Saturday 22 October 2016

May promises Brexit, or is it more a threat?

Published 09/10/2016 | 02:30

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan

In Private Eye they ran a satirical piece under the headline declaring that there is "No Major Effect From Brexit So Far".

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It's been a big hit, not just because it is funny, but because to describe it as satirical in the first place is almost an insult to the simple beauty of it.

It goes like this : "The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says its findings that Brexit had so far had little effect on the UK economy are most likely down to the fact that we haven't had Brexit yet.

"Amazingly, the economy is continuing as if we are still at present a member of the European Union and able to trade tariff-free across the 27 member states," said an ONS spokesman.

"This is because until Theresa May invokes Article 50, we are still at present a member of the European Union and able to trade tariff-free across the 27 member states.

"To put in more technical terms, the shit hasn't hit the fan yet, as Theresa May tries to delay turning the fan on for as long as possible."

Those of us who took the view that Theresa May would find a way not to turn on the fan at all were perhaps a tad alarmed last week when she declared at the Tory Party conference that she would in fact be turning it on next March.

But we would also like to point out that, like everything else that is said at Tory Party conferences, this may not turn out to be the cast-iron assurance that it appeared to be at the time.

Indeed like everything that has ever been said by any political leader at any conference or at any event of any kind, it may be subject to a certain amount of revision in the fullness of time - for example it might be subtly amended so that this thing which Theresa May says is going to happen, will not happen at all.

After all, her predecessor David Cameron had absolutely no problem saying one thing and doing a completely different thing - for example, he was always saying that the NHS was a really excellent health service all round, while every day his government devoted enormous energies to the business of destroying it.

It is also possible that by naming a day for the fan to be turned on, by putting herself on the clock when she didn't really need to, May is drawing on the lesson of Dr Johnson who said that "when a man knows he is going to be hanged, it concentrates his mind wonderfully".

Perhaps in consultation with the dark powers of the British establishment, she has decided that the only way to rouse the nation from its appalling stupor, is to say that this Brexit bull**** will actually take place, in real time.

To make what seems like a promise, but is really a threat - indeed the pound obligingly fell again as soon as she had stopped speaking, as if to demonstrate that this thing, if it ever comes to pass, sure as hell will not be pretty.

And yet of course there is always the vague chance that May actually means what she says, in which case, frankly, we are all screwed.

Because what we are looking at then, is the realisation that the sort of people who run Britain and indeed who have always run it, are essentially no good at it any more. That this deep sense of competence which they have always exuded, this highly-developed instinct for knowing where their own best interests lie, has been overthrown by some imbecilic urge towards self-destruction.

The world will have to face the possibility that this most Machiavellian of ruling elites, is no longer even capable of the basics, such as subverting the democratically-expressed will of the people for their own good, or seeing off a bunch of Europhobic nutters who just got lucky by putting out the right lies at the right time.

But the world can look after itself. It is Paddy who is in the biggest trouble here, not just financially but psychologically and sociologically and every which way but loose.

For a long time now, that aura of capability which radiated from John Bull, has enabled us to simply pass many of our problems on to him, all that embarrassing stuff like emigration and abortion, all those truths that we just can't handle.

For so many years, Paddy has been showing up with John Bull to these major events, sitting down in the same booth, then throwing the keys across the table to him and saying, "You're driving tonight, mate."

Then we can embark on some 36-hour jag, knowing that we are free from the scourge of reality, that John Bull is looking after all that boring rubbish. We hardly know any other way to be carrying on, and until recently at least, neither has he.

Then one night Paddy shows up, thinking he'll get the usual ride home, sits himself down and there's John Bull at the table asleep, with his face in the soup.

That is the deeply unsettling vision we are looking at now, if we choose to believe that Britain is really going for Brexit.

So Paddy can only keep hoping that, for some reason which will eventually become clear, John Bull is just pretending to be asleep.

Sunday Independent

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