It may overstate the case to suggest that David Axelrod, the chief strategist for former US president Barack Obama’s election campaigns, regrets his sneering during the 2016 presidential election every day but it is certain he, and maybe millions of others, will never forget it.
He patronisingly goaded Donald Trump, suggesting that when the campaign moved beyond the “swimsuit stage” his limitations would be exposed and Hilary Clinton would march towards her inevitable coronation.
The world is reminded every day how that hubris, that misjudgement, brought unprecedented change to America and by extension the Anglo-American world.
If yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, where Tánaiste Simon Coveney presented various scenarios around the known unknowns of Brexit, suggests we have passed the swimsuit stage of the process, then yesterday’s announcement from Jeremy Corbyn that the UK’s Labour party had, at long last, found the courage to get off the fence, even if in a very qualified way, and announced that it would back Remain in any referendum called on a Conservative deal, confirms it.
Corbyn clings to the comfort blanket of ambiguity, though, as he did not say what position Labour would adopt in the event of a general election. It is hard to see how this evasion can serve anyone well, most especially Labour’s natural constituency.
Water unmuddied, water muddied again, in an endless cycle of opportunism dressed as politics.
However unadult, however unserious Corbyn’s Labour seems, it looks positively regal when compared with the Conservative party, a tiny, overly-influential strata in an increasingly multicultural society, happy to play pretend politics in what appears to be a never-ending swimsuit competition.
As Boris Johnson’s march on Downing Street seems unstoppable, Mr Coveney may have to prepare to receive a Kim Darroch-style analysis from our man — or woman — in London in the next year or so.
Should Irish officials be as treasonous as their British counterparts — who deliberately leaked Darroch’s note to undermine a professional, unflinching diplomat — then strained relationships would be tested in a way not seen since January 1972. The consequences of the Darroch leak are far-reaching, as Britain will, in time, have to appoint a kiss-and-make-up envoy to Trump’s America.
The situation is so out of hand, so unanchored, that Nigel Farage’s name has been mentioned as a possible replacement.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, yesterday’s dose of smelling salts was administered by carmaker BMW, who will move some engine output from Britain because of Brexit. That both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, the only alternatives to succeed Theresa May, have said they would leave without a deal ensures that many others will follow BMW’s example. Unleash Britain’s potential, indeed.
David Axelrod’s swimsuit sneer showed how we can react to a challenge by dismissing it, by questioning its reality.
That option, no matter how attractive, has not existed on Brexit for some time.
As yesterday’s cabinet meeting showed, we must, with the support of our EU partners, prepare for the worst, even if we still hope sanity might finally speak up.