Yesterday’s events in parliament illustrated four things about our politics and the Brexit process that are now unavoidable. The first, and most evident, is that the Conservative party is not fit to govern. Let us leave aside for a moment its mendacious policies that pauperise the vulnerable and deport the eligible. Morally its agenda is contemptible; and from Windrush to trains to universal credit its incompetence is undeniable.
But even if the Conservatives were decent and effective, as a simple matter of capacity they are no longer even low-functioning – they are not viable. Terrified of their own members and overwhelmed with internal rivalry, they cannot run themselves let alone the country. Their divisions are multiple and irreconcilable. (True, many say the same about Labour. But there are two important distinctions: Labour did not get us into this mess; and it has a far more plausible plan to get us out of it.)
The Tories lack discipline, direction, cohesion, coherence, substance, stature and credibility. They haven’t got a clue and they have no idea how to get one. With May’s promised resignation we will see the baton yet again pass from one failure to the next, each abdicating responsibility for the legacy they bequeath, none claiming ownership for the calamity they have wrought.
This is not just a question of politics, but personnel. Take a look at those poised with indecent haste to replace May, and it is clear what a shallow and shabby bench they are drawing from. A contest in which Michael Gove is favourite, and Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are being seriously considered, owes more to reality TV than a party that wants to run the country with any serious intent. Things could get worse.
Second, we now have to have a second referendum. I have come to that conclusion belatedly and reluctantly. The first referendum was a mistake. But you can’t just support outcomes when they support you. Remain lost. There is a contemptuous sense of entitlement and condescension among a hard core of remain advocates that is not only deeply problematic but utterly counter-productive. That said, a narrow majority for a notion is not the same as a mandate for a plan: we voted to leave, and nearly three years later we clearly don’t know how. [Continue reading…]