Always look on the bright side of Brexit

Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 14 June 2019

English is not my native language – not that you can tell by my German name or accent. I did learn the language, but the journey was most unusual.

My teachers were the strict-but-brilliant Frau Voß and Monty Python. The latter turned out to be particularly instructive since they also prepared me for the absurdities of British life. Without Monty Python, I would be even more hard-pressed to make sense of Brexit.

Just think of the Conservative Party’s circus to find a new Leader and Prime Minister.

In other countries, this would be a serious matter. Not in Britain. It is more like Monty Python’s sketch about the “Upper Class Twit of the Year”. If you have never seen it, google it now.

For a start, there are the characters: Vivian Smith-Smythe-Smith with an O-level in camel-hygiene. Nigel Incubator-Jones, whose best friend is a tree and who works as a stockbroker in his spare time. And Gervaise Brook-Hampster, who is used as a wastepaper basket by his father.

Any similarities to Conservative MPs are, of course, entirely accidental.

The contestants in Monty Python’s Flying Circus must attempt and fail at various challenges – challenges such as walking along a straight line, kicking a beggar and, finally, shooting themselves.

In real life, the leadership hopefuls must deliver coherent policy pledges and insult their opponents before admitting to their past drug use. In a previous episode, Michael Gove even managed the impossible and killed himself while simultaneously knifing Boris Johnson. John Cleese could not have done any better.

Watching the Conservative leadership race also reminds me of Monty Python’s “People Falling From Building”. Two office workers notice people flying past their window only to conclude there must be a board meeting upstairs.

Instead of rushing to stop the madness, the workers start debating who would fall next. Then, in true British fashion, they bet on it, cheering on their favourite next victims.

Well, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and reading the London Daily Telegraph’s live update on the Conservative leadership election deliver the same guilty pleasure.

But maybe for the Tory hopefuls, it’s all more like Life of Brian? “Crucifixion? Good. Out of the door. Line on the left. One cross each. Next.”

And then let the parliamentary party sing: “Always look on the bright side of life. Always look on the right side of life.”

The right side? If only.

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