My good friend and fellow blogger Keith Hann observed in a Tweet the other day that my last full blog for Voice of the North, comparing the state of government with that described in Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta The Mikado, was prescient.
And how! I only mentioned in passing the character Pooh-Bah who manages to roll up all the great offices of state in his one incarnation. It could never happen in reality could it? Only it seems it will have to, since Jeremy Corbyn, clinging on to his position as Labour Party leader by dint of the vote of membership rather than support of his parliamentary colleagues, finds himself embarrassingly short of shadow ministers. It’s certainly a thin front bench, and continually getting thinner: in the past week newly appointed Shadow Education Secretary Pat Glass managed only two days in post before resigning.
The Twittersphere is full of amusing comments about Labour’s meltdown. But it’s not good for Britain. While the ruling party flounders around trying to find itself a new leader, we should surely hope to look to some kind of opposition: that’s how representative democracy is meant to work. But it isn’t right now.
The Tory party is currently dysfunctional. The Prime Minister is off in a couple of months, so he is in effect the walking dead. Theresa May has become frontrunner since Boris dropped out: but now Michael Gove, the other guy to shaft his erstwhile friend David Cameron (and now Boris in turn), chucks his hat in the ring, despite earlier saying he wouldn’t.
Are you keeping up? I wouldn’t worry too much: as soon as I’ve posted this on the Voice of the North blog site it will be out of date, for sure.
I fancy neither Theresa May nor Michael Gove as Prime Minister. What makes me cross is that the electorate didn’t vote for either of them. I know we elect our local MP and it is only the accumulation of seats that determines who forms the government: but at last year’s election voters were offered, from the two main parties, David Cameron or Ed Miliband as potential PM.
Moreover, if the Tory government is about to lurch to the right under Michael Gove, that will not be what the electorate voted for. Of course, we didn’t really vote for who we got, in any case: because only a minority of eligible voters put a cross in the Tory box. But then, only 36% of eligible voters voted for Brexit.
Still keeping up? I’m not sure I am. To be honest, I’m deeply depressed by the whole political thing. And while racism raises its ugly head as a result, in my view, of both sides claiming (dishonestly) to offer an open and honest discussion about migration, the country is looking pretty sick.
It was repulsive last Tuesday to watch Nigel Farage sneering and disdainful, paying back old scores in the European Parliament. Sadly, it seems the rabble-rouser has finally found a really rabble to follow him: that should make us very afraid.
Politics is generally a chaotic business, and the current situation may yet sort itself out: the hysteria may die down and allow us to return to what passes for normal in the Westminster bubble – while the rest of the country gets on with its life, as it always does (and must).
Ever since the referendum result I find myself quoting Edmund Burke, reckoning that it was good people remaining silent who allowed evil (the evil of racism, not the result of the vote) in.
We have allowed the evil of racist voices to be heard: but let’s be realistic. We haven’t necessarily gone lastingly or catastrophically wrong – yet. Government must now grope its way towards enacting the will of the people as expressed in the vote: resetting the mechanisms and structures of international relations and trade must be achieved without our descending into xenophobia or hostility.
In order to ensure that negotiations are conduced in amity and goodwill with our European neighbours – notwithstanding the offence that they must inevitably have felt from our rejection of the EU – the positive voices of the good must truly be raised, and loudly, in order to drown out the snarls of racists and prevent real and lasting evil from taking root in our society.
I believe the danger is as great as that. But I am optimistic nonetheless.