In April 2016, in a speech that genuinely rivals Neville Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” as the most comprehensively wrong one in British political history, Michael Gove was of the view that the UK voting Brexit and somehow ending up outside the EU’s free trade zone “is as credible as Jean-Claude Juncker joining Ukip”.
I do apologise for the lengthy quotations, but the feast of garbage served that day simply cannot be reduced to a simple canapé. He also said: “It is important to realise that, while we calmly take our time to change the law, one thing which won’t change is our ability to trade freely with Europe.”
Right before adding: “It would not be in any nation’s interest artificially to accelerate the process and no responsible government would hit the start button on a two-year legal process without preparing appropriately. Nor would it be in anyone’s interest to hurry parliamentary processes. We can set the pace.”
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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We can only wonder, then, which of the following outcomes has taken Mr Gove more by surprise. Was it a) actually being a member of a government that did the thing no responsible government could do?
Or was it b) finding himself, and this really is a miracle, as the actual head of “no-deal planning”, which is to say planning for an outcome that he himself had made clear couldn’t possibly happen?
And I suppose we must then wonder, do we care? Is it in fact biologically possible to care at all what Michael Gove says about anything? Given the overwhelming evidence that it is, all of it, always, how can we put this… complete bollocks?
Well, maybe we should care. Not least as the chasm between what Michael Gove thinks will happen and what then does happen is a black hole of light years’ width into which all our little lives must now be sucked.
No light escapes from it and so none has been shed on the many mysteries at the start of what can only be described as a busy week in British politics. And a week, as it happens, in which one or two of those “parliamentary processes” are, much to Gove’s surprise, finding themselves a touch on the “hurried” side.
A good moment then for day one of Michael Gove’s big “Get Ready for Brexit” advertising push. He’s spending £100m of your money on it. There are big “Get Ready” signs up on the side of shopping centres. (An interesting choice, location wise, for where to market the fact that the thing people have to “get ready” for is there not being anything in the shops to buy, but that is such a comparatively low-level embarrassment we barely have time to get into it).
And it is on day one – traditionally an important day for advertising campaigns – that the thing we are to be “getting ready” for is, wait for it, the self-inflicted collapse of the government and the actual suspension, in Britain, of the rule of law.
Indeed, for anyone casting a filmic eye over the possibilities of Brexit, it may be worth noting that at the very moment a handful of manual labourers were plastering the words “Get Ready for Brexit” up on the walls of the Westfield London shopping centre, Michael Gove was himself live on the BBC, explicitly refusing to answer whether the government still considered itself bound by new laws made by parliament.
New laws, let’s be clear, that could be passed on Tuesday, by opposition MPs, to prevent no-deal Brexit. Laws which would, if passed, retroactively make Michael Gove’s 2016 speech less ridiculous. Whole chunks of it could be rendered true again. Some of the things Michael Gove had said couldn’t possibly happen, could actually not happen.
And yet, here was Michael Gove himself, saying the government he was part of, the second one in a row that is about to do something “no responsible government” could possibly do, would refuse to obey any law that wouldn’t make Michael Gove look ridiculous. (He was also, while he was here, gently tweaking those 2016 soundbites to the rather pithier, “Everyone will have the food they need”, but as with earlier, no time for that embarrassment now either.)
And not just that. We now know that any Conservative MP prepared to stand in the government’s way, and deliver the sane Brexit the Brexiteers themselves promised, by passing legislation that would rule out the thing they said could never happen, would now be stripped of the party whip and deselected at the next election, which at time of writing, could feasibly be happening in the next couple of hours.
Is it the most delicious of Brexit ironies yet? Well there’s stiff competition for that, but we’ll spell it out anyway.
The Conservative Party has now suffered a full takeover by what was once known as Vote Leave. It is threatening to break up the Tory Party, a party which the person doing the breaking up, Dominic Cummings, has never quite got round to actually joining.
And how do we know the Vote Leave takeover is complete? Because anyone trying to deliver the Brexit that Vote Leave actually promised will now forcibly be chucked out.
Indeed, let that be a harsh lesson for anyone considering joining, or indeed merely voting for, the Conservative Party any time in the next few weeks.
It is now, as of Monday 2 September 2019, a party that expels anyone that tries to keep their promises.
Best of luck in that election, lads.