It is strange to recall that Euroscepticism was once the tattered passion of the belligerent few. How such a relatively minority sport came to derail the country for three-and-a-half years, and almost certainly for much longer to come, is the tale of modern Britain, the country that ate itself and then spat itself out, not much liking the taste.
Once upon an innocent time, only saloon bar bores spluttered on endlessly about leaving the EU.
Chief among them was a shouty non-entity called Nigel Farage. Since then, sadly, Farage has become a shouty entity.
The founder of UKIP (as good as deceased) and the Brexit Party won’t be happy until we leave Europe. But he won’t he happy then either. It’ll be the wrong sort of Brexit; not the Brexit he wanted. And he won’t be happy because happiness doesn’t fit his obstreperous nature.
What would he have to shout about then? One reported theory is that he will bugger off to the US – hardly the honest act of a man loudly obsessed with this country’s sovereignty (whatever that is).
Anyway, Farage seems to have hijacked those opening paragraphs. He always does that. One minute there is no sight of the frightful man. The next he is shouting at you as you type. Perhaps if he does go to live in Trump Land, we will no longer have to listen to him.
Sadly, it seems likely that we will have to listen to Boris Johnson for a while longer. An interesting insight into the man we reluctantly refer to as the prime minister comes today from the former Tory minister David Gauke, one of the 21 rebels who lost the whip after voting to stop a no-deal Brexit.
Never mind, says Gauke, the Churchillian parallels. Johnson is much more like Trump than Churchill, barging down the path to populism using Trumpian language and tactics.
Gauke tells the Guardian that the divisive Downing Street briefings using terms such as “collaborator” and riling up party activists “corresponds more to Trump than to the long tradition of the Conservatives and Winston Churchill”.
Hence, too, the constant use of “surrender”. Like Trump, you could easily say, Johnson also stirs up a blizzard of noise and nonsense to mask what he’s up to – or to disguise the fact that he’s not getting anywhere (take your pick from the political supermarket shelf of gloom).
At the time of writing, Boris Johnson is due to address the party faithful at the Tory conference in Manchester. What a gathering it’s been, with the Tory sisterhood doing their bit.
There was Housing Minister Esther McVey telling the class about how houses were made. “If we have this new way of going it… 3D architects, 3D visionaries… doing it… with it on a computer… doing it… there’s a whole new raft of jobs”.
House are built using computers – wow, there’s a thing. You might have thought the housing minister would know that’s how it’s been done for decades, but there you go.
And let’s not forget to mention Home Secretary Priti Patel (however tempting that might be), who bragged that she would end free movement of people – all while looking so smug and pleased about the rights she wants to take away.
Now over to Andrea Leadsom, the energy secretary or whatever job it is she has. Attempting to rally the Tory troops, she certainly plugged some of that energy into idiotically bleating: “He has the personality and the pizzazz to get Brexit over the line, doesn’t he?” Her whip-them-up line was met with an awkward silence as the cameras panned an unimpressed crowd of party members.
But does Boris Johnson have the necessary pizzazz – and do we want a pizzazzing PM anyway?
The unavoidable slogan of this week has been “Get Brexit Done” – as dishonest as it is short. Brexit cannot and won’t be “done” by October 31. The best/worst that can happen is that the long quarrel about how to thrash this thing out begins by that deadline date.
Brexit can’t be done like that, as everyone including Boris Johnson knows. It’s just a game, a shouty slogan – it’s Johnson’s version of Trump’s “Build the Wall”.
I think we can agree that life was better once upon that innocent time, when leaving the EU was only spluttered about by saloon bar bores. And an annoying berk called Nigel Farage.