MITCH BENN: We need to welcome Brexiteers over to our side as new found allies

Anti-Brexit protestors outside the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

Anti-Brexit protestors outside the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

MITCH BENN on the benefit of taking some time to regroup and plan.

Ian Cognito, who died on stage. Picture: Contributed

Ian Cognito, who died on stage. Picture: Contributed - Credit: Archant

Some people have expressed alarm that, having fixed upon the in-no-way significant or ominous date of October 31 as the new deadline for resolving Brexit (one way or another), parliament then went into recess for the Easter period.

Surely there wasn't time for this? Didn't Donald Tusk himself warn that the reprieve had only been granted on the understanding that it wouldn't be wasted?

On the contrary: I'd say that a week or so off from thinking about Brexit was not only a good idea just now, but a necessary one.

I think I speak for many of us when I say that trying to keep up with the last few weeks' events has been playing hell with my digestion (and mentions in dispatches must go here to Ian Dunt, whose Twitter feed has been by far the best source of information vis à vis developments in the Commons) so I can only imagine it's having an even worse effect on MPs themselves.

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The chances of the House's collective nerves becoming so frayed that some hideously drastic measure is taken on a 'Ah Screw It' basis are troublingly high right now. A couple of weeks off for all concerned seems a small price to pay to avoid this.

Besides, a good friend of mine died suddenly, shortly before Easter, and I'm having difficulty thinking about anything else just at the moment.

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There's a good chance you heard about his passing, and an equally good chance that this was the first you'd ever heard of him. Ian Cognito was one of those comedians – in fact the last of those comedians – who was admired and respected as a comic genius by his peers (and by those audiences who saw him perform) but was just too much of a loose cannon ever to achieve mainstream success. The comedy industry likes fake nutcases, predictable unpredictability. Cogs (as he was known by all) was the real thing.

Tales of Cogs's booze-fuelled misadventures on and offstage have been the stuff of comedy circuit legend for decades, and his grieving pals – me included – have been exchanging varyingly unprintable memories of him in the days since the news broke that he'd left us much as he'd always said he would – expiring, aged 60, from heart failure, on stage at a comedy club, breathing his last as he cracked up the audience (who thought he was pretending to collapse for comic effect) one last time.

It's hit me especially hard as when I last saw him, just a month ago, he was looking terrific – 18 months sober, following doctors' orders, slim and bright eyed. I was so proud of him, and now he's gone. I guess the damage had already been done.

The People's Vote March in London. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA Wire.

The People's Vote March in London. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

What's particularly ironic is that since Cogs's passing, the combination of the newsworthy nature of his death and the fact that comedians far more famous than me have been paying him fulsome tribute has led to him posthumously 'blowing up' all over social media.

Comedy fans everywhere are wondering who this guy is that all the comedy legends are mourning and hailing as an overlooked genius, and seeking out whatever clips of him they can find online.

It's some scant consolation to contemplate how utterly spittingly furious Cogs would have been at this turn of events. At this rate Robert Downey Jr will be playing him in the movie in about two years (good casting, by the way; right height, right eyelids).

If there's any positive to be drawn from Cogs's loss it's that this belated discovery by comedy fans that perhaps the best live comic in the country was someone they'd never seen (and now never will) is making it plainer than ever that 'great stand up comedian' and 'comedian I've seen on TV' are not interchangeable concepts.

There's been a bit of a resurgence in comedy club attendance of late; it'd be a nice epitaph for Cogs if this sad event gives it another boost.

Meanwhile, we – as in the Remain movement – needed to use the recent 'time off' to relax, regroup and plan. We're in a war of attrition now, except the resource we're depending on isn't food or ammunition but enthusiasm.

We've scored some genuine victories in the last few weeks but this battle will be decided not by who's in the right (we won that one months ago) but by who turns up in the greatest numbers and with the most commitment, to protest, organise, and (should the European elections go ahead, as it looks like they will). Vote.

Prominent Brexiters are coming over to our side; we need to welcome them as newfound allies and save the 'I Told You So's for some other time (or never).

Remember, there was no way Article 50 could be extended. Then it was. Then there was no way it could be extended again for a period of months. Then it was. A few months ago most commentators put the probability of Brexit going ahead at 80-90%; now even the most staunchly pro-Leave pundits admit that it's about 50/50 whether it happens at all.

We're winning this.


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