Frivolity in the face of political emergencyby Tom Clark / September 21, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Britain is, supposedly, months from leaving the EU. Our future trading and diplomatic relationships remain up in the air. A political crisis is looking likely; some fear an economic crisis will follow. The situation, then, is grave.
The first weekend of the new political term, however, was about nothing but words. The lead story on Saturday was about Chuka Umunna demanding that Jeremy Corbyn “call off the dogs” agitating to replace MPs on the Labour right, and the umbrage those activists took at being described in canine terms. On Sunday, the headlines shifted to the Tory side and Boris Johnson. The clownish former foreign secretary was attacked in stringent words by colleagues, not for his failure to come up with any alternative to Theresa May’s Brexit plan which he so derides, but for the grave offence he had supposedly created by likening it to “strapping a suicide vest” around the British constitution.
In the face of a fast-approaching emergency, our political culture throws up name-calling and righteous indignation. Earlier generations would have been aghast at the frivolity. But those of us who waste too much time on Twitter have grown wearily used to the tribalism, insults and mock outrage that are the warp and weft of this corner of the web. Alarmingly, although it remains a minority sport for the general population, politicians from Donald Trump down are addicted, as well as journalists who write about them. Consequently—as Rafael Behr vividly elucidates—it is becoming hardwired into our public life, debasing our democratic discussion.
There are deeper…