ABHI Brexit Update: The P Bomb
Never mind that Cardus wrote of the “Miracle of Eastbourne” in 1921, when A.C. MacLaren’s scratch, ageing England XI somehow overcame the hitherto invincible Australians. England’s prospects going into that game were considered so poor, that the Manchester Guardian alone deigned to dispatch a correspondent to The Saffrons. Even then, NC himself had checked out of his hotel early and was actually leaving the ground when a sixth sense told him something may be afoot. Never mind that 60 years later Ian Botham and Bob Willis conspired to produce, what we shall now have to call the “First Miracle of Headingley.” At one point in that game, England were quoted at 250-1 to win. In jest, the Australians bet against themselves, not something you can imagine happening today. At the game’s end, Chappell, Lillee, Marsh et al., sat in shell-shocked silence as their winnings was delivered in carrier bag after carrier bag, full of cold, hard cash. But those, and indeed any other moments of improbable sporting derring-do, were well and truly put into the shade by events in Leeds on Sunday. Anybody who knows anything about cricket will have told you that at the end of the Third Day of the Third Test, the game was up for England. The match, the series and the Ashes were gone. That was before Ben Stokes produced, in the early hours of the fourth afternoon, what can only be described as wizardry. People who have spent their lives and careers following the sport talked in hushed, reverential tones about what they had just seen. Geoffrey Boycott, a man who has, in spades, that wonderful northern characteristic of not being easily impressed, described it as the most amazing thing he had witnessed in 50 years. I am still trying to come to terms with what happened. But even Ben Stokes’s superhuman antics were outdone the next day. It was a Bank Holiday Monday in England, and we sat in our garden basking beneath cloudless skies. Miracles, it seems, are in the air.
I am not sure if we are in needing a miracle territory with Brexit, you can tell me. A little confidence in our leaders might be a start. You might, sometimes, be tempted to give Boris the benefit, but this week sums up the absurdity of the times. When needing to come up with an example to illustrate the tricky nature of agreeing a Trade Deal with the US, he thought of the simplest, least offensive, most uncontroversial product he could. Doubtless it was the first thing that came into his head. And that is the problem with Johnson, too often he says the first thing that comes into his head with no consideration for the consequences. For those, he relies on his wit and bonhomie to smooth things over. He would probably have been a great performer in the mid nineteenth century, plying his trade on the stage of Blackpool’s Palace Theatre, amusing the Plebes, but I am not sure that is what is needed right now. For Thatcher, you could choose your favourite nemesis, the National Union of Mineworkers, the medical profession, the people of the City of Glasgow. Boris has the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association.
Maybe he then realised that blessed are the pie makers, and they were not the people to pick a fight with. Come Wednesday, he went nuclear. He dropped the P bomb. You may have read my earlier assessment that proroguing (suspending) Parliament to stop those pesky MPs preventing the Government driving us over the Brexit cliff edge, was on the madder end of the insanity continuum. Well he only went and did it. To say it caused a bit of a stink, might be to be a tad understated. Downing Street denied it was anything out of the ordinary, and, anyway, it only amounts to four days missed business, as we have simply, briefly extended the recess for the Party Conference season. The words rang hollow. The conference recess is not a given. It is traditionally subject to a motion in Parliament, and the mood music is that this time, MPs would have said there were more important things to do at the moment than going on the lash by the sea / canal side, trying to avoid constituents and assorted fringe dwelling hooligans. But this time they will not get the chance. The fact is, and Downing Street knows it, that as many as 19 days may have been lost. Parliamentary time is always precious and a chunk of it was wasted at the end of last term on the grotesquely self-indulgent Conservative Party leadership race. People took to the streets, there were resignations, the Speaker broke protocol to condemn the news and all and sundry poured scorn on Johnson’s tactics. The Government fielded Rees-Mogg to do the media rounds and counter the tidal wave of indignation. Like fielding a Victorian child-catcher to talk abut anything is a good idea.
Johnson was accused of putting the Queen in a difficult position, given she had to approve the madness. Boris once famously said that when he grew up, he wanted to be “King of the World.” I am not sure he has grown up yet, or is capable of doing so, but maybe this is part of his plan, force her Maj into a position from which the public demand the abolition of the monarchy. Not that there is likely to be much of a Kingdom left for the King. We will have left Europe, lost Ireland, the Scots will be on their toes, other cities will follow Manchester down the devolution route, and I will swear allegiance to An Gof and write these for you from exile in the People’s Republic of Cornwall.
Supposedly caught on the hop were the Remain leaning coalition of Parties who had indicated that they would not call a vote of no confidence, but had a plan to stop a no deal nonetheless. Then the P bomb and now a vote of no confidence may be back on after all. What we can expect is a run at some legislation to prevent no deal on Tuesday when the Fun House finally sits again, but maybe only for a week (see above). It might be as simple as a single line amendment to the Withdrawal Bill making no deal illegal, with a vote of no confidence coming in immediately after depending on the outcome. Jeremy Corbyn has been out in front of it, trying to establish his credentials, but for what I am not quite sure. And his people have been working on him. He appeared on my TV screen this week manicured, powder blue Sports jacket on powder blue shirt. He looked like Val Doonican to me.
Most commentators agree that Johnson is taking a gamble on escalating the no deal stakes. He may be attempting to put pressure on the EU ahead of the October Summit, but is alienating support at home. Speculation about a general election grows, either via a vote of no confidence of self-inflicted to break the deadlock that may well continue next week. But that would be another gamble. Yesterday, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson resigned. She was a breath of non-Tory like, Tory fresh air for the Party North of, what may now become the actual border. That is 13 seats gone at a stroke Boris. 13. Then there is the fact that, as I have said before, Boris will lose in Uxbridge.
I am reluctant to say that next week will finally be pivotal, as we have said that on more than one occasion before. But it will be significant, and I will try and make sense of it all for you next Friday. Until then, there is Test Match cricket to enjoy, and it has more relevance than you might imagine. As all sorts of maneuverers begin, as the political equivalent of slide rulers come out to decide what is possible and who is right, the words of Cardus are apposite “Like the British constitution, cricket was not made: it has 'grown'.”