Saturday, June 17, 2017


This time last week Theresa May was looking like burned toast. 

Now? Well, it's somehow a lot worse. Like she tried to scrape off a bit of her carbonised layer but then contrived to fall butter side down on a filthy floor. 

Perhaps we should just let HM the Queen and Prince Harry run the show for a bit, backed up by a suitably savvy backroom team of technocrats. I know...the T word...but it might be nice to see the country governed by a crew who provide at least a semblance of knowing what they're doing. 

The media and our elected representatives seem to be taking turns at being the dog and the tail. 

The Tories must be ruefully admitting to themselves now that, much to their cost, they ended up buying into a version of the most un-nuanced form of post-Brexit situational analysis. 

The referendum result appeared to have served them up with a new paradigm, or at least an old one we hadn't seen for quite a while - the classic mobs and snobs alliance - and that this would allow them to enter into a discussion with the 'native' working and middle classes in such a way that HM's opposition needn't actually be in the room. 

They forgot that Brexit was really just an epiphenomenon, a mechanism whereby the electorate felt able to act on concerns and grudges that were not normally part of the discourse. 

And along the way the Tories alienated a key part of their 'base' - small and big business interests that are justly terrified of throwing the baby out with the bath water if the UK leaves the EU Customs Union. 

Take just one of the semi-camouflaged issues underling the Brexit discourse: mass immigration. New arrivals from comparatively less affluent countries are said to have taken out something like £114bn more than they put in between 1995 and 2011, which has created pressure on housing, schools, healthcare etc. 

Beyond trying to spin this story out of existence, the two main political parties have each put forward a solution, neither of which will work on its own. The Tories want an 'Australian-style' approach to immigration control. Labour wants to increase spending on public services to meet the growing demand. Classic supply-side and demand-side fixes, both with a closing the door after the horse has bolted feel to them. 

I can't be the only one to have spotted that the logical approach here is a middle way, or a 'technocratic' one, except that is now a rude word. 

Meanwhile, centrist politics appear discredited, in part because they have tended to look like an amalgamation of the worst aspects of the two extremes, or just plain insipid. 

Voters are not dumb, they have only appeared so because they briefly flirted with filling this 'hole in the middle' with package of populist absurdities. This alternative has thankfully now been thoroughly disesteemed on a near global level by the on-going example of the Donald in the White House. 

Which is why I think the present situation, however fragile and potentially dysfunctional could be as much opportunity as threat: Order out of chaos as I heard one optimistic punter suggest on Newsnight tonight. 

As I have already suggested, the political class might now be forced to tackle certain issues more consensually and thus cut through all the partisan rhetoric. 

One can at least hope...

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