At last: some hope on Brexit. But let’s not speak too soon. Should this final push for a breakthrough fail, Boris Johnson will be in grave trouble. Unable to take us out with a deal – and, thanks to Parliament, unable to take us out without a deal, either. He’ll be cornered. Trapped. Snookered.
But maybe not. Because thankfully, there’s still one last-ditch way he could save his skin. It’s ingenious. Yet remarkably simple.
Keep us in the EU – but tell everyone we’ve left.
All right, not absolutely everyone. Obviously the EU themselves would have to be in on the plan. The Prime Minister would pledge to continue sending them our membership fees on the quiet, on condition that they join in the pretence that we’d left. They would surely accept. In their eyes, in fact, it would probably be the perfect arrangement. They’d be kicking themselves for not thinking of it sooner.
To everyone else, however, the Prime Minister would announce that we’d left. Keeping his own Cabinet in the dark might sound tricky, but should not prove impossible. Friendly foreign states, for example, could be cajoled into signing pretend trade deals with Liz Truss, while Dominic Raab could be taken on a tour of Dover to see for himself that, despite all the scaremongering, the flow of goods was continuing completely unhindered.
Obviously this plan would never have been the Prime Minister’s first choice. Naturally he would recoil from any suggestion that he should deceive the country for his own political advantage. But, as a last resort, the plan’s attractions are hard to ignore.
After all, since it would incur no economic damage, job losses, medicine shortages or trouble at the Irish border, Remainers would conclude that their fears about Brexit were unfounded, and apologise humbly to Leavers. Leavers would graciously accept, and forgive. Everyone would be able to shake hands, and set their differences aside. Three years of bitterness would be at an end. And then, acclaimed for both delivering a pain-free Brexit and bringing the country back together, Mr Johnson would win a snap general election by a landslide.
Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s masterly strategist, prides himself on his ability to think 10 steps ahead. Perhaps he’s been working towards this very outcome all along.
While we’re on the subject of Mr Johnson: another crucial issue that requires his urgent attention.
Look. I appreciate that he has never been the world’s smartest dresser. His suits have always been crumpled, and his hair has always made him look like a sheepdog peeping guiltily out from under an upturned colander of spaghetti.
Fine. We’re used to it. But somewhere a line has to be drawn. Basic standards must be upheld. Because lately, I’m afraid, the Prime Minister has gone too far.
I’m talking about the length of his tie.
Look at any photo of him from the past month. The thing seems to be growing longer by the day. It’s grotesque. During his talks with Ireland’s Leo Varadkar on Thursday, the tip of it was practically swinging between his knees. At the current rate of growth, by Christmas he’ll be having to tuck it into his socks.
What he thinks he’s playing at, I can’t imagine, because he never used to wear it so obscenely long. In photos from his time as Mayor of London, the tip of his tie rests at a respectable position, befitting a gentleman – that is to say, roughly level with the buckle of his belt. Yet now the thing’s gone rogue, and is coiling round his thighs like a python. Most unbecoming.
There is, of course, one other world leader who insists on wearing his ties in this strange and upsetting fashion: Donald Trump. Is our Prime Minister consciously imitating him? And if so, why? Who is advising him? Does private polling by Number 10 indicate that the key to a handsome majority in late 2019 is a tie that could lasso a whale?
It’s all very peculiar. Still, perhaps it helps to clear up one mystery. Jennifer Arcuri, a former close friend of Mr Johnson’s, claims to be irresistible to men. So irresistible, she says, that in their pursuit of her they trip over a certain part of their anatomy.
I fear she is mistaken. In Mr Johnson’s case, it was probably his tie.
The old ones are the best
By and large, my son’s interests are perfectly normal, for a five-year-old boy. Trains, dinosaurs, Lego, wrestling. The usual. He has one other enthusiasm, however, that I suspect sets him somewhat apart from other boys his age.
British TV comedy of the 1970s.
Genuinely. The 1970s. As in, the decade before either of his parents were born. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that my son is the world’s youngest fan of Terry and June by at least half a century. When June Whitfield died last December, the BBC repeated an episode of this gentle suburban farce in tribute. Even in the decade it was first broadcast, it must have seemed old-fashioned – yet my son loved it. He was squeaking with laughter, even at jokes he can’t possibly have understood. (June: “When was the last time I was made love to?” Terry: “I don’t know, I wasn’t there.”)
To be honest, it was bad enough having to watch it with him once, but he insisted we keep a recording – and even now, he periodically asks to rewatch it. For the sake of variety, I tried introducing him to other family comedies from the era. He wasn’t completely sold on Dad’s Army – but he utterly adores The Two Ronnies.
I found him a compilation of their most famous sketches, and he was in absolute raptures. He never tires of watching it. Again, though, the jokes are often pitched a little bit above the level of a five-year-old, so it’s possible that some of the wordplay has gone over his head.
“There you are,” he’ll say, doing his best impression of Ronnie Corbett. “Three candles!”