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The passions blowing Boris Johnson into No 10 could yet bring him down

3 8 0
29.06.2019

Asked by his spin doctor in 2016 how a Brexit referendum could backfire, David Cameron replied in cod-Shakespearian English: “You could unleash demons of which ye know not.” Well, ye know now.

Brexit has pushed the right into a demonic orgy. It is throwing off the standards it once pretended to abide by – parliamentary sovereignty, family values, monarchism, unionism. For all its rage, don’t underestimate how much it is enjoying the release from its taboos. The Brexiters’ bacchanal is giving Conservatives a rolling revolution, which is pushing the country into a crisis no one foresaw.

In 2014, opponents of the EU put forward a moderate programme that balanced restoring power to Westminster and protecting the economy. “We are perfectly at liberty to pursue participation in the single market without being saddled with the EU as a political project,” Owen Paterson wrote in a representative example of the propaganda of the time. Talk of compromise had vanished by 2016. Vote Leave offered no programme at all. In their complacent belief that a Remain victory was guaranteed, Cameron, parliament and the media did not insist that we must define what Brexit meant before voting on it. The referendum therefore didn’t produce a mandate but a blank cheque, which fanatics have scribbled on ever since.

Revolutions devour their children because what is radical one day in a crisis becomes a sellout the next. We forgot that Theresa May’s “red lines” delineated a hard Brexit in 2018. By 2019, her one compromise, the backstop to protect the Irish peace process, had become too much for the right to bear.

“At no time and........

© The Guardian