Friday, December 27, 2019

What we can’t but must say about the NHS

Where do I begin? Watching Channel 4‘s recent drama about the Mid-Staffordshire NHS scandal, The Cure, was an evocative, thought-provoking and highly emotional experience. Heartbreaking, exasperating and intensely depressing in equal measure - yet, at times, strangely uplifting as the drama’s unlikely heroine courageously fights and, to an extent, though not as resoundingly as one would’ve liked, defeats powerful vested interests - The Cure is a story that, above all else, serves as a timely reminder of the things we can’t say about ‘our’ NHS, even if its employees kill our loved ones.

The story begins as Julie Bailey’s elderly mother, a bright, kindly 86-year old lady named Bella, is taken ill with complications caused by a pre-existing hernia. What should have been a routine medical response for a treatable condition, however, turned into an eight-week ordeal. Bella was subjected to the daily invective of a nurse more suited to employment as a guard at Ravensbruck and with it, cruel, almost routine levels of neglect. Much to her daughter’s dismay and confusion at the callousness of individuals ostensibly employed to help the elderly and infirm, the nurses withheld vital medication and a disinterested doctor nonchalantly informed her of her mother’s imminent and unavoidable death, contradicting a colleague who had recently described Bella’s condition as eminently treatable.
Finally, after two long nightmarish months, the hospital delivered what can only be characterised as a coup de grace. Bella was forcefully dropped onto her hospital bed and, as a consequence, died of heart failure shortly afterwards. It really was heart-wrenching.

Bella’s experience was no exception, though, as became horrifyingly apparent to her daughter both during and after her ordeal. Julie witnessed a desperate, dehydrated and disoriented patient drinking water from a vase, food left out of a neighbouring patient’s reach and later, when embarking on her campaign for justice, hundreds of victims’ families with similar stories of abuse and neglect. On a personal level, having witnessed the mistreatment of my own grandparents at the hands of a clearly failing health service, I found it particularly harrowing, memories of neglect and the daily battle for decent, humane treatment flooding back. 

I’ll say it again: the NHS is failing! Its labyrinthine, impenetrable bureaucracy is impossible to navigate, as demonstrated by the endless and confusing list of agencies and acronyms that make it up. The Department of Health (DOH), General Medical Council (GMC), Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the Chief Independent Health Regulator known as Monitor, the Strategic Health Authority (SHA), Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), the Patient Advisory Liaison Service (PALS) and the HCC (Independent Health Regulator Watchdog). See what I mean? This multitude of interconnected tentacles is not only impenetrable for patients, opaque and impossible to understand thus disempowering, it’s also dehumanising. The patients become mere pawns, often irritants, in the daily game played by multifarious producer interests relentlessly competing and jostling for favoured positions within the bureaucracy. 

Patients become nothing more than numbers as ambitious bureaucrats obsess over data and targets. At one point in the drama, the CEO of Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust, Martin Yeates, suggested altering the way the Trust collected data in a bid to hide the fact that its mortality rate was 40 per cent higher than the average. No concern for the patients, just a desire to save his career, an appalling trait shared by Toni Brisby, the Chair of the Trust, who, in one scene, gave grieving families just three minutes to share their experiences before abruptly cutting them off. They were clearly an inconvenience. She had better things to do with her time, like trawl through and manipulate data, one supposes. 

I was left wondering whether the bureaucracy is to blame for such spiteful, insensitive behaviour. In other words, given the unique, highly charged and, yes, undermanned milieu, would we all become like Yeates, Brisby and the abusive nurses and care workers, or does it take a sociopathic personality to display such cruel indifference? I’d go with the latter. I don’t care how pressured and overworked you are, common humanity, your ability to empathise, should always inform your actions. Look at the tortured, wonderful nurse and whistleblower. She was a beacon of light in a dark dystopian cesspit of maltreatment. 

The problem that the NHS faces, however, is that the wrong people are attracted to such bureaucracies. Caring, good, apolitical people have no wish to enter such a cutthroat and deeply cynical organisation. Those that do, I suspect, are either fighting against the tide or ready to give up, frustrated and demoralised. I have several friends in this latter category. In addition, and according to another friend who was an NHS manager and before that, worked in a Trust’s HR department, it’s almost impossible to sack someone for incompetence. So mediocre, sometimes highly unsuitable individuals are left to do their worst.

The most striking aspect of The Cure, however, apart from the wonderful performances of the actors, was the degree of opprobrium that Julie Bailey attracted for making public her mother’s treatment. Her shop was vandalised, her tires punctured, she was shunned by the local community and even received death threats. In the end, she had to close her business and move away. And what happened to the individuals responsible for hundreds of needless deaths? Yeates, the CEO, was suspended on full pay before resigning. That’s right, not a single prosecution was pursued. Julie may have received a well-deserved MBE but, in many ways, she endured a harsher punishment than the care workers, nurses and NHS executives. She was the one hounded out of her home.

Our politicians spent the whole General Election talking about the NHS whilst saying the sum total of nothing. It was extraordinary. You could be forgiven for thinking that everything is perfect, provided we chuck it a few more quid. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It needs root and branch reform. But incessantly calling it ‘our’ NHS as though it’s some kind of sacred, infallible institution, denouncing critics as puppets of big-pharma and the US, and intimidating into silence anyone who questions or criticises its care, is obstructing open debate, discussion and, as a result, the reforms we so desperately need.

I would urge our politicians to watch The Cure and take inspiration from Julie Bailey. If they demonstrate a tenth of her implacable courage, we really will have the best health service in the world.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Remainers, your boys took a hell of a whoopin last Thursday

What a relief! What an act of unbridled, sweet revenge! Reviled and gaslighted for over three long nightmarish years, we, the sensible, patriotic and hitherto downtrodden majority gave off a deafening, enraged roar of collective disgust levelled at our self-appointed, nepotistic cultural and political elites. The schadenfreude was – still is - delicious. 

Hugh Grant, Lily Allen, John Bercow, Alastair Campbell, Owen Jones, Heseltine, Major, Blair, Swinson, Grieve, Soubry, leftie luvvies, past-it politicos, self-satisfied, smug, sententious celebrities, sneering, superannuated civil servants and condescending media commentators, your boys took a hell of a whoopin last Thursday.

Up until now, for the sake of my sanity, I - a political obsessive, even during the excruciating Blair years - have been avoiding the news, so sick of the daily gaslighting I, and millions of others, have had to endure from the broadcast media since the referendum. This avoidance would have been unthinkable before June 2016, even, as I said, at the height of Tony Blair’s premiership. I’m not a fan, as you can probably tell. But it became unbearable. Self-preservation demanded I switch off.

For the first time in my life, I’ve had a taste of what life was like behind the Iron Curtain, or for Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four, how detrimental hearing untruths spouted as truths is to both psychological and physical health. The widespread use of the phrase ‘People’s Vote’, for example, elicits extreme cognitive discomfort, confusion and varying degrees of self-doubt. Didn’t we already have a ‘People’s Vote’? you rightly question. Isn’t it the job of a functioning democracy to enact the result of the first ‘People’s Vote’ before having another one? But the relentless daily onslaught continues and, as a consequence, you either descend into apoplexy bordering on madness or, to stay sane, your resistance begins to crumble. You begin to accept the term and the assumptions that go with it. I chose to turn off, ignore it and seek refuge in publications and websites that would comfort me in the knowledge that I wasn’t alone in thinking that the term ‘People’s Vote’ was a misnomer.

Gina Miller’s so-called ‘defence’ of parliamentary sovereignty was another Orwellian subversion of the English language. ‘Defending’ parliamentary sovereignty whilst ignoring the people from whom that sovereignty derives is impossible, as she well knew, as is ‘defending’ it in order to cede said sovereignty to Brussels. Again and again, though, she and others – including Dominic Grieve, John Bercow and Hillary Benn – used this excuse to obstruct Brexit, seemingly unperturbed by the fact that their claims were a blatant, shameless lie. As I said, if one continues to listen to such dishonesty, such linguistic, cognitive trickery, it has an incredibly damaging impact on one’s mental health. You either descend into madness, accept the untruth as truth or switch off. I switched off…and waited…

Last week, it was clear that others had done the same. We kept our sanity, our patience was rewarded and our tormentors were vanquished.

Farage is a political Titan – yet now he risks being Brexit’s executioner

I’m a big fan of Nigel Farage. He’s a political Titan. Without him, we’d still have Theresa ‘the grey’ May in number 10. That fact alone makes him worthy of a knighthood, in my book. But he has really messed up during this general election, brutally demonstrated by the defection of four of his most prized candidates yesterday.
His excuse that Annunziata Rees-Mogg’s withdrawal was down to her loyalty to her brother Jacob was desperate, as was his conspiratorial claim that all the defectors had ties to the Tory Party. It’s been a precipitous, ugly and perhaps irrevocable fall from grace.
He’s unconvincingly attacked Boris’s deal, and, although agreeing to withdraw Brexit Party candidates from all 300-odd constituencies held by the Conservatives, he’s continued to attack Boris, our only hope of delivering anything close to what the people voted for back in 2016, and stubbornly refused to withdraw candidates from marginal seats currently held by Labour – an unfathomably vacuous decision that could see a Labour victory as the Brexit vote splits in these crucial marginals. Brexit could be put to death. And Farage, yes Farage, could be the executioner. Hard to believe, eh?
It could have been so different. He should have withdrawn his troops from all but a few seats in which the Tories had no chance of winning. Such a move would have been selfless, statesmanlike and, above all, rational. As things stand, he’s allowed his ego and visceral hatred of the Tory Party to cloud his better judgment. Yes, they may be arrogant, entitled, born-to-rule, sneering mediocrities who’ve gleefully attacked and disparaged Farage for 25 years. But they’re our only hope of Brexit.
Further, if Farage had played his cards right, appeared statesmanlike and above the fray of petty party politics, committed to the betterment of his country and uninterested in personal advancement and devoid of ambition, he’d have elevated himself to greatness among Brexiteers and, perhaps, constructed a powerful springboard for a resurgence.
The Tories are still the Tories, wet, dreary and perpetually bullied by our liberal-left media and institutions. Even after Brexit, immigration will continue unabated and loony leftist policies on transgenderism, crime and punishment and terrorism will continue to be implemented. There is a place for a modified Brexit Party, committed to finding sensible, thoughtful answers to the challenges of identity, the mass movement of peoples, democracy and statehood that we face.
I, for one, am only voting Conservative because I believe, tentatively, that Boris is our best chance of realising what 17.4 million people voted for back in 2016. And because the survival of our democracy will be determined by Brexit’s fate, for me, this is a single issue election. As far as their wider policies and ideological outlook are concerned, from what I’ve seen, the Tories do not offer an imaginative, radical programme that matches the grave magnitude of the challenges we face. And I’m not talking about the largely confected threat of anthropogenic global warming. I’m talking about Islamic terrorism, mass immigration, globalism and identity, as well as the unsustainability of the NHS in its current guise, crime, punishment and education. The Tories offer no credible answers to these challenges. It’s going to be the same old same old.
Farage had a window of opportunity. He may have blown it, though, and unwittingly stumbled into obsolescence.

First published on Conservative Home on 7th December 2019

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Chapter One: Part Two: Ofsted Derangement Syndrome

The headteacher’s state of the union address - another staple feature of the first day of term - is a negative, foreboding affair. In a nutshell, everything’s shit, the school’s shit and, oh, by the way, it’s not her fault. It’s ours, or, more to the point – new members of staff get a free pass -, it’s everyone else’s.

This year’s results were disappointing, she laments, before going on to unveil a breakdown of each department’s figures and, in a new, sinister twist, each teacher’s as well. How must they feel? I worry. Will this happen to me next year? Publicly shaming and humiliating colleagues is no way to improve results, surely. It’s certainly no way to boost morale and, let’s be frank, high morale is a pretty indispensable precondition for success in any organisation.

It’s just so short-sighted and counter-intuitive, possibly, and here I’m being uncharacteristically charitable, due to the inordinate pressure being placed on her by the academy, the board of governors and, ultimately, Ofsted. Either that or she’s just an over-promoted, sociopathic twit who struggles to intuit what motivates people. I suspect it’s a bit of both. For now, however, I’ll assume that this grotesquely unethical spectacle is the unfortunate consequence of the former. For that, I silently opine, the head deserves my sympathy.

Ofsted’s omnipresent gaze has certainly been the source of a kind of widespread, collective derangement afflicting headteachers up and down the country over the last ten years or so. New guidelines and capricious announcements are greeted by a reflexive panic that invariably leads to poor, erratic, incongruous decision-making and, alas, more work for us teachers. Even its more considered reforms are tainted by association, teachers, suffering from Ofsted fatigue, acknowledging them with a collective sigh and sense of impending doom, especially when left to speculate on their leaders’ myriad possible overreactions.

I mean, look at how our head has overreacted to Ofsted’s focus on data. She’s subjected her ‘underperforming’ staff to a kind of show trial. As I say, deranged.

Worst of all, however, is the way that such derangement clouds one’s moral judgment. Is she happy to publicly berate husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers? I suspect not or, more to the point, I bloody hope not. Just what is she berating them for exactly? What could they have done differently? Did they lack commitment? Were they lazy? Whatever the reasons, I’m certain her criticisms could have been aired in a more private and dignified manner, not to mention at a more appropriate time.

With more than a hint of irony, she goes on to stress her commitment to staff-wellbeing. We’ve had a new fitness suite installed over the summer, she boasts. This will help us fatties lose a bit of timber and de-stress after a hard day’s work, apparently. A healthy body breeds a healthy mind and all that. Sounds great, I think, but, all things considered, my wellbeing would be better served if, instead of buying a few treadmills, she resisted the temptation to disgrace her staff for perceived and eminently challengeable inadequacies so publicly next year. Just a thought.

After ticking the box of that ubiquitous educational buzzword, ‘well-being’, she hands over to our Child Protection lead who proceeds to spend the next 45 minutes reading, word for word, the contents of her PowerPoint presentation in what can only be described as a monotone, Janet Street-Porter-esque, voice. No inflection; no crazy ad-libbed deviation from the script; just reading. My God, I’ve lost the will to live. She seems a lovely lady but, bloody hell, I feel the almost uncontrollable urge to shout, ‘Stop! Give me the fucking script and let me read it, without the nasally sound of a larynx desperately trying to penetrate an ossified and immovable mouthful of clenched enamel. I can read, you know!

Friday, August 16, 2019

The case of Starbank School teaches us one thing: Ofsted can’t be trusted

Yesterday, beleaguered teachers at Starbank School in South Yardley, Birmingham, went on strike for the second time in six days in response to the school’s abject failure to protect their health and safety at work.

They are working in truly appalling, inhumane conditions. Indeed, according to Paul Nesbitt, the NASUWT national executive member involved in the dispute, the teaching staff are being subjected to feral pupils carrying weapons, daily threats of violence, verbal abuse, and regular brawling in the classrooms.

In one incident, some kids were caught in possession of three knives, one of which had a 12 inch blade; another saw a teacher punched in the face by a Year 7 boy and, as if these examples aren’t shocking enough, every Thursday is now referred to as Thursday Fight Day.

Needless to say, teachers are scared to leave their classrooms. They’ve even been issued with panic buttons. That’s right, the headteacher refuses to ensure the safety of his staff by permanently excluding violent children, but he has given them panic buttons, presumably to press after they’ve been stabbed. I’m sure they will be eternally grateful.

The school contends that only 16 out of 122 teachers have taken action, meaning that, according to them, the rest of the staff must be happy.

But this fails to take into account the courage it takes to go on strike. These individuals know what’s at stake. They are now targets. Their careers at the school are, at the very least, in jeopardy. They may even be over. Senior leaders and school governors will do everything in their power to force them out – an objective that, in the present climate of unmanageable workload, won’t be difficult to realise.

Every single teacher in every single school in the country could be the target of a disgruntled senior leader at any time, desperate to place them on capability in a sinister bid to force them out. There’s simply so much work to do, nobody’s able to keep on top of it. We’re all vulnerable.

So these teachers, the ones with the audacity to strike, will now be the targets of the leadership’s wrath, have no doubt. In light of this depressing reality, most of their colleagues will – understandably – be unwilling to make the same sacrifices, especially if they have families to support. So yes, there may be only 16 members on strike, but you can bet your life on it, many of the remaining teachers will be with them in spirit. I mean, there’s even video footage of ‘Fight Thursday’ for anyone who doubts the veracity of the strikers’ claims.

The most interesting and revealing aspect of this particular case, though, is Ofsted’s sparkling, yes sparkling, review of what is, in reality, a violent dystopian snake pit. Starbank school has been rated ‘outstanding’ since 2012. Last year, moreover, it was described as having an ‘exceptional ethos, care and quality of education’. For whatever reason, the inspectorate failed to spot the school’s myriad shortcomings. And it wouldn’t be the first time.

Ofsted’s judgments, in my experience, aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. I recently taught in a school with appalling levels of what is euphemistically described in the teaching profession as ‘low-level’ disruption. In layman’s terms, that means that, although the kids don’t throw chairs at you, they talk incessantly. In fact, it’s impossible to complete a sentence without being interrupted. This was so bad that the other, more senior teaching staff at the school advised me not to initiate whole-class discussions. It’s pointless, they said. Just do as we do, give them the work and get used to the relentless chatting.

When Ofsted came in, however, just after Christmas, they judged the school and the behaviour to be ‘good’. How is that possible? I thought.

Over the course of my career, I’ve had similar experiences in lots of different schools, some, unfortunately, very much like Starbank. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever concurred with an Ofsted judgment. They’ve always been, in my view, far too generous, demonstrating low expectations of pupils and teachers, especially when it comes to behaviour for learning.

The former advisor to Michael Gove, Tom Richmond, contends that Ofsted’s grades are wrong in up to half of cases. He recently cited two international studies that concluded that different inspectors reached different judgments about the same schools in up to 50 percent of instances.

This surely brings into question the Government’s oft-repeated claim that, due to its education reforms introduced in 2010, nearly two million more children now attend ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools. In short, the claim is bunkum. As demonstrated in the case of Starbank School, Ofsted’s judgments can’t be trusted.

First published on conservative home on 4th July 2019

Monday, May 27, 2019

Can teachers be trusted to teach primary school pupils about LGBT relationships?

Anderton Park Primary School has found itself at the centre of what some would characterise as a dispute between two very different value systems. On one side you have the self-styled defenders of secular, socially progressive liberalism and with it, alternative lifestyles, whilst, on the other, you have conservative religious values or, more accurately in this case, conservative Muslim values.

For several weeks now, predominantly Muslim parents have been demonstrating against the school’s approach to promoting equality – an approach that exposes pupils to books featuring cross-dressing children and gay families. Shakeel Afsar, the self-appointed leader of the demonstrators and, interestingly, an individual without a child at the school, accuses the headteacher, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, of ‘social engineering’. Ms Clarkson has reportedly received threatening emails and phone calls and, last week, in a further escalation of the dispute, hundreds of pupils were kept off school by disgruntled parents.

But should we see this as another example of secular values conflicting with those held by some of our more conservative Islamic communities? A recent Newsnight report certainly thinks we should. Apart from a perfunctory nod to ‘some’ Christians sharing the reservations of ‘some’ Muslims, there was little exploration of wider societal concerns about the exposure of children to such material. Neither was there an adequate discussion of the benefits and disbenefits of the school’s methods which, by the way, are now replicated by similar programmes in hundreds of primary schools across the country.

This, in my view, is a mistake. First, of course we need to discuss and explore the possible implications and consequences of making pupils read books about cross-dressers, same-sex relationships and gay marriage. These are our children, after all. Secondly, we shouldn’t be dragged into viewing this dispute through the prism of progressive secularism versus reactionary religious conservatism. It is much more complicated than that. Many who consider themselves to be progressive secularists, for example, share the concerns of their more traditionally minded, religious friends and neighbours.

And what about me? I suppose I’m a partially progressive (I supported civil partnerships but opposed gay marriage; believe that a person should be, out of common courtesy, addressed by their preferred gender pronoun but, in reality, can’t really – actually - change gender), partially conservative, partially secularist (I converted to Catholicism to get my children into a good school, but, if I’m being honest, would probably describe myself as agnostic and detest fundamentalist creeds of all stripes) mishmash of confused, contradictory positions, as you’ve probably deduced.

The point is, like many progressive secularists and conservative Muslims, Christians and Jews, I’m deeply concerned about schools exposing children to books about same-sex relationships and transgender peers without, at the very least, shedding some light on the possible implications through a public debate.

Yes, some might argue that by openly challenging bigotry, encouraging tolerance and making LGBT pupils feel safe, respected and valued, such an approach has enormous benefits. But what if, instead of encouraging tolerance, highlighting alternative lifestyles does the opposite, especially if it conflicts with belief systems that are prominent in the pupils’ homes? Could emphasising difference draw unnecessary attention to LGBT pupils and, as a consequence, encourage rather than discourage vilification? Are these not questions worth asking, before we jump in, feet first, experimenting with the lives of our children?

Furthermore, teaching children from the age of four or five about alternative lifestyles may plausibly raise awareness of human sexuality, encouraging them to question and even experiment with their own sexuality. It may elicit unnecessary confusion, even distress, leading to hitherto unconsidered behaviours.

By far my biggest concern, however, is trusting a highly politicised, ideological profession to dispassionately promote tolerance rather than encourage, even glorify, alternative lifestyles. Children are extremely impressionable and, generally speaking, will do almost anything to please adults, especially those, like teachers, in positions of power and authority. What wouldn’t my kids do to impress their teachers? What if one of these teachers insidiously convinces my son that he is gay or transgender? It’s not beyond the realms of possibility. After all, three generations of educators have convinced our children of the evils of capitalism, the Tory Party and now, more recently, the abomination that is Brexit. Indeed, going one step further, what better way to attack petit bourgeois capitalism than launch an assault upon its bulwark, the traditional family? Such a fear is neither outlandish nor unfounded.

And before you accuse me of being a conspiracy theorist, consider the following: a teacher turned whistle-blower recently exposed his/her school for tricking vulnerable children into believing that they were the wrong sex. Indeed, according to the whistle-blower, most of the 17 pupils in the process of changing gender at the school were autistic. Dr Joanna Williams, a university lecturer and author of the book Women vs Feminism, believes that schools are ‘sowing confusion about gender identity’ by ‘encouraging even the youngest children to question whether they are really a boy or a girl.’ This is extremely worrying. If true - and, as a teacher of 15 years, I have no reason to doubt the veracity of such claims - some teachers are abusing their positions to further some kind of warped, misguided political agenda. Would you trust them to dispassionately teach your children about LGBT relationships? I certainly wouldn’t.

And herein lies the problem. Too many schools believe they’re in the business of indoctrinating and socially engineering our children. They’re not, or, at least, they shouldn’t be. Until this simple fact is widely accepted and rectified, I’d rather teachers didn’t involve themselves in issues as sensitive as marriage and relationships, especially when one considers the age of many of them. They are young, na├»ve, inexperienced and armed with youthful idealism and a terrifying, burning sense of the new, politically correct morality. They are Corbyn’s shock troops.

Dressing up the Anderton Park Primary School dispute as a conflict between progressive secularism and reactionary religious conservatism serves as a kind of displacement activity. By characterising the demonstrators as reactionaries and, by implication, extremists, the school - and its decision to promote equality through the introduction of books that feature same-sex couples and cross-dressing children -, being their antithesis, is naturally portrayed as moderate, reasonable and mainstream. Therefore, according to this narrative, there is nothing to discuss, apart from the intolerance of our more conservative religious communities. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many people, including some that would consider themselves to be progressive and, dare I say it, even atheistic, are deeply troubled by the prospect of their children being exposed to such material. Indeed, the school’s position is neither moderate nor mainstream. It must be debated as a matter of urgency. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Tory Party's already dead

If only the Tories were in the last death throes of their long and distinguished existence. At least that would suggest a desperate desire to endure in the face of near certain expiration. Instead, they’re more like a farting corpse. What seems like the odd flicker of life, even hope, turns out to be nothing more than hot air burping from the backside of a dead political party.

Let’s take their leader’s response to last week’s local election results as a case in point. They were a calamity. The Tories lost more than 1,300 seats. But Theresa May - in her unique and now fabled ability to deny reality - responded by pointing the finger of blame at the House of Commons. The public had punished the two main parties for failing to deliver Brexit, she opined. In other words, they don’t blame her; they blame those pesky politicians for voting against her Withdrawal Agreement.

Unsurprisingly, there was neither an ounce of contrition born of a sense of personal responsibility for the disaster, nor an indication of, having listened to the people, a change in her government's approach. Indeed, in her mind, the results were not a demonstration of the unpopularity of her agreement; they were a protest against the two main parties and, in particular, the stubborn ERG, for failing to get it through the House of Commons. Her uncanny predilection for self-deception is truly mind-blowing. She now seems to believe that the public’s anger will be pacified by a deal with Jeremy Corbyn that ties us to a ‘customs arrangement’. As I said, truly mind-blowing.

It’s not just about Theresa May, though. It’s about the entire Tory Party, both anti-democrat Remainers and craven Brexiteers, most of whom, like Boris, have sat back and raised the odd objection but, in reality, done nothing to stop May’s betrayal. I realise that this sounds counter-intuitive, but in order to save at least a semblance of something that could claim to be the heir to the Conservative tradition, they should have forced a split and taken many of the grassroots activists with them, calling themselves something like the Real Conservatives. Fortune favours the brave. It’s too late now, though. Farage’s party has beaten them to it.

If they want to save their seats - putting the survival of the Tory Party to one side for a moment - their only hope is to defect to the Brexit Party now. Even this, though, may not work. Tory Brexiteers are tainted by their inaction, and that includes – and I say this with a heavy heart – Jacob Rees-Mogg. As a result, the Brexit Party may not accept them anyway, justifiably seeing them as an electoral liability. I certainly won’t vote for them, and I’ve always considered myself to be a natural Conservative. Furthermore, the party has proven itself to be so incompetent, so craven, so dishonest and so full of charlatans, that I don’t think I can ever vote for its representatives again.

At first glance, it is obvious that the Conservative Party faces an existential crisis. However, when one witnesses the Prime Minister’s woeful, purblind response to last week’s electoral disaster, her wilful refusal to accept reality and change course, and the prevarication and procrastination of the party’s Brexit wing which impotently looks on, one realises that it’s already dead. The party’s various leadership contenders vying for the top spot are a bunch of zombies talking to themselves.