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Nightmare on Downing Street

Try as I might, I can’t entirely shake off the imagery that came to mind when someone commented a while back of how the Brexit saga resembles a rubbishy daytime soap opera.

Not only do you have all sorts of flawed characters popping in and out of a needlessly long-winded plotline, just when it looks as if something is to resolved, along comes a fresh implausible twist that manages to drag out the ending a bit longer. Even so, you can miss half a dozen episodes and still effortlessly pick up on the basics after a few minutes of recap.

I’m not for a moment attempting to trivialise this hugely important step for the nation’s political future but I can nonetheless appreciate how the public has become less than engaged with the whole tortuous process.

As you undoubtedly know, the latest tedious instalment saw Boris Johnson flounder in his fast-track plans as he attempted to achieve in three days what has proved impossible for the last three years.

Unlike many in the media, I’m not among those willing to give him credit for getting his Withdrawal Bill finally voted through – mostly because it was his own high-profile opposition stance which stalled Theresa May’s earlier attempts to get backing from Conservative MPs.

Nor am I particularly impressed with his decision to take his ball home and ‘pause’ the legislation rather than have it subjected to the rigours of longer-term scrutiny.

It’s more than a little ironic to see how individuals who once extolled the need for the UK parliament to be the sovereign law-making body of the land now either try to railroad complex legislation through the Commons or else attempt to prevent it from sitting altogether.

That is not to say that they’re on any lesser moral high ground than those who think it’s acceptable to apply Chuckle Brothers principles to policy-making in order to gain short-term political advantage on the domestic front.

All in all, I get the impression that a large section of the voting public are not so much convinced that Brexit is a great idea as just very peeved that it hasn’t turned out to be as simple as was once outlined on the side of a bus.

In Halloween terms, it’s a nightmare for Downing Street and the denizens within as the prospect of a prompt Brexit steadily diminishes and the spectre of the ditch beckons for Johnson.

He must be hoping, in the best soap-opera tradition, that it will turn out to be a bad dream after all.


Nostalgia for empire is misplaced

Someone wrote to me earlier in the week optimistically suggesting I should acknowledge how Britain’s former empire “civilized much of the world”. You can probably guess my reply.

I referred them to the Second Boer War (1899–1902). This saw the independent and sovereign territories of Transvaal and Orange Free State annexed by British interests who wanted direct control over the lucrative South African diamond industry.

The Boers, who occupied those lands, were white farmers of mainly Dutch extraction with centuries of ancestry in the African homelands.

A "scorched earth" policy by British imperial forces saw the systematic destruction of crops and livestock while thousands of civilian non-combatants were forcibly moved into concentration camps.

Between June 1901 and May 1902, of the 115,000 people in the camps, almost 28,000 died - 22,000 of them were children.

Describing the British empire as a ‘civilizing influence’ requires a very shaky and one-sided understanding of history. Remind you of anything?

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