British prime minister Theresa May has tootled off to a European Council summit, prompting reflection on #Brexit coverage by the UK media. One of the great surprises of the #Brexit referendum has been the relative lack of media delirium here in the UK. There were four or five days of pandemonium – in Britain, Europe, the US and pretty much everywhere – immediately after the June 23 vote.
But ever since, there’s been stiff upper lip steadiness that might be admirable if the adversity were not self-created and had been forced on the UK by outside forces. The value of the pound is down nearly 20% against the dollar, rising inflation has become a terrible certainty and everyone’s wondering how relevant the UK will be to the world in five years.
So what explains the British media’s relative calm? There’ve been some opinion pieces – mostly in The Guardian and Financial Times – but largely, #Brexit remains a dull throb rather than a long howl. There’s been minimal outrage for instance, at the remarkable fact the British parliament recently elected to discuss the Syrian situation rather than the post-Brexit tangle.
There’s almost no consternation about the fact that BBC Radio 4’s Today programme spends an inordinate amount of time, say, on Nigeria’s problems, rather than those caused by Brexit for Britain.
Here’s a thought. Perhaps glacial denial – of reality, the odds, the stakes – is how tiny Britain acquired an empire and ruled it for hundreds of years. Perhaps it’s the mantra of play up, play up and play the game and for godsakes let’s not talk about the weather, itchy jumpers, insect bites, the natives. Perhaps such calm is essential if the country is not to become addled.
But to me, it seems rather like a householder calmly walking around their property pointing to cracks in their neighbour’s house even as theirs is caving in.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the other bit of befuddling #Brexit calm. The fact that Martin Roth, the German-born outgoing director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, is leaving because of the #Brexit vote, because he feels no longer welcome in Britain.
It’s not received a great deal of coverage in the weeks since Mr Roth announced his decision. Is the stiff upper lip of the British media psycho-colonizing others elsewhere?