The Danger Zone
As the £ sinks to unprecedented low levels, the warning signs for Britain are going up – apparently everywhere except in Britain. Reports from London say ‘eat, drink and be merry’ doesn’t go half way to describing the attitude to Brexit and a potential no-deal departure. ‘Just quit’ is the mood, ‘and get it over with.’ Of course, Mrs May did all the wrong things right from the start. But she cannot be accused of having treated Brexit trivially. Now she is departing, and the mercenaries on both sides of the divide gird their loins for another scrap and a further attempt to squeeze better terms out of the EU. They do not know when to stop.
Divorces are often messy. Blame is freely scattered from one party to the other. That is happening in Britain now. So far the whole thing has been a version of jolly japes, people in odd top hats and colourful placards outside the Palace of Westminster. As the shutters go up on the parliament building for a long-overdue restoration – to prevent Members of Parliament getting drenched while sitting in the debating chamber – the shutters are also going up on the unwritten British Constitution. Sad as it may seem, it was always a drag on modernisation. Perhaps a refurbished Chamber could herald a refurbished, and written, constitution?
By itself this will not, I fear, create a sparkling new bunch of cabinet ministers or a posse of lively opposition members. They all look so tired, which is understandable, and fed up, which is not. They wanted to be parliamentarians so I think they should enjoy it. The parliamentary debates are broadcast but nobody listens. The language is often turgid and repetitious. The whole business of communicating between the cabinet / government and the people needs a complete overhaul. At present it resembles reporting a traffic jam on the M25 motorway.
Whether there is another referendum or a General Election doesn’t matter. One or other will come along pretty soon – within a week if Boris becomes Prime Minister, I shouldn’t wonder. At present that would be run on the overcharged emotions of the Remainers and the Leavers. Fake news of the Johnson sort would be rife. It would be a one-issue vote either by design, if a referendum, or by timing, if election. The people do not appear to be thinking straight. They are so fed up that any solution including – increasingly enthusiastically – a no-deal, will suit. But no-deal will do a lot of damage and Britain will take twenty-five years to recover from it.
Leaving the EU, leaving the status of Empire, leaving the widely accepted position of a political world leader, are all hard things to do. They need to be done with dignity, with genuine search for the right niche for the future. Britain has much to offer beyond being a outsized BVI or a quaint tourist attraction. Some of the best creativity resides in Britain. Many of the brightest brains and most diligent entrepreneurs are there.
Thomas Gray wrote in his ‘Elegy written in a country churchyard’:
Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.
It is not time for Elegy yet but what he says is true. There is tremendous, largely untapped, talent available if it can be properly managed and energised. I am fortunate that I can say that of all my eleven grandchildren. It is rare indeed to be able to do so.
So, Britain, show us what you can be. Develop a reason for following you and you will become leader again. For all the political stupidity there is much goodwill in the world about the green and pleasant land. But the future will not be the past updated. It will be a genuine leap forward. A battle of wits not of guns. Something the British brain and temperament is well able to exploit.
It won’t be ‘on the beaches’ but ‘in the laboratories’.
It won’t be ‘we will never surrender’ it will be ‘we will win our way to the top’.
The words change. The spirit behind them is as dogged as ever.
It is British.