Yesterday’s Parliamentary fiasco was the consequence of a failure to see that from June 2016 the political/commentator class has deceived both us and them. The Commons chaos is the disorder that follows when the talent to emote trumps the ability to think, says Sean Walsh.
There was a moment during Wednesday’s latest production from the Theatre of the Absurd when I wondered if I’d accidentally started drinking again. That fear kicked in when I read a tweet disclosing that a government whip had abstained in the vote he was supposed to be enforcing. Even stranger, if possible, it transpired that Amber Rudd -to whom the Prime Minister has been indulgent- had suddenly remembered that she’d left the oven on – just at the moment when Mrs May could really have used her vote. The usual collection of grotesques played their well-rehearsed part: the reliably mirthless Anna Soubry confirmed to the rest of us that wrong Remainer lost her voice earlier in the week and Dominic Grieve – the Foggy Dewhurst of the Remain establishment- continued to slow-motion regurgitate his swallowed copy of UK Constitution for Beginners.
Enter the whole debacle for the Turner Prize -don’t bet against it winning.
That there was a flavour of absurdity about all of this is quite fitting. There was something vaguely contradictory about the legislature’s attempt to eliminate “No Deal” as a possible future outcome. “No Deal” is in fact not no deal: there is already a sufficiently robust set of protocols in place to facilitate a managed exit. Conversely, the “Withdrawal Agreement” is not a deal but a set of constraints on our ability to negotiate a deal in the future -one designed to slow-motion funnel us back into the tender embrace of the EU project. The contradiction may not be formal, but the impression is given that MPs didn’t really know what they were voting for – remember that next time Continuity Remain announce that the rest of us didn’t know what we were voting for in 2016.
Brexit is not difficult – at least not intellectually. The UK took a clear decision to leave the EU. What should happen now is determined by what “leave the EU means”. You cannot leave the EU by remaining embedded in its defining structures. When the young adult decides to leave home but comes back twice a week to do his washing you begin to suspect that the leaving is more in the thought than in the practice.
So, if not intellectually difficult then why the mess? Because since the referendum verdict the political class has conducted a campaign of deception. Language has been bent in directions to which language has never boldly gone before. The concept of “Brexit” itself has been shredded into “hard vs soft”: a division that is not even coherent. Elected Prime Ministers have boarded planes in supplication to the unelected nomenklatura of the latest version of secular priesthood. Surely that’s the wrong way around? In order to prevent “uncertainty” our political class has opted for chaos.
But when you operate in a default mode of deception eventually you deceive yourself. When you weave that tangled web the web in question becomes a reshaping of your soul. Which is why our current MP class really can’t see that what they are doing is deeply, deeply evil.
Let’s drill down further: why did they instigate the deception in the first place? Because our MPs are needy and when a needy person feels unneeded, she needs to act out. The 2016 vote was a rebuff to that fraction of the population that (a) feels it really needs to “serve” and (b) ends up serving by ruthless application of ambition cultivated by years of knowing that you have more to offer than the person next to you. They take it personally, this uncomfortable fact that we are happy to do without them. Our current MP class, not homogeneously but in significant order, move from student politics to local government to (if they are in their own terms lucky) national parliament. Having arrived, the crisis of needful activity that got them there in the first place, includes this as part of its momentum: the need to keep doing things. To do stuff. To conflate activity with progress.
So, in the end where we are now is possibly our fault – the responsibility of the effected citizen who nevertheless indulges these people. We insist on sending to parliament the very people who really want to be there, which is to say we send the very people who really shouldn’t be there. Should our MPs have second jobs? Of course: the second job should be to be an MP; the first job should be the one that inculcates in them a habit of humility and a perspective that makes them fit to be an MP.
Yesterday’s fiasco was the consequence of a failure to see that from June 2016 the political/commentator class have deceived us and themselves. The Commons chaos is the disorder that follows when the talent to emote trumps the ability to think.
These are very dangerous moments.