Boyle on Brexit

With Tommy Robinson as Leave’s salesman, a second referendum would be like a kind of racist Ragnarok, writes Frankie Boyle

13th November 2018

I welcome the fact that Brexit has reached its eschatological phase, and suddenly a thing that seemed to consist largely of dull trade negotiations is now about Russian bots, dark money, white genocide, disaster, hostility and madness.

Boris Johnson, an evolutionary dead-end of the Honey Monster, made the steampunk suggestion of building a bridge across the sea to Northern Ireland. Of course, the plan has been unhelpfully undermined by so-called experts, who fail to understand that an impossible structure built in high winds across a million tonnes of decommissioned explosives might well be the metaphor Brexit needs.

Personally, I think this crazed Tower of Babel-style project might be the ideal thing to distract us from reality. Next year, Britain will look around the slag heap on which it has thrown itself, and there will no doubt be an atmosphere of recrimination: upbeat talk of bridges between countries, underground cities or, possibly, a pneumatic moon-tube might be all that stands between us and chaos.

At least the bridge shows that Boris is thinking ahead to what we will need after withdrawal — hugely improved suicide facilities. The death toll doubling, as jumpers sink the rafts of all those still strong enough to paddle to Ireland.

Boris is hard at work on the suicide facilities that will be popular post-Brexit 📸 Annika Haas

Johnson actually resigned as foreign secretary because he was worried Brexiteers on the backbenches would unite around David Davis — which is a bit like deciding to spend more time at home, in case your partner starts having an affair with the furniture. He’s the political equivalent of a pitiless hack character comedian, now reduced to trotting out lines that even he seems bored of. Of course Boris hates burkas; he might accidentally chat up someone he’s already impregnated.

The idea of a Conservative leadership contest is nonetheless exciting, in the same way that it might be exciting for the passengers of a crashing airliner to see a chimpanzee trying to wrestle the steering column away from a hijacker. Forming, with Johnson, a cheese-dream Jeeves and Wooster, Jacob Rees-Mogg is also playing a character: a sort of DC Thomson version of Jack the Ripper. The two men share a fondness for Latin, failing to see the irony of making Brexit proclamations in a language from the last time we were ruled from Europe.

Sometimes, I wonder if Brexit isn’t an elaborate plan by the government to bore us to such a degree that we have no option but to engage with our families. Maybe Brexit isn’t socially divisive; it’s the glue that will hold Britain together. There are people up and down the land thinking, “I could read the Times, listen to Radio 4 or watch Question Time. No, fuck it. I’ll call my dad. He’s a prick, but at least he’s not Michael Gove.”

Soon, when there’s no insulin in the UK, ice cream vans are going to be looked upon with the same hatred and fear as a Gestapo staff car

The Leave campaign promised £350m a week for the NHS. What they didn’t explain is that all the money would need to be spent on post-mortems and mass graves. Soon, when there’s no insulin in the UK, ice cream vans are going to be looked upon with the same hatred and fear as a Gestapo staff car. Then we’ll discover that, through a series of shell companies, Jacob Rees-Mogg owns Europe’s largest insulin mines and he stands to make 10 billion Krugerrand from the crisis.

Rees-Mogg isn’t even the grimmest figure in the Brexit bestiary, a title that surely belongs to Dr Liam Fox. A doctor who now selflessly dedicates his life to ending those of others. Maybe Liam Fox’s interests in “defence” and weaponry are a testimony to the strain of being a GP. Perhaps it only takes a year or two of strangers lowering their pants in front of you before you dedicate your life to the destruction of the human form.

May’s disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit has been described as ‘carrot and stick’, as those are the ingredients you’ll have to make stew from while you wait for your claim to come through

How can May remain despite performing worse than a Ladbrokes pen? She suggests that the end of austerity is in sight, much like the horizon, yet when she reached that part of her conference speech, Phillip Hammond looked unmoved and wore the bland smile of an undertaker at a golden wedding anniversary. She has left Esther McVey in charge of welfare, perhaps as a knee-jerk reaction to her Scouse accent. Her disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit has been described as “carrot and stick”, as those are the ingredients you’ll have to make stew from while you wait for your claim to come through.

You’d think that there are just too many looming catastrophes for May to stay past the date of Brexit, but who knows? Her dancing might be old-fashioned — seeming to have come from a time before music had been invented — but she has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to anti-immigrant rhetoric, telling immigrants to go home via van-mounted billboards when others were only muttering it in the streets. She has both surfed and slightly prefigured the zeitgeist, like some David Bowie of pointless, counterproductive hatred.

We currently watch events against a backdrop so drab that a cult of personality has been able to form around Jeremy Corbyn: a man with the stage presence of the Higgs Boson, his dating profile would simply read “alive”. Perhaps by accident, Labour’s strategy on Brexit hasn’t been all that bad. There’s little to be gained electorally in alienating either half of the country. Even if Labour threw their full weight behind Remain, the most likely outcome would be that they’d somehow fuck it up. Corbyn’s Labour will do much better in a General Election — where a clear media bias against it is diluted by election rules on balance — than in referenda, where ideas like solidarity struggle to find purchase in contests traditionally based on grievance versus fear.

In any case, to win over people who voted Leave, Remainers would need to approach a second referendum with a deep humility that there is no sign of. It would need to be essentially a new offer from the centre, not a chance to change your mind from some people exasperated that you were tricked by a bus.

One worrying thing is that post-Brexit, the austerity narrative will no longer be possible. Cuts can no longer be framed as a regrettable necessity when they have been self-inflicted, and I imagine that austerity framing will be replaced by further scapegoating of minorities. Perhaps we have to accept that we are now engaged in deciding how to best meliorate what is a win-win situation for the far right. They are either empowered by a hard Brexit, have their supporters’ conspiratorial mindset galvanised by a soft Brexit or get to turn a second referendum into a kind of racist Ragnarok.

I admire the sheer intellectual elan of highlighting the way our legal system ignores grooming gangs by disrupting a grooming gang trial

I have no doubt that in a second referendum, the bluster of Farage will be replaced by Tommy Robinson. Of course, Tommy Robinson isn’t even his real name; his real name sounds like his fake name’s probation officer. He chose a name that sounds like a character in a war comic, the sort of loveable, machine-gun toting WWII British squaddie who would have seen it as his duty to kill this Tommy Robinson.

In a way, I admire the sheer intellectual elan of highlighting the way our legal system ignores grooming gangs by disrupting a grooming gang trial. Since being born on a sunbed, this furious boiled potato has nurtured Britain’s sense of racial grievance with the patience and care you only see in someone who truly believes they can monetise it.

One of the tragedies of the far right’s resurgence is that I am considered a moderate now. The last time there were this many people to the right of me, I was being picked for games.

You can only be politically active online in the same way you can be sexually active online

The far right in Britain are using social media to recruit, while the left use it to berate people for liking problematic music videos. I think an issue for the left is their essentialism: they see people as either good or bad, and the role of activism focuses on energising the good ones. The right’s more effective philosophy is that both sides are fighting over the same potential voters and members, and people co-opted into the far right are often from groups socialists feel are their natural constituencies. The left online seems to see trending on Twitter as an end in itself. Really, you can only be politically active online in the same way you can be sexually active online, and the far right sees all its online activities as staging posts to recruitment.

Admittedly, in Britain and the US, a lot of the energy for progressive change that came from the financial crash has been drawn towards established political parties. I don’t think that’s entirely negative, but it has lent an oddly celebratory, validated air to groups that have lost two elections to openly incompetent monsters. Yet, in some ways, the left have dealt with the far right better than the mainstream media. They are correct to refuse to debate and platform these goons; we already know what their case is.

Personally, I think the Third Reich kind of made their whole argument. Was there some broader point they were getting to that the allies interrupted?

Theresa the Appeaser
Theresa’s days at Number 10 seem to be numbered — but, on the other hand, she has always been ahead of the trend, especially when it comes to anti-immigration rhetoric 📸 Raul Mee

Is Tommy Robinson is a political product or cultural product? Culture has a way of tweaking and perfecting where it sees sales potential. There was a prototype version of Tommy Robinson — Britain First’s Paul Golding, who seemed to concentrate on shouting at kebab shops. The next version might be something we really have to worry about. The next version will have even more exposure and elite support because late-stage capitalism generally prefers fascism to equality.

A few years ago, Kanye West visiting Donald Trump in the Oval Office to show him designs of a hydrogen-powered plane would have been a suggestion shouted out at an improv night. Maybe we should keep an open mind about how much worse things can get.

13th November 2018