If you’re British, or even if you aren’t, a good chunk of your news feed will have been swallowed by the Brexit pantomime, including hilarious exchanges like the one between Will Self and Mark Francois:
WS: Your problem… is since 2016 you don’t need to be a racist or anti-semite to vote for Brexit, it’s just that every racist and anti-semite in the country did. MF: I think that’s a slur on 17.4 million people and I think you should apologise on national television. I think that’s an outrageous thing to say WS: Well, you seem to find a lot of things outrageous MF: Are you saying that 17.4 million people are racist and bigots… WS: No, that’s not what I said MF: That’s pretty close to what you said WS: It’s not remotely close to what I said. You seem to be a bit exorcised, sir MF: Well, I’m offended WS: The politics of offence, eh? What I said was that every racist and anti-semite in the country, pretty much, probably voted for Brexit. MF: How can you know that? WS: I suspect it. MF: Well, I think you should apologise. WS: To who? Racists and anti-semites?
OK, pretty funny although the best comment on the showdown was by Sara Pascoe on Frankie Boyle’s New World Order saying (IIRC) “What you’re seeing there is a clash between two different kinds of alpha male”. Everyone should wind their neck in.
But this is Fictoplasm, so there’s going to be a fiction element — and that’s this piece by Will Self in the aftermath of his face-off, where he name-checks J G Ballard:
Perhaps the pivotal years were around middle of the noughties – at any rate, that’s when I went to speak to my friend and mentor JG Ballard about what would prove to be his final novel, Kingdom Come. Jim was as bluff and strange as ever – he had the manner of the RAF pilot he might have become if he’d completed his training, combined with the thousand-yard stare at what’s immediately to hand, which is the sure sign of a surrealist. He pointed out to me the flags flying in the front gardens along Old Charlton Road, the utterly bland suburban road in Shepperton (an utterly bland Surrey dormitory town), where he’d lived for 40 extremely odd years. For him, the flying of the Cross of St George was undoubtedly minatory: it had come about through a synergy between football fandom and the rise of ethnic nationalism; these were the years of the British National Party’s ascent to the giddy heights of the 2010 general election, when their candidates won over half a million votes. Reviewing Kingdom Come in the Guardian, Phil Baker succinctly noted “Ballard’s central idea is that consumerism slides into fascism when politics simply gives the punters what they want”. Well, Jim was always prescient – this was the writer who conceived of the celebrity car crash as a catalyst of collective hysteria a quarter-century before Diana Spencer was killed in the Pont de l’Alma underpass, and who also anticipated the baleful impacts of global warming as early as the late 1950s. Jim got that English nationalism was on the rise – and that under neo-liberal conditions favouring consumption over production, it was likely to become a vector for the most troubling aspects of the famously ‘tolerant’ English psyche.
Perfidious Albion on Speed is too fussy a title to be Ballardian. In fact, Perfidious Albion is already the title of Sam Byers’ second novel, which didn’t start out as a Brexit novel but perhaps it evolved that way:
The honest truth is that it began in a much more speculative fashion. I did the bulk of the work on this book in 2015 and 2016, and while it’s true I continually adjusted for events such as Brexit, I think what really happened is that the world just caught up with me in surprising and disturbing ways, and so I accepted the idea that rather than continually reinventing things in order to be out in front of the phenomena I was depicting, I should anchor myself and play more with the ways in which the context of the book was evolving.
Here’s a video of the author: