The big news on this, the final day of Tory conference, is that Boris Johnson has come up with a new fix on the Irish border situation. It’s all ready to present to the EU in what sounds like a “take it or leave it, continental scum” sort of manner. I didn’t think there could be a worse idea for how to solve the Irish border problem thrown up by Brexit than what we’re already heard; turns out I was very wrong on that front. BoJo’s latest plan recycles all the worst bits of every other idea and adds a few new ones that are even worse. To the question “Do you put a customs border between N Ireland and Ireland or in the Irish Sea?”, Johnson has decided to answer “Both!”. It’s like being given a choice between being flayed alive and being burnt at the stake and deciding to have your flesh removed while being set alight.
The DUP are fine with it, apparently, which is astonishing. It’s like they are fine with customs controls between Northern Ireland and Britain so long as they are also cut off from the rest of Ireland at the same time. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face, but I’ll stop the analogies there.
I don’t need them to talk about how bad Tory conference was. It was really, really depressing. I felt tired the whole time I was in Manchester; like the very air inside of the secure zone was deeply enervating. It felt smaller than recent Tory conferences, although that could have been because there were fewer MPs there for various reasons. Oddly, some of the MPs who did bother to show up were amongst the ones who have recently had the whip removed. Speaking to a few of them brought me down further. “Now is the time to stay and fight! The Conservative party cannot fall into the hands of the maniacs!” Mate, sorry to break it to you, but the maniacs have taken over already. And you’re not even technically a Tory MP any longer.
Worse than that were the number of Tories I spoke to in Manchester that, while we never saw eye to eye politically, I had some respect for the fact that they had values and principles that were their own. Whatever is inconvenient in the Boris era, however, just gets chucked aside, as if those values and principles never mattered. British institutions – who needs those anyhow, right? I mean, like, that was only most of what being a Conservative meant a few years ago, but hey ho. Roll with the times.
Further to this, the amount of otherwise intelligent Tories who have drank the “Get Brexit Done” Kool-aid is truly remarkable. As if a withdrawal agreement will be signed, or we’ll just leave with no deal on October 31st, and either way that means that Brexit will be “done”, as if we won’t have years and years and years of Brexit bullshit ahead. I don’t expect the average punter to get this but there are some Tories who really, really, really should know a lot better that have chosen to believe Brexit is on the verge of being “done”.
Finally, this was the Tory conference in which the ERG were rulers of all they surveyed. Last year in Birmingham, Rees-Mogg had to hold rallies with true believers in small meeting rooms; this year, there wasn’t any need. The party as a whole has been conquered.
I was desperately glad to escape from the conference yesterday afternoon. Every year, I go to Conservative party conference and have more fun there than I would generally like to admit in polite company. The spectacle of it all; the fact that everyone in the bubble is there in one place, on a sort of retreat; the occasional glamour; Tory conference has been a guilty pleasure every autumn. Not this time round. None of that was enough to make me not want to run away screaming in horror.