I am being afflicted by a recurring nightmare.
It is that, some time later this year, I wake up with a start to find that Britain is in the process of leaving the European Union, Boris Johnson has replaced David Cameron as prime minister, Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States in a surprising landslide victory and Scotland is demanding a new referendum on secession from the United Kingdom.
Oh, and for good measure, it seems that Johnson has formed a coalition with the United Kingdom Independence Party and appointed Nigel Farage as Home Secretary, with a mandate to reduce immigration to minus 50,000. “We just have got to get rid of people,” I hear Farage telling a television interviewer after a rally in a stadium in Nuremberg (his wife is German). “We must get the population of this country back to manageable proportions, as it was when I was growing up – perhaps even as it was before that. If we can’t do it by persuading people to go home, then more drastic measures may be needed.”
He did not elaborate.
Nor did I have time to ponder the matter because by then I was sitting bolt upright in bed in a drenching sweat, my wife stroking my head and uttering soothing words. “There, there,” she cooed, “It’s only a silly dream.”
I wish I could believe it. Some of it may not happen, of course. Indeed, none of it may happen. But what causes my nocturnal agonies and my abrupt waking moments of abject terror, is that ALL of it might happen.
The EU referendum result is, according to the latest polls, too close to call. Cameron has already said he will resign during this parliament, and I can’t see any plausible Tory rivals for the office other than Johnson, clever opportunist and bumbling buffoon that he is.
Across the pond, Trump has pulled level with Hillary Clinton in the polls. Americans can’t be so stupid, we were all saying to ourselves a few weeks ago, not even Republicans, as to elect a bigoted, inarticulate, bombastic property speculator to the White House, not to mention leadership of the free world. Now we are not so sure.
A foul wind is blowing across every political landscape in every supposedly civilised land. “Down with all politicians,” it whispers in the trees and across field and factory; “Down with the Tories, down with Europe, down with everyone who has been telling us what to do and how to think for the past fifty years”.
The wind blows neither from left nor right. It just blows, swirling around in aimless spirals whipping up storms of dust. Left and right are irrelevant terms now. What counts is that the Establishment, however it is defined, is brought down, and We-The-People are raised up.
It happened centuries ago in ancient Rome, or so I seem to recall learning at school. While the all-powerful senate sat in its pillared arena and ineffectually debated the finer points of the issues of the day, outside on the streets The Mob settled them with fire and death, riot and pillage. You see, I have read my Gibbon – or maybe I just saw the movies.
I’m just not sure who will play our Crassus. Not Boris Johnson, surely? He looks nothing like Laurence Olivier in Spartacus – more like his nemesis, the Charles Laughton character, Gracchus.
I shall watch some cricket today. England is playing Sri Lanka. I may watch all day. Perhaps then my recurring nightmare will be replaced by a new one about the deficiencies at the top of England’s batting order.