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8 March 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:25pm

The best thing about BBC 5 Live podcast, Brexitcast, is its lack of lamenting

In a moment characterised by communal horror, Brexitcast sounds fairly relaxed - even normal.

By Antonia Quirke

“If Brexit were a movie, what would it be? The NeverEnding Story? Groundhog Day?” BBC commentators Katya Adler, Adam Fleming, Laura Kuenssberg and Chris Mason take the measure of Brexit’s sticky wicket in Brexitcast – which, as a rule, is pleasingly slow to disintegrate into too much baby-talk. Only occasionally does it burble such lines as, “I’m just about to WhatsApp you all a video of a sheepdog going into Chequers!” And there’s usually some sighing over bygone professional European Union-watcher perks. “Gone are the days when we had stollen,” mourned Adler recently. “Today, just a tangerine.” Kuenssberg talks in the longest paragraphs, finding such flavour in market access agreements she makes me think of a hunger-maddened bear emerging from a winter’s hibernation. And Mason in the middle, as presenter, wrangling all of them in a pretty casual way.

Probably the best thing about Brexitcast is that there isn’t a great deal of lamenting going on. (Unequivocal lamenting is the tone of our times. Communal horror turns out to be the ultimate networking opportunity.) But since we now find ourselves in a world where everybody (pundit, politician, social movement) more than ever wants to win, Brexitcast sounds fairly relaxed and normal (somewhat in the spirit of the peerless Glaswegian comedian Limmy’s recent tweet, “Take your head out your fucking arse and speak like you’re at a bus stop.”) Whereas the BBC reporter Chris Morris sounded like he’d been off for a season shooting albatross when he dozily initiated the involvement of a whirring jukebox in the third series of his Radio 4 show Brexit: a Guide for the Perplexed (“I wonder what our Brexit jukebox has got to say about this? BEEEEEP UNDERSTATEMENT ALERT!”).

Thankfully, radio has been largely resistant to most modes of faux-naivety and shock on the subject. Yet even Norman Smith was at it on Today recently, saying things like, “Let’s be honest, Brexit can do your head in” and, “Let’s put to one side all the easy peasy stuff.” To which Mishal Husain added, in her most exquisite tone of ominous competence: “The language of Brexit, although crucial, can also be fiendishly complicated,” and moved on. 

BBC Radio 5 Live

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This article appears in the 07 Mar 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The new cold war