Theresa May and John Constantine

9th October 2018

One of the best stories – perhaps the best – of John Constantine, the sardonic DC comics street-mage, is Dangerous Habits (1991).

In this tale the dying Constantine stays alive by the simple and sensible expedient of promising his soul to three separate demons of Hell.

This means that the three demons then have to strive officiously to keep him alive, so as to avoid a civil war in Hell if Constantine dies.

(By outwitting devils, Constantine is very much in the tradition of the folklore character after whom this blog is named.)


The predicament of Theresa May and the Conservative Party is similar.

Few if anyone positively wants May to remain Prime Minister, probably not even May herself.

But the factions of the Tories know that if she goes, especially before Brexit is completed, then there will be a hellish civil war in their party.

One can stay alive a long time, sometimes, when people are desperate for you not to fall.


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11 thoughts on “Theresa May and John Constantine”

  1. A very helpful allusion, thank you.

    It will be interesting to see how you have decided to structure your forthcoming book (of which we have heard very little, lately) when the incipient flaw in this peculiarly English tragedy was Theresa May’s initial decision to hock her political soul to Brexit supporters.

    ‘Dr Faustus’ might, perhaps, be even more apt as an analogy – there, the devils came for the bargainer when he/she could not deliver!

    Look forward to the book.

  2. I’d reached the same conclusion rather more prosaically: that no-one else is prepared to carry the bucket of Brexit shit bequeathed by David to Theresa until it’s emptied onto the floor.
    Then we -the people- have to clean up whilst the empty -but soon to be re-filled- bucket is passed on to the next lucky PM.

  3. The more I see, the more I’m sure that Brexit won’t happen. My reason is not dissimilar to yours. Too many people have so many different visions of Brexit or remaining that when push comes to show and there is but one alternative left, remain wins.
    If I’m wrong and Britain leaves, then Scotland leaves, Wales leaves and there is a united Irish Republic. The unionists are so truly stupid that they have allowed the Assembly to be elected as the Dáil – the single transferable vote in multimember districts. They even agreed to shrink the Assembly so now Assembly members fit right into the Dáil.

    1. The more I see the more I’m sure that Brexit *will* happen. The train is gliding down the hill gathering pace and if anyone tries to stop it the warring Brexiteers will unite against tbe common enemy, the remoaners.

  4. I propose that we extend the metaphor further – Astra’s monster is the Conservatives’ internal party political strife, and Nergal is the Referendum, the Bigger Fish duly summoned to vanquish the monster but freed to cause chaos by those who failed to understand what they had unleashed.

    If only those responsible showed even a fraction of Constantine’s remorse…

  5. The link you provide to Jack of Kent includes his outwitting of the devil whose help was sought when building a bridge. The devil was promised the soul of the first to cross; so, when the bridge was built, they threw a piece of bread across, and a hungry dog chased it.

    Remarkably, this story is common in Europe. It’s identical to the one of the Devil’s Bridge at the Schöllenen gorge on the way to the Gotthard pass in Switzerland. There’s even a list on Wikipedia — search for ‘Devil’s Bridge’.

  6. Another of the *demons* who has also been willing to keep Theresa May alive has been the EU27. They need some kind of UK stability at the moment if only to try and stop a no deal Brexit.

    If the PM is unable to hold her minority Govt (with the DUP) together, she could go for the early General Election, new mandate option.

    It could go something like this-

    1. The PM will sign up to an EEA+CU in October as the least damaging Brexit both economically and politically. It would solve the frictionless trade problem (staying in the Single Market and Customs Union) and the Irish border issue.

    2. Calling a General Election in support of staying in the SM and CU would get the Tories and the Tory press in line. What on earth would they do? Would Johnson and Rees-Mogg form a new party? Would the Tory press back Corbyn?

    3. It would stop the drift into a No Deal Brexit. May and most of the Cabinet are not stupid. They know the UK is not ready and will never be ready before 29 March 2019 for a No Deal Brexit.

    4. May could say that she is carrying out Brexit, that she has listened to the concerns of Britain over immigration, trade and a close relationship with the EU. She could use EEA immigration controls to show she will have ended “uncontrolled” immigration.

    Would May and the Cabinet get away with rubbing out all the otherwise sacrosanct “Red Lines”?

    Why not? Most people have switched off from Brexit and tend to ignore a lot of the news about it (eg they don’t believe flights will stop on 30 March 2019 in the event of a No Deal). The PM can easily spin that Brexit is being carried out (“will of the people”), that immigration can be controlled and that it is even a “jobs first Brexit” (maybe she’d have the chutzpah to nick Labour’s slogan).

    As for what Labour would do. They’d probably have to back it as the CBI and the TUC would. With that consensus, the Election battlefield would be on the usual issues eg the NHS etc.

    May’s article in last Sunday’s Observer making a pitch for anti Corbyn Labour voters could well have been the (unspoken) start of the campaign.

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