as the lovelorn Jeremy Corbyn.  The scene where he sadly brews a cup of elderflower infusion in his allotment shed, photographs of May torn from Vanity Fair pinned to the wall might have been moving, had it not been followed by a bus-load of Tory interns with triple-barrelled names trashing his brassicas. May’s script has little space for sentiment.

Indeed, the dramatic high point of May’s drama is The Expulsion of the Migrants (note to casting – diverse extras just for this scene, please).  As the huddled masses – vegetable pickers, scientists, nurses, care home workers – trudge across the stage towards the door marked ‘Brexit’, the PM character will permit herself a chilling ghost of a smile and a small G&T.

There’s a touch of ‘Les Mis’ about the finale, in which every single seat in the House of Commons is won by a Tory.  It will be a triumph (its says in the stage directions).

So.  Will this election stick to May’s bombastic, joyless, inhumane script?  Or might the director, or the other actors, or even the audience, decide to do a rewrite?

That’s about the only note of hope in this Election of Doom.  That somehow, against the odds, we tear up the script, and do something brave and exciting.

It’s up to us.

The Loneliness Of The Voter

In the election nobody wanted, spare a thought for the poor, bloody voter.

The more votes we are forced to endure, the emptier, the more pointless the whole ritual becomes. The link between how we vote, and what happens as a result, is weak.  I keep hearing people who voted Leave last year saying things like, “We’ve left Europe now, it’s done.”  The vote happened, we’ve had the result, why should we believe that any consequences follow from that?  Like the anarchists of old, we seem to think that if voting changed anything, we wouldn’t be permitted to do it.  Like Brenda from Bristol, we cry, “Oh for God’s sake, I can’t stand this. Why does she have to do it?”

There will be some political activists energised by any election, and raring to go.  The Lib Dems seem fired up, but they can hardly do worse than they did two years ago.  It is a measure of how quickly the political mood has changed that the five years in which they propped up a right-wing, neoliberal Tory government has been erased from public memory.  The Ultras in the Tory-Brexit Party are also ready to rock and roll, though no doubt they’ll be a little more cautious about whose account they charge the spending to this time.  Labour looks about as ready for an election as I look ready to play for Chelsea.  I’m too knackered, and so are they.

The ennui isn’t simply ‘voting fatigue’, with a major vote every year for the last four taxing our patience.  The real problem is what some are calling the ‘political crash’.

Like the banking crash, where the whole system was shown to be a rickety mess with institutions and rules which were not fit for purpose, and where big, rapacious, amoral beasts roamed unchecked, gobbling up anything good, and decent, and useful, so with the political crash.  The political parties are like the banks.

Labour was the Royal Bank of Scotland.  In the buccaneering 1990s it grew swaggering and shiny, taking over other banks, like Nat West, a colossus bestriding the world.  Things could only get better.  Except they didn’t.  Too big to fail, they forgot to fix the system whilst they were still in charge.

The Tories are Barclays, who went through a very rough patch under a succession of bosses, before clawing their way back into the sunlight.  It took a while, but look at them now!  Not that anyone really believes that things have been sorted, but compared to RBS, who are basically Big Issue sellers, these guys are back on the Cristal.  Riding for a fall, but probably not before they’ve trashed the place.

The SNP’s a hedge fund, a slick votes machine.  Tim Farron’s Lib Dems are a cheery online challenger bank. The Green’s are a credit union, UKIP a payday loans company. They all occupy their places within the system.  But the system is rotten.

That’s why we, the voters, are so lonely.  Just as we need bank accounts, and access to money to function in any way in this society, we also need a political system, with a legislature, and an executive, and parties, and voting systems, to make democracy happen.  And the system is bust.

There needs to be a long, difficult national conversation about who we are, how we live together, how we distribute resources, and how we institutionalise our preferences.  Power needs to be put under the spotlight, including the power of lobbyists, and the power of a Fourth Estate which has moved into Versailles and has taken to wearing powdered wigs, instructing the public to “have cake, and eat it,” as Marie Antoinette didn’t quite say.

But in the absence of that necessary conversation, we are stuck with politics as it is now; a game played by bullies, sociopaths, the entitled and the self-righteous, with as much popular resonance, or real social roots, as a dog fighting syndicate.

This Brexit election, and the next two years, may be the 2008 moment for our politics – when we realise that the crisis is real, and something needs to be done, urgently.

But don’t bank on it.


The Citizens Party Manifesto

When a government with a majority, calls a general election most voters don’t want, three years before they ought, something funny is going on.  And when something funny is going on, there comes a point at which many people will say, ‘enough!’

So here’s The Citizens’ Party.  It doesn’t look like other political parties.  For one thing, it has no leader, no subs, no HQ.  You can join it in your head, and not tell anyone about it, and you can shout about it from the rooftops (though if you try to go down the maximum publicity route, you’ll get tarred as ‘saboteurs’, ‘enemies of the people’, and worse).

The Citizens’ Party is the DIY movement which has emerged, blinking and stumbling, from the train wreck set in motion by the 2015 general election, in which foul tactics, and possible foul play (the CPS has the evidence against the Tories on that score), secured an unexpected ‘victory’ for David Cameron, and all our woes.

In a democracy, you cannot tell half the electorate that their wishes count for nothing, and that their voices must be silenced ever more.  Erdogan in Turkey is trying it, which is shocking enough, but so is our own Prime Minister.  And we aren’t having it.

In normal times, May would not be permitted to trample all over her opponents like this without massive and constant challenge from the Opposition.  That is their job.  But the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has other ideas.  He, too, buys the modern fiction that a vote won equals the end of the argument.  So we are on our own.

The election campaign, on the surface, looks like the big guns of the Tory-Brexit Party under “I’ll say anything, and then do the opposite” May, working with WMDs like ‘Sir’ Lynton Crosby, and The Daily Mail (Falange badge free with every copy), up against the allotment management committee, with the plucky little Lib Dems making occasional charges armed only with rolled up copies of the i.  It offends every British instinct about fair play, but British instincts about fair play have only ever been skin deep.

The surface impression is wrong.

I started this blog when the 2015 general election was called, but carried on with it, because in a sense the campaign has not yet ended.  The feeling now, at the beginning of the 2017 campaign, is very different from the mood music two years ago.

Back then, in the distant past all of 24 months ago, the assumption was that normal early 21st Century British politics would prevail.  Sullen voters, whipped up by the Dogs of War press, would monster the earnest, clever one because he looked funny, and couldn’t eat a bacon sarnie, but they wouldn’t warm to the posh boys, Cameron and Osborne, either.  And they’d give the Lib Dems a well-deserved punishment beating.  A hung parliament might ensue, or a minority Labour government, or even another coalition of some sort.  Business as usual.

We don’t, can’t feel that way now.  May and her cronies might be doing their damnest to normalise Brexit, but they can’t.  No exhortation to ‘unite’, to ‘come together’, can hide the fact that this is a rumbling, low-level civil war, in which people, neighbours, families, generations, regions, are divided implacably.  That’s the truth Labour doesn’t want to hear, either.  There is no way to speak for ‘both sides’.  The fiction that there can be a ‘Brexit that works for everyone’ is nonsense.  You are on one side of the argument, or you are on the other.  The people are still speaking, and this argument goes on.

Everywhere there are groups of people meeting in person, or virtually.  Conference calls of organising committees planning action.  Disgruntled constituents of loathed MPs slagging them off on Facebook.  Nice middle class gentlemen using the office computer to  design anti-Brexit, anti-Tory memes to upload to Instagram and Tumblr.  Waspi women Tweeting their distain for the politicians who won’t listen to them.  The Citizens’ Party created itself, and it will have an effect upon this election.

So what can unite the Citizens’ Party?  What do they want?

They don’t want business as usual.  They don’t want most of the political leaders we have. They don’t want the parties we have, working in the system we have.  They want change. They want to do things differently. They want their voices heard.  They want hope.

Knowing what you don’t want, and hoping for better, is a start, but it’s not a plan.

A plan is emerging for election ’17.

It’s guerrilla war, hand-to-hand fighting, little skirmishes here and there.  The aim is to halt that Tory-Brexit train.

That means using every trick in the democratic box necessary to deprive the Tory-Brexit Party of the massive majority May craves, and preferably to deprive her of even the slim majority they have.

The Citizens’ Party. Taking Back Control.

Brexit Party Calls Election

Theresa May’s ruling Brexit Party today called a general election for 8 June.  This is three years early.  So why?

May, elected by no one but some voters in Maidenhead, isn’t seeking a personal mandate for the post she inherited.  She isn’t responding to a clear public appetite for more votes – quite the contrary.  Nor is she observing the normal rules of political purdah that ought to obtain in the run up to the local elections.  She can’t possibly be trying to de-rail the Crown Prosecution Service decision, expected next week, on allegations of electoral fraud by her party.

May was, in her statement in Downing Street just over half an hour ago, clear about her reasons for calling an election.  Brexit Means Brexit.

Her burning hatred of Un-Brexit, Remoaner forces, that tiny group of half of the population, was wholly behind May’s Erdogan-like determination to vanquish all opposition.  We whingey types, with our ‘facts’, and our ‘experts’, and our damned insistence on due process; we’re in her way.  We fail to bow down to the titanic majesty of the May Queen.

I suspect that her delusion is genuine.  She said that the obstructors of the Great Brexit Project were in Parliament, whereas the British people had come together in unity behind the mission to leave the EU.  Which is palpable nonsense.

It is understandable that a politician of little vision wants to call an election whilst the Official Opposition is having a five year long nap. It is tempting to go to the polls when it looks like the Tories are 20 points in the lead. Opportunistic, contrary to all previous promises, but normal political calculation.

But this may be her mistake.

The Tories have a huge opinion poll lead.  Not The Brexit Party.  And May has made this a Brexit election.

The omens for The Remain Party are not good.  These are not the right circumstances for a rational election, and our strength is our weakness, for we insist on reason.  But if we didn’t want a fight right now, on these monstrous terms, we’ve got one, and there is no alternative but to fight.

To fight hard, to fight as dirty as we have to.  To do what we didn’t do in the referendum campaign.

Throw their £350 million a week to the NHS bus in their faces every day.  Parade the old and sick, deprived of social care on every TV screen and phone and tablet in the land.  Be (properly) alarmist at the loss of all the good things – food safety, rights at work, medical research, and so much else – that we gain from the EU.

If May wants to be the Brexit Party in a Brexit election, let her have it.

For the numbers aren’t quite as terrible as they might be, even with the collapse of the Labour Party.

This election is fought without the benefit of the boundary changes that are due to come in before 2020.  In much of the South, and especially the South West, the Lib Dems are well placed to regain seats they once held.  Elsewhere, we must make the best of tactical voting to remove Brexitist MP, mainly Tory, though others, like Labour’s shameful Brexiters, must also be defeated by Remain candidates.  And we must have a voter-registration drive.  Above all, mobilise the young.  Young people must vote.  Their future is in their own hands.

We can deliver a House of Commons without a Tory-Brexit majority if we are active and disciplined.

This is our Turkish democrat moment.  We are in jeopardy.  Massive resources, the full might of the media, will be ranged against us.  But we can and must fight.

Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Brexit (And Were Afraid To Contemplate)

Each day I peruse the front pages of the London press.  From the biggest selling newspapers there is little that might be gleaned of the state of the world.   It might be nuclear handbags at dawn for The Donald and L’il Kim (we’re all invited), but The Daily Mail is in a tizz over satnavs.  In Brexitland, our fears are smaller.

Little England’s head-in-the sand world view once might have been irritating and comical in roughly equal measure.  Not any more.

Leave aside the absolutely massive and urgent questions about the world.  The ongoing climate change disaster.  An American president of mercurial temperament squaring up to another man-sized toddler with nukes. A vain and preening Tzar playing games with the electoral systems of his neighbours.  Bearded fascists intent on turning the cradle of human civilisation into barren sand.  Tyrants, warlords, arms dealers, drug dealers.  And don’t forget the satnavs.  But leave them all aside.

Let’s talk about Brexit.

The tiny, serious parts of the British media that still want to investigate, to interrogate, to report what’s going on with Brexit are doing their best, bless them.  I’ve become quite a fan of The New European, the radical, agitprop rag that you can buy in Waitrose.  It’s a joy to read Michael White once more, alongside Bonnie Greer, Mitch Benn, and the rehabilitated Alastair Campbell, usually with a side helping of weird, like a long appreciation of Michel Houellebecq by someone who doesn’t like him, or a defence of Baudrillard, or a list of songs with multilingual lyrics.  It’s edited by Private Eye’s legendary Phil Space, but he’s doing a cracking job.

Nonetheless, to know what Brexit means, you have to turn to other sources.  The Irish press, for pretty obvious reasons, is especially concerned, but all around the world people are looking at the UK and wondering what the hell we think we are doing?

So let’s boil it down to the news about Brexit so far.

We are led by a Prime Minister who has managed to pull off the trick of making cluelessness and bloodlessness look like cool competence to a lot of the electorate.  She appears to have started from the position that Brexit is like anything else in politics – however much of a crock of shit it is, chuck enough money at an Aussie spin doctor and it can be finessed away.  She is now starting realise that Brexit isn’t like anything else.

Some of the brighter Brexiteers are also showing signs of anxiety.  Running a Eurosceptic think tank or pressure group is easy.  Hire some superficially clever and tenacious kids, craft some simple narratives, however misleading, that will appeal to the public, and shout down your opponents.  Result? A permanent seat on Question Time.  So how hard can Brexit be?

Very hard.  It turns out that you can’t undermine Michel Barnier by means of barbed Twitter attacks.  Guy Verhofstadt isn’t afraid of The Daily Mail.  Having a hotline to Rupert Murdoch doesn’t impress Angela Merkel.

It seems you need actual ‘experts’ to do Brexit.  Experienced lawyers, diplomats, trade negotiators.  And because they are experienced, they are saying, as silkily, as agreeably as their highly paid talents will allow, that Brexit is pure, unadulterated foolishness.

The very best deal conceivably available to the UK upon leaving the EU is a bad deal, far worse than we have at the moment.  The most realistic deal will be worse than bad.  A bad deal will be catastrophic, an ongoing, unending nightmare.

This message, it seems, is beginning to be understood in government.

So what can they do about it?

That’s the question.  The obvious answer – tell the public the truth – is inconvenient.  Theresa May inherited No 10 because of Brexit, and she is temperamentally unsuited to putting national interest before personal and party interest.  And May and her government are 100% pure politicians.  They must devote their energies not to the fantasy of Brexit as the road to dazzling economic success and social contentment, but to playing the politics.

And that politics isn’t even the politics of fooling the electorate (Mr. Dacre and Mr. Murdoch will look after that side of things).  The only politics that matters for Brexit is the politics of internal party management for the Conservative Party.

Hence the waste of money and the international derision that is a jumped-up former GP “sharing values” with the Killer in Manilla.  Keeping IDS happy and on-side is far more important than bringing in the Fenland harvest.  Sedating an over-excited Owen Paterson matters more than the workers of Nissan or Jaguar-Land Rover.

This is what May means when she says of Brexit, “we will make a success of it.”  Not a “global Britain”, not a rising “Anglosphere”, not a land of milk and honey, or of cake and prosecco.

Brexit means keeping the right of the Tory Party happy.  The price tag? £60 billion and rising.  But it’s “the will of the people”….

Brexit In Faliraki

Each new day, each new absurdity. Michael Howard wants to start a fight. Mickey Gove’s missus is trying to get Theresa and Nicola into a wet T shirt competition. Dominic Raab is blubbing in the corner because Hilary Benn (yes, that well-known bully boy) is being nasty to him, cruelly demanding facts, and evidence, and contingency planning, FFS! It’s as though British politics (or is it just Brexit politics?) has gone off for a couple of weeks in Faliraki for a compulsory sex and substance abuse party, but, alas, has managed to spend nine months there, and counting. The Brits and Europe – it never ends well.

It’d be all too easy to extend this metaphor. After all, Lord Howard really is shouting, “Fight! Fight!” We can remember the unpleasant image Arron Banks proudly shared with the Today programme of he and Nigel skinny dipping after a night of binge drinking. We’ve seen their selfies from that ghastly club with the tacky gold elevators. Fat Boris waddling around in his pants, having his cake, and eating it. Spivvy Fox trying to flog timeshares in a half-built abattoir. Don’t look too closely down that alleyway. There’s probably a teenaged refugee lying in a pool of his own blood at the end of it. Yes, welcome to Theresa May’s Brexit Party! It’s cheap, it’s nasty, it’s abusive. Suck it up!

It’s a doddle to riff on this theme. So it’s time to stop. Let’s take a stone, cold, sober paramedic’s eye view of the Mayhem. For these people govern us.

Think about that. They rule. Real, live proper rule. Making laws, making decisions, making us pay for them. Henry VIII powers, even. David Davis gets to star in Game of Thrones! “Die!” he cries, raising his sword at the Monstrous Merkel. But only when he’s looking in the mirror. Because we are the ones who will pay for this destructive, wasteful, delusion.

This is the real story of Brexit, as stripped down as I can manage.

There was a country which had once had an Empire. Some people, especially those who identified with nostalgic, right-wing politics, could never get over the loss of that Empire. They felt it as a personal sleight. It was a wound that wouldn’t heal. They wouldn’t let it, forever scratching away at the scab.

Someone was to blame for the loss of Empire. And they had to pay.

It was immigrants. They did it. And then it was the Common Market. They did it. Then it was the European Union. They did it. They’re all taking the piss. They won’t even let us win the World Cup any more. On Eurovision they laugh in our face and award us ‘nul points’. It is intolerable. Time to Take Back Control.

Of course, there are a few Brexiters who don’t see it primarily as a grudge match with the foreigners who stole our glory. The hedge-fundy, citizens of nowhere, non-doms who run our newspapers, and licence a few young Robespierres, like Daniel Hannan. People for whom chaos, destruction, upending things for the sake of it, offers them a chance to test their free market theories to destruction, whilst making a quick buck, or billions of bucks. Everything creates value for someone (that’s the phrase they use for larceny that you can get away with).

So now, they are getting their prize. Or at least, they would be, if doing stuff in the real world was as easy as making up pleasing narratives and writing them on the side of a bus.

For the Brextremists don’t know what they want, and don’t know how to get it, as the Brexiters’ favourite band once almost put it in their prophetic song, Anarchy In The UK.

There has been no planning. No best case plan, no realistic negotiating position, no fall-back, contingency planning, no consideration whatsoever of the worst case scenarios (of which there are many).  David Davis, the man in charge, said as much to Benn’s Select Committee.

And yet, you may say, the Tories are riding high in the opinion polls – much higher than most mid-term governments. They face little effective opposition. The media is either on their side, or under their thumb. So much is true.

But the odds are, it is being done, as was the whole Brexit campaign, with smoke and mirrors. The unchallenged governing party has a dwindling membership, and its billionaire one-time backers are now backing off. The ‘party of business’ is becoming the party of whinging nobodies; a joke in seriously monied circles. Brexit’s triumph is built on unstable, crumbling, foundations. Which isn’t necessarily any comfort to those of us who always said that this was mass delusion.

So that is where we are. The Brextremists will continue to lash out, the economy will continue to splutter along on the consumer spending of people who don’t know, or don’t want to think about, how bad things are, and the downward spiral will continue.

Brexit.  Hangover time.