As prime minister Harold Macmillan once put it: “events, dear boy: events”. Because real life has a tendency to overturn the best laid plans and forecasts of mice, of men, and of political pundits. Here is one slightly different forecast of what might happen after a #Brexit. Who knows: it might happen.
24 June: 4.32am – somewhere inside No.10 Downing St
David Cameron and George Osborne are half way down a bottle of 18-year-old Glenmorangie single malt. It had been intended for celebration: but as the stark outcome of the referendum filtered in, now seemed as good, or bad, a time as any to open it.
The phone rings. Osborne answers. Listens. Then: “And go fuck yourself, too”.
Cameron looks up: “Who was that?”
“One of Farage’s SPADS. Wanted to know if they could be in tomorrow to measure up for carpets.”
“Bastard!” Cameron takes a sip from his glass.
“Still. At least we know the answer to one question.”
“The leave campaign CAN organise a piss-up in a brewery. I doubt any of them will be in a fit state to talk politics until half way through next week.”
7am – on the steps of No.10 Downing St
David Cameron appears briefly to concede defeat, congratulate the Leave campaign on a hard campaign well fought.
Is he resigning?
Further announcements will follow. That is all.
7.50am – the London Stock Exchange
There is an air of hushed expectation. Not quite pin dropping territory. But almost.
Traders have arrived early, checking their systems, their algorithms. The sell orders are loaded, along with the falling sell triggers. The index speculators are rubbing their hands in gleeful anticipation. Wide spreads – and today they expect the widest spreads they have ever seen – mean big profits.
Ten minutes to go…
10.35am – the London Stock Exchange
The FTSE100 index has broken the 5,000 barrier (heading downward). Two emergency trading pauses have already been triggered, to little effect. If anything, the pace of the sell-off is increasing.
Pound-dollar parity approaches. Pound-Euro parity was half an hour ago.
12.16pm – the London Stock Exchange
Trading closes for the rest of the day, suspended automatically within sight of the 4,000 mark, last seen in early 2009.
An emergency meeting of the inner cabinet – senior (and trusted) Ministers and policy advisers has been called for 1pm.
Phones at the Treasury are ringing red hot as every favour ever owed is called in from banks and foreign ministries. The IMF, the Fed and the European Central Bank all want to know what happens next.
Osborne soothes, but cannot answer.
The BBC is reporting that Boris Johnson has likened the referendum to a gladiatorial contest: the people have given the “thumbs down” to Europe. “The loser must now fall upon his sword”.
Mary Beard is asked to explain the historical inaccuracy of this allusion.
In the wake of poll breakdowns showing Scotland voted overwhelmingly for IN, Nicola Sturgeon announces that she will be seeking a second referendum.
1.15pm – the Cabinet Meeting rooms
“There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the economy”, Osborne explains. “But we are facing a massive liquidity crisis: assets are losing value so fast that financial institutions do not dare sell them.
“A week, a month, and we’ll be through it. Who knows: Leave might even have a point and we’ll come out the other side stronger and fitter.
“Right now, i have half the banks in the UK screaming for help. The Royal Bank of Scotland is beyond terminal. Without action today, it won’t open its doors on Monday.
“We need funds – fast: and the UK can’t do this on its own.”
“I should resign”, Cameron chips in. He appears distracted: his air that of a condemned man – a vegetarian – informed that his final meal will be steak and chips. He fidgets with a paper clip.
“Not until we know what follows”, Osborne back at him. “The Leavers can probably force you out: but do they command a parliamentary majority? And if you did go today, what do you think the markets are going to do next week?
“The country is in crisis: we have to provide stability until that crisis is past.”
“But….we have no mandate to carry on. We can’t.”
” We must. We have a duty to. In fact, i don’t think we have any alternative.”
Osborne speaks, outlining how he sees events unfolding: how they must now unfold. His colleagues listen: scepticism turns slowly to nodding agreement.
A little after 2, the meeting breaks. Quietly, cautiously, but with a renewed sense of purpose Osborne returns to the phones.
Afternoon – everywhere
The Westminster rumour mill is in full flow. Cameron will refuse to resign. He will ignore the vote and attempt to carry on as normal.
Tory backbenchers start collecting signatures on a vote of no confidence.
Farage takes to the airwaves to condemn “tinpot dictators”. He sounds oddly subdued. Like a man with a bad hangover.
Boris denies that he wants to be Prime Minister.
The opposition is strangely silent, although reports of a hotly-denied and fractious shadow cabinet meeting taking place start to filter out.
After weeks of shouting, the nation is quiet at last.
Shortly before six, Osborne picks up the phone to Gove.
Not long after, a ministerial limo departs from Downing St for Buckingham Palace
8pm – all channels
Prime Minister Osborne takes to the airwaves to address the nation. Following unprecedented market instability, which risks turning a temporary crisis into permanent disaster, a Government of National Unity has been formed.
With the support of just over half the Conservative parliamentary party, most of the Labour Party, the SNP and the LibDems, the GNU has a majority of just over 200.
Normal politics will, it is hoped, be restored as soon as possible. Now, however, a period of calm and national reflection is needed. The government will, of course, respect the national will, and begin talks with the EU on a Brexit. There will also be a second vote on Scottish independence which, as PM, Osborne is determined to defeat.
Over the weekend, the necessary finance will be put in place to support the UK banking system.
8.15pm – the details
As the broadcast ends, a release is mailed to the press. As well as taking on the office of Prime Minister, Osborne will be taking the unprecedented step of retaining his job as Chancellor – or rather, he will be sharing it with John McDonnell. Jeremy Corbyn is the new Foreign Secretary. Tim Farron takes on the Education portfolio.
Gove is back in government. Johnson is not.
29 June: 12 noon – PMQs
At his first Prime Minister’s Question Time since taking office, Osborne taunts Leader of the Opposition, Boris Johnson: “I’m a gnu: how do you do?”, he remarks, to general Commons hilarity
Johnson is not amused. Nor, it appears, is he very funny any more.