how to pretend you know loads about politics

Journalist Marie Le Conte breaks it down so you can stay up to speed. Here's Westminster politics, but in a format that won’t make you want to die.

by Marie Le Conte
07 August 2019, 12:00pm

Hi! Welcome to the fourth edition of Political i-Deology, and another fortnight of Westminster politics but in a format that hopefully won’t make you want to die. It is August and as a result there hasn’t been a whole lot of Westminster politics in the past two weeks, as everyone there has been steadily going mad and really deserves a holiday.

Still, there are a few things worth looking at -- spoiler: most of them bad! it’s 2019 -- so let’s get going:

One thing that actually mattered

When the last column was published, we had just found out that Boris Johnson was the new Prime Minister (yikes!) but didn’t know who he would be appointing to his Cabinet (preemptive yikes!).

We now know who is in his government and it’s... it’s mostly a bummer; no need to beat around the bush here, it’s overall not a very good government. Choice people include:

  • Priti Patel as Home Secretary! Mostly known for: being a former Big Tobacco lobbyist, once backing bringing back the death penalty on Question Time, getting sacked from her last Cabinet job for secretly lobbying Israeli politicians while on a family holiday!
  • Dominic Raab as Foreign Secretary! Once wrote a piece that said: “While we have some of the toughest anti-discrimination laws in the world, we are blind to some of the most flagrant discrimination -- against men. From the cradle to the grave, men are getting a raw deal [...] feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots”. Need we say more
  • Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary! A man who was sacked from his previous Cabinet job because he’d been suspected of leaking national security secrets to the press, and who owns a tarantula he keeps on his desk because apparently that’s what you do when you can’t otherwise develop a personality.

And so on. You get the gist. This is a pretty good rundown if you want to know more, btw.

One good thing that happened

Literally nothing. Not one good thing happened in the past two weeks. It’s bleak but it’s the truth -- have a look for yourself if you want to double check, but honestly the pickings have been shamefully slim.

For the sake of it though, let’s go with Domino’s pizza revealing that they’ve stockpiled £7million worth of pizza toppings in case of a no deal Brexit. I know, I know, exhilarating.

One bad thing that happened

I mean you can probably guess, can’t you? It’s Brexit related. Of course it’s Brexit related. What else could it possibly be?

Anyway, today’s bleak Brexit update is that no-deal just keeps getting more and more likely. You may have seen politicians on telly or in the media recently saying very confidently that they could stop Boris from taking Britain out of the EU without a deal on October 31st, but it’s really looking like there’s not much they can do.

As it happens, Team Boris have now said that Johnson would still push through no deal if the House of Commons held a vote of no confidence against him and he lost it, which is one of the many things that would be heavily frowned upon but ultimately possible, because you lot never bothered writing down a proper, definitive constitution.

So, yeah. Given that the government doesn’t like May’s deal and there’s not enough time to negotiate something else (or have the necessary votes on it) before October 31st, things are looking………….unideal, on the Brexit front.

One puzzling thing that happened

So this is going to be a properly weird one, but... Lee Cain was hired as Boris Johnson’s head of communications. Now, this isn’t obviously puzzling in itself: before that, Cain was a press aide at the Foreign Office when Johnson was there, so that makes sense.

No, what makes this odd is that Cain, in a previous life, worked at the Daily Mirror. More specifically -- he was one of the reporters at the paper who, when required, would dress up as a giant, human-sized chicken and chase politicians to ridicule them. For example: one time, Lee Cain dressed up as a giant chicken and went up to David Cameron and his wife Samantha in 2010. There are pictures.

The Mirror is obviously delighted by this, and a former colleague of Cain’s said: “Lee was a great Mirror Chicken. He attacked the role with real zeal and great passion. [...] I vividly remember him coming to the newsroom and prancing around still in his full outfit like a rooster.”

Under a decade later and he is now one of the Prime Minister’s most senior advisers. Britain: truly a normal country.

One person to watch

Speaking of which -- Boris Johnson’s *most* senior adviser is Dominic Cummings, which was an... interesting appointment. It’s quite hard to know where to even start with him; maybe the fact that he was an adviser to Michael Gove for years and was called a “career psychopath” by David Cameron is a strong jumping-off point.

He ran the Vote Leave campaign (and was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the movie about Vote Leave, lol) and another famous quote about him is that he’s “either mad, bad or brilliant – and probably a bit of all three”.

He’s a proper Brexiteer though he kinda hates most Brexiteer MPs, before joining Downing Street he enjoyed writing 7,000 word long blog posts on... stuff, and he’s been in the job for less than two weeks but his tenure is already being called a “culture of fear”.

In a nutshell: Cummings is a profoundly weird dude, it’s very hard to predict what he’ll do next but whatever he does end up doing will definitely shape the way the government is run, and the country with it.

One word/phrase worth knowing

Because all their other ideas have failed, some of the MPs fighting against no deal have started plotting a potential “government of national unity”. The plan is pretty straightforward in theory; if there is a vote of no-confidence in Boris Johnson, other parties have two weeks to try and prove to the Queen that one of them could command a majority in the House of Commons (again, normal country).

At this point, MPs from several parties get together and form a temporary government, the sole purpose of which would be to write to the EU to ask for a Brexit extension, then dissolve and go for a general election.

It is very very unlikely that this will actually happen but you know, we also said that about a whole bunch of stuff over the past few years, most of which ended up happening, so you never know.

Political i-Deology