Even for the silly season, this was a story to make you swallow hard. There have been some madcap ideas advanced during the past three or so years. But, in a competitive field, the call from Caroline Lucas – she of the anti-Brexit militant resistance – for the creation of an emergency all-female Cabinet to run the country and thwart a no-deal departure from the EU, must rank as the most demented yet.
Truly, Brexit Derangement Syndrome has reached its peak.
Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, wants to establish a “Cabinet of national unity”, and has invited senior women – and only women – from across the political spectrum to join her cause.
One might have expected that, having announced her plan on the Guardian website– where else? – and been assailed by a barrage of criticism and incredulity in response, Lucas might have had second thoughts. We’ve all had those moments in life when, staring at the ceiling in the wee small hours, we ask ourselves whether we did something that was just a bit too crazy. For instance, after recently calling for every knife sold in the UK to be fitted with a satellite tracking system, the Tory MP Scott Mann promptly – and to his credit – admitted that it was altogether “a bit of a shit idea”. But not Lucas. Instead she took to the airwaves the morning after and doubled-down on her proposal, insisting that only women could be trusted to save the nation and its people from themselves. She did later issue an apology for the fact that her Cabinet of choice included only those with white faces, but not for the original ludicrous idea itself.
Are these the last gasps of our old political order?
Lucas’s argument goes that women are more able to “reach out” and “co-operate to find solutions” to what she describes as “intractable problems”. That’s because, in her view, “women tend to be less tribal”. This kind of patronising attitude displays an astonishing degree of sexism towards both men and women. It implies that women are less assertive than men, not as competitive, less willing to defend their corner and fight for the beliefs, more deferential and inclined to capitulate for the sake of an easy life. It’s really another way of saying that women are the “fairer sex”. One wonders if the Thatcher era simply passed Lucas by. She almost certainly doesn’t realise that nearly half the nation’s women voted Leave.
I am constantly amazed at how those such as Lucas who shout loudest about ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ practise so little of what they preach. In this case, she wants a Cabinet that purposely excludes every male member of parliament to be established in an effort to deny the wishes of the winning side in a democratic exercise in which more than 33m voters participated. How tolerant.
It is easy, in the absurdity of the proposal, to lose sight of what this is really about. Essentially, it is the latest desperate salvo in the battle to prevent the result of the referendum from being implemented. “I couldn’t forgive myself if we didn’t try everything to avert the catastrophe of no-deal,” Lucas says. By which she means she couldn’t forgive herself if she didn’t try everything to stop Brexit altogether.
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There were many good reasons not to vote for Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, but if the main fear of MPs such as Lucas, who claim to be respecters of democracy, was genuinely the terrible threat of no-deal, they would surely have voted for May’s deal as the lesser evil. But they didn’t. And we know why. It’s because Lucas and her fellow EU-fanatics hold democracy in contempt. They are furious that the masses voted the ‘wrong’ way, and will stop at nothing to right the wrong. And so they deliberately reinvent a debate that was once Remain versus Leave and turn it into one that is now Remain versus No-Deal, where the latter has replaced Leave as the new doomsday scenario.
As part of this crusade against democracy, they claim that there is no mandate for no-deal, as though leaving the EU without one is an entirely fresh proposition, a game-changer that is illegitimate and does not fall within the purview of the original referendum. Such an outcome would, according to Lucas, amount to a ‘coup’. What nonsense. I don’t know what question appeared on Lucas’s referendum ballot paper, but on my own it was “Remain or Leave”, not “Remain or Leave-But-Only-With-A-Withdrawal-Agreement-That-EU-Leaders-Are-Willing-To-Approve”.
Leaving the EU is what people voted for. That outcome covers leaving both with a deal and without one. To argue that the UK should never leave without a withdrawal agreement is to effectively hand the EU a veto over our departure. Those agitating for such a position should be honest enough to admit it.
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Ultimately, Lucas is part of that cohort of middle-class liberal and cultural elitists who, having become so used to things going their way over recent times, cannot accept that they are no longer in control. These self-described ‘progressives’ and ‘centrists’ talk constantly about the need to ‘change our politics’. But real change isn’t what they seek. Instead, they want a return to the status quo. “I want my country back,” they regularly cry. No doubt. After all, it was a country that worked very well for them. But the downside was that it created an entire class of people who felt shut out, ignored and neglected. Brexit is their revenge.
You might think that, instead of further antagonising these voters, Lucas and co would have the good grace to recognise that it was their brand of politics that caused such disaffection in the first place. But so desperate are they to get their way, they are seemingly prepared to pay any price. Lucas’s proposal for a handpicked anti-Brexit “Cabinet of national unity”, with no popular mandate, would be the surest sign yet that the UK had moved from democracy to technocracy.
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Yet only last month, Lucas was offering us an account of her tour around Leave-voting constituencies. Expressing apparent sympathy with these communities, she wrote: “I have shared feelings of shame, regret and rage at the powerlessness of being routinely ignored and denied a say in the decisions that matter.” It beggars belief that she would then conclude the answer to this regret and rage is to ignore these voters all over again. In truth, the real coup-makers are not those prepared to leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement, but those fighting tooth and nail to crush the popular will.
Lucas won’t get her all-female Cabinet; even her own allies can see that it’s a crackpot proposal. But the fact that it was made at all is a sign of how desperate the attempts of the anti-Brexit fanatics are becoming, and the lengths to which some of them might be prepared to go in their efforts to subvert our democracy.
They must not get their way.