Desperate PM gets midnight Brexit concessions
Theresa May says she has snatched legally binding changes to her Brexit deal from the jaws of disastrous defeat. MPs have reacted with disbelief. The media says Britain is in crisis. Is it?
If the temperature of the political frenzy were measured in centigrade, this morning Britain would surely be a sizzling 50 degrees, a level at which human life is hard to sustain.
“Doomsmay” is the favourite pun in the papers, conjuring up an image of the symbolic doomsday clock at two minutes to midnight, promoted by atomic scientists to show the risk to global civilisation from nuclear weapons and climate change.
And all across the world, from Dallas to Delhi, people are waking up to the same headline: “Brexit crisis grips Britain.” One Guardian headline doing the rounds on social media was rather more ominous: “Brace yourself, Britain. Brexit is about to teach you what a crisis actually is.”
In response to this, two questions immediately confront every thoughtful person. First: are we really in a crisis — or is the media like a “sounding brass” using empty words? Second: does politics really matter that much?
Keep calm and carry on?
Is a crisis defined by its outcome: terrible facts such as death, hunger and disease? Every day there are wars, famines and disasters. Surely these are the real crises? Or is a crisis also about uncertainty? Not knowing what might happen next is extremely worrying for many people. On that score, perhaps Brexit counts?
The bigger question is: do we exaggerate the importance of politics in life? Britain is dominated by one giant city, and that city is dominated by a very noisy debate. The media lives inside the bubble and amplifies it. Meanwhile, normal people still meet for coffee. Children still play. Life goes on. “Ideology and certainty are as vulgar as they are untrue.”
- Do you think there should be more news that is not about politics?
- Make a chart comparing how many days the last five British prime ministers were in power for. If Theresa May loses her job on June 1, where does she come on the chart?
Some People Say...
“I’ve always thought the need to know the news every day is a nervous disorder.”Michael Oakeshott, philosopher
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- That May will be opening the debate this evening ahead of a so-called "meaningful vote" on her latest deal which must be agreed by Parliament to come into force. The attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, will publish his legal advice on the changes to the deal before the vote tonight.
- What do we not know?
- Who will vote for it — and whether Britain will have agreed a Brexit deal by the end of today or not.
- A pun on the word “doomsday”, referring of course to Theresa May.
- Sounding brass
- A reference to a famous quote from the Bible — “though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” — meaning roughly “making a lot of noise with no substance”.