Gavin Williamson and Brussels sprouts: The recipe for killing a joke stone dead
One of the most marked effects of the Beowulf-length saga that is Brexit is that, just like the epic old English poem about a brave warrior who fights monsters on his way to becoming king, there's very little humor in the saga.
So when after spending the last three-and-a-half years watching the very fabric of society being torn in two, humor does occasionally rear its head, then it’s worth stopping, absorbing the moment, giving a chuckle and move on.
Like all good jokes however, it’s the delivery that matters. The wrong person, the wrong beat, and the whole thing falls flat.
For instance, the attention-seeking guy who has been interrupting every single UK television news broadcast since June 2016 with a bellowing, “Stoooooop Brexiiiiiiiit!” was funny day one, attempt one, since then he has become the most annoying individual that either side can produce.
Now we have that arch-joker, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, taking selfies outside a farm shop that has decided to tell the world via chalkboard that it has taken the momentous decision to rebrand its Brussels sprouts as “Brexit Sprouts”.
Just to hammer home the point, they even added a tag line that these mini cabbages on a stem were “Nothing to do with Brussels”.Also on rt.com BoJo adviser lays down strict ‘no leaks’ policy — but the warning is instantly leaked to media
Except that, technically, they are, having derived their common English name after being cultivated in Belgium in the 16th Century, though they are native to the Mediterranean region.
Anyway, Mr Williamson put his freshly-taken selfie on Twitter, shared it with his followers and no-doubt congratulated himself on what a witty MP he is and how lucky his constituents are to have the chance to vote for him yet again in the General Election.
He also managed to plug a local business in his South Staffordshire constituency, just to prove to the locals what a top chap they have for their candidate.
The problem is that the joke is so old and was not really that funny the first time it did the rounds back in, oh I dunno, 2014.
But then, Gavin Williamson is the same guy who was sacked as Defense Secretary after being found to have leaked top secret information from the National Security Council. And the same fellow who, as Conservative Party whip, would welcome errant MPs to his office for a confidential chat under the baleful watch of a live tarantula called Kronos sitting in a glass tank on his desk.
Oh my! How everyone laughed. That Gavin! He’s a right one!
If nothing else, these lame attempts at trying to tap into some sort of edgy zeitgeist are just sad. Funny they are not. They also show a lack of imagination, recycling old memes, trying to turn the mundane and unfunny into a viral extravaganza.
It is like former PM Theresa May’s excruciating dancing while abroad and at the Tory Party conference that earned her the “Maybot” tag. She went viral alright but for all the wrong reasons.
So, no, Gavin. It’s not funny.
What is funny, however, is that the Brussels sprouts do not go by that name in Belgium. There they are simply named “sprouts”.
By Damian Wilson, UK journalist & political communications specialist