Order will emerge from the chaos, one better suited to the realities of 21st century Britainby Charlotte Leslie / May 10, 2019 / Leave a comment
“I don’t know really.” The person would shift uneasily on their doorstep. They did not like their MP asking them which way they would naturally vote. (I did not much like asking them.) “My dad was Labour. He’d turn in his grave if he knew I voted any other way, but—I don’t know anymore.” They would shrug. “You seem ok. I might vote for you.”
Why do I share this endlessly recurring little scene from my days as an MP? Because it begins to shed light on the question I am asked more than any other: “What on earth is going on with Brexit?”
But a warning: I cannot tell you what you are burning to know: what is going to happen tomorrow; who is going to pull what vote and what stunt and what tweet; I cannot even tell you whether there will be second referendum, a revocation of Article 50, a no-deal crash-out, or any Brexit at all, any more than a geo-scientist can tell you which bricks will fall where in an earthquake. But perhaps I can begin to suggest what forces are driving the movement of these tectonic plates over which our daily events roll, and even where it might lead us. If we are looking too closely at this turmoil to make sense of it, can zooming out give a clearer picture?
That desolate shrug was a familiar story, which became more familiar for every one of my seven years as a Conservative member of parliament. My seat was Bristol North West—a notorious “bell-weather” marginal seat, that has historically been a predicator of general elections. No government wins a majority without winning Bristol North West. It is a microcosm of Britain with many of the country’s different demographics represented. That is brilliant if you want to understand the differences between the demographics who make up the beautiful patchwork our country. Not so good if you want to be a safe-seat MP for 50 years. Luckily for me, I wanted the former.
Whether I was out canvassing my constituents, listening to their thoughts in pubs and cafes, or helping solve their problems in my MP’s surgery, one thing was clear: people felt little instinctive “belonging” to either of the two main parties. The terms “Conservative” and “Labour”simply did not speak to their sense of distinctive identity.…