Par Charlie Hebdo -06/07/2016

"I have a face like an elephant's arse" said the great English actor Charles Laughton. Another famous Englishman deserves such an epithet just now: Boris Johnson. Ever since the Brexit vote, his impish, schoolboy features have come to resemble more and more the face of a cartoon coward. When an elephant slopes off, it inevitably shows you its backside and this is pretty much what Boris Johnson has been showing us for a week or more now -a face which looks like an elephant's arse as said pachyderm buggers off, having just trampled all your crops.  

Our media circus makes fairground animals out of our political figures. Showbiz beasts who will, to catch the eye of a jaded public, rear on their hind-legs in the middle of the ring with infinitely more alacrity than any weary elephant and commit any contortions to keep the punters happy. Contortions and moral gymnastics were definitely necessary for Boris Johnson to switch from a broadly pro-Europe position to a prominent place amongst the rabid Europhobics. We had thought that Boris Johnson was a politician. But it seems he was merely a circus animal.  

For too many politicians, Europe is nothing but a circus. In France, our version of Boris Johnson goes by the name of Nicolas Sarkozy. He, also, is prepared to say almost anything to get the cameras turned in his direction. Boris Johnson spooked the British electorate with nonsensical stunts about the exact shape of bananas permissible under EU regulations. Sarkozy pulls the same spurious legerdemain with similar supposed EU restrictions on the shape of cucumbers. They resemble very much the old notion of 18th century 'wreckers' who would swing lanterns on the coastline during storms to trick mariners into shipwreck upon those coasts, in order to pillage the wrecks for booty. In Jamaica Inn, Charles Laughton plays a country squire and Justice of the Peace who is also the secret leader of the local gang of wreckers. There's something very Boris Johnson about that. The European Union is definitely a kind of big ship. And often those politicians who should be defending it spend their time trying to shipwreck it - exactly like the upstanding pillar of society played by Laughton in the film - a man expected to uphold the law but who is, in fact, its most implacable enemy.

The people who voted for Brexit didn't really think it was real.  

Nothing is more wretched and pitiful than the face of a killer in court, mumbling and stumbling in the witness-box in front of the families of his victims. The face of the killer becomes the face of the shamed child, who begs pardon for having killed your entire family and promises never to do that kind of thing again. It can be a paltry farce. Quite a few of those who voted Brexit offered the same kind of pitiful spectacle: "We shouldn't have done it, we don't know what we were thinking, we'll never do it again." The same paltry farce indeed. After too many generations convinced that politics is a pointless charade and that your vote neither changes nor improves anything, the British electorate ended up half-believing that putting a ballot in a box was more of an imaginary act than a real one. That it was somehow, crucially, a mere gesture . I would hope to bring change with my vote. But it's never been any use, so I will vote in a vacuum of cynical disenchantment. I will vote, notwithstanding, but without hope or, vitally, consequence. For far too many voters, this vote had an unreal quality. Like the regretful killers in a courtroom, who lose their grasp on reality temporarily and kill an entire family, the Brexit voters lost their grip on the real. The awakening has been difficult. They realised they had not voted in some fantastical, gestural void. Their vote had brought a new reality into being. That reality is that they must now leave the European Union. Out you go, dimwits! They must quit Europe just like a prisoner after a guilty verdict quits the court and begins a whole new, narrower reality.

At the end of Jamaica Inn, Charles Laughton is chased by the mob he has so long swindled and betrayed. He flees to the top of a ship's mast. When he's sure that everyone is looking at him, he throws himself from his refuge and is dashed to pieces on the deck below. Thus, forcing the ugly truth of himself upon the luckless onlookers: the truth that he's nothing but a big fat shit which goes splat when it hits the deck.

So go on, Fatso, jump! The crowd is waiting. Waiting for Boris and his buddies to do the dignified splatty-type thing. But the crowd will be waiting a long time. Because in the end, Boris Johnson lacks something of Laughton's class. He and the other wreckers of Europe have already scarpered. Look at them disappearing over the horizon.