Entertainment Television

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Television review: Brexit doesn't mean Brexit it means Bonkers

* Brexit : The Battle for Britain (BBC2)
* Last Orders with Gay Byrne (RTE1)

Theresa May
Theresa May
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

What happens when a country goes mad? We are being forced to face this question, now that England has gone mad, and drawn the rest of the UK into its vortex of unreason, and drawn us into it too. The madness of Brexit can be demonstrated in many ways, but perhaps the most obvious sign of any kind of madness is when a person or group of people behaves in a way that is utterly out of character and clearly self-destructive.

In this regard we look to the words of the third Marquess of Salisbury who wrote in the late 19th century that "English policy is to float lazily downstream, occasionally putting out a diplomatic boat-hook to avoid collisions".

Indeed this is how we always imagined it, this stately journey, until somehow the balance of the English mind was disturbed, and instead of floating lazily downstream, the boat was plunging towards the rapids like something out of the K1 Canoe Slalom event in Rio.

When a person goes mad, clearly it affects friends and neighbours in various ways, and thus it is with a country, and now we just have to deal with it.

But what the hell do we do? In this field there have been great advances, but mostly these pertain to the condition of the individual, and are not of much use when a whole nation "loses it".

Brexit: The Battle for Britain attempted to analyse the situation, with BBC News political editor Laura Kuenssberg adopting an appropriately grave tone. But she was talking mainly to members of the political class of which she and other such correspondents are an intrinsic part, when in truth the situation has become far too serious to be left to that terribly limited breed.

It needs people with some imagination, people who understand things like culture and history, not the bunch of hacks who got them into this in the first place.

Room-temperature political blather is not going to do this any more. A country has gone mad here, and we need to know if the treatment has already started. We need proper analysis by highly intelligent people of the few days in which the appalling Andrea Leadsom was "taken out", and Theresa May declared that "Brexit means Brexit" - which means nothing.

Was that the start of the process, the shot from the tranquilliser gun to sedate the patient while an appropriate programme of treatment was devised - ideally without the patient knowing much about it?

Was that the moment when shadowy forces went to work to ensure that Brexit will never happen, that England may have gone temporarily mad, but that these unseen powers will sort it out eventually?

No doubt in 10 years time, Laura Kuenssberg will be the first to let us know.


Certainly the descent of the Britons into this very bad place reminds us again of the fragility of our civilisation. Gay Byrne presented Last Orders, looking at the rise and decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland over the last 200 years, and whenever I see Gay Byrne these days, I am reminded of the enormous stroke of luck whereby our leading broadcaster for many years was an implacable enemy of Nationalism.

I wonder what would happened to us if a more, shall we say, gaelic-orientated type had occupied that position, and then I stop wondering because I start to get the shakes. He was the right man too, for this elegiac documentary about Paddy and his deeply troubled relationship with Roman Catholicism, once a force of astonishing power in our little world, much like Great Britain used to be in the actual world - and look at them now.

The tone of this programme was excellent, suffused with a kind of quiet sorrow for the corruption of Man, and particularly of Man when he is given a priestly uniform and a licence to do whatever he wants, not just within reason but without reason and without much chance of being caught.

Unlike the situation which now obtains in Britain, ours was a long slow slide into national insanity, with poor Paddy chained to the twin tormentors of Church and State.

But we're coming out of it now, after about 200 years - some consolation there, for our English readers.

Sunday Independent

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