State of Chaos, BBC Two, review – the story of Brexit told at breakneck speed

Laura Kuenssberg takes us on a walk through the Brexit years

Laura Kuenssberg takes us on a walk through the Brexit years – Stuart Powell/BBC

“Incredible hypocrisy by Boris Johnson.” “Baroness Hale’s behaviour was disgraceful.” “There are many words I’d use to describe what Michael Gove did. Betrayal. Deceitful.” Plenty of the salty old tunes came out again in Laura Kuenssberg: State of Chaos (BBC One) as a breakneck episode compiled the story of Brexit, 2016-2019, also known as the blue-on-blue album.

Of the vast crowd of avengers assembling to give their version of events (which included Labour’s Hilary Benn), those with a turn of phrase added the most value. “We are like the frog being boiled,” Amber Rudd told Jo Johnson as the plot to prorogue Parliament simmered. He resigned within the hour. Matt Hancock, who remembered Dominic Cummings lying to him over lunch, looked chuffed to talk of something other than Covid.

Some of these are usual-suspect rent-a-gobs. Kuenssberg’s more significant coup was to persuade shy, blinking civil servants to break their vow of omertà. Most hypnotic was Helen MacNamara, former deputy cabinet secretary, whose every temperate answer hinted at sediments and subcrusts. “Wow, that is genuinely surprising,” she said when informed by Kuenssberg that fellow civil servant Simon McDonald had let on to Foreign Office colleagues that he was a Remainer. “I don’t know why that would be a good or helpful thing.” May the whole interview some day see the light.

While some, smacking their lips, accepted the invitation to settle scores, Kuenssberg’s aim was to generate as much light as heat. There was plenty of both in the section on Theresa May’s infamous dementia tax. “Theresa was adamant she was having that policy,” recalled her adviser Fiona Hill, looking like a battle-scarred survivor who itched to say way more.

Almost everyone here has since been slung out of the Augean stable. Jacob Rees-Mogg, still haunting the present like an Edwardian hologram, spoke from a room with bookcases containing not leathered hardbacks but a shelf of slightly foxed Rough Guides. “Daddy, daddy,” he remembered a son telling him the morning after the referendum. “We’ve won.”

Giving nothing away about which way she swings, this was Kuenssberg’s Rough Guide to Brexit. In truth, regardless of which way you voted, it was all a bit re-traumatising to revisit the bedlam so soon. But her entertaining second draft of history will be useful to perhaps unborn professors of 21st-century Britain when evaluating Master Rees-Mogg’s profoundly divisive claim.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.

Leave a Comment