What our politicians have engaged in is a refusal to thinkby Lyndsey Stonebridge / December 17, 2018 / Leave a comment
“He didn’t think this through” tweeted human rights lawyer Adam Wagner last week in response to the suggestion that had he done so, David Cameron might have implemented a two-stage referendum or required a “super majority,” as might be appropriate given the enormity of the decision at issue.
In truth, it was worse than this: David Cameron didn’t think at all. He didn’t make an error of judgement in calling the Brexit vote, because that would have required actual judgement rather than mere calculation, or politically expedient reason. He was simply—and, as it turned out, catastrophically—thoughtless.
Cameron set the standard for what was to follow. The buffoons of Brexit, with their laddish bombast, silly hair, and Union Jack socks looked like exactly what they were: buffoons. Like the adults currently walking the streets wearing elf costumes made of cheap felt, they didn’t care if they looked stupid: it was Brexit!
Those in search of deep meaning behind the events of the past two years might, retrospectively, be tempted to see some cunning here. If it looks and sounds like a pantomime, if the glinty-eyed villains look like villains, if the machinations of the plot seem like a farce, if it’s all so stupid, perhaps people won’t take it seriously. They won’t take it seriously, and that way, we’ll win. Aha, not as stupid as we look!
But it is not stupidity alone that makes the situation so serious just now. Our current political debate—a debate in which not only political lives but real lives might be lost—lacks depth. Brexit is not only characterised by nakedly evident stupidity; its thoughtlessness is banal. That, in the long run,…