Theresa May’s Surreal Game: Playing with Time
With her third attempt likely to fail, the British prime minister may never withdraw her proposal for withdrawal. The Daily Devil’s Dictionary reports.
As this week begins, the UK and Europe find themselves less than two weeks away from the official cutoff date for Brexit. In the nearly three years since the referendum of June 2016, the terms of Brexit are still awaiting their definition.
Now, for a third time in the space of two months, we learn that British Prime Minister Theresa May has been planning a third vote in Parliament on the withdrawal agreement she has spent over two years negotiating with the European Union. Late last week, the BBC reported: “If MPs support Mrs May’s deal next week – before a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on 21 March – then she will ask the EU for an extension of no later than 30 June.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
The moment in time — never in the past or present, always in a shifting future — at which May expects to be able to announce the ratification of her deal to withdraw from the European Union
The prime minister may have been unconsciously influenced by the scene in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland in which Alice wonders about the White Queen’s promise to recruit her as a maid and pay her “Twopence a week and jam every other day.” Alice withdraws her candidacy, objecting that she doesn’t want to be hired (was Alice a proto-Brexiteer?) and furthermore that she doesn’t want any jam “today.”
“You couldn’t have it if you did want it,” the queen said. “The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday—but never jam today.”
“It must come sometimes to ‘jam today,’” Alice objected.
“No, it can’t,” said the queen. “It’s jam every other day: today isn’t any other day, you know.”
Unlike Alice, who can’t pin down the specific day for action, May actually does manage to identify the day of her votes on withdrawal week after week. Generally it’s Tuesday. But, like Alice, she has no hope of getting a positive result. And now things have become critical. There are only two Tuesdays left in the month. If it fails this week, will she try again next week, the last Tuesday before doomsday? May’s hopes may once again be dashed tomorrow, but it never dents her resolve to succeed the next time.
Last week, after Parliament resoundingly rejected her plan, May nevertheless had the pleasure of organizing two other votes related to the Brexit fiasco. Rather than clarifying the UK’s position, they simply added to the ever deepening confusion about what path Britain may end up taking. Since the second of those votes formally granted her the right to demand an extension for negotiations beyond the official Brexit deadline — most likely till the end of June — this could provide her with the opportunity to prepare a whole series of new Tuesday votes, since it would free up as many as 12 more. After that, Parliament might simply decide to change the name of Tuesday to “Groundhog Day.”
Theresa May has already made political and media history and, to the amazement of seasoned pundits, is still residing at 10 Downing Street with a view to adding to it. Some are calling it the longest stretch of great and memorable British comedy since the two seasons of Monty Python that hit the airwaves exactly 50 years ago. May’s performance may also remind us of a remark made by another British wit, Peter Ustinov. Speaking about the Academy Award-winning part he played as the character Arthur Simpson (“the Shmo”) in the film Topkapi, he said: “I love the idea of a man who aims low and misses.”
On January 15, the first vote on May’s Brexit deal constituted the worst defeat for a prime minister in British history. In normal times, after such a humiliation, the prime minister would have resigned, but post-Brexit Britain has turned time into something that can no longer be measured or described in “normal” terms. The margin of defeat in January was greater than the total number of votes in favor of the agreement: 432 to 202. The margin of her second defeat, on March 12, was “only” 149. Thanks to a slightly improved score but especially to the growing anguish among the entire population as the fatal date approaches, she has maintained hope that her third attempt will be successful.
In American baseball, if a batter fails a third time to hit a pitch, it’s a strikeout and the batter must return to the dugout. In cricket, the batter keeps playing no matter how many swings they take and no matter how many times the bowler throws the ball without managing to topple the wicket.
Or, as the White Queen explained to Alice, who refused to take serious affirmations that appeared to her impossible: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Theresa May is on her third attempt to believe “impossible things before Brexit.”
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.