Friday, 1 March 2019

The death of centrism is long overdue


Every now and then you catch a remark that encapsulates the key difference between leavers and remainers. Generally speaking, of course. Yesterday I caught this little gem on Twitter.
I want to go back to a time when the big parliamentary decisions involved people paying 5p for plastic bags or how much pig should be in a fiver. All this is way too much responsibility for them.
The first question you have to ask here is that is politicians are indulging in virtue signalling trivia, who is actually running the show? If this is the trivia that similarly occupies our media, then there's a lot of important conversations we are not having.

But this is also indicative of a politics in a state of intellectual decline. These are far from isolated incidents. A while back I happened to tune in to a long debate about what should and shouldn't be allowed in children's packed lunches. It tells us a lot about what politicians thinks they are there for. They seem to think that it's their job to ban things, tax things or subsidise them. It tells us that they feel entitled to boss us around.

What makes it corrosive is that this mentality scales upward into the important things where they think little of chasing after expensive white elephants never thinking twice about the costs they add to our energy bills. They speak blithely about green taxes as though they had no real world implications for businesses and the individual. To a large extent these people are sheltered from the consequences of their misrule in that they are grossly overpaid and whatever they don't feel like forking out for, they can put to expenses.

Were that we had already solved all of the difficult questions then we could perhaps understand how they find time for such trivialities but we haven't. They have time because much of the work is done for them. In education the civil service is pretty much running the show with minimal input from politicians (perhaps correctly) but in terms of the structure of our economy, trade and foreign affairs, this is increasingly the domain of Brussels where there is next to zero scrutiny.

As long as Brussels and the Civil Service were running the show, the politico-media nexus could get away with it. They did the show-biz while the work went on regardless.

Here we shouldn't be at all surprised if the 2016 referendum turned into a an outright rejection of the establishment being that it occurred not long after a general election. For me that was certainly a turning point in British politics. It left and indelible mark on my psyche. The unedifying spectacle of a leaders debate featuring Caroline Lucas, Leanne Wood, Tim Farron and sundry others. The only non-kosher offering was the odious Paul Nuttall of Ukip. The establishment in a nutshell.

These are the people who think it is their role to shape attitudes and behaviours through interventions. These are the people who denounce rather than debate. These are the people for whom any remotely controversial view is "far right". These are the people who would rather debate a green tax on carrier bags than an epidemic of child sexual abuse in the shires. These are the people who would have us stay in the EU largely out of convenience.

Their arguments for remaining in the EU were based on a narcissistic projection of what they believe the EU to be. They deal only in platitudes of cooperation and internationalism - holding the qualities of being "progressive" and "outward looking" even though their horizons stop at Brussels and seldom do they ever look that far.

Progressivism (whatever that actually means) has become a byword for sanitised cellophane wrapped politics which produces the androgynous clones like Chuka Umunna designed for maximum media inoffensiveness. Like Ken dolls one wonders if these people even possess genitalia. The political version of morning TV magazine show presenters. And as repellent as they are, these people don't actually know anything.

This much has been made abundantly clear during the course of Brexit. They have no idea why we voted to leave, and no idea how we got where we are, or indeed how to get ourselves out of it. Instead of seeking to understand what is upon us, they have invested all of their energies into sweeping Brexit under the carpet with a view to going back to their consequence free normality where they soak up media attention but take on none of the responsibilities and obligations.

It is telling that the new Independent Group have elected to promote themselves on a handful of recycled populist slogans. They speak of a "different way of doing things" under the "ChangePolitics" hashtag, with all the self-awareness of a diarrhetic hippo. Chris Leslie in all seriousness went on BBC Question Time to tell us "The big political parties want to keep everything as it is" when this bunch are the very essence of the establishment - the rotting corpse of centrism.

There is no ambition or vision to this kind of politics. No idea of a destination and no will to take on the large and difficult questions. This is perhaps why our politics has adopted climate change as its central obsession. It serves as a proxy for politics of substance - and gives them the pretext for demanding that we turn over ever more sovereignty and surrender more of our individual freedoms to them.

I'm often told that of the many pressing issues we face, Brexit provides little remedy. I freely admit will in some cases exacerbate the problems. Brexit never was a remedy though, nor is the EU a direct cause of our problems. The EU, or rather our membership of it, is merely a symptom of the political malaise, and allowing the status quo to remain is certainly no remedy in that we have seen how they choose to occupy their time. We now see which of them are not equipped to handle something of this magnitude precisely because they have abdicated from their function.

Brexit is not guaranteed to make anything better, but I'm also certain that nothing is going to get better until we address the intellectual and moral stagnation in our politics. Already Brexit has broken the back of our politics and Labour has vomited out its Blair era throwbacks. In respect of that the Independent Group has done us a great service not only in exposing themselves as values-free flip floppers, but also showing us what is left of the Labour party. A burnt out talentless husk.

Doubtlessly there will be more defections in the near future and it is unlikely that the Tory coalition can hold together in its current form. There will need to be a further realignment before we can get down to the real business of politics. We are soon to have problems of urgency and complexity that wipes the generic timewaster politics off the board. They will have to understand their way out of the mess and the non hackers will be drummed out of politics.

There is an obvious cost to this. This is going to cost jobs and it is going to cause disruption - especially if we leave the EU without a deal. I'm told we can't afford to do it but I'm left with the question of whether we can afford not to do it. I don't think we can. There are too many deep rooted structural problems with the country which aren't going to be addressed by politics as we now find it and certainly not by the narcissistic dross that calls itself the centre ground.

It's tempting to look back to 2015 when our politics was absorbed with trivia and look upon it as a time of relative political stability but that was a time where we were collectively ignoring a volcano of problems and doing all we could to suppress them. Now we are paying the price for their moral cowardice. It may well be falling apart now, but it's been a long time coming.

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