Friday, 24 June 2016

Random reflections on this nation's very own glorious Independence Day

I put in a 13-hour TV viewing stint before crashing around 11am this morning.  I went to sleep with a smile on my face, joy in my heart, this image in my head...
...and the sound of my own laughter ringing in my ears. Thank you, Lord (and Boris and Nigel and Michael and Daniel and Gisela and Kate...).

I divided my vigil between the BBC, Sky and ITV. As was only to be expected, the gloomiest, most apocalyptic tone as the the awful possibility of Brexit turned into full-blown technicolour reality was set by the BBC. As Newcastle turned out to be less Remainy than had been expected and Sunderland was revealed as spectacularly Leavy, the rather jolly, cocksure atmosphere which had initially prevailed in the BBC studio instantly evaporated as it dawned on them that the British electorate might have once more failed to obey orders. After lingering a while to enjoy the resident "Professor Bonkers" psephologist John Curtice's desperate attempts to justify yet another grotesque failure on the part of his profession ("Sorry, mate, yer algorithm's buggered - we'll have to order a new one") I switched over to ITV to find Robert Peston sounding even less coherent and even more maddeningly inarticulate than usual: there's nothing quite like watching "experts" trying to sound authoritative when everything they've formerly told you has proved to be nonsense.

I was forced to abandon BBC coverage for long stretches in order to find out what was actually going on, because poor old Jeremy Vine's graphics sequences were simply (or, rather, complicatedly) incomprehensible. It didn't matter whether he was prancing up and down flailing his arms about in front of a vertical visual representation of all the voting regions arranged by how they were expected to vote, or doing a weird, twisty interpretive dance over a map of Britain on the studio floor, from which blue or yellow poles suddenly shot up to show whether regions had voted In or Out, and how enthusiastically they'd done so. I was utterly baffled until I found that a clearer picture emerged if one closed one's eyes and just listened to what he was saying, which proved, on the whole, to make sense. Jeremy ended the night's coverage in what I think was supposed to be a graphical representation of the inside of the Big Ben clocktower. Why? God alone knows. The graphics on the other channels were simpler and were therefore easier to follow.

After that, my viewing choices were mainly dictated by the relative ghastliness of the guests on each channel. Diane Abbott? Click. John McDonnell? Click. Tom Watson? Click. Ann Soubry (a Tory minister who said this was the worst day of her life and blamed the result on moronic white working class folk who'd never seen an immigrant in their lives - she'll go far!)? Click. Alastair Campbell (who said the referendum shouldn't have been held - they really don't like democracy, these people)? Click. Peter Mandelson. CLICK! Tim Farron (the LibDem leader, apparently - why does nobody tell me these things? - who was in a right old tizz). Actually, no click for Tim, because his ineffectual, balding, pink-faced rage was just too funny. I may have lost consciousness for a moment, because the next time I looked, Farron had morphed into Jeremy Corbyn, who was being interviewed on College Green (Michael Deacon in the Telegraph: "There was also footage of Jeremy Corbyn, wittering pointlessly about something that it would be a waste of your time to read and my time to transcribe. What a non-campaign from a non-leader. Jeremy Corbyn: a man who descends to the big occasion.") Then the Prime Minister appeared in Downing Street, accompanied by the toothsome Smamfa, to announce his resignation (albeit later in the year). Then Boris Johnson marched smartly out of his Islington home to be escorted to a waiting car by a police honour guard while representatives of Labour's new "kinder, gentler" politics shouted "scum" and "cunt" at him (no, they really, really don't like democracy, these people).

That was enough for me: when the news folk started talking about a plot to defenestrate poor old Steptoe, led by Margaret Hodge, I realised it simply couldn't get any better, and headed for bed.

What surprised me about the coverage (the BBC's in particular) was how the presenters' sombre mien and unrelievedly gloomy tone were more what you'd expect following the death of a senior member of the Royal Family, or while announcing that a large number of Britons have been caught up in a terror attack, rather than while reporting that a majority of voters in a national referendum have signalled that, come to think of it, they're rather not be bossed about by foreign bureaucrats any longer. It didn't seem to occur to any of the news teams that at least half of their viewers were probably sitting at home beaming from ear to ear. Instead, the coverage was almost comically pessimistic. For instance, some reporter with rubbish hair kept turning up in front of a graphic showing that sterling had dipped a bit on markets overnight. You'd have thought it was the end of the world rather than an overdue adjustment to the value of the pound. As for the stock markets, there was going to be CARNAGE when they opened, apparently. All of the broadcasters kept pushing this apocalyptic line even when the pound recovered a bit and the FTSE started climbing again following early falls - the FTSE 100 ended up at a level not experienced since... well, last Tuesday, actually. It was as if the broadcasters were simply gagging for very bad things to happen as a result of the British public's appalling mistake.

The other thing I couldn't help noticing was the contempt with which Nigel Farage was treated. You'd think he was a Holocaust denier or a convicted paedophile, rather than the doggedly single-minded politician without whom this referendum would never have happened. Yes, he's bumptious, and, yes, he puts his foot in it on a fairly regular basis, and, yes, he's not everyone's cup of tea - but so what? Everyone in this country who feels the slightest sense of liberation tonight owes Nigel Farage a huge debt of gratitude: this country owes Farage a debt of gratitude.
A parting thought. Two days ago - i.e. before the country voted to leave the EU - England's cricketers only managed to draw an ODI against Sri Lanka by scoring a six off the last ball of the match. Today - within hours of the Brexit result - the same England team absolutely slaughtered Sri Lanka in the second ODI, without losing a single wicket. I'm not absolutely sure that the scale of the victory was a direct result of the referendum result. But it does make you make one think.

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