You’d be forgiven for being confused what side you are on over the EU Referendum. For so long the media has given us clear sides and divides – These people are Tories, those lot over there are Labour, the Lib Dems were here but I can’t see… Over there? No, that’s the Green’s and the SNP.
As the movers and shakers swap and intermingle, the scene has become bloated and confusing. Who do I like? Why are they siding with them? Why is everyone fighting amongst themselves? That’s when I realised that the EU Referendum we’re seeing on screen is nothing more than a professional wrestling storyline.
Wrestling – a predetermined contest taking place in a narratively driven feud, with the WWE being the most globally recognised company. You have good guys (Faces), bad guys (Heels) and if someone changed their ways from bad to good, or visa versa, this is known as a turn.
The EU referendum is playing out like this. Political stars are moving back and forth, swapping allegiances to make the best play for their own agendas and careers, fighting through the current storyline so that when the next feud starts, they’ll be at the top, ready for a run as “the leader of the Conservative Party.”
In the mid-90s the biggest star of wrestling, Hulk Hogan, jumped ship to a rival company and “turned heel”. Gone were the yellow trunks, the patriotic American zeal and in were the egomaniacal power plays of a Hollywood autocrat who was (legitimately) bigger than the business. Comedic hair aside, enter to the fray Boris Johnson.
Boris is quite possibly the smartest guy in the Leave campaign room and his move from ex-Mayor to Leave figurehead is quite like Hogan’s switch. At the time of the move, Hogan had a “creative control” clause added to his contract that meant he got the final say on anything the character did.
Before Boris was seen as the clownish parliamentarian, a man who has written a novel about a fictional Islamic terrorist attack (Seventy Two Virgins). The Observer review of the book said:
Boris Johnson has written a witty page-turner, but not quite a novel. Digesting this book is like listening to a seasoned raconteur holding court rather than reading a work of literature.
It’s this Boris that we have seen for the years, holding his London court, ably playing the dandy whilst the new guard of his Conservative party squabbles for control. Now the time has come to rally his troops, the mix of the old guard and the Cabinet ‘powers,’ and make his play. Gone are the conversations with Paxman over sausages; in is the rhetoric of numbers – the £350m.
Whilst I’m not touching on the politics itself, I do know the benefit of a good hook – £350m. It’s a number, it’s tangible and it is something for the crowd to get behind. Bret “The Hitman” Hart used to say he was “The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.” And he proved it by winning championships and out-wrestling everyone. It was a believable statement. Was it true? Maybe, but either way it sells T-Shirts. Is £350m true? Who knows, but it sounds good and it fits in headlines very easily.
Eventually Bret Hart jumped ship because he didn’t like the new direction his industry was taking. Tory MP Sarah Wollaston has jumped ship because the £350m that could go to funding the NHS “simply isn’t true.” As a doctor herself, you’d think what she was saying would be believable, quantifiable, and would suggest truth. Much like the older guard of UK politics like Sir John Major and Tony Blair who, differences aside, both believe that the campaign from the leave camp has been, as Major puts it, ‘deceitful” and “misleading”.
Then you get the power play of Lords, those top aristocrats, business owners and general vacuums for economic gain. JCB chairman Lord Bamford wants to leave, explaining to his employees in an open letter that the EU isn’t relevant anymore and we can cast it off, presumably like tectonic shifts cast the North American Plate off from us 200 million years ago. Lord Lawson entered the debate supporting the leave campaign. The two combined bare more resemblance to Harry Secombe’s Mr Bumble from Oliver than empathetic characters. Given the big business leaders we’ve seen in front of MP’s this week alone, should we really trust their opinions? Much like wrestling’s all-powerful McMahon family, who run the show, when they say it’s best for us do we really believe it after everything they’ve done to our heroes?
Then you get the biggest turn (which is presumably a face turn because being in power, you are naturally the bad guy unless you’re Justin Trudeau or Mick Foley) with David Cameron.
This is the man the left have vilified, the centerpiece of everyone’s vitriol, and now, he’s switched sides. Except he hasn’t, he’s still on the same side for his party but he wants to remain. So he has turned, all of his buddies are now ganging up on him like some betrayal that deserves retribution. Like when Batista turned his back on Triple H and Ric Flair because they wanted him to play ball, and he wanted to do what he felt was right. The betrayal of a “stable” (wrestling term for a group) is common place and suddenly you may find yourself either supporting or jeering the one who has gone out from the group to defend their freedom of opinion. But are his days numbered as the blue-on-blue conflict begins to rally back bench momentum?
Wrestling has recently done a similar ousting with the return of the WWE owner’s son, Shane McMahon. He sees the way the company is falling in ratings and stock and it is time that his youth and exuberance took over the company and made a change for the better. Would Shane, a not too shabby businessman in his own right and a man forever trapped in his father’s shadow, get the best out of the WWE? Who can tell, but you’ll tune in to find out! Would the UK and the economy be better under new leadership, leaving the EU and returning to a long lamented and dubiously fictitious pastiche of Good ol’ Post-War Blighty? The one that has hung over our British patriotism like a father’s shadow? Ask Boris Hogan.
In a final and rather coincidental parable, the WWE is splitting themselves in two. Their two shows Raw and SmackDown will become their own entities and brands with separate performers on each. They did this before in the early to mid ‘00s, which was partially successful but ended up rejoining as a whole. Why? Because one show was always going to be the favourite son and the other became a stale forgettable contemporary. If the UK leaves the continent and the union that it helped forge, do we become the favourite son, or do we ebb away into obscurity and ask to come back because together, business is better? Stay tuned…