MPs have voted for the bill to go forward, but that doesn’t mean they all back it – or that the saga is ending any time soon
It would be tempting to call this the moment of truth, had truth not been an early casualty of a Brexit saga that was mired in lies and deception from the very start. Even so the Brexit story, which has twisted and tormented this country for the last three and a half years, is at a moment of decision. Outside parliament, hundreds of thousands will gather to make one, possibly last, plea to stay in the European Union. Inside, MPs are due to vote on an agreement that, if it passes, will see us make the break in less than a fortnight – thereby ending British participation in a dream that has animated Europe ever since the final bombs fell in 1945.
Donald Trump is set to face impeachment for a phone call that came to light last month. The crimes he committed in that call were serious and merit the ultimate sanction that can be imposed on a sitting president, namely removal from office. And yet even since that conversation took place, in fact this very week, Trump has had another call that included an act that might not meet the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanours” and for which he will face no such punishment – but whose consequences will surely be even graver. For they will be measured in life and death.
It is one of the stranger aspects of the Brexit debate. When the plea is raised to remember the Good Friday agreement, to do nothing that might jeopardise the fragile peace that has held in Northern Ireland for two decades, that plea usually comes in a continental European accent. Of course, Irish politicians have been saying it loudly from the start, but this week it was striking to hear French, German, Dutch or Belgian voices explaining to British TV and radio audiences why the EU couldn’t possibly accept Boris Johnson’s revised Brexit plan because of the risk it posed to peace in a corner of the United Kingdom where a bloody conflict had raged within recent memory.
Since 2016, Britain and the United States have grappled with a shared fate, facing down the conjoined twins of populism: Brexit and Trump. This week, at long last, came the first signs of a reckoning. After three years in which the winners of 2016 have mocked, pushed or trampled on the constitutional constraints that sustain a liberal democracy, the constitutions – on both sides of the Atlantic – struck back.
The former prime minister gives a truthful account of errors – but unknowingly makes a few more
For the Record by David Cameron, William Collins, £25
A spectre haunts this book – the spectre of Europe. Just as the 700 pages of Tony Blair’s autobiography could not escape the shadow of Iraq, so the 700 pages of David Cameron’s memoir are destined to be read through a single lens: Brexit.Continue reading...
The sensation has become so rare, it took a moment to realise what it was. But following Wednesday’s ruling by Scotland’s highest civil court that Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament was unlawful, the feeling was unmistakable. It was optimism. Admittedly, it was optimism in its weakest form: not the confident certainty that all would turn out for the best, but rather a fragile flicker of hope that things might not be so bad after all.
When answers are in short supply, sometimes the best we can do is try to ask the right questions. Some of those dive into legal and constitutional arcana, as experts try to work out how Boris Johnson can climb out of the hole he has spent this last week digging ever deeper for himself. Now that the opposition parties have refused to accede to his cunning plan for an October election, and will next week see passed into law their demand that he seek an extension of Britain’s EU membership, he’s left with a series of unpalatable alternatives – from breaking the law to resignation to tabling a motion of no confidence in himself.
When some of the best-known Conservative figures of the last half-century are booted out of their party, when a new prime minister loses his first parliamentary vote and his governing majority on the same day, when historians are referring to this as a “revolutionary moment”, you know something of great significance is going on. But what exactly is it?
First published in 1938, US author Kathrine Kressmann Taylor’s forgotten classic is a devastating work of political fiction that still resonates today
Some of the largest themes have been addressed in the shortest books. That is especially true in the realm of what might be called political fiction. The single best evocation of communism – and especially the distance between the ideal and the Soviet reality – remains George Orwell’s brief allegory, Animal Farm. In the same way, few works have conveyed the brutal nature of imperialism more effectively than Joseph Conrad managed in fewer than a hundred pages in Heart of Darkness. A third place in that small space on the shelf could be allocated to an even briefer work: Address Unknown, a story so short it can be read on a morning bus ride. Yet somehow it distils the essence of the ideology that, along with the other two, casts a deathly shadow over the 20th century. Across a few economic pages it touches the heart of the Nazi darkness.
Address Unknown was first published in Story magazine in September 1938, and then in book form a year later, becoming an instant bestseller. It has been translated across the world, adapted into a 1944 film and into multiple productions for the stage and radio – all under the name of Kressmann Taylor, after Story’s editor, along with Kathrine Kressmann Taylor’s husband, Elliott, decided it was “too strong to appear under the name of a woman”. The impact was immediate, the story credited with having “jolted America”, alerting it to the horror unfolding in Nazi Germany.
The story traces the contours of fascism – the leader-worship, the surveillance, the summons to men to act as menContinue reading...