There is no leader currently in view who can heal Britain's state of anguished crisisby Alex Massie / June 11, 2019 / Leave a comment
The selection of a new prime minister, even when the exercise is conducted without the endorsing legitimacy of a general election, is supposed to be accompanied by something approaching a frisson of anticipation, even hope. A new beginning; a resetting of politics; a fresh sense of possibility. Not so on this occasion. The race to replace Theresa May is instead filled with foreboding, the grim sense that matters will have to get worse before they can get better. Britain today is not a land that still believes in a place called hope.
Incentives remain cruelly misaligned. The country requires some kind of compromise, some attempt at rapprochement that will, at long last, ease the state of anguished crisis in which the UK finds itself. But we cannot move on from Brexit without accomplishing Brexit, and yet Brexit cannot be accomplished without enhancing the dangers of the crisis in which we find ourselves. There are no pain-free options here.
No serious contender for the Tory leadership can advance his—or her—cause except in profoundly unserious ways. Hence a plethora of Brexit “plans,” which rest on the proposition that a new prime minister will be able to achieve a better Brexit deal in three months than May achieved in three years. If this is not impossible, it remains vanishingly improbable.
Meanwhile, Labour MPs see no reward in rescuing the government from its predicament. Jeremy Corbyn, against much internal grumbling, is running Labour as a functionally pro-Brexit party, but he does not extend this to voting for a Brexit made, and owned, by the Conservative Party. Labour asks that the country “move on” from Brexit to focus on more important matters. But it will not provide the votes needed to do the deal, and start the “moving on.”
Judged dispassionately, that is hardly an unreasonable position. Governments propose and oppositions oppose. Nevertheless there is a palpable yearning for this whole saga to come to an end, one way or another sooner rather than later. We have been consumed by Brexit chaos for far too long.
So be it, perhaps. The people voted for Brexit and they must suffer it. Nevertheless, the damage done to the Conservative and Labour parties will not be repaired soon. Change UK may have proved a squib that is now…