Grand Wizards and Turnip Toffs…

ON the front page of today’s Daily Telegraph, the title appears to have been replaced with the words ‘Turnip Toffs’. The newspaper hasn’t been renamed or anything, as it’s an over-sized a blurb for a feature inside about “Who’s who in the Norfolk Crew.”

I’ve not read the feature because it’s behind a pay wall, and there it can stay.

You do see the oddest things on that front page. Yesterday a photo of Boris Johnson behind the wheel was superimposed with the words: “We have blinked. We have baulked. We have bottled it completely. It is time for the PM to channel the spirit of Moses in Exodus, and say to Pharaoh in Brussels – LET MY PEOPLE GO.”

Johnson is paid £275,000 a year to write his column for the Telegraph – a tidy sum for what is basically the same column every week, with the words not necessarily in the same order.

Yesterday’s front page, like today’s, was a teaser for what lay inside. I didn’t read that column as it’s behind a pay wall, and there it can stay. Besides it was more than enough to absorb the excerpt and consider that Boris Johnson appears to think he is Moses.

The Twitter chorus, sometimes the only place to hear sense these days, was quick to chirrup that Moses went on to spend 40 years in the wilderness. And if Boris Johnson would like similarly to lose himself in a desert somewhere – or even in Norfolk with other members of the crew – he can be my guest.

I am not sure who Johnson considers to be his people: fellow Brexiteers, those few fellow Tory MPs he hasn’t offended or stabbed in the back or both (a diminishing band), people on that straggled UKIP-sponsored ramble from Sunderland. Or perhaps, alarmingly, he means us. No, he couldn’t mean all of us, could he? My God, does Boris Johnson think we are his people?

Then again, maybe he was talking about wizards.

You know what it’s like if you’re part of a pub quiz team and you need a name and use the first thing that pops into your head. As part of the news blizzard that passes for daily life these days, a story emerged yesterday about a group of Tory hard Brexiteers including Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Iain Duncan Smith calling themselves Grand Wizards. This story emerged in a tweet from Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, and followed on the Chequers lunch where Theresa May attempted to win over ‘her team’ (spoiler alert, it didn’t work).

This term is of course not just ridiculous, it is also sinister, as that’s what leaders of the racist Ku Klux Klan called themselves for part of the 19th century. As far as anyone can tell, today’s Tory Brexit-baggers did not appear aware of the connotation. Perhaps they were too busy feeling smug with themselves to Google the phrase; or perhaps Jacob Rees-Mogg’s butler was on his day off.

Photographs of minister rolling up for that Brexit lunch with Mrs Maybe Gone Any Day Soon showed JRM arriving with what appeared to be his mini-me son sitting next to him in the car, BJ frowning over his steering wheel in the Moses photo used by the Telegraph, and Iain Duncan Smith wearing a baseball cap and driving his £40,000 Morgan sports car with the roof down.

These people want to be masters of our post-Brexit destiny – and there’s a thought to lift the spirts of a morning.

Maybe the Grand Wizard name was a mistake or a gruesome joke, or perhaps they really didn’t see the name for what it was. Or in a Tory party said to be riven by Islamophobia – a charge repeatedly put by that sensible Tory peer Baroness Warsi – perhaps the label is just more fitting than it should be.

Or maybe again they should just have called themselves the Turnip Toffs.

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