Editorial Note: The image featuring Samantha Cameron and her husband, David, comes from the front cover of Private Eye, a British satirical magazine, who might have thought twice about adding to the pressure on Cameron if they had known what was going to happen next. This is the third in a Bruce Willis series – See Osama saves Millions and Obama kills Millions.
Its September 27 2014. A conservative MP (member of parliament) and minister in the government, Brooks Newmark, has just resigned.
The coalition government, with the Conservatives (Tories) as the lead party, are in a growing crisis. A UK Independence Party (UKIP) had formed in the early 1990s but was getting nowhere fast. In 2006, Nigel Farage took over as leader and moved it from being a single issue Get out Europe campaign to a broader anti-immigrant, right wing populist party. In local elections in 2013 and even more so in European elections in May 2014, UKIP made substantial gains largely at the expense of the Tories.
There was a general election scheduled for 2015. A number of Tory MPs had an affinity for UKIP’s anti-immigrant and anti-European positions. There was speculation some might defect to UKIP – who had no MPs.
The way the English political system works, it can be difficult to break in even if a new party is supported by millions of voters, so there was no guarantee that UKIP with even 10% of the vote around the country would get any MPs. Supporting a party is one thing, voting for a party who has no MPs is another. If they already had some MPs it would transform the psychology of voting.
In August 2014, a first Tory MP, Douglas Carswell, defected to UKIP ratcheting up the pressure on Cameron and rattling the Tories.
On September 27, another, Mark Reckless, defected. The Tories seemed to be facing annihilation. Ed Milliband, the Labour party leader, seemed likely to be the next Prime Minister. If you wanted to take a Labour party leader with you on holidays and had your choice of any of them from 1945 to now, I’d opt to take Milliband (or maybe Michael Foot). But its not enough in politics or maybe even in life to be decent, or even a human being – you have to be lucky.
While Reckless was defecting, Brooks Newmark entered stage left.
Brooks had been caught in a jaw-dropping sting. A male newspaper reporter posing as a woman engaged him in texting that became sexting and finally a picture of Newmark’s private member.
The Reckless defection was bad news but Newmark’s reckless act seemed to set the seal on the Tories. It had the whiff of decay that goes with a political party whose time was up.
In the immortal words of a former Irish premier Charles Haughey, as weaponized by his greatest political enemy, we had entered GUBU country – grotesque, unprecedented, bizarre and unpredictable. (Worth googling to get the full-story).
(The political wisdom until recently had been that there’s no recovery from GUBU – but it seems like politicians have learned to embrace and maybe even love GUBU, perhaps in part as a consequence of Cameron’s next move).
The Private Eye image shows Samantha eyeing something like a Tory private member working out how to advise her partner who seems to have missed the plot.
In order to keep the Tories from disintegrating, and take the wind out of UKIPs sails Cameron offered a referendum on EU member-ship. If you really want to withdraw from the EU, don’t vote UKIP – they have almost no MPs and can’t deliver it. The only party who deliver are the Tories. This desperate promise wasn’t made to win the election, it was made to avoid the Tories being annihilated.
On the night of the election a few weeks later as the polls closed the general anticipation was that Milliband would be entering Downing Street the following day. A few minutes later, the first exit poll predicted the Tories would win an overall majority. You could have heard a pin drop in the TV studios.
David Cameron was about to become the first Tory Prime Minister to be elected with a majority in over 20 years. Perhaps the “I can walk on water” moment went to his head. One of his first actions was to agree to follow through on a promise – he would commit the country to a referendum the following year.
The original Brooks Newmark event in its own right was nothing like as GUBU as the events that led Haughey to try and articulate how fate can twist. The time honoured – truth can be a lot stranger than fiction – didn’t seem enough. The events in Ireland that left the smoothest of political liars struggling for words began a sequence that has close to destroyed the Catholic Church globally.
But events in Britain since September 27 increasingly seem to bear the mark of GUBU. Who knows what pillars of modern life will come tumbling down before the malignant sprite or whatever it is decides its time for a nap.
Who needs conspiracy theories? They’re a relatively recent invention that in their efforts to make sense miss out on how bizarre things can get sometimes. Taking Occam’s razor to any explanation of the human situation favours a view that there really are Olympian Gods who trigger events out of boredom or perhaps just unleash malignant sprites to stress test human plans.