We now have a ‘minister for Brexit opportunities’ – let that sink in

Almost six years after our first step into the Promised Land, two years after the full EU exit, the government is having to create an actual minister to try and find something – anything – that’s good to say about it

Tom Peck
Tuesday 08 February 2022 17:48
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<p>Jacob Rees-Mogg is promoted to ‘minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency’</p>

Jacob Rees-Mogg is promoted to ‘minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency’

On goes the “reboot”, then. And what, you may ask, could possibly do more to silence the nation’s incalculable rage about a prime minister breaking the law then lying about it for months on end, than a brand new made-up job for Jacob Rees-Mogg?

But we’ll have to come on to that in due course, that being merely the Tuesday afternoon s***show. And with there having been an entire evening and morning since I last typed any of this stuff, there are naturally several other s***shows to get through first.

Twenty four hours ago, the main subject of discussion was whether or not the prime minister’s new director of communications had, on his first day in the job, described his boss as “not a complete clown”. Some of the subtleties may have been lost in Welsh translation, but there were no subtleties about what was shouted at Keir Starmer outside the House of Commons on Monday night, when an angry conspiracist mob accused him of “protecting paedophiles”.

This, you will know, harks directly back to the deranged far-right conspiracy theory that Boris Johnson decided to bring up at the despatch box of the House of Commons last week. It’s not true. Course it’s not. But it did reveal a deeper truth therein, only one about Johnson, not Starmer.

He hasn’t apologised for those words. He hasn’t retracted them either. It’s only 16 weeks since one of his own MPs was murdered, so why would he want to dial any of this stuff down?

Instead, he instructed Number 10 “sources” to feed out the following line: “The fact is Starmer himself apologised for what happened on his watch in 2013.” On it goes then. Keep stirring the pot. Keep stoking it up. Trouble is, it’s all too late. Johnson has made the basic, irrecoverable error of revealing, at a time when everyone was watching, who he truly is.

His mini reshuffle has done him no favours either. Jacob Rees-Mogg is promoted to “minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency”. The minister for Brexit opportunities. Just pause and drink that in.

Look, there were those of us that warned the sunlit uplands might not be all that they’re cracked up to be. But even so, here we are, almost six years after our first step into the Promised Land, two years after the full EU exit, and the government is having to create an actual minister to try and find something – anything – that’s good to say about it. We don’t want to get too biblical, but I think the idea is that if you do actually make it to the Promised Land, you’re probably not meant to have to appoint someone, two years down the line, to try and explain why the Promised Land isn’t actually a complete dump.

The news must have come as something of a shock to Rees-Mogg himself. Can it really only have been September 2018, when he was out claiming that a no deal Brexit would be worth £1 trillion to the British economy, a statement which he would have to disown before he’d even officially made it? A trillion pounds. That’s what he said. A trillion pounds doesn’t seem like the sort of figure where you need someone to explain to you what’s good about it, or where it even is. A trillion pounds is the kind of opportunity you just sort of spot, isn’t it, without Jacob Rees-Mogg having to tell you about it?

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And that’s before you get on to the “government efficiency” bit. Jacob Rees-Mogg has been in the government for quite a while now. There are two candidates for his most significant contribution. One is the constant and repeated claim that Tory MPs don’t need to wear face masks because they are all “convivial” with one another and the virus doesn’t pass between friends. (He was eventually told to stop saying this, and had to take himself off to his local tailors to have them run up a face mask from an Old Etonians tie. He really did do that.)

His other contribution was to refuse, initially at least, to let MPs vote from home, and instead set up an entirely insane three-hour conga that stretched around the entire parliamentary estate so that MPs could vote in person while observing social distancing. That really did mean that members of Her Majesty’s government, in the middle of a pandemic, had to take three full hours out of their day to walk through the voting lobbies and cast their vote. They’ve put that man in charge of “government efficiency”.

And they’ve done it, mainly, because his previous job, leader of the House, which is well known as the exit route from the cabinet, has now been given to former chief whip Mark Spencer, the one who’s admitted that the allegations made by the MP Nus Ghani – that she was told he was losing her government job because of her “Muslimness” – are allegations against him, which are currently under investigation.

The Tory Party, of course, takes Islamophobia seriously, but not quite seriously enough to not find another cabinet job for a man under investigation for it. And obviously not seriously enough to actually launch the inquiry into it which was promised, on live television, a mere three years ago.

Still, on it goes. Operation Save Big Dog. There’ll be more of this tomorrow. The whole circus burnt in a deranged attempt to spare the clown. It won’t work. The mask has well and truly slipped.

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