One of the hazards of writing about a government so hapless you wonder if it’s doing it all for a dare is that it could fall any minute. By the time you get to the end of this sentence, Theresa May could be cramming that last pair of heels into the back of a Pickfords van. Let’s work on the assumption that someone is in charge, nominally at least, and hope we get through the next few minutes without a minister setting their desk on fire or putting Wales on eBay.
That this is a spectacularly inept ministry is now beyond all doubt. Al Murray has a cracking stand-up routine in which his nostalgic Pub Landlord decries every government as the worst ever — except for the preceding one. Although far from their biggest sin, the Tories have ruined that joke. They are level 7 useless and May’s administration is more chaotic and directionless than any of those led by Gordon Brown, John Major and James Callaghan.
Britain is a global punchline. We are hellbent on Brexit and become only more so as its consequences unfold before us. Impatient to shoot ourselves in the foot, we peer down the barrel, finger on the trigger, trying to work out the delay. Other than Donald Trump’s daily tangles with grammar, no Western nation is as crisis-plagued as Blighty. The Australian government has lost its majority in parliament after it turned out the Deputy Prime Minister was secretly a New Zealander and had to stand down. Yet they are a paragon of stability compared to us. But those willing the roof to fall in on this wretched lot have to contend with the alternative.
The most unfit government in generations would be replaced by Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, and Diane Abbott. Think we have Acme government just now? Wait till the real Looney Tunes take over. Bennite Brexiteers leading us out of Europe while seizing the commanding heights of the economy at home. Sixth Form anti-Americans rocking up at the UN, a Hezbollah flag in one hand and a declaration of unilateral nuclear disarmament in the other, to represent us on the world stage. And all this — quitting the EU, striking new trade deals, growing the economy, defending the nation — would be the responsibility of a front bench almost devoid of ministerial experience and burdened by a sceptical civil service and a hostile security apparatus.
True, Tony Blair became Prime Minister without having held a government post but he also had a talented, capable team around him. Under Prime Minister Corbyn, Richard Burgon would be Lord Chancellor. Richard Burgon. Yes, the world scoffs at Theresa May, the Iron Lady who crumpled like tin foil, but what will they make of Jeremy Corbyn? From IRA fanboy to Prime Minister is quite a journey but what would it say about Britain? Secret meetings in Israel will pale in comparison to appointing Ken Livingstone ambassador to Tel Aviv. The thugs and crackpots welcomed into Labour’s membership ranks will deselect and replace any moderate MPs who remain.
Sorry to be an Eeyore but we are really, truly screwed. None of the options before us is palatable. Brexit won’t be stopped, the housing crisis won’t be solved and the economy won’t roar back to health any time soon. The current shower are preferable only to the extent that the shower who will follow them will make them look like Churchill’s war cabinet by comparison. Eurosceptics were warned that Brexit would prove disastrous and they pressed on regardless. Corbynistas were told not to lump Britain with an alternative government tainted by anti-Semitism, led by a man temperamentally unsuited to leadership. Back when everyone was apathetic and politics still worked, the two main parties were often rebuked as indistinguishable and stuck in the centre. There was no real choice on offer. Now they are poles apart and the voters have a choice, at last, between two competing brands of national decline.