Everyone in the entire world, and by the entire world I mean England, is either very very happy or very very sad. They are feeling this way because our Prime Minister has finally talked about Brexit in a way that has gone beyond simply repeating the word, or assigning it arbitrary colours.
The Daily Mail fall into the very, very happy camp. Look how happy there are:
I’m assuming this front page is a brilliant satire of the inside of a Mail readers brain – it’s got Theresa literally stamping one of her kitten heels (*sexy) on an EU flag whilst standing on the white cliffs of Dover and sporting a suit that looks like she’s auditioning for a bit part in Tron. For bonus points they’ve drawn her standing in that bizarre big-balls power stance that Tory politicians love. The text is some standard headbanging fantasy about how, now the Iron Lady has returned, she’s going to serve up EU pooftahs a crisp knuckle sandwich, and they’ll thank us for the privilege like the snivelling yellow surrender monkeys we know they are. Conversely the German's felt a little different:
Having listened to Theresa May’s Brexit speech, full as it is of manic stuff about how we’re going to take our ball and fuck off if we don’t get our way (which is the best way to open the most complex economic and political negotiations of modern times, especially if your plan is to be hated by everyone), in theory I should be perturbed as to what the future holds for the UK. Like every single one of you reading this (except insert name of well-known house DJ who’s a total Kipper) I’m pretty much the textbook definition of a limp wristed, Europhile metropolitan liberal. I write for the Guardian, I’m about to have a falafel wrap for lunch, I think Strictly Come Dancing is a filthy stain on culture, my babymother is an immigrant, I recently had a serious conversation about the radical roots of the Woodcraft Folk, and one time I snogged a man. And I liked it. Right now, I should be shitting it. We’re leaving the free market! They’re going to stop me from going to Berlin! Houmous will rocket!
But luckily I – and by proxy you as well dear reader- don’t need to worry too much about anything Theresa May says, because whatever she says is quite liable to be completely false.
This is all part of this weird game the current crop of Tories have invented; they compete to see who can say the snidest policies possible designed with one criteria in mind, does it give Katie Hopkins a hard on? If it’s a yes, SAY IT RIGHT NOW.
It’s a game that has seen maniacs like David Davies suggesting we should x-ray refugee children’s teeth to prove they’re not 19, or Amber Rudd insisting that employers should declare what furrrners they have on the books, or George Osborne announcing that he’s going to introduce austerity measures that have zero basis in economic theory, but will definitely fuck up some poor people. None of this hugely unpleasant and potentially country crippling stuff happens, but for a moment the frothing loons are placated. Inevitably something moderately shit happens (bedroom tax, general austerity, a refusal to take anything but the barest minimum of immigrants), but the real slash and burn mania is left to gently fade away. Brexit is the big aberration here, but I think that was just because Cameron was so cack-handed at playing the game – he said the craziest thing he could (hey people! Vote to say something something something EU!) convinced anything he said was at all times reversible. He mugged that one right up.
But it’s understandable he’d chance it – he only need to look at Osborne’s record to believe that a politician has no responsibility to see through his promises, no matter how wild or unlikely they are. Remember when Gideon was saying it would be an unacceptable disaster if Britain lost it’s AAA credit rating, and his policies were the only way to avoid that? The rating was stripped, Osborne remained, his party was returned with a majority. A few years later he laid out a series of three fiscal rules, then broke two of them (debt increased as a percentage of GDP, and the welfare spending never reached his proclaimed cap) within the same electoral cycle. Still, he somehow kept a job that he had repeatedly proved completely incapable of doing on his own terms.
With this gung-ho Hard Brexit dambusters shite, May’s just getting in on the act. She’s safe in the knowledge that as long as she says things that make life in England sound like a rubbish inbred dystopia, the press will get merrily onboard. And, on recent form, it would appear that once the press are onboard, the electorate – at very least the right wing voting electorate- doesn’t care how many times they are fed a lie. Sorry, I meant a post-truth. When she pulls a screeching u-turn on hard Brexit, as she has openly and quite brazenly u-turned on her own pre-Brexit pro-EU stance, she’s hedging her bets that no one will be bothered enough to vote her out of power. She’s a barely sketched creature of flimsy paper, clinging on to power and buffeted by the wind of public opinion. This Hard Brexit speech wasn’t strong leadership, it was the craven appeasement of someone who will say anything and mean nothing.
So here’s where we’re at. The government have such a cynical appraisal of the electorate that they can accurately gamble that it’s better to paint policy in broad stupid brush strokes than offer anything approaching nuance. I’m tempted to say that this is in part due to the shrill polarised world social media has placed us in where everything is either a J or a L. To illustrate this, when Corbyn – who’s hopelessness at playing politics is either the best or worst thing about him- suggested he was 7 out of 10 in favour of staying in the EU, he was eviscerated in the left and right wing press alike. Because WE WANT A TEN OR WE WANT A ZERO you BEARDED PRICK! NO ONE USES THE NUMBERS INBETWEEN! What Corb’s has failed to grasp – and what right wing wrong un’s around the world have grasped so well – is that subtlety has left the building. Better off tell outrageous porkies, because no one believes in anything except the right to be outraged/ entertained. We’re in the age of cynicism and who knows how low it goes. Nothing counts, say whatever shite you like. Elect me and we’ll ban the hordes of Islamic fundamentals planning on infiltrating our children’s minds via snapchat! Elect him and he’ll ban Winston Churchill, Marmite, big tits and parallel parking!
We probably need some sort of en masse factory reset, a return to people believing in something, rather than this endless cynical shrug of ‘what can you do?’ How and where we get there? Right now I haven’t a clue, but til we work that out, hold tight for a hazy world of nonsense.