Nothing indicates quite what a bloody nose the referendum was for the establishment like discovering that Boris Johnson spent Sunday playing cricket with Earl Spencer and writing his £250,000 a year column for the Daily Telegraph. Given that the victory speech he and Michael Gove made on Friday looked more like a hostage video, the chief purpose of Johnson’s column seemed to be to assure Britain he had Taken Back Control of his sphincter muscles.
According to reports, Tory chiefs are clearing his path to the leadership by scrapping potential stumbling blocks like the proposed mandatory inclusion of a woman candidate on the shortlist, and are timetabling the contest for before 2 September, with that speed thought to favour the favourite. “The pound is stable,” explained Johnson, minutes before the pound was revealed to have fallen to a 31-year low, on a morning of financial activity we’ll call Episode V: The Experts Strike Back.
Meanwhile, former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie is perhaps the most prominent voice to have confessed to regretting his vote in Thursday’s referendum. The high priest of Up Yours Delors is just one of countless leave voters suffering red pill remorse, who are urgently seeking to get in touch with Morpheus to ask if they can be plugged back into the Matrix at his earliest convenience. Someone needs to level with them: Morpheus isn’t coming. Morpheus shorted red pills as soon as the markets opened. Morpheus has pulled his leather trenchcoat business from the UK and is now operating out of Frankfurt.
Given the sense of utterly leaderless turmoil, Britain spent the weekend contemplating a bizarre thought experiment: are there circumstances in which it would be comforting to clap eyes on George Osborne? The chancellor finally broke cover on Monday morning. Interspersed with the argument that austerity had put the economy in a position of strength were coded hints of cuts, suggesting that sections of the public are soon to find out the answer to the question: “What does the economy have to do with the public?” A ComRes survey during the penultimate week of the campaign found 61% of voters declaring themselves willing to accept a short-term economic slowdown to tighten immigration controls, but 68% unwilling to see their personal annual income negatively affected at all to achieve the same.
That leave had no agreed plan on Brexit, meanwhile, feels like just one of the WTF-tinged elements of our new reality. But as career fibbers, you’d think they’d at least have had an agreed plan on how to get out of the lies they’d told during the campaign. Instead, the public has been treated to a parade of junior leave personnel effectively explaining that Britain had had enough of promises. Most wince-inducing was Iain Duncan Smith, who explained to Andrew Marr: “Our promises were a range of possibilities.” That’s right – think of them as colour swatches, paint samples – a sort of pledge moodboard. And try not to notice that Britain’s walls are today decorated less appealingly than those of H-block in 1978.
Scrawled on the Polish Social and Cultural Centre (PSOK) in London’s Hammersmith, founded by the generation of Poles who fought alongside Britain in the second world war, was graffiti the police are investigating as racist. And the reaction of Arron Banks, the multi-millionaire businessman who bankrolled Leave.EU? “What’s a psok cultural centre when it’s at home?” As predicted, the provisional wing of the leave campaign has been wildly emboldened by this victory. I suspect that last week Banks wouldn’t have said that out loud; this week he seems to regard himself as having purchased the right to.
As for Labour, the rolling pageant of departures from Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, and the countermoves against them, frequently resembled an episode of Game of Thrones re-enacted by the Teletubbies. To hear some of the jobs that were being resigned from was to discover that they had existed at all. Alex Cunningham is no longer shadow minister for the natural environment. I think Diane Abbott was made shadow Magneto. It was unclear whether the new shadow defence secretary, Clive Lewis, would make defence questions in the Commons on Monday afternoon on account of the fact he was on his way back from Glastonbury. (No one analyses modern political life in the way many normal people would like, so we’ll probably never know what percentage of Labour MPs and financial services experts are firefighting today’s events on a Glasto comedown. But a non-scientific estimate places the number at “more than you’d prefer”.)
The departing shadow leader of the house, Chris Bryant, told the BBC he thought Corbyn might actually have plumped for leave, given he refused to say which way he voted when Bryant asked. Yet on the Labour leader clings, his mulish cabal citing the mandate given by his landslide election in a leadership contest that now feels like it happened about 12 years ago. At this stage in Corbyn’s journey, endless references to The Mandate are beginning to sound creepily reverential. Jeremy Corbyn and The Mandate Family. The Reverend Mandate. I salute Corbyn for being that rare thing: a soft-spoken egomaniac who doesn’t have sex with his own followers. But I concede that there will be those who think he can’t even lead a cult properly in this regard.
Where now? A few weeks ago, Johnson assured us that “sunlit meadows” lay beyond a leave vote. Instead, we are – as everyone keeps saying for want of more specific coordinate – in “uncharted territory”. And yet, you get the feeling that when the cartographers eventually come to mark this place, the word “creek” will be involved.