I went to the March in Central London on Saturday. Yes, I voted with the 48%. But this piece is mainly about humour.
As I have written in pieces before on this topic LINK HERE. Leave won the argument in the Referendum, not ONLY because of their appeal to emotion and nostalgia – as was decently portrayed earlier this year in the Channel 4 dramatization An Uncivil War. They also did so because of their superior use of humour. Think the bluff confidence of Boris Johnson poking fun at the timidity of Project Fear or a beer swilling Nigel Farage poking fun at Eurocrats.
They aligned themselves with perhaps THE totemic trait within the British character that cuts across class. Humour. And actually this sense of humour was of a piece with a jingoistic tabloid bravado - the sort that led The Sun to lead the rebuke of the European Commission with the famous headline Up Your Delors! This type of humour can be summed up by this cartoon showing US President Obama opposed by a British bulldog in April 2016.
When Leavers bait Remainers online it is with a similar spirit – 'let’s get on with it' - 'back Britain', implicitly accusing the 48% of defeatism, designed to position Leave in the underdog Churchillian position: the plucky, doughty ordinary bloke Brit battling with a Euro bureaucracy.
Well, if the WAS the case. Things changed this weekend. What happened? The fact that Brexit has somehow become the UK's Manifest Destiny and The Government's mission has effectively robbed the Brexiteers of their coveted challenger brand positioning they once wielded to such devastating effect. In a move of cultural jiu jitsu, that leverage is now being used against it through the most vicious and effective weapon left to the people of the UK: their own native wit. And this has proven to be a most awesome and corruscating weapon, indeed!
There were quite a few of these.
That's right. A mass of the British people is now apparently aligned behind Baldrick as preferable to May!
British Humour as we all know is often said to be one of our defining characteristics. AA Gill writes in his book The Angry Island, that repressed anger is the underlying driver of many British traits including our love of humour writing: 'bullying is mostly what the English sense of humour is for.' It is also the place British people take refuge in during times of fear and uncertainty. Fear, uncertainty, anger, bullying. What does that remind you of? 🤔When you combine that with the knowledge that satire is a powerful weapon against powerful, we could only expect one thing. Martin Myrone, Tim Batchelor and Cedar Lewisohn writes in British Comic Art about satire:
"One of the central pillars of the British Statue may, indeed, be this belief in the carnivalesque as part of national life which is given life in the institution of satire in the media, the ‘corrective impulse’ that helps define a national culture”.
And boy, does the UK need a ‘corrective impulse’ right about now. The punk spirit of the Bollox to Brexit campaign channels that. And we saw plenty of carnivalesque, drum and bass sound systems and a riot of word play and humour in the placards on the streets of London on Saturday. I've shared some of my favourites here. I have decided to list them by their humour type for your delectation, below. Enjoy.
1. Word Play
2. Cultural References
Alan Partridge: "Give me a Second Referendum. You shit."
Space X: "If we leave the E.U. I'm moving to Mars"
3. Insults and Put Downs
"What happened to that twat Cameron?"
"Ikea make better cabinets than yours"
4. Sexual Humour
"Shove Brexit up your Backstop"
"Pulling Out Doesn't Stop People Coming"
5. Speculative Irony
"Chances of Brexit turning out well..."
"A more prosperous, peaceful UK after Brexit? Do you also believe in Unicorns?"