Back in the days whilst David Cameron had the chance not to lurch the UK into a huge Brexit crisis this exchange may have taken place following months of advice about him resisting being too ‘brave’:-
Sir Humphrey – Can I present you with a box Prime Minster, it’s one we put before Ministers prior to them taking momentous decisions. Bring in the OSBOT box please Bernard.
Cameron – What’s this all about then Humphrey?
Sir Humphrey – Well Prime Minister it’s the job of Cabinet Office to spell out to a Minister or Prime Minister all the potential pit-falls of a potentially ‘brave’ decision which we feel could have dire consequences. This OSBOT box contains details of the dire consequences of your pursuing an EU Referendum.
Cameron – But I know the consequences and I know I will win anyway.
Sir Humphrey – Yes Prime Minister knowing the consequences is what one of your predecessors, a Mr Blair, said when we put such a box in front of him prior to the Iraq war being authorised. It’s also what Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg uttered before his U turn on tuition fees.
Cameron – But what’s that got to do with me, they were wrong and I am right?
Sir Humphrey – Yes they both thought they were right too Prime Minister. Mr Blair got it all very badly wrong though and Mr Clegg, well we all know what happened to him.
Cameron – So what purpose does the OSBOT box serve?
Sir Humphrey – It’s bit like Pandora’s Box Prime Minister – once opened it can’t be shut again and it’s your choice whether to open it or not. Blair and Clegg opened it, indeed you laughed yourself silly when Clegg did if you recall. Now its your turn Prime Minister.
Cameron – Do I have to open it?
Sir Humphrey – Yes Prime Minister if your are determined to hold an EU Referendum.
Cameron – Well open it I will because right is on my side, I say.
Sir Humphrey – Just remember Prime Minister all that you read in the box is likely to happen and you can’t shut the box once you have read of the consequences.
Cameron – Give me the key!
Cameron opens the box and this is what he reads:-
Most if not all of the following will now happen – The Country will vote to leave the EU. Financial meltdown will follow. There is no plan to deal with an EU exit. You will be blamed for opening ‘Pandora’s Box’. A Mr. B Johnson will dance on your political grave. Racists will emerge in large numbers. Xenophobes (a person unduly fearful of what is foreign and especially of people of foreign origin) will multiply. All the political barm-pots will have been brought together in one campaign group to campaign for Brexit – they will not be parted.
In short Prime Minister you have just read why you should not hold an EU Referendum but as you have opened the box there is no going back. Thank you for reading the most momentous political suicide note in living memory.
Cameron – But this is ridiculous Humphrey, none of this will happen mark my words.
Sir Humphrey – Yes Prime Minister I have marked your very ‘brave’ words and I have also taken the liberty of drafting a resignation speech which obviously, in your view, will not now be required?
Cameron – Look Humphrey I am confident nothing will really go wrong but if by some ridiculously small chance it does will the Country know that I was warned not to hold the EU Referendum? By the way what does OSBOT mean?
Sir Humphrey – No Prime Minister the Civil Service does not kick a Prime Minister when they are down, we find there is no need for us to join in a political lynching. And OSBOT – Only Stupid Buggers Open This.