As a comedian, MITCH BENN knows how it feels to stand before a crowd that’s booing you. Here’s when it happened to Prime Minister.
Of all the disparate elements in the jumble of intermittently remunerative hobbies which in my case passes for a ‘career’, writing this column is one of the most rewarding (and indeed – in these final-spin-cycle-level turbulent times – most therapeutic). It’s therefore a whinge very much of the ‘first world problem’ kind to point out that the sheer rapidity of events is making this job almost impossible to perform just at the moment.
There’s almost no point my even attempting to address the major issues of the hour, since they are literally the issues of the hour. By the time I re-read this and hit ‘send’ things will have changed so radically that any points I made in the opening paragraphs will already be obsolete. Even if were to avoid making reference to any specific ‘facts’ and confine myself to editorialising and opining, the things about which I expressed these opinions may well no longer exist by the time you read this, whether ‘you’ in this sentence refers to this newspaper’s readership or its editorial staff (hi guys).
It’s hard enough for those of us who are, to whatever degree, being paid to stay abreast of this not-slow-motion-anymore political train wreck to keep up with developments, so it must be far harder to do it in one’s spare time.
If one were of a conspiratorially-inclined mindset one might ponder if that were the whole idea: to keep the public so dazzled and bewildered by the turnover of statements, counter-statements, retractions and u-turns that the public simply gives up trying to stay on top of it all.
The thing is, he says, belatedly trying to strike a serious-ish note and hoping the shift in tone isn’t too clanging, we mustn’t give up. Not now.
And this ‘we’, incidentally, doesn’t just refer to Remainers, either active or passive. It means all of us, Remainer, Brexiter and Don’tknower. Right now we all need to be engaged as never before.
I don’t have to – I don’t believe – extol the importance of staying engaged and involved to the Active Remainer contingent among you. The very fact that there is still an ‘Active Remainer’ contingent in this country is testament to the effectiveness and necessity of staying engaged and involved. We’re still in this fight because we turn up and turn out when we have to; over three years after we’d been told that the battle was lost. It’s been inspiring to attend (and occasionally present) anti-Brexit events all over the country during the last year, watching the numbers and enthusiasm swell rather than diminish.
I know it’s easy to question the point of things like marches, and rallies, and petitions, when the government can loftily ignore all such efforts and carry on regardless. But the point is, they can’t ignore it forever, however they try and however they wish they could. In evidence; Boris Johnson’s disastrous ‘address to the nation’ from in front of Number 10 last Monday evening.
I don’t know if you saw it (I’m assuming you did, either live or later) but it was extraordinary to witness the effect to which the howls of protest coming from the gated-off end of the street were visibly having on the Prime Fibber. There’s been speculation as to whether he had intended to threaten a general election there and then (the ‘announcement’ was made later via spokesbeings) but bottled it upon finding himself drowned out by boos and chants.
Certainly, watching that footage as a stand-up comedian evoked horribly familiar feelings. The forced smile, the stumbling diction, the pale sweaty face, the feeble attempts at bonhomie, the hurried goodbye and shuffling exit… we comedians, we’ve seen that so many times. Most of us have been that more than once. That was the sight, if you’ll excuse a minor vulgarity, of someone dying on his arse.
Such was the bizarrely damaging pointlessness of the exercise – sending the prime minister out to be humiliated in order to deliver a statement which contained precisely no new information whatsoever – that one can’t help but wonder whose idea it was. And as is always the case these days, one can scarcely help but conclude that it was Dominic Cummings’ idea.
I do hope Johnson screamed him out when he got back inside Number 10 for hanging him out to dry like that, and one wonders how many more spectacularly mismanaged episodes it’s going to take before Johnson realises that his Evil Genius In Chief is nothing of the sort.
Figuring out that you can fool people with clickbait and Facebook ads does not make you Professor Moriarty. It makes you no more or less smart than any of the other hundreds of alt-right dudebros coining it in with a fake news site. Whatever happens in this game over the next few weeks and months, stay in that game.
Turn up. Turn out. Resist.