Fred and Ginger. Laurel and Hardy. Morecambe and Wise.
History knows many great double acts, but none as illustrious as Mandy (Peter Mandelson) and Georgie (George Osborne).
Imagine George as Fred and Mandy as Ginger tap-dancing all over Europe, their arms around each other, twins umbilically linked, swirling to the music piped through Oleg Deripaska’s yacht.
Indeed, Mandy & Georgie first became famous as a duo some 10 years ago, when they were entertained by the Russian gangster Deripaska on his yacht in the Mediterranean.
Georgie was Shadow Chancellor at the time, and he probably came along to solicit some well-laundered donations for his party. Mandy, then the EU Trade Commissioner, had known Deripaska since at least 2004, although as far as I know not in the Biblical sense.
Even without the physical part, the relationship thrived and it’s still going strong: Mandy has gone private since then, and his company is doing brisk business with Deripaska’s concerns.
The piquancy of that Mediterranean get-together was that Deripaska, presaging such developments later, was already banned from entry to the United States because of his links with organised crime.
But hey, who said such paid-up British patriots have to follow the Yanks’ lead? What was poison to the Yanks was meat to Mandy & Georgie.
Since then the former aluminium king has been sanctioned all over the civilised world, along with other Russian gangst… sorry, I mean oligarchs, many of whom are on Mandy’s books even as we speak. (For example, he gets $325,000 a year to represent Russian interests fronted by another ‘businessman’, Vladimir Evtushenkov.)
I don’t know which set of books, but, considering that Mandy was twice sacked from the Labour cabinet for corruption, it’s fair to surmise he has more than one. As they say in sports, form is transient, class is permanent.
Nor do I know if George got the donations he was seeking. One way or the other, a couple of years later he found himself at 11 Downing Street – only to be unceremoniously kicked out by Mrs May in 2017.
He landed on his feet to become Editor of The Evening Standard, nominally owned by Evgeny Lebedev, but in fact by his father Alexander, a career KGB officer. (How scum like that are allowed to take over venerable British institutions is beyond my scope today.)
I don’t know if Mandy and Georgie have kept in touch all these years. But the chemistry between the two is still there: two hearts beating as one. The double act is again on the road.
Mandy came out first, getting to the personal nitty-gritty. He doesn’t care about the merits and demerits of the EU – it goes without saying that Britain must continue to be governed by the likes of Juncker, his hands full of fat pension cheques.
Mandy is more interested in the human element. What kind of people would want to leave that particular Garden of Eden, and why?
“They are nationalists in the sense that they hate other countries, and they hate foreigners.” In other words, the 17.4 million Britons who voted to leave the EU are all xenophobes, which is the only reason they want to leave.
Now xenophobia is perhaps the only vice Mandy himself can’t be accused of, as his Brazilian boyfriend (and quite a few prior ones from every corner of the world) will doubtless testify. But on what basis has he reached the conclusion that, say, my friends and I hate foreigners?
I’m willing to bet a small fortune that we know more about Europe, and therefore love it more, than Mandy does.
Both I and my close friend, also a writer, spend half our time in France and travel widely all over the continent. We speak several European languages. Does Mandy?
My other close friends are also cultured, multilingual people, which by definition means they love the place of their culture’s origin. Many of my friends are Catholic Christians, which would make xenophobia rather awkward for them. Yet we all detest the EU.
I’d suggest there are fewer nasty xenophobes among the Leavers than there are pernicious socialists among the Remainers.
Or even socialists like Mandy, who have their fingers in every European pie, including the most rancid ones. He’s welcome to his brand of internationalism – until it lands him in prison, that is.
Unlike Mandy, Georgie talks not personalities but issues: “I think the Brexiteers are essentially being found out.
“They promised this nirvana, this taking back control, so suddenly we’d be in charge of our money; our borders, our immigration policy and all that.
“But the actual result is that they can’t make a decision because the real cost of leaving the EU and the single market is so high they don’t dare do it.”
All that expensive education, funded by flogging enough wallpaper to wrap the globe, has gone to naught. Buddhists achieve nirvana, George, only after death. I don’t think the Brexiteers, at least those I know, are quite as morbidly mystical as that.
As to the substance of George’s puffery, I can only repeat the simile I offered a couple of days ago. He’s like an arsonist who sets fire to a house and then lectures the weeping owners on the dangers of home ownership.
It’s not the Brexiteers who have been found out; it’s those like Georgie, Mandy, their greasy eminence Blair et al., who set out to subvert the will of the people and tie Brexit up in knots.
The cost of leaving the EU isn’t high at all, George, if you compare it with what we’ll be gaining, or rather regaining: the constitutional sovereignty lovingly refined over centuries. That ‘nirvana’ hasn’t yet been delivered only because of saboteurs like you.
It is of course true that, as Georgie points out, our government is trying to dilute Brexit to a point where we’ll lose membership in the EU without gaining independence from it. That’s like the kettle calling the kettle black.
This is happening because those who lead our government don’t want to leave. They’re members of the same apparat (if you don’t know what this Russian word means, George, ask your KGB Standard owner) to which our double act belongs.
It’s they who have been waging the scare campaign, screaming at the people that they’ll starve if we leave the EU, especially without a trade deal. It’s they who come up with one legal and parliamentary challenge after another, trying to make Brexit appear devilishly complicated.
“The actual result” that George is talking about isn’t that of Brexit – after all, we haven’t left yet. It’s the result of the disgustingly underhanded, perfidious effort to nitpick Brexit to death, undertaken in cahoots with the apparat’s EU branch.
But I’m glad our double act has come together again. Birds of a feather, and all that. Mandy and Georgie deserve each other.