Remember ‘Boaty McBoatface’? The previous shining example of the will of the people being left to its own devices and conspiring only to make a complete arse of itself. Imagine RRS ‘BoatyMcBoatFace’ hitting an iceberg (not hard, it’s an icebreaker) and, as the vessel flounders, its orchestra gathering on deck not to provide relief and comfort, but to argue about what they should play as they all go down into the void. That is what the Brexit television debate threatens to become.
I absolutely cannot see the point. It will feature the Prime Minister on one side, a lady who voted Remain but has been forced by her party and ambition to masquerade as a Leaver, promoting a deal that is so dead it may as well be in the Egyptian section of the British Museum, let alone a parrot cage. At this juncture, Mrs. May reminds me of Eddie the Eagle. She imagines herself soaring over these difficulties, she wills us to believe it can be done and yet everyone knows she is going to hurtle down that ramp, launch herself into the sky and crash land in a tangle of debris. If she manages to stand uninjured at the end of things that will be about the best she could have hoped for. And it’s all the more ironic because the British normally love and worship heroic failure. At any other time, Theresa May would be praised to the rafters for her doomed stand. No wonder we’re all so bleedin’ confused.
Meanwhile, there stands Jeremy Corbyn on the other side, the Prime Minister’s evil twin. She is a Remainer who has been held hostage by Leavers, he’s a man who almost certainly voted in favour of Brexit but has been dragged to the Remain camp by the very grassroots membership that enthroned him as leader. Rarely has the phrase ‘hoist by your own petard’ seemed so appropriate. Further complicating the Labour leader’s calculations is the fact that many of the middle-class, professional, university educated voters he needs to win power in a General Election voted Remain, whereas in the Labour heartlands, with a few exceptions, the working classes voted for Leave in a big way. Corbyn has contributed so little to the Brexit debate thus far that it’s hard to see what difference giving him an hour of primetime TV would make. He reminds me of Prince Philip (a phrase I never thought I would use to describe Jeremy Corbyn) in that whenever he does make comment, it’s always the wrong thing and other members of the family have to run around explaining that “he doesn’t really mean it the way it sounded”!
One thing that Prince Philip has been successful at in recent times, however, is retiring from public life. How I wish Jacob Rees Mogg would take a leaf from the Duke of Edinburgh. The main problem that I have with the debate is the idea that once again Brexiteers will be able to claim a huge audience for their bogus, irresponsible and discredited arguments, freed from any responsibility for actually trying to make them stick. Brexit has become like climate change denial, or a runaway train, something you cling to the face of looming disaster long after everyone else has jumped. Why should someone like Rees Mogg or Nigel Farage be given a platform to continue to spout their “have cake and eat it” nonsense? Their side had two and half years to make this work. David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson were respectively ministers for Brexit, Trade and Foreign Secretary with awesome power to put detail behind ‘Brexit means Brexit’. If the mantra of Brexit is ‘taking back control’, nobody had more control than those three men and they stank worse than a bad X Factor audition. The only alternative Brexit to the PM’s crap deal is the even more horrendously crap No Deal, which nobody apart from the fanatics wants. So now that someone else has had to rescue you from the horse turd left by your own disastrous incompetence (not that she’s getting very far because of your vicious ungratefulness), please do us all a favour and kindly fuck off (as Prince Philip would say).
Who else will be on the deck of the doomed ‘Boaty McBoatface’? The First Ministers from the Welsh, Irish and Scottish assemblies should be invited but won’t be because everyone knows that Brexit doesn’t mean Brexit, it means England.
Then there’s the People’s Vote team, who, for different reasons, are both as popular as shit on a flip flop with the two main parties. I can’t see it happening even though Brexit MPs are now crowing about voting down the PM’s deal in the very same meaningful vote in Parliament that Gina Miller secured. You remember that, don’t you? It’s the occasion when the ‘Daily Mail’ branded the Supreme Court the “enemy of the people” and the same Brexit MPs were huffing about Ms. Miller being tried for treason. At this point, irony may as well pack up and go home because nobody is going to take it seriously any more, just like nobody should take Peter Bone seriously.
Speaking of which, some people have even been romanticising that Tony Blair might make the case. They may have a point. If there is one man who could reunite the entire country, it’s the former Prime Minister, but only because everyone hates him. I have to concede, however, that the suggestion does have an elegant symmetry about it. What if the man whose chief legacy is that it has become perfectly acceptable to lie and misrepresent facts for your own political purpose was to redeem Britain from the consequences of people lying and misrepresenting facts? It would be right up there with other second comings such as those of Jesus or Led Zeppelin at the O2. Blair is certainly a different class of communicator compared to the Prime Minister or Jeremy Corbyn, however, to the extent that even if he *was* Jesus, he still wouldn’t get an invite. He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.
Which brings me back to where I started. As it stands, this debate won’t solve anything. It will be like watching the Judean People’s Front go head to head with the People’s Front of Judea. There has to be a genuine presentation of opposing views for the event to mean something and as it stands, there won’t be. If the last two years have proven anything it’s that the country is too splintered over Brexit for politicians to be able to make their decisions along traditional lines. The chaos in Parliament, with rebels on both left and right, shows how destabilising this has become. It was a people’s vote that started this. Only a people’s vote can finish it. We should be given the option to vote for the Deal, for No Deal, for Remain and, whilst we’re there, to abolish referenda as a means of making political decisions unless a 75% majority prevails.
Meanwhile, ‘Boaty McBoatface’, now renamed RRS ‘David Attenborough’ (in honour of the man whose calm, reassuring expertise has informed the nation for the last fifty years, proving that people actually do quite like experts) will sail through the rough Antarctic seas, doing ground breaking scientific research and playing a crucial role in helping us understand the changes in our planet’s oceans, marine life and climate system.
And proving that when you make a bad decision, it’s perfectly okay to change your mind