The Paraprosdokian

Here’s a word for a twenty-first century Prime Minister who enjoys a spoonful of Latin in his tea, or perhaps for a Brexit Opportunities Minister who eats regressive politics for breakfast: paraprosdokian.

It originates from the ancient Greek expression for ’contrary to expectation’ and describes a phrase in which the ending is so surprising that the listener is forced to reinterpret the start. For those who write or perform comedy, it’s a well-loved device. For Prime Minister Johnson, it’s time to adapt his 2019 election promise to paraprosdokian effect, in recognition of the huge financial and human costs of his hard Brexit. “Back me to get Brexit done…up like a kipper.”

It’s clear that withdrawal is starting to hurt. Those of us who live in Kent are never far from one of Brexit’s highly visible outcomes: four-hour tailbacks of freight trucks inching towards the border. Drivers will soon need to send up colour-coded balloons to signal their distress levels or at the very least, tune into Her Majesty’s Customs Call Centre for advice (“You are 214th in the queue”).

Whaddya know, it turns out that the Port of Dover’s ‘sovereign standard’ processing of vehicles and goods is way more complicated than that of the EU. Those convoys in the left-hand lane of the A20 do actually have a name and drill - Traffic Access Protocol (TAP) – but this translates as ‘Wait!’ all the same. And wait they do. Along a six-mile stretch that winds through the county; a rumbling, toxic caravan of delay.

There are TAP penalties for truck drivers who leave their vehicles or throw rubbish onto the highway. Nonetheless, many have been desperate enough to pee in bottles and chuck them onto the hard shoulder. Some have sneaked out after dusk to number-two in the bushes. These guys need facilities. Reviews reveal that those incarcerated in their lorries have a new darling for rustling up snacks - the Morphy Richards microwaveable sandwich toaster. But sandwiches have consequences. How long before the Thetford Porta Potty takes over as Trucking magazine’s Product Of The Year?

Local residents are increasingly concerned about the pollution and noise of idling juggernauts reaching their homes. They are even more concerned about the proposed annihilation of surrounding rural areas to build vast lorry parks. Post-Single Market bureaucracy means that HMRC’s physical checks on animal and food cargo are adding to the Dover bottleneck, and ministers have begun signing off huge, refrigerated loading bays to alleviate the problem. That’s the concreting over of farmland to establish permanent, airport-sized inspection centres which were never needed before we left the EU.

Parish councils are fighting these developments with cardboard swords. They’ve been unable to fund decent public toilets in their own towns for decades because Council Tax only goes so far – the responsibility for elderly social care alone starts with a free doughnut cushion and ends in a full nursing home package. Now that 2.6 million lorry drivers a year need somewhere to poo in private, will funding be miraculously found down the back of the central government sofa? Is this how Brexiteers envisaged ‘Taking Back Control? When plans for one of these sites reaches your neck of the actual woods (see: Guston village) the only way forward is to citizen-campaign it away. Yet successful action simply moves the disfiguration down the road to a place with fewer rare frogs or medieval bones.

The EU did not collapse after the UK’s departure. Our withdrawal did not start a domino effect and no other countries considered flouncing off in solidarity. Instead, an immediate group hug of the remaining twenty-seven presaged what now appears to be their relief at our desertion. Noted as one of the most intransigent and selfish member states, the UK made life harder for the EU to function. Now Europe can turn its back. Sweet revenge for the action led by those British fuckwits - excuse my French (hah!) - who did this quite literally during the 2019 parliamentary opening in Strasbourg, crediting themselves with noblesse (hah! again) rather than puerility.

So the land-snatching, (en-trenching, inflating, decimating, cool talking, never-giving) policies of the Conservative government are set to tarmac the green and pleasant land of England, that physical Jerusalem of Brexiteer values. Do they not see the irony in this? It’s an old quote, but here’s Jacob Rees-Mogg arguing against “environmentalist obsession with the end of the world”. Rather than use a modern-day reference he harks back to the nineteenth-century:

There is sometimes an almost vindictive streak in politics whereby governments follow policies which they know will harm the electorate, but nonetheless, they keep them, sometimes for years. The Corn Laws are a classic example.

The pay-off, so utterly ridiculous and lacking in self-recognition, suggests that Rees-Mogg (newly-appointed Brexit Opportunities Minister) might do well at stand-up. It’s pure paraprosdokia.