Monday 30 November 2020

Half of the Tory backbenchers might not be insane


It is widely known that Dennis Skinner once said in the House of Commons that “Half the Tories opposite are crooks”, and when told by the Speaker to retract, replied that “OK, half the Tories opposite aren’t crooks”. Widely known, but completely false, like many of the most well-known and oft-quoted sayings. Another example is the definition of insanity which Einstein never used, which is that insanity is repeating the same things and expecting different results.

The response amongst Tory MPs to the introduction of the revised tier system in England has varied, but to say that backbenchers are getting restless would be an understatement. When even the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, is threatening outright revolt, we can be certain that the PM is in a spot of bother, to say the least. (Although Brady’s argument about government restrictions being “a very serious infringement of fundamental human rights” seems to assume that the right of the healthiest in society to infect the most vulnerable at will is more important than the right of the vulnerable to continued life. For most of us, people’s ‘rights’ are in practice contingent on the rights of others.)

Faced with a large-scale revolt, the PM’s response is to make further solemn promises about when restrictions will end, rather similar to the ones he’s consistently broken to date. It’s unclear as yet whether ‘Trust Me’ will be enough to quell the rebellion, but it currently appears unlikely that it will be entirely successful. They do, after all, have direct and repeated experience of his proclivity for sending them out to defend positions which he then reverses – sometimes even while they’re speaking. No doubt, some will decide that loyalty (to say nothing of future career prospects) demands that they fall in line anyway, but given the scale of the revolt, could we be about to see evidence that half the Tory backbenchers are, on the definition which is not Einstein’s, not insane? There are, however, other definitions available, and those who disqualify themselves from one by not repeating the mistake of believing what the PM tells them could still qualify under one of those. The belief that financiers, bankers and lawyers – which many of them are – understand epidemiology better than scientists and doctors is potentially one such definition. Half of them could be insane after all.

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