And there was me expecting Friday’s ‘Newsnight’ to come live from the white cliffs of Dover, whereupon Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris, Nigel and Tommy Robinson were scheduled to link arms at 11.00pm and treat us all to a rousing chorus of ‘Jerusalem’. It didn’t happen. I should imagine our lords and masters across the Channel were poised to give us nul points in the event, but there’s always 12 April. Don’t bank on it. Not tweaked quite enough and still not convincing enough for 344 dishonourable members, it was third time unlucky for Mrs May’s deal earlier in the day and, after a week in which Parliament ‘took control’ from the executive only to prove itself just as inept, the day that should have been the day ended in one more damp squib.
Theresa May’s tactic of dragging this out till the last minute so that the only alternative to her deal is no deal has proven to be as disastrous as all her other tactics. But is anyone really surprised anymore? Few fell for her crass offer of throwing money at deprived communities ‘oop north’; few fell for the carrot of knighthoods and peerages; and few fell for her announcement that she’d quit if her withdrawal agreement passed. Yes, even the ultimate sacrifice that most in her party crave failed to bring in the required numbers. The PM has tried to wheel and deal, but she’s no Harold Wilson.
According to some reports, May is going to try again next week; if it fails, she’ll probably give it another go the week after…and the week after that…and on and on and on until we all take the route recommended by the Reverend Jim Jones. Our Glorious Leader doesn’t yet seem to have realised she’s not running an administration with a vast majority, one that gives her cart-blanche to do what the hell she likes without having to acknowledge any other views in her divided house. I suspect some have attempted to point that out to her, but I’ve a feeling she probably stuck her fingers in her ears and went ‘Blaah blaah blaah blaah.’ I don’t believe a second referendum will resolve this bloody mess, nor do I believe a General Election will; but at the moment, the latter option seems absolutely essential, if only as a political laxative to end Westminster’s constipation and prompt a much-needed evacuation.
I became conscious and aware of the institution of Parliament and the office of Prime Minister perhaps around the time of the two 1974 Elections; kids ask questions, especially when they get a day off school and it’s not a Bank Holiday. Therefore, I’ve lived through quite a few different Governments of different colours over the last 40-odd years and I’ve occasionally done my bit at the polling station. But I can honestly say this staggering shambles that keeps defying the odds by outdoing itself is unprecedented in my lifetime. It simply cannot go on for much longer in its current incarnation, and neither can the Conservative Party with a leader capable of giving IDS a run for his money as its worst ever.
But then what? Looking at the prospective replacements for May feels like swiping through the world’s worst dating app, whereas Corbyn’s frontbench is about as appetising as the ‘reduced’ goods past their sell-by date on a supermarket shelf. Could any of them really do any better? And even if one takes the egos of the worst offenders into account, what madman or woman would really relish stepping into May’s hideous shoes right now? Theresa May won’t be packing up the nation’s troubles in an old kit bag when she exits Downing Street; they’ll all still be here when she’s gone. A General Election won’t magically wave them away, but I suppose it might possibly serve as a de facto referendum in terms of the electorate having their say on how their elected representatives have handled things since the last time the hustings were active. It’s hard to see an imminent General Election as anything else at this moment in time, despite the backlog of other pressing issues that are gathering dust and languishing in a criminal state of neglect.
A friend of mine recently spoke of how he had gradually reduced the amount of time he spends inhabiting the parallel universe of social media and feels all the better for it. Indeed, the more hours in a day one spends within the realms of that facsimile reality, the more one loses touch with the fact that its daily howl barely registers beyond the borders of cyberspace. ‘Are trans-women real women?’ isn’t necessarily the question on the lips of people juggling limited finances and deciding which bill takes priority this month; perhaps those with the luxury of debating trivialities regard them with such importance because they’re not plagued with moribund concerns. The thought that identity politics mean anything to those outside of the context social media junkies operate in is laughable. If one were to take Twitter as a microcosm of the real world then Titania McGrath would be Prime Minister.
While the brilliant spoof account of Titania McGrath satirises detachment via inherited privilege and/or bourgeois metropolitan comfort, one cannot help but see Westminster as a similarly detached bubble – with the significant difference being these living, breathing caricatures are affecting the lives of real people. The actual issues that have had a traumatic impact on the lives of those on the other side of that bubble have barely touched those inside it, hence the absence of empathy and absence of conscience when continuing to inflict them upon the rest of the populace or outsourcing them to some useless private company only in it for the profit. Perhaps empathy would be rated a little higher if the eye-opening experiment Matthew Parris took part in for ‘World in Action’ in the early 80s, living off the minimum benefits his government declared sufficient for living off, was compulsory training for every prospective MP.
The disconnect between elected and electorate that probably dates from the Expenses’ Scandal and Hackgate has only been intensified by Brexit, but the deliberate policy of delaying tactics which all colours have been guilty of seems to demonstrate the political class has learnt nothing from the last ten years. Events of the past week-and-a-bit have done little to alter my opinion of our elected representatives or their celebrity cheerleaders. Much is made of the ERG school of rich Brexiteer; but what of the loudest voices from the other side? Whether residing in the nicer parts of London, the nicer parts of the Home Counties, or simply wealthy ex-pats, these voices are not unlike those of the Hollywood-based Scots that the SNP flew over for the 2014 Independence Referendum, before swiftly depositing them back on Californian soil after the vote so they could avoid paying backdated UK tax. Weariness with endless lectures from wealthy chaps is something both sides of this divide share; but at least it means we’ve got something in common. Maybe we should use it to our advantage.
© The Editor