I’ve never really paid much attention to Philip Hammond, except to notice that he looks a lot like the love child of Nanny McPhee and Topo Gigio, a TV puppet mouse I was fond of in childhood.
No, I tell a lie, that’s not all: I’ve also noticed that, while he has been as omnipresent in recent governments as the proverbial fart in a space-suit, he never actually seems to achieve anything.
Oh – and one other thing I noticed, during the most profound expression of democracy this country has ever known, in 2016, was that Mr Hammond opposed what turned out to be the democratic choice.
Why, then, is he in any position to influence anything whatsoever about the manner of our parting from the EU? And why has he, of all ineffective, unrepresentative people, been sent to speak to the Argentinians, who still circle the Falklands like wasps around a jam jar?
In fact, why is Philip Hammond?
Is Theresa May – herself a Remainer, who recently led the worst election campaign, on the least relevant issues, in living memory – trying to provoke civil unrest?
Last week, with Mrs May safely on holiday, Hammond effectively informed the world that Brexit – the choice of more British people than have ever voted for anything in the entire history of the United Kingdom – would not happen.
Why? Because, Mr I-heart-EU Hammond said, there would be a ‘transitional period’ of three years following official Brexit in March 2019, during which we would be unable to conclude trade deals, would be constrained by the single market, would have free movement which would complete the destruction of the British working class and public services, and would have to continue to finance the whole sorry circus, at whatever rate set by the overlords we rejected last year.
Oh – but we wouldn’t have any say in anything.
In other words, a Remainiac’s dream-come-true, in which we are wilfully, permanently ruined for having the temerity to suggest that a country which has functioned magnificently as a sovereign entity since 1066 should be able to do quite nicely, thank you very much, without being involved in the declining years of the latest pyrrhic attempt to roll the glorious, diverse box of chocolates which is Europe, into a sort of dusty, puce-coloured blob of old Plasticine.
There was immediate backlash to this, of course, because nobody who can countenance Britain being so destroyed should have any role in government. And even those few who didn’t feel inspired to use Mr Hammond as a piñata at an Independence-Day street party could see, the transitional period he suggested, has already begun. It began the day Article 50 was triggered nine long, dithering months after we should have been able to rest – assured we would have the freedom we had chosen. It must end – for the sake of everyone’s sanity – in March 2019.
We don’t need another three years for weeping Remainers to endlessly say goodbye like doomed lovers on a railway platform. They must either pull themselves together, or go in search of the glowing opportunities they imagine are on offer in their beloved, tottering continental empire.
And anyone fretting about “cliff edges”, as if we may all plummet inadvertently off Beachy Head while distracted by an improperly bent banana, needs to get a grip. There’s no need for such timidity. We are ending a brief social experiment in our nation’s long, illustrious history, not forging a new colony on the Moon.
But then, just as people might have been thinking that Philip Hammond was an actively malign entity rather than just an inconsequential person who is given jobs because he sharpens the pencils and makes a nice cup of tea, his moment of sinister triumph was over when “sources” at Downing Street – and, not least, Liam Fox, arch Brexiteer – basically confirmed that Operation Bugger-up Britain was just Hammond talking out of his arse again.
So what I ask again is, why is Philip Hammond? What the hell is the point of such a man, in any role other than doing a bit of light housework, at this pivotal moment when we are in so many ways defining our place in the world for the rest of the century?
I admit, Brexit is a cause so close to my heart that I yearn for the impossible. My personal Brexit Dream Team would be made up of sweet-natured trio Andrea Leadsome, Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey to erroneously convince Guy Verhofstadt that we give a toss about anything he or any other supporter of the Beige Brussels Beast has to say, Priti Patel to lure Donald Tusk out of the haunted cave he hangs upside down in during daylight hours, David Davis and Liam Fox to handle the paperwork and look worryingly evasive, and Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan to point and laugh at Martin Schulz.
It would be led by Jacob Rees Mogg, a man so cool and clever he could reduce old Druncker Juncker to double incontinence by finding legal justification for holding all discussions in Latin. In attendance, in an advisory role, would be Prince Philip, no longer constrained to reduce his use of the Anglo Saxon vernacular to only one word per sentence, and armed with a horse-whip.
I realise this is unlikely to happen, unless I find a silver lamp and feel compelled to polish it and a strange mist pours out of it and forms into the shape of a giant middle-eastern looking gentleman in a turban who grants me any wish I choose; and I realise that is even more unlikely than my dream team getting together in the real world, because I don’t take any drug stronger than coffee.
But it can’t be denied, with the Magnificent Ten on the case, we’d get whatever deal we wanted. And that – no ifs, buts, or maybes – should be our only consideration now.
What we certainly don’t need are Remainers to be involved in the process, because, frankly, they can’t be trusted. They don’t believe in Brexit Britain – they told us, before we hit the polling booths on 23rd June last year, that they didn’t believe in Brexit Britain – and it’s not as if politicians ever lie, is it?
At this point in our history, those whose loyalties lie with the old order are not relevant to the burning questions of the day, and Philip Hammond, who manages to be irrelevant at the best of times, is certainly not the man of the hour.
We need people who passionately believe in Britain, who understand that heel dragging and an apologetic, sackcloth and ashes approach to negotiations will not be tolerated.
Above all, we don’t need Philip Hammond. Did anyone, ever?