With Andrea Leadsom withdrawing for the Conservative leadership race Theresa May is now sure to be the new (unelected) PM of the UK and my life just got harder. You see I have a new hobby. It’s called “trying to explain what’s happened in the last two weeks in UK politics to overseas journalists”. The trouble is it’s like trying to describe the plot of a complex black comedy to someone who doesn’t get black comedy, except this is real life and we are all extras in a cursed play called Brexit. The cast has precious few heroes but a plethora of idiotic and often cowardly villains causing problems then running away.
In the last few weeks the UK’s standing in the world has nosedived faster than the value of the Pound and the prevailing mood in the mainstream media after Brexit seems to be one of Bregret. Cameron has resigned and the new PM will be one that won’t have been chosen by the electorate; ironic given one of the main reasons argued for Brexit was that EU lawmakers are unelected. As it happens, the EU lawmakers are all elected by proportional representation – a more democratic system than Westminster – and the UK has roughly 800 unelected Lords more than the EU has commissioners.
The next PM will be Theresa May, supported by her parliamentary colleagues but not by party members throughout the country. Her main contender was the committed Brexiter Andrea Leadsom who claimed that as leader she would be “the new Margaret Thatcher”. Whilst in Scotland that is sufficient to bar you from ever holding public office, apparently in the Tory Party it can catapult you from unknown to potential unelected PM in a couple of weeks.
Ironically, Theresa May – who actually is the new Margaret Thatcher – wants to be PM so that she can manage the process of leaving the EU. She says she was against Brexit but I suspect she failed to campaign effectively against it because, privately, she was in favour. The fact that the Tories think this makes her an ideal Conservative leader contrasts with the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is facing a leadership revolt for behaving in exactly the same way. At last there is a policy difference between Westminster Labour and Westminster Conservatives but I am dammed if I understand why.
Cameron is not the only one to retire from the field. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have joined him in abdicating responsibility for sorting out this unholy omnishambles that Brexit has unleashed. You would have thought that at least one of them would have had a plan. The press went berserk at Alex Salmond for not having a plan B for currency during the independence referendum, but no one even had a plan A this time around. This is important, as the current economic instability has been caused not by Brexit itself but largely by the vacuum in political leadership at Westminster. If, two weeks ago, David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and George Osborne had stood together and said, “Here is the transition plan. Step by step, we have thought through every contingency. The transition to a new PM will be swift, and we will work together to make the best of this situation,” then the economic turmoil might have been blunted. Instead we have calls for a second EU referendum from many of the same people who said that, as they are one-off events, Scotland can’t have a second independence referendum.
Up steps Nicola Sturgeon, empowered by the fact that every Scottish council area voted to stay in the EU. She convinced the Scottish Parliament to back her trip to the EU to explore all options. This even led to an editorial in a Canadian newspaper calling for Sturgeon to become the UK prime minister – see what I mean about black comedy? That’s funny, no, no it’s not sad, it’s funny, get it?
However, even the FM can’t escape the all-engulfing irony in a post-Brexit world. Even as many in Westminster are calling for the EU referendum result to be ignored, as it was generated by lies and misleading statements, she still has to respect the result of the 2014 referendum – largely won through lies and misleading statements.
Scotland staying in the EU while also staying in the UK – the “reverse-Greenland” option – is so unlikely that the idea’s only purpose is to exhaust all avenues. This is a huge problem for Ruth Davidson, who managed to overtake Labour and become the second largest party in Scotland by making the Tories a single-issue party, promising to stand up for the UK no matter what. Only months later Davidson has found the UK disintegrating and self-destructing due to the actions of her own party. Maybe her next manifesto will promise to oppose the Westminster Conservatives? The Scottish Conservatives are becoming the new Labour, or no wait a minute New Labour became the Conservatives and now apparently Labour and Tory MPS are in secret talks to launch a pre EU Party which means new Labour are the new conservative lab… oh I give up
When Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy made it clear that if we are part of the UK when it officially leaves the EU then we exit too, unionist newspapers scream that it’s “a blow to Sturgeon” when actually that’s what she really wants. Scotland, it seems, is welcome in the EU, but only if we become an independent country before the UK leaves. Then we should be seen as the continuing state with no need to re-apply, so no veto on our slightly rejigged membership deal.
To be sure of this the UK Government must allow separate negotiations for Scotland. If they don’t, they trap Scotland in a Brexit we didn’t vote for and pretty much guarantee independence. If they do, Scotland will have a clear roadmap to independence within the EU, also pretty much guaranteeing independence. A phrase with the words “hard place” and “rock” comes to mind.
Almost nothing makes sense, but you do get a sense that the First Minster has spied an opportunity not only to justify indyref2 but to do it in a way that cajoles a large number of past No then Remain voters into the Yes camp.
anyone in any doubt about how fundamental Brexit changes the Scottish independence question need only read Sir Nicholas MacPherson in the times – the former Permanent Secretary for the Treasury broke all sorts ion rules on cicil service impartiality in 2014 criticising the SNP’s currency union idea has now said that post Brexit offers independence campaigners a golden opportunity and that the economic case has changed fundamentally.
Spare a thought for the Brexit voters, mostly in the rest of the UK, who wanted to take their country back, despite no one ever taking it from them in the first place. In about four or five years when the UK eventually has a new EU trade deal that keeps borders open, follows EU regulations, makes no difference to immigration and costs the same as EU membership without any grants, and with Scotland out of the UK, they will wonder what it was all for.
A black comedy indeed. So the next time someone asks “How did this European debacle actually start in the first place?”, I am just going to say: “A bloke called Archie Duke shot an ostrich ‘cause he was hungry”.