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Thursday 25 Jul 2024

Searching for Winston
David Simmonds

Sir Winston Churchill salutes Donald Trump.

It was a week filled with political tension in the UK, when the 29 March deadline, for the escape of Britain from the European Union (EU), moved ever closer. The British parliament twice voted down the Brexit deal, fashioned by Prime Minister Theresa May, as well as voting down the idea of leaving the EU without an exit deal in place. May asked the EU for a deadline extension, which might allow her to either remodel the deal or turn around the domestic skeptics.

• The spectacle was tawdry.

The EU exasperated. Britain couldn’t agree on what it wanted and its international standing eroded with every new twist and turn. Investors deplore uncertainty; they looked elsewhere.

What did May have left to offer the Europeans? If I were she, I would have gone to the EU bearing gifts. For example, a cabinet order preventing the export of Marmite for as long as the deal is in place; a guarantee of the continuity of supply of Rose’s Lime Marmalade; a promise to keep making costume dramas, such as Downton Abbey; a ban on Rolling Stones tours might also have worked.

These assurances might not have been sufficient to solve the thorny issue of the Irish Backstop problem. Still, such assurances may have led the EU leadership to understand May was serious. These options now seem lost.

What the British are patently lacking is leadership, of the ‘follow me to the promised land’ variety. May, that poor heckled soul, has tried her best but seems only to breed contempt. Her days, as Prime Minister, seemed numbered and were; she resigned on 24 May 2019.

What does the pool of potential of replacement leaders look like? From the legislative crowd, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t have much to offer, except anger. Boris Johnson is only in the fray for the attention it brings him. The only parliamentarian that stands out is the speaker of the UK House of Commons, John Bercow; mainly for his bellicosity, which may not be much of an asset for a visionary leader hoping to influence the staid EU leadership.

Perhaps the British should seek a leader from outside the political trenches. Hugh Grant, yes, the actor might be a solid choice. He would bring typical British self-deprecation and apparent bumbling to the post, yet providing a dose of charm adequate to get the girl in the end. What of Eric Clapton, it wasn’t so long time ago that the image of “Clapton is God” was everywhere you looked. European politicians were teenagers once, too, and would gladly trade a few concessions on a withdrawal treaty for a genuine Clapton autograph or used guitar pick.

• Consider Mary Berry.

If you’re not satisfied with those suggestions, consider Mary Berry. She’s the co-host of the Great British Baking Show. She can say negative things without appearing too cruel. Then there’s actor Michael Caine: his authentic cockney accent, apparent to anyone that has seen the movie, Alfie, in its original form, would certainly amuse the EU people. Maybe David Attenborough, who could treat the withdrawal agreement as if it were some special on wildlife preservation and slip a deal past the Europeans as they were drifting off to sleep.

My personal choice would be Rowan Atkinson. When negotiations got tough, he could break into his Mr Bean persona. You know what they say: you can’t get mad when you’re laughing.

Perhaps the solution to the search for great leaders lies in science. It was in these pages, not that many months ago, I reported scientists were close to bringing extinct reptiles back to life, just as the Jurassic movies foresaw. It would not be much of a stretch to imagine the British hell bent on bringing Winston Churchill back to life to save the country a second time.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had already recruited eminent geneticists for a kind of Manhattan Project to do just that. I just hope the Churchill DNA is still available. Did anyone save his old cigar butts and drinking glasses; there were so many of them? You could be sitting on a goldmine.

Why stop at one great leader; why not add the best of the rest one-time UK Prime Ministers? For compassion, you could toss in a little Margaret Thatcher. For agreeability, you could toss in some Neville Chamberlain. For warmth, you could try a dash of Edward Heath.

There is no reason to stop at politicians. Why not find some DNA from Florence Nightingale or from the recently deceased Gordon Banks, the goalkeeper for the English soccer team that won the 1966 World Cup. What of finding DNA from Jane Austen or George Bernard Shaw: the possibilities are endless.

• Ready a Clapton song, in case.

The prognosticators that thought Theresa May would bring home a Brexit deal, approved by parliament and the public, are out. Best they seek out Clapton, today, or, perhaps, arrange a Pepper’s Ghost version of John Lennon to cut the deal.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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