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The Friday Speed Read
Every week The Friday Speed holds a referendum about which stories it should feature in its summary of the past five days. It then argues with itself about the result before finally agreeing a compromise that pleases no one and which is then published below. You’re welcome.
Our country lies asunder, riven by irreconcilable differences that pitch mothers against sons, husbands against wives, Ants against Decs. The spirit of dignified national unity that flowered briefly last weekend as we solemnly paid witness to the horrors of war was, by Monday lunchtime, trodden into the mud and beneath climate-changed skies our country spent the second half of the week snagged on a seemingly insoluble question: is the new John Lewis Christmas advert any good? Or, what the hell does Elton John think he’s doing?
Alright, that was a lazy gag for which we are (almost) sorry but it’s hard to know where to begin when reflecting on an unprecedented few days in UK politics. And yes we realise that for some, the backs and forths over Brexit have become no more than white noise to be drowned out by (**author uses Google to find out what’s currently Number 1**) ‘thank you, by next’ by Ariana Grande (her lack of capitalisation by the way) but as TM the PM said yesterday as she stood ashen-faced in front of the media: “Brexit touches almost every area of our national life our whole economy and virtually every job; the livelihoods of our fellow citizens . . . . and this sh*t just got real”.
So let’s rewind a bit. After a Monday on which the majority of UK newspapers dedicated their front pages to images from Sunday’s Remembrance commemorations (with Kate, the Queen and Meg featuring heavily), Tuesday felt the political ground begin to rumble. French / US relations deteriorated significantly after Trump’s no show at remembrance events due to “rain” and a subsequent tweet from the leader of the free world suggesting that if it weren’t for the US then everyone in France would be speaking German. An amusing riposte came from an unlikely source as the French army tweeted a photo of one their number training in the rain, alongside the caption: Il y a de la pluie, mais c’est pas grave. On reste motive – it’s raining, but it’s no problem, we’re carrying on. Back in the UK, the Telegraph reminded TM the PM that “No deal is better than caving into Brussels”.
Then, late on Tuesday afternoon, the news broke. Against all predictions, TM the PM (and her team of surely-knackered negotiators) had agreed the text of an exit deal from the European Union and, aside from Elton John and Simon Cowell living like a vampire (we haven’t got time, sorry, you’ll have to Google it), the rest of the week’s news became largely irrelevant. “This Brexit deal is the best for Britain” shouted the Express, which loves TM the PM almost as much as it loves stories about the weather and blood pressure, “Judgement Day”, said the Mail as the Prime Minister prepared for what turned out to be one of the longest-running Cabinet meetings in peacetime. And, against all expectations, and reportedly after tantrums, tears and table-banging the meeting ended with agreement: the Cabinet backed the PM. The Brexit deal was on.
Except it wasn’t. Not even close.
Everyone hated the deal. Brexiteers hated it. Remainers hated it. The Scots hated it. The Ulster Unionists hated it. The bloke in the corner shop hated it. Your Mum hated it. Pasha from Strictly hated it. “We’re in the Brexs*it” said the Sun, its asterisk not fooling anyone; “War Cabinet” said The Mirror correctly prophetic in its predictions of mass resignations, while The Guardian deployed the old ‘rule of three’ of effective speech-writing by lamenting: “a split Cabinet, a split party and a split nation”. A few hours later, someone we’d never heard of resigned and then Dominic Raaaab completed his journey from bin monitor to Brexit Secretary and then back to bin monitor again as he resigned from government office. Jacob Rees-Mogg circled like a pin-striped, pencil-thin assassin and wrote in his copperplate Victorian hand to every Tory MP urging them to overthrow the PM. It was over. There was no way that TM could survive this.
Late on Thursday afternoon, the beautiful people at Speed Towers gathered in front of the television to witness what we assumed would be the resignation of the Prime Minister. But TM the PM had other ideas. Call it delusional, call it brave and principled, call it serving the interests of the nation, call it scarcely conceivable madness, but Theresa May told the assembled press that she was the political equivalent of Geoffrey Boycott and she was batting on.
“Stumped” said the Mirror on Friday morning; “She’s on a sticky wicket” said the Sun; “Have they the lost the plot” asked the Mail, completing its post-Dacre volte-face and actually supporting the Prime Minister. The Telegraph is no fan of TM and undermined its largely neutral headline “Am I going to see this through? Yes I am” with an even larger quotation from one of its columnists: “We need a chess grandmaster to wrangle with Brussels, not the runner up in the 1973 Towcester tiddlywinks competition”. Subtle work The Telegraph.
Who knows what will happened by the time this column is published? We’ll keep the footnotes updated with any breaking news (there are growing rumours of a vote of no confidence in the offing) but for the meantime, below (and inevitably) is the Elton John Lewis ad and here is the pitch-perfect response from Lidl this morning (hat tip to Laura W for spotting it):
— Lidl UK (@LidlUK) November 15, 2018
Assuming the country is functioning next week, we’ll be clogging up your inbox again next Friday.