Sketch: Theresa May's magical mystery tour

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 30 November 2018 in Comment

So far Theresa May's tour of the UK has taken in a factory, a university and an agricultural show, but how do you get tickets?

Image credit: Iain Green

There is a logic to the Prime Minister’s approach. First, she sent a ‘letter to the nation’. Next, she threatened a TV debate to make her point. After that, she started talking about embarking on a tour of the UK, going from house to house, one by one, presumably, until everyone backs her deal.

Letter, TV slot, turning up at your house. It’s actually the same approach taken by the TV licensing people, though marginally less threatening.

Her letter to the nation had promised that: “We will take back control of our borders, by putting an end to the free movement of people once and for all.” It was bold, even if a critic might suggest that putting an end to something ‘once and for all’ is closer to the sort of language you’d expect from someone pledging to kill the Batman than the words of a leader trying to take a basic right away from you.

But how would you go about ending free movement of people ‘once and for all’ anyway? Logically, there are really only two possible ways. You end movement, or you end people. At present, you’d probably hope it was movement, though if things start getting any worse that could change.

But it’s the tour that holds the most promise. So far it’s just been a factory, a university and an agricultural show. So how do you get tickets? Will it be stadiums next, or will the PM choose a series of more intimate venues? The Beatles’ famous Magical Mystery Tour may have been more magical, but it wasn’t nearly this mysterious.

So why is the PM doing it? This is a woman who notoriously hates campaigning in public. In fact, her last campaign trip to Scotland largely revolved around spending a few hours lurking in a cabin in the woods, before fleeing from the local townspeople, which is the sort of thing more closely associated with a witch from a fairy tale than a PM seeking public support.

The first thing that springs to mind is that she’d better be careful what she puts on the side of the bus. When Scooby-Doo and his friends toured the country they at least solved mysteries. If anything, given her attempts to suppress Brexit impact reports, Theresa May is actually causing them. That would make her closer to the villain from a Scooby-Doo plotline, though given the demographics backing Brexit, realistically, you can see the Government’s Brexit plan being thwarted by pesky kids sooner or later. It’s also worryingly easy to imagine Theresa May hanging around a haunted theme park.

But would it be enough to push the deal through the Commons? For his part, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned his party will vote it down, calling it “the worst of all worlds”, which will certainly worry Brexiteers. After all, No World is better than the Worst of All Possible Worlds.

And while Corbyn was vowing to block the plan, Sir Michael Fallon was casually pronouncing May’s deal “doomed”, before insisting “this is not a good deal”.

Expanding on his analysis, he explained that “we need a better deal” before crowning his argument to point out that “we have to get this right”.

Well, indeed. Why get a bad deal when we could get a good deal?

Obviously the first possibility is that there isn’t a better deal, if the UK wants to end freedom of movement, which is really the only thing all of these people seem to agree on. But that’s not how Fallon saw it. “We’ve got to have a better deal than the one we have at the moment and we should send our negotiators back until they get one,” he said.

Exactly how sending the UK’s most skilled negotiators into permanent exile would help matters was unclear, though it did have a nice, Olde Worlde feel to it. Cheaper than a war with Spain, too.

And so, with the PM still well short of a Commons majority, despite the letter and the tour, discussion quickly turned to the prospect of a head-to-head televised debate between Corbyn and May. As the PM sees it, the debate will be an easy one: “Because I have got a plan. He hasn’t got a plan...”

You’ve got a plan and he hasn’t got a plan. It was a strong, if very childish, argument, though it did leave room for the Labour leader to hit back with the claim that he had a plan and Theresa May didn’t have a plan and also, she has no friends. But was there definitely a point in allowing two people to hold a debate on something they both essentially agree on? To the PM, this was exactly the reason to have a debate. As she explained: “What I think is important is that people are able to see the issues around this plan. I am willing to stand up and explain why I think it is the best possible deal available for the UK.”

Of course, some would argue that people being able to see the issues surrounding May’s deal was what got us into this mess in the first place, though things were then thrown into further confusion with the somewhat sheepish admission from broadcasters that it might not be worth doing anyway, because they weren’t convinced anyone would bother watching.

But what difference does that make? If the public won’t watch May explain her plans, she can just take it to them through another tour.

Fire up the mystery machine, Scooby, we’ve got to stop those pesky kids.

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