There was an interesting thread on Twitter recently discussing whether the Tories really are mad because they seem to be opting for a No-Deal Brexit, or whether they’re following Machiavelli’s advice that it’s sometimes “a very wise thing to simulate madness”. The conclusion was that many of the Tories (such as Michael Gove) definitely know that crashing out of the EU would be mad, so they must be simulating, but the real question was who they were trying to fool, the EU (to make them reopen May’s Deal) or other Tory MPs (to make them vote for the Deal without any changes).
I’m wondering, however, whether this is overly simplistic because there really are three levels of Brexit madness in the Tory party:
- The inner core of Brexiteers (many of whom have recently been brought into Downing Street by Boris Johnson) really want a No Deal Brexit for their own (disaster capitalist and/or fascist) reasons. Their goals might be considered mad, but given the objectives they’ve set themselves they’re not mad at all, but clever, pragmatic and ruthless. They’re perfectly aware that a No Deal Brexit will be a disaster for the UK as we know it, but that’s what they want.
- Around them is a circle of mainstream Tories, who don’t want a No-Deal Brexit at all. They basically want to preserve most of the status quo, but would like some more control over immigration and some other bits of the EU they dislike, but they most certainly want a permanent and comprehensive deal with the EU. They dislike the backstop, however, and the inner core have convinced them they’ll have to pretend to want a No Deal Brexit in a high-stakes poker game to make the EU blink first. Basically, the inner core have convinced them to simulate madness as suggested by Machiavelli.
- Then there’s the wider Tory party, and most of this is genuinely barking mad. They’ve been brainwashed into believing a No Deal Brexit will bring back the British Empire and corporal punishment, and put an end to political correctness and the multiethnic society, while doubling the NHS budget.
My guess is that the inner core has a cunning plan for how to prevent the second group from stopping the madness in September when it becomes clear the EU won’t blink first. Lots of Tories will then complain that they were hoodwinked into believing it was all just a game of poker, but the inner core’s coup d’état will by then be complete and their complaints will be irrelevant.
So to sum up: The members of the inner core aren’t mad (or only mad in the same way as the Nazi inner circle were – completely rational but with sick objectives that most people don’t share); the middle group are simulating madness to make the EU give in; and the members at large are actually mad.