One thing you can say for the government is that they always like to give their neverending sequence of interlocking s***shows a real filmic quality, and at this point, it’s legitimate to wonder whether they’re doing it on purpose. When someone turns the last decade of British politics into a 10-part Netflix series — think The Crown but a bit more Fawlty Towers — it certainly would not be beyond the Conservative Party to claim some of the royalties.
It’s difficult to believe, but nevertheless true, that just as a materials science expert called Dr Chris Goodier was spending yesterday morning publishing his findings on the structural integrity of aerated concrete, and suggesting that it’s not just schools but also hospitals and prisons that are at risk of collapse, a suspected terrorist had already sellotaped himself to the undercarriage of a delivery van and was being driven straight out the front gate of HMP Wandsworth.
Quite brilliantly, the first accusation levelled at the government was that suspected terrorists should really be in a Category A prison, not Category B. To this accusation, the minister responsible, Michelle Donelan, told Times Radio, in her own defence, that it was wrong to say he should have been in a Category A prison because people aren’t meant to escape from Category B prisons either. Honestly, I don’t write this stuff. I just type it out.
Currently, no one knows where the rather hipsterish-looking Daniel Abed Khalife is. A manhunt is underway. But wherever he happens to be, you can imagine he is already working on his defence.
Just picture the scenes in the House of Commons, the look on Suella Braverman’s face, when a man awaiting trial for terrorism offences takes the UK to the European Court of Human Rights, who conclude he had every right to break out of jail, before said jail had the chance to collapse on top of him.
Last week, German authorities concluded they could not agree to UK requests for extradition back to this country of incarcerated criminals, because the conditions in UK prisons are so bad that returning British inmates to them could be a contravention of their obligations under international law.
Some rather less well-adjusted people have accused the government of “deadcatting”. In other words, that the escape from prison of a possible terrorist is a welcome distraction from nine straight days of rows about dangerous concrete all around the public realm.
I’ve never been a big believer in “deadcatting”, which was written about in 2013 by none other than Boris Johnson in the Daily Telegraph. The notion being that you distract from something terrible that’s going on by doing something entirely insane, like, for example, placing a dead cat on the negotiating table.
For one, people who are accused of deadcatting are usually knee-deep in a different mess, usually entirely of their own making, and if they had the foresight and dexterity to work out how to deadcat their way out of the s*** then they would surely have used those skills to not get into the s*** to begin with.
It is, in short, remarkable how often politicians accused of the most stunning displays of stupidity are, in their accusers’ next breath, considered to have prodigious talents for subterfuge.
So, as Rishi Sunak rolls from one crisis seamlessly onto the next, it is hard to see any kind of strategy there beyond, perhaps, a kind of masochistic anaesthesia.
That he would commit acts of ever more violent national self-harm, just for a bit of temporary respite from the pain of the last one. Every time you think things are building to the ultimate season finale, they come along and outdo themselves all over again. The viewers can tell we’re reaching the end now, but there’s definitely time for a few more set-piece scenes. Watching the inmates run for freedom as their prison crumbles to dust around them is something straight out of the Marvel Universe. It couldn’t really happen, could it? Have you not been paying attention? Of course, it could.