It’s just over six years since the UK voted to leave the EU. Now, I’m not sure back then how you thought the country might look in 2022, but I’d put money on you not imagining a prime minister capable of interpreting two disastrous byelections as a mandate to carry on for two further terms. If only the Convict had lost a few more byelections, then he could have nominated himself as president for life.
But say you did make the right calls on Boris Johnson’s “World King” ambitions; surely no one would have dreamed that the UK would be busy trying to break the Brexit treaty it had signed just over two years previously. That was a level of incompetence and stupidity that was surely beyond even the derelicts who were left to make up the Rwanda Panda’s cabinet? Satire not just dead but completely incinerated.
We are where we are, though. So Liz Truss was in the Commons to introduce the second reading of the Northern Ireland protocol bill and to persuade herself that what she was doing was entirely normal and legal.
Luckily, the foreign secretary isn’t the sharpest mind around and she is quite easily persuadable of almost anything. Not least, apparently, that she has the ability to be the next prime minister. The rest of us can only hope. Johnson has reduced us to a laughing stock without the laughs. Truss would be guaranteed full-on lols week in, week out. Not so good for the country, of course, but you can’t have everything.
Truss’s gullibility is almost endearing. She lives in a tabula rasa world where every day starts again anew. She is in a permanent state of forgetting. So when it was repeatedly pointed out to her that the Convict had insisted his Brexit deal was compatible with the Good Friday agreement, she could only stick her fingers in her ears and start humming to herself.
And when she was reminded she had campaigned to stay in the EU and her younger self would have been horrified at the thought of breaking international law, she responded by sobbing that she was a patriot. MPs half expected her to hand out pictures of herself draped in the union flag, taken by her own vanity photographer. It was also surprising that Johnson hadn’t nabbed the excuse for himself. He had only repeatedly broken the law because it was what the country would have wanted of him.
“It’s OK to break the law because it’s a necessity,” Truss insisted. The SNP’s Joanna Cherry asked just whose legal opinion the government had sought. Citing necessity for breaking a treaty that she and the Convict had willingly signed and called an “oven-ready” deal barely two years earlier wouldn’t have fooled a five-year-old.
Though it was more than good enough for Suella Braverman, who is currently cosplaying the role of attorney general. Most of the rest of us wouldn’t trust her to witness a signature. Braverman had wisely stayed away: no point returning to the scene of the crime.
So the closest Truss had to a top legal mind to advise her in the chamber was the prime minister’s favourite fall guy, Michael Ellis, the Keeper of the Convict’s Stools. He’s certainly knee-deep in it. Truss repeatedly looked pleadingly towards him, but he refused to catch her eye. Somewhere, locked deep in a lone neuron that passes for a conscience, is the lingering suspicion that someone might have been feeding her duff advice. So best to reset and ignore.
Luckily, there were any number of Tory MPs who were only too happy to tell her she was a latter-day genius. First out of the blocks was John Redwood, who squirmed with excitement at the thought of telling the EU where to get off. Others were equally half-witted. Sally-Ann Hart was adamant. The Tories had a majority and they could do what they want. The law was whatever the government happened to say it was. And if it had changed since a few weeks ago, then tough. People had better just get used to it.
Truss was quick to agree. The government had decided to break the law because it couldn’t think of any other way of dealing with the problem. It wasn’t her fault the EU had been unreasonable enough to stick to the treaty and expect the UK to do likewise. She as good as admitted that the treaty had only ever been a sham. Just something to con the more stupid backbenchers in her own party – that’s some low water mark – that the government could Get Brexit Done. Or, as it turned out, Get Brexit Don’t.
In reply, David Lammy. The shadow foreign secretary was a model of calm and reasonableness as he effectively dismantled Truss’s arguments one by one. The government’s legal case was laughable. What was required was more hard yards of negotiation. Not a strop at the first sign of trouble. Or trigger article 16 if you must. At least that was lawful.
Just think of the hypocrisy of the Convict swanning around the G7 demanding other countries uphold international law, when the UK was self-identifying as a rogue state. It was brazen overreach, he said. The government was showing a total lack of respect for MPs by not obeying the law. Take Back Control had turned out to be yet another meaningless slogan.
Many Tories were quick to side with Lammy. Andrew Mitchell, Simon Hoare and Theresa May all said they couldn’t support the government. But Truss had long since left the chamber. She wasn’t even going to go through the pretence of listening. She needed to return to the process of conscious uncoupling from herself. To work on her forgetting. To return to the morning’s state of unknowing. The real Liz. Even more stupid than the day she was born.