Frankie Boyle’s election countdown: ‘You’ll be praying they prorogue the next parliament’

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From a Dickensian Tory cabinet to the ghosts of Brexit promises past, the comedian brings you his take on the election

As the body politic convulses, as the abyss avoids our gaze, we near the end of another election at the behest of a political class that has paid as much attention to David Cameron’s fixed terms as he did to people with emphysema slowly dying over a wood lathe. Christmas seems a strange time for a Tory government to call an election; possibly they guessed that it would be hard for Labour to sell hope in winter; possibly they judged that goodwill to all men would be at its lowest after people had endured a December of accidentally answering the door to a canvasser because they thought it was an Amazon package. Then again, Conservatives would say that the story of Christmas chimes with their values, as it involves a pregnant refugee being treated quite badly.

Brexit supporters are surely among the most likely to get out and vote, especially now Jeremy Kyle isn’t on in the daytime any more. It was impossible to predict that the whole country would be thrown into crisis by middle-aged men outraged about Europe making decisions for them (these are people whose wives buy their socks), but I can understand their subsequent disillusionment. If 434 MPs vote for a general election, we instantly get one; if 0.14% of the populace vote for Boris Johnson, we instantly get him; but if 52% of the electorate vote for Brexit, they get three years of what feels like trying to shit out a pool table. Essentially, Brexit has proved impossible to deliver: turns out it’s tricky for English voters to take back control of their borders when one of them is in someone else’s country. Many people wish David Cameron had never called the referendum in the first place. It says a lot about how badly the last couple of years have gone, that there’s a guy who destroyed Libya, presided over needless austerity and fucked a pig, and we wish that he’d just used his own judgment.

Michael
‘In any other era Michael Gove would be seen as a uniquely unctuous, unlikable and profoundly talentless figure. Now he’s hardly even remarkable.’ Photograph: Jeff Overs/PA

Let’s begin with the Tories. The cabinet is Dickensian in the purest sense: the sort of people who would need more than two ghosts to change their behaviour. After an uncertain start, Jacob Rees-Mogg has had a pretty good campaign, onboard an Arctic clipper ship, nailed into a coffin of earth from his constituency. It’s interesting that someone who thinks ordinary people lack common sense is so heavily invested in upholding the result of a referendum, but like so many lesser ironies in this election, we simply don’t have the time. When people say “The mask has slipped!” after various cabinet gaffes, there must be a moment when the minister wonders whether they have accidentally come out wearing one of the actual masks they wear to the various Eyes Wide Shut-style parties that dot their social calendar at this time of year; their fingers moving reflexively towards their face to see if they’ve worn the head of a golden ibis to talk to Phillip Schofield.

The Conservatives seem to have focused on the phrase “Get Brexit Done”, which has all the conviction of your dad hitting the arms of his chair and saying, “Right…” We also seem to be hearing a lot about “Unleashing Britain’s potential”, despite most of our potential being for food riots, and perhaps some kind of race war. The Conservative manifesto contains elements of both Thatcherism and Reaganism, in that it seems to have been written by someone with dementia. There was probably a discussion about whether to release a manifesto at all or simply airdrop scratchcards over key marginals.

Boris Johnson, who looks like something you’d keep your pyjamas in, and who no reasonable person would choose to lead them into a chorus, has a strangely hunched demeanour; perhaps from all the time he spends crammed inside married women’s wardrobes, like a randy jack-in-the-box. This confused sex yeti has been booed by nurses: people who can remove a dressing, examine a festering wound, and still look up at you with a smile. Has any party ever elected a new leader so tired and dated? With a delivery best approximated as a living checklist of stroke warnings, his bumbling posho shtick almost resembles buffering, a kind of 3G Wodehouse. He doesn’t even seem to enjoy it; throughout the campaign he’s sported a face that looks as if it’s been kneaded by a baker going through a particularly bitter divorce, and the irony that comes into his eyes every time he crowbars in a catchphrase means that he breaks the fourth wall more than Deadpool. We thought the office of prime minister was what he lived for, his consuming ambition. It’s all been a bit like hearing Tony The Tiger talk about his diabetes.

Johnson’s deep investment in democracy is highlighted by the fact that his government has been dominated by an unelected special adviser. Usually people with levels of mental activity as low as Johnson’s aren’t surrounded by advisers, but their weeping parents and a member of their favourite boy band. Dominic Cummings looks like he works in television (which I think might be the worst thing you can say about anyone), has the air of a startled testicle, and the name of a character in a porn parody of The Talented Mr Ripley (“The Talentless Fister Ripped Me”). Everyone who’s bored with Johnson pretending to be an idiot should look at Cummings and realise these people are far more dangerous when they pretend to be clever.

It’s perfectly obvious why Johnson has been able to take power: he has an instinctive grasp on Brexit as rightwing eschatology, and he’s used to getting his own way, be it in the halls of Westminster or elbowing siblings off of nanny’s nipples. It’s only when you look at the hideous Tarot formed by his cabinet that you get a true picture of the depravity into which we are sinking. Take Michael Gove, a revanchist endorsement of the science of physiognomy. In any other era Gove would be seen as a uniquely unctuous, unlikable and profoundly talentless figure. Now he’s hardly even remarkable. Gove – looking like someone took all the flesh out of a serial killer’s drains and forced it into some brogues; like Davros fell out of his Dalek; like a rushed cartoon of a horny snail – is somehow not the worst person in cabinet, or even his own marriage. Against pushback from Sajid Javid and Priti Patel, Dominic Raab is attempting to get up to 60 British children back from camps in northern Syria before they freeze to death over the winter. That Raab, the flesh suit of a sentient virus with a forehead vein like a B&B kettle-cord, is somehow the moral heart of this enterprise tells you all you need to know. In all likelihood, you’ll be praying that they prorogue the next parliament.

Nigel
Nigel Farage: someone else who will still be here after the Rapture. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Someone else who will still be here after the Rapture is the Brexit party’s Nigel Farage. I thought one of the advantages of the Brexit vote was that he might disappear; having him back in public life is a bit like watching a suicide bomber doing a comeback tour. Of course, it would have been nice to see him actually running in the election, particularly from a pack of wild dogs. As for the Lib Dems – well, I thought we’d really miss Tim Farron, bumping around the country on a deserted coach and performing Blue Peter tasks in front of people terrified that he might start talking about gay sex. Jo Swinson has grown on me, and seems to exist as a satisfying, subtle and damning satire of humanity. Swinson’s election started out relatively positively, possibly because people hadn’t heard her speak yet. It quickly became clear that she had the gravitas of a re-education camp supply teacher, and was launching a kind of charm retreat that seemed to involve loans for renting flats and permanent austerity. Some might see misogyny in this reaction to her, but I’m fairly sure I just hate her for being from Milngavie.

Labour’s idea to run an election campaign on policy in the middle of all this is a little bit like reciting your poetry at an orgy. Jeremy Corbyn, perhaps weighing up whether he could have more influence by simply dying and haunting his successor, has benefitted from becoming slightly calmer over the course of the campaign. Aggression isn’t a good look for him, shifting Corbyn from Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh towards the territory where you’d expect his face to be captioned with “police suspect the real figure may be much higher”. Labour’s campaign initially struggled to find the right note of warmth or optimism. Normally in a general election, there’s so little mention of Scotland it’s like watching coverage of a major football tournament, but Labour seemed pointlessly determined to get across the message that they would deny a second independence referendum. The Corbyn project started out as a piece of moralising – a token candidate standing in a Labour leadership election to remind the party of its principles – and his Labour is at its weakest when these roots show: it can come across as patronising and entitled. I think Labour presents itself better during elections because it is forced to be more practical. The whole Corbyn thing, at its best, is a sort of Ealing comedy about some old bloke who gets called off his allotment to try to form a government, but it needs to promise a third act where something actually happens. Labour’s campaign also demonstrates the limits of social media compared with establishment media power. If polls at the time of writing are to be believed, owning several TV stations and newspapers still seems to be more important than the democratisation of the ability to troll celebrity Jews.

Before the campaign, there seemed to be a belief among Labour party members that it fared better in elections because of rules about electoral media balance, perhaps because they misconstrued the establishment complacency at the last election. Of course, Labour has been monstered in the media throughout the campaign, and largely been judged by different standards than the Conservatives. Even the gold standard of scrutiny that Johnson dodged was just being interviewed by his former boss at the Spectator.

Media plurality is an issue we need to address in this country: the alternative is living in a timeline where, because Corbyn has wonky glasses, in a couple of years you’ll be living in a tent city outside an Amazon warehouse trying to GoFund a tonsillectomy. The Tories calling Corbyn a communist and a threat to national security after handing nuclear power plants to the Chinese is a bit like getting a bollocking off Charles Manson for putting down slug pellets. Perhaps in a few years our troops will reflect on what a harmless enemy Corbyn actually was, as they stare up at an AI minotaur, pinning them to the floor with a stainless steel hoof and holding their extracted vascular system aloft like a Ford Focus wiring-loom.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I won’t be voting Tory on Thursday, for much the same reasons that I won’t be spending the day kicking children and pensioners into traffic. It’s depressing to think how many polling stations are in schools, and how many people will vote Conservative after walking past a motivational rainbow. As we saw in Stanley Johnson’s Pinocchio gaffe, there is a problem with our elites programming their traumatised children with the idea that they are born to rule. It becomes almost impossible, as a class, to hide your contempt. It’s difficult to keep lying convincingly about things you’ve convinced yourself your audience are too stupid to notice. This current iteration of Conservatism, a kind of mutant nationalism that insists all our infrastructure has to be owned by other countries, has nowhere to go but into an asset-stripped, deregulated wasteland. I don’t know how anyone votes for that, or what happens after they do. British people don’t get on well enough to form militia.

I don’t want to end on a note of pessimism. Instead, I’d like to share with you my two favourite quotes. The first, is a really famous one. Kurt Vonnegut asked his adult son what he thought the meaning of life was, and his son replied: “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” The second is what David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, said about the ending of the final episode:

“Well, what Tony should have been thinking, I guess, and what we all should be thinking – although we can’t live that way – is that life is really short. And there are good times in it and there are bad times in it. And that we don’t know why we’re here, but we do know that 20 miles up it’s freezing cold, it’s a freezing cold universe, but here we have this thing called love, which is our only defence, really, against all that cold, and that it’s a very brief interval and that, when it’s over, I think you’re probably always blindsided by it.”

Twenty miles up, it’s a freezing cold universe, we only have the human connections we make here, nothing is permanent, and love is our only defence. I suggest we all vote accordingly, and try to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.

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