Now we have reached the last lap of the Brexit debate before the final date at the end of March, and the pressure is mounting. Ireland will be pressurised by both London and the EU on the ‘backstop’, the EU will be pressurised by London to give some substantial concession. London, in turn, will pressurise Dublin to give ground on the reintroduction of the Irish border, irrespective of the Good Friday Agreement. It is like a game of chicken; which one will blink first?
Ever since Mrs. May arrived at a Brexit deal with the EU, the taunt was, “My deal or no deal”. Now it seems that there may be a second version, “It is either my deal or a lengthy delayed Brexit”. This latest version is enough to drive Brexiteers over the cliff edge. Imagine what they must think of spending, perhaps, two years or more in the EU!
It may be, according to some commentators, that Mrs. May is running down the clock on the Brexit deal. She will, most likely, present parliament at the last moment with ‘her deal’, the prospects of ‘no deal’ or the new third scenario,’ ‘a postponed deal’. Regarding Mrs May, her level of secrecy is well documented, as at times is her practice of being economical with the truth. Let’s turn to another issue which in some ways is connected with the raft of deceptions and half-truths of the Brexit debate; the role of neoconservatives during the George W. Bush administration.
The legitimacy of Vice-president Cheney’s decision to advise President Bush to invade Iraq and all that followed, had much to do with the influence of the German-born American political philosopher, Leo Strauss (1899-1973). Strauss wrote widely on political philosophy and his most notable publications were “The history of political philosophy, and the art of the hidden message” and “Persecution and the Art of Writing”. Here Strauss argued that, from the time of Plato, political philosophers often disguised the most contentious elements in their messages for fear of reprisals and even having their works suppressed. Strauss wrote about such notable figures as Socrates, Plato, Thomas Hobbes and Niccolò Machiavelli.
His writings were all about differentiating between the explicit and hidden messages. But what has Leo Strauss to do with Mrs May’s leadership and her communication style? It has got to do with her secrecy and the noble lie. Strauss maintained, according to the author Peter Osborne, “that lying is not merely forgivable but actually admirable so long as it is carried out for moral ends”. It will little surprise readers to find that Machiavelli in The Prince and Plato in his Republic were also keenly interested in this topic of the ‘noble lie’.
I have to admit that many in my generation only became aware of the idea of Strauss’ two realities, that is, the reality that is actually explicit, and the hidden reality, when Margaret Thatcher came to prominence in the UK in the late1970s. Much of this Tory electoral success in the 1980s originated in the offices of Saatchi & Saatchi, the giant London advertising and PR firm, with the support of newspaper magnates, such as Rupert Murdoch. We all learnt then that “nothing is ever what it appears to be”. We were living in parallel worlds, so to speak: our own real world (as we saw it) and the world created by the likes of Rupert Murdoch. All of this was magnified with the arrival of New Labour with such personalities as Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson. These politicians lived the doctrine that lying for higher ends is acceptable. They created an unreal political world for us.
But we have a dilemma, like what we have with Mrs May today, in that personalities like Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell, on a personal level, were persons who displayed high moral stands in their private lives. Yet, they created a public reality based on their deceptions (the noble lie) which they believed that were in everyone’s interest.
The present era is no different, Mrs May is running down the clock, and it will be “my way or a lengthy delayed Brexit”. She won’t tell people what she is doing, maintaining her secrecy, out of fear of their reaction. In the same way that Leo Strauss suggested in his writings, she conceals her true motivation for a higher end. “Nothing is ever what it appears to be about Brexit, also”.