Brexit: Infinity War

Welcome to the Conservative Cinematic Universe — the blockbuster political franchise that refuses to die


It’s little more than a decade since the Conservative Cinematic Universe burst onto our screens, promising recurring characters and multiple interlocking story arcs that would change the way we thought about politics-making for ever. And for a while, it’s true that they delivered. Who can forget the joyous moment the camera panned around our heroes as they biffed enemies to the left and the right in Tories Assemble?

We’re now in Phase Six of the CCU, and the strain is beginning to show

Even in the early days there were hints that they might not be able to sustain such highs. Tories: Age Of Maytron went on too long, and its plotline about a robot who comes to life and wants to negotiate a secret customs union was uninspiring. But there was a return to form with Brexit: Infinity War and Brexit: Endgame, with its surprising ending killing off most of the original cast.

Since then, though, they’ve struggled. Even the latest outing from a usually bankable character tanked. Boris: Cake and Chunder was a confused release that showed the blond God of Blunder’s best days are behind him. 

We’re now in Phase Six of the CCU, and the strain is beginning to show, as the franchise asks us to believe in a tiny hero who finds himself running a government full of utterly implausible characters. So it was that we trooped into the House of Commons to watch Ant Man: Suellamania.

Angela Rayner had secured an urgent question about Suella Braverman’s speed awareness course. This is good fun for Labour, but no one on their benches was taking it terribly seriously. Waiting for the question, they smiled and joked with each other. There was none of the cold fury that filled the chamber for Boris Johnson’s various scandals. More surprising perhaps was that this cheerful mood was matched by Conservative MPs. It was a fun day out for all the family.

Up in the Strangers’ Gallery, a group of primary schoolchildren had come along to watch, all wearing high-viz tabards. They fidgeted and nudged each other, presumably discussing the circumstances in which Rishi Sunak would be obliged to refer the Home Secretary to Sir Laurie Magnus. 

Answering for the government was the Paymaster General, Jeremy Quin. He’s a former banker, but he has the air of a solicitor who specialises in helping wealthy clients avoid inheritance tax. You don’t quite understand what he says, but he’s got a plausible manner and he assures you it’s all quite legal. He seemed supremely unbothered by the whole business. “Ministers remain in office only for so long as they can retain the confidence of the prime minister,” he assured the house. This got a big laugh from Labour. 

The SNP’s Kirsty Blackman was a dark cloud of pure fury

Rayner went through the motions of sounding outraged. “Our constituents expect those who make the rules to follow the rules,” she said, though the voters of Ashton-under-Lyme may not have been following this particular episode too closely. There were two dangerous lines in her attack though. First, that Braverman’s special adviser told the Mirror there hadn’t been a speeding offence, and second that Sunak was still considering his options after “days of dither and delay”. The first is a problem because the days of officials just lying to journalists were supposed to have ended with the departure of Johnson, and the second is a line that Labour is trying to get going against the cautious Sunak. 

“What we know of the prime minister is that he will deal with these issues properly and professionally,” Quin said, as though it were high praise. Which by the standards of recent PMs, it was.

The SNP’s Kirsty Blackman was a dark cloud of pure fury. “This is a descent into pure farce!” she began. “Is it not the case that the people of Scotland and all the people of these isles would be better served by politicians who understand and stick to the principles of public life?” she asked. And it is unarguable that the people of Scotland seem to have been especially badly served in these stakes. 

“It is always interesting to hear from the SNP about farcical situations with ethics,” observed Quin, bone dry. “The one advantage of a campervan, I suppose, is that it does not go very fast.” He might yet be a break-out star of the franchise. 

Sir Charles Walker was outraged that the BBC had asked Sunak about the matter during the G7. I’ve covered more of these summits than Sir Charles, and I can reassure him that there’s no danger the prime minister was deprived of any opportunities to hit his worthier talking points.

It was left to Sir Edward Leigh to express the nation’s disappointment about the decline of recent storylines. “What is wrong with this country?” he demanded. “We used to have proper scandals about sex or money, or about prime ministers invading Iraq on dodgy evidence where hundreds of thousands of people died!” We all hanker for the good old days, Sir Edward, we do. But nothing lasts for ever. 

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