As regular readers will readily recall, at this time of year All Change Please! attempts to write a fractured fictional farce based on a well-know literary work, such as last year’s ’Tonight at Morning Break’, and before that ‘Theresa in Wonderland‘, George Osborne’s ‘Twenty Fifty One‘, and of course not forgetting the classic ‘The Gove of Christmas Present‘.
This year’s inspiration is ‘Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby’. The Br’er Rabbit folktales originate from Africa, but were popularised in America during the 19th Century. They were compiled and adapted by Joel Chandler Harris in 1881 to represent the struggle in the plantations of the Southern US States. To help capture the negro dialect of the time, and to suggest a lack of education, they were written using a form of non-standard spelling that could still provide the correct pronunciation of each word. For example: “Mawnin’!’ sez Br’er Rabbit, sezee—‘nice wedder dis mawnin’,’ sezee.” ‘Br’er’ is a shortened form of ‘Brother’. At the time this was not seen as being racist but the versions we read as children were further adapted to use more conventional spelling and language to make them more ‘PC’. The stories are narrated by the fictional Uncle Remus.
In Br’er Rabbit and the Tar-Baby, Br’er Fox constructs a doll out of a lump of tar and dresses it with some clothes. When Br’er Rabbit comes along he addresses the Tar-Baby amiably, but receives no response. Br’er Rabbit becomes offended by what he perceives as the Tar-Baby’s lack of manners, punches it, and in doing so becomes stuck. The more Br’er Rabbit punches and kicks the Tar-Baby out of rage, the more he gets stuck. When Br’er Fox reveals himself, the helpless but cunning Br’er Rabbit pleads, “Please, Br’er Fox, don’t fling me in dat brier-patch,” prompting Fox to do exactly that. But as rabbits were born and bred in thickets, the resourceful Br’er Rabbit uses the thorns and briers to escape.
In modern usage a ‘tar-baby’ refers to a problem situation that is only aggravated by additional involvement with it. Now what does that remind you of?
What with the real Brexit being somewhat more complicated, All Change Please!’s decidedly non-PC version has needed to be somewhat more devious in its use of a wider range of Br’er characters. But enough – let’s get on with the story of ‘Br’er Exit and the Tory Party‘, as narrated by Uncle Remus-Mogg
‘A long long time ago in a plantation far, far away… it is a period of civil war.
Well now, that rascal Br’er Exit hated Br’er EU on account of he was always cutting capers and bossing everyone around. So Br’er Exit decided to get rid of Br’er EU if it was the last thing he ever did! He thought and he thought until he came up with a plan. First he persuaded Br’er Dave to call a referendum. Then he fix up a contrapshun like a red bus, painted it with slogans he had made up and sat it in the middle de road.
Br’er Exit, he lay low in the bushes near the road and waited for the Br’er Voters to come along around the hill, ‘lippity-clippity, clippity-lippity’. Before long, some strolled by, whistling and chuckling to themselves. The Br’er voters soon spotted the cute little red bus and were ‘stonished. The stopped and stared at this strange bus. They had never seen anything like it before!
“Good Mawnin,” said Br’er Voters, doffing their hats. “Nice wedder dis mawnin.”
The bus said nothing, but its slogans were plain to see. Br’er Exit, he lay low.
“Gosh!” sez the Br’er voters – “do we really pay all that money to Br’er EU? Could it really all go to the NHS instead? Are you absolutely sure they make all our laws for us?” The more questions Br’er Voters asked, the more lies they read about how awful Br’er EU was and how they’d be much better off without them. After a while many of the Br’er Voters became Br’er Leavers, while the rest became Br’er Mainers or Br’er Abstainers.
After the Referendum, Br’er Exit celebrated – he had won! Br’er Dave gave up and went to hide in his shed where no-one could find him and Br’er May took over, proclaiming that Br’er Exit meant Br’er Exit, whatever that meant. She and her Tory Party then got firmly stuck in to negotiating the best way to part company from Br’er EU. But of course the more she tried to solve the problem, the more difficult it became, until she finally realised she was trapped in a negotiation that was impossible to escape from.
At that point Br’er Exit leapt out of the bushes and strolled over to the nebulous Br’er May, who was not actually as stupid as she often appeared to be. “Well, well, what have we here?” he asked, grinning an evil grin. “You look sorter stuck up dis mawnin’,’ sezee, en den he rolled on de groun’, en laft en laft twel he couldn’t laff no mo.”
Br’er May gulped. She was stuck fast in the Tory Party and quite unable to move. She did some fast thinking while Br’er Exit rolled about on the road, laughing himself silly over her dilemma.
“I’ve got you this time, Br’er May,” said Br’er Exit, “Now I wonder what I should do with you?”
Br’er May’s eyes got very large. “Oh please Br’er Exit, whatever you do, please don’t make me withdraw Article 50 and start re-negotiating it all over again.”
“Maybe I should make you suffer a Hard Br’er Exit,” mused Br’er Exit. “No, that’s too much trouble sorting out all the food and medical supplies to keep Br’er Voters happy”.
“Have a vote of no confidence in me! Do whatever you please,” said Br’er May “Only please, Br’er Exit, please don’t make me withdraw Article 50 and start re-negotiating it all over again.”
“Or maybe I should make you have a general election?”, said Br’er Exit.
“A Hard Brexit, a vote of no confidence or a general election. Do whatever you please,” said Br’er May. “Only please, Br’er Exit, please don’t make me withdraw Article 50 and start re-negotiating it all over again.”
“Withdraw Article 50 and start trying to renegotiate again, eh?” said Br’er Exit. “What a wonderful idea! You’ll be torn into little pieces by the will of the people!”
So Br’er Exit forced the unfortunate Br’er May to withdraw Article 50 just before it would have been too late to do so, and listened out for her whimpers of pain inflicted by Br’er Voters. But not long after she had done so, Br’er Exit heard someone calling his name. He turned around and looked up the hill. Br’er May was sitting on a log looking smug.
“I was bred and born in Br’er EU, Br’er Exit,” she called. “Born and bred in Br’er EU” I never wanted to leave in the first place! We are far better off staying in the EU. I’ve no intention of re-negotiating! You should have listened more closely to what I said before the referendum took place!”
And Br’er May skipped away as merry as a cricket while Br’er Exit ground his teeth in rage and went home to sulk in his enormous house and gardens in the country, and to pay all the extra taxes he had been hoping to avoid if his plan had worked.
Meanwhile, don’t forget that ‘Br’er Exit and The Tory Party’ is all just a made-up story with a happy ending, and therefore quite unlike the real thing…