According to Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’, all warfare is based on deception. And there is no greater deceiver than our Prime Minister, whose mask of affable tomfoolery and “jolly hockeysticks” japes is only now beginning to slip.
Indeed, as you browsed the pages of Tzu’s perennially relevant tome, you’d be forgiven for imagining it was Johnson’s preferred bedtime read. “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” is the most famous line – so it is that language is the weapon of choice for our Prime Minister and his shady, Machiavellian advisor, Dominic Cummings.
A change of tone
It’s taken until the last few days for MPs of varied parties and then the media to take notice of the way that the lexicon has slowly morphed. MPs who disobey are ‘rebels’, judges upholding the law are ‘saboteurs’ and ‘conspirators’ for the Remainiacs, who joust with the ‘noble Brexiteers’, brandishing their desire to ‘take back control’. The Benn Act is an act of ‘surrender’ and parliament is ‘betraying’ the will of the people.
Seen as a buffoon (indeed so many seemed to vote Johnson in as Mayor in 2008 because he had funny hair), Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is actually one of the most academic Prime Ministers we’ve ever had. He greets his friends (who call him ‘Al’) in Latin and is fluent in at least three other languages. Authenticity and truth are alien to someone who presents himself in a way totally at odds from the reality. Yet some seem to relish in the mendacity – Richard Littlejohn wrote in the Daily Mail just how much he was ‘lovin’ it’ (literally referencing the McDonalds slogan), when he reflected on the excuse Johnson gave for the planned proroguing of parliament. “Goodness knows how he’s managed to keep a straight face, pretending that proroguing Parliament is all about preparing for the Queen’s Speech. And nothing to do with making sure Brexit actually happens on October 31 — cross my heart, hope to die, stand on me, guv, my word is my bond.” It’s really something when a columnist for as popular a paper as the Daily Mail admits he knows a politician is lying to the world and actually revels in the fact.
Hey Google, what is the EU anyway?
Playing the media – and taking control of the narrative – is how Cummings and his small cadre of anti-EU campaigners got 17.4 million of the UK population to vote to leave something that, the day after they won, people in their droves were asking Google to define.
Brilliantly depicted by Benedict Cumberbatch in Channel 4’s Brexit: The Uncivil War, Dominic Cummings has been branded ‘the most hated man in Britain’. Sacked by Cameron in 2013, who was seemingly tired by his belligerence, Cummings’ blasé, arrogant and facetious riposte to journalists yesterday spoke volumes of his character. Lying by omission, he confirmed that ‘of course’ the Prime Minister would not break the law on October 31st but would not confirm that meant adhering to the Benn Act, instead referring to lawyers chatting on Twitter about all the potential loopholes in the new law. When pressed on whether that meant Johnson would exploit such loopholes, his reply was simply “I didn’t say that, did I?”. Flippant, facetious and shameless, his attitude demonstrates that this ‘anti-elite’ part of the elite has nothing but contempt for proper process.
The Brexit Martyr?
With all the machinations in government and parliament lately – and the very common paranoia that Remain-loving justices seek to completely prevent the UK from leaving the EU, the role of Johnson and his cult of personality becomes even more important. Cast as the Leave voters’ saviour, the only man with the cajones to defy the parliament (or circumvent their laws), any consequences he faces will simply make him into the Brexit martyr the hard-core leavers are willing him to be.
Somewhat ironically, taking back control now looks like creating chaos with absolutely no one in charge. We have the direct democracy of the referendum decision butting heads with traditional, representative democracy. This constitutional crisis, at odds with the fact, stated in 2017 by Theresa May, that we indeed never lost any sovereignty in the first place, demonstrates that there are as many different types of Brexit as there are arguments in the House of Commons. The UK that we now live in is stuck arguing itself into an endless loop of cognitive dissonance, where we both insist that the prorogation was all about the usual business of parliament and a new Queen’s speech, yet, at the same time, the Supreme Court judges were closet ‘Remainiacs’ who seek to evade the will of the people. The fact that the idea of a ‘no deal’ Brexit was far from people’s minds, when we were told that it would be the ‘easiest’ deal in history, and thereby voted to leave in 2016, doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
So what’s next for Johnson? When will the people exerting their will, despite all evidence that the will was flawed, based on lies and misrepresentation, realise that the big old jokey BoJo is far worse than the harmless, buffoon of a clown at your 6 year old’s birthday party? When will the penny drop that he’s actually far more like Joaquin Phoenix’s more psychopathic, 2019 Joker, making threats of riots to avoid the legal extension the law compels him to?
Will a vote of no confidence, mooted as a possibility next week, only make him stronger? Will no one see that Johnson’s Johnson is exposed – that the Prime Minister actually has no clothes? In Brexit Britain, where fake news is now as valid here as it is across the pond, literally anything is possible.