Well that was quite a week.
No sooner was the ink dry on my Monday Muse last weekend and it had been sent in for publication, than two cabinet secretaries resigned over the Chequers Brexit agreement.
David Davis called it a day late into the evening on Sunday, in what was brilliantly dubbed “Dexeu’s Midnight Runner”
He’d had enough. He couldn’t bring himself to back the cabinet’s position. His allies spun that he had been marginalised. Not really in control. That No10 had taken charge and that he wasn’t in the loop.
His detractors countered with the story that he had actually spent a mere four hours in face-to-face negotiations with the EU. In total. That of course No10 was in charge. That’s the way it should be.
And then Boris realised he’d been trumped. That someone else, David Davis, had grabbed the headlines. That he, if his ambitions were to be realised, had to act and resign as well. That if he were to be leader, then he had to follow Davis out of Government.
Meanwhile, the PM faced a tug of war from both sides.
“You’ve sold us out,” cried the Brexiteers. “This isn’t Brexit. It is leaving the EU house and then scuttling round the back to slip back in by the rear door.”
“This doesn’t go far enough” was the plaintive plea from the ardent Remainers. “We must stay in a customs union. We want to have our single market cake and eat it.”
And in between were the soft Leavers and realistic Remainers. Those less strident. But, I would argue, those living in the real world. The “let’s get on with it” brigade.
And all the while we, the public, are bombarded with slogans and sound bites but with very little substance. With ideologies and trenchant positions. With self-asserted certainties and cloth ears to any contrary view. With politicians on all sides too often driven by personal or party advantage.
So let’s pause and take stock of where we are and where we go from here.
We are leaving the EU.
As a member, we cannot strike any trade deals with anyone, anywhere. It is not allowed.
Only outside the EU is that possible.
All trade deals are complex. They involve agreeing rules and standards and conditions. The clauses of one trade deal might clash with those you would like to include in another.
So exemptions have to apply. Opt-outs get inserted. You strike the best deal you can for the goods and services which matter most to your economy.
You recognise that it is a matter of geography and transportation that goods have their biggest markets closest to home. But that services can be sold worldwide at the push of a button.
The right deal is in the interests of both sides.
No deal is not a good deal. For anyone.
But you have to be prepared just in case.
So now the EU needs to engage. And the key is not the commission. It is the leaders. Merkel, Macron and their colleagues hold the key. Because their domestic interests must come to the fore. They need the right agreement just as much as we do. And the Chequers White Paper is the route map to just that. It is rooted in reality. It hacks off both extremes.
As we stand, it is probable that there is no majority in the House of Commons for any position. Not because there couldn’t be, but because there are too many games being played.
If the government’s position is more or less the final deal which the EU agree, then the MPs will face a stark, binary choice: This deal, or no deal. And if it is the latter, then all bets are off as to what happens next. Only one thing would be certain. The Brexit circus would rumble on for months, indeed years, longer. And in the meantime we would all suffer.
So. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am. Stuck in the middle with May.
And then there was Trump……
He came. He sawed. He bunkered.
Like a massive boulder dropped into a political puddle he left bystanders drenched in his confusion and contradictions.
He lied about predicting Brexit. Twice.
He gave an explosive interview to the Sun before he had read the White Paper, didn’t give a heads up to No10, and then had to eat a small slice of humble pie in his joint press conference with the PM.
He bullied the journalists. He patronised the press. He was an ungracious guest. He merely wanted to enjoy the pageantry of our palaces and castles and the splendour of our golf links, and acted with the decorum and grace of someone trying to crochet whilst wearing boxing gloves. In the dark.
It was right we hosted him. For his office is greater than him. I doubt he believes that. But it’s true. We need the USA. They need us.
And it is right that there were marches and rallies too. For this is a free country. With freedom of expression and association and protest. A country of tolerance and welcome to others. A society made rich by the intricate tapestry of all who live here.
Today, President Trump sits down today with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, and the world watches with baited breath. Two men, not known for their tolerance of others: America First meets Russia First. Two men, both alpha males. Two men, two bullies. So much at stake.
I suspect that they will not dwell on Crimea. Or Salisbury and Novichok. Or even on Russian interference in US elections. All will be consigned to the “too tricky to agree” pile.
Bizarrely, it might go well. For the price of failure is too high to contemplate. Both need to find common ground on something and a planned reduction in nuclear arsenals might just be it. Both need to save billions and to save face. Saving the planet would be good too.
So there you go. I have just committed journalistic folly. Trying to predict Trump.
Tune in next week to learn just how wrong I’ve been.