And so it begins again!
That mad dance of mutual destruction which lies deep in the festering heart of the Conservative body politic. For all of my adult life the tories have been tearing each other apart over the issue of Europe. From MacMillan, through Heath, Thatcher, Major, Cameron and now May. Each has faced the dilemma of knowing that Britain has lost its empire but not the allusion to still “rule the waves”. The latest episode of this seemingly never ending saga is about to begin with the civil war which to elect of Theresa May’s successor.
Over the decades the right of British politics has, like the right wing across the Western world, been able to do one thing, and one thing only, well; garner votes! While the left obsesses about each and every minor point of principle, the right cares not a fig as long as they stay in power. The capacity to adopt and adapt has always been perfectly fine as long as they maintain their grip on the levers of economic power. The ability to help each other help themselves overrides all other concerns.
But for the right in the UK and especially in England there is a flaw in their psyche like a stone in your shoe which makes them incapable of coming to terms with the whole issue of Europe. They want all the advantages of free trade, ease of movement etc for themselves but cannot accept that this involves a quid pro quo of reciprocal arrangements. Something about a goose and a gander!
Now that we’ve watched as successive mad brexiteers have come and gone as Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, each one less successful than the last at negotiating a deal, we have the spectacle of the same failures now battling for the top job. We’ve watched as fanatical brexiteers have voted time and again against brexit because it does not meet their personal ideological purity levels. The debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin almost seems sensible in comparison to the contortions of the ERG and their fellow travellers.
It seems hard to recall that the freedoms to move goods, services and people was regarded as Thatcher’s greatest triumph! Almost as hard as believing that there is a purely technical solution to movement of goods, services and people in Ireland which does not involve a hard border unless they are willing to accept that a person can legally travel across Europe to Ireland and then hop on the ferry to Liverpool etc with no barriers.
The upside of all of this is the prospect of the Tory party tearing itself in at least two. A prospect which becomes ever more likely with each seat gained by the Mad Hatter and his Brexit Party. The tories face a fairly straightforward choice, they can choose to recognise the real world and its failings, tell people that £350 million a week for the NHS etc was a lie, that the world needs compromises to move forward just as each and every one of us deals with each and every day. Or, they can continue to peddle the myth that it is actually possible to have your bread and eat it simultaneously. Probably with jam today and tomorrow! The brexiteers want Independence for England and I suspect that most of them will be happy to be rid of Scotland and N Ireland if that’s the price!
Whoever takes over from Theresa May faces the “same swivel eyed loons” she did. The hard rump of about 80 – 100 MPs who care more about their purity than reality. The Parliamentary arithmetic will simply not change with a new PM unless they go to the country and that carries a real existential risk to Labour as much as the tories.
The bonus for us, is that while the tories have been demonstrating that they would not be safe if left in charge of the proverbial sweetshop, the supposed “opposition” have been demonstrating an utter inability to inflict corporal punishment on a bovine creature with a stringed instrument. It’s almost beyond belief that even now the Labour Party still trail in many opinion polls! They know that Corbyn has been shown up as an utter charlatan, totally bereft of principle and absolutely unable to take a decision. Labour is in reality as split, divided and uncertain as the Tories. Yet the small part of the Labour Party which knows this is now utterly unable to act having failed in the last Parliament to dump him. The irony for Europe is that the only ones who’ll miss the Mad Hatter are his fellow travellers like Salvini and Le Pen, who all want to stay in the EU anyway. The bonus for Europe is that with a hard brexiteer likely to win the Tory leadership, they will at least be spared the rantings of the Mad Hatter. Now, that’s quite a bonus.