The hatless mad hatters

Did Boris Johnson’s girl friend finally manage to run a brush through his hair? Undated image credited only to Getty Images Europe via the Telegraph.[1] Fair use.

Dominic Cummings appears[2] to have assessed the political situation for opponents of a hard Brexit much the way I did.[3]

Mr [Dominic] Cummings suggested that the Labour leader [Jeremy Corbyn] had missed his ­opportunity to secure an election ­before the UK’s intended departure date from the EU.

If Mr [Boris] Johnson loses a no-confidence vote when the Commons returns in September, potentially leading to a general election, the Prime Minister would have the power to schedule the poll for after Hallowe’en, Mr ­Cummings disclosed.

He also claimed that an election would lead to a Conservative majority.[4]

The strategy is still absolute madness, as I have also explained.[5] But the strategy for winning a general election that is too late to stop a hard Brexit revolves around generous promises[6] that have little or no chance of coming to fruition.[7] Which would be Boris Johnson, true to form.[8]

I hope I’m wrong and that a lot of other critics are wrong. But the words of Richard Nixon’s impersonator on Twitter come roaring back to mind:

I’ve said it before: it’s going to get darker than you think in Britain, and quick.

— Richard M. Nixon (@dick_nixon) July 23, 2019

Speaking of Jeremy Corbyn, whom Cummings claims needed to act before now to stop a hard Brexit,[9]

Did anybody notice the terrible metamorphosis that took place, like the final scene of Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers?

At last, this long-standing Eurosceptic has been captured. He has been jugulated — he has been reprogrammed. He has been turned now into a Remainer.

Of all the flip-flops that he has performed in his tergiversating career, that is the one for which I think he will pay the highest price.[10]

I think I understand—imprecisely—why Corbyn has dithered. A lot of politics is about timing, waiting for the moment when the stars align to pursue your aspirations. That really hasn’t happened for Corbyn as his party, Labour, has been beset by allegations of anti-Semitism.[11] I assume he isn’t a fan of the European Union probably for similar reasons to my own: The E.U. is a neoliberal organization that indeed imposed harsh austerity on several countries in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008-2009. That austerity was almost certainly—supporting evidence comes in the form of correlations—lethal as suicide rates spiked.[12] And the neoliberals within Labour, a party split along similar lines to the Democrats in the U.S., often seem to think Corbyn is too radical, just as “mainstream” Democrats think progressives are too radical.

One thing about neoliberals: Where an allegation against politicians is sometimes that they put party before country, neoliberals put neoliberalism even before party. Just as Democrats, the neoliberal party, nominated Hillary Clinton in 2016 and might very well nominate Joe Biden in 2020 rather than allow a progressive even a chance to become president, neoliberals within Labour might now support the (neo)Liberal Democrats in a general election rather than see Corbyn as prime minister.

Corbyn likely apprehends that his situation isn’t really the situation he wants to go into a general election with. Which suggests that just like with the Tories and their bogus promises, he’s putting party before country. But the stars align for hard Brexiteers right now. Even if they’re all a bunch of mad hatters without the hats.

  1. [1]Edward Malnick, “Dominic Cummings tells MPs: you’ve missed your chance to stop no-deal Brexit,” Telegraph, August 3, 2019,
  2. [2]Edward Malnick, “Dominic Cummings tells MPs: you’ve missed your chance to stop no-deal Brexit,” Telegraph, August 3, 2019,
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Okay, so really now, assuming they choose to do so, how do the British avoid a hard Brexit?” Not Housebroken, July 26, 2019,
  4. [4]Edward Malnick, “Dominic Cummings tells MPs: you’ve missed your chance to stop no-deal Brexit,” Telegraph, August 3, 2019,
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Boris Johnson might think he’s playing poker with the European Union, but he’s actually playing ‘chicken’—with a brick wall,” Not Housebroken, August 3, 2019,
  6. [6]Christopher Hope, “Boris Johnson to unveil biggest ad campaign since Second World War to prepare for ‘no deal,’” Telegraph, July 28, 2019,; Edward Malnick, “Dominic Cummings tells MPs: you’ve missed your chance to stop no-deal Brexit,” Telegraph, August 3, 2019,
  7. [7]Lisa O’Carroll and Rowena Mason, “Johnson told no-deal Brexit will crush domestic policy plans,” Guardian, July 28, 2019,
  8. [8]Robert Hutton and Tim Ross, “His Critics Say He Lies, But Tories Want to Trust Boris Johnson,” Bloomberg, June 14, 2019,; Tom McTague, “Boris Johnson Meets His Destiny,” Atlantic, July 22, 2019,
  9. [9]Edward Malnick, “Dominic Cummings tells MPs: you’ve missed your chance to stop no-deal Brexit,” Telegraph, August 3, 2019,
  10. [10]Boris Johnson, quoted in Tom Newton Dunn and Nick Gutteridge, “PM Boris goes on the attack against EU and Corbyn on Commons debut,” Sun, July 25, 2019,
  11. [11]Eliza Mackintosh, “Turmoil in British politics as Labour MPs quit over Brexit and anti-Semitism,” CNN, February 18, 2019,; Oliver Wright, “Labour Party split: who are the seven MPs who quit to form the Independent Group?” Times, February 18, 2019,
  12. [12]Paul Corcoran et al., “Impact of the economic recession and subsequent austerity on suicide and self-harm in Ireland: An interrupted time series analysis,” International Journal of Epidemiology 44, no. 3 (2015), doi: 10.1093/ije/dyv058; Charles C. Branas et al., “The impact of economic austerity and prosperity events on suicide in Greece: a 30-year interrupted time-series analysis,” British Medical Journal 5, no. 1 (2015), doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005619

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