Sunday 10 February 2019

The Politics of Tory Time Wasting

Of Rory Stewart, my significant other often says he doesn't look like a politician. He looks like an actor playing a politician. It's not just our Rory, though. Consider the Prime Minister. On Friday she tweeted "I'm clear that I am going to deliver Brexit, I'm going to deliver it on time, that's what I'm going to do for the British public - I'll be negotiating hard in the coming days to do just that." We know this is a load of rubbish. EU heroes Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and Guy Verhofstadt have more or less intimated that May is just pantomiming politics and is wasting everyone's time. Which, of course, is the point. There is a clock ticking away and the chance she'll be able to get her deal through the Commons increases in proportion to our proximity to the cliff edge of a no-deal Brexit.

Playing for time and conveying an impression of feverish activity where there is none isn't a skill unique to politicians, but where our friends the Conservatives are concerned it has undergone something of a mutation. We need not expend any more time on Theresa May's woeful efforts, so let us clamber into the time machine and head back to the happy years of the pre-Brexit days. Approximately three years ago Dave went to Brussels to renegotiate the UK's membership of the European Union. People in the know then, as now, cast aspersions on his efforts to secure significant exceptions from the responsibilities of EU membership. And he came home with very little. The reward was small beer - to secure the Tory party right flank against a UKIP who polled very well in 2015 - but he put the house on it anyway. Nevertheless, the idea he'd achieved a meaningful change to the UK's obligations were risible and didn't wash, despite the efforts of the best spinners in the business. It nevertheless allowed Dave to look busy. A great deal of effort expended for something that, had it all gone according to plan, wouldn't have mattered much.

This characterises the modus operandi of the European Research Group and, appropriately enough, professional wastemen like Boris Johnson. Effectively, their vision of Britain post-Brexit is a big job of make-work for them. For tedious patricians like Rees-Mogg, it's more than an opportunity for his hedge fund to do well. The whole shit show is an affords a chance for the Tories to restore the leadership function of their class, of restoring their place in an ideological firmament that dethroned them throughout the course of the 20th century (forgetting Thatcher herself made her contribution). By tearing up all the agreements with the EU and, with it, all the trade deals with other states, such as Japan, South Korea and Canada - though the Faroe Islands are in the bag - Tories can globe trot and, in the full glare of publicity, sign up the trade deals they previously dumped. You can see it now, Mogg jetting off to exotic locales and bringing back with him an army transport full of pineapples. The disgraced Liam Fox loaded up with gadgetry to accompany his piece of paper with Japan's signature on it, and Boris Johnson messing with his hair and declaring a new era of cooperation as the Australian and New Zealand deals are sorted. To them, this is their Empire 2.0, their chance to play the great white hero swashbuckling across the globe and securing British interests. And their hope is it will play well at home. In their minds they're providing leadership to a country where it's sorely lacking and their reward will be seats and high office in perpetuity.

Meanwhile, in the scheme of the real world this is just displacement activity. A politics of wasting time to alibi the Tory party's absence on the big questions, like rebuilding Britain's economy, tackling the problems of the NHS, the underfunding of schools and early years, the lack of interest in the care crisis, and the looming, glooming threat of climate change. Even worse from the Tory point of view their obsession with jet setting sabotages further the strained relationship between the party and its constituency of voters because they're not addressing their concerns either, making the likelihood they'll get to act out these dismal neo-imperial fantasies somewhat more remote. Good.

It's a symptom of the awful state the Tories are in that a well worn political tactic has become elevated to the raison d'etre of a not insubstantial section of the party. All the more reason why our politics should work actively toward breaking them up so they never get the chance to form a government again.


Anonymous said...

"Of Rory Stewart, my significant other often says he doesn't look like a politician. He looks like an actor playing a politician."

I look forward to when New Vic Theatre regular Michael Hugo plays him in the drama documentary...

Unknown said...

It's because Rory Stewart is thinner than most politicians

Anonymous said...

Speaking of thinner politicians, my money is on a very hard/no deal Brexit. Reason? Boris Johnson has been on a diet. Meaning he has some PR reason for shedding the podge that has been a key element of his public persona for years. A plan to launch a comeback as a man of the people in chastened and straitened post-Brexit times is a very reasonable inference. That intuition is supported by recent noises about May standing down in the Summer.