I may have confessed here before to a shameful solitary vice: I like to watch the proceedings of the British House of Commons on Youtube. The members of the Senate of Lilliput are a lot more droll than our solemn, po-faced soup hounds in the US Congress. It’s a bit like watching Solemn High Mass at a particularly gay Anglo-Catholic parish in San Francisco, compared with the glum, plodding earnestness of the Third Methodist Church of Guelph, Ontario.
Naturally I was keen to see how the House would deal with the Brexit vote. I am ashamed to say that I watched the clip above from start to finish. There are a few good moments in it. Cameron is really quite a quipster, though I hate to say it. He always ran rings around poor Miliband. Corbyn can’t keep up with him either, and like his predecessor, he ends up looking grouchy and sullen under the Tory’s hail of galling little barbs, all delivered in a bouncy, mirthful, offhand way. The Premier always appears to be enjoying himself, and the Labour front bench never do.
But in general it was a depressing spectacle. The overwhelming impression it made was that all these feisty scrappers, who are usually savaging each other con brio, have awakened to the fact that they are all slowly braising in the same broth. — Or if not exactly awakened, that they are stunned enough to let their guard down and allow their essential solidarity to be seen.
A telling symptom was the smarmy compliments bandied back and forth across the aisle. Apparently a lot of these sorry mugs appeared together at bipartisan Remainder rallies, and there was much Tory praise of Labour eloquence in the good cause, and vice versa.
I’m groping for an analogy here. Two, or three, or four, pirate ships firing broadsides at each other all night, until the bleak light of dawn reveals that they are all sinking — far, far from shore, deep in the Bermuda Triangle? The lifeboats are all battered to pieces, and none of the sailors knows how to swim, and the toothy gentlemen with the dorsal fins circle lazily, biding their time, in the pellucid water, now approximately gunwale-high. Imagine the look of weary consternation on the surviving buccaneers’ faces.
There are of course Euroskeptics in the House, but perhaps they thought it was bad form to crow on this occasion. I would have liked to hear from that oddest of odd ducks, Jacob Rees Mogg. He delights me. It’s like meeting a talking stork.