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The Great Brexit Disaster

Review of Heroic Failure by Fintan O'Toole and The Lure of Greatness by Anthony Barrnet

13 October 2019

These two titles by O'Toole and Barnett are the most recent additions to the opposition literature on the great Brexit disaster. Despite each author having a different approach—both wish to ridicule and attack the Orwell fiction that is fast becoming fact: Ignorance is Strength.

O'Toole's cultural history of Brexit delusions, gives background on how English nationalism “faked its own death” — via Devolution — but how this also prepared the way for its own resurrection. On this Barnett concurs—that the 1990s New Labour devolution drive, would reshape English public opinion—shifting it away from an acceptance of a British unitary state with its parliament sitting in Westminster—to pursue in 2016 an exceptionalist vision of English identity and mores—what O'Toole calls “English Dreamtime” and which Barnett calls 'the lure of greatness’. Even if Barrnet's sub title was meant to be part ironic, we get no sense of what it and he means politically and historically. However, the metropolitan public and those other than the English, had a clearer idea. When Tories in public debated the meaning of Brexit, saying that it was now time for England and the Tory shires to feel good about themselves - one would have thought that it would have given left supporting Brexiteer's pause. Now those labour voters who had thought they could benefit from Brexit have found that they had been run down in the Tory stampede to the right.

Whose Greatness?

After the 2016 leave vote the task of real world negotiation loomed. What was imagined was that the German car makers would put pressure on their own government to allow the UK to leave with all the benefits of EU membership being bestowed, without Britain having to pay, or go through, any political or regulatory due diligence. “I am for having our cake and eating it” was how Boris Johnson described the task of Brexit before he became prime-minister. Mendacity, according to O'Toole is in Boris Johnson's blood. Lying about the EU was part of his career development plan at the Daily Telegraph. O'Toole is at his most comic when he shows how Johnson's fictions about Brussels were ridiculously successful in persuading those who wanted and needed to believe that the EU was an oppressive foreign power. However, its just before Johnson’s premiership that both writers break off and break up. Commenting on Johnson's first bid for the Tory leadership O'Toole describes it as characteristic of the English mythology of 'Heroic failure.' A lot of effort is put into this particular section of the book and O'Toole does well as he treats us to an adult version of 1066 and All That. The highlights of which are some inside information on why, the word “vassalage” was reintroduced by Brexiteer ultras and why the British disasters—such as Dunkirk, and the Charge of the Life Brigade, for a certain class of person are not seen as defeats or disasters at all.

Turning Tory Hysterical

Future editions of both books will no doubt include an account of British politics after the May regime turned Tory Hysterical. Looking at the government’s chief law officer repetitively bellowing at the re-assembled MPs, that they were a “dead parliament!” was a vitriolic warm up act for the new PM Boris Johnson. And as the well trained unicorn on which he rode in on turned its rear end to the labour benches and kicked the Labour MP Paula Sherriff in the face. Her crime? Offering the observation that using extreme language, “surrender” and “traitor”, should be avoided as MPs who are opposed to (no deal) Brexit were receiving an increased amount of death threats. And as she knew it was this language that motivated a fascist paramilitary to plan and murder the Labour MP Jo Cox. Yes, Boris had never heard such “humbug” in all his so called life. Where did this approach to the world and other people come from? If this was the new normal what was the price of civility? We didn't need to wait too long to find out.

Interlude: Dinner With The So Distant Fund Manager

The momentary transfiguration of the DUP from growling dog—in—the—manger to simpering lap dog was celebrated at their ground breaking bad faith and fortune 500 banquet—an ecumenical event at which the tory brexiteer Jacob Rees—Mogg was guest of honour. The menu included Tail—of—Dog—That—Used—To—Wag—In—Westminister which Reece—Mogg had shot. No HP sauce would now be needed—just thick, unadulterated, tally—ho horse radish.

After the event Mogg was in a position to give his partners some excellent financial advice on how to protect their troubled assets and their future political business plans against Brexit turbulence: They could move their funds to—Dublin—which has become the new bolt hole of choice over London based funds. Other European bolt holes were and are available, but as the fund managers explained later, Dublin is simply the destination of choice for these particular (Brexit proofed) funds. Those who could not join the feast were the very same people who will loose the most. Slowly, but surely the question, how was the northern agribusiness to benefit from having two borders instead of—currently—none nagged at the DUP and very soon the shot-gun wedding between them and Boris and the Tory right had been postponed. Mogg had hoped to baby sit and burp the DUP. But the DUP their only vassals, didn't just have wind they had ingested so much more over the years which had made them a lot sicker than their baby sitters thought.

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