I’ve dashed this off rather quickly because, although it’s only been brewing in my head for about 48 hours, things in UK politics are changing so rapidly and so insanely that by Thursday the entire country may be under martial law governed by a junta. So it’s not as concise as I’d like, and it should probably be two separate posts.
Still, when the British government are announcing that they might start ignoring the law just because they feel like it, I’m not absolutely sure writing a perfect blog post is terribly important.
[And yes, I know I promised at least a couple more writing exercises, but I’ve been busy, and then travelling, then travelling while sick, and then just sick.]
Comparisons with the English Civil War have abounded ever since the extent of the country’s division over Brexit became clear.
And it’s a tempting correlation. Like the Civil War, Brexit has split the UK along entirely new lines. Rich side with poor, north with south, urban with rural, and family members are almost literally at daggers drawn.
But it’s that “almost literally” that embodies the difference. We’re all furious about it – whichever side we’re on – but none of us are actually going to take up arms and make this a real fighting war.
Of course, that’s partly because we don’t in fact have arms to fight with. Yes, most of us could muster a pointy stick, but that’s about it. We don’t have swords. We don’t (thank God) have firearms. Any pitchfork you might have hanging around the house is likely to be doing exactly that – suspended on the wall for decoration, the shaft long since well and truly hollowed out by woodworm.
But it isn’t even the lack of weapons that makes it different.
As with most wars, the English Civil War had a range of complex causes, including religious differences – the key reason why the Brexit situation isn’t and never can be the same – but essentially it arose because the people of Britain weren’t apathetic.
These days, we have our toasters and our TVs and our steel-belted radials and although we do say something, we do nothing. We protest, we march, we sign petitions and crowdfund billboards, but we don’t take direct action. We don’t (again, thankfully) start killing our neighbours just because they’re on the other side. Why? Because we might lose our perceived personal freedom. Before the real Civil War, things were different. People already were losing their personal and religious freedom, and their possessions. And they weren’t as distant from death and reality as we are today.
The right wing, with their advanced grasp of the best levers to use on the masses, have long since realised this. So they’re not worried. Particularly as the left are still ineffectually trying to combine their parties, or create new left-wing ones, to beat the Tories and bring this madness to an end.
Which leaves me wondering why nobody’s thought to create a party on the right, to soak up the traditional Tory voters and siphon them away from the loonier, Boris end of the party. To establish a common sense, traditional conservative with a small C approach to the whole Brexit issue.
It’s not like there aren’t plenty of Tories who could be involved. Ken Clarke. Michael Heseltine. Dominic Grieve. John Major. I’ve said and thought many rude things about all of them in the past, but these days they seem to be the only people in British politics talking any kind of sense.
All it would take is a rich backer to support individual candidates in every suitable seat – because there probably isn’t time to form a party as such before the next General Election – who’d all stand on a common platform, with a single name. One Nation Tories, perhaps?
I reckon that would split the Tory vote and lose them more seats than anything else, and perhaps bring some sadly lacking common sense onto the UK’s political landscape. After all, Macron did exactly the same thing in France two years ago. Surely it’s worth a go?
2 thoughts on “How to win the British Political War”
Interesting idea, but the tory establishment figures you mention would never go for it.
One of your premises seems flimsy also – as in N.Ireland they do have guns and have killed each other not so long ago… a return to ‘the troubles’ is a real possibility, and it could see a return of terrorism inside the UK, all of which will whip up the self-righteous.
Are they really establishment figures any more, though? It’s not like any of them have minced their words when it comes to Brexit.
And yes, you’re right about Northern Ireland, which is indeed perfectly able to perform authentic Civil War. That, of course, being the reason why the Irish Border issue is so important.