Let's be honest: I can't even really remember what Andrea Leadsom's face looked like, and neither can you. If I strain really hard something just about comes into view, a kind of giant Bakewell tart haloed with wavy blonde hair that for the briefest of moments hovered threateningly over the entire country, but then it collapses again. She'd said something once, about how she would open a gulag for anyone who thought everything might not be totally fine, but it's hard now to distinguish what I see on the news from those cruel and mocking images that float through my dreams – when I can sleep, if I can sleep. She was going to be our next Prime Minister, we were all doomed to four years of hell, and then very suddenly she wasn't, and a different hell opened up in front of me.
It all changes so fast: every day dozens of terrible futures are thrown onto the scrapheap, but every day churns out a hundred new ones. A few days ago, David Cameron ran the country, and looked like he'd continue to do so for a few months; now it's Theresa May, who will rule over us until 2020, but by the weekend it could just as well be someone else. Following British politics now means being forced to live in an eternal present, forgetting every yesterday, terrified of every tomorrow, knowing that nothing is really solid, that anything could just evaporate even as you try to cling on to it.
I'm shellshocked. From an entirely unrepresentative sample of my friends – all of us being those awful London media snobs you love to hate – I'm not alone. It's been this way since Brexit: you don't want to sleep, in case the country simply isn't there when you wake up, and you and your bed are pitched into a freezing sea. You feel manic, your hands vibrating at the tempo of a volatilised political reality; your teeth chatter, your eyes pulse. How long have we been living this way? How many futures have floated up and flared out, like Chinese lanterns catching fire as they fly into power lines? First Boris Johnson was going to be our Prime Minister, then Michael Gove, then Andrea Leadsom, then Theresa May. First Jeremy Corbyn was going to resign, then he wasn't, then someone would stand against him, then they wouldn't, then they would. We're in a crisis, not just a political crisis, but an ontological one. For some theologians, things exist from one moment to the next rather than collapsing because God works constantly to hold the universe together. Our God has abandoned us.
As someone who's unaccountably ended up with the job of commenting on all this fleeting madness, turning its constant sourceless jabbing idiocy into some kind of coherent whole, it's traumatic. With every stupid new thing that happens comes the urge to write it down and fix it on the page before it all crumbles into amnesia – but by the time you do things have changed and it's no longer relevant. You're forced to keep sprinting just to catch up with the lunacy of the day, and any critique only reproduces and affirms its object. Remember Leadsom's bizarre march on Parliament? Remember Angela Eagle's campaign logo, a pink union flag emblazoned with a signature in which her name appears to be "Argh"? Did any of this even really happen, or have we been sleepless and trembling for so long that our bad dreams have invaded waking life?
You can see that my colleagues in the commentariat have been similarly affected; every new piece of op-ed journalism in the major papers seems to have been written by a fretful infant, someone whose memory darkens into nothingness. When our new Prime Minister took to the stand outside Number 10 and promised that her government would do more for those left behind in society, everyone started tripping over themselves to declare that this could be a new era of social justice and economic fairness. It's as if they'd forgotten that David Cameron had said the exact same things six short years ago, and gone on to do the precise opposite; it's as if they'd forgotten that the same woman had sent vans driving through London telling migrants to "go home". When our departing PM held his final PMQs in the Commons and left to a standing ovation, writers grew misty-eyed about his legacy, about how he'd cut the deficit and stabilised the economy, as if all that dubious progress hadn't been wiped out in the last few weeks, as if we weren't still picking through the ruins. It doesn't matter. Truth is hardly eternal any more, its half-life is a few seconds long.
British politics has turned into a demented fairground ride, and I want to get off. They're doing this deliberately, feuding and snapping at each other it all becomes about them and we forget that politics used to mean something more than personality. It's not fun any more. With each demented cycle more people are suffering; its centrifugal force concentrates everything into the personal feuds of a few power-hungry monstrosities, and outside there's a world that's been utterly abandoned. Maybe it's better to be abandoned. There are, somewhere, mythical people who don't let their lives be ruined by politics, who can also care about more important things like food and sex and medieval panel paintings and ornithology and lying in the park on a warm summer's day, barely even moving, just enjoying the sunshine and the feeling of being entirely at peace with the world. I think I used to be one of them. It's just so hard to remember.
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