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The Trumping of the Snark - and why Brexit means Boojum

Liverpool Echo logo Liverpool Echo 26/01/2017 Tom Evans
© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc

WHEN Lewis Carroll (or, as he’s known in Runcorn, “Lewis Carroll, who’s from quite near Runcorn”) wrote The Hunting of the Snark, it’s safe to say he didn’t have the recent rise of right-wing populism in mind.

If he did, we really are through the looking glass.

But even though it was finished in 1876, Carroll’s nonsense resonates through the ages.

It concerns an expedition led by an arrogant, dogmatic Bellman to hunt and capture a Snark. It’s never explained precisely what a Snark is – Snark means Snark, I suppose.

“What I tell you three times is true,” the Bellman tells his loyal crew – badly qualified chancers whose usefulness to the mission comes second to their being friends with the leader.

“His courage is perfect,” purrs the Bellman of one colleague, who has forgotten his own name, “and that, after all, is the thing that one needs with a Snark.”

Their map is useless, a featureless square of nothing but ocean, but the crew (who have had enough of experts) lap it up; it’s “a map they can all understand”.

Even though the Bellman’s only plan is to ring his bell and bellow orders, they make it to dry land. But it doesn’t end well.

For all the Bellman’s bluster, none of them has a clue how to find a Snark, and when one does it turns out to be a Boojum – a completely different creature, and a dangerous one.

And that’s how such missions end. What brought down communism in the Eastern Bloc wasn’t its leaders’ corruption, or their brutality, or their flawed ideology, or their incompetence, but their failure – the life they provided their citizens didn’t match expectations.

Donald Trump has the potential to be as corrupt, brutal, flawed and incompetent as any dictator, and journalists have a duty to point this out as often as we can. But more importantly, he will fail, and his failures – to create millions of jobs, to provide absolute security from terrorism, to make climate change stop happening because he’s said so three times – will define him.

And whatever the colour and consistency of our eventual Brexit, it won’t solve the problems of post-industrial decline in the UK’s medium-sized towns and cities. That failure, not the venal lies about £350m for the NHS, will define Brexit.

I could be wrong; we could be about to snare us a Snark. But if Trump and the Brexiteers are leading the West into the jaws of a Boojum, the people won’t forget.

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