POLITICS is a slippery business. It’s awash with soundbites, non-denial denials and carefully crafted statements. Questions go unanswered. Language is mangled. Those involved often won’t say what they really think – at least in public.

It’s an achievement of sorts, then, that the Brexit process seems to have taken this phenomenon to new and hitherto unimagined depths. In recent months, there have been moments when it’s almost as if words have lost all meaning.

Last weekend, it was reported that Boris Johnson had sought legal advice on whether Parliament could be suspended for five weeks in an apparent bid to prevent MPs thwarting a no-deal Brexit.

The news provoked outrage, but Downing Street quickly pooh-poohed it.

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“The claim that the government is considering proroguing parliament in September in order to stop MPs debating Brexit is entirely false,” a spokesperson told reporters.

Just three days later, it emerged Mr Johnson would indeed seek an extended suspension of Parliament ahead of a Queen’s Speech on October 14. Starting from “the second sitting week in September”, Parliament will be shut for five weeks.

Mr Johnson never ruled out such a move. But he did previously seek to make it “absolutely clear” that he was not “attracted to arcane procedures such as the prorogation of Parliament”.

Others in his Cabinet went much further. In June, Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said it was “outrageous to consider proroguing Parliament.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it “goes against everything that those men who waded onto those beaches fought and died for, and I will not have it”. In a letter to colleagues during the Tory leadership contest, he argued attempting to prorogue Parliament to deliver a no-deal Brexit is “neither serious nor credible”. It would “mean the end of the Conservative Party as a serious party of government”.

During a Channel 4 leadership debate, Michael Gove, who is now responsible for no-deal planning, said it would be a “terrible thing”.

“It is your Parliament,” he insisted. “I will always stand up and fight for our democracy. We are answerable to you in the House of Commons, and we must defend our democracy.”

Sajid Javid, now Chancellor, also ruled out the move. “You don’t deliver on democracy by trashing democracy,” he said. “We’re not selecting a dictator of our country – we’re selecting a Prime Minister of one of the proudest parliamentary democracies in the world.”

Nicky Morgan, Culture Secretary since July, dismissed it as “clearly a mad suggestion”.

Yet here we are, and none of these people have resigned – or even publicly expressed concern.

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In an interview with the BBC, Mr Gove said prorogation was “certainly not” a political attempt to stop debate on Brexit and block MPs from preventing the UK from leaving the EU without a deal.

They say a week is a long time in politics. These days it feels like a century.

But it wasn’t all that long ago that Ms Rudd was telling constituents a no-deal Brexit would “do generational damage to our economy and security”.

Screeching U-turns are hardly a new phenomenon, but recently it seems they have taken on a new ferocity. And rarely have words felt so empty.

Theresa May’s infamous slogan “Brexit means Brexit” was so devoid of meaning it was almost a linguistic black hole, sucking everything around it into a swirling vortex of nothingness.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival earlier this week, former Tory leadership hopeful Rory Stewart said politics is currently “defying all the rules of normal life”. The prize now goes “to the person who can make the most extravagant and improbable promise”.

The MP for Penrith and The Border added: “It’s very difficult to land a blow. It’s very difficult, if you were Jeremy Paxman, to ask a killer question six times and actually pin someone down.

“The whole world has become very, very slippery, and I suspect that must be because we’re losing – probably we no longer have a kind of belief in objectivity, belief in truth, belief in authority strong enough for it to matter anymore.

“We seem to live in this sort of strange internet jungle where any number of facts and pieces of information are sort of circulating around.”

He added: “The leader is the person who can produce the most sort of absurd and extravagant fairy tale.”

It’s a bleak picture. An apparent aversion to scrutiny at the highest levels doesn’t help. Both Mr Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have been criticised for a reluctance to submit to proper questioning.

Earlier this week, there were farcical scenes outside the Scotland Office in Edinburgh as journalists gathered to quiz new Scottish Secretary Alister Jack on Mr Johnson’s latest move.

Mr Jack had cancelled a photocall, and reporters were told “previous commitments” meant he simply had no time to talk about the most important political issue of the day. Eventually he emerged, briefly answered questions and was chased back inside by a throng of cameras and microphones.

Delivering the annual James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4’s head of news and current affairs, branded Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn cowards for avoiding scrutiny.

No doubt some will also blame the media for much of our current woes.

But the question remains: how do we talk about politics in an age when words no longer have any weight?