Brexit – The Riot Club in Action


For many in Britain the story line of ‘The Riot Club’ is all too familiar. Two wealthy ex-public school boy fresher’s at Oxford follow in the footsteps of century’s worth of wealthy ex-public school boys before them and join eight others from their ilk as members ‘The Riot Club’. After an alcohol fuelled display of destruction and homo-eroticism that would put any university rugby club worth its reputation to shame, the two main characters put on their outlandishly posh uniform and head to meet their wealthy mates at the pub.

Filthy. Rich. Spoilt. Rotten.”, the films tagline, sums up the young men perfectly. As copious amounts of alcohol and drugs (Class A of course) are consumed, they are outsmarted by a high-end call girl, sexually assault a female fresher and destroy the pubs private dining room beyond repair. What’s more, after an eye wateringly bourgeoisie rant, the clubs keener members attack the pubs landlord with enough fury to make even footballs most hardened hooligans queasy.

This familiarity however is not the just result of our nations well reported love of a trip to the pub followed by a punch up. Our political system, particularly the current government, appears strikingly similar to ‘The Riot Club’ in many ways.

Just take the past two weeks.  At times it seems as if the dust has settled. News that pound has fallen, risen and fallen again now occurs so often it seems normal. Labour has even returned to its constant infighting and generally poor performance in opposition. But at times it is clear that Britain is a very different place. Most recently this comes in the form of Andrea Leadsom’s withdrawing from the Conservative Leadership Election. Presumably being a mother does not prepare one for media scruity in the way it does to be Prime Minister? Thus, by this time on Wednesday Theresa May will have been anointed as Prime Minister.

In this, and every example like it, the prospect of Brexit has continually hung in the background in the same way their membership of the Bullingdon Club has hung over Cameron, Osborne and Johnson over their past six years in government. The trouble is, this isn’t where the similarities end.

Credit: Daily Mail
Credit: Daily Mail

As the film depicts the hungover members of The Riot Club realising the gravity of their actions, the audience have the opportunity to celebrate (or mourn) the inevitable, just demise of the club and its members. As quickly becomes clear however, this doesn’t happen. Nor will it happen in post-referendum Britain.

Everyone from Ian Hislop to The Spectator has been quick to write off Messrs Cameron, Johnson & Osborne; A few have been even been revelling in the similarities between Westminster and Westeros, but very few seem to be thinking about the longer term.

Take Boris. Apparently ‘knifed’ by one of his closest allies, a quick flick through the would suggest he was doomed to a life away far from the Tory leadership, let alone Number 10. There’s no denying that people were very angry following the referendum results (just look at Twitter) and the ‘confusion’ of the £350 million NHS pledge didn’t help, but do you really think that a man with such clear ambition and history of success would give up so easily?

In the same way Russell Brand came back from dressing up as Osama Bin Laden on September 10th, Boris Johnson can come back from this. Boris doesn’t need even need to swallow a thesaurus to do it. Instead of using words like paradigm he can answer questions in Latin or Greek. Combined with his blond mop and accompanied by few more acts of public buffoonery the public will fall right back in love with Boris just like they did with Russell.

In the meantime, as he waits for all this referendum fall out to blow over, the ‘blond bombshell’ can take some time to build the parliamentary support he currently lacks. After which he can take a punt at the leadership which is more likely to last the mere matter of months that Mrs May’s probably will.

Then there’s George. Strangely quiet in recent weeks (very publicly so in the days that followed the referendum). Now, with an ally like May as Prime Minister, is there a chance he’ll keep his job, or even move on to better things?

Finally, there is the most successful of our wealthy ex-public school boys. Viewed as a lame duck by many, attention has largely moved from Mr Cameron to his successor. There is little doubt however that the prime minister, behind closed doors at least, is acting in the way he is described. Let’s not forget, it is his legacy that will be built upon over the coming years. In many ways, Theresa May shares his vision and embodies his legacy. In addition to being a cabinet minister for the duration of both Cameron Ministries, Mrs May has been a largely successful Home Secretary, is broadly progressive and supported the Remain campaign (albeit quietly). How funny that she, the women who managed to christen the Conservatives ‘The Nasty Party’ while arguing that the party should shake that image, prevailed over the one who was very publicly opposed Gay Marriage (one of David Cameron’s proudest achievements).


Just before the credits role, Tom Hollander pop up as an ex-member of the ‘The Riot Club’. Discussing the assault on the landlord, Hollander disdainfully reminds the soon to be convicted ringleader that  “we aren’t the kind of people who make mistakes, are we?”. It’s then implied that the accused goes on to live a successful and privileged life akin to that which he is accustomed.

With regard to the EU it seems that while we endure what increasing looks like a mistake, those who caused it continue to be the “kind of people” who don’t make them. I guess it’s just a shame that Michael Gove wasn’t a member of the Bullingdon Club. A shame for Michael Gove that is.

James Thomas Bonner

Follow James – @JamesTBonner

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