“Normal” politics will be unlikely to return in this Parliament

When Boris Johnson clambered on his bulldozer in the 2019 General Election and chanted the “Get Brexit Done” slogan he knew what he was doing. We were Brexit weary and most of us did indeed want to be rid of the thing. So eighteen months later, and with the worrying matter of a killer virus very much still with us, it’s hardly surprising that Brexit is less top of the mind than it was, as reported in The Times today. But it is very premature indeed to think that the consequences of Brexit have gone away.

Too much of a multitasking challenge…

Normal politics has been pushed to the side whilst our fellow citizens have been dying all around us. Coping with the gargantuan adjustments required of Britain alone and “contra mundum” at the same time as coping with COVID-19 is a multitasking beyond many of us. One thing at a time.

Boris Johnson hasn’t yet said “Get COVID Done” but give him time. And when he does it will be no more true than his Brexit slogan. Complex things in his rhetoric have to be reduced to the binary and, of course, Brexit is far from “done”. The impediments being put in the way of British businesses by our leaving the European Union appear in the newspapers every day. And when people start to travel again the realities of the personal inconveniences of no longer having freedom of movement in Europe will hit home as well.

That Britain is becoming a pariah State in Europe and the wider world will start to dawn on us once we stop worrying about whether Granny will die of COVID. And for the surviving Grannies the fact that our teenage grandchildren face a future without the freedom to travel, work and live in 30 countries across the Continent will dawn on us as well. The Brexit “Deal” may nominally be done. Its consequences we’ve hardly truly addressed let alone resolved.

Party politics became irrelevant in the Age of COVID. Johnson and Co. didn’t mismanage Britain’s response to the virus because they were Conservatives. They messed it up because they were incompetent. That the drivers of Brexit were profoundly political you need to be a bit of a student of Right Wing politics to understand. That is why the “Leave” proponents didn’t talk about them but stuck to faux-patriotism, preposterous WW2 metaphors and references backed by downright lies.

Whether the Government will be punished for its mismanagement of COVID is doubtful. If the herd immunity strategy behind the rapid vaccination programme works all will be forgotten. When we have all either had COVID , died from it or have been vaccinated against it we can move on to other things.

Sir Keir Starmer is criticised by many for not only having abandoned opposition to Brexit but for having been mild in his criticism of the Government over COVID. In my view he had no choice. The Government plays the patriot card at every opportunity and puts out the flags everywhere. Starmer knows that among the many things that scuppered his predecessor were accusations of a lack of patriotism. He’s not going to take that risk and will himself flag wave frequently.

It’s likely that “normal” politics will not return in this Parliament. The traditional debates about the ideal mixed economy, or about taxation, education or even healthcare are parked at present and will remain so for a while. Once we are back in the pubs, the clubs and on our charter flights to Benidorm again we’ll be so grateful we won’t want political discourse to spoil things.

3 thoughts on ““Normal” politics will be unlikely to return in this Parliament

  1. In the real world, unlike the Westminster village or the Tory Shires expectations in the normal course of events can set society up for failure and disappointment. Leave voters have been persuaded the sunny uplands of ‘fantastic opportunity’ lie in wait for Britain.
    Those of us that support the European project know that promise is a hollow lie. The real opportunities for Britain lay in being at the centre of Europe not in some vague concept of ‘Global Britain’. Britain was always a global trading nation. The timing of Covid was a piece of sheer political luck for Johnson & Co.
    The politicians who made such promises will be long gone when the damage and realisations hit home. Who will be the brave leaders of the future who stand up and say Brexit was the worst decision the country ever made?
    In the party political scenario breaking ranks always make you a maverick and doomed to isolation.
    At the moment British politics is moribund on all sides of the divide. Depressing and hopeless. Nor I might add is it a lot better in Europe as leaders struggle to deal with Covid, vaccine distribution and pending new kids on the block. Spain has vaccinated just 3% of its population which by any standard is an utter failure. The far-right are gathering strength everywhere.
    So yes Brexit naturally has been pushed from the front line to the very rear of political life. Years will pass before it becomes a live issue again. Mankind is locked into an existential global struggle. Covid-19 may yet see most of us off as mutations gather pace and vaccines struggle to keep up. Those of us that still campaign against Brexit are sadly now seen as some old fossil of the past. The Labour Party and Lib Dems are probably right to abandon the fight because short term vision has become the only game in town. On reflection taking life as it comes is probably preferable to being seen as a reactionary. There are just no votes in it.

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  2. All of this is both very true and very depressing, but I don’t mind being called an ‘old fossil of the past’ until the day I die because Brexit has gravely gutted me and all my decendents!

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