Persistent or stubborn?

It could never come to this. At least that is what I believed. Old enough to have lived through and remember WWII, young enough to still be learning, the concept of isolation in a world of Facebook and Amazon seems perverse. The autumn of the planet is not to be strewn with golden leaves but with the tears of those soon to depart. The winter that follows will be chill indeed. Brexit.

The word itself is brittle, dominated by a negative (exit). A snappy politician’s summation of a lifetime’s work for many people. Well, Brexit is broken, whatever happens next. Not broken in the ‘can be mended’ sense but broken in the sense that history will revel in its stupidity. Ignorance compounded by stubbornness is the ultimate sign of a dying species. ‘Sign’ or ‘sin’?

Probably both. Lewis Thomas* got it right when he said “We haven’t yet learned how to stay human when assembled in masses”. From Greece to America – the origin of civilisation and the epitome of it – masses riot for civilised behaviour – the ultimate shot in your own foot. Once the crowds could have been separated, not any more. Now the battlefield is internet, a fine-meshed tackle that catches all. More committing than matrimony, it sticks even beyond mortality.

To embark on a separation of such powers is foolish. To do so without a Plan B is criminal. Even foxes have two exits to their earths. Plan B exists even if you don’t know what it is. That must surely be the first lesson a politician learns. In business it is relatively simple. No Plan B and you go bust. Not perhaps the ignominy that it used to be but still not your objective of choice.

On the military front line, Plan B is clear – retreat or be massacred. Massacre has proved to be unpopular. In the break-up of a contract be prepared to abandon divorce if circumstances change to make that the sensible course of action. Always leave a door open, anyway. Escape is often the way you came. To have no Plan B, no inkling of how you will correct a ghastly mistake, is crazy.

Good can come out of most situations. Lessons learnt, better preparedness, realistic assessment of the issues, politicians doing the job for which they were voted, an understanding of the things that matter in life and the trivia that don’t, all these are possible outcomes after Brexit. But the lesson that is most important is Plan B. You can never guarantee that it will be right or even doable. You can be sure that if you don’t have it you will end up in an inescapable muddle.

Referenda are an abdication by politicians of their duty. They are not elected to count those in favour and those against. Their job is to lead, to show why their decision is the right one. When they fail to do that they abdicate their duty. So is Mrs May being the right sort of leader? Probably not. Perseverance in negotiation is admirable, stubbornness in the face of disaster is not.

The clever leader puts herself above the fray, is seen as the all-wise judge, is trusted first then followed. What the British Prime Minister is in might best be described as May’s Fray. A maze of sorts – but the puns must stop there. The union with Europe is too precious to laugh about. We need a light on the path forward now. Without it Britain will meander like a wayward river, bouncing off the banks, cutting deeper and deeper into the isolation Brexit set.

What’s your Plan B, Mrs May, persistence or stubbornness?

And do you know the difference?

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