Friday, 29 November 2019

The big switch off

There's another big TV election special debate on tonight - which I am not going to watch. It's a collection of nonentities who will in no way illuminate the national debate (such that it is). Right now I could very easily turn away from politics for good. It has nothing much to say to me and I suspect much of the nation feels the same way.

Being that I live in a very safe Tory seat I was already planning on not voting but at this point, even if I didn't, I still wouldn't vote - even to save Brexit. What I want simply isn't on offer. There is nobody even close to representing my position.

We see this today with Boris Johnson's latest announcement to work up a new state aid regime along with a Britain first public procurement policy. This is, as I'm not the first to observe, a departure from the "fwee twade" global Britain agenda we've been subjected to for the last three years. This is an electoral ploy aimed at Bennite leavers in case they're thinking of voting for the Brexit Party.

More than that, though, it's a reactive policy where Johnson has to do something that people believe we couldn't do before. Having no plan and no grand vision for Brexit, they're left grubbing for any ideas with traction (which will then become the post-facto justification for Brexit). Instead of leaving to pursue any kind of coherent vision-based agenda, we'll be doing all manner of senseless things just because we can - which is simply not a credible basis for government. Without an intellectual foundation, Brexit was always going to end up a lame duck.

This isn't the first manifestation either. Last week we had two announcements; the abolition of hospital parking charges and an Australian points based immigration system - both intellectually barren ideas stolen directly from Ukip.

This has to be viewed in the context of the next stages of Brexit in respect of the future relationship where it seems that Johnson will seek a quick and dirty deal in order to meet the 2020 deadline which will see us unceremoniously ripped out of the single market with economic impacts comparable with no deal at all. We will then spend the next decade trying to rebuild a comprehensive relationship from the ground up from a far weaker position. 

Let's call this what it is. Crap. This is a crap Brexit. It is without vision, without ambition and lacking any serious purpose. We're doing Brexit for its own sake - to say that we've left - not to actually do anything. This is not a stepping stone. It's an administrative chore. There is no thought to our place in the world, how we will usefully exercise sovereignty or how we will make our democracy mean something. 

What could and should have been a transformative event in our history will end up an electoral exercise carried out by the uninterested for short term political gain resulting in a recession and decade of stagnation. We're going to be a sad, broken little country with asinine politics incapable of delivering for the people it serves.

But then I don't see this going any other way. If Johnson doesn't win then we'll have our kangarendum, we'll sweep Brexit under the carpet and our politicians will continue to toil in the Westminster ideas desert, oblivious as ever to anything outside of it, only they're let off the hook from having to engage in any serious undertakings like trade and constitutional reform. We'll still end up a sad, broken, inward looking little country - only one that couldn't even leave the EU. I don't know which is worse.

Or rather I do. Remaining is worse because it will be a resignation to the fact that we can't be a self-governing country because we don't have a politics capable of rising to the occasion. The baked-in mediocrity of centrist managerialism is the best we can ever hope for while social climbers and narcissists collect the spoils. There is then no hope at all and we may as well give up on politics completely. 

For a long time I've felt like we're just marking time before something big hits that brings it all crashing down on us. It might as well be Brexit. Had there been a plan and an intellectual foundation, this could have been a turning point, arresting the decline, injecting new energy into our politics. Instead we'll carry on being self-absorbed and inward looking, with politics as an entertainment indulgence while all else crumbles.

Here I'm done blaming the politicians and media, as crap as they are. The real problem is us. We're so easily bought off. Plenty of Brexiters seem happy with an "Australian based points system" and whatever other ideas plucked from the Ukip tombola. We're the ones lacking in ambition and guile. We seem entirely happy to completely upturn the post-war settlement just so we can subsidise failing steel factories in the regions. We get the crap we deserve. It's going to take more than Brexit before we get serious as a nation.

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