‘This is a phantom motion about a phantom bill’ chunters Sir Bill Cash from the back benches in the House of Commons last week. His description is attributed to Sir Oliver Letwin and Co’s attempts to prevent no deal from happening. Has Boris been embodying his supporter’s comments? He certainly was a phantom at the channel 4 debate on Sunday night and in fact perhaps a beneficiary. Silence is golden some might say and with his leave of absence from the Tory Battle Royale he was able to watch on from a distance as those clawing to reach the 32 vote threshold, and meet him in the final, went at one another.
‘Believe in the bin, believe in Britain’ perhaps garnered the most crowd engagement and served as an analogy for Rory Stewart to undermine the four other candidates approaches to renegotiating a Brexit deal or proceed with no deal. ‘It’s nonsense’ Rory cried. But Mr Stewart, your answer to the question is just as tumultuously stagnating as the other options. A citizens’ assembly has already been used on the issue of Brexit in 2017 by the Constitution Unit at University College London, looking at trade and migration options after the European Union referendum result. Its findings suggested that the assembly would prefer ‘a bespoke UK/EU trade and a customs union… and to retain free movement of labour’. These answers, in my opinion, perhaps conflict with the referendum result of 2016. So now Mr Stewart, having got your advice from the citizens assembly, do you now proceed to Brussels and strike up a new deal? What’s that sorry? I couldn’t hear you. Did you say no that’s not possible? Oh I see, Brussels do not want to re-open the withdrawal agreement and we are back to the original Brexit impasse, but now with a few weeks less time before our October deadline.
Mr Raab why are you smirking? I do recall you suggesting you wouldn’t rule out proroguing parliament to break this deadlock. That was the beginning of a high road to civil war in the mid 17thcentury, a route you wish to proceed down perhaps? No I didn’t think so. Sit down.
And you three, in the corner, yes you Mr Hunt I heard you’re an entrepreneur, is this true? Well I would have never of guessed, why didn’t you tell us a few more thousand times.
Mr Gove’s best line was perhaps a few years back, whilst tonight his infatuation with ‘hope and love’ and looking to find the ‘treasure’ in all people was deep and warming. But Mr Gove, why not home in on your past in three large government departments and then proceed to tell us you can change the lack of spending in Education. Were you not you Education Secretary once upon a time Mr Gove?
Finally, Sajid Javid, ‘The Saj’, towing the line on all candidates promises of spending on public services and more investment and attention diverted to the ‘unfinished revolution of our time’ adult social care; missed the opportunity to tackle the knife crime epidemic harming our country, and London in particular, by putting it high on his agenda.
Thus, the phantom of Boris, so it would seem, benefited significantly from his absence. He did not need to dirty himself in the scrapping of contenders inside the channel 4 colosseum. But what tonight has illustrated is that even a phantom, a figure of our imagination, holds greater chance of leading the Conservative party and the Country than the candidates that are on display. I do not question their talent, charisma, intelligence and whit as politicians and as people. However, the next leader of the party and of the Nation needs to sort this wretched Brexit mess out with a viable and acceptable option once and for all so that they can proceed in governing those issues that really matter.
Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit, Summary Report