The five stages of Grieve have been identified by psychologists:
3. Bargaining (with foreign enemies)
4. Believing your own wildest rhetoric
5. Standing as a vanity candidate out of spite in a General Election
Many former MPs recently defenestrated may be feeling the signs of Grieve as the nights lengthen and the season of ill-will approaches. Once outgoing characters in an established rut, now thrown into the real world and feeling Gaukey, we should not be cruel – they are in need of help and counselling.
The election campaign has only just begun and is already looking like the most bizarre one in living memory. We expect the howls of faux-outrage when a leading politician says something that can be twisted in an outraged misquote to build a Twitterstorm, and we expect tumults over tiny things that convulse political insiders but leave the rest of the voters just puzzled, if uncomfortable that something has happened, and even if we do not know what it was, well, it was bad if those who understand it think it was.
We have also come to expect SkyNews acting as the broadcasting wing of the Labour Party.
The Liberal Democrat leaflets with dishonest bar charts and made-up voting figures? That’s practically compulsory in any election
No; the bizarre thing is the pattern in the sudden loss of leading candidates, and the reappearance of others thought disposed of.
Tom Watson – the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party no less. If you are heading into an election with an unpopular leader seen widely as a lunatic, then you need an apparently sane man aboard as a reassurance, but now he is gone. Even as his papers were about to go in, he is gone – out of the deputy-leadership and not standing for his seat. The timing is unspeakable. He was the one the Labour Party kept in so the Party did not look too swivel-eyed. Except of course that Tom Watson entered the ‘loony’ category when he championed ‘Nick’ the fantasist in his accusations against respected, innocent figures. Momentum tried to depose Tom Watson for no being a Communist, but perhaps the dead knife was wielded by one of his victims: Harvey Proctor pledged to stand against him, and remind the voters of what he had done.
Then came Chris Williamson – kicked out because he could not see that expressions commonplace in Germany in the 1930s might not be appropriate in a civilised society. He has reappeared, not for Labour but standing against their candidate, as an independent, at least at the time of writing. Regrettably, he is unlikely to split the red vote too badly. Only a cynic surely would suggest that he is just after the cash settlement that outgoing MPs get only if they stand and are defeated.
Then there are Brexit Party candidates standing aside in droves, on the basis that they do not want to win votes that could more usefully go elsewhere.
This is only Day 1. What monsters will the next 6 weeks bring us? Popcorn please.
With happy abandon, many MPs are abandoning the Commons, before they are kicked out on their backsides by a relieved, vengeful electorate. Those confident smiles: have they even thought about what they will do when they emerge into the real world with the rest of us? Do they think they have a future? Bless!
Here’s part one of 101 uses for a dumped MP I wrote down on an old envelope at lunchtime:
- Reality TV show. Just don’t ask for a £million: you’re not worth it, and if you are, you won’t want to be seen in that trash, even with a strong medicament.
- (Top slots by the way are I’m a Has Been, Get me a Camera, and Strictly Come Off It: talk to my agent; she’s good.)
- Start a think-tank: but first find a wealthy donor who is prepared to pay you a salary out of pity. You don’t have to produce anything of value; just collect the cheque at the end of the month.
- After-dinner speaking. If you were a Prime Minister or Speaker, you may earn five figures for a slot or six for a conference; four figures for a senior cabinet minister. Anyone else, well, you can always do children’s parties.
- Bag a pundit slot on a politics programme: but there are very few going and only to those with wisdom and charisma, so that’s most ex-MPs out already.
- Sue a journalist who pretended you wanted to be on a reality TV show – that is really, really defamatory.
- Chair a quango. There are plenty out there, usually created to give jobs to otherwise unemployable Blairites, but maybe they will expand to let you in if you mouth Common Purpose platitudes? They may employ you as a condolence for your powerlessness. You will still be powerless.
- Start a charity. Two versions: the genuine, voluntary charity if you actually hope to go back into politics, and you can still think that if you like, or the better route is a grant-farm, where you can be paid your old salary out of taxpayers’ money without actually doing any good; just like the old days.
- A regular slot on Classic FM: just leave it long enough so they forget about, well, you know.
- That thing that Ben Shapiro does, with an on-line politics / interviews show? Shapiro makes a mint, but then he is an intellectual giant and you are not.
- Beg on the streets. It’s practically what you have been doing for the last few years anyway.
And the most radical suggestion of them all:
- Get a real job like a normal person.
Why, ‘some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrown upon them.’ I was one, sir, in this interlude; one Sir Topas, sir; but that’s all one. ‘By the Lord, fool, I am not mad.’ But do you remember? ‘Madam, why laugh you at such a barren rascal? an you smile not, he’s gagged:’ and thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.
What has happened to all those high-flying Members of Parliament who have all of a sudden stepped away to let others, untried but often as able, step into their places? When they vanish as vanish they must, will they find real life and absorb themselves in it? They must be men and women and not just political personae, but it is easy to categorise them as such and expect that there is some political strategy behind it. In truth though, no one has a right to sit in Parliament, until they are periodically elected to it, and no one has a right to be elected.
Some have found the very flavour of the House of Commons soured and repulsive. Some find that of the politics outside the formal procedures, in the interview and on social media (which it is hard to ignore even if you try not t do social media: it must be cutting to think there are people thinking about you and hating you at a distance, when all you ever wanted to do was to work for the public good).
Others though are cast out for rebellion. Some have greatest torn from the, and it hurts. Some lost favour for backing the wrong side, like a lord who wore the king’s white rose only to find Lancaster on the throne or vice versa, and thus condemned as a retrospective traitor. Many of the accustomed rulers lost their lands and their lives in that way in the days of the unfortunate King Henry VI and those who usurped his throne. The new leader of a political party may be even less forgiving than Richard of York.
They were full of confidence when they had power, and think they are still players. Once they step outside the doors of Westminster however they become ordinary men or women, with no call on the press or voice of influence. Goodness – they will even have to find jobs.
Some still now hold back through pride. It will be the end of their political careers though. They should not assume their local members will ride to the rescue – it does not work like that outside cheap Hollywood films. They stood against their own party (Conservative or Labour) and successfully prevented its action in some way, but now they find that their strength has undercut their power – the times come round again and retribution with them, to leave then whipless or deselected: the whirligig of time brings in its revenges.
The Withdrawal Agreement is dead: long live the Withdrawal Agreement! There are in fact two agreements now before Parliament: the revised Withdrawal Agreement and a new Political Declaration, and both are greatly improved. They lead to the ultimate aim, which is a free trade agreement with the European Union; that which was promised in the Referendum campaign and which has been the aim of mainstream Brexiteers ever since.
Acceptance by Parliament today will be the endorsement the two agreements need, but they should go ahead in any case.
The stand-out provision in Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement was the Ulster Protocol, and specifically the backstop, which trapped Ulster into compliance with burdensome European Union law, and trapped the whole of the United Kingdom in the European Union’s customs union, possibly permanently. That is gone.
The other major objection was the ‘vassal state’ provision – that remains, but as time has moved on the vassalage period, the Transition Period, has shortened: it will now be for just 14 months. It was never a malicious imposition, but a careless backswipe. Had the arithmetic in the House of Commons allowed the government(s) more negotiating strength then improvements could have been agreed, and on this site we pointed to improvements which could have been made without too much hurt, but that has been fouled by the actions of certain Members, in the House or in quiet meetings with the representatives of foreign powers. The judgment of the ballot box on certain of them is awaited.
In the Political Declaration, the chief problem was that it assumed that it looked towards a customs union, in which Britain’s voice would be mute, and that would have prevented free trade arrangements with other countries. That is gone, and the political declaration is now looking towards free trade and the ability to make free trade deals across the globe. That is not to say that all is settled, but there is enough there that with goodwill and common sense (the latter being in short supply in some quartiers it is to be admitted) then it could be concluded before the end of the year-long transition period, and if it cannot then enough can be agreed for interim arrangements to avoid burdening the supply lines or cutting European manufacturers off from their source of finance in London.
The agreements now work. They are not comfortable in all places, and the temporary arrangements for imports through Ulster are distinctly uncomfortable, but they work and will lead to the ultimate goal (which in fact will render many or all of the problem areas redundant).
Now it is time for the House of Commons to approve what Boris has achieved, with both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration: then we can move to Stage 2, which is to settle a free trade agreement, which is looking like a “Canada +” deal, and the argument then is just what is in that “+”; but first we must get the deal ratified.