An interesting question is posed at the end of Withnail and I. “If you’re hanging,” Danny says to Withnail, “onto a rising balloon, you’re presented with a difficult decision – let go before it’s too late or hang on and keep getting higher… how long can you keep a grip on the rope?”
Of course it can be facile to attach utterances from popular culture to the pickle the nation finds itself in, but this one gets to the heart of something. How long will people – on each side of Brexit – hold onto their rope before they realise that sooner or later they’ll have to drop down and sort things out?
It’s been quite a while so far, and looks like it’ll go longer. The landing will be chaos.
We can try and read the runes. We may express exasperation. We can harden our stance, or soften it, but ultimately, we’re at the whims of people at the hard tip of politics for whom as CP Snow says, it’s all a game.
And that game, he says, is not really concerned with policy but with whether “chances of a higher office were going up or down”. Sound familiar?
Sometimes we allow ourselves to forget there are other good things happening
This is not a bleak and fatalistic rendering of the situation. It just proves that there is nothing new under the sun. Snow was writing in Corridors of Power almost 60 years ago about the machinations in those corridors. He coined the phrase. His novel is set post-Suez Crisis when Britain was in another fug about identity and its place in the global structure. It should be required reading for every senior politician before they put themselves forward with a glib soundbite about the
will of the people.