I don’t know about you but I’ve about had my fill of politics.
I write about this horrific racket for a living but even I have been worn down by the tedium, the inertia, the grandstanding, the sanctimony and the self-serving careerism on display at Westminster.
Last Friday was supposed to be Brexit’s big opening night. Ministers and MPs had almost three years to rehearse. The bills were posted, the stage was set, but when the curtain went up, the cast refused to play. Parliament proved once again that it is a longer-running farce than anything on the West End.
Our political apparatus has been thrown into chaos; a referendum has, in essence, been ignored; and Friday saw a mob take to the streets to hear the rancid ranting of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a far-Right thug who goes by the alias Tommy Robinson.
At a time when we need a dose of Churchillian statesmanship, antics at Westminster have left voters frustrated, our European partners exasperated and markets agitated. Never was so much imperilled for so many by so few.
A referendum on EU membership was always a terrible idea in our parliamentary system. The public leaned Eurosceptic; MPs were overwhelmingly Europhile. Any fool — except, of course, David Cameron — could foresee conflict between the popular will and the parliamentary one.
By rights, there should be a General Election. The Commons refuses to implement the results of a referendum and, in the case of Labour and Tory MPs, their own manifesto pledges. This is democratic malpractice and should occasion an opportunity for voters to choose new representatives, ones who actually represent them.
The thought of another General Election — our third in five years — brings most Britons out in a cold sweat. ‘Not another one,’ as Brenda from Bristol would sigh. Since both main parties have been Janus-faced on Brexit, there is also no realistic prospect of a change of government bringing about a change of policy.
A People’s Vote offers no way forward, for it too disregards the outcome of the 2016 plebiscite. A second Leave vote would move us no further forward while a switch to Remain would not be accepted by Brexiteers, who would campaign just as lustily as Remainers to overturn a result they deemed harmful to the national interest.
No, we’re stuck with Brexit. The relevant questions now are what kind of Brexit and what timeframe for delivery. Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement was as close to hard Brexit as Leavers were ever likely to get — and they cocked their noses at it.
Some did so because they are like Samson, who, when captured by the Philistines, brought the temple crashing down on his own head because it would crush his enemies too. Others are simply tabling their opening offer for the next Tory leadership contest. They figure vying to see who can adopt the most extreme position will put them in good stead with the membership. Regrettably, they are probably right.
Brexit is too important to be decided by party political calculations and so May must put the country first. That means compromising between the Brexit promised to and voted for by the electorate and the anti-Brexit sentiments of most MPs.
The foundations of such a compromise already exist in the form of an amendment tabled last week by Labour MPs Lisa Nandy and Gareth Snell, who both represent Leave constituencies. Their proposal would see MPs back the withdrawal agreement in exchange for a say over the next round of talks and, Nandy told a television interviewer yesterday, the UK remaining in the customs union.
The government has already indicated sympathy for the first part but would have to sweeten the deal to bring enough Labour MPs on board. This might be May’s last chance to salvage her deal and so she must summon what humility is in her possession and give a speech admitting her errors so far and offering to set aside her party allegiances and work with Labour backbenchers to cut a compromise that could be presented at the next European Council meeting.
This would be based on the Nandy template with one addition: a pledge to rejoin the single market if an ‘emergency brake’ on freedom of movement can be agreed in the second stage of negotiations. Such a pause on immigration from other European Economic Area states already exists but applies regionally rather than nationally.
Some academics have argued that the UK could trade off remaining in the EEA in exchange for the right to impose a temporary pause on inward migration at times of high volume or when economic counter-effects can be demonstrated. Switzerland, a member of EFTA but not the EU, already operates a softer version of a migration brake.
This would be a huge gamble but it might just peel off enough Labour votes to pass. The EU would be highly sceptical and it would fall to May’s successor to convince them of the common interests involved.
Working with Labour MPs against the hard Brexit outlined in the 2017 Tory manifesto would be incendiary on the Tory backbenches and could eventually split the party. The Tories got us into this mess and their demise may be the price of getting us back out.
The above proposal is incredibly messy, which is why logic still tells me a General Election is needed. What that logic can’t answer though is this: What if Jeremy Corbyn won?
It is a stomach-churning prospect for all decent people, and even those who are thoroughly indecent but still have their red lines. It is, however, a very real danger.
A poll in the Mail on Sunday puts Labour five points ahead, giving Corbyn’s mob a dozen or so seats shy of a majority. You see where this is going? Only by teaming up with the SNP, either in a formal coalition or a supply and confidence pact, could Labour form a government.
If Corbyn as Prime Minister fills you with dread, how do you fancy Nicola Sturgeon as de facto Deputy Prime Minister?
Taxes up, defences down, red flag hoisted, Trident sunk, and independence referendums until Scots finally vote the ‘right’ way. Corbyn would control one of the five member-states of the UN Security Council and be able to tip the balance of global power away from the United States and over to Russia and China.
Today, he is a crank with an allotment. If he makes it to Downing Street, he will be a crank with all the resources of the British state at his disposal.
Polling shows that four in ten British Jews are ‘seriously considering’ fleeing the country if Corbyn comes to power. Even if only a fraction left, it would still be a moment of national shame, with images of Jewish families piling onto planes at Heathrow and Gatwick beamed around the world for all to see. We would become a pariah state.
It would mark a collective humiliation too, given Corbyn’s well-documented sympathies for the IRA during its terror war against our country.
When Patrick Magee, the Brighton Bomber, went on trial in 1986 for murdering five people while trying to assassinate Margaret Thatcher, a small ‘solidarity demo’ was held outside the court, until police arrested the participants for obstruction. One of those participants was an MP named Jeremy Corbyn.
The idea of putting that man in Downing Street ought to be unconscionable but the polls suggest that is what we intend to do.
Britain is faced with two imperatives, one democratic and the other moral. Democracy requires that we honour the result of the EU referendum and morality that we do not allow a man like Jeremy Corbyn to come to power in this country.
We must compromise our ideal outcomes or we risk compromising ourselves.