Dara Ó Briain: ‘Boris stepped away like he’d been outbid in an Ebay auction’

London-based Irish comic discusses Brexit and its implications on Inside Politics podcast

 Comedian Dara Ó Briain: “The edges of English culture can be a little more brutal than Ireland.” File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Comedian Dara Ó Briain: “The edges of English culture can be a little more brutal than Ireland.” File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

A time when the UK prime minister’s resignation only makes third item on the daily news should be a productive one for satirists such as Mock the Week host Dara Ó Briain.

But post-Brexit chaos has been “simply too interesting”, Ó Briain told Pat Leahy on The Irish Times Inside Politics podcast on Wednesday.

“To the point where we did another episode of Mock the Week yesterday, where the audience were clearly just exhausted of the various resignations and twists and turns,” said the comic. “We wish to speak of sillier things now.”

Calling Jeremy Corbyn “the most ambitious leader at the moment”, he said the Labour leader displays the drive he had expected of former mayor of London Boris Johnson, who instead “stepped away like he’d been outbid at an Ebay auction”.

Of the Conservative Party’s internal struggles, Ó Briain said it has been “an interesting escalation of who stabbed whom”.

“[David] Cameron stabbed [Michael] Gove by taking a ministership away from him. Then Cameron got stabbed by Boris. Then Boris got stabbed by Gove. And now the party, in the nature of these things, is going ‘well we don’t want any of ye’.

Bitter and brutal

London resident Ó Briain, who as well as hosting the popular BBC programme has written a book about English society and customs called Tickling the English, says public discourse there is bitter and brutal in a way not seen in Irish society.

“There’s something about the familiarity of Ireland that tends to damp down a lot of the savagery of it. This is a country of 60 million people, so the savagery remains undimmed, at times. The edges of English culture can be a little more brutal than Ireland.”

Beyond rows over immigration and the economy, Ó Briain sees “something profound about the desire for sovereignty and self-government” in Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

“The Dutch need for things to be Gezelligheid, which is to have a cosy agreement on things. Norwegians need to live their lives within Janteloven, to live your lives in a non-proud way.

“When we look at America, we see their fight in terms of gun laws and their liberty to carry arms, which we find very irrational, but its a part of their frontier basis of a national personality. Britain has that with self-governance,” he said.

The vote had also exposed fault-lines between classes and between people “who had degrees and didn’t have degrees,” he said. “Basically as if there were half the population who regarded Europe as a potential thing to travel into, and the other half feared it travelling to them. So it became a very bitter debate”.

Ó Briain said he expects UK politics to be less accountable, less fact-based and more focused on “appealing to a mood” in future as a result of the success of misleading arguments in the campaign to leave the EU. Helpful for satirists perhaps, if not for governance.

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