Brexit reminds me of the worst breakup I ever had

As Brexit continues to confound the intellect and rouse the lowest of emotions, I’ve realised it’s a perfect metaphor for the worst breakup I ever had. I probably shouldn’t single out Donald Tusk’s fairly equivocal rejection of Theresa May’s bespoke divorce fantasy. Eleven years on, almost every hopeless compromise reminds me of those dark days: arriving late at Jimmy’s World of Food and having to make do with the dregs from lukewarm tureens; failing to get my favourite seat in the cinema, so ploughing on in an isle exposed, end-of-row position, vulnerable to latecomers and anti-piracy sweeps from gormless ushers; not being able to afford a house with character in a desirable location, so having to settle for a part-owned, clinical white shell made of plasterboard and brick veneer, facing onto a communal garden occupied by borstal rejects on Tartrazine benders. Still, of all life’s grim realities, our exit from the EU works best.

In this pseudo-comic conceit I, of course, am the EU and my former partner, we’ll call her Boudicca, is the United Kingdom of England and Wales. I wanted to stay together, imagining our mutual interest and long-term prosperity was best served by ever-closer union. But for Boudicca, our relationship, originally founded on a student basis, the psychosexual equivalent of the Common Market, had mutated to involve too many compromises, too much syphoning off of independence, and consequently it had become a shackle. We were just too different, she said, and besides, she wanted to do a free trade deal with the United States.

In dumping me, even the good parts; a referendum involving a single voter – her – in which she campaigned ferociously, lest she talk herself out of it; she’d unilaterally signalled her intent to diverge. There’d been eight years of emotional and temperamental alignment but that, whatever the platitudinous bullshit offered, could not continue. This meant, as the body forced to deal with the consequences, I’d have to try and salvage my happiness and dignity, the equivalent of keeping the EU together, while sending a very clear signal to myself that I could not be vulnerable to a capricious woman’s sociopathy in future, i.e. protecting what remained of me from further ruinous breakups.

Initial negotiations were difficult. Boudicca wanted to retain some of the benefits of our relationship – a casual and friendly association with some family members – “tell them I’m thinking of them”, a social media connection to an old friend living in the US, and permission to ring me on occasion when drunk, bored and sentimental. However, I was adamant; one couldn’t simply cherry pick the benefits of union.

Consigning me to life’s fly tip meant giving up the friendship we, (well, I), had enjoyed. Anyone I’d designated friend or relative, though definitions in both cases were stretched, was part of the same awful package and could not be courted separately. And when it came to plugging rare moments of loneliness, not nearly tinged enough with regret for my liking, some other poor bastard would have to chunter on the phone in my place. As Boudicca saw me as an interchangeable archetypal phalloid, who could and would be replaced in the fullness of time, rather than an irreplaceable person in my own right, this seemed reasonable.

Edxit meant Edxit.

Theresa May didn’t want Brexit, because the EU was a comfortable and understood entity, that though imperfect, made life (relatively) simple. But lumbered with the referendum and fearful of the ultra-Brexiteers who swarm beneath her bed like clothes moths in a warm, airless room, she’s had to openly confront everything she dislikes about the Union while patronising, sorry, flattering the grievously offended block to salvage the rest. From the EU’s point of view she’s Boudicca, and like me following Boudicca’s departure, the only way the EU can survive and rebuild its strength is by drawing a line underneath the whole tragic spectacle and moving on.

Like me, all those years ago, they don’t want to do it. Tusk, Verhofstadt and Barnier think we’re crazy but have little choice but to live with the decision to leave and rally the troops to protect their interests. Like me, during those terrible weeks, months and years, they hope their former partner will wise up and employ the nostalgia they clung to in all other areas in service to intimacy once shared. But deep down, as I was ultimately forced to admit, both to myself and others, divergence means profound differences emerging over time. That fork in the road doesn’t lead back to the old path, just a dark and foreboding lane, traipsed by pub bores and provincial xenophobes.

Tusk knows, though he hates it, that the dream is over and it must be polite conversation and the occasional e-mail from now on. For Theresa May, the reality of what Brexit really means is only now beginning to crown. She’s going to have to go out there and befriend less committed, more predatory partners, perhaps finally settling for some comfortable but unfulfilling coalition with the state equivalent of a feckless porcine fantasist, addled by misogyny and alcoholism, brandishing a shrivelled chode.


Late Election Special: Theresa May

Between you and I, I’m very worried about Theresa May. The Prime Minister’s election campaign, that resulted in the legacy annulling, reputation destroying constitutional calamity of a hung parliament, might be the greatest act of political self-harm in decades. Not since Ted Heath dared the nation to match his sense of self-importance and gift him more seats, despite already having a working majority, has an incumbent Premier murdered their party’s prospects with such abandon. Wasteful? Disgraceful? John Rentoul? You better believe it. The 2017 election was worse than a defeat for the Tories; they now face the prospect of having to navigate the most turbulent political waters since the Second World War with no majority, no authority and no idea what to do next.

The conscious part of May’s mind might have hoped for a landslide but it’s now clear that her unconscious badly wanted to lose the election. One can imagine her having dreams in which Tory bodies were loaded onto carts and dumped on kindling, the ashen faced PM watching quietly as the thick plume from consumed futures billowed toward Brussels. This was a death drive election; the kind of campaign someone fronts when they’ve lost all connection with the human race and hope for deliverance. Desolate Tories will ask why their copper, verdigris-tinged talisman didn’t just go on a stabbing spree and wait for armed police.

May spent the campaign aloof and miserable, vexed by its absurd demands, namely that she interact with samples of those she presumed to represent, and sell them some sort of coherent vision for the future, consisting of more than long pauses, sharp intakes of breath and stolid phrase making. Brexit, she thought, would absent her from those outmoded expectations. What did the people need to know, other than she’d be fighting the good fight, the proxy for formally disenfranchised working class voters with whom she had nothing in common? She’d pre-fought the campaign she believed, circumventing its tricky complications. And a good job too – she hated people. Can you imagine having to justify yourself to such an ignorant bunch of bastards for seven weeks? Seven weeks?! That’s nearly a gutful.

Calls for the PM to explain herself to the man and the woman in the street (“cunts”, lest me forget, according to Sid Vicious), must have fed Theresa’s sub-conscious realisation that she was the wrong person, in the wrong party, vying for the wrong job. A prisoner of childhood indoctrination and social background – the Vicar’s daughter, a provincial non-entity, she naturally gravitated toward the Conservatives, a party that vouchsafed her aspic frozen, closed worldview. But interaction with its grass roots and election to its parliamentary ranks, lead to the accruing of doubt. This was mind sediment. And as it built, layer on layer, May started to feel its weight in her skull. One could see the tension in her face and neck muscles.

When she famously warned the Conservative conference they were thought of as “the nasty party”, something that had never seriously occurred to any ideological Tory, she inadvertently gifted a soundbite to the party’s enemies, the stock of which rose year on year. Many Tories never forgave the slight, nor the imposition of reality, but this bold observation was the first sign of May’s self-loathing and closet desire to have that hatred validated and reinforced by her colleagues.

Despite this, May’s burning ambition, tethered to fragile self-worth, the thread no more than a hair’s width, compelled her to rise in the ranks and in the early months of the year, seek a personal mandate. Her majority belonged to David Cameron after all, and she owed her crown to his mistakes. The public would have to be involved, worst luck, because without them she’d be an accidental Prime Minister in the eyes of her elected European counterparts, and a fraud when pitted against insufferable opposition like the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Salmond or something – a sanctimonious browbeater with nation leading pretensions.

As ever in politics, it’s not the cynicism that kills you, it’s your inability to hide it. Opposition parties dutifully, strategically, pointed out that May had timed the triggering of Article 50 to lock in Leave voters and boost her personal standing. Had May called the election in the national interest as she claimed, she’d surely have done it before we were tied to Brexit, thereby gifting us the chance to get out of it. But to do that would throw away the opportunity to consolidate the Tory vote – realigning the right, as well as the chance to command a reluctant consensus. No party with ambitions to govern dared run on a remain ticket, and Tory commitment to seeing separation through to the bitter end, staying in the car until it filled with carbon monoxide, seemed the most robust.

If May had been a consummate media performer, exuding a warmth and wit that cut across all groups, she might easily have convinced people that conferring greater power on her was a strong and stable idea. Unfortunately, when charged with wasting voters’ time and attempting to gerrymander the House of Commons in her favour, striking while Labour doddered and stuttered under a bewildered looking Jeremy Corbyn, she chose to hide from her accusers, instead opting to talk to handfuls of handpicked ballot botherers, rather than directly to unfiltered millions on television and radio.

When her manifesto was published, highly anticipated by hopeful right-wing hacks who dared to dream of its riches, the suspicions of many voters, that she’d gone to the country with no fucking idea what to do when re-elected, perhaps because part of her dared not contemplate victory, was confirmed. The wretched document, rather than reading like a great work of economics and philosophy, proved empty, bar a bold commitment to force the grieving families of recently deceased parents to sell the family home to pay the old man or woman’s social care bill.

Forcing asset rich clans to stump up, challenging the inviolability of inherited wealth – the idea that you should get a free house because a relative worked and paid for it, was a work of agitation worthy of an original thinker. Naturally, the public hated it. There aren’t many legitimate get rich quick schemes out there.

So May’s calculations were scrawled on a giant white board and displayed for all the nation to see. And let’s be clear – a part of her, the dominant part, wanted us to see them. Unable to communicate and incapable of selling herself as a visionary, Theresa fulfilled her destiny, a path she’d forged in dreams, off-the-cuff asides and rhetoric belying actions. She went to the country asking for its verdict and sure enough it came, as clear and brutal as feared.

Self-harmers know they’ll be pain. You can’t cut into your own flesh and not suffer. But what they’re really doing is asking for delivery from torment – help from their better adjusted, happier peers. The public have told Theresa what to do. Leave politics and be happy. The only question that remains is whether she has the strength to take their advice.

Yes, I’m worried about Theresa May and I hope she finds peace very soon.

Tomorrow: Jeremy Corbyn

Published in: on June 10, 2017 at 13:33  Leave a Comment  
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High Court rules “Thinking Allowed” in Brexit debate, Press Appalled.


It’s official, Britain’s now a country suspicious of nuanced argument – a post-fact society. The High Court’s ruling on triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the starting gun for our exit from the EU, has caused moral outrage in the popular press. The judiciary dared to side with a concerned (and whisper it quietly, educated) citizen, Gina Miller, respecting the efforts of her and her lawyers to understand and interpret the law of the land. Contrast this with the increasingly belligerent and thought terminating mass of Leave voters; 17.4 million, who, just like the SNP in Scotland, now presume to speak for all of the people, just as I’ve presumed to speak for all of them.

The Mail was one of many rags incandescent that Miller, born in Guyana, which isn’t even in Britain, if you can believe the fucking cheek of it, had dared to challenge the Prime Minister’s naked attempt at political sleight of hand. May, with a wink and a grin, argued the referendum result gave her the authority to bypass Parliament and trigger the treaty’s get out clause, using enabling powers wrestled from the Crown; you know, the lever the Monarch used to pull when enacting God’s Will, that most divine instrument of mass democracy.

But as our terminal rights as EU citizens are guaranteed by an act of parliament, namely the 1972 European Communities Act, one can’t, to paraphrase the great philosopher Sean Bean, simply remove them using the Queen’s authority. You may remember we fought a bloody civil war over principles like this; the idea that Parliament was sovereign, and it should decide, as a law making body, representative of we the people, what we do or don’t enjoy. In fact, the Guardian pointed out that the legal precedent in question stretched back all the way to 1297 and a ruling against Henry IV, who tried to implement a blanket ban on merchants’ rights to work in London.

As UKIP and their ilk love Britain’s illustrious history and traditions (bar its post-war immigration policies), one would think they’d be delighted by this judicial history lesson, and affirmation of Parliamentary supremacy. Yet weirdly, Nigel Farage, Paul Dacre, Rupert Murdoch, and other patriots, saw it as an affront; a finger to the millions who understood, because David Cameron told them so, that their decision would mean an end to all debate on the subject, forever.

That’s right, there’d be no thought, post-referendum; no scrutiny, and certainly no changing of minds, which once upon a time was considered a sign of rude intellectual health. The 16.1m who voted to remain were expected to return to their lattes, gym memberships and Scandinavian boxsets, and close their blow holes. And that went double for their MPs.

You might think it healthy that Miller and her fellow campaigners, some of whom voted for Brexit, cared enough about our constitution to challenge May’s hijacking of Parliament. After all, how many people do you know understand that Bagehot isn’t an urban word meaning “great tits”?  How many pub Brexiters, knocking back a pint of dirty pipes and whining about their Columbian Doctor, have ever taken an independent interest in our great institutions of state?

Miller et al. fought for the principle that now the public’s made its light touch contribution, subjecting that simple, school leaver’s in/out choice to variable levels of scrutiny and understanding, our elected representatives should earn their salaries and thoroughly debate the terms of our departure, crucially reserving the right to vote against it if they didn’t like the direction of travel.

An affront to direct democracy, you say? Well, that’s the problem with referendums isn’t it? They only signal the destination, not the journey. That’s fine if the question is something elementary like choosing a voting system or changing the currency, but leaving the EU is an absurdly complicated business, impacting on every aspect of British life; it touches all our institutions, our economy, our culture, our rights. May, in effect, was saying, “I understand it’s complicated, but we’ve taken our instruction from those who at best were misinformed, at worst, driven by factors that had nothing to do with the cases presented in the campaign, and despite our contempt for these people and our belief that the subtleties of the argument are lost to many of them, we’re going to shamelessly appropriate that vote, recast it as moral authority, and use it to bypass those who would subject our approach to proper scrutiny. In short, the brain trust comprised of me, Liam Fox, David Davis and Boris Johnson – a man who actually invoked the Titanic when talking about our successes to come, are handling it. Now go back to sleep and we’ll see you in 2020.”

No one wants Brexit scrutinised, or even debated, least of all Nigel Farage and his retinue, because they quite rightly fear the consequences. You see, it’s just possible that when the terms of our exit are suggested and washed through the parliamentary system, subject to debate, legal opinions, upper house scrutiny, amendments, more debate, more thought, further amendments, more scrutiny, and so on, it may start to look somewhat problematic. It’s even possible that the public, as the reality dawns on them, may start to look at the problem more closely, demanding a general election to have a further right of reply.

Naturally, the “winners” in the Brexit debate are desperate that this doesn’t happen; that docility reigns. Consequently, the Europhobe press, who continue to write for those with a reading age of 11, have moved with rapidity and the panic dial set to the same figure, to quash their invitation to look again, before it gains troublesome momentum. Farage’s sheep, and their media apologists, want to keep it simple, because this both flatters their intellectually wanting conception of the issue, and remains their best chance of achieving a dream built on a boorish identity under threat.

Brexit’s disingenuous intellectuals, who’ve always known that their best chance of achieving a cultural and politically favourable nirvana was to appeal to the laziest instincts of the people, while burying the root causes of their discontentment, have declared war on argument and by extension, fact. The devil’s always been in the detail, but in our new post-fact culture, there’s a sinister new development. The devil’s now committed to denying the detail – neutralising nuance, terminating thought. Lucky for us that Gina Miller cared enough to use her own money to challenge that strategy. Thinking’s won its first post-referendum victory. Let’s hope it’s not the last, for the road ahead is so very long.

Published in: on November 4, 2016 at 15:16  Comments (1)  
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