One of the benefits of being a consultant and working primarily at home is being able to have some entertainment on in the background. And the past few weeks have been full of drama – and farce – as I’ve followed Brexit coverage from the UK.
Let me step back a second. All of my family (except my brother) are English, so I’ve always been quite an Anglophile and have followed British politics and culture. There was the shock of the Brexit win in a UK referendum in 2016 and the ill-timed general election that cost Theresa May her majority. This has only been exceeded by the current rush to a Brexit deadline without an agreement being approved by Parliament.
The weeks prior to the original “Brexit Day,” this past Friday March 29th, have been filled with fascinating content from the floor of Parliament and political intrigue worthy of a BBC/PBS co-production. Whether a drama or farce is another question altogether.
I bring this up in this column for a number of reasons – the content, the featured players, and the role our contemporary streaming media world played in my ability to watch and listen to each day’s developments.
Let’s discuss the latter part first. While some Americans have discovered the weekly Prime Minister’s Question time on C-SPAN, broader live coverage of events requires going a little deeper on media’s bench. I found out that I could get a few good sources using a combination of Roku apps and YouTube. This was across a number of different devices – my Roku TV, the Roku box attached to another TV, the YouTube portal that is in my FiOS program guide, and YouTube apps on my phone, tablet, and computer. I was, admittedly, getting a little obsessive about watching!
Sky News streams its live broadcast on YouTube (Brexit or no Brexit) so that is a reliable source of coverage with analysis. Spottier coverage comes from ITV News (mostly they just have a feed from Parliament, sometimes they have a studio feed with analysts) or Channel 4. BBC News, surprisingly, does not stream live video coverage outside the UK (at least that I could *legally* access). But it does have a helpful live blog/Twitter feed on its website.
I even scouted around audio sources like the TuneIn and Radio.com apps. Here I found some free live streams from BBC4, BBC5, and independent radio stations in the UK. Unfortunately, the latter seem to lean towards US-style talk radio so I mostly skipped those.
The bottom line is that I’ve been able to stitch together a pretty decent coverage of events as they’ve transpired across the Atlantic.
The content I find quite entertaining to watch. After a couple of weeks, I’m now familiar with many of the idiosyncrasies of Parliament. My favorite is when insults are hurled at “the honourable gentleman” or “my right honourable friend,” because using a member’s name is a no-no.
The big winner, in my eyes, is the Speaker, John Bercow. Mr. Bercow could easily have a future after all this is over. He could be the UK equivalent of Judge Wapner or Judge Judy. His interjections of “Ooor-dah!” have created a new catch phrase in my house. Other popular Bercow-isms being learned by new viewers are “Division!” (members move to voting lobbies), “Lock!” (the lobbies are locked to record final votes) and “Unlock!” (the votes have been presented and the lobbies can be unlocked). All his expressions end in an exclamation point, by the way.
Aside from Mr. Bercow, we have the Prime Minister, Mrs. May, who continues to try over and over to get her agreement approved despite losing votes each time (three and counting). Most PMs would have been forced to resign by now, but she is like a relentless zombie. Across from her is Jeremy Corbin, leader of the opposition Labour Party. He throws a lot of insults and implements blocking tactics but without really doing much to resolve this critical national issue.
Other characters are the leaders of the smaller parties like the SNP (Scottish National Party) and the DUC (Democratic Unionist Party). The latter enabled May and the Conservatives to form a government after the 2017 election, but they have held May’s Brexit agreement hostage over the way it treats Northern Ireland.
Another favorite of mine is member Michael Fabricant, who appears to sport an obvious and somewhat ridiculous Trump-like toupee. Or else, he just has had a very long run of bad hair days.
When Will It End?
At the moment, the way forward for the UK is quite unclear. There could be a last minute agreement; a crash out of the EU with no deal; a lengthy extension; or there could be a reversal of Brexit altogether. There is certain to be a general election before long. And depending on the final terms of a Brexit, the UK itself could be threatened by a vote for Scottish independence to allow it to rejoin the EU.
This “series” will be continuing for quite a long time, no matter what happens. I just hope my internet doesn’t give out in the middle of an important vote.
David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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