Brexit is unresolved, concern grows that Britain will stumble into a ‘hard’ departure from the European Union with unknown consequences, and share prices are plummeting along with the pound sterling. But never mind. The British Parliament has more important things on its mind.
Namely, whether Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, did or did not mouth the words ‘stupid woman’ during a House of Commons debate. He was responding – under his breath, mind – to remarks by Prime Minister Theresa May, who had invoked the holiday pantomime season by shouting across the aisle, “Look behind you!” (In real pantomimes, that is what children yell from the stalls when the villain appears from the wings to creep up on a hero oblivious to his presence.)
Mr Corbyn refused to apologise, claiming that what he actually muttered was ‘stupid people’, presumably referring to the bovine ranks of Conservative members of parliament arrayed on the benches behind Mrs May.
The media was convinced otherwise, and thoroughly convinced, too, having employed lip-readers to settle the issue. Most of the public didn’t need to resort to such dark arts, since to them the words were as clear as if Mr Corbyn had shouted them to the Palace of Westminster’s ancient rafters or written them on a banner and held it aloft.
Whereupon, the traditional pantomime dialogue resumed. “Oh, yes you did,” cried the Tories. “Oh, no you didn’t,” the Labour members responded loyally. (Traditionally, the pantomime villain, in an aside to the juvenile audience, denies having committed some foul deed, and the kids gleefully tell him they have seen him do it.)
All of which just about sums up the state of British politics at present: while the country flounders in a state of moral confusion and economic dread, our elected representatives contrive to generate a row about a remark that wasn’t uttered audibly, and one with which most of them would agree. It will all blow over, of course, since MPs will now bugger off home for nearly three weeks to avoid making any decisions about where the nation is headed, or even whether it will survive as a nation. Most voters will offer an opinion on that without a moment’s hesitation: right now the nation seems to be going to Hell in the proverbial hand-cart (whatever that is) with half of them apparently looking forward to the prospect.
Our esteemed parliamentarians will return in the New Year, no doubt deservedly rested and suitably refreshed – and one hopes with the renewed vigour that will be required to avoid resolving a few more of the day’s burning issues. First and foremost among them, after they have rejected Mrs May’s Brexit plan, will be whether the ‘stupid woman’ deserves to keep her job.
“Oh, yes she does,” many will cry. “Oh, no she doesn’t,” others will respond.
The pantomime season seems likely to continue into springtime.