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  Opinion   Oped  09 Dec 2018  Christmas at the time of Brexit, as Paris burns

Christmas at the time of Brexit, as Paris burns

Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.
Published : Dec 10, 2018, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Dec 10, 2018, 12:05 am IST

his is certainly not either a peaceful or a jolly season, but for the world of commerce, the cash registers are the gods to worship.

It’s decision time for Brexit. Theresa May has a “deal” she wants the House of Commons to support.
 It’s decision time for Brexit. Theresa May has a “deal” she wants the House of Commons to support.

It is Christmas time. But just across the Channel are disturbing images of Paris burning. The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre are shut, and the usual celebratory lights are switched off. The yellow jackets or gilets jaunes are on the rampage, protesting against rising prices and proposed tax increases. The agitation has found resonance in Amsterdam and a few other cities in Europe. This might not be a “second revolution” — but to watch a beautiful city ablaze reminds us of the fragile times we live in, all across the globe. While Brexit hovers over the UK, creating leadership uncertainty, the mobs of Paris are showing their anger against their own leader, Emmanuel Macron. When we talk about the young and restless in India, who often indulge in violence, we should also look abroad and see that we are not the only country beset with these problems.

This is certainly not either a peaceful or a jolly season, but for the world of commerce, the cash registers are the gods to worship.


Christmas lights are on in Oxford Street, glittering over ever-crowded streets. There is a friendly but fierce competition for the most entertaining commercial, embellished with elaborate fairy stories only obliquely featuring the products the stores want you to buy. One commercial features a fantasy about Elton John where he is shown as a child getting a piano for Christmas! There are Santas and snow, chocolates and roasts and pumpkin pies, all the magic that makes you feel warm and fuzzy — just the right mood to swipe your credit card, unthinkingly.

Looking at the Christmas fervour you would not think that the country is going through one of its biggest constitutional crisis. It’s decision time for Brexit. Theresa May has a “deal” she wants the House of Commons to support. She has warned. “It is this deal, or no deal or no Brexit.” It is a compromise which no one likes. Many want a better deal to be renegotiated. All through the last two weeks, there have been debates in the House of Commons and in the Cabinet. Ministers have resigned and openly said they have no confidence in the Prime Minister. The government lost a vote last week on a motion that it was in contempt of Parliament for not publishing the legal advice it had got from the attorney-general. On Wednesday there began a five-day debate which will end in a “meaningful” vote in the House of Commons. If the government loses that vote, heaven alone knows what comes next. Politics could be in meltdown. The Prime Minister may have to resign. There may be another election or a second referendum.


But you would not know this if you were in London walking around. There are no riots or marches or demonstrations in the country. All is calm, though in three months we could have a serious shortage of food, medicines and other supplies. The pound is collapsing, down from a value of £99 to £90 and falling.

Theatre tickets, are, however, still eyewateringly expensive, sometimes skyrocketing to £100! But now cinemas have decided to catch up. The Odeon in Leicester Square has just announced that they will sell luxury seats for £40. You get plush reclining seats with a side table for your drinks and popcorn. We already have this “first class airline” style cinema halls in India, though at half the price.


Much more serious than Brexit (some may say) was the shock of the mobile service provider O2 hitting a glitch. Early last Wednesday morning, its messaging service ceased to function. There are 25 million subscribers to the O2 service directly and a further seven million via other providers who use O2 themselves. Sky TV uses them as do London Transport who could not signal details of its services to commuters and bus passengers. One takes such facilities so much for granted that it is upsetting when they hit a snag. But by Thursday morning all was back to normal. Crisis over.

The Turner Prize has always attracted a lot of attention. It is a prize for an artistic production which could be a painting, sculpture, even a live performance. In the past it has often invited mockery or derision since people have tried funny or sensational entries. But lately, there have been entries on fake news videos, depictions of state violence , of the lives of refugees. This year’s prize winner Charlotte Prodger produced a short film Bridget shot entirely on her phone. It is her story of recovering from surgery filmed in her flat but also outdoors in Scotland. Lyrical and moving, and worthy of the £25,000 prize.


I have to say that there is something interesting about the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle — and her determination to plough on despite the many PR disasters that could trip her up. She is neither Miss Perfection like her sister in law, Kate Middleton, nor does she have a family created by central casting.

In the past, she has apparently used a quotation attributed to Portuguese life coach Jose Micard Teixeira “I no longer have patience with certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.” If this is true and she believes in it, it is great news! I would personally endorse this attitude, anytime… But does it work if you are part of The Firm? Hmmmm.


Tags: brexit, theresa may