The destination may be more dangerous than we yet understandby Jonathan Lis / September 27, 2019 / Leave a comment
Sometimes political events prove so dangerous and shocking that we are compelled, almost through self-preservation, to focus on the immediate developments, and understand only much later how much has been irrecoverably broken and lost. This was such a week.
On Tuesday the highest court in the land found that the prime minister had abused his power, misled parliament, and broken the law. It upheld the earlier verdict of the Scottish judges, who found that the PM had effectively lied to the Queen. If Boris Johnson had a shred of decency, integrity or responsibility, he would have resigned on the spot. Such an act would have been expected and demanded of any other PM in modern history even by their own party. Johnson is not such a man.
The PM did not apologise. He did not show humility. He instead doubled down. Johnson’s Commons appearance on Wednesday evening delivered the most repulsive parliamentary spectacle this country has seen in our lifetimes. The prime minister wailed that parliament was betraying the people. He declared it should “stand aside.” He used the phrase “surrender act” no fewer than 15 times. When one MP invoked the memory of her friend Jo Cox and pleaded with the PM, for her colleagues’ safety and her own, to moderate his language, he responded that her complaint was “humbug.” Indeed, he tumbled to a further nadir by opining that MPs could honour Cox’s memory by “getting Brexit done.” It was a gleeful festival of cruelty. People left the chamber in tears. Here was a group of MPs begging our country’s leader to temper his rhetoric, not as a political opponent but as a human being, and he jeered in their faces.
This was nothing to do with trade, or free movement, or sovereignty. It wasn’t about fishing quotas or the EU budget or the bureaucrats in the European Commission. Brexit was not supposed to be like this. Nobody voted for this. How, in the name of Britain, did we get here?
First we look at the language. History shows that before hardline demagogues take control of the people’s will, they must first take control of the people’s lexicon. Johnson’s calm repetition of the word “surrender” was no mere attempt at ridicule. He didn’t use it to make a joke. It was, rather, a deliberate, concerted and…