The bald truth
When I have my biannual haircut, I always dread the part at the end when the barber insists, unbidden, upon showing me the back of my bonce in a mirror.
No sooner have I smiled approvingly at my neatly trimmed beard and tamed eyebrows, than I am forced to confront the gleaming, hairless void that advances in all directions from where my crown used to be. In day-to-day life, I don’t have to deal with this.
As far as I’m concerned, I may have a prominent forehead, but the back is none of my concern. The moment I leave the sadist’s chair I dismiss the image from my consciousness until the next visit.
Last week, though, it was visible from the front. My head now stands naked before its last cheerleader, myself.
Something very similar is happening to the Tory Party and, by extension, the UK. It must be difficult for younger readers to imagine that this eroded septum of UK politics was once considered a byword for stability and respectability. It was evil, that’s a given, but pre-Thatcher it could be relied upon to exploit unfortunates at home and abroad with sufficient elan to grease its penetration of your wellbeing and leave you with a bewildered smile.
Not so the current incarnation, which is less a gentleman thief than a crack-hungry ram raider.
Charting its alarming descent into unhinged depravity has become an hour-by hour job. When I started formulating this piece at midday, it seemed a safe bet that Boris Johnson’s appearance at the Covid enquiry would provide all the material required. When I came to write it after work, his dog-ate-my-homework performance had been leant relative respectability by his successors.
Around lunchtime, Minister for Policing Chris Philp arrived on the airwaves to suggest that the government’s new, improved, courts-proof Rwanda policy would be announced ‘within days’.
As we know, sending handfuls of immigrants to Rwanda at vast expense is what Rishi Sunak believes will rescue him from a perch in British history previously occupied by Neville Chamberlain.
It is an end in itself: a symbolic offering to the ghost of Enoch Powell that Sunak hopes will enthuse his remaining, doddering voters enough to reject whatever Nigel Farage comes up with when he slithers from the jungle.
By teatime the policy had been announced in the Commons. The cunning wheeze arrived at to circumvent human rights legislation transpired to be an announcement that His Majesty’s Government was going to ignore it altogether: the ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’ approach to international jurisprudence.
That’ll show’em! thought Rishi, cracking his knuckles.
The trouble with appeasing lunatics, however, is that they don’t want to be appeased, as Chamberlain would confirm.
So, first up, Suella Braverman made her resignation speech, in which she pointed out that the only way you can evade the law is by delegitimising it. Nothing will make the Rwanda policy legal, or beyond challenge, short of abandoning our commitment to international courts.
Quite why Sunak allowed the bomb-throwing ex-Home Secretary to make a ‘resignation’ speech when she had, in fact, been sacked…by him, remains a mystery. He wears white socks with sliders, I think that’s relevant.
Within the hour, Rwanda had started to backpedal out of the deal, fearing that it made them look dodgy. Now, I genuinely don’t want to promote any lazy stereotypes about a nation that has clearly made genuine progress in recent years, but if you’d said 20 years ago that Rwanda found its association with the UK to be damaging its international reputation, I think it would have been received with, shall we say, surprise?
Finally, Robert ‘Honest Bob’ Jenrick resigned as Immigration Minister whilst the Home Secretary was still on his feet in the Commons explaining why announcing that ignoring international law in no way contravened international law. His principled reasoning for resigning was that we weren’t ignoring it enough.
The thinning out of Tory respectability is now visible to all, at home and abroad. We can hold a mirror up to the country from any angle and the bald truth of its bankruptcy is inescapable.
Today’s most sensible Tory was Boris Johnson. Be afraid.
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