Do­minic Raab, take a bow in a Tory roll-call of the tal­ent­less

The Guardian - Journal - - Opinion - Ma­rina Hyde

‘Ihadn’t quite un­der­stood the full ex­tent of this, but if you look at the UK and if you look at how we trade in goods, we are par­tic­u­larly re­liant on the Dover-Calais cross­ing.” Brexit sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab, ladies and gen­tle­men, at some event on the tech in­dus­try this week. “My wife would say [my Lego col­lec­tion is] far too large, but I find Lego ther­a­peu­tic … Every­body who does any dif­fi­cult or stress­ful job needs a way to switch off. We all have dif­fer­ent ways. Mine is Lego.” Cul­ture sec­re­tary Jeremy Wright, ladies and gen­tle­men, on Talk Ra­dio yes­ter­day morn­ing.

“I freely ad­mit that when I started this job, I didn’t un­der­stand some of the deep-seated and deep-rooted is­sues that there are in North­ern Ire­land. I didn’t un­der­stand things like when elec­tions are fought, for ex­am­ple, in North­ern Ire­land, peo­ple who are na­tion­al­ists don’t vote for union­ist par­ties and vice versa.” North­ern Ire­land sec­re­tary Karen Bradley, ladies and gen­tle­men, in a po­lit­i­cal mag­a­zine in­ter­view this Septem­ber.

Be­hold the gov­ern­ment of all the tal­ent­less: a place where you don’t just think it, but you make ex­tra sure to say it out loud and in pub­lic. As the Lego song it­self goes: ev­ery­thing is awe­some, ev­ery­thing is cool when you’re part of a team. Or is it? Per­haps you are highly re­laxed about the fact that seem­ingly ev­ery cab­i­net job The Brexit sec­re­tary, Do­minic Raab th­ese days is an out­ra­geous fish-out-of-wa­ter com­edy, or a Pyg­malion-like plot in which two un­seen fi­nanciers have de­cided, for a bet, to pass off a re­jected Fam­ily For­tunes con­tes­tant as a sec­re­tary of state. Or per­haps, like me, you oc­ca­sion­ally wake up scream­ing: “Wait! Mor­pheus, come back! I’ve changed my mind! I want the blue pill. GIVE ME BACK THE FUCK­ING BLUE PILL.”

I truly don’t want to know that any­one in the an­i­mal king­dom, let alone in the Depart­ment for Ex­it­ing the Euro­pean Union, is not mean­ing­fully aware that the UK is an is­land. Then again, I am some­how even more hor­ri­fied by the news that on Fri­day morn­ing al­lies of Raab – whose own of­fi­cials call him Raab C Brexit – were tak­ing the time to brief that he did ac­tu­ally know Bri­tain was an is­land/ar­chi­pel­ago.

I mean, once you’re call­ing jour­nal­ists, on be­half of a sec­re­tary of state, and your tongue and your teeth and your lips are work­ing to­gether to form the state­ment,

“Of course Do­minic knew Bri­tain was an is­land”, haven’t you gone way past your per­sonal safe word? When you look in the bath­room mir­ror, is the face of your eightyear-old self not look­ing back at you and whis­per­ing, “Get out now!”?

At this mo­ment in our na­tional jour­ney, the gov­ern­ment makes much more sense when you re­alise it can only be a mas­sive hid­den-cam­era sim­u­la­tion de­signed solely to amuse the oc­cu­pants of a dis­tant planet. Clus­tered round a vis­ual port some­where in An­dromeda gal­axy, in­ter­con­nected strings of aliens cry with laugh­ter ev­ery week at top-rat­ing se­ries Big Brexit, in which the hap­less denizens of a Tru­man-like shit­show fail to re­alise they are be­ing taken for a ride by their com­pe­ti­tion-win­ner over­lords. Ev­ery UK res­i­dent stars.

And so to where we find our­selves, sev­eral weeks af­ter the date we were once told was the ab­so­lute dead­line for do­mes­tic agree­ment on a deal, and the PM can’t even get her own gov­ern­ment or par­lia­men­tary part­ners to agree. As I was writ­ing this, trans­port min­is­ter Jo John­son re­signed. The DUP, on whose sup­port Theresa May re­lies af­ter her Dar­win award-win­ning 2017 elec­tion, have ac­cused her of break­ing her prom­ises to them. No 10 ap­pears to be the last to know what ev­ery­one else has been say­ing for months: that it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore this par­tic­u­lar alien burst out of the gov­ern­ment’s chest cav­ity. Mean­while, the noises off are push­ing no deal with in­creas­ing in­sis­tence. “We are a big coun­try,” blus­tered David Davis on Thurs­day. “We can look af­ter our­selves.”

And yet, are we, and can we? There was a 69-year-old Dutch chap in the news this week who is go­ing to court to ar­gue he should be al­lowed to for­mally self-iden­tify as 49 be­cause he reck­ons he’ll do bet­ter on Tin­der. Ap­par­ently he sees him­self as a “young god” whom doc­tors have told has the body of a 45-year-old. “When I’m 49,” he rea­soned, “with the face I have, I will be in a lux­u­ri­ous po­si­tion.” I couldn’t help feel­ing there was a lit­tle some­thing of Brexit UK to this gen­tle­man: that sense that you’re a to­tal swash­buck­ler who’s only be­ing held back by imag­ined red tape, and that you’d get laid twice as much and twice as filthily un­der WTO rules.

May’s gov­ern­ment is the ob­nox­ious hatch­back driver in the Fer­rari base­ball cap, with ne­go­tia­tors such as Davis veer­ing from ill-man­nered to un­re­al­is­tic. It has squan­dered much of the ne­go­ti­at­ing pe­riod since ar­ti­cle 50 was trig­gered, act­ing like its bumper sports the leg­end “MY OTHER COUN­TRY IS A SU­PER­POWER”. In­ci­den­tally, from the clown car to the car be­ing driven know­ingly over a cliff, it’s strik­ing how many of the most ap­po­site Brexit metaphors are car-re­lated. Or, as the more lit­eral lead­ing Brex­i­teer econ­o­mist Patrick Min­ford put it the other week: “You’re go­ing to have to run [the car in­dus­try] down, in the same way we ran down the coal and steel in­dus­try. Th­ese things hap­pen.”

So there you go. Many of us who once thought the UK had been hav­ing its post-im­pe­rial hang­over for a few decades now re­alise that, dur­ing that pe­riod, Bri­tain was in fact still drunk. The real hang­over, un­for­tu­nately, is only just about to kick in.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: FACUNDO AR­RIZ­A­BAL­AGA/EPA

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