If, like me, you regard the emergence of Boris Johnson as odds-on successor to Theresa May with a certain feeling of numbness, it may be time to examine the path that has led the UK to this nadir in its fortunes.
Let’s not mince words. Britain is degrading into a pantomime state. Boris is a vacuous, amoral chancer whose appeal is based on his image as a toff-ish, loutish buffoon.
His likely opponent in the next general election, Jeremy Corbyn is an unreconstructed and very thinly disguised Trotskyite Marxist.
Both of them will have emerged from electoral processes in which a small and unrepresentative minority is pursuing the interests of their party before the wishes of the great majority of their citizens.
The best that can be hoped for is that either of them (or both of them) if elected as Prime Minister will prove to be a disappointment as far as achieving their personal political aims is concerned.
In the case of Johnson, those who have worked with him routinely describe him as dishonest. They claim that he is simply a stranger to the truth and to decency in his personal and working life. He is very Trump-like in so many ways.
Any party that selects Johnson or Corbyn as its leader deserves to be hammered.
And the shocking thing is that both the Tories and Labour will fight the next election on the sole issue as to whether their opponents’ leader is worthy of office.
And both of them will, of course, be right. Neither of them is remotely suitable for high office.
In an era in which Trump, Count Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, Putin, Netanyahu, and Chinese President regularly rub shoulders for photo calls at international summits, vacuous, amoral Boris should fit in very nicely, thank you.
What brought us to this pass?
The simple answer is the categorical imperative of party interest. The Tories bought off the risk of losing seats because of a leakage to UKIP by promising a Brexit referendum even though the great majority of Tory MPs were Remainers.
To vote to hold a referendum to decide an issue when you firmly believe that one outcome would be bad for your country is not simply amoral and foolish – it is immoral and dishonest. All the more so, if your only motive is to save party seats.
But that is what David Cameron and the rest of the Tories decided to do. To stop Ed Miliband, they promised to hold the Brexit referendum. It wasn’t to keep UKIP out of office. It was done to keep Labour out of office. It was cynical and disgraceful. And the great majority of Tory MPs went along with it.
Among them was Boris Johnson, a man who later tore up an article he had written explaining why he would be voting to remain, in order to position himself as the candidate of the right wing Tories for the leadership in the succession to Cameron whenever that opportunity might arise.
His later support for Brexit was not based on conviction but on naked cynical self-interest.
And so the Tories got their quick electoral fix. They beat Miliband and caused him to resign.
The hard-left Labour party members who had selected Ed rather than David Miliband had sown the seeds of their defeat.
And yet again, some very foolish and irresponsible Labour MPs who never wanted Jeremy Corbyn to be their leader nevertheless backed his nomination in the ensuing leadership contest either out of complete idiocy or cynical tactical motives, or both.
And so, a filter mechanism designed to prevent any extremist like Corbyn from getting onto the ballot paper by requiring a minimum number of MPs’ nominations was casually over-ridden by those MPs who dishonestly abandoned their own judgments and beliefs to nominate him.
So there is a symmetry of cynicism lying at the back of the ridiculous emerging choice between parties led by Johnson and Corbyn.
And, of course, there is also Theresa May’s cynical, self-serving and dishonest abandonment of her pledge on becoming Prime Minister that she would not call a snap election.
She broke that pledge for an imagined opportunity to smash a Corbyn-led Labour party. Her cynical dishonesty backfired
She ended up in a minority government, a political hostage to the DUP and the ERG group in her own party, and, in so doing, handed herself over to those who would use Brexit to get the keys of No 10.
All of these political disasters spell deep trouble for Ireland – north and south.
Under Johnson, some believe, the UK is on autopilot for a hard Brexit. That means a hard border.
The only way that outcome can be averted is if the EU 27 makes it absolutely clear to Johnson and especially to the British people that there will be no “negotiated or managed no-deal” Brexit.
There is high-stakes poker being played here. Ultimately, the UK hand is weak, and it can’t afford to have its bluff called by the EU27.
While some in the Tories are reportedly considering sending a negotiating team to Brussels including ERG and DUP members, to somehow convince the EU27 that whatever “deal” they agree will be passed in the House of Commons, it is hard to see the EU 27 negotiating with such a team rather than with the UK prime minister.
In any event, the threat of a no-deal Brexit would really have to be “backed” by all Remainer Tories if it were to be credible And that can’t happen.
So the UK is not going to be facilitated by the EU 27 if it seeks to use the difficulty of getting House of Commons approval as a bargaining chip.
The majority in the House of Commons is dead against a no-deal Brexit and it could, with the cooperation of Speaker Bercow, yet pass a short bill prohibiting the UK government from exiting without concluding a withdrawal agreement on pain of extending or revoking the Article 50 process, if the prospect of no deal or of Johnson proroguing the Parliament to force his no-deal strategy became real.
Ireland’s advice to the EU 27 must be: “Don’t feed the unicorns”.
Image credit: By Tim Reckmann https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77691700