The Blog

What Kind of Week Has It Been? 8 July 2016


So, how've you been enjoying What-The-Fuck-apalooza? The fallout from the Brexit referendum - the most profoundly, uncomfortably, historically momentous series of events I've ever witnessed - coincided with Glastonbury, and I do feel like the world has become like a festival from hell: waking up disoriented in a location you don't recognise, ground underneath you getting increasingly unsure and mucky, people getting leery and ignorant because they think their intoxication justifies and exonerates them, and the overall feeling of just wanting to go home. And to make matters worse, the guy who suggested you go there in the first place pissed off early, and the folks you've entrusted with the sleeping arrangements don't have any, despite repeated assurances they had lots of tents.

Then there's the acts on display: Boris Johnson is politics' answer to George Michael, wantonly crashing his Number 10 bandwagon into the Snappy Snaps of our future. His guilty feet had so little rhythm that Michael Gove, a man who struggles with clapping, was able to wrongfoot him and choreograph the takedown of the century. Because of the kind of student union manoeuvres most of us tire of by our first rag week, it looks likely the next Prime Minister will be Theresa May, very much the Coldplay of politics. Though it may cost you about 35 grand for a ticket. Thank heavens Ken Clarke, good jazz fan that he is, was on hand with a pitch-perfect, off-the-cuff riff to up the gaiety of the nation.

Meanwhile Labour are doing their best Fleetwood Mac impression, bitter recrimination tearing them apart and making the phrase "Shadow Cabinet" painfully literal. Jeremy Corbyn especially is starting to look more and more like Mick Fleetwood at the Brit Awards, haplessly losing a little more of his audience with every miscue. At this point, it's genuinely difficult to figure out if Corbyn can't run a piss up in a brewery or if his party are just stubbornly refusing to have a drink with him. At any rate, if this standoff carries on any longer, Angela Eagle will have no choice but to write a strongly worded letter...maybe...any minute now...

Then of course there's Nigel Farage, a chancer of Milli Vanilli proportions, who spent a week artlessly slagging off continental types before pissing off just when he may have some use, like a cross between Nanny McPhee and Bernard Manning. Of course it's too much like wishful thinking to believe he's actually gone: he's resolved to stick it to the man by staying a full 20 years in the European Parliament, just to show those career politicians how it's done.

Such bum notes were the inspiration for the March For Europe last Saturday, where a tens of thousands-strong coalition of the young and the restless staged a kind of Waitrose Revolution in central London to reassert themselves and their love of the EU, make sense of what just happened and wonder why this groundswell of Eurolove didn't happen earlier. Even Bob Geldof, the patron saint of benefit concerts showed up, as did an array of musicians' lyrics on placards. Not that everybody was happy with the idea of a march: MEP and greatest Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston never had Daniel Hannan gave a typically gentle and rhetorically convincing reminder that the Leave side achieved the biggest single mandate for anything in UK democratic history. Many others suggested the whole thing was sour grapes, which is nonsense as the proliferation of fine continental wine is exactly the kind of thing Remainers are deeply in favour of.

While some Leavers seem to have mistaken "democracy" with "a fight to the death at the top of a mountain", it would indeed be reckless to disrespect the size of their vote share or the conviction of many Leave voters. Many of them have been openly disrespected by the political class for years, or taken for granted by parties who consider their support such a given they've not realised how faded the colour on their rosettes have become. But it would be just as reckless to ignore those yanked out of a system they actually quite like with no plan for how to proceed. Or just as reckless to ignore the massive swathes of young people, Londoners, Mancunians, Scousers, Geordies, Scots and Ulsterfolk who voted Remain. Or just as reckless to ignore the significant regret from a good contingent of Leave voters. Or just as reckless to ignore the people deeply concerned or directly affected by the disturbing spike in xenophobia. Or just as reckless to ignore the people dismayed the bar for leaving wasn't higher, like a 60% threshold or a quorum of half of the eligible voting population, or who never wanted the damn thing brought in the first place by a Prime Minister who will now surely go down as the most disastrous since Lord North allowed USA-xit to happen. Or just as reckless to ignore that the main architects of the whole imbroglio have fled the scene, like teenagers desperate to not to be implicated in their mate's ill-fated NekNomination and subsequent stomach pumping. I mean, what else is there to do? Sign a petition?

As if Billy Joel didn't have enough material from the last fortnight to write an extra verse of We Didn't Start The Fire, this week also saw the release of the Chilcot report into the Iraq war. It took nearly a decade, and yet I get the impression Sir John still needed a six pack of Monster the night before to finish. It confirms what many people already suspected - that Labour's policy to Iraq was literally "Shoot now, ask questions later", and that in the haste for ousting Saddam all manner of attempts for peaceful resolution went out the window, and their soldiers were tragically ill-equipped. That systemic lack of preparedness sadly endures: the UK government had no plan beyond invasion and no plan to assuage the tumult of regime change, just as they had no plan to make Libya a viable nation beyond the assassination of Gaddafi, which fatally undermined the effort to take on the malevolence of Assad in Syria. The lack of a plan to constructively stop the horror their earlier lack of plan has wrought, compounded the lack of a plan to facilitate the people fleeing Syria and Libya, led to the escalation of tension around Europe's boundaries that was such a boon to anti EU campaigners, who were so surprised to win they...didn't have a plan. To paraphrase Gladstone: no matter who's in office, the unprepared are in power.

It's possible that next week's news will revert to a steady boredom, but I wouldn't hold my breath. For my money the next big story will be Scotland, NI, and Ireland amalgamating within the EU. It makes perfect sense when you think about it: Scotland joining the Euro won't be as bad as everyone imagines because their money already looks weird and isn't accepted in London, while lots of Irish discos still end with The Proclaimers' 500 Miles. Now there's a knees up I can get behind.

Before You Go