Which People decided?
To be a responsible leader you have to lead. David Cameron is a responsible leader – or, at least I thought he was until he resigned. I even said he had to resign at the time. His credibility seemed destroyed by a majority Leave vote. Well, by 52% of those who voted, anyway. Some 30% of eligible voters didn’t bother. That means that about 36% of eligible voters voted Leave. Slightly over a third. It’s not much of a winning margin, is it?
It is less than a week since the vote and a week as we know is a long time in politics. The immediate impact of Brexit has been nastier than we expected. Britain’s credibility in the world has taken a bigger knock than everyone thought it would. Even our credit rating has been downgraded, notwithstanding that we are – or were – doing better than most other major European countries. But none of this is what matters. What matters is unthinkable.
Droves of leavers have got Voters’ Remorse; they didn’t mean it. They thought it was a way of pulling a face at Europe, just as Europe is now thinking of ways of pulling a face at Britain. “No informal talks” is the first version of this. There will be others. A majority of Brits now wish to heaven that the vote had gone the other way. Everyone can see that, especially the Leavers. B Johnson is terrified of what he has let out of the box he so nearly didn’t open.
Oh, yes, I suspect that of all the people who regret it most Boris is top of the list. Intellectually clever, charismatic in a populist way and enormous fun to be with, he is always unassailably ambitious. He subscribes to any jape that will further his political race with David Cameron. It is a very personal, Eton Boys, race, a love-hate race to the Wall. Nothing wrong with that in normal circumstances. Brexit did not qualify as normal. They should both have known that Brexit was not a jape. Cameron realised that; perhaps Johnson didn’t.
Whether the idea of a National Coalition Government (yesterday’s Daily Paradox) gets any traction or not it is the duty of our leaders to rescue the situation. Ruling out another referendum is as daft as calling the first one. A departing Prime Minister actually has some power left because he has little more to lose. If the people have changed, and are changing, their minds he should respond to that as forcefully as he responded to the Brexit vote.
Is it possible to turn the ship round? Can a Leave vote be ignored because some of those voters now regret doing so? Is it politically possible to reverse the decisive and clear decision the Prime Minister announced? Certainly it is. The process of leaving has not even begun as far as Europe is concerned. And David Cameron has no more face to lose.
Great statesmen change their minds – history is littered with examples. St Paul on Christianity; Tolstoy on pacifism; Eton-educated George Orwell on class privilege; F.W.De Klerk on apartheid; Mikhail Gorbachev on Communism; Lincoln on slavery, Obama on gay marriage and marijuana; Hilary Clinton on same-sex marriages. All of these in their way were culture-changing. So would a reversal of the Brexit decision be.
If Cameron was instrumental in changing the decision he wouldn’t be thanked. Politicians who make big decisions in history never are. As soon as WWII was won the electorate threw out Churchill and appointed the Labour Party to run Britain. That is their right and you do not enter politics for immediate gratitude. But if you want a lasting legacy you have to lead.
This is the only leading left for the Prime Minister. He should grasp it.