You almost have to feel sorry for Greg Hands, sitting as a guest on Anne Will’s show, trying to defend Tory policy. Invited to a five-to-one Brexit bashing, it’s a debate of the ilk where the quacks aren’t invited in the name of ‘balance’. From the off, and as if to distance himself from the madness he’s supporting, Hands immediately claims to have been anti-Brexit, to have been anti-Boris during the leadership change. But not one to let principles get in the way, he’s supporting both of them because ‘democracy’. What follows is a virtuoso display of logical acrobatics skills as he attempts to defend his position: the shittiness of Britain’s democracy (being old is apparently a compliment?); that the referendum somehow showed clarity of purpose; that Boris threatening to ignore the law to push through a no-deal Brexit is democracy in action; that proroguing parliament is standard procedure and clearly shouldn’t be reconsidered at such a crucial juncture; that an election could show what the people want, but a second referendum would be undemocratic. If he weren’t sitting there looking like a naughty schoolboy called to the headmaster’s office, his mind-bending mental tricks might have earned some applause.

Unfortunately for him, the loudest applause comes when Rolf-Dieter Krause said that the only time Boris Johnson doesn’t lie is when he says his name. You kinda want to give Hands the benefit of the doubt, acknowledge that he’s standing with his back to the wall, maybe find the language barrier in his favour. But then the contents of his words would sound hollow in any tongue. ‘I didn’t vote for Brexit,’ he protests on more than one occasion, trying to distance himself from the shitshow he’s fighting for. Because ‘democracy’. Already proud to show his lack of a spine or conscience, Greg shows he’s also packing a crate of gullibility, when arguing that Johnson is trying to renegotiate, that negotiations are taking place, that there is a solution to the backstop.

He almost looks like he’s break down in tears when discussion turns to the little bone Frau Merkel threw Boris, the notion picked up in British newspapers that the German chancellor was keen on finding a solution within 30 days. The irony of the situation is completely lost on him: the true of the backstop is that it only comes into effect if Britain fucks up in resolving the Irish border, and it is entirely unpalatable to the British parliament because they know they will fuck up.

This is where Hands proudly gets his homework out: a special report he’s been preparing that will finally solve the Gordian knot. I couldn’t help laughing at the top-rate accidental trolling which followed from host Anne Will. Asking the rhetorical question, whether the EU needs to take Britain seriously when they say the ball is in Britain’s court, ‘well here’s Greg Hands, and he not only has a ball, he’s brought a brochure too.’ Sorry Greg, everyone else knows that someone asked you to write that report so they could throw it in the bin. Hope you didn’t put much effort into it.

Whether it’s stupidity, gullibility, or simply brazen loyalty to his football club party, Greg is dancing to the nationalist tune like a good little boy, genuinely espousing the lies and subterfuge of the hardliners or, more likely, swallowing them whole himself. As he seems to keep reminding us, he didn’t want this, he didn’t vote for this, but he’s happy to play his part as a useful idiot. Sitting as a guest on the show, isolated and alone, trying to defend someone else’s corner across an ever widening gulf whilst simultaneously protesting his own innocence, Greg perfectly embodies a microcosm of the shitshow playing out on the European fringe.

[Full programme]

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