Imagine what the discreet butler saw and heard at the Cabinet's away day at Chequers this Wednesday. Ministers, still irreconcilably divided on Europe, had been summoned to discuss Brexit. According to Jim Pickard, the chief political correspondent of the Financial Times, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis, the three swashbuckling, Eurosceptic musketeers are already crossing swords. Those who voted to remain are having to push through a policy they do not agree with or believe in.
The steely PM has repeatedly said "Brexit means Brexit". One wonders why the sphinx-like lady needs to chant that mantra. My guess is that the Brexit Tories — most on the right — are still at it, still pushing, still complaining, still expecting treachery, still deeply dissatisfied. Several Tory leaders were ground down by this lot. Tough Mrs May already seems to be trying too hard to placate those in her party who can never be placated. Other fundamentalist Eurosceptics are just as intransigent and mistrustful.
Lord O'Donnell, former cabinet secretary opined in a newspaper interview that Brexit was "not inevitable". He explained why, rationally and reasonably. Oh my. Ukip MP Douglas Carswell was apoplectic: the Peer's well- chosen words proved "democracy has been subverted by career civil servants". In the past, the FO was thought to be full of pinkos and Arabists.
Today Europhobe ministers are suspicious that the Foreign Office and Treasury are full of pro-EU conspirators. Tory MP Steve Baker even wants them "summarily fired" if they 'block' the Brexit process. First they went for migrants and refugees, then EU citizens and supporters, then experts, now civil servants and other perfectly honourable men and women.
Members of Lords, lawyers, academics and others who are looking into the legal status of the vote or who are doubtful this can be a fast and clean divorce are now cast as villains or traitors. Professor Thom Brooks, head of law at Durham University helped draft the wording of the referendum question. He now believes separation will be impossible because a 42-year-old legal relationship can't just be torn up. I can only imagine the barks and bites he has had to endure since making that assessment.
Brexit paranoia, petulance and rancour is everywhere; in homes, pubs, on radio and TV, in workplaces and the streets. Brexiters won the battle but the war in their hearts and heads rages on. Maybe they really thought that GB would simply whoosh back to the future, walls would appear on our coastline, Poles and 'Pakis' would be magicked away, Morecambe and Wise would be on the telly and all women would look and bake like Mary Berry again. That didn't happen, so now they turn vicious. Members of my family, our Polish cleaner, the French teacher next door, English language students at a school I used to work at, have all been abused recently.
If you are a Europhile, you are branded undemocratic, anti-working class and seriously unpatriotic. You may not explain why staying in was so important or express concern about the rising tide of racism against Eastern Europeans and people of colour. This is suppression of free speech.
On Question Time, just after the vote, Ian Hislop spoke up forcefully for the EU and reminded the audience (some of whom were bulldoggish Brexiters) that opposing policies is a key part of the democratic process. He was brave to take on the detractors. I have been on Question Time during some of the country's most critical periods when emotions were running high. Panellists were still able to speak and be heard.
Vacuous people assume high tones of moral superiority while insulting remainers
In the run-up to Brexit and since the referendum, remainers have been shouted down and often disrespected. It changed the dynamics and unwritten compact between speakers and the audience. The same degradation of debate is evident on other TV shows and phone-in radio programmes. Brexiters accuse us pro-EU 'whinging, Metropolitan middle classes' of intellectual intimidation. It is a tactic, pre-emptive strikes by bullies who simply want us to roll over and shut up.
Vacuous people assume high tones of moral superiority while insulting remainers. The very well- heeled Liz Hurley, who has never knowingly gone out with a plumber or electrician, let rip in a tabloid: "Bring it on you ranting luvvies...[you are] mean-spirited, round-headed, elitists." Columnists pick on remainers every week; online Brexiters sound like ugly little autocrats.
A plebiscite is often a licence for demagoguery. I now see that clearly. Millions of us want to be part of the EU. In our Parliamentary democracy, the elected should make the final decision. We must do all we can to make sure Brexit doesn't mean Brexit and that Mrs May starts listening to the other, wiser side.