Watch the praises of David Frost and see a government deranged by the poison of Brexit | Polly Toynbee
ohff he tramples in his Union Jack socks, the John Bull pantomime who caused so much damage by auctioning his master. As David Frost, the former Brexit minister, walks off with a smug sigh, his reasons for going to illuminate the bizarre decline of a once big election winning machine.
Frost’s resignation letter – which targets the Covid restrictions – usefully captures the Tory Party’s deranged state of mind. His call for “a lightly regulated, low-tax, low-tax entrepreneurial economy” is replete with an overarching desire to liberalize health, safety and food regulations, as well as workers’ rights. He recently warned that Brexit would fail if ‘all we do is import the European social model’. Of all the slightly disconnected Conservative Party conference speeches, his was the craziest: “The British Renaissance has begun! “
It goes away just as anyone can see the consequences of Brexit: acute vacancies, supply lockdowns, daffodils put to rot in fields, pigs cremated on farms and the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showing £ 12 billion lost in EU trade in October alone. Frost was a bellicose negotiator who lacked cunning, tact or subtlety for the job, revisiting the Northern Ireland protocol in his own case: his value was slavish obedience to Boris Johnson, who brought him out of obscurity at the Scotch Whiskey Association, after quitting a career at the Foreign Office.
But he is a useful emblem for the state of a party whose Brexit disease, denying the facts, now infects all other politicians. These irrationalists, like King Canute’s court, believe the Covid waves can be ordered by cabinet decree, defying Sage’s dire warnings that the NHS will be overwhelmed with no tighter restrictions now. Ten ministers, a third, would resist. Although Frost’s letter calls for a post-Brexit Britain at the “cutting edge of modern science,” these eccentrics deny the science, the evidence, the probabilities and the numbers. After “Freedom Day,” where were their preparations for this variation – or the next? They share Johnson’s contempt for the precautionary principle, although the public sees security as the first duty of any government: Will voters ever forgive him for an NHS collapse or other preventable deaths after his surrender on Monday?
Look at how quirky this holiday is with most opinions. “Raised on their own supply,” as one pollster tells me, their ideologies are not shared by Tory voters, or even Tory members, as Professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University in London notes. The party lost the ballast of these “men in gray suits” who clung to the shrouds. Now even Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Conservative backbench committee of MPs, condemns the current restrictions as a “disastrous attack on freedom” that evokes the Soviet Union.
In contrast, the pollsters from Savanta ComRes find half of voters support a two-week lockdown and 64% would ban major events. The public is not jaded about this disease. Meanwhile, in the Sunday Telegraph, a far-right flurry begging, “We need to go back to our core beliefs and remember what makes us conservatives. (MP Danny Kruger, co-author of this article, was fired by Michael Howard as a Conservative candidate after calling for “creative destruction” in the public services.) Their more obscurantist true religions: it’s is usually the misfortune of the far left. Residents of Westminster normally fear being “cut off” from voters; everything is turned upside down when voters see how little influence their own views have on the ruling party.
When exactly did the Conservatives lose their chameleon skills? Labor despaired of the party’s ability to remake its image with whatever it took to suit the mood of the public. Remember David Cameron’s pre-2010 brand, his cuddly huskies, his “big company” – disguising the ax of austerity to come.
This self-preservation instinct abandoned them the day they cast aside caution and chose Boris Johnson, knowing all of his faults, his reckless life of alternate truths, and his ineptitude for any responsible work. The Faustian Pact won them gold in the 2019 election – but now the price is paid. Their punishment is disaster after disaster. Much worse could happen if the unredacted tapes of former No.10 spokesperson Allegra Stratton come out. Long recordings of her rehearsals exist, reports the Mail on Sunday, where she is asked all the unanswered questions about “children of love”, “mistresses”, her money and all the wrongdoing in her life. No wonder they suppressed these press conferences.
While Downing Street parties have taken place, 63% of those polled say the PM should step down. The Guardian’s photo of their cheese and wine event in May 2020 was taken when the rest of us could only meet one person outside for a single hour, two meters from one of the other. Tories are bracing for a possible brutal verdict from Sue Gray, the new head of the inquiry into whether multiple parties have taken place in Downing Street and elsewhere (she is dubbed the ‘hatchet’ by nervous insiders).
If the Conservatives purge their leader, they will install an infected person from an even more unpopular small state. It’s in their nature. But it is those who chose Johnson who are the problem, too many fanatics and fantasies that have brought us the great illusion of Brexit. Watch how Steve Baker just ‘canceled’ Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries from his group of 100 Clean Global Brexit WhatsApp MPs to see how divided and factious they are; how distant voters are. Will they be able to recover from this frenzy in time? Never underestimate their focus on power, but what would it take to revive a party that has praised David Frost and basked in all this weird Steve Bakerism?