From the archive: The Tories’ self-created Brexit chaos
The Conservative Party finally died on Friday morning.
It stood for strong leadership, a United Kingdom, collective identity, stability, order, authority, sound governance, responsibility, practicality, sobriety, the interests of large and small business, Britain’s influence in the world, the rule of law, and national and economic security.
It stood against abstract ideas, speculative theories of human progress, and leaps in the dark.
Above all, it stood against – and most feared – chaos.
Not any more.
Following the Brexit vote, the United Kingdom has been thrown into a highly uncertain situation, to say the least.
There is no plan for how to deal with the consequences, because the new leaders of the Conservative Party don’t believe in plans or planning.
Not only has the Conservative Party been bankrolled by hedge fund managers, it’s taken on their ‘shock doctrine’ attitude to chaos as a lucrative opportunity.
In effect, a coup has taken place within the Conservative Party, enabled by a weak and hapless leader whose largely charmed life convinced him that his recklessness would always be rewarded.
Some of the overlapping, inter-related messes are already apparent and will multiply over the next few days and weeks as the implications and complexities of Brexit metastasize.
Most obviously, it seems inevitable that Scotland will leave the UK, as was always predictable in the event of a vote to leave the EU. The vote has also resurfaced significant tensions in Northern Ireland’s always fragile settlement.
All of this was brought to you – needlessly and avoidably – by the Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
As I write this, the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, has just denied that the Government is a rudderless ship. Fallon reportedly told the Press Association:
“The Prime Minister goes on, the government goes on until the Autumn, until there’s a new leader and a new government. We’ll remain at our posts and we have a big agenda. We were elected only a year ago and we’ve set out fresh legislation which we’re taking through parliament at the moment. …We were all elected just a year ago on a big programme of continuing to move the economy forward, creating more jobs, a programme of social reform, and investment in defence…”
This is so absurd as to not require further comment. But we are now in a remarkable situation where – under a Conservative government – we do not know who is actually in charge of the country.
This echoes the remarkable unreality of leading leavers’ responses to the referendum result over the past 36 hours: the nonchalant, patronising calls for ‘calm’ on Friday, their brazen vagueness about the ‘details’ of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, their rapid retreat from campaign promises on immigration and public spending.
Not only does the Government no longer have any legitimacy; it will become clear – to mounting and potentially dangerous levels of public anger – that neither does the mandate for leave.
The Tories also have to hold a leadership election of course, in which the contenders will set out how the referendum result is to be interpreted – did people really want immigration to be reduced to mere thousands, what exactly were people voting to leave, or was it really a protest against the political establishment?
All to be decided by a dying party of less than 150,000 members.
Neither though can the result be undone. What a Tory mess.
A self-made crisis born of a toxic combination of arrogance, ideology, ego, personal interest, stupidity and complacency.
It’s potentially and plausibly Suez, the poll tax, and Black Wednesday – Tory crises of course – all rolled into one.
The leavers’ answer to all this is to suggest that everyone ‘take the summer off’ to ‘reflect’.
This won’t hold.
What’s also obvious is that those who oppose the hard-right takeover currently in motion need someone who can expose it for what it is: who can firstly repeatedly tie the Tories’ to what they’ve done and the accumulating damage it will cause, and then assemble a new progressive alliance to ensure that those who are now effectively in charge of the Conservative Party – and the Government – do not achieve their endgame of a thoroughly deregulated, privatised, austerity-stripped playground for the powerful and wealthy.
It’s not Nicola Sturgeon’s job to ‘speak for England’, though I don’t doubt she’d be able to.
Labour needs a leader.
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