AS I view the political mayhem around us these words return to haunt me: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
This was Oliver Cromwell in the spring of 1653 dismissing the very Parliament that gave him his power and authority in the first place. A Parliament which now stood in the way of his will to command absolute authority.
The events of the past fortnight are painfully reminiscent of a powerful and commanding individual who was prepared to dismiss those who had served his cause well, when they too got in his way.
Despite the resignation from the government of his brother, Jo, and then of Amber Rudd, and tumultuous recent events, I still believe that those around Boris Johnson, and particularly the Downing Street adviser, Dominic Cummings, have an overweening belief that they know what they’re doing. But this is not the same thing as actually knowing what you’re doing.
These are the self-styled ‘rationalists’. They call themselves this but they couldn’t be more ‘irrational’.
They believe that what has bound the hands of others should not constrain them.
The Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, languishing on the front bench as though he did not have a care in the world and was about to have a nap, was intentional.
He, and those like him, have total contempt for what they see as the weaknesses of bowing to convention and the constraints of process.
They, after all, believe they were born to rule, they know better than the rest of us, and therefore it’s natural that whatever they do it will be in the best interests of themselves and, tangentially, the United Kingdom.
I put it as strongly as this because I honestly can see no other justification for the way in which those who had voted again and again against Theresa May’s negotiated deal can justify in their heads the way they’re behaving now.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has voted many times against his own government and yet is quite happy, as are those around him, to expel from the Conservative Party those who have given enormous service over the years and who voted loyally to support Theresa May.
There is one truth.
Those who beguilingly are interviewed and say ‘why don’t we just do it?’ don’t seem to have the first idea what it is that ‘just do it’ means. You can come out on October 31. but you still have to negotiate (bilaterally rather than coherently) all kinds of new arrangements because you’re dealing with trading partners, both in terms of goods (customs), and services with a variety of activities falling under the heading of the Single Market.
I am really sorry to have to say this. but part of the problem we face at the moment is that there are a substantial number of people in this country who simply do not understand. and have absolutely no idea. of the consequences of disentangling the relationship with the other 27 members of the European Union.
Listening to people interviewed, it is absolutely clear that they honestly believe, and I don’t doubt their honesty, that we simply sign a piece of paper and it’s all over!
And the biggest danger for those opposed to crashing out is that this very simple concept, Trumpian in its banality, is dangerously appealing.
It’s not complex, you don’t have to apply your brain and there will always be someone else to blame if or when it all goes wrong.
For the Opposition, the situation is an absolute nightmare.
As I wrote in July, without some form of formal or informal pact, the centre-left will be extremely vulnerable when the next election does finally happen.
The truth is buried in history.
In 1983, Margaret Thatcher gained a majority of 144. It was seen as an enormous triumph.
Her success was partly because of the aftermath of the Falklands war and partly the ineptitude of the Labour Party’s campaign.
But in the end, however, it was the left split that gave her an overwhelming majority.
Labour got roughly 28 per cent in the poll while the Social Democrat and Liberal alliance got 25 per cent.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that when those in the centre or left of politics are divided, the right always triumph.
Therefore, delaying a general election to avoid a ‘no deal’ crash out on October 31 is, in my personal view, an admirable wish.
Dealing with the situation where the UK fails to leave the EU on October 31, who would be to blame?
Well, for Boris Johnson, it would be all those who stood in the way of something as simple as ‘just do it’.
As with Donald Trump, he will present his opponents as having thwarted his will.
In this scenario, he presents himself as the victim of the Parliament standing in the way of him and the people.
His contempt for Parliament and for the law is Cromwellian in its certainty, divisive in its impact and just as doomed to fail in the long run as Oliver Cromwell’s ‘protectorate’ over 350 years ago.
So, for me, the message is very clear.
If Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and in Wales, Plaid Cymru, don’t get their act together, the triumph of the Benn Bill will be extremely short-lived.
The man who, as a child wished to be king, will have triumphed over Parliament and persuaded the people to give him the power that he so desperately seeks.
Then who, in the end, will we have to blame?
David Blunkett is a Labour peer. A former MP for Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough, he held three senior Cabinet posts – including Home Secretary – in Tony Blair’s government.