This was the day Britain blew up.
While David Cameron, Harriet Harman, Tim Farron and Natalie Bennett raced Minis around a London factory in a Britain Job caper to defuse the bombs that would inevitably explode were the UK to leave the EU, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Gisela Stuart and John Longworth were holed up in a distribution warehouse outside Stratford-upon-Avon predicting we would all be blown up in a series of uncontrolled explosions were we to stay in the EU. Remain or leave? Either way, we’re all doomed. Run for the hills while you still can.
With the referendum campaign nearing its end game, the phoney war just keeps getting phonier, with the generals making wilder and wilder claims on a daily basis. Contradiction is no longer seen as weakness, more a way of life. With Dave having decided that his event was far too dangerous for more than a few carefully selected expendable members of the media who could be guaranteed not to film him standing too close to the enemy, the day’s most free-form hyperbole was left to the more trigger-happy members of Vote Leave.
Shortly after 11 in the morning, the entire staff, including many Polish workers, of DCS – the owner of which, Denys C Shortt, is a signed up member of the Vote Leave campaign – were trooped out on to the warehouse floor to stand in front of four empty lecterns; not everyone looked best pleased by the interruption. While most of the signs in the warehouse were in both English and Polish, the one saying “smile please” appeared only to have been written in English.
Minutes later, three Range Rovers, registration numbers DCS 2, DCS 3 and DCS 4 all pulled up outside to decant their four VIPs – Johnson, Gove, Stuart and Longworth – in front of the assembled audience. Mr DCS didn’t get things off to the best of starts by saying that although his business basically depended on immigrant workers he would much rather be employing Brits, and that if we were to remain in the EU he would undoubtedly find himself having to take on Turks, Albanians and Macedonians as well as Poles. How to demotivate half your workforce in under five minutes.
After a few words from Stuart – “Who is she?” a couple of workers asked – Longworth, the former head of the British Chambers of Commerce, went into overdrive. “My theory which is mine and which I have sketched out in detail,” he said excitedly, unaware of any oxymoron, “is that the EU is being turned into a single superstate, Germany has beggared its neighbours and the eurozone will literally explode.” Boom.
Sensing that Longworth might have overdosed on caffeine, Gove tried to play the statesman. This wasn’t the Everymike, man of the people, that had startlingly appeared in the televised Sky News debate last Friday. This was Serious Mike, the fully paid-up member of the establishment.
“The country’s security is in grave, grave danger if we stay in the EU,” Serious Mike declared. How did he know? Because three top-secret experts had told him. Just last week, Everymike was telling the world not to trust all the economists who said Brexit would be bad for the economy because the experts were always wrong, but Serious Mike’s experts were all absolutely spot on. One of the Mikes needs to remember to take his medication. “Once I’m in charge I will just deport Isis,” he announced. Just like that.
Last up was Boris, who was also trying – if not always succeeding – to be more statesmanlike. After an unusually poor opening gag about cleaning up the EU with some of the cleaning products DCS distributes – boom, boom – he launched into an assault on the lack of democracy in the EU. “How many of you know the name of your MEP,” he asked. Given the ease with which Nadhim Zahawi slipped unnoticed among the crowd, none of the audience even knew who their own MP for Stratford was. Chalk that one up to hubris.
“So tell me Boris,” said a final questioner. “How do you feel now that sterling has plunged since an opinion poll showed Vote Leave ahead.”
Boris looked utterly thrilled. Come friendly bombs and fall on ... anywhere. Everywhere. Just fall quickly. None of us can take much more of this.
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