Alongside the comprehensive destruction of the national sense of self, unity, wellbeing, cohesion, self-esteem, international standing, and national credibility, language has been a conspicuous casualty of Brexit. In separating from all those other languages, we seem to have knackered our own
When we talk of a second referendum, not only language but mathematics is defeated because we’ve already had the first referendum. The vote in 2016 was the second referendum. The first referendum was in 1975 when the UK decided to join the EU. What people now want is in fact the third referendum. Opponents to a second referendum are opposing something that already happened and in which they probably voted in contradiction to the result of the first referendum. These people say we cannot possibly have a second referendum, meaning a third referendum, because the people have already spoken in the first, not realising that the first referendum was the one that put us into the union, and we can’t possibly change our mind because that’s undemocratic, even though that’s exactly what they’ve done by voting to leave in the second referendum, the one they mistakenly call the first. So why can’t we have a third referendum, one people speak of as a second? Because that would be undemocratic because the people have expressed their will. But they did that in 1975, so what’s the difference? Well, time and new information the anti-second (third) referendum people will say. But, the pro-second (third) referendum people might say, what we have since 2016 is time and new information. The time being over two years, the new information being that the original leave campaign was based on lies and conducted with illegal spending. So what’s the difference? Why not a second (third) referendum. To which the answer seems to be ‘Because!’
Referring to a third referendum as a second referendum is sufficiently painful to language and sense, but the loathing is compounded by the hypothetical event’s other sobriquet: the People’s Vote. Which demands the question, who voted the first (two) time(s) if not the people? Was it the dogs and cats of the nation? The voles and moles? We can be confident that it was neither the pets nor the wildlife because animals, being very pragmatic compared to humans will generally vote food and not opt out of the source of their dinner. Which is what a vote for leaving is: a vote against nourishment, a vote against nosh. A hard Brexit will mean the end to all sorts of food on which the UK is currently dependent. For example, it may mean the end of that very British institution: Danish bacon. Animals don’t vote against food. Animals are generally very much for food, so I think we can exclude animals. Or perhaps the result of the first (second) referendum spontaneously manifested itself from the ether without the intervention of voting people. Perhaps we all woke up one morning to suddenly find a referendum result had materialised out of nothing and, like an enraged Godzilla, was physically tearing the nation from its moorings off the coast of Europe. Which brings us back to food.
Perhaps for clarification, the first question on a future ballot, irrespective of the main subject, might be: Are you, personally, a people? Only persons who can answer in the affirmative can continue to the main question: are you for or against food?
Leave Means Leave
‘Leave means leave’, they say. This is very helpful for people who thought leave meant ‘hedgehog’, or ‘bivalve’, or ‘bacon for everyone’.
Keep Britain British
A clear sentiment that must be a bit of a blow to the Leave campaign’s Russian sponsors.
Take Back Control
‘Take back control’, they urged, pleading for something they had never lost. At least, until they gave that control to the Tories who seem to have squandered it or left it on a bus somewhere.
Believe in Britain
‘Believe in Britain’, they said, asking for faith over the existence of something that could be empirically confirmed, and using a grammatical structure that is identical to ‘believe in unicorns’.
But doesn’t the term ‘meaningful vote’ give the game away? Finally, they are owning up that every vote since Parliament’s inception in 1215 has been quite pointless. And to drive the point of pointlessness home, Theresa May is at the time of writing hammering away for a fourth iteration of a meaningful vote on a policy that has been meaningfully voted down three times already. That’s already once more than a more meaningful national vote we’ve been permitted. Perhaps a People’s Vote in which neither pets nor wildlife nor Russians participate is less meaningful than the nonsense we’ve been presented repeatedly in the house of fools. May says she is prepared to step down if her party supports her plan, but in each of the meaningful votes she has failed even to get enough votes to resign. Which pretty much sums up Brexit so far.
One wag in the Guardian last week likened Brexit to the Cuban missile crisis being re-enacted by Teletubbies — which is doubly apt considering the Teletubbies’ masterful use of language.