(adj.) appearing dead, but actually alive
They all said it couldn’t be done… This week, the Prime Minister finally managed to pass a Brexit deal through the House of Commons, commanding a modest majority of 329–299 in the process. “For the first time in three years,” crowed the Conservatives, in an emailed letter Boris Johnson had at least seen fit to sign this time, “a deal has passed parliament.”
This being Boris Johnson, of course, the accuracy of that statement left a lot to be desired. The deal has not passed through parliament, but merely received parliamentary consent, on principle only, to pass onto its second reading. That being said, this isn’t even a Brexit deal but an unamended Withdrawal Agreement, which if passed, would pave the way for a further 14 months of negotiation and process—with a No Deal exit still the default outcome at the end of December 2020.
They had all said it couldn’t be done, alright—and to be fair, it hasn’t.
So utterly calcified is the Brexit process, however, that even this tentative passing of something almost resembling an early draft of some kind of Brexit legislation that might at some point reach the next stage of parliamentary ratification felt like a landmark breakthrough. But again, this being Boris Johnson, that tantalizing whiff of progress and victory was soon stopped in its tracks by a cold, hard shot of reality.
So intent on honouring his die-in-a-ditch pledge to deliver Brexit by October 31, the PM followed the victory on his Brexit Deal with a vote on a new breakneck Brexit timetable, which would see his 110-page bill face just three days of parliamentary scrutiny. For context, the 2019 Wild Animals in Circuses Act—protecting the six reindeer, three racoons, one zebu and the 14 other creatures still maintained by England’s two surviving live-animal circuses—faced a total of 11 days of parliamentary debate, before it was passed through parliament earlier this year.
The future lives and livelihoods of some 66 million people were apparently worthy of barely a quarter of the time afforded to a circus zebu under Boris Johnson’s proposed schedule, and so—who would have thought it?—MPs were less than keen to endorse it. The majority of 30 that the PM had commanded just minutes earlier evaporated, and his accelerated timetable was defeated by 322 votes to 308. The 52% strike again.
But, as we keep saying, this being Boris Johnson, he wasn’t going to take defeat lightly (despite this being his sixth out of seven). With his timetable rejected and an October 31 Brexit date now crushingly unlikely, his bill was pulled (later amended to “paused”), a motion for a pre-Christmas election was tabled, and word came from an Unnamed Number 10 Source Probably Actually Named Mr Dominic McKenzie Cummings that the government would “go on strike” if the status quo endured and opposition parties failed to grant the Prime Minister the election he so impotently craves. “Nothing will come before parliament but the bare minimum,” Number 10 asserted. “We will pursue a general election every day … and do everything we can to get it.” (SPOILER ALERT: They’re probably not going to get it.)
And so, here we are. There is a Brexit Deal on the table, but now that its breakneck timetable has been defeated it will, for the foreseeable future, go no further. The £100 million “Get Ready For Brexit” campaign has been pulled. A Halloween Brexit has been tacitly abandoned. Without the support of opposition parties (plus a now monumentally peeved DUP), we likely won’t be going to the polls any time soon. An extension has been requested, but the EU won’t complete the offer until they know the outcome of the proposed snap election. And with the government now threatening to down tools, all other parliamentary business is currently held captive by the Ghost of a Brexit Yet To Come.
So what word best sums up this state of affairs? Well, this week we’ve gone even more on theme than ever: with Halloween just around the corner, and a brainless, zombie-like Halloween Brexit lumbering through the halls of the Palace of Westminster, like a werewolf looking for a silver bullet to shoot itself with, this week’s Word of the Week is necromorphous—an adjective describing something appearing to be dead, but which his actually alive.
Coined in the painstakingly classically-informed word of Victorian academia, necromorphous brings together two Latinized Greek roots that in combination literally mean “corpse-shaped.” Originally, it was a term exclusive to the field of entomology, employed as a descriptor for any invertebrate pupa whose camouflage gives it the outward appearance of a dead or utterly motionless adult. Little used since then nineteenth century, somewhat fittingly the word just about survives in the dustier corners of only the most exhaustive dictionaries—although, given the current state of our “zombie parliament”, it may be a word well worth bringing back from the dead.
Illustration by @Bread_and_Ink