In a new series of editorials where leading writers are free to say what they want under a pen name, Little Bird writes about that most thorniest of issues: Brexit.
This is a crisis on several fronts but underlying all of these is a crisis of faith. Not in God, but in ourselves, in those who lead us and in those who elect who leads us.
In common with most crises, people have stopped thinking straight. That generally makes crises worse, turning them into catastrophes. To avoid this, we need to step back, think rationally and rein in our anger, even though it may be justified. If we do not, we will be the authors of our own doom, no matter how much we cast around for scapegoats.
We put ourselves in this position and only we can get ourselves out of it. We need to take responsibility. There is no THEM to fix this; there is only US. In a democratic system, we elect the politicians we deserve and, through our actions and inactions, we determine how they govern us.
Let’s look at the events of the past week. After being squeezed through an utterly inflexible negotiation process, like a garment going through a mangle, Theresa May has presented the UK with the only Brexit deal she was ever going to get: a bad one. A bitterly divided party, a government riven with factions, a civil service acting against its better judgement, and her own personality traits did not help. However, the primary problem is that one side of the negotiation does not want any version of the outcomes sought, so the other side is on to an inevitable loser. Think about it. You approach someone in the street to try to buy his car, which he does not want to sell. Your chances of driving the car away for a bargain price? Close to nil. He has no reason to compromise, having no desire to sell. This is the EU. They do not want us to go. We are not buying something they want to sell, which gives the negotiation an extremely difficult dynamic.
Once May’s deal was revealed, those on both sides of the argument in the UK responded with anger and demanded deeper analysis of the pros and cons (well, cons anyway). The Government’s analysis and that of the independent Bank of England say the deal is a bad deal, although not as bad as the other options for leaving. Consequently, we are in a historically unique position: our government is knowingly pursuing a policy of national impoverishment, while telling us they are doing so. Governments have inflicted economic damage in the past, but not deliberately and overtly.
As if that were not insane enough, the reaction of many was not to oppose the policy but to insist that the Government and the Bank of England were lying about how bad it would be, and demand they ‘just get on with it’. Nothing new in accusing politicians of lying, but of pretending a good policy is a bad one? Never heard that one before.
Politicians sometimes have to say one thing and do something different, because we force them to. Politicians are not a uniquely dishonest class of people, as so many people now think. However, we elect politicians who tell us we can have what we want, and then lambast them when they get into power and admit to the inevitable compromises that government requires.
We reap what we sow. If we want a different arrangement, we need to have greater faith in the people we elect. Perhaps then they will be free to do their best for the country rather than trying to placate us with bodged solutions.