“There will be a food shortage” – unfeasible, but forgivable. “The NHS will run out of key pharmaceuticals” – extraordinarily unlikely. “The buses will grind to a halt” – absurd, yet a welcome relief for car drivers.
Project Fear 2.0 has been ramping up rapidly over the last few weeks, and in case you couldn’t tell, people are fed up of it. It began innocently enough, claiming that there might be a shortage of food and drink on our shelves (although the government doesn’t seem to mind taxing us to the hilt when it’s there). And of course, people responded as they should, with mild panic but a “it will be worth it” attitude. Then we were told our already struggling hospitals will be deprived of the medicines they rely on, and some people began to ask, “hang on, is that actually possible?” Doubling down, the squawking carried on, until the “news” came out that buses would grind to a halt in the case of a no-deal Brexit.
Now, surely, no sensible person believes this. But, I am afraid, that doesn’t matter. After all, in case you forgot, we live in a post-truth society, and the peddlers are often in power.
But the wider issue is not the inaccuracy of these ridiculous claims, but the wild-eyed response of those in Westminster to the absurdities, made worse by taking them seriously. In fact, we’re so prepared to jump down one another’s throat that we seem to be losing the capacity for rational thought. And it’s the same both sides of the Brexit debate – the fear that Brexit might be stopped because of a couple of amendments in the Commons might be reasonable, but the responses (calling people traitors and demanding a proroguing of parliament) was not.
Hysteria seems to be mood of the day. Bercow did not help the issue when he accused a Member of the Commons of sexism by highlighting that his wife’s car has a “Bollocks to Brexit” sticker on it, asking rather condescendingly “I hope the honourable member does not think it is my place to control my wife” to a disappointing round of jeers from the more virtue signalling ones on the benches. Did it not cross Bercow’s mind that the MP was making the quite reasonable objection that an individual in the public eye should use more appropriate language? If it did, Bercow should be ashamed for straw-manning the argument, and if it did not, Bercow should be ashamed for having fallen to the hysteria of those around him. Either way…
This is a flashpoint, but it’s a symptom of the deeper issue. Almost everywhere, hysteria seems to be the response to any political issue, from campuses to the Houses of Parliament. And so I feel forced to ask, have we reached peak hysteria yet? Please?