The Prime Minister’s Kobayashi Maru test

As Star Trek fans know, the Kobayashi Maru is a test for star fleet officers that is unwinnable. Unless you “cheat” by reprogramming the test, as Captain James T Kirk did.

The Kobayashi Maru is a freighter that has sent a distress signal from the neutral zone. Responding to the signal by entering the neutral zone is likely to result in the USS Enterprise being destroyed and starting a war with the Klingon Empire. Ignoring the distress signal is likely to result in the destruction of the freighter and its crew.

It feels like the UK is going through a collective Kobayashi Maru, where every outcome of the Brexit test (sadly not fictional) involves a disaster. A good economic outcome (no Brexit) would involve betraying the trust of the electorate who voted for Brexit. The question they were asked may have been foolish, and they may not have understood the economic implications for them and others, but they were asked and they answered.

Some would say it is immoral for the political class to ignore the outcome of the referendum or to try to ask the question again, so soon, in the hope of a different answer. Whether or not there will be rioting on the streets, as one Brexiter suggested to IP Draughts, it seems likely that there will be widespread disillusion with the political class if the result of the referendum is not implemented. The effect on the democracy of the UK of cancelling Brexit would be profound and last for a generation. For want of a better term, let us call this societal impoverishment.

But implementing Brexit is also likely to be disastrous. The disaster will be economic rather than societal. IP Draughts’ rough-and-ready guess is that on average we will be 15% poorer for a generation, with the effects felt most by the people in deprived areas who voted for Brexit. Let us call this economic impoverishment.

For the last 18 months, the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, has applied her leadership skills to the national Kobayashi Maru. Those skills are mostly fortitude, and a sense of honour. She lacks the creativity, people skills or unorthodox thinking that helped Captain Kirk win the test.

So she plods on with her solution, which is to try to mitigate the economic effects of Brexit. IP Draughts ventures an analogy that this is like offering the Klingon empire the USS Enterprise and all of its personnel in return for the safe return of the Kobayashi Maru and its people. This may not work, as the Klingons may welsh on the deal. The outcome is likely to be disastrous for the crew of the Enterprise, and it will result in a major Star Fleet asset being lost to the enemy, but at least it is honourable. Officer cadet May demonstrates her leadership skills, such as they are, and is appointed to a junior post in the ethics administration department at Star Fleet HQ.

Some politicians criticise the Prime Minister for not striking a better deal with the Klingon empire European Commission. But the reality is that the EU doesn’t want to strike a better deal for the UK, and sees no benefit in doing so. In the real world, there is no Captain Kirk in the UK government, and no creative solution that “wins” the test.

You are now on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. Captain May has initiated communications with the Klingon Empire, and there is no time to implement an alternative strategy. Do you go along with her solution, for want of a better one? Do you mutiny, forcing her to relinquish command, and abandon the poor sods in the freighter? Or do you go full speed ahead into the neutral zone and hope to get lucky in a free-for-all with the Klingon ships?

Breaking news: a message from the Romulan ambassador has reached the ship. He offers a “quick, massive, bilateral treaty” that will “really take you way, way into an exciting future”. A long term alliance with the Romulans could provide security and prosperity for generations to come. But he doesn’t think this treaty would be possible if the deal that Captain May has brokered with the Klingons goes ahead. Does this affect your decision?



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2 responses to “The Prime Minister’s Kobayashi Maru test

  1. Alexander Yule

    Thought all she can do is Klingon……
    Brexit…..the Final Frontier!

  2. One of the people responding to the poll has suggesting “asking Spock”. IP Draughts is uncertain whether this is a reference to Sir John Redwood, knighted in the 2019 New Year Honours. About 20 years ago, Sir John was given the nickname of Spock in the national press. Based on his hard line views on Brexit, IP Draughts suspects that Sir John would probably favour option 3 above.

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