Gore Vidal writes on the EU referendum…

gore paul

From beyond the grave…

When I first read the words ‘Votey McBoatface’ I supposed, in my innocent way, that another research ship had just been named. Eventually (I was busy at the time on one more Slate essay about how I had never labelled a Mr C Hitchens as my successor, something that still surfaces even though Mr Hitchens and myself are now both deeply interred in the land of thanatos) I discovered that it referred to a referendum on Britain remaining in the EU.

I think it may be necessary to describe what Britain is here, Great or otherwise, though after this we may certainly take the ‘otherwise’ as a given. Britain is England and Wales. Great Britain is England, Wales and Scotland. The United Kingdom is England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The latter is also know as the UK, of which more later.

A team of politicians composed of Mr Johnson, Mr Gove, Mr Farage, and a wealthy Australian, even more wealthy than the first three, Mr Rupert Murdoch, encouraged people who hadn’t given it much thought, or perhaps any thought, to vote to leave a financial and political body of which they had been a member for forty-three years, a body which many outside countries, who can clearly see the benefits, are clamouring to join. It goes without saying that the term ‘politician’ used here is a shortened form of ‘professional self-serving mendicant and thief, an undeveloped adolescent with the IQ of a snail, and the morality of, well, a politician’.

As I said on the Johnny Carson Show some time ago (and how tempus Fugit, as the Bird used to throw at me towards the end of an evening when our trawls of the streets of Rome had led to nothing beneficial for either of us), that to take the advice of any politician is to enrol in a fool’s enterprise. On that occasion on Johnny’s show I intoned in my best deep Richard Nixon voice, quoting from Nixon’s own book Six Crisis: ‘President Eisenhower was a far more sly and devious man than people suspected, and I mean those words in their very best sense.’ And yet people, seventeen million of them, did follow the advice of these men, politicians in the very best sense. Against their own best interests. Against knowing that these men were politicians, of whom it has been truly said, ‘Are their lips moving? Then they’re lying.’

Now I see that those Stakhanovite war-workers Johnson, Farage and Gove are all retired from the current political stage, gone back, temporarily at least, to the bee-keeping or unicorn hunting or whatever it was they imagined the New England, or New Little England, held for them and future generations. And who has Prime Minister Cameron, also retired praepropere, as I’m sure he learned to say at Eton, decided should be in charge of shovelling up the Humpty Dumpty remains of the country? Oliver Letwin, known, if at all, as the parliamentary go-to guy for not having a clue about anything. When given the job he described how he saw it to Parliament: ‘I can only say that the baby is being firmly held, and that my intention is that the baby should prosper, because I care about the baby in question. The baby is, in fact, our country.’ Thank you for those jewels, Oliver.

But for me it is over and done with. I shall shortly leave this ship of fools to its own shoddy devices, this Former United Kingdom, or FUK, as it is henceforth, and go on a different voyage, a repetition of one taken some years ago, a journey by caique on the Aegean with two friends now also, alas, with me in this Underworld: my life companion Howard and the actor Paul Newman, whose wife, Joanne Woodard, on that earlier voyage jumped ship at the first port and fled to London to attend the theatre.

On that occasion Howard, Paul and I journeyed on, at last to Santorini. There we saw the original black obsidian crater, the eruption of which destroyed not only Santorini but, across the sea, the entire Minoan civilization, a small part later rebuilt by Sir Arthur Evans, seemingly from designs by Walt Disney. The parallels with that destruction I will not need to draw out for you. As that gossip Capote often claimed to have said to my step-brother’s step-sister Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, when meeting her not long after that November day in an elevator with her once brother-in-law Robert, plus ca change, plus c’est la même chose, the waspish Capote claiming, with the twenty-twenty vision of hindsight, a precognition he never in reality owned. Indeed. Thank you for those jewels, Truman.

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