The reason why today’s article is slightly later than the usual mid-day is that I have been desperately trying to find some kind of positive out of yesterday’s debate.
In an unedifying, confused and vitriolic hour, we learned nothing about what any potential leader is going to do to solve the Brexit problem. What the debate boiled down to was five men shouting over each other (and the host, Emily Maitlis) and failing to answer any of the questions given to them directly.
Even Rory Stewart, the country’s newest political intrigue, was disappointing.
All in all, it was an utter mess. Watching the debate made me desperately worried about the future of our country, and ashamed of where our politics has got to.
So what positives could I find out of such a nightmare?
- Sajid David got every candidate to commit to an independent inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party;
- And Dominic Raab was kicked out of the race before the debate even began.
Until you’re inevitably given a job in the next cabinet.
Jesus, Was It Really That Bad?
Oh yes. Worse.
The debate was billed as being four candidates vs. Boris, but actually (and especially given Boris’ incredibly lacklustre evening) it ended up being four candidates vs. Rory Stewart. On Brexit, the overall result was:
- Stewart refused to countenance no-deal under any scenario, but couldn’t answer how he would pass Theresa May’s deal through Parliament;
- And all four of the other candidates refused to rule out no-deal, but couldn’t answer how they would pass no-deal through Parliament.
There were no answers to anything. Because there are no answers. We’ve let the rhetoric of statements like “NO DEAL OR NO BREXIT” and “THE BRITISH PEOPLE CANNOT LET US DELAY AGAIN” to become the driving forces of the debate, and both of these lend themselves to emotion, not reason or fact. Because of this, there is no definitive answer to how we move on.
And the debate itself quickly became an unstructured mess, with candidates all talking over each other, Emily Maitlis trying to wrest back control with little success, and finger jabbing and willy waving (not literally) being the primary means of discourse.
It was humiliating for Britain as a nation. One of these bellends is going to become Prime Minister. God help us all.
The one positive from the debate itself, besides Saj’s victory on persuading the candidates to have the aforementioned Islamophobia inquest, was that the questioners, members of the British public, were all brilliant – varied backgrounds, with excellent questions, and some serious amounts of shade to throw at the candidates after they had “answered the question.”
Erin, the climate change activist who asked the candidates to commit to zero carbon emissions by 2025 (a step too far for any politician, unfortunately), was the stand-out. Michael Gove, the environment secretary, praised her activism but then said he believed that she should be in school.
Erin was not taking a single solitary fuck of that, and gave him one of the most devastating eyebrow raises in history. Good on you, Erin.
And What Of Boris?
Boris had an interesting evening. While he wasn’t torn to pieces like some had predicted (and some had hoped), he also failed to set the world on fire. He fell strangely flat, and his long-winded, mumbling responses to questions and continuous talking over Maitlis served little to dispel the growing concern in some quarters that he’s just not up to the job.
However, he did have some classically infuriating moments, too.
- He said that by using the GATT 24 article, we could be protected from tariffs with the EU, but you fundamentally can’t use it this way as both sides must agree to it;
- He said that it was not his fault that Nazanin Zughari-Ratcliffe was detained for longer in Iran, despite the fact that his absent-minded claim that she was teaching journalism there was cited as a reason for her sentence being extended;
- And he backtracked on his previous commitment to cutting taxes for middle-income earners, downgrading it to an “ambition” as opposed to a “promise.”
That this man is going to be our Prime Minister, bar a major cock-up (which isn’t impossible), is terrifying.
I don’t think he’ll be Prime Minister for very long.
Jeremy Corbyn will announce today that Labour’s new strategy is to promote a Second Referendum at any cost. This is big news.
It means that the risk of Brexit not happening is now around 50/50.
And we will not leave by the 31st of October – no-deal will be blocked by Parliament, the current deal will be blocked by Parliament, and we will be forced to ask for an extension.
Boris might be able to bluster his way out of that one, but even then, what happens next? How do we break the deadlock? How do we achieve Brexit once and for all?
A General Election, which the Tories fear would eviscerate them?
Or a Second Referendum, and put it back to the people for the final say?
Boris might just have the political power to be able to justify a Second Referendum, and might even be able to persuade the ERG headbangers that it’s required for Brexit to happen. And if it is a victory, with Leave-voters sounding the horn for no-deal, then we would have legitimate cause to leave without a deal.
But should Remain win out, which is a real threat, then Brexit wouldn’t happen.
And that would probably destroy the Tory party.
God help us all.
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