IMAGINE ‘a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but who is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is not much better.’
Imagine, too, the ‘sailors quarrelling with one another about the steering – every one of whom is of the opinion that he has a right to steer, though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught and will cut in pieces any one who says the contrary.’
In Plato’s Ship of Fools allegory (The Republic, Book VI, where Plato predicts the almost certain collapse of democracy), these mythical sailors throng about the captain, ‘begging and praying him to commit the helm to them; and if at any time they do not prevail, and others are preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard’, before they mutiny and ‘take possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus eating and drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such a manner as might be expected of them.’
Sound familiar? That’s pretty much, metaphorically speaking, how our Parliamentarians appear to us, a self-serving, ill-disciplined bunch indifferent to the truth ‘that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship’.
Would we had a true pilot for our ship of government. None are in sight, not even on the horizon.
As an allegory for the House of Commons so too is Stanley Kramer’s more recent working of the theme in his movie of the same name. In his version, a liner bound for Nazi Germany from Mexico in 1933 carries its cargo – a cross-section of humanity in their limbo world of venality, prejudice and ignorance – into a future to which they are either blind or have no idea of. We, the viewers, do of course.
Today’s 21st century mother of parliaments is risking the very capsize of democracy Plato thought inevitable. Chaos reigns under its death star navigator. With her already dangerously compromised charts commandeered by Parliament’s Remainer mutineers, her erstwhile Brexit foes, too weak to show her the door, have capitulated to a Deal which is worse than No Deal. Bribed with an indefinite promise of her departure in return for voting for her policy, their fear trumped courage and they bottled it again.
Leader in name only (LINO) and in total denial remains in office for the foreseeable future handy for the mutineers to control.
Yet her tally of catastrophe and incompetence includes: comprehensive failure to negotiate a decent deal, a catalogue of broken promises, unilaterally taking No Deal off the table, unconstitutionally agreeing delay before getting parliamentary approval, unilaterally surrendering the Brexit process to the Parliamentary mutineers and, finally, allowing her party free (indicative) votes that would betray her Party’s fundamental Brexit promises (ones on which they were voted in).
While they are weak, their professional trouble-maker colleagues – Bercow, Grieve, Letwin, Boles – are simply subversive.
Instead of working out how to honour the referendum result, repeated in the manifesto pledges of both main parties and the European Withdrawal Act which ratified the date of exiting the EU (tomorrow, Friday March 29th), they systematically set out to sabotage all three.
Instead of doing their proper job of holding the Government to account over the unconstitutionality of the delay, they leveraged it for their own destructive anti-Brexit ends.
Some only had to promise not to resign to keep their jobs going and the ship of state adrift in a sea of Brexit purgatory. Not one, either of the Brexiteer pushovers or the Remainer mutineers, has the simple common sense to foresee the carnage they are unleashing.
As honourable exceptions to this Ship of Fools get ever fewer, to this cabal of spineless pirates who’ve hijacked the people’s jubilation, as Boris Johnson described them yesterday in the Telegraph, that master of many words and much inaction, Mr Johnson himself, must now be added. To these turncoats and mutineers alike a whole section of our Brexit Wall of Shame is dedicated. It will NOT be bearing this inscription:
‘May the hand wither that signs this treaty’
Philip Scheidemann, German Chancellor, as he resigned rather than sign the savage, punitive and predatory Versailles Treaty in 1919