Is it never too late for Brexiteers to make amends?
PUBLISHED: 14:00 14 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:19 14 June 2018
As the World Cup kicks off in Russia, MITCH BENN is inspired by David Beckham's never-give-up attitude to his England career.
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The World Cup is upon us again; I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t seem to be capturing the public’s imagination quite so inescapably as on previous occasions. Perhaps the genial madness attending the tournament is being overshadowed by the literal madness consuming much of the world right now; perhaps we’re all feeling a little madnessed out. Perhaps it’s the inevitable sour taste added to proceedings by the fact that this year’s competition will be hosted by Russia, the source (direct and indirect) of so much of that madness.
Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of personal perspective. I’ve never really followed football – unusual for a man of my age, weight and socio-economic ranking, and flat heresy for someone who grew up in Liverpool during the 1970s and ’80s.
I guess I’m what you’d call a lapsed Liverpool supporter; I’ve only ever been to about three matches in my life and, as regards televised games, either I don’t care about the result, in which case I can’t be bothered to watch, or I do care about the result, in which case I can’t bear to watch. (I’m rather glad I was busy on the evening of the Champions League final a few weeks back.)
The World Cup, on the other hand, does bring a certain fascination in as much as it is a unique clash of cultures. Football is, compared to most other team sports, a blank slate.
It has relatively few rules and almost no formal structure to the game once it’s started.
As such, it is possible for two opposing teams to be playing what are, in effect, completely different games on the same pitch. Some World Cup fixtures are not so much a battle between competing teams as competing world-views. The methodical Northern Europeans versus the capricious South Americans; the swagger of the ‘first world’ nations versus the just-happy-to-be-here pluck of the developing countries.
It is possible that it means a little less to me personally as this is the first World Cup since 2002 during which I’m not going to be trying to come up with comedy songs for any satirical radio shows.
Being permanently under the cosh to write topical comedy can force you to take an interest in matters which you wouldn’t otherwise choose to bone up on.
I remember covering that 2002 World Cup on BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show in particular, as we were up against a bit of an insoluble scheduling problem: the tournament was hosted jointly by Japan and South Korea and, as such, the matches tended to be played in the morning and early afternoon British time.
The game everyone in England was awaiting with clenched everything was the match against Argentina, which was scheduled for Friday morning.
Now the radio show in question was recorded on a Thursday evening and broadcast on the Friday evening, so as we were writing the show it was obvious that by the time the show went out, the only thing anyone in England would be talking about was the result of a game that, at the time of recording, hadn’t happened yet.
The solution I came up with was to write a song with triumvirating verses: one verse in a major key hailing an England victory; another verse in a minor key bewailing a defeat, then a verse in straight fifths (neither major nor minor) contemplating a draw.
I can’t actually remember the result, bizarrely; I do recall that David Beckham scored a penalty, thus earning some redemption for having got himself pointlessly sent off during the same fixture four years previously (hmm, I seem to know more about football than I thought I did).
I’m reminded of that incident this week as I find myself in a similar bind, time-wise: writing before the full outcome of the parliamentary votes on Brexit are known.
The two days of debate started with the hysterical Daily Express huffing “BETRAY THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE AT YOUR PERIL”, once again missing the point.
It was never ‘the will of the people’ to hobble and humiliate our country. It was never ‘the will of the people’ to drive Northern Ireland back to the brink of civil war. It was never ‘the will of the people’ for the financial and manufacturing industries to flee overseas, as they are now preparing to do. It was never ‘the will of the people’ to enrich Jacob Rees-Mogg at the expense of his constituents.
It was never ‘the will of the people’ to mire the entire mechanism of government in chaos for decades.
We’ve known this without a shadow of a doubt for exactly a year: Theresa May went to the country last June in search, she told us, of an ‘enhanced mandate’ for Brexit and was duly humiliated. And the Brexiteers know it too; they know they squeaked it by lying and cheating last time and they know there’s no way they’d ever win again, hence their bleating about ‘the will of the people’ as they work furiously to ensure that the actual will of the people with regard to the reality of Brexit will never be known.
The wheels are coming off the Brexit bandwagon and the charlatans are jumping off.
Keep on slackening the nuts.
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