David Cameron’s ‘greased piglet’: The perfect image for the Brexit moment
There's a real sense of occasion now we've almost reached the bit of Brexit where the elites who gifted it to us don't have to pretend any more. Always ahead of the curve, David Cameron is leaning in to the coming winds of financial and ritualistic deregulation with demob abandon. Speaking in Harrogate to promote his book on Thursday night, Cameron predicted success for Boris Johnson and his deal.
As the former prime minister put it: "The thing about the greased piglet is that he manages to slip through other people's hands where mere mortals fail."That's it, mate. Why keep your mouth shut about pigs any more? We should just take it from one who knows: greasing a pig makes it go better. Given the dramatic degeneration of our public conversation over the past three years, it feels right that Cameron chose to finally "go there" on the porcine front in Harrogate, a town that was for so long a byword for a certain type of regional gentility.
I would imagine his next tour stop will be in Royal Leamington Spa, where he will expand on the point with a demonstration comparing different means of lubricant. Local boars who've always wanted to put their daughter on the stage are invited to get in touch with his promoter.
As for which atrocious timeline we are about to be flung into tomorrow, who can say? A lot of journalists would certainly like to say. Everything has improved, hasn't it, since journalists decided their job is predicting what might happen in the future as opposed to reporting on what they do currently know, or scrutinising what they can currently see.Thus the 36 hours or so between Johnson announcing his deal in Brussels and the special sitting of parliament to vote on it feel like they have been mostly spent watching or reading hacks and pundits debating the complex question, "Will the agreement pass?" I don't know, guys! I guess you could concentrate on what's in it - or are you as committed to a no-spoilers Brexit as the government is?
Lavishing hours of airtime and miles of column inches on speculating precisely how close it all is feels a bit like being given advance notice of a shitstorm, and frittering your day away taking spread bets on the possible wind speed. Six votes? Three votes? Would someone like to come on air and say they reckon there's maybe just a couple of votes in it? What if it was a tie?Either way, the conclusion, which may of course be debunked tomorrow, is that it will be Very Close.
Then, when it is, lots of people will be able to sweep online to declare that they "CALLED IT". You can print out those tweets and burn them for warmth in the years when we're discovering the true implications of the Very Close Vote on whatever it was a vote on.
The only people who seem to have spent less time thinking about the detail are the likes of Andrew Bridgen. "It looks like Brexit, it smells like Brexit," he explained to Channel 4 News. "That's Brexit for me." Despite being even more cruelly miscast as a "Spartan" than cinema's Gerard Butler once was, the likes of Mark Francois and Andrew Bridgen have succeeded in getting apparently serious commentators to use their self-styled nickname "the Spartans" without deploying airquotes so thrustingly sarcastic that they could be harnessed for wind power.
Meanwhile, Michael Gove could be found lurching unsteadily towards the TV camera to bat away Andrew Neil's inquiry about the possibility of a second referendum amendment. "That ain't gonna happen," drawled the bespectacled Clint Eastwood of Surrey Heath. "Ain't gonna - ain't gonna be no second referendum." In retrospect, that may be the moment this once self-respecting nation had to officially admit it was over.
We have created an environment so intensely deregulated that Michael Gove is emboldened enough to imagine he's some kind of gunslinger.
The system has already failed. We passed checks and balances three galaxies ago. Our executive defences have been breached by Jacob Rees-Mogg, a man grown in a petri dish to provide Monty Burns with someone who could lose to him at arm wrestling.Given the problems Theresa May had, there was some sense of surprise that Johnson should have pulled off a deal acceptable to the more deranged elements of his party. But history is likely to judge that it's easier than it looks when you're a man whose sole ideological red line is frictionless abortions.
Having given a speech in November 2018 insisting that "no British Conservative government could or should sign up" to regulatory and customs checks in the Irish Sea, Johnson's British Conservative government was just shy of three months old when it cheerily signed up to regulatory and customs checks in the Irish Sea. That was a great outcome, explained foreign secretary and famous geography dunce Dominic Raab, who said it was a "cracking deal" for Northern Ireland on the basis that they'd keep "frictionless access to the single market". There it is: the dream. Only a few more days of having to remember which lie you told.
Speaking of Northern Ireland, the week has offered the chance to watch the Democratic Unionist party discover in real time who the sucker at the table was. It would take a heart of stone not to enjoy the disappointment of DUP hive queen Arlene Foster, who has carried herself throughout the Brexit process like the kind of maternal screen villain who tries to scupper their child's every romantic attachment for not being good enough.
The DUP have so enjoyed being at the centre of the soap opera since the 2017 election, and acting like divas, that they didn't realise until they saw this week's script that the producers couldn't be doing with them any more and were killing them off. It's a lot like what happened with Martine McCutcheon on EastEnders. She went off and showed them by having a 15-minute pop career; Arlene is not thought to have any musical ambitions, but will now always be a hero to those dreaming of a united Ireland.
As for the prime minister, he seems to be enjoying himself, as much as is possible for a sort of middle-aged Kylo Ren who's making all the correct self-care decisions. In Westminster, many judge that, whatever happens tomorrow, Boris Johnson is in a win-win situation, with the sole losing entity being the entire United Kingdom. As David Cameron continues to promote his bestselling book, and the rabid deregulators continue to promote Boris Johnson, it does feel as if the nation might end up the true sucker in all this. Then again, for all the mirth it produced, there was always a rather leaden sense of dramatic irony clouding the original Cameron/pig tale. People like David Cameron end up playing David Cameron. The rest of the public is in danger of being the pig.
Marina Hyde is a Guardian columnist