Friday morning? This was where we were.
Don’t get me wrong. A coalition of any sort isn’t a great result. It’s the one we deserve, but not the one we need right now. Prediction: four years of squabbling while the rest of the country sits in limbo, followed by a narrow victory for Labour in 2020, assuming their leader manages to hang on. And if he doesn’t, all bets are off. Economically, politically, ideologically, this is not a good place to be.
Nonetheless, I gained a certain satisfaction in watching a nasty, embittered party push itself to breaking point as it embarked on a series of personal attacks (“the last refuge,” writes Edmund Burke, “of the scoundrel who has nothing left to say”) on Jeremy Corbyn, while its leader became increasingly panic-stricken. It’s hard not to look at both the election and the decisions that were made in its immediate aftermath as the standard political gambit of retaining power, although you can’t blame Theresa May entirely. You have no frame of reference, and neither do I. There’s a scene in series 6 of 24 in which a weary, chastened Noah Daniels – thrown in, much as May was, at the deep end, inheriting a presidency that had suddenly become vacant – says “It’s easy to think you’ve got all the answers, when none of the ultimate responsibility lies with you, but sitting in this chair…until you sit in this chair, you don’t know anything.”
The irony is May is probably quite pleasant if you meet her in real life. But power corrupts. You don’t have to listen to your advisers. And hence we woke on Friday – in the small hours, as Emily and I scrolled through BBC news feeds at four in the morning, scarcely believing, in the wake of my rampant pessimism, what we were actually seeing – to discover a country that had hit back, and a voting populace who had surprised me. Alan Sugar insists that the Corbyn-advocating twenty-somethings were “not experienced in life” and “didn’t know what they voted for”, and there’s probably a ring of truth to that – but the same could surely be said of Brexit (of which Sugar was also not a fan, although his political allegiance has shifted towards the Conservatives in recent years).
Still, it was great to finally discover what DUP actually stands for, right?
I jest, but this is the sort of thing we’ve seen happen quite a lot in Doctor Who: humans who genuinely believe that they can ally themselves with dark forces and get what they want. The idea that said forces might betray them genuinely doesn’t occur to them. It’s the sort of Faustian pact that has you screaming at the TV – “DON’T TRUST THEM!” is the soundbite of choice, “THEY’RE DALEKS!” – but unlike us, none of these people watch Doctor Who. I watched the second Ninja Turtles movie with the boys the other week and we were pleasantly amused by the irony that Shredder utilised the talents of Baxter Stockman and promptly betrayed him, only to find himself receiving exactly the same treatment at the hands of Krang. It’s the kind of thing he really should have expected. (We don’t have time to unpack this properly, but I wrote a lengthy article on human-Dalek collaboration for the Doctor Who Companion, if anyone is interested.)
To be fair to the DUP, they’re not quite the monstrosity they’re painted as in the press. Creationist? Unfortunately. Pro-unionist? Certainly. Anti-abortionist? You bet. So is half of Ireland. This is not the same as being anti-women. Arlene Foster is a woman, for crying out loud, although I would point out that I’ve never seen her in the same room as Paul Merton. They’re also welfare-conscious: their members are right-wing Christian, but many of their supporters are on the breadline. Essentially they’re a party run by evangelicals; this may be seen as backward-thinking but they’re possibly a good deal more altruistic than many atheists. And in a best-case scenario, they’re going to be a thorn in the side of Theresa May’s benefit cuts, forcing the tempering of policy and a recognisable shift back towards the sense of compassion that all but vanished once the last coalition evaporated in the wake of 2015. Realistically this turn of events is not likely, but stranger things have happened.
Still, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that this may end up breaking the Tories: I’m no political pundit but surely they run the risk of losing the support of the moderates by getting into bed with the fundamentalists? However you look at it, this is a simple power grab, just as it was for Labour – and people seem to be waking up to that. And hence, this.
May retained her own seat, of course – although it wasn’t without stiff opposition from Pat McDonald, Tony Hill, and…well, a man with unusual headgear. This is the sort of thing that benefits from a man in Havana; luckily my brother lives in Maidenhead.
“Admit it,” I said to him, by text. “You’re one of the two hundred and fifty who voted for Lord Buckethead, aren’t you?”
“Got me,” he replied.
“I knew it.”
Anyway, I spent much of Saturday trying to work out Lord Buckethead’s cosplay lineage, and –
Sutekh. Definitely Sutekh.