As a very stern-faced and seemingly resolute headmistress, Theresa May addressing the nation against the backdrop of two union jacks.
In France we’re quite used to the President popping up on our TV screens in prime time. It is a very Gaullien exercise – the first president to address the nation on TV was General de Gaulle himself in the 1960’s. More recently President Macron addressed the nation in early December 2018 to announce his proposals to « calm » the Yellow Vest crisis – 10 billion Euro’s worth of « gifts ». In light of recent events though, Mr Macron’s « generosity » didn’t quite achieve the effect he was hoping for
Chirac, Hollande, and especially Sarkozy , were regularly on TV, live from the Elysée palace, addressing the people across all channels. Grave, sombre, measured, well-rehearsed speeches telling us just how they intended to solve the different crises facing France. Sarkozy seemed to be on TV so much, he could have got his own show. And the exercise always the same – the president standing against the backdrop of the Tricolour flag – the speech and those closing words « Vive la France. Vive la Republique », followed by the stirring strains of the « Marseillaise »
I can’t remember ever before having seen a British Prime Minister addressing the nation on TV – it ‘s the kind of event that only happens in times of national crisis, and, I suppose this Brexit mess is a crisis.
I was disappointed with the address, not so much by what she said, but the style. She could have finished her speech with the words « God Save the Queen » followed by a rousing rendition of the national anthem (or the Sex Pistols?) – something symbolic to unite a fractured nation – though I daresay that this would have done more harm than good and the press would have ravaged Mrs May for somehow dragging the monarchy into the mayhem.
As for the content? What did you expect? Mrs May(hem) telling us all that she has dutifully done her duty and it’s all the fault of members of parliament who all agree to disagree but can’t agree on anything.
« House of Fools » screamed the Daily Mail from its front page a few days ago. It’s rare that I agree with the « Daily Blackshirt », but for once, their headline did seem quite fitting, but the fools are only there, because we put them there to do our Brexit bidding.
« House of fools », what about ship of fools ?
According to one informative website.
« The ship of fools is an allegory, originating from Book VI of Plato’s Republic, about a ship with a dysfunctional crew »
It seems a reasonable analogy for the current parliamentary Brexit business.
Taking nautical nuances a stage further, I might say that we are truly up faeces creak without the slightest means of locomotion and add that as the Titanic slowly but surely sinks to into the dark depths, the likes of Boris Johnson and William Rees Mogg have long taken to the life boats, whilst Captain May remains on the bridge ordering the crew to change the position of the deckchairs on the sun deck (you get the gist)
From this side of the Channel, I can see HMS Britannia slowly breaking up and sinking, whilst all concerned are not so much trying to prevent it as trying to push the vessel into the least worst place to sink. With a bit of luck we’ll end up on a sandbank and in time might be able to refloat.
And all the while in France, we are all staring across the Channel in consternation. The French are a pretty self-deprecating and grumpy lot, complaining is a French trait and a national sport. However even in the worst scenario French couldn’t do the kind of self-sabotage that the Brits are doing at the moment
As the token « Brit » in my workplace, I am often asked « What is happening with Brexit ? »
« What will happen after Brexit ? »
« I don’t know, » I reply. « But if you know, then explain it all to me in words of one syllable. »
As things stand (I think)
A Brexit extension until June 30th.
More parliamentary votes on the infamous deal (and can someone tell me exactly what is in it?)
A second referendum
A general election, preceded by a leadership contest in the conservative party, won by Boris Johnson, who is then returned with a thumping majority as Prime minister in a Brexit election (God forbid). Boris as PM, Nigel Farage as Brexit Minister, William Rees Mogg as Foreign secretary … a vision of the apocalypse.
Or in a Boris victory – The complete break up of the Conservative party, perhaps too the disintegration of Labour and a redesign of the entire UK political landscape – I doubt it though – once in power, no matter how toxic the ambience or the leadership, the party will stay united to hold on to power, even at the cost of national interest and historical consequence – like the Tory government at the moment – power is more important than country, though we are told that the government is acting in the national interest (Here I add a testicular comment)
And why not a resounding YES from the Scots in an independence referendum? – and why not Irish reunification ? (Makes good sense.)
Who in their right mind would want to be associated with a country run by a bunch of « Little Englanders » with a Victorian vision of world affairs?
Life after Brexit – well I have heard echoes of « The Dunkirk Spirit » – the heroic rescue of our soldiers from the beaches by a flotilla of small ships – yes we lost, but not as badly as we thought we would.
Life after Brexit – look no further than the current work-to-rule by French customs officers – A five hour wait to get on a Eurostar train in Paris, or interminable queues of traffic at the Channel ports as customs officer (in their own words) are « carrying out the same checks that we will have to after Brexit » More pay and more officers they shout, or life after Brexit will be unworkable
Despite Mrs May(hem), give the lady her due, she’s trying. Her best. At the annual prize-giving she might just get a prize for effort – the tarnished trophy that you give to the kid at the bottom of the class, because everyone gets a prize (I know because I was that kid) – the bright young things walk off with big silver cups and you get a crappy little wooden shield just to patronise you and say “Look, we didn’t leave you out in the end.”
On a personal note – well, I don’t think I’ll be back in the UK this year or even next, depending on how long it takes for life to settle down into its new post-Brexit normality.
As for all those British titbits we get in France, there will probably be a massive price hike in Baked beans, Marmite and Whisky (I’ve already laid some in).
My greatest regret is for the youth of the UK. Of the 1.7 million majority who voted for Brexit – a lot of them were of that generation who hanker after the « Great Britain » they once know, but, by the time this thing becomes a workable reality might not be here. A vote with one foot in the grave and the living left to endure the consequences. It was so simple and so wonderful to move freely across Europe, to work, live and love anywhere you wanted without question, and now that chance has been « stolen » from UK youth.
I hear many views on Bexit from my French colleagues – there are the Frexiteers – France should do like the UK and leave the EU. There are those who believe in a two speed Europe with distinct and separate North/South organisations. Everyone admits that the EU is far too big and needs some kind of reform. There are also colleagues who say that the EU is « too culturally diverse. » Do they mean that Scots are different to Italians ? I doubt it
The Yellow Vest movement have firmly put Frexit on the political agenda –those dissenting voices we never heard before are gaining some serious exposure.
So, we all leave the EU and only the Germans are left?
I wait to see what happens in all this Theresa May(hem)