The problem for the British Dream (that nobody had ever heard of before Theresa coughed it up this week in Madchester) is not that it is derivative, not just of its better known cousin The American Dream, but from the fictional tv series West Wing.


The problem isn’t so much nicking stuff and getting found out – politicians and script writers are constantly ‘recycling’ lines and ideas. The problem is more that the quality of the West Wing writing and the quality of acting by Martin Sheen as President Bartlett meant that you got goosebumps listening to the delivery. It may have been gross escapism but it was pretty good gross escapism. For a generation watching the death of the American Dream before their very eyes it was soothing to pretend that a Democrat with values might emerge to save the day. Bartlett was after all a facsimile of Kennedy at the time when Clinton’s presidency had ended with a stain and George Dubya actually became President of the US of A. People thought then that things couldn’t possibly get even worse. What could be more humiliating than Dubya?

The problem for Theresa May is that the stolen line might have been a good one: “It is when tested the most that we reach deep within ourselves and find that our capacity to rise to the challenge before us may well be limitless” it speaks to inner strength in a way that’s vaguely pleasing, aspirational, soft and squishy without really having any meaning. It’s ideal. And it could have worked well for her, “Look I’ve completely wrecked my career, my party and am slowly going to do this to the rest of the country, but I’m a trier”.

It’s sort of patriotic and a wee bit Churchillan, which is very fashionable at the moment.

But May couldn’t deliver a Christmas card and in her mouth it came over as if it was a hackneyed stolen line from a drama, which of course it was. It had as much authenticity as the Cabinets show of faith in her today.

If Bartlett gave you goosebumps May just gave you the boke.

The British Dream she hacked up is, it seems, to build some more houses (though not very many) and to engage in large-scale self-delusion. At one point, near the end she explains that Brexit will work because: “And another thing that’s important. The essential ingredient of our success. The strength and support of 65 million people willing us to make it happen.”

She actually said that. Our actual Prime Minister.

It’s not clear what’s more tragic – the idea that she seems to believe that you can just “will” things to happen – or that she thinks 65 million people are doing so?

The coughing fit and the rest of the omnishambles actually did her a favour distracting the viewer from absorbing what she was saying. Here’s her best bits:

In a section called “A message from Britain to the rest of Europe” she spluttered:

“June the 23rd was not the moment Britain chose to step back from the world. It was the moment we chose to build a truly Global Britain.”

Nobody knows that this could possibly mean, especially her and her virulent racist Foreign Secretary.

In a section called “A Plan for Britain” she says: “I want Britain to be what we have the potential, talent and ambition to be. A great, global trading nation that is respected around the world and strong, confident and united at home. That is why this Government has a Plan for Britain.”

Stirring stuff.

The speech was full essentially a bland homily of meaningless drivel, brimming with blithely incoherent utterances that would make your teeth grind:

“So to our friends across Europe, let me say this. Our vote to leave the European Union was no rejection of the values we share. The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours.”

It then spooled away to become something between an absurdist play and a really bad children’s story that should never have been published.

In a section somewhat unconvincingly titled “Certainty and Clarity” she said:

“So today I want to outline our objectives for the negotiation ahead. 12 objectives that amount to one big goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union.

And as we negotiate that partnership, we will be driven by some simple principles: we will provide as much certainty and clarity as we can at every stage. And we will take this opportunity to make Britain stronger, to make Britain fairer, and to build a more Global Britain too.

1. Certainty

The first objective is crucial. We will provide certainty wherever we can.”

Got that?

But it was on Scotland and the Union that she really got into her stride proclaiming incoherently:

“At this momentous time, it is more important than ever that we face the future together, united by what makes us strong: the bonds that unite us as a people, and our shared interest in the UK being an open, successful trading nation in the future.”


She continued: “I have also been determined from the start that the devolved administrations should be fully engaged in this process.” By which she must have meant ignored, sidelines and treated with complete contempt. But – there’s good news:

“We have already received a paper from the Scottish Government, and look forward to receiving a paper from the Welsh Government shortly. ”


Tellingly under the section marked “A Fairer Britain” we kick off with Immigration (geddit?):

“Britain is an open and tolerant country” remarks the woman who brought you the Hate Van as she coughs up another lung. “We will always want immigration, especially high-skilled immigration, we will always want immigration from Europe, and we will always welcome individual migrants as friends”.

(“Hello migrant – want to be my friend?”).

At times you worry for the womans health. She concludes offering the observation that: “After all the division and discord, the country is coming together…”

So that’s the British Dream in full for you, we’re not a wee bit racist, honest, and we love Europe so much we’re leaving it but only because we share its values, and, er, that’s it.

Got it?

If you want to wrap your self in the Union flag and read the whole speech without the distractions of watching someone’s career slide down the toilet, read it here.

Try reading it and imagining Josh Bartlett delivering each line.


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