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Nick Booth: The Archers plot Brexit with a tale of an abusive relationship

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I can’t help thinking Eurosceptics are missing a trick with this Archers story line about domestic violence. Every episode provides a fresh example of why the UK should pluck up the courage, ignore the doubters and do everything it can to get out of its abusive relationship with the EU. It’s not us, Jean-Claude, it’s you!

The Archers, in case you missed it, is the Radio 4 soap opera with a long running story line about Helen, a woman suffering endlessly at the hands of a controlling and manipulative partner. Each new episode gives a fresh example of how one partner in a relationship can be singled out for abuse and blamed for everything.

The soap has been outlining how abusers manipulate and systematically demean the victim. They become so cunning and divisive that soon they convince the rest of ‘the community’ that the victim is actually to blame. Abusers seem authentic because they often genuinely can’t accept that they are doing it. The reasons for this psychological projection are deep rooted and can go back generations.

Victims often don’t stand a chance in this game because they are too busy coping with their work and domestic affairs. Abusers, meanwhile, can dedicate all their energy to it, because they are often failures in their own lives, and only formed the relationship because of their own history of domestic instability. Misery loves company, as the old diktat says.

The abuser often has vast reserves of time and energy to dedicate to the politics of envy, thinking up new stunts, setting traps and exploiting legal loopholes. I missed earlier episodes of The Archers, but I’m sure my wife said there was an incident where Rob threw a massive tantrum over a curvy cucumber. Another time, Rob accused Helen of attempting to poison him and made her destroy all her food stocks and fill her pantry with dairy produce from one of his friends. Rob has always tried to neutralise all of Helen’s talents. It’s not a healthy, mutually supported partnership.

I know it’s silly and the narrative is about as nuanced as one of Giant Haystacks’ wrestling bouts on ITV, but you can’t stop yourself rooting for Helen against this awful baddie. This being radio – AKA the ‘movies of the mind’ – we have to create our own picture of the oppressor.

As it is a BBC drama, the men are all uniformly useless and unpleasant, but the actors are so good they carry the day. In my mind’s eye, I picture each awful man as some horrible, arrogant, oafish, EC panjandrum. For that reason, everyone should be encouraged to listen to this domestic abuse drama. We can all see ourselves in poor Helen. Before long, the entire nation will be thinking of Rob, the chief abuser, as a slightly less disturbing version of Nick Clegg. But not as unsettling as that boozy Junker character, or that sinister Merkel monster with the pudding bowl haircut. Or indeed Ugly Erdogan lurking in the other fields and rattling the gates.

Maybe, there’s some Brexit subversives that have somehow survived unnoticed at the BBC. I suspect it’s more by accident than design, but there is a very clear message the BBC is putting out through The Archers. It’s telling us, that no matter how painful it is to end an abusive relationship, or how dire the warnings of the abuser, you are always better off getting out.

Rob Juncker’s not going to be happy when he finds out. He thought he had the BBC under his control. I wish we could see the look on his face if and when we’re liberated.

If you have been affected by an abusive relationship in the EU, phone our help line on 0800 Brexit

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Nick Booth
Nicholas Booth is the editor of OhThisBloodyComputer and a freelance technology writer

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