This week, as one gargoyle-strewn monument from a bygone age was being destroyed by fire in Paris, another was being reborn at a factory in Coventry.
So enraged by our calamitous exit from the European Union, on Monday Nigel Farage announced that his quasi-retirement was at an end and that he was returning to front-line British politics. But with his former stomping ground UKIP now seemingly self-immolating—thanks to an influx of ever more questionable candidates with ever more heinous reputations—Farage’s fresh political vehicle was to be “a new force in British politics,” taking its name from “the most Googled word in the English language.” Alas, no, not Baby Shark.
Within days of its launch, the newly christened Brexit Party was flying high in the polls ahead of next month’s EU elections. Mr Farage, meanwhile, was quick to boast that despite refusing to accept cash from mega-donors like Leave.EU’s Arron Banks, the party had amassed some £750,000 of donations in just 10 days, “all in small sums of less than £500.” What a success story. Perhaps, arguably, a little too successful.
Before long, curious minds—among them the indomitable Carole Cadwalladr—were pointing out that Farage’s insistence that all the party’s donations were less than £500 was telling; under current Electoral Commission rules, the identities of donors to British political parties are “disregarded” when the donations are £500 or less.
So who were all these small-scale donors?
Almost as soon as the question was asked, even more worrisome developments had emerged. On Tuesday, Channel 4 News dropped the first of two devastating exposés of Leave.EU’s activities during the 2016 referendum campaign, revealing that Leave.EU had faked a viral video purporting to show how simple it was for migrants to cross the English Channel illegally. On Wednesday, the second report alleged that in the lead up to the Brexit vote, Leave.EU had covered up their use of paid Facebook adverts to micro-target supporters of extreme right-wing organizations, including the National Front and the EDL.
Truly there’s something rotten in the state of Brexit—which brings us to our Word of the Week.
After seven days of dubious dealings, unanswered questions and allegations of foul play dogging both the 2016 Brexit campaign and the 2019 Brexit Party, perhaps the word you’re looking for this week is stratagemous: a seventeenth-century adjective referring to, as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, behaviour “characterized by the use of devious, underhand stratagems.”
At its root is the considerably more familiar word stratagem, meaning an artifice or trick, or a ploy used to trounce or get the better of an adversary; originating in the tit-for-tat tactics of warfare, words like stratagem, strategy and our stratagemous all derive from a Greek word for an army general, strategos.