The Stuff of Nightmares

Let me cast your mind back to a rather dreary day in June 2016. Then PM, David Cameron, had had quite a night. It began, according to sources, with a confident late night Downing Street dinner and ended with a rather sorry breakfast, after which he tendered his resignation.

Sources report that Mr Cameron had managed to grab a couple of hours sleep, no doubt fitful, as his mind raced through the consequences of a vote Leave majority. Perhaps he had slept long enough to slip into a dream – a dream so horrid, so terrifying that he woke up and promptly decided to resign.

Perhaps in that dream he glimpsed a ghastly vision of the future in which the PM was trapped inside an ivory tower, held hostage by ideologues in his inner circle and besieged by enemies on all sides at home while former friends abandoned him abroad …

Nowadays Mr Cameron spends his days penning memoirs in his rather smart Shepherd’s Hut  and still steps out at night for the odd (extremely well paid) speaking gig. Life is quiet, easy, perhaps a little dull on a wet November afternoon but, to steal a grammatically incorrect catchphrase from a well known fast food chain, he must be loving it!

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far away, at the end of the M40, Theresa May’s premiership continues to take twists and turns as chilling as a plotline from Stranger Things as the cracks in the Ivory Tower continue to  bring the plaster crashing down around her.

Her own dream resembles something from the Friday 13th series – when even waking up results in a nightmare. In the past two weeks she has had two cabinet resignations, creating holes she has had to plug along partisan lines in case the Brexit imbalance topples the tower.

Meanwhile plotters await stage left and right (40 MPs are apparently ready to sign a no confidence letter) and the EU chief negotiator has lit the touch paper on a 2 week deadline for clarity or there will be no post-Brexit trade talks until March.

With all these poisoned ducks lined up in a row, this is not the best week for the EU Withdrawal Bill to screech into Parliament. Between now and Christmas it will be scrutinized line by line, and each turn of the page comes with the risk of a Tory rebellion. The soothsayers in the media are already snatching for fresh innards, tea leaves and crystal balls to predict when this PM may go.

The New York Times writes that No One Knows What Britain is Anymore and European leaders see Brexit as being as much about divisions in the Tory party than the national interest.  Against this background, the EU Withdrawal Bill is yet another opportunity to pick at the scab that will never heal.

The Tories have now been arguing amongst themselves about Europe for so long that it has become a party tradition.  John Major was once caught out as PM, referring to cabinet members as ‘bastards’ and musing,  about a “party that is still harking back to a golden age that never was.” That gaffe was recorded on video tape a whopping 24 years ago.

When the smoke has cleared, a vision has finally appeared and some other seismic event has taken control of the British psyche, historians may well look back at this chapter in British politics and judge Friday June 24th 2016 as the day that David Cameron made the canniest call of his career by dodging this bullet…

Luan de Burgh

November 2017

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of de Burgh Training – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.