Monday 19 November 2018

The meaning of words

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”  That seems to make Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty something of a role model for the average Tory politician these days.  When Gove, Leadsom et al proclaim their loyalty to the Prime Minister, what they mean is that they will do everything in their power to undermine the agreement which she has reached with the EU.  Only a badly-weakened Prime Minister would tolerate that sort of ‘loyalty’ and ‘support’ within her own cabinet; effectively, the ‘gang of five’ have become unsackable, in the short term at least.
There is something very surreal about a Prime Minister trying so hard to sell a deal which her cabinet has ‘agreed’ (another word whose meaning is somewhat flexible) which a group of people who were party to the ‘agreement’ are busy rubbishing, and which all involved know full well stands no chance of getting through the House of Commons, even if she’s still around to promote it.  In parallel with all this is the attempt by some Tory MPs to unseat her by persuading enough of her own MPs to demand a vote of no confidence.  What better at a critical juncture than to put everything on hold for a few weeks whilst they hold an internal party election to determine who gets the ‘opportunity’ to make an even bigger hash of things?
It was only a few weeks ago that her internal critics were regularly telling the media that they already had over 40 letters delivered and just needed a few more, but we seem to have had at least 20 more in the last few days without ever getting to the magic number.  This probably simply means that Tory MPs have been lying to each other for months about whether they have or have not submitted their letters and/or subsequently withdrawn them.  But then there’s no reason why lies and duplicity should be restricted to those of cabinet rank.  Who knows what Humpty Dumpty might have meant if he said he’d submitted a letter?
At the heart of all this dissension lies the great fantasy.  Gove, Raab, Johnson, (yes, and Corbyn too) – a parcel of rogues if ever there were one – all essentially claim that if only they were doing the negotiating, the EU would immediately cave in and give them more of the benefits of membership with fewer of the obligations.  Even Humpty Dumpty might have struggled to make sense of that one.

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