Vladimir McTavish’s A KICK UP THE TABLOIDS
There has been no lack of hyperbole in the media over the past few months as Britain approaches the cliff edge of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. The headlines have boomed out on the front pages and on the BBC.
This is ‘The Most Important Constitutional Crisis since the Abdication’, ‘The Biggest Challenge Facing Britain since World War II’, ‘The Biggest Disaster since Suez’, and ‘The Most Monumental Cock-Up since Profumo’.
The important thing when considering how the Left responds to Brexit is to learn from history, and to learn our lessons from the past – because that is precisely where we are heading. Back to the past. Or at least that would appear to be the world that where the most rabid Brexiteers would like to inhabit. Exactly which part of the past we are headed to is still open to question.
It seems a bizarre co-incidence that as Brexit talks stumble from one impasse to another, the BBC launches a new series of Doctor Who where a shape-shifting, two-hearted alien travels through space and time in a 1950s police box. Not just the programme itself, but the associated nostalgia surrounding it, could be seen as a perfect metaphor for the entire Brexit expedition.
Britain entered what was then the European Common Market in the early 1970s and that is a time and place for which many of the ‘leave’ persuasion would like us to return. Indeed, were one to assemble Jacob Rees-Mogg, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Arlene Foster in the same room, it would look like the cast of one of those dreadful nineteen-seventies sitcoms like Are You Being Served ? Indeed, as the stress of trying to work out what it is she is meant to be doing, Theresa May is increasingly taking on the look and demeanour of Blakey, the grumpy and careworn inspector in On The Buses. Like many of those characters from a seventies sitcom, the Prime Minister doesn’t actually appear to be reading from a coherent script so much as trotting out a succession of well-worn catchphrases.
It is entirely likely that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could take us back to some dystopian version of the early seventies with power cuts, a three-day week and trouble in Northern Ireland. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jacob Rees-Mogg were to start proposing that television should shut down at eleven o’clock at night, and that the BBC should bring back the test card.
Of course, what all this right-wing nostalgia for 1970s Britain ignores is that in the seventies the right-wingers were getting dewy-eyed and nostalgic about the nineteen-forties. And, let’s face it – that is where we could be headed at the end of March 2019. There is a genuine prospect of food rationing if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, not to mention what the impact will be on the NHS. Andrea Leadsom, who always reminds me of a tuneless Vera Lyn, yearns for us to return to the times when The White Cliffs of Dover were the end of the world as we knew it. Come next March, we’re all going to driving off the edge of those cliffs into the unknown.
Jacob Rees-Mogg yearns to take us back to World War II when Britain stood alone against the threat of German Nazi tyranny. The irony in that attitude is that the likes of Rees-Mogg would have been the first to collaborate with the Nazis if they had invaded. Indeed, he could easily be cast as a rather sinister Gestapo agent in that other awful BBC sitcom, ‘Allo ‘Allo.
Likewise, Boris Johnson could have walked straight off the pages of a P.G. Wodehouse satire on upper-class buffoonery in the nineteen-thirties. Even Wodehouse, however, would never have thought it credible that a clown like Boris would actually be put in a position of power and influence.
The truth, however, is that Brexit will take us further back in time, to the Victorian era. Indeed, we are already well on our way there now, with the subtle difference that Victorian Britain had a thing known as industry.
There can be few things more Dickensian than Deliveroo. Students trying to earn a crust and workers on zero-hours contracts peddling the streets at all hours of day and night providing fast food for rich people who can’t be bothered to get off their arses and cook themselves a meal or even go get it themselves. In this modern version of Hard Times, there is no Gradgrind, just an algorithm. It is hugely ironic that the only young people in Britain who are not clinically obese spend their working lives cycling untold miles delivering food to lazy fat bastards.
100,000 people marched through the streets of Edinburgh in October in support of Scottish independence. A fortnight later, 700,000 gathered in London demanding a People’s Vote on Brexit. If their voices are not heard, and we crash out of Europe without a deal, many young people face no jobs, no education, no future and no career. As a comedian, satirist and social commentator, I suspect my job will be safe. I take no joy in that.
Vladimir McTavish is appearing in ‘THE END OF THE WORLD SHOW’ at The Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh on Wednesday 19 December.