An anti-Brexit Government of National Unity falls at the first hurdle: its acronym. The political classes had found the dodo useful, as a widely accepted symbol for Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement. Now Theresa has gone the way of the dodo herself. Unlike the dodo, the gnu continues exist. It is an African antelope, often known as wildebeest, and is pronounced “noo.” On the wilder shores of political imagination, this strange beast is currently brought into captivity as a means of resolving the difficulties of the British Government. This unlikely event would encourage the worst sort of cartoonists. There are other sources of grief. The GNU would be headed by politicians whose default mode is disunity. Nevertheless it is their cover story.
There has been much talk on the Left of the way to resolve the Brexit imbroglio, and some see a Government led by Jeremy Corbyn as the answer. But since the Labour Party is itself bitterly divided, as is the Conservative Party, Jeremy’s chances of bringing the country together are small. A GNU, then, headed by Kenneth Clarke and Harriet Harman, the Father and Mother of the House? This mésalliance is founded on a rose-coloured view of domesticity. A Mom & Pop government will not command the allegiance of the masses.
Yet the search goes on, for nothing is happening in London during August, and Satan finds work for idle hands to do. The Remainers are handicapped since their detached, objective view of Brexit, is, well, semi-detached. Polly Toynbee, doyenne of the Left, views the struggle from her villa in Tuscany. Dominic Grieve, the rising hope of the stern, unbending Tory Remainers, stays in his house in Brittany. Nothing new in this, of course: those of wealth and position have long seen the attractions of summer in France. Lord Salisbury owned a house in Normandy. Queen Victoria enjoyed three-week long stays in Aix-les-Bains, where she is still recalled nostalgically. I except Lord Lawson (Nigel Lawson, former Chancellor) from any slur. He is a hammer of the Remainers and lives near Dieppe. But there is an undoubted connection between ardent Remainers and those who happen to own a pad across the Channel, where they are found these dog-days.
The heirs and assigns of the elite, those who work for the Government at a high level, have now taken a hit. The bureaucratic class, the Remainers’ fifth column, has hitherto enjoyed the benefits of regular visits to Brussels, where the cuisine is superb (and the Belgian fries the best in the world). All this is now greatly curtailed. The edict has gone out from the Prime Minister that from September 1st UK diplomats are ordered to reduce contact with their EU counterparts. British officials will withdraw from hundreds of regular official meetings in Brussels, and will go “only to the meetings that really matter.” Call it “the Brussels boycott.” Caesar has recalled his legions and requires their services at home: the days of taking Eurostar from St. Pancras to Bruxelles-Central are largely over. It is a reverse echo of the Emperor Honorius, who needed his legions in Rome, not at Hadrian’s Wall. More home cooking by wives and partners will be expected. This will be intensely unpopular among the bureaucracy, which has hitherto determined policy, but the direction of State is not to be diverted. The GNU does not exist, and the mirage of national unity can only shimmer at a distance.