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From absurdity to eternity

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been following the Brexit machinations since last autumn with a strange fascination whilst also simultaneously feeling totally redundant as a Rust columnist, a gig I had accepted with a self-imposed brief to cover the absurdities of British politics.

It’s nigh impossible to offer an anarchic (and hopefully whacky) take on the subject when the actualité conspires to do the job for you to an extent it would be impossible to match when seeking to get the odd laugh or two by sitting at a computer and dreaming stuff up.

Yesterday my viewing of Brexit development was limited to watching the BBC’s Politics Live at 12.15pm hosted by Andrew Neil and the early evening Six O’ Clock News.

On the former Mr Neil was, justifiably I’d suggest, in grumpy mood with the main party MPs put up to appear – Owen Paterson (Tory) and Angela Eagle (Labour) – and, to provide an independent international view of the British goings-on, had on his panel a female German journalist from Die Ziet – sadly, I didn’t catch her name – possessed of the commendable attribute of being somewhat more fluent in English than everyone else in the studio.

Her line was that – albeit whilst being thoroughly and understandably bored with everything Brexit – the rest of the world was also finding our House of Commons chaos hugely enjoyable and amusing.

Overall yesterday the impression coming across to me was that – with events seemingly drifting towards some sort of deal, however bad, that would probably deliver Brexit at least in name at some point in the future – both the majority of MPs and all those Remoaners who had managed to gain access to the airwaves to hector the nation were becoming progressively frantic and agitated in their desperation to avoid ultimate defeat.

Of course, there is many a slip to be had between cup and lip and I don’t doubt that before the final whistle is heard there are going to be plenty of opportunities – currently known and unknown – for those so inclined to trip up, frustrate, deflect and/or ‘kill off’ the UK’s departure from the EU.

I’m certainly not counting my chickens and stand resolutely prepared for any and all outcomes.

There is a degree to which I subscribe to the general feeling identified across the country that many Brits just “want to get on with it – and get it over”.

Earlier – just to demonstrate that I am coming into the 1990s, if not quite the 21st Century – having last week registered myself for a Senior Railcard at my local railway station on a deal costing me £70 for three years, I had made an eventually successful attempt to book myself a day return railway ticket to Harrogate in Yorkshire for next Wednesday 20th March.

Following two false starts on the Trainline website and a telephone call to a gentleman on their helpline who recommended it, I made a trek to the booking office at my local station to speak face-to-face with a human being member of staff – for those of us over fifty, always a welcome alternative to constantly having to wrestle with machines and automated systems, not least call-centres based in the Sub-Continent – who courteously took me through the procedures and whys-and-wherefores.

My concern at the time – since I had access via my computer and smartphone to both my Senior Railcard and the Trainline website (on my phone via the equivalent app) – was that I wasn’t sure whether, having booking my tickets, I would end up with them magically housed inside my smartphone.

In one sense, of course, this might be excitingly convenient – provided I then remembered to take my smartphone with me on my expedition, of course!

On the other, the Trainline had offered the alternative option of ‘recording’ some reference numbers and then going to some sort of ticket booth/machine at any/every station whereby, by tapping in such numbers, said box would spew out physical tickets, i.e. the kind that I have habitually taken with me on my train journeys over the past fifty years.

Somehow, for an oldie, having the security of something familiar and physical was far more comforting in prospect than relying on smartphone technology, which (for me) logically carried with the attendant risk that – when I got to whichever railway station I was trying to enter or exit at any particular time – whatever I had ‘captured’ in my smartphone would in some way or another be either insufficient proof of purchase and/or my bona fides.

Anyway. I am happy to report that by close of business yesterday I had amassed in my smartphone what I’m assured (by those who should know) will be all I need next Wednesday.

I shall report further on this organ on the matter.

Separately – but vaguely linked – as I came to the computer overnight I was listening to the post-BBC Question Time review hosted by Adrian Chiles on Radio Five Live up to 1.00am.

At one point in the discussion upon all aspects of the Brexit madness a male studio guest – who sounded as if he might be an expert on the issue (I think he said he’d written a book on the subject) – stated that the technology already existed which could and would make it possible for each member of electorate to vote via an app on their smartphone.

Developing his case before anyone else could rubbish it, he listed the advantages.

Electoral fraud, corruption and voter-manipulation would all but be eliminated. The costs of holding General and local elections would be decimated. The results could be amassed and made public almost instantly – rather like on a TV game show.

Initially this all sounded like a great potential development – and a natural extension of the omnipotence of digital technology going forward.

But there are complications, of course.

What if the relevant app was ‘hacked into’ by anyone – even hostile nations – intent upon steering the result of a vote in a certain way?

But worse, what if – as I often do on my computer let alone smartphone – a voter mistakenly hits the wrong button and, in a binary choice situation, ‘votes’ for the outcome he precisely didn’t want?

And – when you extrapolate the system forward – introducing voting via smartphone would probably save the nation even more money because we could do away with both the Houses of Commons and Lords (and all people and things that sail with them) because who needs them when voters can vote on any and everything at the touch of a button?

We’d effectively be able to get rid of politics as it is currently known completely.

How and why?

Well, because we’d be able to have national referenda on every single subject that comes up ‘on the day’.

Who would need politicians then?

It’s all starting to make sense …


About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts