(Not) Much ado about everything

what we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lacked and lost,
Why, then we rack the value, then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us
While it was ours.


Well. What a to-do. There has been so much going on in Westminster in the last week that I really, truly don’t know where to start.

As of 2am last night, Parliament was suspended. It’s happened before: it happens every time an election is called. However, I’m not sure that it’s happened with such vitriol, such enmity from all sides for years. Possibly since poor old Charles the First tried to throw his weight around and we all know how well that turned out for him.

As a journalist, I’ve found the whole process fascinating to be honest. Watching last week’s debate was like the proverbial road-crash – you couldn’t look away, no matter how excruciating the view.

What had been keeping me going through all this was my belief – misplaced, it turns out – that behind the scenes there was still an army of civil servants who were doing their best to continue the negotiations (despite the fact that the EU had already stated that they had agreed a deal and Mrs May’s was it). A belief that the Government was spending as much time developing a deal as it was preparing for us to crash out without one. After all, wasn’t part of the Leave campaign’s argument that everyone would be falling over themselves to set up trade deals with the UK?

Well thanks to Amber Rudd, we know that that was not, in fact the case and that virtually no time or effort was being expended. That, on top of the cavalier sacking of 21 of her erstwhile colleagues – including a former Chancellor, a former Lord Chancellor, members of the Cabinet, even Ken Clarke – was too much for Rudd.  As indeed, it was for the Prime Minister’s brother, Universities Minister Jo Johnson, who put aside familial bonds in support of colleagues who had been turfed out and denied the right to stand as Tory candidates for not towing the Cummings, sorry, Party, line.

Blamed as the instigator, or at least the encourager, of the sackings, is Boris Johnson’s right hand man, Dominic Cummings. This is the man who, if the TV film Brexit: The Uncivil War is to be believed, was the engine inching the Leave vote over the line. Played by the always splendid Benedict Cumberbatch (it won him an Emmy award), Cummings emerged from that drama as a far more sympathetic figure than I suspect he is in real life. The reports of his foul-mouthed tirade at poor old mildly-spoken, unflinchingly polite Greg Clark and others, his sacking of one of the Chancellor’s aides (without telling Javid first!) make me think that that he is either starting to believe his own dramatis personae or he’s been watching too much Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It.

Where do we go from here? Who knows? Corbyn isn’t helping matters either, whining for an election for years and then bottling out. Maybe, without the day-to-day distraction of having to be in Parliament, Johnson will be able to focus on, you know, running the country and working out the best way forward in conjunction with, not against, the EU. And maybe not. More importantly, with no Parliament, what on earth am I going to write about next week?



About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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