Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Nothing much to talk about

Presently the Conservative Party is an empty husk awaiting leadership. That was true the moment David Cameron left office. Theresa May was a caretaker with the sole mission of delivering Brexit. This she could not do and now the Tories are left to confront the double barrelled problem of having not delivered Brexit and having a party devoid of substance. It is now vulnerable to capture in much the same way Labour was.

The problem, though, is that unless either party has a united and coherent position on Brexit, and what comes after, there is no hope of resurgence for either. The only utility in voting Tory is to keep Corbyn out which seems redundant should we go down the path of no deal. There is not much more damage he could do and with neither side intellectually equipped to handle the fallout of a no deal Brexit, it scarcely matters who wins the next general election.

But then for me, the fortunes of the Tory party in the future are of little concern. I see only one pressing political priority and that is to avoid a no deal Brexit. That is the only measure by which I will be assessing candidates. Not that it even matters. The choice is not mine to make.

Of course we will hear the usual array of slogans about uniting the country but that is no so easily done. Brexit is a fault line of its own before we even begin to address the clash of values between London and the regions. I wonder if the UK can ever be a truly cohesive country ever again.

As it happens I don't think we will see a new normal until the culture war has a decisive winner. That will rage on beyond Brexit until a new political consensus wins out. If the complete no show for Change UK is anything to go by then the paternalistic "progressives" are very much out on their own and on a loser. Brexit seems to have purged the values free centrist left before we've even left. It no longer has a powerbase. It never did belong in a left wing party.

Meanwhile, staying the course as a dedicated remain party appears to have paid off for the Lib Dems, or rather they have benefited from Labour's dithering ambiguity. That will eat into Labour's support as much as Ukip 2.0 will eat into the Tories. We may yet be in for another hung parliament of unknown composition.

Either way it's not going to matter since no party in politics right now has a coherent idea of what it wants. For sure Ukip 2.0 wants a Brexit event to happen, but  has no agenda to shape Britain beyond that. Similarly the Lib Dems want to stop Brexit and that alone is enough. It therefore falls to the legacy parties to present an agenda to break Britain out of its political stagnation.

This we will not get. Labour has a few dregs of ideas, but nothing that would directly address any of the problems confronted by everyday people. Renationalising things is largely an ideological hobby horse and they haven't stopped to ask if it brings any remedy to any known problems.

As for the Tories, most of the leadership contenders think there needs to be a conservative renewal but the word has become so meaningless and conservative values so diluted even I wouldn't recognise a true conservative agenda and I'm not even sure I would welcome it anymore. Simplistic mantras about small government and low tax overlook the fact that modern government is complex and necessarily large and is going to cost a lot of money to run. Even at its most efficient it's going to be an expensive affair.

There are then the Priti Patels and Steve Bakers of this world who are ever keen to resurrect Thatcherism, unleashing market forces on the country like never before, in direct contravention of all the lessons learned from Brexit in respect of globalisation, pace of change and identity. Again we are dealing with ideologues who simply believe a dose of their brand of medicine is all that's needed and the rest will sort itself out.

It's actually surprising politics is so wide of the mark when it comes to providing answers. It's not rocket science. Basic needs don't change. People want secure jobs, affordable housing, shorter commutes, better transport and less intrusive government. They want the bins emptied once a week, they want police to investigate crime and they want a doctors appointment outside of work hours within three days of deciding they need one.

For this there isn't really a national solution. It's only going to happen through responsive local government and if real power is in the hands of the people. For as long as we have politics attempting to impose ideological programmes from the centre we will forever be dedicating resources to mopping up the consequences rather than getting on with the real business of government. We won't get anything sensible from Westminster until Westminster realises it is a large part of the problem.

This is why I'm jaded with politics. Forever people are looking to London politics to serve up a saviour who will sort it all out - a messiah who can put things back on track. The politicians know full well how it works so we get demagogues of all stripes singing their populist songs to their respective bases. Some more successful than others. "Give me the power and I will fix it to your liking" - the psiren call of the ages.

Increasingly I am of the view that there are no real solutions the the big questions. There isn't really a way to marry up the culture clash between London and the regions and there is no national blueprint for greatness. The best we can ever hope for is to empower people to shape their own regions so that they are not culturally subordinate to the perversions of Westminster. Big ticket expensive agendas won't fix Britain, but giving people the powers locally to decide their own fate might.

Increasingly I find that Westminster politics has nothing to say to me. The limited pool of ideas falls out of clapped out think tanks, largely home to suburban dwelling politicos with no connection to the outside world, where ideas are the product of a singular mentality of ruling from London. London media has nothing to say to me and I could not be less interested in the scribblings of the legacy media. Their idea of news is not my idea of news.

Ultimately though, Westminster is never going to realise that Westminster is the problem. It is too self-absorbed. It's going to take the wider public to realise it for themselves and demand power for themselves. I live in hope that moment soon approaches. Eventually the penny must drop that we cannot afford to be the plaything of London politicians and we will be waiting a lifetime for them to get their act together.

Until then, there is very little in politics to take remotely seriously. We may get a Tory leader with the maturity and wisdom to resist the pressure to leave the EU without a deal, but that is still contingent on an immovable parliament ratifying a withdrawal agreement, and its refusal to do so could park us in limbo until we bite the bullet. Beyond that it doesn't matter who leads any of these empty husks. Perhaps the system has to fail hard before people realise that we can no longer afford the Westminster circus. Until the fever breaks, there just isn't much more to talk about.

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