All posts by Graham Lithgow

Perpetually befuddled miserabilist.

Don’t blame me – I’m just the Prime Minister

This whole Brexit business is a bit complicated, isn’t it? Every day our pitifully inadequate human minds are bombarded with talk of trade deals, peculiar jargon relating to so called “backstops” and generally obscure organisations such as the WTO, which everyone now claims to have a complete and total understanding of.

With such befuddlement abound,  it is then of little wonder that many a yawning chasm of opportunity have arose. Specifically to drown the narrative with a deluge of spurious proclamations which, despite having absolutely no basis in any manner of recognisable reality, would be most beneficial if they were actually believed.

Spurious proclamations such as this one, for example:

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Call me old fashioned, but I consider it more sporting to blame the party which instigated this ill advised Brexit caper in the first place.

In truth, the attempts to spin this particular web of deceit have been ongoing for a considerable period – though now the moment we’ve spent the best part of three years failing to prepare for is right around the corner, the desperation has become considerably more palpable.

Nevertheless, despite it being a cowardly tactic so blatant it’s visible from the outer reaches of the Solar System, this hasn’t stopped ghoulish demagogue Theresa May from snatching it up in her claws and positioning it right at the centre of her risible negotiation strategy.

Irrespective of whether it makes sense or not.

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They’re not the only ones.

May has been very eager to portray those in Brussels as being intransigent to the point of callousness, baiting the pesky eurocrats with mindless posturing and jingoistic rhetoric whenever accountability draws near or she feels the need to placate the unrelenting numbskulls in the ERG, but this apparently masterful smokescreen has one fatal weakness – reality.

To say May’s been inflexible in her approach doesn’t quite do the situation justice, with the task of averting her aim towards anything even remotely sensible being akin to towing a mountain with a unicycle. Having the courage to stick to your guns is one thing, but keeping the blinkers firmly in place for the sole purpose of shielding your eyes from the glaring, irrevocable flaws in your plan is tantamount to insanity – the madness most notably manifesting itself through a painfully limited selection of poxy soundbites, which were repeated ad nauseam whenever any member of Parliament tried pointing out that the ointment being pushed was actually swarming with flies.

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“I hear what my right honourable friend is saying, but have they considered that Brexit means Brexit?”

As laughably inept as her premiership has been, rejecting any possible solution out of hand while she stubbornly steers her ever faltering bandwagon towards a brick wall, she is at least savvy enough to realise that what actually happens is somewhat of a side concern – the key battleground she needs to seize is that of the prevailing narrative.

It’s not exactly a secret as to how crucial an element this becomes in shaping the public perception of reality – take a look at the referendum campaign which started this maelstrom of misery for example. It mattered little that the European Union aren’t actually an evil cabal of neo-Nazis set to swipe your daily portion of sovereignty right from your plate and cultivate a superstate based on a strain of fascism 2.0 which Hitler could have only dreamt of – once the absurd notion had sufficiently permeated the discourse it was too late; the debate was already taking place, minds were made up and dubious pundits dispatched to ensure the poison became eternally rooted in the zeitgeist.

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“To validate the cretinous babblings of one ahistorical philistine, here’s another.”

The week ahead is likely to be the death knell for May’s deal. Near universally despised, the chances of it limping over the line, torn apart and eviscerated as it is, are next to nil – and there’s only one person to blame.

Even putting aside the colossal timescale in which it was ineptly crafted, there have been many crossroads along the way; points at which a semblance of humility could have been offered and an infinitely more credible path taken – but May resisted every step of the way; instead opting to plough ahead with the unworkable, forever pandering to the fruit-loop subsection of her party whose unwavering belligerence caused the fatal schism in the first place.

Her failure now all but inevitable, enlisting her faithful stooges to overclock the propaganda machine isn’t to aid the passing of her deal, but rather to lay the groundwork upon which a plethora of lamentable excuses can be laid.

As with the anti EU sentiment which facilitated Brexit in the first place, whatever scraps of credibility May has going forward are once again dependent on the majority chowing down on that very same slab of red meat; the EU once again taking the hit on a failure which was entirely down to Britain.

How very Brexit.

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What use is there for the terminally useless? A Chris Grayling story

It’s fair to say that we’re not exactly blessed with a highly capable government right now. The very idea of a meritocracy exists only as a fanciful pipe dream, so beaten down we’ve become by the soul eroding pantomime of spectacular incompetence playing out before us on a daily basis.

In whichever direction you care to cast a cursory glance, you’ll find yourself bearing witness to some manner of miserable failure. A Defence Secretary attempting to flex his masculinity in front of an autocratic murderer by telling him to “shut up and go away”, before finding himself soundly thrashed by Richard Madeley? Standard. A Brexit Secretary barely turning up to negotiate Brexit prior to his resignation, inexplicably on grounds of supposed honour? Par for the course. A Foreign Secretary who can’t even remember the nationality of his own wife? All part of a day’s work when you’re a highly paid, government minister.

However, amidst the cavalcade of calamity bumbling its way through the halls of Westminster, a place in which being an unrelenting dolt is apparently a precondition for entry, there is one man who stands alone.

A man comprised of such an unfathomable level of inadequacy, that his terminal aversion to success has transcended the limits of our little island and gained him fame across the globe.

That man is Chris Grayling.

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British exports aren’t what they used to be. We used to send them The Beatles, now we send them a perpetually baffled bald man who’s shit at his job.

Yes, the laughable legend of ‘Failing Grayling’ has gone stateside, with American onlookers finding themselves just as baffled as we are as to the apparently impervious nature of this pitiful minister’s continued employment – and they’ve got Donald Trump as their President.

The excruciating exploits of Mr Grayling are preposterous to the degree that they would be rejected out of hand for inclusion in a political satire, solely on the basis of breaking suspension of disbelief. It is indeed a career to send shudders down the spine; a catalogue of unbridled disaster in which Grayling lurches from one lucratively salaried role to the next, leaving a trail of catastrophe in his wake as he seeks out the next departmental responsibility to subvert beyond comprehension. A King Midas of the faecal variety, if you will.

Of course, being terrible at your job isn’t exactly an unusual trait in the cabinet, Boris Johnson stands as obvious testament to that – but it’s the frequency in which he blunders that sets Grayling apart; stumbling into his next inglorious pratfall before you’ve even had chance to process the previous misadventure.

One moment Gatwick airport is brought to a standstill by a drone which may not have even existed. While you’re still reeling in confusion, attempting to get your head around such a risible mishap, the intrepid Transport Secretary is elsewhere, eagerly signing a ferry contract with a freight company who don’t have any ferries. You’d think that in of itself would be grounds for having a P45 rammed down his throat but don’t be too hasty – the attempts to secure post Brexit supply lines were botched to such a degree that the government was forced to pay out ¬£33 million to prevent a scorned, would be applicant from mounting a legal case.

Quite understandably, many are wondering Theresa May persists with the feckless dullard – it can’t be especially gratifying to the ego having to reaffirm your confidence in a hapless instigator of political doom every other week; so just why does she stand by this lamentable bastion of ruination?

Many have speculated that it’s down to his Brexiteer leanings, with the suggestion that binning the bumbler would only serve to poison the well further in her dealings with the ERG. There’s even been the suggestion that, during his former career in the media, he obtained sufficient dirt on his superiors, subsequently making him untouchable.

In truth however, I suspect the explanation is rather more simple.

Theresa May needs a diversionary stooge.

There’s mere days left until Brexit yet, in terms of preparation, we’re still meandering aimlessly around the same point we started at nearly three years ago. Time is slipping away and, as the Tory party continues to feverishly gorge upon its own innards, May’s only plan of action seems to involve having her wretched deal rejected in perpetuity until the last flicker of life in the known universe finally subsides.

Yet, thanks to Chris Grayling, there’s at least a tiny window of opportunity to spin a narrative in which the Tory’s ability to be indescribably abysmal is actually all down to one man – however implausible such a scenario may be.

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Similar to how John Gotti single-handedly ruined the Mafia’s reputation for being a compassionate, law abiding organisation.

It makes perfect sense from this perspective. If you’re unable to achieve a victory at least shield yourself best you can from the ignominy of inevitable defeat, salvaging whatever dignity you can along the way.

Dignity is clearly a concept Chris Grayling abandoned long ago, perfectly willing to continue in his role of inadvertently orchestrating Armageddon everytime he breathes in oxygen – thus making him a perfectly pliant patsy for May and her cronies to throw out to the wolves every time they get too close for comfort.

Grayling will never provide any moments of insight, gumption or even simple competence, all the while ensuring the government continues to haemorrhage money until they’re finally booted out of office but, in today’s Britain where political aspiration has become indistinguishable from callous self interest, I don’t suspect Theresa May especially cares.

After all, it’s all about survival for Theresa – and when the shit hits the fan, she’ll be grateful to cower behind an idiot who didn’t have the foresight to move.

Theresa May and the Dereliction of Humanity

It’s long been observed that there’s something just a little off about Theresa May. No matter how hard she tries, each and every attempt to merge seamlessly into a public setting brings with it an unmistakable stench of the uncanny valley. Whether it’s her inadvertently subversive attempts at dancing, her recent failed bid to decipher the intricate mechanism of a pool cue or her obvious discomfort with any situation in which she’s confronted with a living, breathing member of the human race – there’s something unmistakably inhuman about Mrs May.

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I knew it.

Understandably, at this point it’d be par for the course to launch into the seemingly obligatory ‘Maybot’ routine – unleashing a deluge of quips pertaining to her automaton tendencies and her apparent reluctance to undergo the Voight-Kampff test, but I’ll spare you the tedium.

The jokes have been made, relentlessly so but, as with all spawning points of enduring humour, beneath the wry chuckles there’s much truth to be had.

It’s been quite the roller-coaster ride living under the rule of Theresa May – by which I mean it’s been entirely characterised by terror induced nausea as we lurch from one pitfall to the next with no viable means of escape. While I can’t deny that there’s been the odd moment of light relief, namely the most pitifully inept election campaign in living memory, the experience as a whole has been underpinned by an ever growing sensation of helplessness – as we regrettably bear witness to a would be autocrat treating the nation as mere collateral, as she doggedly carries out her solitary compulsion to cling onto a power which can only be justified in her own delusions.

Then again, she did invent the ‘hostile environment’ as Home Secretary – so what did we really expect?

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All things considered, Anna Soubry probably had a point.

The May approach to leadership has been as obstinate as it has incompetent. While there’s an understandable school of thought that a steely determination to see your aspirations through to completion, remaining unswayed by the naysayers and potential hardships which litter your path to the finish line provides grounds for justifiable admiration, it pales in the reverence stakes when compared directly to the ability to both recognise and accept obvious realities. If your head is to be in the clouds, make sure your feet are firmly rooted on the ground – and May’s tootsies are stationed so far beyond the stratosphere that the millions of citizens below aren’t even visible, let alone a consideration.

Such ghoulish detachment to the consequences of her actions may seem unfathomable to anyone with a functional sense of empathy, looking upon callously negligent acts such as reducing human lives to poker chips and attempting to bypass the parliamentary process altogether with appropriate levels of horror.

Though if your envisioned route out of this nightmare is a successful appeal to her better nature, creating a storybook ending in which Theresa finally touches base with the concept of empathetic thought before striding joyously over the horizon to teach the world to sing, you’re likely to be bitterly disappointed.

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In fairness she did try to teach the world to dance, but it didn’t really catch on.

May’s premiership has never really been about Brexit, despite it being set to make up the huge bulk of her ministerial epitaph. Her primary motivation has never been guided by a steadfast belief in delivering a glorious Brexit, that was merely a circumstantial necessity should she wish to hold onto what she cherishes the most – power. At any cost.

Curiously enough, Leave propaganda spivs have it somewhat correct when they argue that May is a Remainer in Brexiteer’s clothing. She is – though they’re mistaken in their assertion that she’s trying to bring the whole sorry caper down from the inside. Following the Brexit doctrine was a requirement for an incoming Prime Minister’s survival, such was the nature of the zeitgeist.

Trouble is, when the criteria for success was limited to such a narrow precept, May’s inclination to be brutally dogmatic came to the fore. All sense of diplomacy vanished into the ether, with the capacity to be rational and whatever dwindling morsel of empathy she may have once possessed going with it.

All that remains now is, in effect, an intransigent husk of a leader. Shorn of reason and flexibility of thought, with a laughable repertoire of pre-programmed slogans being the all purpose response to any line of inquiry – Theresa May has indeed become the very essence of the unfeeling automaton many have jokingly proclaimed her to be.

Just a shame her solitary directive reads “Brexit means Brexit”, leaving the rest of us doomed to be swept along in her mission to salvage whatever authority she can – by securing a victory that was never on the table to begin with.

The kids are alright – they’re only trying to help

Believe it or not, when I was a mere whippersnapper, toiling away through the rigours of an aimless teenage existence, I nearly took part in a protest on school time – in the school itself no less. I wasn’t the only one either – many students, imbued with self righteous rage and inadvertently inspired by an ethics based class on the merits of non-violent protest, planned to take to the school field, refusing to budge an inch until the tyranny of switching up the form groups was revoked.

Alas, we didn’t succeed. Most likely because in the end absolutely nobody bothered. Nothing was ventured and diddly squat was gained in return, our youthful apathy proving our undoing.

So, with this in mind, seeing the scorn that has greeted students, who dared be sufficiently engaged in the world around them to a degree in which they’re willing to speak out against a looming danger in the very future they selfishly wish to enjoy, has been a most curious experience indeed.

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There’s being misinformed, there’s missing the point and then there’s Toby Young.

Climate change has become one of those peculiar issues in which, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that humanity isn’t just a key contributor to but also set to suffer greatly from its ramifications, in remains a danger which simply fails to resonate with many – specifically amongst those who will conveniently be dead before its impact will be most keenly felt.

As such, it’s easy for eminently unqualified simpletons like Toby Young to bat away with around the same amount of effort in which it takes him to condition his hair each morning.

Though rather than offering even the faintest semblance of insight into detailing how the protesting students were ideologically mistaken (quite possibly because he can’t), Toby instead opts to derisively sneer, characterising them as indolent pipsqueaks who simply couldn’t be arsed going into school.

Indeed, this is a narrative that pretty much all detractors decided to spin.

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It’s of little surprise that Daniel Hannan is so cynical, his only experience of the outside world is via Google Images.

Bloody kids, eh? What do they know? Those obnoxious rapscallions should know their place, specifically locked away in a modestly furnished bedroom for their 5pm curfew. That’ll teach them to have the temerity to accompany their presence in our realm with disgracefully obnoxious opinions, any line of inquiry being an unforgivable lack of respect for their more experienced and therefore wiser elders.

Or at least, you could likely understand if that was the disdainful message any young activist were to take from the snide reaction their work received. They might believe in their message, but the wizened world around them doesn’t care – to the extent that they don’t even have the inclination to address the argument, choosing instead to dismiss it out of hand on the basis of the messenger sporting a bumfluff moustache and uncontrollable acne.

It’s a concept which seems to be prevalent across the globe, rather than the ignorance simply being confined to our shores. Check out the contempt ostensibly respect worthy elders have for school shooting victims for example, responding to not only legitimate, but actually realised concerns about being murdered in school with a disparaging snicker at a survivor’s grades:

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Context – David Hogg was somewhat peeved about his friends being murdered.

Not exactly behaviour worthy of respect, is it? Though there is a common thread to be grasped at here. Whether it be gun violence in America, or climate crimes worldwide, the greater the failing of the ruling generation, the more urgent the desperation involved in deflecting the spotlight.

While you can’t deny there’s merit to be found in a lifetime of experience, as there is valid critique to be made of the naivety of youth, seeking to stamp out the inquisitive nature of a largely untainted mind is to the benefit of nobody, save for the guilty attempting to elude the grasp of considerable shame.

Besides, when we’re dealing with problems the current crop of middle aged Earth dwellers were unable to solve, it’s the subsequent generations we’ll be relying upon to find the answers.

Hell hath no fury like a liar called out

While we’re all still struggling to decipher what was actually meant by “Brexit means Brexit”, given that the narrative from propagandists jarringly shifts depending on which Brexit induced calamity needs to be spun as something people supposedly voted for, the prevailing mood behind its victory has always been painfully apparent.

It was a simple enough concept. Certainly succinct enough to cultivate a considerable bandwagon, ready to steamroller it’s way through the foundations of our political structure and shatter the complacent zeitgeist.

Pride. Specifically national pride – manifesting itself as an unshakeable belief that we are Britain and absolutely nothing, not even reality, can stand in our way from achieving global dominance on the back of a foundation of glorious, self governing independence.

At least, until somebody says something a bit mean. Then we lose our fucking minds.

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Not quite sure what Freud would have made of this, but chances are it wouldn’t have been good.

Soon both the press and social media were awash with indignant invective. Politicians, pundits and citizens alike were incandescent with rage towards Donald Tusk, with many on the Brexit side of the fence indicating that the unfathomably disgraceful slur he’d unleashed upon our innocent nation showed exactly why we had to leave. I mean, how dare he?!

It’s quite easy to get caught up in the hysteria, not least when your homeland is being slighted from afar.

Unless of course, you bothered to read what Donald Tusk actually said:

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Satan speaks. Apart from not really.

Not so bad when you take a look at the actual quote. In fact you could go as far to say that he’s bang on the money – the debatable existence of hell not withstanding of course. Further to this, the only people who should have taken any degree of offence to this were the duplicitous, cynically populist chancers his comments were directed towards.

So naturally – duplicitous, cynically populist chancer Nigel Farage was furious.

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Farage went onto claim that this kerfuffle proved that the EU are scared of the UK leaving without a deal. Why? I have no idea. Answers on a postcard.

Though none of this fallout was the least bit surprising, at least not from the hardline Brexit camp. A propagandist is going to do what a propagandist is going to do, seizing upon the slightest slither of controversy and discontent and twisting it to suit their agenda. Beyond recognition if needs be.

However this wilfully disingenuous indignation wasn’t limited to the obnoxious bluster of plan deficient hucksters – portions of the mainstream media were all too happy to fan the flames of confusion with curiously broad summations of what Donald Tusk actually said.

Namely the BBC:

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Which bit sticks in your head the most? The large font of the heading? The bold typeface in the subheading? Or what he actually said in the tiny lettering right at the bottom?

Just why the BBC chose to present Tusk’s comments in such a way is a matter known only to them, but if you were to say it was a cynical ploy to attract clicks and potentially stoke up a feeling of anti-EU sentiment ahead of Brexit D-Day, you might not be a million miles away from the truth.

In any case, such slack reporting was an absolute gift for Theresa May and her faltering government, gleefully¬†pouncing upon the dominant narrative and allowing them to further craft an “us against them” dichotomy all of their own – presumably with the aim of snuffing out any lingering remain sentiment amongst the populace.

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Ironically enough, “Widespread Dismay” would be the perfect tabloid style headline to sum up Theresa May’s entire stint as Prime Minister.

You could argue that perhaps Tusk was unwise to be so blunt, especially given that he was acutely aware of how it would be spun over in Britain. It was certainly no slip of the tongue, though one suspects he was long past the point of worrying about optics. It’s not as though the British press have ever been especially complimentary to those “bloody unelected eurocrats”, apparently holding them in a similar disdain as they do the truth.

Not to mention that, even leaving partisan media establishments to one side, British politicians haven’t exactly been exemplars in courteous diplomatic relations either.

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I wonder if Mike Godwin ever receives royalties for this?

Ultimately this entire shambles caused by one comment, as laced with scythe as it may have been, has provided a timely object lesson in how easily a deceptive narrative can be spun. It matters not that the actual quote is easily verifiable to anyone who has ten seconds spare to check Google, a scurrilous seed had been planted and the rot wasn’t far behind to overwhelm the discourse with bitter cries of vexation – all over a simple, justified comment aimed only at a small subsection of the most deserving.

You can’t help but wonder how this verbal skirmish will be perceived in the decades to come. It’s often said that history is written by the winners – and at this point the side in the ascendancy is riddled with unscrupulous liars.

 

Why Project Fear continues to fail – even as it comes true

As a species, we’ve always had a curious fascination with the idea of a dystopia. Just take a cursory glance towards the entertainment industry and you’ll find your eyeballs immediately swamped by all manner of irrevocably ravaged, near desolate wastelands in which the last remnants of humanity scrabble for survival, feverishly gnawing on the remains of Noam Chomsky as the light of civilisation ever dims to near imperceptible levels.

The reasoning behind this phenomenon I’ve never quite been able to pin down. Perhaps the soul crushing mundanity of our eternally structured and tiresomely cyclical existence in which nothing of interest ever happens gives way to an opening, in which indulging in the unrelenting misery of a constant battle for survival while trapped in a fractured and crumbling society becomes a heady method of escapism.

In any case, justifiably or otherwise, such an absurd idea can’t help but intrude in my thoughts when I see people gleefully clamouring for a no deal Brexit – apparently without the slightest concern as to whatever dire consequences our current reality is increasingly demonstrating.

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What 17.4 million people voted for. Maybe.

Of course, entertaining the possibility that huge swathes of people knowingly voted for their own nation’s demise is subconsciously facetious at best and would understandably be dismissed as pro-EU hysteria bypassing my sense of perspective. However, it remains a mystery that I continue to ponder over – just why are some people so impervious to what’s undeniably happening, as so called “Project Fear” ever the more develops beyond a mere prediction into a tangible problem?

Curiously, even the most prominent and allegedly hardline proponents of Leave have began to waver – albeit in an indirect manner characterised by pitiful cowardice. Jacob Rees-Mogg now places a fifty year timescale on Brexit yielding any benefit whatsoever, Liam Fox describes a no deal as “survivable”, apparently unaware that we’d have to rely on International Trade Secretary Liam Fox to secure new trade deals, while David Davis is currently attempting to claim that the Brexit benefits he’s never been able to substantiate have conveniently vanished into the ether.

Yet the average, hardline Brexiteer on the street remains unswayed, steadfast in their believe that a managed WTO Brexit is the way to go – irrespective of the cost and dearth of understandable logic.

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Given that Leave Means Leave events charge for tickets, these chancers have turned being fundamentally incorrect into a profitable enterprise.

Such unwavering dedication may be bewildering to the detached outsider, though stubborn tribalism exists on all sides of debate. Nobody likes to choke down on those bitter morsels of pride and admit that they were mistaken – not least if they’ve invested so much in their cherished rhetoric that it becomes a fundamental tenet of their own identity.

However the crux of Project Fear’s failure to penetrate runs deeper than a cultish obedience to a deeply held doctrine. Put bluntly, it simply isn’t relatable – to pretty much anyone.

As a nation we’ve been spoiled in recent times – utterly spoiled. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs through the years, suffering along with the rest of the world through the global financial crisis and, despite our prosperity, have been utterly pitiful when it comes to eradicating poverty and homelessness – but when viewed through the lens of comparative objectivity, we’re not doing half bad. Every citizen is entitled to healthcare, the supermarkets are always sufficiently stocked and, even though there are sporadic ripples of civil unrest, our society remains just about stable.

Owing to this, your everyday Joe simply cannot comprehend what it’s like to spend each day mired amidst a country which has been brought to its knees, with the very fabric of what allows a nation to function breaking apart at the seams. No matter the credibility of the oft dismissed doomsday scenarios exponents of Remain decide to present, their chances of resonating are hopelessly slim. Personal strife and localised troubles aside, while the framework of a generally operational state continues to tick along, the very notion of being greeted by empty shelves at the local Tesco, having just recovered from the shock of being denied a prescription upon which you depend earlier in the day, seems patently ludicrous. Peacetime breeds a sense of complacency that stability is here to stay – you almost can’t blame those who greet the idea that we should stockpile with derisive laughter. It’s simply a world they’ve never experienced.

Not to say that many haven’t experienced hardship, having found themselves beaten down by way of rotten luck and their road to happiness being forever closed off by the very same austerity we’ve been assured no longer exists, though harrowing warnings of economics collapse aren’t likely to have a market with this particular demographic. When you’ve got nothing to lose a gamble which constitutes a seismic upheaval of an entire country doesn’t seem especially high risk. Hell, it may even seem worth a punt. Who cares if it’s being sold to you by an anthropomorphic pork scratching who’s seemingly spent fifty years squatting in an ashtray? The status quo hasn’t been much help, so why support its continuation?

Yet that’s ultimately the key betrayal of Brexit. It’s often said that Leave snatched victory owing to their appeals to emotion and playing on the fears of the most vulnerable. That’s the modus operandi of a confidence swindle after all, right down to victim not coming wise to the grift until the unfortunate consequences are dumped unceremoniously upon their doorstep – and the swindlers in this instance have got all they need to keep you entranced in their spell until they’ve scarpered beyond the sunset to the nearest tax haven.

Specifically the claims of their opponents being so far detached from what the majority have experienced, they couldn’t possibly be true.

Could they?

 

 

Nadine Dorries, Question Time and how panel shows have failed us all

When I was a mere whippersnapper, full to the brim with wide eyed optimism and imbued with a credulous acceptance of pretty much anything exhibiting even the slightest veneer of authority, the television seemed like an infallible source of information. Scepticism be damned, if you shoved a besuited quack onto my screen, peddling the notion that eating Ryveta can instantly cure pneumonia my naive, young mind would have probably bought into it. I mean who cares if his doctorate is written in crayon? He’s on TV, he must know what he’s talking about, right?

Fortunately, during my haphazard stumble towards adulthood, a modicum of wisdom was gained along the way. No longer was I immediately duped by each and every absurd proposition that came into my field of view. Not to say that I’d become impervious to the occasionally tantalising whiff of fanciful bullshit, but I’d at least developed the sufficient mental faculties required to sniff out most purveyors of fantasy, whenever they emerged to flog their fictitious wares.

And it’s fair to say that the current climate has set my bullshit detector into overdrive.

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David Blunkett here, demonstrating the appropriate facial response for whenever Nadine Dorries attempts to formulate an argument.

The word “balance” often comes to the forefront when dealing with the discussion show format; the idea that all sides of the argument must have a voice in order to provide rounded analysis of the topic at hand. This is a concept I don’t necessarily disagree with in principle, being in theory a somewhat virtuous attempt to ensure that the observer doesn’t unwittingly find themselves locked in an echo chamber which is heavily slanted towards one intellectual conclusion.

However there comes a point when you have to take a step back and ask: are attempts at balance, especially when combined with the fast paced, cacophony of incoherent bellowing that discussion shows almost inevitably descend towards, only serving to leave the watching public further confused and ultimately misinformed?

I’d argue yes – specifically the point where you’re in a situation where the likes of the eternally ignorant Nadine Dorries filibuster their way to the final word on a matter they demonstrably have no real understanding of as the programme shifts gear entirely – sometimes even cutting to the end credits.

When viewed from the top down in the most basic terms, you can make an albeit simplistic case for Dorries and her ilk to be featured on such panels. Her views, however detached from any form of recognisable reality they may be, are in keeping with the opinions of a certain demographic and, irrespective of how terrifying a prospect it may be, she is, in fact, an elected MP. When examined from that standpoint, it matters little that she knows about as much regarding matters on which she opines as your average chipmunk does about chaos theory. Sure, her contribution will almost never yield anything even vaguely resembling a valid point and instead remain limited to a derisive sneer whenever her argument is torn to pieces but alas – flimsy or otherwise, there is at least some small form of justification for her being there.

Contrary to what appears to be the prevailing mood of the day, I’m not especially keen on the practice of arbitrary deplatforming and the field of discussion being limited. Of course there are caveats to this, as there has to be should we ever wish to achieve a functional and progressive society, but essentially I’m of the mind that concepts and proposals should be put forward and it’s then down to the open market place of ideas to determine their veracity. A viewpoint not entirely without its pitfalls, but it strikes me as the most intellectually honest on offer.

So if balance, flawed as it can often be, isn’t the main crux of the issue then what is?

To answer that, just take a look at an episode of Question Time. Literally any episode within the last three years would do.

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“If you’re looking for a serious discussion rife with insight and coherent debate, the door’s over there.”

The format of the show is simple – gather together an assortment of politicians, journalists and pundits from as many sides of the political spectrum as the seating plan allows, and put them of the mercy of an audience sourced from the local area. Naturally the balance element is often called into question, with featured British MEPs being exclusively of the eurosceptic variety along with Nigel Farage appearing almost as often as recently departed host David Dimbleby, but these are quibbles for another time; for it’s the format of the show where the real issues lie.

Ostensibly a show in which the issues of the day are dissected and rigorously debated by panel and audience alike, in practice the intended premise rapidly dies on its arse – giving way to a circus of unintelligible squabbling punctuated by vacuous posturing, almost goading the audience into delivering the desired applause.

Applause levels of course, apparently supersede the validity of the point being made as if the whole debacle was merely a piece of theatre. Almost as if this was exactly what the producers were going for – and the panel are only too happy to oblige; cramming their rhetoric with cheer bait slogans and quasi dictatorial finger pointing so it can be spliced up and uploaded to their Twitter timeline with any rebuttal curiously omitted.

While reasonable, considered discussion is at times attempted, it again finds itself hopelessly constrained by the format with a combination of both the baying crowd and four other panellists vying for attention rendering the entire endeavour almost pointless. The loudest voice often prevails, the filibuster being just one of the many tactics the regular panellists have learned to employ alongside equally spineless bids to get their most contentious points in right as the debate is drawing to a close offering no chance of rebuttal. Captivating viewing perhaps, but next to worthless should the viewer wish to gain any real insight as to the matters being discussed.

So what’s the solution? Debate shows being watered down to the point where it’s a moderated discussion between a select few people with a team of fact checkers present to weed out the untruths?

Well, yes quite frankly – but don’t expect it to happen. It’s not theatre. It’s not “box office”. It won’t get the punters talking, shouting cries of agreement or consternation into the void. They might even turn off – and no TV producer would want that.

So the next time Nigel Farage or some other disreputable fruit loop appears on your screen, having slithered into the BBC studio under the guise of a debate participant, just remember why they’re there. A chance to preach to the confirmation bias of the choir while proselytising upon a platform that will allow them to do so relatively unhindered.

Yet we watch on; transfixed upon the spectacle and gaining nothing in the way of knowledge as to the matter being discussed.

Though we’ll be sure to tune in next time of course, somehow perplexed as to why the debate has remained in a state of paralysis since the day it began.