Walking my dog this morning in a suburban Scottish park, I got into an argument about the UK visit of the President of the United States. How fascism spreads – it seems to hit the middle class dog owners first.
The person I argued with is usually affable. They usually nod in agreement at my disgust at whatever political storm is brewing here in Scotland, in the UK or in the world.
Today was no different until we started talking about Trump. We spoke about how the SNP were doing (we are both pro- Scottish independence and a bit cynical at times, over how the SNP are doing). WE spoke briefly about what was happening in Northern Ireland – always an obvious topic because of my accent, and then we got on to Trump. And this is how it went.
Me: Good to see so many people protesting Trump today.
Her: Oh, I don’t know. He’s honest at least.
Me: (silence for an uncomfortable moment) The man is a fascist. Mussolini was “honest!”
Her: Maybe that’s what we need. A bit of fascism. The world is out of control at the minute.
Me: (silence and facial expression, and stuttering to show my disbelief – then composed myself) Have you heard the Sun tape this morning?
Her: I have. And it sounded as if he was right. I mean, May is a terrible Prime Minister. Boris would at least be a new broom sweeping clean. If we had him negotiating Brexit, we’d be out by now.
Me: (Stopping walking, turns to face her with incredulous look on my face) You voted Remain!
Her: Yes, but we are where we are. May is going to crash our trade.
Me: He’s a racist! He is a misogynist! He has already started a trade war with us that is costing jobs here at the very least!
Her: He’s broken no laws.
Me: Mussolini broke no laws. The Nuremburg Race Laws were not broken by the Nazi’s…
Her: You are being ridiculous. Trump isn’t Hitler.
Me: You are right. But he has passed anti-muslim laws, and has separated children from their families…
Her: They shouldn’t be there! Immigrants shouldn’t cross borders…
Me: That is just ridiculous..!
Her: He’s right… Europe isn’t like it was when I was young. The culture is being changed by these people flooding in…
Me: You mean brown people…
Her: Exactly. Even here [suburban, middle class, 99% white] I see a real change. The fabric of Bearsden is being changed. We are losing our culture…
Me: (it’s before breakfast… I am stunned by this!) Our culture..?
Her: Yes. I mean, I live near the local primary school. The amount of people in hijabs…
Me: I cant believe you are saying that! A few years ago, people used to say the same about Irish people… I would have been accused of “changing the fabric of Bearsden…!”
Her: Yes, but that’s different. That was wrong. But they are changing our laws…
Me: (realising I am talking to the nouveau-raciste) The only laws that have changed are ones that target people of colour… I wonder how many Windrush folk in Scotland were deported, or threatened with deportation? How many of those hijab wearing womrn have been spat at or shouted at?
Her: Ack, that doesn’t happen!
Me: Really? As a white, middle aged man with an irish accent, I’ve been shouted at and called names countless times by those who are full of Bearsden Culture… I cant imagine how those of colour have been attacked…
Her: Well we aren’t going to agree. Trump is good for Scotland. Look at the business he has brought here…
Me: He’s squashing business here! He has imposed import taxes on lots of our products! He is costing us business.
Her: He protects his country. That’s the sort of leader we need. We need a Trump here.
Me: (losing is a bit) Like Tommy Robinson? Farage? Boris?
Her: Exactly. That’s what Scotland needs.
At this point I was on the verge of shouting. It was 8am. I needed to get away. So I hitched my dog on to its lead to walk off, with the parting words,
“You’ve given me the fear. I really am scared by what you’ve said. I wasn’t going to go to the protest against the racist, proto-fascist misogynist today in Glasgow, but I know I need to.”
Her: We should be welcoming him.
I shook my head and walked off.
Mussolini talked about changing society to a fascist one, not by sending in the jackboots. To paraphrase him, he said a chicken will scream if you pluck it a handful of feathers at a time. But pluck it feather by feather, it won’t notice until it is too late.
I noticed the mottled pink, scarred, flesh showing through this morning in suburbia.
Disunity, disloyalty and hundred-foot-high turnstiles on the Irish Border
The inside scoop on what really happened at that fateful meeting at Chequers
BREXIT DEBATE. CHEQUERS. FRIDAY 6th JULY 2018
(There is general hubbub and conversation around the table)
PM Yes thank you everyone, thank you for coming.
(The conversation and hubbub continues unabated)
PM: If we could just….
(The conversation continues)
PM: For the sake of the country I think it is imperative that we get this meeting underway
(The Ministers continue chatting)
(Everyone abruptly stops talking and turns to Boris. Boris points to the PRIME MINISTER)
PM: Thank you Boris. — (Clears her throat) Now if we can begin…. Firstly we thought it would be a good idea to put everyone into little factions.
LIZ TRUSS interjects
AR ‘Factions’ Prime Minister?
LT Groups. I meant to say groups. Thank you Liz.
GAVIN WILLIAMSON interjects
GW (adopting a mock-creepy voice) Oooh yes, thank-you Liz.
LT: Oh piss off Gavin.
LIAM FOX turns to GW
LF: Maybe the right honourable minister for South Staffordshire should (adopting a high-pitched child-voice) ‘Just shut up and go away’.
GW folds his arms, sulkily.
PM: Please, I have called this meeting for purposes of unity. So if we can just-
BJ: Prime Minister before we …. before we no doubt commence with um… with great enthusiasm armed with a fiery commitment toward this, toward this absolutely vital, vital matter in hand … as it were … I do have one question I’d like to ask. If you would be … if you would be good enough – nay kind, kind enough to indulge me on this one interjection. As it were.
PM: – Are you saying you’d like to ask a question Boris? …
BJ I am indeed Prime Minister.
PM Well, I was hoping to push on with the exercises, but providing it doesn’t delay us for too long –
BJ I am indebted to you, as always
THERESA MAY smiles thinly.
BJ And in that spirit, the question I would like to ask, indeed I think we would all like to ask at this crucial time, is this.
(He stands, and with his hands resting on the table, he looks around at his colleagues, with a Churchillian bearing)
— When so few among us have given so much….
The question – nay the burning question. Is this ….
-Where the hell is David Davis’s trifle?
PM …‘trifle’ Boris?
BJ Indeed, trifle. The agreement was that David Davis was going to bring a trifle. -Am I wrong on that? Was I somehow misinformed?
Amidst much shaking of heads, all heads turn to DAVID DAVIS
PM (Sighing) – David would you mind -briefly, and succinctly explaining to Boris the ‘trifle situation’. -And then, hopefully we can push on with somewhat urgent affairs of state.
DD: No, that’s a fair question, the Foreign Secretary makes a very fair and valid point. And indeed, as my honourable colleague has made clear, at the Downing Street briefing it was agreed that I was – indeed – allocated the task of bringing along a trifle – just as Govey would fetch the finger sandwiches – which if I may say, are delicious as usual by the way, Michael.
MICHAEL nods demurely.
DD To that end, the ingredients were purchased and the original recipe was initially agreed upon (in principle) with my, as I like to call her, better half – but as the execution of the recipe proceeded, there arose – how best to put it — some disagreement over a few – shall we say ‘trifling’ issues
DD chuckles to himself and looks around at the stone-faces of the unsympathetic gathering.
He clears his throat and hurriedly removes, then chews upon the arm of his glasses
DD: To clarify: the sticking point, as far I see it was – at the negotiating stage – the age-old sherry problem. Essentially, Prime Minister, it boils down to two options, and the options are these: sherry or no sherry; there was a clear division of opinion on this. One that couldn’t be bridged. Unfortunately.
MICHAEL GOVE interjects.
MG It’s just a bloody trifle David, we don’t need impact assessments.
LIAM FOX: (Mutters) – Neither did he, apparently.
BJ: This is precisely the point. -Why is it everything *sooo* bloody torturous with you Davis? – I mean, Gove made the sandwiches: I supplied the Eton Mess without any undue fuss or hullabaloo.
DOMINIC RAAB mutters under his breath
DR: BorisSupplied an Eton mess. – No change there then.
BJ: Fuck you Dom, I heard that
The PRIME MINISTER, THERESA MAY climbs to her feet.
PM: Now, now – please! This is exactly what I’m talking about. We need a unified, collective face.
BORIS: That’s a grotesque image.
PM – All this bickering and back-biting is getting us nowhere…
MICHAEL GOVE stands up
MG I would like to add another question Prime Minister
PM (Sitting back down, issuing forth and exasperated sigh) — Yes, alright. -Go on Michael.
MG Will we be claiming back the ingredients and associated travel on expenses?
(There is unanimous and enthusiastic roar of encouragement upon this point)
PM: As always Michael, all food and transport is claimable on expenses.
(A good natured cheer erupts from the assembled ministers)
PM: (Under her breath) We await your Fortnum and Mason bill…
(The Cheering eventually dies down)
PM: — Now, moving on to matters at hand if we may. -David, I believe you have been exploring options for the Irish border..
(Some groans and eye-rolling from various ministers)
DD Well as you know Prime Minister – we have of course prioritised the ‘Irish question’ -for want of a better term – and have actioned this prioritisation by immediately putting – what I believe is a workable solution – out to consultation.
(There is a pause as The PM and Ministers await further elaboration.
DD takes off his glasses, folds them up and places them in his breast pocket. He sits back, hands behind head)
PM –And this workable solution is — ?
DD looks around at his colleagues, before realising it is he who is expected to respond.
DD Oh I beg your pardon I didn’t realise you expected a full-analysis….
PM: I think that would be rather helpful at this stage, yes.
He replaces his glasses and lifts a briefcase onto the table. After some struggling with the combination he opens the case and takes out a sheath of papers. He immediately sets them to one side
DD Ignore those, they’re bollocks…
DAVID DAVIS scrabbles around in the case. He pulls out a aluminium-foil wrapped sandwich….
DD: …That needs throwing.
There are impatient sighs and groans from around the table as he continues scrambling around in the case. He removes an FHM magazine, followed by a flask…
DD I’m very sorry about this Prime Minister, I know for certain it’s in here. I distinctly recall putting it in here myself .….
BORIS JOHNSON lets forth with an exaggerated yawn. There is some giggling.
Eventually DD pulls out a napkin and carefully unfolds it
DD –And, voila! (To BJ) – You see! – Have faith Boris, have faith.
PM -A napkin, David?
DD –Prime Minister, discussions went on deep into the night, culminating in a late supper, at an all-night Salsa bar in Ladbroke Grove ….. Let’s put it this way, as morning loomed, things got a little – shall we say, ‘interesting’
DAVID DAVIS winks at a visibly unamused ANDREA LEADSOM
BJ Cut to the fucking chase David -.
MG: -That would make a refreshing change.
DD OK, sure. -Well, we were throwing a few ideas around – batting to and forth so to speak – seeing what stuck… the drink was flowing, and the music became frightfully loud … they started removing all the tables for the dancing, so I ended up scribbling the conclusions on a napkin. Well, conclusion, singular, to be exact.
PM (Sighing audibly) – And the conclusion was?
DD Yes, i’m just trying to decipher what was written… but there seems to be a slight sauce stain on here – maybe red wine – hard to determine ….
(He leans in close to scrutinise) ….. bear with me a moment….. I’m having a little trouble making that particular word out –
DAVIS shows the napkin to SAJID JAVID.
DD Have a look at that Saj, does that say ‘turntables’?
SJ (Leaning in close to read it) It says ‘turnstiles’.
DD Oh yes, of course, yes, well that makes sense in the context of – er – of determining the – er – the Irish border question, as it were.
PM O for God’s sake David what does it bloody say?
DD …Well …..
SAJID JAVID impatiently interjects.
SJ It says, and I quote: “100 foot-high turnstiles shall be manned by dwarves”
DAVIS takes off his glasses and chews upon the arm.
DD That’s pretty much the gist.
-At this early stage.
(There is a protracted and stunned silence).
PM ….. ‘Dwarves’ – David?
DD nods. The PRIME MINISTER sinks back down into her chair and sighs loudly.
DD ……. Yes. (He chews nervously on an imaginary toffee) — dwarves. Not necessarily dwarves obviously – I rather think the MJB guys were using -er – artistic licence there… We like to call it ‘blue-sky-thinking’… the consultation process will refine it further, obviously.
DD looks around at the shocked, open-mouthed expressions of his colleagues. Some shake their heads pitifully.
DD I’m sorry …, is ‘dwarves’ not the correct term these days? –
There is a few moments of hostile silence – until BORIS JOHNSON leans across the table.
BJ Have you completely lost the plot David? — Or, maybe you tumbled into a sodding Lewis Carroll novel?
MICHAEL GOVE interjects
MG Actually I’m beginning to think a hookah-smoking caterpillar would be preferable as Brexit Secretary
SAJID JAVID interjects
SJ – How would that even work David? – A hundred foot-high-turnstiles on the Irish border? —Just on a practical level, you’d need giants to guard those surely, not dwarves.
GAVIN WILLIAMSON interjects
GW Davis is *such* a twanger!
DOMINIC RAAB interjects
DR I think prick is the word you’re looking for Gav. -. You’re an absolute prick Davis.
DD Leaps to his feet, he bunches up the napkin and throws it at Raab
DD Tell you what ‘Mr Workhouses-for-the-poor’ – why don’t you spend up to 2 hours a day, 3 days a week trying to unravel the shit we’re in?
DR Is that an offer?
DD I’d like to see you trying to please both factions of this bloody party
DR Just say the word Mr. Impact Assessment.
PM Now come on David, why don’t you sit down …
DD No, sod it. In fact, bugger it. I’ve had enough of all this snickering and name-calling and – this, this – endless whining about trifles … and hard-borders and impact assessments and all the endless, relentless SHIT.
BJ: Getting very red-faced isn’t he?
MG: Positively puce I’d say.
DD: Give the job to that smug fucker (POINTS TO DOMINIC RAAB) – see how well he does. Tell you what, I tell you what Prime Minister, you can deny him his own private jet as well. -See how he likes travelling to Brussels by train.
PM Your objections have been noted David, now if you will just take a seat.
DD No. No Prime Minister I will not. On point of principle, I resign.
Much eye-rolling and groaning around the table
BJ: God spare us, he’s threatening to resign again
MG: Quelle surprise.
DD: I mean it. You will have my resignation letter in the morning.
He leans across and picks up the screwed-up napkin, puts it in his case.
MG: Golly, I think he actually means it this time.
BJ: Bugger it: he’s pushed the button
MG: The nuclear option
PM Are you saying you are actually resigning David?
DD I am Prime Minister. I’m afraid I am left with no other option but to resign.
PM This could trigger a general election David, please consider your position
BJ: (whispers to MG) -Or a leadership election (MG nods sagely)
DD I understand that, but my position is untenable. I could handle the trifle gags and all that public school silliness, but the level of abuse I have had to suffer
PM Please David, wait. We’ll …. We’ll have a reshuffle — (Hurriedly) you can have Boris’s job.
PM No, not Boris’s job, sorry – I’m a bit ….
BJ If someone takes my job it’ll be on my say-so
PM I meant to say, Andrea’s job, you can have Andrea Leadsom’s job.
AL (Looks up from her phone) Wait…what? —
DD I don’t want her shitty job. (POINTS AT JOHNSON) I don’t want his shitty job, (POINTS AT JAVID) or his shitty job, I don’t even want your shitty job Prime Minister, respectfully – which I can tell you makes me a rare beast amongst this … nest of vipers. No – that’s it, I’m done. -I’m out of here (DD GATHERS UP HIS CASE AND PAPERS) — Thank you for everything
DOMINIC RAAB sitting back, smiling, calls after him –
DR Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out David!
DAVID DAVIS pauses at the door and walks back in.
DD Before I go – I’d just like to wish you the very best of luck in your new position Dom
DD angrily gives DOMINIC RAAB the finger, right up to his face, before turning on his heel and heading to the door
The door slams behind him as DAVID DAVIS exits the room.
A stunned silence fills the room.
In disbelief Ministers look around at each other.
THE PRIME MINISTER lets out a low protracted moan; rests her elbows on the table; cradles her head in her hands.
ANDREA LEADSOM appears to be weeping.
BORIS JOHNSON stands and casually walks to the corner of the room. Seemingly unconcerned, he piles finger sandwiches onto his plate.
Eventually MICHAEL GOVE speaks:
As laughter fills the room, amidst the collective jollity, unnoticed, Gove’s smile slowly fades, his gerbil-eyes gradually narrow as he sets his steely gaze upon the Prime Minister’s bowed head.
Standing beside the food- table BORIS JOHNSON chews on a finger-sandwich, and narrows his eyes as he fixes his steely gaze upon MICHAEL GOVE.
-Outside a big black cloud passes over the sun and the room momentarily darkens.