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  1. Politics
29 June 2016updated 07 Sep 2021 12:21pm

As the supreme clown gets ready to take the stage, we experience a new Archduke Ferdinand Moment

So, we’ve all got to the stage where we ask ourselves, “How does this affect me personally?”

By Nicholas Lezard

To Pizza Express with the Estranged Wife and youngest son. You know, that “Estranged” is looking a bit dodgy these days. It’s not like we’re going to get back together, but the last time I’d seen her was the day before, when she came round for dinner with me and the boy. And the last time I’d seen her before that was the day before, too, when I picked up a load of marking from school for her and took her to the Renaissance bar in St Pancras to buy a glass of champagne to take the edge off her post-referendum sorrows.

Yes, we’ve all had those, haven’t we? It has been difficult to think about much else, and the son, occupying the Hovel over the weekend, eventually informed me that he had wearied of me pacing up and down and going “Stupid f***ing bastards” every ten minutes or so. That said, he also kept asking questions about the referendum and the politicians responsible for it, usually beginning with the words “Can you explain why/how . . .” It took me back to the days of his early childhood (he’s just 16) in a way that was heartbreaking. Could I explain? Well, I suppose I could, if I made liberal use of the phrase “stupid f***ing bastards”.

So, we’ve all got to the stage where we ask ourselves, “How does this affect me personally?” At first it felt like a bereavement, with the twist that the bereavement had been caused by an idiot: say, someone who was driving a car while so drunk that they thought they were in a computer game. (I know it’s considered frightfully snobbish to impugn the intelligence or education of Leave voters, but the only other kind was those well-educated types who are stupid either by malicious choice or localised brain injury, and who have been consistently nasty, gloating and unclassy in victory.) As I write, though, it all seems up in the air, the media now having lost count of how many Labour frontbenchers have resigned, and Boris Johnson is setting out his plan for Britain’s future – or England and Wales’s future, as will probably be the case.

Yes, Boris Johnson. A first version of this column, written before the vote, consisted of little else but abuse directed against the clown. “Why don’t you file again on Monday, when we know what’s happened?” my editor asked. It’s not often I get spiked, but I can see the reasoning.

“Let us assume,” I began one sentence, “that we will have woken up, on 24 June, to a country in which Boris Johnson and the wife he has been so consistently unfaithful to over the years are now flicking through the haberdashery pages of the John Lewis catalogue, preparing to order new curtains for No 10.” It got riper after that, with me ending up calling him “a fat f***, because he is one”, an “Adipose Baby” and a “deeply insecure, unprincipled wretch”. To which one may add “traitor”, if by that one means someone who knowingly does great harm to one’s country. In which case we can also slap the charge on both Nigel Farage and Boris’s school chum David Cameron – and shudder at the thought that the last time the word was aired in public discourse was when Thomas Mair used it in court.

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As far as personal goes, I find myself living in a country that disgusts and shames me, and this is only the beginning of the shambles. The great worry is that it will be the event historians will point at when looking for the source of . . . Well, let’s just say that it’s our century’s Archduke Ferdinand Moment. Geoffrey Hill, our greatest living poet, having a wider frame of reference, shifted his gaze to July 1914, when the Socialist deputy Jean Jaurès was shot at a café by a maniac who had been reading too many of Charles Péguy’s nationalist rants in the right-wing press. (Ring any bells?)

History commands the stage wielding a toy gun,

rehearsing another scene. It has raged so before,

countless times; and will do, countless times more,

in the guise of supreme clown, dire tragedian.

So, I’m looking at other places to live. My old friend Dave is buying me a ticket to Rome as I write. My Polish friend Malgosia, who also lives there, has been calling me in her cups about once a week for about four years to come over. I think she has dishonourable intentions. Well, I think I’m now in a position to oblige her. Meanwhile, in the other direction, Los Angeles beckons, and I do have the passport for it, after all. Never have I felt so relieved and privileged to have dual nationality.

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