Brexit shadow hangs over ‘silly season’
Prime Minister Theresa May is off holidaying in Switzerland and it’s time to declare the “silly season” is officially here - the time when top newsmakers are away and funny, quirky stories are passed off as news in the British media.world Updated: Aug 11, 2016 17:03 IST
Prime Minister Theresa May is off holidaying in Switzerland and it’s time to declare the “silly season” is officially here - the time when top newsmakers are away and funny, quirky stories are passed off as news in the British media.
According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the silly season is defined as “the part of the year when Parliament and the Law Courts are not sitting (about August and September)”. It is a minor British institution that is taken seriously every year.
If May reminded many of Margaret Thatcher during her first Prime Minister’s Question Time on July 20, she is doing “another Maggie” by selecting Switzerland as the holiday destination. It was one of Thatcher’s favourite destinations during her prime ministership.
But politics cannot be far behind in the selection of holiday destinations. Some say the pro-EU May, now committed to delivering Brexit, has made the right choice: Switzerland is not in the European Union, thus it is “neutral ground” for May and her husband Philip May to relax in.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister will be taking a holiday in Switzerland and will be returning to the UK on 24th August."
May's holiday reading list was not revealed but the official red boxes - made famous through the “Yes Prime Minister” series – with papers related to Brexit are unlikely to be on top of her list. The challenge of Brexit, though, will not be far from her mind in the Swiss Alps.
This time of the year, tabloids usually go to town with stories such as eggs being fried on the pavement on a very warm day, Jesus appearing on a toast, a cow falling from a cliff-top into a caravan, no one appearing to be running the country, and UFOs being sighted.
Politics dominated headlines after the June 23 referendum, when Britons voted to leave the EU, but it has slipped off lately. Some would say news about Labour’s ongoing leadership election is very much part of the silly season, since the outcome to be declared on September 24 is known. It will be something of a miracle if leader Jeremy Corbyn loses it.
Holidays are important for politicians, as former prime minister David Cameron told reporters on the eve of silly season some time ago: "I am a great believer that politicians are human beings and they need to have holidays. I don't call it annual leave, I call it a holiday and I am looking forward to having a holiday. If you don't think politicians ought to have holidays I think you need to have a serious think.”
In 2011, holidays and the silly season were rudely disrupted when riots swept across London, and young rioters stepped into the vacuum in which no one seemed to be in charge. Scotland Yard seemed overwhelmed by the events.
The riots were real events for journalists, most of whom were scouring for news to report. The result was blanket coverage of the events in London, broadcasting riveting images of cars, buses, shops and houses going up in flames, across the world. The silly season had turned serious as leading lights of the coalition government, including Cameron and then Home secretary Theresa May, had to cut short holidays and rush back to deal with the situation.
May will be hoping nothing of that sort happens while she is away on long walks as prime minister.