Good Riddance, not good enough

Theresa May will resign in two weeks, on 7th June. This means we shall soon have a new Prime Minister, chosen by the insular and geriatric Conservative Party membership rather than the public at large. All the while, the clock ticks down to the October Article 50 deadline (at the granting of which the European Council’s President remarked: “please do not waste this time.”)

Theresa May composed herself in her announcement until the final moment, where she tearfully spoke about her gratitude to “serve the country I love.” Part of me feels like I should feel sympathetic, or even sorry for her.

I can’t.

As hard as Theresa May’s job was; as much as Brexit was a poisoned chalice, a mirage where the end result could never please everyone; as much as she is just human… I truly cannot feel ‘sorry’ for Theresa May, the architect of the Home Office’s Hostile Environment policy.

I remember, as a student, sitting on the top deck of a number 25 bus into central London; white vans with a Home Office logo and the words “IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT” on the sides parked up at Whitechapel Market; a young woman sobbing as she rummaged for her documentation, surrounded by burly quasi-police ‘enforcement officers.’

I remember, when I lived in that little flat in Wanstead, seeing the infamous “racist vans” being driven around places where people of colour lived. I remember her snarling at human rights laws by repeating Nigel Farage’s (lying-by-omission) story about the shoplifter with the pet cat. I remember her Brexit red lines being parroted almost verbatim from the Daily Express, about ending free movement and deciding how we label our food.

It’s true that this is not all Theresa May’s doing. The last Labour government had a similar trajectory. I remember having to shell out a large amount of my total pay from my first summer job to apply for a passport, to prove to my employer that I had the right to work in the country. My British high commission birth certificate showing my birth to a British mother and a British father wasn’t good enough.

But still—I don’t feel sorry for Theresa May. I can only feel a distant pity, the kind displayed by Bilbo towards Gollum in The Hobbit. Pity for someone who, for so long, has seen people as fair game based on the circumstances and location of their birth. Pity for someone who stoked the flames of hatred, and cried when the house burned down.

I doubt she will go down in history as the worst Prime Minister of all time. That will, for now, go to David Cameron: the man who let xenophobic unrest within his own party tear the country apart, and then ran the other way. But he could easily be usurped by whoever succeeds Theresa May in a few months. Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting President Trump? Not too long ago, it was a punchline—now it’s a nightmare within touching distance.

Eurovision 2019: let’s talk about spreadsheets

I love Eurovision. I enjoyed last night’s show (the music, Australia’s bendy-poles staging, the drama when Hatari staged a mini-protest against the oppression of the Palestinian people.) I wasn’t surprised the UK came last (a song that would’ve done well twenty years ago, performed competently, but anodyne and ultimately basic.) I was pleased the Netherlands won.

One thing I did not like was the new voting system. The method used for determining the final scores was the same as it has been since 2016, but the phone votes were announced in a different order. As reported by wiwibloggs:

Scores will still be calculated in the same manner as the last three years. However, we’ll have to wait until later in the voting sequence to see if an act has flopped with the televoters. And should an act be battered by the juries, they’ll receive their televote boost much sooner.

This may make for ‘better television,’ but I don’t think it worked in practice. You may have done well with the juries, but terribly with the televote—or you may have bombed with the juries, and relying on the public to send you up the leaderboard. Under the old system, you would’ve at least been put out of your misery quickly: now, you’re left to stew, and believe you could still win.

I particularly didn’t enjoy John Lundvik from Sweden being strung along for five minutes, being told ‘you need two hundred and fifty-three points’—and ultimately only receiving ninety-three. His crestfallen face has already become a meme.

Similar things happened when Malta, North Macedonia, and the Czech Republic received their phone votes. The director presumably made the choice to cut to the acts’ disappointed faces. This was unnecessary, and compounded the feeling that the new system was unnecessarily cruel.

Ultimately, Eurovision is supposed to be an exercise in cross-cultural appreciation and togetherness. I don’t think X Factor-style cutaways were necessarily in line with that. I watch Eurovision for fun and to feel fuzzy about Europe—not to watch people’s dreams getting dashed before my eyes.

I would hope that the EBU and the Dutch producers revert to the 2016 rules next year. But who knows? The Netherlands is the country that gave us Deal or No Deal.

The Power, by Naomi Alderman

I’ve finished listening to the audiobook of The Power, narrated by Adjoa Andoh. I could write thousands of words about how she’s one of my favourite actors and narrators, one of the most exciting British creative voices working today, but I’ll just say she’s phenomenal and leave it at that.

I enjoyed The Power. Overnight, every fifteen-year-old girl on Earth develops the ability to send an electrical charge from her fingertips, generated in an electrical organ on her collarbone (the ‘skein.’) As the power spreads, and grows, the world order is upended. Rape culture is inverted. It’s a difficult read (or listen) at times, as the violence (some of it sexual violence) intensifies and plumbs ever murkier depths.

There were things I wish it explored more. There’s no real discussion of what happens to trans women or trans men. That said, we do see get to see a few men with a skein, including one intersex character (whom the book clumsily describes as having ‘abnormalities’ in his chromosomes.)

At times, The Power feels like a well-researched historical novel. This is intentional, and the framing device (I won’t spoil it) is supremely clever. The final passage is phenomenal, and ties up the novel as a masterwork of satire. This is a truly ambitious novel: as social commentary, as science fiction, as imagined future history, and as side-splittingly, piercingly, joltingly funny satire.