Brexit is like being strangled alive in a sadomasochistic game with no explosive end

We are in an infinity loop of our own making

Matthew Norman
Tuesday 22 January 2019 16:48
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Government will scrap £65 fee for EU citizens who want to stay in UK, Theresa May says

In the early hours of this morning, I accidentally killed an Oscar-nominated actress with a piece of rope during a frantic bout of meth-fuelled S&M sex.

For the record, that isn’t strictly true. Last night, for any police officers who have strayed this way, I retired alone shortly before 10pm, and fell asleep during Newsnight.

I began with that minor distortion for two closely connected reasons. First, any method of putting off the business of writing about you know what, even for a few seconds, has to be embraced. Second, I needed an intro with a higher than 0.07 per cent chance of coaxing you to stick with an article on the subject beyond its opening sentence. Having been duped to remain to this point, you are free to leave in the certainty that you won’t be missing anything scintillatingly fresh.

In this sadomachistic game, after all, you don’t need a ligature to feel strangled alive – and there is no explosive orgasm at the end of it. It has no end. The more imminent a rupture in the status quo appears, the more everything stays the same. It’s like being trapped in a haiku with a permanent low-grade fever. The sight of the portmanteau word is a chemical cosh to the brain.

But while you can run from Brexit, you cannot hide. Within this infinity loop of our own making, the headlines come and the headlines go, and in between some even give cause for optimism. Yesterday, for example, while Theresa May continued her remake of Weekend At Bernie’s by sticking the “No £65 fee for EU nationals” shawl on the corpse to convince the mob it’s alive, Jeremy Corbyn reprised an old turn of his own. He revived his version of Chance the gardener, the Peter Sellers character in Being There whose vacuity was mistaken for genius, and mesmerically meaningless pronouncements for gleaming gems of wisdom.

If “Labour Moves Closer To Endorsing Second Refendum” looked encouraging, the rookie error was reading below the headline. That revealed the statement to be so impenetrably gnomic that, had Apollo resigned as an Olympian god to spend more time making jam, it might have been uttered by his oracle at Delphi.

Labour’s thrilling new amendment, tabled last night, requests that MPs consider a range of Brexit choices, among them a “public vote” on a proposition “with majority support” in the Commons.

On inspection, this is that most unusual political noise, the non-malevolent dog whistle. It was meant to assuage Remainy party members and voters enraged by Corbyn’s refusal to countenance another referendum. It hints at his potential support for that without moving him any closer to supporting one.

A “public vote”, to come over a touch Kremlinological, isn’t a “People’s Vote”. The latter has a precise meaning – the opportunity to reverse Brexit through a plebiscite – in the context; the former has none.

As for a proposal with majority Commons support, you might as well demand a public vote about taking Caligula up a notch by installing a centaur as prime minister. Such a proposition is a mythical beast. If it existed, we wouldn’t be in such a toxic pickle. There would be a viable solution in theory, albeit with no guarantee that the inmates of Bedlam, SW1, could find the parliamentary mechanism to put it into practice.

In defence of Corbyn’s studied evasions, at least they avoid the pretence that, with the minotaur scratching its hooves and preparing to gore us to death at the end of March, there’s an easy way out of the labyrinth. Only a resident in the Venn diagram intersect where delusional lunacy meets monumental idiocy would do that. Which brings us to Iain Duncan Smith.

One appreciates why IDS is so bullish right now. No creator of universal credit could watch its serene progress without trusting absolutely in his omniscience. Lord Cardigan was probably just as cocksure after masterminding the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Even so, when that universally discredited 32nd wit trumpets a facile answer to the Irish backstop conundrum, sharing that trust becomes a struggle. His magical solution involves sending one Crawford Falconer, the Department of International Trade’s chief negotiatior, to Brussels.

“As you would in business,” he explains, “get the expert and they do the negotiations.” He added that it is “agreed among most experts” that the backstop could be abandoned. It’s tremendous news that experts are back in vogue among the ultras.

Of course it is. But who these particular experts are, and why they’ve been so much quieter than the onetime quiet man for so long, is a mystery.

If you want a shorthand method of guaging an idea’s strength, look at the quality of those most loudly opposing it. According to IDS, the notion of backbenchers taking legislatitive control of Brexit, as god willing they are poised to do in alliance with the speaker, would “open the door to mayhem in the Commons”.

Open the door? Is there a beagle in Britain – even the bloodhound nicknamed Joey from Friends by its parkmates – who reckons that door remains closed? Does this planet contain a single-cell amoeba that doesn’t realise the horse of mayhem has already bolted through it?

When IDS accuses those who believe the Commons could usurp the government of “living in cloud cuckoo land”, that’s more than the projection of a simpleton fantasist.

It is virtually conclusive proof of this. With Weekend At Bernie’s playing round the clock at No 10, and Chance the gardener dog-whistling in the wind for the Opposition, the courage and competence of backbenchers is the last slither of hope at the bottom of the Pandora’s Box which, as even IDS may have noticed, Brexit prized open a while ago.

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