The Brexit Pantomime and the Drone “Invasion”

The period leading up to Christmas is the traditional pantomime season in Ukania. Celebrities take time off from their usual occupations to star with less well-known performers in farcical slapstick shows that have little or no appeal for anyone beyond the age of 10.

This year, none of the regular pantomimes could compete with the biggest one of all, which took place in the House of Commons prior to its Christmas recess.

Brexit was of course the main plot in Ukania’s preeminent pantomime.

The House of Commons was due to vote that week on the final EU divorce deal Theresa May had submitted to EU leaders.

May however postponed the vote until after the Christmas recess, knowing she would lose it by a large margin.

She took off for Brussels in search of cosmetic changes that would put a better face on her doomed deal, but the heartless eurocrats flipped her the proverbial finger and sent her back to London with nothing.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn and Labour jumped in with a meaningless “no confidence“motion in the prime minister– meaningless because the Commons is only required to vote on a motion of “no confidence“in the government per se, and not an individual member of it.

Predictably, no vote was held on Corbyn’s symbolic motion, and the Commons slouched off for its Christmas break, with the chaotic Brexit farce to resume in January when it reconvenes.

But the pantomime wasn’t over just yet.

During prime minister’s question time, Corbyn scorned May’s handling of Brexit, accusing her of “recklessly running down the clock” by delaying a Commons vote onherdeal.

May retorted that it was rich of Corbyn to accuse her of unreliability, given that he had just tried to a have a meaningless no-confidence voteon her leadership.

“Look behind you,” May said gesturing to Labour members. “They’re not impressed, and neither is the country.”

With members on both sidesjeering,the camera panned to Corbyn,who appeared to mouththe words “stupid woman“—or did he?

When challenged about this seeming breach of parliamentary etiquette, Corbyn said: “I referred to those who I believe were seeking to turn a debate about the national crisis facing our country into a pantomime as ‘stupid people’, adding, “I did not use the words ‘stupid woman’ about the prime minister or anyone else and am completely opposed to the of sexist and misogynist language in absolutely form at all”.

But the Conservative MPs were having none of it. In disarray and at each other’s throats for months over Brexit, they now found relief in an unlikely common cause as the clip of Corbyn’s remark made its way around the Commons.

Tory MPs demanded that the Speaker of the House reprimand Corbyn.

Speaker John Bercow demurred:“I cannot be expected to pronounce upon that which I did not see, and which was not witnessed by my advisers”.

The Tories continued their protests.

Andrea Leadsom (known in social media as “Andrea Loathsome“), the leader of the House of Commons, accused Bercow himself of once having called her a stupid woman(alas for Loathsome he was only being truthful), and asked him why he had not apologized to her. The furious Bercow thundered: “I dealt with it months ago! The matter has been treated off, and I am leaving it there!”.

Other Tory MPs continued with their faux outrage, and the Speaker had to promise to review the tape, as lip readers and the deaf nationwide offered differing opinions on Corbyn’s lip movements.

The Tories have their own history of insulting women in parliament, a notable instance being their former leader William Hague, who called a female Labour MP a “stupid woman“ (he apologized when the Speaker intervened).

In March this year “BoJo“Johnson referred, mockingly, to Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry by her husband’s title (he is the high court judge Sir Christopher Nugee). BoJo was slapped down immediately by the Speaker for his condescending gesture.

Far more serious than anything Corbyn said, or did not say, was May’s entirely opportunistic decision to allow 2 Conservative MPs who had the party whip removed after being accused of sexually inappropriate conduct, to vote in the Tory party’s own suddenly-called election on her future as their leader (it’s clear she wanted the votes of these reprobates, even though she went on to win this election easily).

As John McEnroe, the brattish tennis star of yore, used to say when berating umpires on their calls: “You cannot be serious!“.

While parliament embarked on its recess, the Tories found other ways to continue with the pantomime.

Gatwick, the UK’s second largest airport, located 30 miles south of London and serveing 43 million passengers a year, was closed for a nearly two days during the busiest travel period of the year when drones were flown over its runways throughout that time.

140,000 passengers had flights delayed, cancelled, or rerouted to other airports, and 11,000 people were stranded at the airport, which was not prepared for such an emergency, as airport eateries ran out of food.

The government’s incompetent response to this situation matched that of Dubya Bush’s administration in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

Which was hardly surprising, given that the government minister notionally in charge of the crisis was the transport secretary, Chris “Failing“ Grayling, already legendary for his ineptitude in dealing with Ukania’s ever-worsening decrepit railway system (stemming largely from its privatization by a previous Toy government).

To use a common British expression,“Failing“ Graylinghas so far shown himself to be incapable of organizing a piss-up in a brewery. The US and other countries require all drones to be registered, Ukania failed to take even this simple precaution.

According to The Guardian, ʺtransport secretary Chris Grayling sidelined plans to introduce laws regulating drone use, despite being repeatedly warned of the risk they posedʺ.

With ʺFailingʺ in charge of the rogue drone crisis, Ukanian social media breathed a deep collective sigh of dismay, and resigned itself to the inevitable shambles.

A situation which could have been managed by a couple of competent top-level bureaucrats in the ministry of transport required an emergency meeting of May’s cabinet (nearly all of whom are like ʺFailingʺ in having rocks for brains), and the military was called in as result.

Once summoned, the military spent over 24 hours “analyzing“the situation while passengers fumed and festered in Gatwick’s terminals.

The obvious question was soon asked, namely, surely an efficient military could bring down the drones in a matter of a few hours, if not minutes?

Where I live in Appalachian Virginia there are countless bubbas who can bring a hovering drone down with one shot, and this without needing a 24-hour-long analysis.

The British army clearly needed to send for one of these guys!

The reason for this seeming delay soon became obvious after two “persons of interest“ living near Gatwick were arrested. They were freed after two days of interrogation.

Meanwhile, the drone attacks ceased, though there was another twist to the story. The police said it was possible that the 200 or so witness reports of drone sightings after the first ones caused panic were mistaken, though this police statement was later backtracked with the blame placed on “poor communication”.

Apparently, no photographic or video footage exists of the invading drones!

However, the police are now examining a damaged drone found on the airport perimeter.

Ukania’s military clearly opted for a high-tech approach to the crisis.

According to The Guardian: “One piece of equipment believed to have been deployed at the airport is the Israeli-developed Drone Dome system, which can detect drones using radar. It can also jam communications between the drone and its operator, enabling authorities to take control of and land the drone“.

The Drone Dome system had already been used at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

So, Brits can look forward to a massive increase in funding for drone-defence technology in the 2019 Ukanian military budget.

After all, airports need to be protected, and so does the royal family, whose younger generation will probably be having nuptials galore in the coming years, while the older generation are given state funerals that will involve the deployment of anti-drone technology.

For now, Ukania is in a deep collective funk, of which the botched handling of the drone crisis is merely symptomatic.

Led by the second worst prime minister it has ever had (the Maybot’s predecessor David Cameron being the worst), with the Brexit negotiations managed until recently by the ex-soldier David Davis (described thus by his fellow Tory and Brexiteer Dominic Cummings: ʺthick as mince, as lazy as a toad and as vain as Narcissusʺ), with an elite that—almost without exception– is utterly self-serving and even downright malevolent, and with a social fabric shredded by decades of neoliberalism, it seems to have lost all hope.

France’s rioting gilets jaunes kicked back fiercely when France’s equivalent of Tony Blair, Emmanuel Macron, decided it was time for France to swallow a stiff dose of Blairite neoliberalism. Macron was forced to retreat by the rioters.

Across the channel, most Brits just kneel and receive in silence their daily kicking from the Tories and their allies.

The prospect of a ʺno dealʺ Brexit has prompted Theresa May to sideline several of her pledges to tackle ʺburning injusticesʺ. To quote The Independent:

Among them are moves to prevent restaurant and bar bosses snatching workers’ tips, to stop residents being “exploited” by ripoff leases or rogue bailiffs and to ban wild animals from circuses.

Other crucial policies gathering dust would use schools to tackle childhood obesity and help women suffering sexual, psychological and violent abuse.

The Tory kicking is thus set to continue.

It speaks volumes that the scoundrel and war criminal Blair can flirt with the idea of making a Ukanian political comeback (he’s mooted the possibility of starting a new ʺcentristʺ party), something that would be unthinkable were he a figure in French politics.

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.