What’s on offer
The two contenders for the role of Prime Minister in the UK have now had most of their self-promoting rallies and the free television time allotted to demonstrate their wares. Martin Wolf, in yet another lucid piece in the Financial Times, has written the saddest article I have read about Britain in my 87 years. It is well worth a read but for those who care about the country I recommend a new box of tissues for tears and a strong Scotch to fortify the spirit. Nobody likes decline, we all hate fall. But Decline and Fall it undoubtedly is.
How can we summarise the hopefuls’ pitches and how explain their approach to Brexit? Remember, they are faced with exactly the same problems as was Mrs May. The country is still divided roughly fifty-fifty for and against membership of the EU. Emotions have, if anything, got stronger, reason, less evident. Promises made in the course of electioneering for Top Job have made the European Union angrier. The new leaders of the EU have probably got round to the view that they wouldn’t want Britain back anyway.
Jeremy Hunt, who desported himself well on his visit to Singapore as Foreign Secretary, is in the embarrassing position of having voted ‘remain’ only to now have to promote ‘leave’. Johnson, on the other hand, is in the embarrassing position of having had no opinion about whether Britain should stay or go. He doesn’t care, as long as he is Prime Minister because the job was on his first bucket list, while still at school. Two flexible politicians seemingly interested in one thing only.
There is more to being Prime Minister than Brexit and the rest of the business of governing Britain has been sadly neglected for the last three years. The roads are full of potholes. The National Health Service, admirable in concept, is being incredibly badly managed and is as political as Parliament itself. Police forces have been run down and need building up again – redundancy paid out for nothing. The armed forces are brilliantly stocked with ultra modern weapons they don’t have the equipment to use. Cybersecurity is caught – as it is everywhere – between technological progress and extreme caution, which today spells vulnerability.
The social system in Britain is way ahead of the funds to pay for it.
And yet both contenders for Downing Street are making promises of even greater spending coupled with substantial tax cuts. The Emperor has no clothes on (see the Daily Paradox 12Jull19 ‘The breaking of the Treaty’). Britain has no politicians willing to admit it. What may happen to such a Sorry State?
The Scots are positioning themselves to become independent and part of the EU. It makes sense for them, for sure. The Irish are starting to think the unthinkable – a United Ireland. It makes sense for them, too. The Welsh have always had fancy ideas but I doubt they will come to anything; count them still in the United Kingdom. The first-past-the-post system of democracy is discredited but there is no alternative in sight. The special relationship with the United States may get a favourable blip when Johnson takes over but it won’t survive the first Twittery Tweet.
Johnson will not try reconciling opposing views about Europe. It’s not his style. He will opt for ramping up feelings to such a pitch that everyone not deeply pro-Europe will vote anti-Europe with him and he will get a bigger majority as a result of the election he plans to hold as soon as Brexit gets tough. Corbyn will be overthrown in the Labour Party for suggesting a second referendum and losing seats at the election.
Such manufacturing as is left will, where possible, exit Britain, which will move nearer to being a third-world country with each succeeding year. If there is a thick fog in the Channel the Continent will certainly be isolated – that’s as the British will see it, anyway. Gloomy prognostications, but it is difficult not to make them. There will be some things left. Britain will still be beautiful, the Chelsea Flower Show and all the local shows that try to emulate it will continue to delight. Summer will be stunning, at least that bit of it not spent in a traffic jam.
In due course, and post-Trump, Britain will seek to become the Holiday State of the United States. Visitors will make up the bulk of the country’s income and property prices will rocket as all wealthy Americans look for their little cottage in the Isles.
The special relationship will at last have been consummated.
Just watch out for the low-flying pigs.