Do you not yet understand that Britain is ruined?
Ever since the debacle of last year’s Brexit referendum, as day after day brings news of the continuing mess we’re in, and of our alleged leaders floundering around in it like revellers in the Glastonbury mud (maybe not such a great analogy this year?) I find myself thinking again and again of a verse in Exodus.
It comes in the middle of the story of the Plagues of Egypt. The wealthy and powerful elite, backed by the religious and the military, have kept the working classes down for generations, constantly increasing the demands made of them, while reducing their livelihood by punitive austerity measures.
Then God raises up Moses, a lone voice to demand that the Government, the Pharaoh, listens to the voice of the poor and agrees to let them go free from their slavery. Pharaoh sneers at the very idea. So God unleashes a series of plagues that devastate the land. Each time Pharaoh asks Moses to lift the plague, promising to grant the people’s demands. Each time he reneges on his promise, does a U-turn. And the cycle begins again, the plagues getting increasingly worse, causing even more damage.
And at one point Pharaoh’s advisers plead with him, “Let the people go… do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” (Exodus 10.7)
Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined? Do they not understand that Britain is ruined, these elites and politicians who are still hell-bent on negotiating an exit from the EU on any terms, or if that won’t work, on no terms at all?
Tory ministers have privately expressed the despairing view that Britain is fucked. Scientists, economists, business leaders, bankers, foreign observers, all forecast nothing but disaster and decades of poverty for the ordinary people of the UK (though no doubt the mega-rich will emerge relatively unscathed - they always do). Our fruit farmers already can’t get in enough cheap foreign labour to get the harvest in. Today we read a report that highly skilled EU nationals are already packing up and leaving the UK - they know that staying on is too big a gamble. Meanwhile our tottering ‘Pharaoh’ bribes some of the most bigoted sections of our society to prop up her power, while continuing to deny fair pay for some of the most important and valued of our workers: nurses, teachers, emergency services.
So it’s time for all Mrs May’s advisers to ask her: Do you not yet understand that Britain is ruined? For God’s sake, while we still can, call a halt to this madness. Stop Brexit now.