The healthy follower of political news is an autocondimentor, taking everything with at least a sprinkling of salt. That habit ought to intensify as controversial votes grow near – and some of this weekend’s headlines require not just fistfuls but barrels of the stuff.
The game underway is the latter stages of an ongoing attempt to bounce opponents of the Prime Minister’s proposed EU deal into supporting it. The particular focus, as displayed by Jeremy Hunt yesterday, is on trying to persuade Leavers that the alternative to the deal is no Brexit rather than No Deal.
If the dubious quality of the arguments being mounted is an indicator of the Government’s desperation, then the Whips appear very worried indeed.
Take for example the exclusive revelation, helpfully presented by George Osborne’s Evening Standard, that:
‘Brexit looks increasingly likely to be delayed beyond the scheduled exit of March 29, Cabinet ministers today revealed to the Standard. A backlog of at least six essential Bills that must be passed before Britain leaves the European Union has left ministers convinced the timetable will be extended…A senior minister said: “The legislative timetable is now very very tight indeed. Certainly, if there was defeat on Tuesday and it took some time before it got resolved, it’s hard to see how we can get all the legislation through by March 29.”’
In other words, trust us to negotiate and implement a bad deal, or our failure to competently manage the legislation will prevent Brexit. Not a very enticing or inspiring message in itself, but also a rather bogus one.
As our very own Henry Hill laid out on Wednesday, the Government’s legislative planning has been careful and detailed, precisely in order to restrict the risk of necessary laws not being in place in time for Brexit Day.
This isn’t the weirdest outcome of the politics of Brexit, but it is odd to see Ministers talking down their own ability to manage Government business, all in order to try to encourage MPs to place more faith in the capacity of the same Government to negotiate and deliver the Withdrawal Agreement. “Trust us, or we will cock it all up” is quite the slogan.