This post is going to torture some more analogies with the Titanic. If you don’t have time for all that, here’s its conclusion:
On Saturday 20 October, don’t go shopping, or to the football, go to London for the People’s Vote March. At least that way, you will be able to look your kids – or if you don’t have children, your neighbours’ kids – in the eye and say, at least I tried.
So here we all are on this amazing ship, sailing across the ocean. On 23 June 2016, by democratic vote of all the passengers, it was narrowly decided that the ship was going to sail for Shangri-la. Captain Theresa May took command of the vessel and started to plot her course towards it. Facing criticism that she was taking too long to do this, she suddenly set sail and announced that on 29 March 2019 we would reach a certain point off the coast of Newfoundland, and from there we would find and sail to Shangri-la.
The trouble is, there’s a bloody great big iceberg in the way.
Captain May used to be doubtful Shangri-la even exists, and she knows all about the iceberg and the damage it can do, but she is obsessed with the promise she has made. So she is desperately trying to steer a course that will deliver on her promise, by hitting the iceberg in such a way that, although the ship will be holed below the waterline, the leaks will be containable and the ship can sail on.
Many of the ship’s officers disagree with Captain May’s plan. Led by former Second Mate Boris Johnson, who has resigned his commission, they are trying to seize the wheel and steer the ship directly at the iceberg, to ram it and smash it up. Boris is telling the passengers that this can be done because this is a Great British ship and it is unsinkable, and many of the passengers believe it.
Boris knows his plan is a gamble, so he is prudently also making plans to ensure that, if the ship does in fact sink, he and the first class passengers will be able to grab all the places on the limited lifeboats. Regrettably, this will involve locking all the exits from the lower decks.
The ship’s surgeon, Dr Liam Fox, has already sorted his place on a lifeboat, and has even had the foresight to sign a contract with an American shipping company, who have a cunning plan to salvage the wreck and make a packet from its scrap value.
In the luxurious first class ballroom, the fabulous party that has been running since the 1980s is still going on. Life is wonderful, and it’s so reassuring darling to know that one has a seat in a lifeboat. Apparently, there’s another super party going on aboard the Carpathia!
In the less luxurious, but still very comfortable, second class lounge, many of the passengers are looking out of the windows at the iceberg with increasing alarm. They know that there won’t be enough places for them on the lifeboats. They didn’t even vote to set sail for Shangri-la anyway, they voted for a cruise around the Mediterranean and the Baltic, visiting some charming European ports. Earlier, they sent a message to the captain, saying: there’s an iceberg ahead, the ship will sink, please turn the boat around. They got no reply, so they are going to give the plan another go.
Down in steerage class, sailing on the Titanic has never been as much fun as being on the upper decks anyway. Most of the older passengers just want to get to Shangri-la as they were promised, as soon as possible, so please can we get on with it? In Shangri-la, everything will be like what it was when they were young. They didn’t have much, but they were happy.
Some people are talking about an iceberg, but others say that this is just Project Fear from the lah-di-dah types in second class who have sour grapes because they lost the vote on the European cruise they wanted.
Meanwhile, in nooks and corners of the steerage decks, socialist agitator Chief Petty Officer Corbyn is holding meetings. He’s telling the people how unfair it is that first class is so luxurious, when in steerage class, you pay a rip-off fare to get crap food and no windows. Many of the younger passengers like what he’s saying, and agree that the ship shouldn’t be throwing away tons of uneaten food from the first class buffet every mealtime, when the passengers in steerage are going hungry.
They cheer when he says that when the Titanic puts into port at Shangri-la, it will be re-fitted so that the steerage passengers can get a bunk to sleep in, rather than keep building more and more first class suites that aren’t even occupied.
Upstairs in the second class lounge, some of the passengers can hear the cheering and don’t like the sound of it. How long will it be until Chief Petty Officer Corbyn starts demanding a reduction in second class meals and privileges too?
Some of the older steerage passengers say they remember that old sea dog Corbyn from years ago; they tell the youngsters they’ve heard it all before, and it’s just a pipe-dream.
And finally, down in the ship’s engine room and the ship’s kitchens, doing the hardest and dirtiest work, are the Titanic’s crew. The ship’s owners brought them in, mostly from Poland and Romania. They were told they couldn’t have a vote on the ship’s destination.
Ship of Fools
A group of passengers and crew get together on an outside deck. They look out over the rail into the dark, cold ocean below. What should they do on this amazing but horribly unjust old ship of fools?
The ship is big and strong, and on every deck the lights are blazing and bands are playing; it just seems unbelievable that it could ever sink and they could end up in that freezing water.
But there looms the iceberg ahead, and the ship is heading straight at it.
Some argue that it’s already too late to steer clear. Others that the ship is such a disgrace that it deserves to go down and take everyone with it – drowning is apparently a peaceful death anyway. Far too many participants in the meeting want to ignore the iceberg and go over old arguments about whether Shangri-la really exists, and about the conduct of the 2016 vote on the ship’s destination. It’s a cacophony.
Finally, amid the uproar, a sensible woman from the “Best for the Titanic” campaign group takes the floor and grabs the meeting’s attention.
This ship has many problems but it’s the only one we’ve got. To coin a phrase, we are literally all in it together. We must discuss the ship’s destination, and the way things are shared out between first, second and third class, but right now the only thing that matters is not to hit the bloody iceberg!
We shouldn’t want to sink quickly and we shouldn’t want to sink slowly. Whilst there’s any chance still left, we must never, ever give up the battle to keep the ship afloat and to keep everybody out of the freezing cold water. But dealing with the ship’s officers is going to be a complicated business.
She describes her plan. Captain May has gone insane, and cannot be persuaded out of her impossible scheme to attempt a soft collision with the iceberg. We can only prise her cold hands off the ship’s wheel with the assistance of Second Mate Johnson’s gang of crooks and charlatans. When we do this, it is vital that we persuade some of the ship’s horrible old reactionary non-commissioned officers, the so-called PLP, not to run to Captain May’s aid.
But then, having clapped Captain May in irons, we must immediately pivot and get the ship’s officers previously loyal to Captain May to join forces with Chief Petty Officer Corbyn’s people to throw Boris overboard, seize control of the wheel, steer clear of the iceberg, and press the big red button on the bridge that brings the ship to a stop. Only in this way can we stay afloat. And only then can there be the luxury of time for a proper debate involving the whole ship on the exact whereabouts of Shangri-la. There is no time to lose.
Further uproar. The plan is ridiculous, impossible – it can’t be done. It pays insufficient attention to the legitimate complaints of the passengers in steerage class, shouts out a shaggy-haired ragamuffin called John Harris.
Well, says the sensible woman to everyone else, somebody tell us a better plan that can work in the little time we have left. Silence.
Over the ship’s tannoy comes an announcement: “Passengers, we are pleased to bring you live on air yet another debate on the vital question of the day: hard collision, soft collision – which is the best way to hit the iceberg?”