The way I see it, the issue of the moment is whether in the wake of the EU Referendum the UK is now in the grip of worrying or exciting times.
The true answer may be probably be both – and I guess it may depend upon which side of the political spectrum and indeed Brexit argument you stand.
We hear that those who voted for Brexit are paranoid that the dismayed and wrong-footed Westminster political elite are fully intent on preventing the UK leaving the EU by fair means or foul. They cite as evidence the braying of those on all sides of the House of Commons who are demanding a re-run of the Referendum on grounds that the Leavers lied (or should that be ‘lied more extensively or persuasively that the Remainers did’?) and/or that in legal/constitutional terms a referendum in the UK is ‘advisory only’ and that therefore a Commons vote, or even a new General Election, is technically required.
You could even argue that the amazing swiftness/skill with which the Tory Party managed to ‘kill off’ every potential Tory Leaver pretender, leaving Theresa May as sole leadership candidate after Mr Cameron announced his intention to resign, thereafter to be crowned her as his successor within 48 hours – this in the wake of widespread expectation that the Tory leadership campaign should run 9 weeks and that no move to invoke Article 50 (by which the UK’s negotiation of leaving the EU would be triggered) should be made for at least another six months – is all part of the Establishment ruse to circumvent the EU Referendum result.
[The one development that could not possibly be regarded by conspiratorial theorists as part of an Establishment plot, of course, is the tangle that the Labour Party has got itself into over Mr Corbyn’s leadership woes and the ‘fight for the soul of the Labour movement’.]
There’s little doubt about it – and here I attempt (and probably fail) to cast aside all smugness in tone: no nation on Earth does changes of Prime Ministers and governments (or political leaders generally), with quite such exceptional splendour, pomp, sense of history, style, panache and sense of national togetherness as Great Britain.
In 2016 we may be a quaint little island, clinging to the wreckage of what little global prestige and influence we have left now we’ve voted to leave the top table [if that is your view of Brexit], but goddamn it folks, we’re the envy of the world when it comes to organising a State or semi-State occasion, in which description I’d include all Royal births, deaths, marriages, funerals and coronations.
[Anyway, as all about you is going up in smoke and indeed to rack and ruin, you’ve got to cling on to whatever you can find to give yourself a boost.]
To end with today, I wanted to remark upon the weirdness of the Downing Street departure of David Cameron and arrival of Theresa May.
Firstly, what struck me as I watched the media pundits and presenters struggling their best to keep up with the blur of events and issues that still beset the nation – ranging from Mr Cameron’s last Prime Minister’s Question Time in the Commons to his trip to Buckingham Palace to resign, then Mrs May’s similar ‘to kiss hands’ with HM The Queen, right through to dark tales of the Labour Party NEC’s epic meeting that ended with the decision to allow Jeremy Corbyn an automatic place amongst the Labour candidates for its newly-enforced leadership contest – was how little changes in terms of the attitudes of politicians and members of the public alight.
To put it bluntly, if you’re a Labour supporter, the 2008 global financial crash was all the fault of bankers, the Tory toffs and their fat cat pals who – ever since the subsequent 2010 General Election – have used that crisis as an excuse to renew their relentless attack upon the living standards and human rights of the downtrodden, the poor, the vulnerable, the disabled and the disadvantaged.
On the other hand, if you’re a Tory supporter, the 2008 financial disaster was made a minimum 50% worse than it might have been by the inevitable failure of the Labour government’s economic policies since 1997 which, after the 2010 General Election, the Coalition and then (post-2015) the Tory governments had to reverse and then replace with a sound and prudent ‘long-term economic plan’ that necessarily involved reducing the national debt and ‘balancing the books’.
Yesterday it was noticeable that, without exception, every Labour politician and commentator interviewed stressed the importance of Labour putting its current troubles aside as quickly as possible in order to not only start acting as a credible Opposition but winning the next General Election, simply in order to ‘stop and reverse’ the systematic running-down of the UK economy by the Tory government in their traditional and deliberate ongoing campaign to inflict pain and suffering upon the nation’s working classes and defenceless.
Simultaneously it was plain that all those interviewed of a Tory persuasion spoke from a position of inherent belief/conceit that (1) the country has been run prudently and properly since 2010 (after the unremitting disaster of the Labour years); and that (2) any policy that Labour had ever put into effect when it was first in government in 1924 – and indeed and argument it had made, or could make, in opposition to the government, or indeed any new policy it announced or espoused – was, by definition, crap and/or deleterious to the nation’s wellbeing and fortune.
In short, those who support the Labour and Tory parties view every current affairs development, great or small, national or international, good or bad, through the prism of their political allegiance. All Labour politicians – and all Labour-supporting economists – see nothing praiseworthy at all in the Tories’ supposed economic successes … and regard every item of bad economic news as further proof that the Tories have got it wrong.
Just as those who support the Tories see the same current affairs developments through the telescope (or microscope) of their own view of the world.
Maybe neither – or both – are right or wrong, or even right and wrong. It all depends upon how you look at the world.
My other observations were upon Mr Cameron and Mrs May.
David Cameron seemed to make a good fist of departing the politician scene – or at least Downing Street – at the relatively youthful age of 49. You weren’t going to find many breaking cover in public yesterday to criticise him or his Premiership.
And yet – for me – he was neither a great politician nor statesman. A bit like Tony Blair (indeed, if memory serves, he once said it was his ambition to be a Tory version of Blair), he seemed to have few principles beyond the ambition to reach the top of the greasy pole. He always took a pragmatic and short term view of times of crisis, most often made policy up on the hoof … and did U-turns or changed his policies whenever it suited … and constantly sought the media limelight on all and every subject he could.
Who can forget Mr Cameron’s botched attempt to present himself as a ‘man of the people’ by claiming to support West Ham … or was it Aston Villa (he had been told it was a team that wore claret and blue – and anyway a busy Prime Minister cannot be expected to remember everything he’s told, can he? …)
[Mind you that was little different from Tony Blair claiming to support Newcastle United and having watched Jackie Milburn from the terraces … only for it later to be proved that Milburn was long retired before Blair would have been anywhere near St James’s Park].
As for Mrs May, our new Prime Minister, and our second (Tory) female one.
The one thing that concerned me yesterday, as she made her incoming speech to the assembled media outside Number 10 (and indeed when the broadcasters replayed a recording of one of her ‘leadership campaign’ speeches’) she was waffling unconvincingly in politico-babble about seeking to bringing the nation together, whether we be rich or poor, have or have not, white or black, man or woman … and so on … she began to sound alarmingly like Mrs Thatcher when she arrived for the first time at Number 10 in 1979.
Should we be worried?
Judge for yourselves – see here (and you may have to ‘click’ something and/or wait for the clips to begin etc.):