Saturday, 14 October 2017

Brexit is a political spring clean

Prior to the referendum we had a thing called certainty. Had there never been a referendum this would have carried on much the same as before. We would still be looking at the slow and inexorable rise of Ukip, but for the most part we could be sure that one mediocre government would be followed by another, knowing that the next would be marginally worse than the last.

Had things continued down that path we would have eventually seen a George Osborne government followed by a left of centre Labour; the dregs of the Blair era and its singularly talentless new blood. We could tolerate that safe in the knowledge that the political status quo would largely contain the amount of damage they can do. With so much governance now on autopilot, all any government can really do is squander vast sums on their ill-conceived fads.

Meanwhile we would continue to have that lingering debate about immigration, watching indifferently every summer as thousands drown in the Mediterranean. The left would continue in its politically correct denialism and Ukip would continue to make gains. We would still be seeing undue exposure given to the Green Party and Plaid Cymru. Politics less impressive than a sixth form debating society.

Not only do we not produce credible politicians anymore we've even forgot what credible politics even looks like. The unedifying spectacle of leader's debates on ITV at the last was enough to pray for a giant meteorite. You look at this people and wonder if they are even of this planet. Detached, condescending and shallow.

It was already clear that the party system was disintegrating and along with it, politics in general. All the while the media has totally lost it. One way or another we were careering headlong into a crisis of governance because there was nothing on the horizon that would have shocked them out of their self-indulgent complacency. The only thing keeping it alive the certainty of the status quo; Governance underpinned by the political certainty of EU membership and living standards within tolerance. Without sound fundamentals, this is fragile.

We had already reached a state of utter disaffection with politics ad it is not difficult to see why. Labour's value system is so utterly distorted that it cannot hope to ever represent the working class, meanwhile the Tories were little more than a managerialist outfit with no vision, no ideas and no momentum. It is impossible to say what would have happened but I rather expect the political stagnation would have been with us for many more years to come.

Enter Brexit. If I had to pick a single defining moment that turned the tide it would have been the unflattering spectacle of Bob Geldof giving the Thames flotilla the two fingered salute. Against a backdrop of a largely self-interested establishment looking after its own, little could more adequately summarise the attitude of our political and media class. Little wonder then that the two fingered salute was returned in kind at the ballot box.

So now we are looking at that same political establishment forced into doing that which it does not want to do while lacking the intelligence and integrity to deliver it. This is what makes it a near certainty that Brexit talks will collapse. They are just not up to it. The talent just isn't there. What's more, if parliament were functioning as it should there would by now be moves to intercept the government as it drives us closer toward the cliff edge. There is no sign of that.

As each day passes events look ever bleaker. The tone is souring, talks are in freefall and still the Labour party is absorbed by its own myopic fixations while the Tories tear themselves to pieces. Unless there is a sea change in Westminster, waking up to the imminent danger, we will leave the EU without a deal and usher in a decade of recession. I am already resigned to this. I have mentally prepared for it. The good times are over.

But then I do so in the knowledge that this has to happen. Of course nobody wants to see widespread unemployment and a disintegration of the economy but ultimately the seeds were already sown. Our politics and media is little more than a reflection of ourselves. Decadent, self-absorbed, childish and spoiled.

Just recently I heard it said that the EU was the three major powers of Europe combining to preserve the remnants of their respective empires. I think there is some truth in that. The EU as a trade power extends Europe's dominion over Africa. The EU is the instrument through which former powers exert their imperial pretensions. The WTO being one of its instruments. We are looking at the fag end of Europe as a global power as the rest of the world catches up and realises they owe us nothing.

So we have two choices. We can opt for the continued managed decline of insular EU politics or we can have a political spring clean. We need to pull the sofa out and hoover under it. We need to empty the drawers of our clutter and wipe the cobwebs off the widow sills. That is the chaos we are about to endure. But we must.

There is the pretence on the continent that Brexit has reinvigorated the EU and we often hear Macron cited as the new saviour for European Unity. This is self delusion. European politics is in a similar state of decay and France is most certainly not politically stable. Meanwhile Germany has its own reckoning to come. I would argue that Merkel is their Blair. We are a generation in front and Germany will have to face its own political reckoning when Merkel departs.

Meanwhile, the Visegrad Four continue to drift away from the EU with the EU unable to exert much in the way of political pressure. We see the same manifested in its response to the Catalonia crisis. It does to want to be seen as intruding on the sovereign affairs of its members but at the same time, if it is to live up to its rhetoric (and enforce its own treaties) then it must, otherwise the bluff has been called.

Europe is in a state of political flux. It comes as no surprise to me that Britain is the first to call time on the post-war settlement. Our state of political dysfunction is more advanced. But only by a few years. Without the UK the EU comes a very different animal, where its denizens will call for "more Europe" at a time when members are demanding less. One way or another Europe will have to reinvent. I do not think the EU will be part of its future unless we see reform that will fundamentally change the DNA of the EU entity. All the while the UK is taking a time out to address its own political problems.

This week in have been chastened by various media pondlife for my view that Britain must leave the EU even if it does lead to a catastrophic recession. I would prefer it to be another way, but ultimately we cannot resolve the economic until we have resolved the political. Our current politics is barely maintaining the status quo and it certainly isn't delivering for the regions of the UK as is evident from the Brexit vote.

What we we need is political vision combined with a sense of urgency that is presently lacking in Westminster. Only a crisis of this magnitude can precipitate that change. It will see years of political turbulence as politics reinvents. We'll have to put up with a Corbyn government and then we'll have to put up with whatever is left of the Tory party. But by then we'll call time on both of these empty husks. Neither has a solution befitting the modern age.

I don't know what will win out. It is impossible to say. Uncertainty is the new normal. But what we can say is that a new order will emerge - forged from the turmoil we are about to endure. That is the purpose of a revolution. And that is what this is.

I am told that this wasn't necessary and that there were other ways, but I invite you re-watch the 2017 general election leader's debate. There you will find the British political ailment distilled in its purest form. Then look me in the eye and try telling me a reboot isn't necessary. Our future is not safe in their hands. It's time to press the red button before fate decides to do it for us.

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