Friday 14 December 2018

What I want for Christmas

It’s a good few years since I stopped believing in Santa Claus, but after the events of the past week, I’ve decided to give him one more chance. So here’s my Christmas present wish list.

Dear Santa

What I really, really want for Christmas is a bunch of MPs who will vote according to what they think will be best for their country, not just best for their party.

Can I also have a prime minister who says what she believes, not just what she thinks will get her through one more crisis?

The thing is, Santa, I’d love to unwrap something on Christmas morning that will make me feel a bit better about the future. I’ve looked everywhere online for something called an UnBrexit, but I haven’t found anything at all. Perhaps you’ll have more luck.

How about a Make A New Prime Minister kit? I’ve never been much good at making things, but I’m sure I could do a lot better than whoever made the one we’ve got.

Can I have a Book of Spells as well? I’d love a Make People Disappear spell, because I’ve got a long list of people I want to try it on. I’d start with Boris Johnson (did you see that The Economist named him as this year’s ‘politician who has done most to let down his party and country’? They called him ‘a demagogue not a statesman’, and said ‘he is the most irresponsible politician the country has seen for many years.’ That’s why I want to make him disappear.)

If I can make the spell work, I’d also try it out on Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Chris Grayling and Dominic Raab. I’m sure you’re familiar with Ko-Ko’s song in The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan: ‘They’d none of ‘em be missed, they’d none of ‘em be missed.’

I know you realise that I’m far too old to be writing letters to Santa: you know perfectly well that I know, deep down, that they are the stuff of fantasy. But fantasy seems to be all I’ve got left this Christmas – I’ve had a bellyful of reality and I’ve decided I don’t like it very much.

I particularly don’t like reading articles like this one, in which Brexit-obsessed Britain is mocked as ‘small, boring and stupid’. ‘It is Britain’s unique ignorance that makes Britain so boring. Ignorant about its leverage and ignorant about the EU, the U.K. is coming across as clumsy and caddish.’

Oh yes, one last thing. Could you tell people to stop asking me what’s going to happen next? Perhaps you could put a little note under every Christmas tree: ‘Robin Lustig wants you to know he’s a reporter, not a fortune teller.’ (I did try a bit of futurology last week, but it wasn’t a great success.)

On which note, happy Christmas to one and all.

Friday 7 December 2018

Is this how May will exit Brexit?

In the current political climate, only a total idiot would try to predict what’s likely to happen at Westminster next week.

So here is my prediction. (Warning: my crystal ball is badly cracked, covered in dust, and its operating system hasn’t been upgraded since the day before yesterday.)

Here goes:

Next Tuesday, the government’s EU Withdrawal Bill will be defeated in the House of Commons.

On Wednesday morning, after a steady stream of Cabinet ministers have been observed entering and leaving Number 10, Theresa May will make the following statement to reporters in Downing Street:

‘After last night’s vote in the House of Commons, I have consulted widely with colleagues and others to decide on how best to move forward. I have concluded that, in the national interest, I should now step down as leader of the Conservative party in order to allow a new person a chance to take our country into the next chapter of our glorious history. I shall continue to serve as prime minister until a new leader has been elected.

‘As I have said many times during the Brexit process, I have been guided throughout by what I have judged to be the best interests of our country and of our people. As it is now clear that my judgement is not shared by a majority of members of parliament, or by several members of my Cabinet, it is only right that I should make way for someone else to lead our party and our country.

‘It continues to be my view that it is the duty of government to carry out the wishes of the 17.4 million people who voted Leave in the Brexit referendum two and a half years ago. Voters were given a solemn undertaking that their wishes would be respected, and we owe it to them to fulfil that undertaking. That is why I wrote the so-called Article 50 letter in March 2017, beginning the process by which the UK would withdraw from the European Union.

‘However, in view of the difficulties that have since arisen, and of the need to find a withdrawal mechanism that respects both the will of the people and commands the support of parliament, I have today written again to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, to withdraw that letter as we are entitled to do without seeking the approval of other EU member states, in accordance with this week’s ruling by the European Court of Justice.

‘As a result, the UK will remain a full member of the European Union until and unless a new leader begins the withdrawal process anew. I am confident that my successor will want carefully to consider whether to seek the country’s approval again before making a decision.

‘I have taken this action in order to allow my successor the greatest possible freedom of action. It would not be right for me to hand over the baton with the count-down clock still ticking and with too little time left to develop a new approach to the greatest challenge our nation has faced since the end of the Second World War.

‘The choices that we face remain exactly the same as they were on 23 June 2016: to remain in the EU, to leave with an agreed withdrawal framework and a new negotiated trading relationship, or to leave with no agreement in place. It will now fall to a new leader to decide how best to choose which of those options will serve our nation best.

‘When I took office in 2016, I made this pledge: “As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.” That has been my single aim every day since then, and I now leave it to others to take that work forward.’

And then? I’m afraid at this point, my crystal ball shatters into tiny pieces. But by this time next week, who knows, perhaps I’ll no longer need it.