In 2000, Michael Gove, then Home Editor of The Times, attacked the Good Friday Agreement in a Centre for Policy Study paper “The Price of Peace” from a deeply Tory/Unionist perspective. He was, of course, perfectly entitled to do so, especially at a time when the Provisionals had not yet disarmed and long before the St Andrews Conference finally paved the way for the DUP and Sinn Féin to share power.
But the vehemence and angle of his attack is worth remembering; he condemned the Agreement’s great “wickedness”, its “capitulation to violence”, its threat to the “Britishness” of Northern Ireland, the “demilitarisation” of the North, and described it as a “humiliation of our Army, Police and Parliament”. He condemned the Patton Report and lamented the “grim fate” of the RUC. He was appalled by support for the Irish language. He prayed for the Agreement to be abrogated by Westminster so that the North might become like Wales (where by the way the Welsh language is recognised and supported!).
The same wing of the Tory party to which Michael Gove and Boris Johnson belong is baying for a complete and hard Brexit. They affect to believe the mantra “No Deal is Better than a Bad Deal” without explaining what that means.
The logical corollary of that mantra is that a bad deal is defined as something that is worse than no deal. And it really is hard to imagine any deal being done between the UK and the EU that is really worse than no deal.
Just as another brainless mantra passed Mrs May’s lips – “Brexit Means Brexit” – someone should now tell the Tories that “No Deal Means No Deal”. That means no deal on British ex-pats in Europe rights, no deal on security, no deal on airline access, no deal on higher education changes, no deal on aerospace, no deal on pensions, no deal on mobile telephony charges – in short, “no nothing”.
The hard-line Tory brexiteers are baying for disaster – politically, economically and culturally. They are playing into the hands of their hate-figures, the Euro-federalists who want to punish them UK “pour encourager les autres”.
Their visceral hatred for the sensible Chancellor, Philip Hammond, knows no bounds. They now want to sack him because he won’t start wasting money buying half the vacant land in southern England for massive lorry park customs posts – even before it is clear whether there will be tariffs on movement of good between the UK and the EU.
In all of this, they are egged on by the extremist Tory press – the same print-louts who viciously attacked the judiciary just for upholding the sovereignty of Parliament and giving a vote on Brexit to elected MPs.
The Tories have lost the younger generation of voters in England. They are a party running intellectually on the fumes lingering in the empty petrol tank of Empire. The very idea that Jacob Rees Mogg – a man who would have been expelled from Bertie Wooster’s Drones Club for being boring – is being considered to replace Mrs May demonstrates that the Tories are on a down escalator. Or maybe it shows that they haven’t completely lost their sense of humour. Why not go the whole hog - and exhume Alex Douglas Hume!
They are intent, it seems, on pulling off at least one more miracle – making Jeremy Corbyn look safe, sensible and electable.
All of this would be laughable if it weren’t so serious for Ireland.
Should Philip Hammond also start buying back the barracks and the sites for observation towers in the North to accommodate the military needed to protect a hard border? That too would show Michel Barnier that Michael Gove and Boris Johnson aren’t just bluffing about walking away with no deal.
Despite all the absurd throwing of shapes by Gove and Johnson, I remain hopeful that a deal will be done in which the UK enters into a “partnership” of some sort with the EU that will largely approximate to remaining in the Customs Union. In that context there will be no hard border.
I remain confident that the two parts of Ireland will not be torn further apart at the hands of the Tories – however well they may be auditioning these days not just for the role of the “nasty party” but actually to displace Lord Sutch from the Looney party place for unsuccessful candidates on the returning officers’ dais at the next election.
A “canary in the coal mine” test as to whether the Tories have lost the will to survive will come early in the New Year. Donald Trump, we are told, will visit England. The Queen will not be receiving him. She hasn’t lost her marbles to the same extent as the Tory party yet. He won’t be allowed address parliament – John Bercow, the Speaker, has vetoed that.
But Mrs May has been embarrassed into agreeing to meet him.
It won’t just be the left who will take to the streets to protest his visit. By the looks of things more than a million ordinary British citizens will turn out to tell him he’s not wanted. If the Tories receive Trump, they will cement their well-deserved fate.
Remember, Harvey Weinstein is not the only bullying, sociopathic sexual predator at the top of the US greasy pole. Trump has willingly donned the mantle of the “nasty party” in the US. His contempt for the environment, for the citizens of Puerto Rico (who are like the Mexicans now expected to build their own wall!), for the Shias, for the Kurds, and for the Blacks and Hispanics in America, revolts right-thinking people in Europe – and that includes Britain.
Meeting and greeting the poutish, loutish Trump in London (the man who 11 months ago was calling for the break-up of the EU) is likely to be the last nail in May’s coffin – if she lasts that long. Maybe something – like a war in the meantime - will give her the excuse to avoid that fate. Maybe Gove and Boris will fail to grab the leadership of the Tories for a second glorious time is she goes. Maybe someone in London will do a deal with the EU. Maybe the madness will stop.
Photo credit: @theresa_may - Twitter