STEVE ANGLESEY picks his four worst Brexiteers of the week.
You’d expect a direct descendant of Edward II to be wary of anything to do with poker. But Theresa Villiers continues to bluff her way through Brexit.
Villiers, whose royal ancestor is said to have met his end with a red-hot iron stuck up his bottom, appeared on Sky’s Sophy Ridge show last weekend as a cheerleader for no-deal. She claimed talk of cliff edges was just ‘exaggeration and fearmongering’ and insisted Britain could flourish by trading on ‘WTO terms with most-favoured nation status’.
She did not provide much detail on the difficulty of securing that most-favoured status by March 29, and thereby avoiding tiny problems like the grounding of planes and the banning of meat exports. Nor, oddly for a former Northern Ireland secretary – she held the job for four years under David Cameron before resigning from government when Theresa May tried to demote her – did she tackle the fact that no-deal will break the Good Friday Agreement as it makes a hard border in Ireland inevitable.
This proved to be a wise move, as footage soon emerged of Villiers on a 2016 visit to Sky, declaring ‘there is no reason why we have to change our border arrangements in the event of a Brexit, because they’ve been broadly consistent in the 100 years since the creation of Ireland as a separate state’. Derision followed, notably from the comedian and television presenter Patrick Kielty, whose father was killed during the Troubles. He tweeted: ‘The border was consistently a war zone for 25 years. Then consistently invisible and peaceful for 20 years thanks to the Good Friday Agreement.’
Next a Vote Leave press release from April 2016 surfaced in which Villiers promised that Brexit would mean ‘no prospect of security checks returning to the Northern Ireland border’. So the border arrangements were consistent for 100 years, except for all the years in which there were security checks. Clear?
More triumph followed as the Charity Commission ordered the Institute of Economic Affairs to remove a pro-Brexit report from its website because it was ‘not sufficiently balanced’ and ‘overstepped the line of what is permissible charitable activity’. And who was on the top table of supporters when this report was launched in September, along with David Davis and Jacob-Rees Mogg? The unfortunate Theresa Villiers, of course.
While it’s quite refreshing to have someone else called Theresa spouting rubbish about Brexit, the thought of May and Villiers makes you recall the old story about Mike and Bernie Winters at the Glasgow Empire. Mike came out first, but the audience jeered his one-liners. Then Bernie stuck his head through the curtains, grinned his gormless grin and a voice from the crowd groaned, ‘Oh Christ, there’s two of them’.
They say bad luck comes in threes, and perhaps the biggest misfortune for Theresa Villiers is that the no-deal she believes in so fervently is likely to end her political career. Being an advocate for hard Brexit in a constituency which voted 59% Remain is tricky when your majority is only 353. Not the first time that someone on Theresa Villiers’ family tree has had problems with their seat.
Nadine Dorries took time off from penning her frothy romance novels to write a WhatsApp message to Michael Gove which began, ‘Michael, I love you, that’s a given.’ However, in a plot twist worthy of superior writers (Dan Brown, EL James) it soon turned a bit Fatal Attraction (‘for the love of God, be true to yourself and stop this fake selling of a deal you obviously do not believe in… stop selling us out’).
Nadine, whose name is an anagram of ‘Inane Disorder’, also published novella Christmas Angels. Currently riding high at number 796 in Amazon’s Kindle store, it adds to the nine full-length novels she has written and published in the last four years, during which you and I have paid her around £310,000 to be an MP.
Jacob Rees-Mogg leapt to the defence of old school friend William Sitwell when the journalist was sacked as Waitrose magazine editor for joking about killing vegans, and now the pair have held a reunion lunch in the House of Commons.
Sitwell, who has been running a supper club at his Gloucestershire home, told readers of the I newspaper that he asked for advice about a group who had complained that the venue was too cold. The North East Somerset MP told him: ‘You can react one of two ways. You can behave outrageously and demand they never darken your door, or recant and give them a whopping refund.’
So, let’s get this straight. Jacob Rees-Mogg agrees that, even if you think it’s a bit of a rip-off, the best strategy for business success is to keep your current trading partners happy rather than antagonising them and going off in search of new ones.
Truly, Brexit is going to be stopped.
BREXITEERS OF THE WEEK
4 PRITI PATEL
A year on for her sacking as international development secretary, the Witham MP is trying to position herself as one of Theresa May’s leading opponents. She’s upped her television appearances, hired Michael Gove’s former SpAd James Starkie, the former Vote Leave regional press head, and has changed her Twitter bio to a Margaret Thatcher quote: ‘You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.’
The funny thing is that no-one can remember Thatcher actually saying this, and it appears nowhere in the archive of 8,000 speeches, interviews and other statements collected by her own Thatcher Foundation. The only genuine Maggie quote which comes close is ‘I fight on, I fight to win,’ uttered on November, 21, 1990 – the day before she resigned as prime minister.
3 GODFREY BLOOM
The former UKIP MEP, dumped by the party in 2013 after ‘joking’ at their conference that a ‘women in politics’ fringe meeting was ‘full of sluts’ who looked like they did not clean behind their fridges, has continued his important work on behalf of feminism.
When Delia Smith appeared on the Andrew Marr Show to back the People’s Vote, Godfrey tweeted ‘stick to cooking poppet, it’s what you do best’. At 69, he is eight years younger than ‘poppet’ Delia.
What’s next for Bloom? Hosting the Ballon d’Or award?
2 BRUCE DICKINSON
The Iron Maiden singer has come out as a Brexiteer, arguing that ‘Brexit actually opens our borders’ and ‘will enhance our economic capabilities’. The former public schoolboy continued, sensibly: ‘If musicians were running Europe, Europe would run a lot better because we’d all get on with each other and say, ‘Yeah’.’ He added that soon ‘people will forget about all this nonsense about Brexit and… we can all get on with doing what we should be doing, which is getting on with each other, trading with each other, making music, making love…’
So now it’s ‘bring your daughter, all your other relatives AND the entire British economy to the slaughter’!
1 STEPHEN BARCLAY
The cabinet’s newest arrival does not know the correct date on which we are due to leave the European Union. Answering questions from the Commons’ exiting the European Union committee, the North East Cambridgeshire MP and keen Brexiteer said: ‘I am committed to ensuring, and the prime minister is committed to ensuring, that we do … leave the EU on March 31.’ In fact, we are scheduled to leave two days earlier, on March 29, 2019.
But why should Barclay need to know insignificant details like this? After all, he is only the Brexit secretary.