While Brexit has many faults, what with it unleashing a perpetual barrage of ignominy and confusion upon what was once a comparatively sane nation, it’s not been a journey entirely bereft of hope. If nothing else, it’s shone a spotlight upon parliamentary proceedings – in turn granting the previously naive public a glimpse into the fierce dedication and admirable competence a number of MPs actually possess as they desperately try to divert the country away from an act of pointless self immolation.
However, while the likes of Yvette Cooper and Dominic Grieve have proved their mettle during these most testing of times, the arse end of Parliament’s capability spectrum has not only gained prominence, but undeniably managed to seize the vast majority of our attention – bringing all manner of bewilderingly unhinged characters to the forefront of political discourse, each carving out their own distinct niche as they build a considerable media profile on the back of incomprehensible stupidity.
This procession of ideologically charged chancers vying for media prominence, scrambling atop a self perpetuating mound of incendiary bullshit in a bid to secure a seat on the panel of this week’s Peston, has truly been a sight to behold. The onslaught of disinformation has been as varied as it has cretinous – ranging from the preposterous belief based waffle of Andrea Jenkyns, in which blind faith has been allowed to masquerade as a valid argument, to the hardcore denialism of Andrew Bridgen, basing his dismissal of the Irish border issue on an imagined entitlement to an Irish passport.
Yet, try as they might, these two hapless dullards are but mere pretenders when it comes to claiming the throne of fantasist firebrand in chief. If recent weeks are anything to go by, there is only one viable candidate on offer.
That man is Mark Gino Francois.
Before Brexit forever diminished the concept of sensible debate, Mark Francois was a relative unknown. Virtually invisible on the backbenches without the aid of a booster seat, the rare utterance of his name would conjure up images of a potential lead villain in a cheap knock-off of Commando rather than a living, breathing member of parliament.
Such obscurity was a suitable setting for a distinctly unremarkable individual – however, in one astonishing moment of bullish stupidity, that all changed.
The setting was an interview with the BBC during the early weeks of 2019. With the stink ever emanating from Brexit now festering well into its third year, the putrid pong was well and truly forging a sorry path up people’s noses – one of which was the snout of Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus.
Enders hadn’t been especially impressed with the government bungling on Brexit, going as far to warn that if the “madness” of considering a no deal Brexit was ever enacted upon, they may well have to close factories in the UK.
Now Mr Francois, having apparently drowned his brain in intoxicating patriotism to the point where cognition had become impossible, wasn’t best pleased with his cherished no deal facing justifiable criticism. Also Tom Ender was German. Once upon a time a discussion with a semblance of decorum would have taken place, but Mark Francois wasn’t having that – not when that lot from World War 2 were pissing on his bonfire.
With his jowl ridden visage turning a distinct shade of pink, Francois tore up Ender’s written warning with a petulant defiance befitting of a grounded child. He wasn’t going to be lectured to by a German – not when he could parasitically invoke his father’s military service he had absolutely no part in.
Stupid, borderline xenophobic and about as well advised an advert for ‘Global Britain’ as curling out a turd on Merkel’s front doorstep but nevertheless, Mark Francois had established himself.
Granted he’d established himself as a bolshy simpleton with about as firm a grasp on reality as a seal attempting to hold onto a lubricated ferret, but media outlets didn’t care a jot. Good TV is good TV and, in a post Big Brother world in which acting a tit in front of a gawping nation guarantees you a portion of stardom, Mark Francois was suddenly everywhere.
The often derided concept of TV “balance” had well and truly been torn asunder. Rational debate now had to take a back seat as the focus became fixated on the latest Francois diatribe. Curious to know what the latest absurdly complex Brexit development actually means? Well be sure to enjoy the 20 seconds of considered analysis on offer – in the interests of “balance” we must now cut to Mark Francois indulging in an inane soliloquy in which he displays no understanding of the situation at hand but quotes Jesus for no apparent reason. That’s now the world we live in.
I’m sure I leave myself open to accusations of snobbery with such an analysis. In some respects I can somewhat appreciate the criticism. Francois is representative of a sizeable demographic with a predisposition to overindulge in mindless jingoism. The “feels over reals” brigade as it were.
However, in the midst of what is undeniably a national crisis, news outlets who are ostensibly there to inform and educate are doing a grave disservice not only to the public at large, but to the discussion itself – denying a voice for coherent criticisms of the EU in favour of a common denominator so low it’s wallowing at subterranean depths.
Now isn’t the time for legitimising ignorance, it’s a time for finally gaining a working understanding of the shitstorm of misery we’re about to potentially unleash.
The likes of Francois may offer a cheap laugh and a viral hit, but succumbing to distraction is precisely what led Britain into the mire in the first place – such a desperate situation a whistle-blower was forced to break rank and reveal that actually, in spite of what Mark Francois might claim, the NHS are dangerously under-equipped for no deal.
Cite the Second World War all you want – when you’re unable to get your hands on life saving medicine even patriotic nostalgia won’t be able to help you.Follow @grahamlithgow