Without wishing to sound too much “told you so”, looking back on what I’ve written here over the last 5-years, it’s evident that a lot of it was on the money. Overall, the experience of the last 5-years has diminished our national prosperity and damaged reputations.
There’s a number of central points that shine through the fog.
For a start, Brexit was not just one event which when delivered would bring an end to decades of introspection about Britain’s place in the world. If anything, the subject is higher on the agenda than it has been for a long time. All twists and turns are analysed in terms of – where are we going?
The underlying theme of the recent years has been to try to restore an imagined past. For some people this is an imperial role. It’s a lamenting of a time when the school map was red with the British empire. This is, in part, a culture war like that played out by Trump in his term in office in the United States. Instead of applying the immense variety of our heritage as a solid foundation it’s being weaponised.
Political deception has been fuelled by an age of ubiquitous social media. When so much information, true and false, is pumped out every moment, opinions eclipse facts more frequently than in the past. The louder the incessant shouting, the more money backing the campaigns, the more likely the result impacts policy and decision making.
Perpetual uncertainty is now expected. Any deals, agreements or working arrangements, however magnificent, are viewed as moments that pass. The traditional phrase “my word is my bond” has no meaning amongst a large band of politicians. Maybe this is a tactical chasing of public opinion data that’s pushed aside any strategic thinking.
The question can be asked: was all this inevitable? Would it have happened in one form or another even if the referendum vote of June 2016 had gone a different way? On this one, I’m pessimistic. The idea that a public vote won or lost by a very small margin puts a subject to bed for all time is childish, to say the least. Such votes are an indication of something deeper.
Yet again our technology speeds ahead of us, far exceeding our ability to cope with it. Both our salvation and our prison warden, we can articulate grander visions but are tied by primitive instincts.
In my view this is the great merit of social liberal politics. The need for balance. The need for fairness. Instead of letting the libertarian monster out of the bag or denying our human frailties, taking them both into the mix is far wiser than our current destructive course.
A British politician once said all political careers end in failure. That failure can be avoided, like a mature sports personality, stepping down at the optimal time. For Prime Minister Johnson, all indications are that he’ll crash the ship of state rather than change direction. Let’s hope the choice is taken from him by a change made by the public. The humble voter.