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HomeNewsBridge over the River Brexit – a tragi-comedy, starring Theresa May

Bridge over the River Brexit – a tragi-comedy, starring Theresa May


The nation has waited more than three years now for HMG to plot the way for the UK to leave the EU, a phenomenon defined by David Cameron’s Conservative government in its leaflet to all households as entailing leaving the single market, the customs union, and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

During the referendum campaign the civil service did nothing at all to prepare policy for a Leave result, instead conducting Project Fear. This was a major dereliction of duty, possibly the worst in its history, and this intransigent refusal to use the great departments of state across the board to make realistic plans for quitting the EU has become a policy of government.

Today’s ‘preparations’ for a no-deal WTO Brexit are a childlike joke, basically saying we will be nice to the EU exporters and hope they will reciprocate. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has only very recently met the leaders of the hauliers and been apprised of what they need. The same goes for the port authorities and exporters. Likewise DEFRA, under the now Remainer Michael Gove, is making no plans with farmers for growing what we will need next year in the UK, and he has ended hopes of getting our fishing grounds back – apart from the tawdry Chequers window dressing now deconstructed as a sham.

This refusal to make policy and concrete plans has itself become an instrument of policy, yet another incarnation of Project Fear. A fair soft Brexit is now out of the question, and has been ever since Mrs May signed the UK into Barnier’s cage before Christmas last year in Brussels, when she agreed a vast payment for nothing but some deal however bad for the UK, and agreed to the EU understanding of the Irish border rather than that of the UK. As we know, Chequers is now her one and only aim, consigning the UK to a future under a kind of EU caliphate. Her banning of no-deal plans is clearly intended as a block on any other way forward.

There seem to be no precedents for this ‘leadership’ of our nation. Even Neville Chamberlain got the message in the end, however late. In the civil service there has been a vigorous tradition of aristocratic treachery working to undermine the nation state: the Cambridge spies Philby, Burgess and Maclean did this, and probably even Roger Hollis, the head of MI5. But they were acting illegally. What we see now is similar action against the UK as a democratic nation state planned by the civil service in the mode of passive aggression and inertia. The Marxist doctrine of the state withering away as history goes on is implicit in Chequers, and was always implicit in Heath’s signing the UK into the Common Market on a slow-burning fuse of deception and cover-up.

What analogies can we produce for Mrs May herself in all this chaos and betrayal? She seems to need a single personal adviser to trust uncritically, as Chequers revealed, and her snap election fiasco likewise. She has been likened to someone taken captive and ‘turned’ into a supporter of her captors, Stockholm syndrome-style, as her attitude to the ‘mad riddle’ of the Irish border shows: that is taking Barnier’s logic as fixed and right, not arguing from a British mindset at all. The 1957 film Bridge over the River Kwai also comes to mind. A British Army officer captured by the Japanese in WWII, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson played by Alec Guinness, is given the horribly difficult task of building a bridge over the river Kwai with his enslaved fellow captive soldiers. Nicholson becomes obsessed with the project and the need to complete it, ignoring the context of the war with Japan. The bridge, or Chequers, takes him over and he tries to prevent any sabotage of this vital enemy undertaking. He suffers a terrible kind of obsessive compulsive disorder or myopic tunnel vision, excluding any other thinking or alternative plans. That seems a very reasonable analogy to Mrs May in her state of mental captivity to a deeply harmful project for the nation she is supposed to be leading.

Another film worth considering for this purpose is the 2016 comedy starring Meryl Streep in the title role of Florence Foster Jenkins, a millionairess who thought she was a great classical singer. Her husband, played by Hugh Grant, and ‘friends’, basically colluded with her deeply mistaken estimate of her own talent as they got her to pay for voice coaching, housing, accompaniment, and other services. Concerts were arranged with audiences paid to be dishonestly appreciative. In a tragi-comic ending, the final Carnegie Hall performance proved impossible to police and critics could not be bought off. Is this like Mrs May and her Conservative Party Cabinet and MPs who profit personally for colluding with her absurd Chequers oratorio as if it had a scintilla of merit?

A more worrying and alarming analogy, with a reversal of genders, is provided by the BBC. In Radio 4’s Pick of the Week of July 15, presented by Coronation Street actress Cherylee Houston, the final clip ushered the unsuspecting listener into the horrendous world of the ‘findom’ or ‘pay pig’, a man under the control of a ‘financial dominatrix’. He consensually loves to be dominated by a woman who removes his power by removing his cash. The BBC iPlayer link here is tagged ‘not available’. However the original World Service programme from which the Pick of the Week item came is available here. The ‘pay pig’ or financially (not sexually) dominated man does as he is commanded by the dominatrix, down to handing over most of his pay and buying her shopping. He thanks her for her dominion over him, saying he is totally unworthy of her, and she slaps his face and takes his cash. This, we are told, is legal, consensual and not a matter for the police to pursue under, say, the Theft Act or obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception or coercion. This resonates with the submissive ‘pay pig’ orientation developed by the May/Robbins team towards our EU Master, Monsieur Barnier. The UK as a ‘findom’ does seem to be where Mrs May, now personally responsible, is leading our disorientated and perplexed country.

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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