Sketch: There's something familiar about post EU referendum chaos

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 30 June 2016 in Comment

The UK voted to leave the EU, but it doesn't look like too much has changed

It’s increasingly difficult to imagine David Cameron still thinks we’re all in this together.

The Prime Minister resigned within hours of losing a referendum he never had to call, after being outmanoeuvred by old school friends he probably never really liked.

Standing in front of Downing Street – his favourite place to pull a post-referendum twist – David Cameron said: “I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.”


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Better to hand over control before they mutiny. It seemed fair enough, to be honest, even if it was probably a bit of a nightmare for George Osborne – who is in the same position faced by anyone who’s cautioned someone from drinking too much, before finding themselves cleaning up vomit from the floor.

Seeking security, he returned to his roof metaphor. The man is basically obsessed with roofing. It’s like a safety blanket for Osborne, any time something goes wrong he puts on his hard hat and high-viz jacket – god knows where he got them – and starts talking about roofs. “I said we had to fix the roof so we were prepared for whatever the future held and thank goodness we did.”

‘Whatever the future held’ is something of a euphemism here. Most people assumed he’d fixed the roof in preparation for a global economic downpour, not in case his own party dragged the UK away from its biggest trading partner. You fix the roof in case it rains, not on the off chance Boris Johnson comes along and smashes it up with a hammer.

In fact, in all the confusion, Nicola Sturgeon seemed the only person who wasn’t reacting on a 24-hour delay, with the FM responding to say the Leave vote made a second referendum on Scottish independence likely, before using a BBC interview to suggest she would encourage the Scottish Parliament to withhold consent for Brexit.

She said: “If the Scottish Parliament is judging this on the basis of what’s right for Scotland, then the option of saying we’re not going to vote for something that’s against Scotland’s interests, that’s got to be on the table. You’re not going to vote for something that is not in Scotland’s interests.”

It’s always entertaining to watch Sturgeon do these appearances. In this case she looked genuinely baffled by England and Wales voting for Brexit, answering questions like someone patiently but firmly explaining to a toddler why it should keep its clothes on at a wedding.

And there is certainly a sense the SNP leader is the only British politician – apart from Cameron – to have made any real preparation for this outcome, even if a critic might suggest ‘Scotland should become independent’ is pretty much her solution to everything.

But with Cameron gone and his party in disarray, the Conservatives were more vulnerable than they have been in years. Naturally then, the key question for Labour was how best to implode.

And yet, watching Labour turn on Jeremy Corbyn, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that these people are just really terrible at coups. It’s like watching a group of drunks standing around trying to tip a cow over in a muddy field. As we speak, they’re stumbling around arguing about how best to do it while the cow obstinately insists it has a mandate to stand there.

But maybe it’s unfair to say the Labour leader can’t win an election, given he had announced, just days before, that he would like to be Prime Minister after all. Though it does say something about Corbyn’s approach up until now that this statement was deemed newsworthy.

Asked for a reaction to Cameron’s resignation, he said, “it’s not for me to intrude on the private grief of the Conservative Party”, which, when you think about it, is really Corbyn’s entire problem summed up in a sentence.

Still, the Labour Party seems too busy infighting to notice anything else. In the current political chaos any bumbling mutant charlatan could climb out of the sewer and gain influence.

Which brings us back to Boris Johnson. Speaking on camera, with a fly buzzing around his head, Johnson cautioned against triggering Article 50 – and leaving the EU – too soon.

But actually, the weird thing after all this is, apart from Cameron resigning, very little seems to have really changed.

Nicola Sturgeon’s solution to Brexit is Scottish independence, Labour see it as a reason to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn, the Tories take it as impetus for a grubby fight over the direction of the party and Boris Johnson thinks there might be an opportunity in it all for the advancement of Boris Johnson.

The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.

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