If Brexit really was about winding up ‘Radio 4 types’ like MITCH BENN, there were easier ways to go about it.
The more the effects of Brexit make themselves felt, the harder it gets to understand what the point of it was in the first place. During what for want of a more descriptive term we’ll call the Brexit ‘negotiations’ of the last few years, one certainly got the impression that our fishing industry was being ‘ring-fenced’, that protection of our fish stocks and those who earned their living catching them was a red line not to be crossed, with all sorts of concessions being sought and/or demanded to this effect. And yet now here we are in week three of Actual Brexit and it turns out that the fishermen have been slung further under the bus than anyone. So who was it all for then?
The closest thing we’ve had to an explanation from the government benches was Jacob Rees-Mogg’s bizarre assertion that the important thing is that our fish are now “British fish, and happier for it”, a statement of such glib empty callousness that it deserves to take its place alongside “Let them eat cake” in the annals of Incredibly Tone Deaf And Heartless Things To Say.
I’m not sure how Notorious JRM came to this conclusion; have feeble recitations of Rule Britannia! been heard emanating from the crates of lobster left rotting on Scottish docksides? Have our haddock been refusing to come out of the water without concrete assurances that they’ll be coated in properly soggy batter, none of your foreign tempura muck?
I think it may have been Mogg’s lofty dismissal of the fears of the increasingly desperate fishing industry which prompted me to take to Twitter (it’s weirdly quiet there these days, don’t you think?) to ask of whoever was listening: “Go on, tell me again you knew exactly what you were voting for. F***ing dare you.”
Someone who evidently had been listening was a person to whom I’ll refer as “Mr. F”, who responded: “I knew what I was voting for, and after reading Mitch Benn’s comment I now realise that was *exactly* what I voted for. To p*ss all those ever-so-smug ‘Now Show’ Radio 4 types off. It obviously worked very well.”
It was all about annoying me?
I mean I suppose I should be flattered by the attention (I’m not) but if all you really wanted to do was annoy me, couldn’t you have found a way to do that which didn’t involve crippling our economy and turning Britain into an international laughing stock?
I’ve grown a pretty thick skin over the years, but there are plenty of far less destructive ways to wind me up. Invite me over to watch Blade Runner then insist on putting the 1992 edit on; tell me at length about how the Beatles were overrated; stand outside my house with a boom box like John Cusack in that movie playing Ed Sheeran songs; tie me to a chair and make me watch Love Actually on a loop (I’d be a broken man within 12 hours); say “couldn’t of”; jeez, just spelling my surname with one n sends me into an absolute lather and that happens all the time. It’s not like Benn is a particularly obscure surname, is it? I’m not even in the top five famous Benns (as long as you include cartoons).
But joking aside, that’s incredibly depressing, isn’t it? To have someone not only stand by their decision to – I’m sorry to repeat myself, but there really is no better way of phrasing this – cripple our economy and turn Britain into an international laughing stock, but to proudly admit – indeed proclaim – that they did so out of pure, unalloyed spite towards someone they’d never met?
Just as corruption and mendacity are eating away at our political culture from the inside, so spite is corroding it from the outside. We’ve been so encouraged to see the world in terms of us and them that the desire to see them crushed and humiliated has taken precedence over the desire for us to thrive. We vote for politicians whom we know to be venal and untrustworthy not because we think that we will benefit, but in the hope that those we despise will suffer.
But as we’re seeing with Brexit – as eventually, perhaps, all of us will see with Brexit – you can’t punish half a country.
I’m not sure how we go about addressing this. One thing our side – maybe we’re not the Remainers any more, maybe we’re not the Rejoiners yet but we are still a ‘side’ in this conflict – one thing we can do is welcome across those who are now expressing regret that they got suckered in by The Great Brexit Swindle. However foolish we think they were five years ago, they’re making the right choice now and that needs to be applauded.
Schadenfreude may feel good – God, sometimes it feels good – but it’s no way to run a society.