Brexit conundrum hangs over ‘silly season’
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Brexit conundrum hangs over ‘silly season’

Silly season in Britain is the time when the big mouths are away from Westminster and when funny, quirky stories are passed off as news.

world Updated: Aug 11, 2017 16:31 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Brexit,silly season,Theresa May
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Downing Street in London on July 19, 2017(Reuters)

The “silly season” is officially on, with most news-makers in Britain off on holiday, including Prime Minister Theresa May, who is in Switzerland. The tabloids are struggling to make news, but that has not prevented ministers contradicting each other on Brexit.

Silly season is the time when the big mouths are away from Westminster and when funny, quirky stories are passed off as news. The tabloids usually go to town with stories such as an egg being fried on pavement on a very warm day, Jesus appearing on a toast, a cow falling from cliff-top into a caravan, or UFOs being sighted.

In London, top cabinet ministers Philip Hammond, Liam Fox and others have been commenting and contradicting each other on Brexit, with no one the wiser on the real position.

The figure of £36 billion was mentioned as a Brexit “divorce bill” the UK would need to pay, but it was promptly shot down by Downing Street. By now everyone knows that no one knows how exactly Brexit will pan out, if it does at all.

But politics can’t be far behind even on holidays. Michael Gove, once aspirant an aspirant for 10, Downing Street and now a member in May’s cabinet, and former chancellor George Osborne were reported attending a rather appropriate drama of twists of power and betrayal — Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Bayreuth, Germany.

Holidays are important for politicians, as former Prime Minister David Cameron told newspersons 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.”

This time last year, May reminded many of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher by her performance during her first Question Time. She then did “another Maggie” by selecting Switzerland for her holiday — one of Thatcher’s favourite destinations.

In 2011, holidays and the “silly season” were disrupted when riots swept across London, with agitators stepping into a vacuum in which no one seemed to be in charge.

The riots were real events for journalists, and with a scarcity of news, there was a blanket coverage of the happenings in London, with riveting images of cars, buses, shops and houses going up in flames broadcast across the world.

The “silly season” had turned serious as leading lights of the coalition government, including Cameron and May — then home secretary — had to cut short their holidays.

First Published: Aug 11, 2017 16:16 IST