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Sat 17 August 2019
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(n.) belief in things beyond the rational or verifiable.

Remember those “unelected bureaucrats” in Brussels? Y’know, the ones we just elected? Well, such is the state of what used to be our own democracy, that we’ve now Brexited ourselves into the following unenviable position.

Having just democratically elected a fresh batch of unelected MEPs to the undemocratic European Parliament, 99.8% of the UK population is now about to sit back powerless, while a new Prime Minister is handpicked from a shortlist of candidates, from a minority party, by a select group of 124,000 people with an average age of 72. Taking back control has never looked so, well, out of control.

Ah, the irony. In fact, irony might just be the mot juste of this entire debacle.

Look it up in the dictionary in a year or two’s time and there’ll probably be some kind of Bayeux-like storyboard of the last three years. But, alas, irony is just too well known a word to crown as our Word of the Week.

Instead, we like to opt for something a little more unusual, groping around in the language’s darker, dustier corners to come up with something unfamiliar to most people. Which is, ironically, how Mark Harper was added to the Tory candidate list.

But no, we’ve not gone with him either. Instead, to heap irony atop irony, this week’s Word of the Week is a German import.

Borrowed into English in the late Nineteenth Century, aberglaube (“AH-buh-glau-buh”) is a belief in the unbelievable. Essentially, it’s the dictionary’s one-word equivalent of chasing unicorns.

That being said, aberglaube is often listed merely as the German equivalent of what we would call superstition. But, in reality, it’s a more nuanced concept – as the hallowed Oxford English Dictionary puts it, aberglaube represents a broader “belief in things beyond the certain and verifiable”.

So, why opt for that this week?

Well, alongside being midway through this Election of Unelectables, we’re also roughly halfway through the EU’s 200-day “Brextension” period. We have until 31 October to get our act together, but with the Article 50 clock still ticking, Boris Johnson and all the other Tory leadership hopefuls currently vying to lose to future Prime Minister Boris Johnson still don’t appear all too interested in addressing the realities of the Brexit impasse.

Andrea Leadsom, for instance, began her campaign by introducing her strategy of a “managed exit” from the EU. Precisely what form that would take, or how she would obviate a No Deal crash out, were seemingly details left to be filled in later. Esther McVey meanwhile energised her leadership campaign by touting the prorogation of Parliament to guarantee an October Brexit – despite Speaker John Bercow having said just three days earlier that it was “blindingly obvious” that that was not an option.

Both candidates have since been ejected from the contest.

As too, alas, has Mark Harper, whose short-lived campaign involved recommending the Malthouse Compromise as a solution to the Irish Border problem. Yes, that’s the same Malthouse Compromise that would involve readjusting the current backstop arrangements (which the EU won’t do) or else implement a three-year transition period to WTO terms (which doesn’t exist) in the event of a No Deal exit (which Parliament won’t allow) – and which, moreover, was in its entirety voted down in the Commons by a majority of 210 back in March.

Still in the running, Sajid Javid’s solution to the Northern Ireland issue meanwhile is a “new digitized” border, which he claimed could be implemented within “a couple of years”, despite the not inconsiderable problem that none of the required infrastructure (nor indeed the technology) that that would require actually being in existence.

Also still in contention, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab have all stated that they intend to reopen negotiations with the EU – all equally unaware of the fact that Michel Barnier has repeatedly stated that negotiations are now closed, and that Theresa May’s deal is the only option on the table.

At least, then, in the midst of all of this, there’s Rory Stewart. Seemingly retaining at least some sense of the situation at hand, Stewart was quick to decry his competitors’ “fairy stories” and even threatened to arrange an “alternative parliament” in Methodist Central Hall if leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson were to prorogue proceedings to force through a No Deal.

“I don’t believe in promising things we can’t deliver,” Stewart stated at this campaign launch on Tuesday. So what is his grand plan? To finally pass Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament, of course. Despite the fact that it has already been turned down by MPs on three separate occasions, and that even floating the prospect of a fourth reading paved the way for Mrs May’s departure and the current state of affairs.

Ah, the irony indeed.

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