In this po­lit­i­cal soap opera, it’s time for Emmerdale-plus-plus

How are you en­joy­ing your 12 days of Brexit Christ­mas? Ev­ery 24-hour cy­cle forces a re-eval­u­a­tion of which log­i­cal pos­si­bil­ity is nest­ing in­side which par­lia­men­tary im­pos­si­bil­ity. It’s like wak­ing up with a hang­over each morn­ing,

The Guardian - Journal - - Front page - Ma­rina Hyde

then hav­ing John Ber­cow ex­plain In­cep­tion to you. For­ever.

Yesterday’s tem­po­rary light­bulb mo­ment was the Times story ex­plain­ing that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, min­is­ters will have the power to over­rule GP pre­scrip­tions to pre­vent short­ages. Well. I haven’t con­sulted the spi­der­web of yarn and mugshots that now cov­ers all my walls, but I’m pretty sure Ja­cob Rees-Mogg will be ra­tions sec­re­tary in the event of no deal. Ah … but of course – how could I have been so naive? THIS was what was meant by “tak­ing back control”: Ja­cob ReesMogg tak­ing back your birth-control pills. It was him all along – the Gilead Keyser Söze.

Then again, it could be any num­ber of the other hor­rors. Also yesterday, leaked pa­pers showed how crip­pling no-deal could be to Ire­land’s sup­ply lines – mean­ing Brex­i­teers seized on them as the per­fect way to put pres­sure on Ire­land to drop the back­stop. As Priti Pa­tel, the idiot’s idiot, put it: “Why hasn’t this point been pressed home dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions?” I mean … who can say? Maybe it was felt that at­tempt­ing to sub­ju­gate Ire­land with food short­ages had been done be­fore?

Still, there are lighter mo­ments. In a bizarre break with con­ven­tion, the gov­ern­ment whips this week in­vited

ITV News cam­eras into their world, for a sort of Be­hind the Mu­sic spe­cial in the run-up to the big vote. We saw these ti­tanic fig­ures sit­ting round a con­fer­ence ta­ble de­cid­ing where to move the deckchairs, and then chief whip Ju­lian Smith him­self sit­ting down for a nice chat to rebel-with­out-a-clue Philip Davies. I loved the hi­lar­i­ous pre­tence that the Tory whip­ping op­er­a­tion has al­ways been about rea­son­able chaps in green arm­chairs try­ing to charm re­cal­ci­trant back­benchers, as op­posed to 3am texts read­ing: “I know u fucked the nanny M8 – is ur wife’s num­ber same as it was for Syr­ian airstrikes????”

Not to be out­done in the bat­shit stakes, Chan­nel 4 News had a hy­per-sur­real film of Alas­tair Camp­bell and Ja­cob Rees-Mogg, sit­ting to­gether in a cafe, while a doc­tor told them at some length that his Ger­man wife had left him be­cause he voted leave, hav­ing thought it would help the NHS. On the off-chance Bri­tain isn’t ac­tu­ally liv­ing in a sim­u­la­tion, all of this needs to go in the time cap­sule.

Speak­ing of time, what a shame to see Nigel Farage forced to quit Ukip over the cur­rent leader’s de­ci­sion to ap­point Tommy Robinson as his spad. “My heart sinks,” wrote Nigel, “as I re­flect on the idea that they may be seen by some as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the cause for which I have cam­paigned for so much of my adult life.” Ev­i­dently, Nigel’s been

watch­ing his own ca­reer on tape de­lay, so please don’t spoil it for him by telling him how he turns out.

In the mean­time, he’s been fol­lowed down the

Ukip laun­dry chute by fan­tasy’s Paul Nut­tall, and its Scot­tish leader David Coburn. Sad news. I spent the best day of the EU ref­er­en­dum cam­paign (tough field) aboard the Thames flotilla flag­ship with Coburn. One of many abid­ing me­mories of the voy­age is him wav­ing a glass of sau­vi­gnon blanc at a re­main ves­sel ap­par­ently cap­tained by Bob Geldof, while scream­ing: “This is what real fish­er­men look like!”

Other low­lights this week? Boris Johnson be­ing so busy in­cu­bat­ing his sec­ond ref­er­en­dum cam­paign for a poverty-in­duc­ing no deal that he for­got to de­clare £52,000 of roy­al­ties. And a com­ment ar­ti­cle by Jeremy Cor­byn, who has come up with – and do forgive yet more Brexit tech­ni­calese – some com­plete hand­wavy bol­locks of an al­ter­na­tive po­si­tion.

As for Theresa May her­self, she is robot­i­cally re­fus­ing to coun­te­nance any ma­te­rial change to her deal. Sadly, Do­minic Grieve’s dra­mat­i­cally won amend­ment has trans­formed par­lia­ment into Op­ti­mus Prime. Or Me­ga­tron, if you’re Liam Fox, who claims par­lia­ment is try­ing to “steal” Brexit. Oh dear. Dr Leave is the spoilt child who de­manded par­lia­men­tary sovereignty, then un­wraps it and doesn’t want it any more.

It’s fair to say the char­ac­ters in the Brexit soap opera are al­most uni­ver­sally aw­ful. In Emmerdale, the scriptwrit­ers once dealt with a sim­i­lar prob­lem by crash­ing a plane on Beckin­dale. Re­gret­tably, no one has yet touted “Emmerdale-plus-plus” as an op­tion to break the Brexit dead­lock. Still, give it a fort­night.

Ei­ther way, the level of par­lia­men­tary es­o­ter­ica is now set to crit­i­cal. All news out of West­min­ster sounds like in-game ban­ter from a po­lit­i­cal ver­sion of Dun­geons & Dragons. I’m play­ing my De­lay Gam­bit and there’s noth­ing you can do about it! OH MY GOD HE’S COUN­TERED WITH A HUM­BLE AD­DRESS. Ooh, Back­stop Hex! See ya! For some, Brexit is so un­watch­able that it has passed through the look­ing glass and is now ob­ses­sively watch­able. There is a def­i­nite strand in the Bri­tish tem­per­a­ment that does en­joy a good con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis. In a 1936 di­ary en­try, Eve­lyn Waugh wrote of the ab­di­ca­tion drama: “The Simp­son cri­sis has been a great de­light to ev­ery­one. At Mai­die’s nurs­ing home they re­port a pro­nounced turn for the bet­ter in all adult pa­tients. There can sel­dom have been an event that has caused so much gen­eral de­light and so lit­tle pain.” If only the Brexit cri­sis were as vic­tim­less an event. The Wal­lis Simp­son af­fair was clearly a net ben­e­fit for the na­tion (plus a good 25% on the share price for Cartier).

In­stead, all the time­lines fan­ning out from Tues­day’s vote are pretty aw­ful. It’s just that some are more aw­ful than oth­ers. Af­ter the Tech­ni­color dra­mas of the past two-and-a-half years, some of those call­ing for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum still be­lieve we could wake up in Kansas in black and white, and it would all have been a bad dream. This feels op­ti­mistic.

Even in the event of re­main win­ning a sec­ond vote, an­other story trope feels much more anal­o­gous: the scene where some­one wakes up and re­alises it was all a dream. But then they open their hand and find a tiny keep­sake from the ex­pe­ri­ence that says, OR WAS IT? That’s go­ing to be us. And we’re go­ing to un­furl our fin­gers and find a small bro­ken coun­try, as if to say: Hey! That shit was real. En­joy your cold civil war!

In the end, the deeper into the Brexit mire we get, the clearer its sim­i­lar­i­ties with the Iraq war. That ad­ven­ture, too, was sold on a false prospec­tus, and achieved the ex­act op­po­site of what it set out to do. There wasn’t any al-Qaida in Iraq when Ge­orge W Bush and Tony

Blair in­vaded it, but there sure as hell was by the time they’d fin­ished. And so with David Cameron’s plan for “set­tling the is­sue of Europe once and for all”, which seems to have pulled off the po­lar op­po­site. Very few peo­ple could look at the state of UK pol­i­tics and think it isn’t worse than it’s been in gen­er­a­tions, and with strong prospects of get­ting even worse.

In this po­lit­i­cal soap opera, it’s time for Emmerdale-plus-plus Ma­rina Hyde

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