A friend of mine once…hello, by the way. Been a while – well, a month. Sorry, where was I? Ah, yes – a friend of mine once saw Morrissey live at a festival. Said friend was on acid at the time and told me afterwards he imagined he was seeing Elvis in Vegas. Proof that an altered state of mind can manipulate one’s perception no end, I guess. A bit like when I watched Jeremy Corbyn’s conference speech the other week on TV; I was pissed at the time – yes, in the early afternoon; hey, ho – what a dismally decadent life I lead; and the speech sounded like an oratorical masterpiece. Okay, so it was alright as conference speeches go, just not ‘I have a dream’. Intoxication may also have enabled me to overlook the toe-curlingly opportunistic and utterly meaningless (to the electorate) spectacle of Palestinian flags in the hall, not to mention the motley collective of cretins that comprises Jezza’s shadow cabinet applauding every box-ticking platitude. A week later, it was the dancing queen herself, Motherfucker Theresa’s turn; and I was sober. It wasn’t the same.
At one time, conference coverage was an aberration in the admirable vacuum of the daytime TV schedule. Long before Britain’s slavish worship of the worst American attributes infected the broadcast medium and television became something that spanned twenty-four mediocre hours, annual party conferences and their unprecedented live transmission shoving the test card aside were events even the most politically apathetic tuned into. It was something to watch! Yes, it was mostly boring, but so were Open University lectures. But we still watched them because there was nothing else on. Now there’s something on all the time and conference coverage has lost its novelty. It’s so slick now that it’s not even as boring as the rest of the shit on all the other channels anymore, which is a shame.
Unfortunately, as happened during the last General Election, the shadow of Brexit obscured everything else at the party conferences. It does feel as if both the worst frothing-at-the-mouth Brexiteers and the more sanctimonious Remoaners have kept the topic on the front page of everyone’s lives at the expense of serious social issues that have long needed urgent attention. The fact that the people actually had their vote two and-a-half years ago appears to have eluded the deluded losers who didn’t get the result they wanted. Personally, I’d still quite like a replay of the 1975 European Cup Final, but I’ve reluctantly accepted the final score now. How anyone can look at the vicious divisions the 2016 Referendum opened up and imagine doing it all over again will in any way ‘heal the nation’ clearly suffers from the same symptoms of denial as that despicable paragon of selectivity, Alastair Campbell.
Those eager to rejoin a club that undoubtedly views uppity Britain with such superior contempt for having the temerity to leave it make this country resemble a battered wife desperate to get back with her abusive husband because her self-esteem is so low she can no longer function without returning to what she has been brainwashed into believing is her proper station in life. Even those who voted Remain on the simple basis of ‘better the devil you know’ must have had their eyes belatedly opened by the behaviour of the Brussels bully boys in recent months. Granted, some of the most enthusiastic (not to say wealthy) Europhobes are motivated by their own peculiarly fanatical obsession, but the equally selfish self-interest of dishonourable members determined to overturn democracy in the name of democracy can only have diminished the standing of Westminster further as well as strengthening the Leave argument. Yes, a second referendum is precisely the tonic this troubled nation clearly needs.
Maybe there is salvation, however, for Our Glorious Leader last week announced we have a rerun of the Festival of Britain to look forward to! The Festival of Brexit? That’ll sort it all out. The unveiling of the Millennium Dome back on New Year’s Day 2000 proposed a similarly over-optimistic aim; almost 20 years later the Dome itself has become just another impersonal music venue named after a corporation – imagine if that pernicious trend applied to people: ‘I baptise this child Vodafone Smith’ – though I suspect a vicar’s daughter would rather associate her glorified village fête with the two more illustrious precedents. These are, of course, the 1951 jamboree and the one it marked the centenary of, the Great Exhibition. Yet, there’s a crucial difference.
The Great Exhibition of 1851 was rooted very much in the here and now, celebrating the nation’s contemporary industrial supremacy, whereas the Festival of Britain was imagining an exciting post-war future with its Dan Dare-like edifices such as the Skylon. Whatever ghastly shape this Tory idea of state-sanctioned ‘fun’ will take is doomed to echo the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. The 2012 event was an expertly staged piece of heritage theatre, celebrating past glories in spectacular style; as we have even less to look forward to now than we did then it’s inevitable we’re going to end up with another chocolate box for fat American tourists. After all, unless the centrepiece of the celebration entails Meghan Markle waving a rainbow flag to start a mass moped race of obese, knife-wielding trans-hoodies, choreographed by Banksy and set to the strains of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ (featuring a rap from Stormzy), it’s hardly likely to wallow in the present day.
True, the opportunities for merchandise are mouth-watering. Stab vests and burqas in Union Jack colours; Grenfell Tower paperweights; toy Tasers; bottles of acid with a picture of Little Prince George on the front; inflatable safe spaces; armed police action figures; Stormont doll’s houses with no dolls inside; a clockwork robot-dancing Mrs May; the Oligarch & Saudi edition of Monopoly in which the aim is to buy up every piece of land in central London to build a luxury apartment block upon. Well, according to reports, £120 million will be set aside for this celebration of ‘culture, sports and innovation’ – and here’s me thinking that extra cash was being saved for the NHS. The current schedule is for the intended date of 2022, which has also been earmarked for the next General Election as well as Brenda’s Platinum Jubilee; it seems all three are rooted in shaky optimism from the vantage point of 2018. And who the hell can look that far ahead, anyway? Not me, mate.
© The Editor