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Saturday Journal: Inflammatory language used by PM on Brexit demeans office

Boris Johnson in Scotland on Friday (PA).
Boris Johnson in Scotland on Friday (PA).

Just over 80 years ago Germany invaded Poland triggering the Second World War and, 39 years later, my birth.

Of all Hitler’s crimes, I am not the worst but can definitely be counted among them should you be so minded.

Without his invasion of Poland – and the subsequent Soviet purge of the country’s officer class – then my grandfather, also Stefan, would never have found himself on the Fife coast where he, in no particular order, learned to jump out of a plane and met the woman who would become, and unsurprisingly still is, my grandmother.

The anniversary of the Second World War should be for all of us a moment to reflect on not only the horrors of that conflict, but on the path that took the world to war.

But just as importantly, we should consider our views of the conflict today.

In Poland German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked the country to forgive the horrors inflicted on so many millions of people during the war.

It was a dignified gesture that understood, even eight decades down the line, words matter. So too can gestures. That Russian premier Vladimir Putin was not invited to the commemorations tells a sorry story of its own.

Sadly, the example of Herr Steinmeier, who was born 11 years after the war ended and is in no way culpable for the atrocities carried out by the Nazis, is not being followed closer to home.

Britain is rightly proud of the role it – and the larger Commonwealth – played in defeating Nazism.

Yet some of our finest writers, from George Orwell to Alan Moore, have understood that fascism and tyranny is never restricted to a particular country or a time and place, and the UK, the doughty defender of freedom, would be equally susceptible under the right circumstances. It can happen anywhere and loose, inflammatory language by political leaders is key to division and control.

Indeed, the rhetoric of war is now being used by those who hope such aggressive language can ram through a no-deal Brexit.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a bid to reassert some sort of authority after a humiliating first week in the House of Commons as prime minister, tried to brand legislation that would stop the country leaving the EU without a deal as a “surrender Bill”.

His next act was to expel 21 MPs from his party for voting against the government, including the grandson of Winston Churchill, before apparently branding Jeremy Corbyn “a big girl’s blouse”.

Actions, like words, matter and the prime minister, a son of privilege, is behaving in a manner that demeans not just the office he holds but the actions of those who fought in the Second World War 80 years ago.

Presenting the current turmoil as a war, or those who believe making Brexit as orderly as possible as the enemy, is dangerous. That someone as privileged as Mr Johnson uses such language is shameful, but no surprise.

The UK is not now at war with the EU. It never has been.

Brexit is not a conflict. It is a hubristic retreat into a fantasy version of the UK and its place in the world.

In those circumstances, opposing a no-deal Brexit is not surrendering to anything but harsh reality. Leaving the EU without a deal would be catastrophic for this country, with those who have the least liable to suffer the most.

Any victory Mr Johnson assumes can be achieved by forcing through a no-deal Brexit can only ever be Pyrrhic.

The Nazi invasion of Poland began on September 3. The UK declared war two days later because of treaties it had with a European partner.

History shows honouring those treaties was the right thing to do, despite the enormous human cost of the Second World War.

Severing the ties that bind us to the EU will also have a human cost but it is not a war, no matter how much some would like to pretend it is an issue about “us” versus “them”.

The only silver lining to the whole sorry saga is that Mr Johnson’s ineffable ability to only ever fail upwards appears to have finally come to an end.

Location, location, location

Robin Williams, also Mork, once joked that cocaine was God’s way of telling a person they are making too much money.

He could have said buying a one-bedroom flat for the princely sum of £825,000 does the same thing although that is admittedly less of a zinger.

While I’ve no doubt there will be plenty of golfers around the globe who would appreciate a wee hidey-hole perched right on the edge of the Old Course, only someone as rich as Croesus could possibly consider it value for money.

The future is now

A restaurant in Dundee has found an exciting new way to employ fewer staff.

New venture Yamm World Buffet will use robots to serve drinks to customers rather than boring old flesh and blood waiting staff.

The restaurant’s owners say they are still working out exactly what the robots can do, which I’m pretty sure is exactly how The Terminator starts.