Mark Francois
The face of hard Brexit, Mark Francois. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Bumptious as a regional manager, in big two-for-one horn-rim glasses, straining out of his suit, Mark Francois, member for Rayleigh, came to the lectern, and surveyed the audience. They were banked high in the lecture theatre of the Engineers’ building, an ancient stone’s throw from parliament.

It was standing-room only, a hard-Brexit Glastonbury. Shire types in their tweeds, home counties dividends divorcees in expensive windcheaters and a lot of eye shadow, hardcore wonks in sharp blue suits, amid political flotsam, in M&S check shirts, shopping bags of leaflets at their feet. Along the aisles, intermingled the media of the world: a dozen camos, 20 scribblers with pads out. On the wall behind, a huge Brexit clock: "3 Days, 10 hours, 29 minutes" etc, to Brexit.