Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A systemic collapse of political competence

If there is one thing overall that prevents me from voting for the Tories it is that I simply do not know what I am voting for. Is there an elaborate ruse going on? Is may going to dump her Brextremists? Is she going to endorse them? We can only guess. We are no more enlightened as to what Brexit looks like as we were nine months ago.

As bad as that is for voters, it would seem that business is not waiting to find out. And why should they? All we've had from May is weak assurances which are presently convincing nobody. Never before have we so urgently needed an alternative. That, though, is precisely not what we have.

In a series of tweets CiarĂ¡n McGonagle, a Belfast Telegraph contributor, remarks that:
Labour now appear to reside in non-interconnected world where economic policy can be imposed unilaterally without regard to global context, where increasing tax on upwardly mobile corporates and high earners inevitably leads to increased revenues without risk of relocation. Where the City's hegemony is inevitable and can be squeezed for new revenues as though other nations are incapable of competing for business. Where Government can pick and choose which international laws and regulations it deigns to adhere to without losing global influence in making those laws. Where the Govt can nationalise and subsidise industry at a whim without fear of reprisal or economic consequence.
Damningly, he concludes that "This is a Brexit manifesto. A manifesto for a small country no longer able or willing to understand its waning influence and significance".

There is not much more I would add to this save for the observation that the Tories, brexiteers especially, share the exact same insular delusions. As we have observed before, Tories inhabit a world where the EU is the alpha and omega of regulation, where the rest of the world has been in stasis for the entire time we have been in the EU.

Professor Chris Grey also remarks on Twitter that "We're living in a surreal politics where the £M costs of policies are pored over, but the trillions costs of Brexit aren't even mentioned". I might ask him to qualify his remarks about trillions but I share his bewilderment that the seismic consequences of Brexit barely register in this election. 

In more ways than one, by retreating to an agenda of fantasy socialism, Corbyn has opened the door for the Tories to join them in a surrealistic political ritual that bares no relation to the real and immediate political challenges. All the while, our media fares little better with the Telegraph's political correspondent, Jack Maidment, asking the PM on the campaign trail which Harry Potter character she is most similar to.

It gets worse. One tweeter remarked today that Emily Thornberry's interview on BBC Radio was "probably the most pain I've felt since childbirth". I imagine the lady is not wrong. Thornberry, she who thinks we use frigates as troopships - from a party that thinks you can deliver aid to Syria via drone.

But then on the Tory benches, as a reader notes, we have John Redwood recycling and publishing the absolutely pernicious lie that post Brexit we can trade with the rest of the world on WTO terms alone "as we do now". We don't.

Folks, this is the end of Britain as we know it. The part of politics that isn't stupid, crass and vain is corrupt and self-serving. Now comes the reckoning.

Many a pundit would have it that Brexit has done this to us. This is wrong. You don't arrive at this institutional stupidity and venality overnight. This is cultivated. There has been a descent into idiocracy over many years and only now that our politicians are faced with a serious political dilemma is it fully brought into light exactly how debased our politics and media has become.

Remainers warned that if we voted to leave the EU we would become an inward looking country, parochial in our concerns and disengaged from the world. As it transpires we were already there and nobody really noticed. The fullest extent of our engagement in the world was EU membership which was a largely ignored aspect of our politics, with the European Scrutiny Committee being one of the worst attended, and the European Parliament treated as an afterthought where virtually any halfwitted biped with the right connections could become an MEP.

Membership of the EU has allowed the British state to atrophy. We have gradually become self-absorbed and insular as everything from water to agriculture and energy policy is decided elsewhere. Not for a very long time has our political establishment been tasked with any serious undertaking which is why they are manifestly incapable of delivering an intelligent Brexit. 

I still live in the hope that circumstances will dictate the obvious path where we take an EEA style agreement, if not actual Efta membership, but because of the fundamental lack of understanding, this government will likely press on for its own warped understanding of a trade deal or end up crashing out without a deal. 

Many have asserted that Brexit is an act of national suicide. Were I to agree with that it would be on the basis that we lack the capacity to be a self-governing nation having completely lost touch with the art of governance. But actually, the act of national suicide was the Lisbon treaty and the treaties preceding that. We, or rather our rulers, decided to offshore responsibility for governance and now we reap the whirlwind. Our foreign and trade policy is filtered through Brussels and technical governance is practically the sole domain of the EU. 

This is what makes Brexit a revolutionary act. It shares many features of a revolution in that we put all other concerns to the side while we resolve our intractable domestic issues. It rather looks like if we want a self-governing then we are going to have to start from scratch. The down side is that we will all pay a price for our negligence. Let's be honest here. There are no economic upsides to Brexit, only serendipitous realignments that create new opportunities. It may temporarily create jobs but will do nothing to solve the productivity crisis. 

Ultimately, through our disengagement and self-absorption we have brought this fate upon ourselves. It now seems like there is no question that Brexit will be a punishing loss of trade and international standing. But we squandered all that the moment we threw our lot in with equally suicidal European nations. If we want wealth and prosperity back we must first rebuild our politics. Brexit is the catalyst. It may be inconvenient, it may be destructive, but take a long hard look at John Redwood, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry and tell me again that it isn't necessary.

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