Friday, 31 May 2019

The Only Sensible Thing Left to Do

UK Politicians Afraid of the People

For those of our readers who find themselves perpetually interested and curious about our respective histories, Peter Hitchens has written a stimulating piece on the history of Britain and its impact upon national politics--and vice versa.

For some reason that is hard to explain we are drawn back to the history of Great Britain--from Roman times down to the present.  For us, we suspect the sense of connection is spiritual, by which we mean that it is from and through the UK that the Gospel first came to New Zealand.

Empty Green Seats That Show We Are Careering Towards a Catastrophe

Peter Hitchens
The Mail on Sunday

We are told we should relax about the fate of Britain because new ravens have hatched at the Tower of London. I am more worried by another very frightening omen last week.

There were empty seats on the green benches of the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions. What is supposed to be the central ritual of our ancient, adversarial Parliament has now become so dull and pointless that quite a few MPs can no longer be bothered to turn up.  This is a clear sign that something is seriously wrong at the very heart of our constitution.

I still remember the thrill of the long-ago day in the 1980s when I watched my first PMQs from the Press Gallery. The previous day I had crawled through the thin seam of a coal mine for the first time, and I am still not sure which of the two experiences went deeper into my mind and memory.

Those were the times before Parliament was televised, when PMQs were a twice-weekly 15-minute joust in which Neil Kinnock confronted Margaret Thatcher across the dispatch box. There was nothing phoney in their hostility, and nothing staged in the passions which were released once the combat got going. The two parties at that time were still truly divided, utterly separate tribes which spoke for the two halves of the country.

I don’t exactly know what the division was, or where it started. I suspect a lot of it went back to the Norman Conquest and the deep and lasting divide between Norman and Saxon. Some of it went back to the Civil War, and to the General Strike, and to the Great Betrayal of 1931, when the Labour premier, Ramsay MacDonald, entered a ‘National Government’ whose actions made today’s alleged austerity look like a spending spree. Beyond that lay the Cold War, in which the Left still couldn’t quite bring itself to loathe the Soviet Union as much as it should have done.

The great thing was, these were the divisions in the country, and they were faithfully reflected in our Parliament.
Nobody felt voiceless and forgotten. The House of Commons worked as it should, as a safety valve and an upward transmission belt through which people’s real concerns reached the very top, and were addressed. After the Cold War ended, and Mrs Thatcher destroyed the great heavy industries that sustained the old working class, these historic hostilities faded away.

A new divide arose. It was mainly about mass immigration, law and order, morals and marriage, and the sexual revolution.  It was also about the way in which so much of the country simply did not benefit from the glittering prosperity of London. Not even all of London benefited from it. Almost none of this was discussed in Parliament. Instead, the three big parties became so alike that it was often impossible to tell them apart without checking their labels.

They despised the concerns of the voiceless millions, and talked down to them, trying to tell them what they should think.  And it was that new, unrecognised division which led to two earthquakes in politics. First, there was the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, who, for all his faults, grasped that millions simply are not sharing in the supposed recovery. That’s why they flocked to his meetings and why he did so well in 2017.

The other was the transformation of the European issue. Once it only bothered fringe people like me. But when millions began to see our EU membership as a symbol of everything they didn’t like about modern Britain, especially the open borders, it became the new demarcation line. In 2016, in the referendum result, we saw for a few days the ghostly shape of two new political parties form in the air.

The two new tribes were more or less evenly matched, genuinely different from each other. I think the easiest way to define them is that one was a ‘Mail’ party and the other a ‘Guardian’ party.  The things that divide this country now are not nationalisation or even tax, but morals, law and justice, mass immigration, patriotism versus internationalism. They are vital, living issues and it is time they were debated and settled in the proper old British way.

But if they are not, then I see nothing but trouble coming. I fear greatly that we are now on course for a second EU referendum.  I do not want this, in fact I hate and fear the idea. But MPs and party leaders have refused to take responsibility for the future of the country, because they are afraid of their own voters. And so it seems more and more likely that a second poll is where it will end up.

Often these days, I think the only sensible thing left to do is pray.

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