Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire: Brexit - a tragicomedy in five acts

PRINCE BORIS: A hit! A palpable hit! Illustration / Rod Emmerson
PRINCE BORIS: A hit! A palpable hit! Illustration / Rod Emmerson

Armando Iannucci, the creator of The Thick of It, wrote recently that for all that he had been overwhelmed with requests to resuscitate his acclaimed satirical TV show about politics, he simply couldn't. "Politics already feels fictional enough", so "alien and awful that it's hard to match the waves of cynicism it transmits on its own".

And that was before the Brexit referendum took place. Others, meanwhile, have suggested that the build-up to and fallout from the vote to leave the EU had begun more to resemble Game of Thrones. Maybe. It's certainly been trashy, rambunctious and shock-fuelled, but the production standards haven't come close.

As luck would have it, however, fragments of a centuries-old science-fiction work by a lesser known British content creator and dramatist of European cataclysm, William Shakespeare, have been discovered, attached by a lump of chewing gum to the foot of the Deka sign in Huntly. In light of recent events, some of it is eerily prescient.

Excerpts follow.


CHORUS: O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention. A regional union for a stage, supranational bureaucrats to act, and crowds of those alienated by the effects of globalisation and sovereignty mission creep, as well as some who are just actually racist, to behold the swelling scene!

Close fourscore years hath passed since the brutal wars of Europe did cease. Yet something was stirring in this scepter'd isle, this other Eden, demi-paradise of shopkeepers and feeble dentistry. The voices that would split asunder pricked the ear of the very king himself, and he did pledge -

KING DAVE: Look, I suppose if it doth mean so very much to you all, all my subjects shall be heard by their King, and I warrant I shall bend to their will.

CHORUS: King Dave did entreat his happy breed of men to remain rested upon the swollen bosom of Brussels, but had he reckoned upon the importunate dogs of exit? No! No! No, not really!


PRINCE BORIS: A hit! A palpable hit!

PRINCE DAVE: Hark, boy, wherefore dost thou bound like a feral baby bull? Hast thou more hair than wit?

PRINCE BORIS: Don't call me boy, Dave, I'm two years older than you, and fluent in languages you've never heard of. This is really starting to piss me off, all this aristocratic BS. In sooth, Davey, one dawn hither thou shall taste the bitter brew of vengeance.

PRINCE DAVE: Righto, Bobo, toodle-pip. See you at the club later?


NIGEL: Round about the cauldron go, in the poison'd language throw. Polish sausage, Turkish stew, Billboard with a brown faced queue.

MICHAEL: So-called "experts", limb by limb, chuck some Hitler mentions in.

BORIS: A baffled look, a belly laugh. Anyone for a swift half?

ALL: Go on, then.

RUPERT: Britons sick of foreign types, telling them what's wrong and right. Bloody oath, here comes the Sun. Let's bloody win another one.

DONALD: It's really wonderful my friends, you'll make your country great again. The current thing is really bad. It's really bad, it's bad, it's sad. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham.

WINSTON: Donald! Strike down foreign interests! Crush them with your tiny girl fists!

ALL: Double toil and migrant trouble, Liberals lost in Facebook bubble.


Enter Jeremy, a sea captain

JEREMY: To lead or not to lead? That is a tricky one, no doubt about it. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous parliamentary so-called comrades who refuse to accept the will of the wider party membership or to take arms against a sea of troubles, or to put it another way, resign. For who would bear the whips and scorns of a fourth estate imbued with third-way, neoliberal orthodoxies? And yet who but I can restore this shipwrecked kingdom to its former glory, shake off the soils of financial doom and social disarray? My kingdom for a caucus!

Enter a Ghost

GHOST: I think most people who have dealt with me, think I'm a pretty straight sort of guy, and I am. I just think, you know, Jeremy, for the sake of the party, you know, probably best you bugger off.

Brexit Ghost, pursued by a bear.

JEREMY: Out, damned spot. Keep seeing bloody Tony everywhere. Where was I? Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow! Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder, Strike flat the thick rotundity o' th' world."

KING DAVE: Zounds! I know what you mean.

PRINCESS THERESA: Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.


JEREMY: Aye, there's the rub! Been looking for that for ages.

Is this another resignation letter I see before me?


Enter Adele, a sprite

ADELE: If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended. That you have but slumbered here, while these visions did appear. Have a sip of something strong. The scepter'd isle, it went Pete Tong. Gentles, do not cast a frown, here is how it all went down.

Accursed and bloodied, Britain's ire saw the place engulfed by fire. Rage did sweep through each home nation, loathing, wrath, self-immolation. Scotland split, its spirits surging, led by braveheart General Sturgeon. Wales went its own way, too; just seemed like the thing to do. Ulster showed pure loyalty, but then it sank into the sea. What of England, you beseech. What of the old Duck and Peach? Albion lives, I'm glad to say, if not in quite the same way.

The kingdoms warred and England found it struggled to maintain its ground. Unwatched frontiers soon did falter. They moved the whole thing to Gibraltar.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire is a Wellington bred, Auckland based journalist. He writes a weekly column for the NZ Herald, the NZ Listener's Internaut column, blogs for, and contributes to the Guardian. From 2000 to 2010 he worked at the Guardian in London, and edited the 2012 book The Arab Spring: Rebellion, Revolution and a New World Order.

Read more by Toby Manhire

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 23 Oct 2016 21:11:26 Processing Time: 866ms