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The Uncivil War… September 21, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Mentioned I saw this last weekend – Brexit: the Uncivil War. Having had a bit of time to think about it it seems to me to be a very fine production – unflinching in its portrayal of Dominic Cummings as a most peculiar individual indeed as well as the progress of the Leave and Remain campaigns, with no end of walk-on parts for other characters.

Cumberbatch is excellent, a non-too showy role which he inhabits. I’ve mentioned others, some are caricatures or part caricatures (though as noted last week, after Johnson’s recent performances perhaps they capture his personality perfectly). The Leave campaign(s) come across as remarkably witless – perhaps more so in respect of the one conducted by Arron Banks and Nigel Farage. There’s been criticisms that the sheer unpleasantness of this crew isn’t sufficiently clear. I’m not so sure. I think they are portrayed fairly realistically as what they are. The other more ‘mainstream’ Vote Leave group is in its own way hardly better. Sure it eschews overt racism but there a strand of noxiousness that runs through it throughout.

Craig Oliver, Cameron’s communication guy seconded to the Remain campaign, comes across as well-meaning, but out of his depth (fine acting by Rory Kinnear there), and there’s a particular fine scene where talking to David Cameron he attempts not entirely successfully to serve his daughter and her friends a fish finger dinner. There’s also a fantastic audio cameo by Mark Gatiss.

Cameron is off-screen bar contemporaneous video and perhaps that’s as well. It is difficult to have much sympathy for him given the massive mess that Brexit represents. And Remain as a campaign is all too clearly on the back foot – from the off. Simply unable or unwilling to engage at such a late stage (something that has always made me wonder is the almost excessive Remain sentiment post-referendum, as distinct from prior to it. That may be unfair but where were these people way back when?).

Those who it is possible to have greater sympathy for are many, if not all, who voted Leave.

There’s a fine scene where Cummings, Douglas Carswell (UKIP MP) and Matthew Elliott descend upon a housing estate somewhere in England and knock on doors. They go into a house and talk to a family who reveal that they are never contacted by political parties, that the local MP is useless and never seen (Carswell slumps into a corner) and then proceed to articulate heart-felt complaints about feeling alienated by the society they live in. That many of these complaints are not entirely unreasonable, albeit a product of change (and age), and bear no relevance to Brexit or the EU is telling. The trio nod. They care. But it is difficult not to think as they leave that they are as much playing with those peoples lives as any of the others who did once call by but then ignored them, counting them in as voting fodder. Because one can be certain Cummings et al would never visit their doors again.

And in that way the programme is excellent in showing up how much of the Brexit process was a cry, justified in parts, about the pace of modernity and change and how people could reasonably feel isolated and left behind, and how those feelings could, even before we touch on those who are genuinely bigoted or worse, fuel any political approach that seemed to reach out to them or express their sentiments.

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