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Sep 13 2019

Chernobyl on the Thames

Nothing to see here. Keep Calm and Carry On.

Even the Tories admit it: only duty free can get us through
by Marina Hyde, The Guardian
Fri 13 Sep 2019

“I’m afraid I didn’t do enough work at university. My strong advice is: don’t waste your time at university. [sigh] Don’t get drunk, don’t do … not that you would … but use it well … I frittered too much time at university, I’m afraid to say …” An excruciating pause. Shortly after, a boy no older than seven put his hand up and went: “Are we leaving Brexit with a deal or no deal?”

Wow. Look, I know Prime Ministers Say the Darnedest Things. But maybe the best way to stop no deal is to put a call in to Oxford and explain they need to retroactively award Johnson a first-class degree? Just claim there was a marking error or something. Having read the Yellowhammer documents forecasting shortages, pretty much any gambit is justifiable at this point in the interests of public safety. Giving the prime minister a belated first would just be the classics department version of a cop shouting at Raoul Moat: “It’s fine, mate! I know you didn’t mean to hurt her! Nobody’s going back to prison. Just put the gun down and we can talk.”

That this is all set against a backdrop of an advertising blitz gives the UK the feel of a Paul Verhoeven satire set in the near dystopian future. There’s “GET READY FOR BREXIT”. There’s “BE ONE OF THE 20,000 NEW POLICE OFFICERS”. But my favourite is the Treasury campaign, where animated booze glasses trilled the news that: “Beer, wine, spirits and cigarettes will all be duty free for people travelling to the EU if we leave without a deal.” You might be reminded of those Conservative ads a few years back, which said the government was “cutting the bingo tax and beer duty, to help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy”. Those ads had their critics, but I admire the consistency and the realism, as the Conservatives continue to promote the notion that alcoholism and gambling addiction represent the smart choices for anyone governed by them.

In fact, these government-backed reminders to drink early and often fuel the same sense of deep optimism as that moment in the Chernobyl drama when the new recruit to the dogshooting unit turns up to the camp and sees endless stacked pallets of empty vodka bottles. When any government – Soviet or modern British – is pushing cheap booze on you, you’ve got to think you’ve landed on your feet. Haven’t you?

The alternative view, I suppose, is that government-advised inebriation and respiratory disease feels the next logical step of the Brexit shambles. “Prorogation” and “justiciability” and “stymying” and “fiat” – no one’s really sure precisely what these words mean, other than they weren’t in the brochure for the sunlit uplands. Still, don’t put your hand up and ask questions. Just accept we’ve been billeted in the irradiated uplands, gripped by a strong sense that the instruction book to our country has been lost.

Dasvidaniya Rodina.