I think it’s safe to say that Theresa May isn’t feeling very Christmassy, and while it would be a stretch to suggest that we might have a Scrooge on our hands, there has been recent and more frequent sightings of the ‘ghosts of political past’ ready to impart their wisdom on her — should we be listening?
Truth or traitors?
Familiar, yet aged, faces have been sprouting up throughout Brussels and elsewhere, with increasing frequency, as the deadline for Article 50 edges terrifyingly closer.
Ex-Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Sir John Major have taken their defence of the EU and advocacy of a second referendum through the gears, with respective speeches in Belgium and Ireland, much to the dismay of Theresa who launched a seething attack on Blair.
The current Prime Minister has suggested that Blair’s ‘dark arts’ — advocating a second referendum and warning of an extension to Article 50 directly to the EU — have been an “insult to the office he once held and the people he once served”, which raises the question of whether it is well and true that, in all of May’s stubbornness, it would now be the ghosts, or indeed the leaders, of Christmas past that re-emerge to seize the reigns once more.
To intentionally misquote Edmund Burke: “the only thing necessary for the triumph of stupidity is for capable people to do nothing”, and, either nobly or naively, our ghoulish, woodwork-accustomed ‘grandees’ certainly perceive themselves as fulfilling just this narrative.
Brexit, if not stupid, is undoubtedly a shambles: by all accounts it is “perfectly clear” May’s deal will sink in spite of her temporary relief from the ERG’s ferocious and idealistic badgering in surviving a vote of no confidence. Equally, no one option seems practically viable as the Prime Minister avoids a Parliamentary vote on her deal with nearly as much robustness, as we will soon attempt to avoid talking about Brexit at our fast-approaching family Christmas dinners.
Further, May’s retorts of Blair and his “disrespect of the office” have as well shown themselves to be somewhat hollow, as a report by Robert Peston has suggested that she seems more than happy to have David Cameron, another fellow ex-Prime Minister, “back-seat drive” on Brexit despite his creating of the mess in the first place.
Desperate times, desperate measures
Nevertheless, are we really to believe, as if riding in on red, white, and blue stallions, that Messrs Blair, Major, Heseltine, and co. are to restore order to the Commons and bring balance to the force? Well, no — but that isn’t to say that their wisdom should be totally and wholly disregarded.
While I do have obvious reservations about unelected and unaccountable ‘grandees’ undercutting the established chamber of debate and deliberation, the fact remains that this same chamber is unmistakably and cripplingly broken — and desperate times really have called for desperate measures.
Many writers, celebrities, and TV personalities have too thrown in their two pennies, leading me to wonder why we must coerce potentially pivotal ex-politicians to hold their tongues and clamp their jaws. Andy Serkis’ Theresa May spoof was genius, and yet who am I to celebrate his input but deny the considerations of ex-politicians simply because of some imaginary rule of post-Prime Ministerial silence and conformity.
I do accept that ex-politicians, Blair in particular, must assuredly toe the line between words and actions, something that his latest endeavours have put into doubt, but as Michael Heseltine exemplified there is something profound and melancholic to be offered by the dying statesman-like breed. His calmness offered a tranquil tonic to the brash bravados of Brexit’s centre stage, and suggested that if done correctly more could continue to speak up effectively against the triumph of stupidity.
Securing the future?
The ‘grandees’, in combination with Chuka Umunna, Anna Soubry, et al., have served to put up a more forthright opposition to the Brexit “steamroller” than Labour’s leader himself, who I’m convinced you will find in front of the mirror somewhere psyching himself up for his bordering fantastical general election bout, unable to recognize that the real fight is being fought elsewhere — now — in the trenches of every UK town and city.
Maybe all that “not interrupting your enemy when they’re making a mistake” stuff isn’t so effective when they’re actually about to drive your whole family off a cliff. At some point you have to act. https://t.co/4IWclaArwl
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) December 16, 2018
The far right is more prominent than anyone could dare to fathom in a civilized society, and yet it is their influence that has reached even wider than their fluctuating numbers. The suggestion that a second referendum would ‘set-off’ mass hatred amongst the nation is said with such placidity that it is not unreasonable to suggest that the urge to “control our desires for the country based on what Tommy Robinson might do” has taken precedence over the ever-mentioned ‘nation interest’. Crucially though, the far right will always be the far right regardless of how we try to appease them, and that is exactly why we should press on, as has been suggested by those of the past and the present, with new alternatives in securing our future — in refusal of being controlled by violence and barbarism.
Ultimately, then, it remains to be seen if history will look favourably upon the resurrected ghosts of political past, for if there’s anything this whole process has taught us it’s that we love to take pride in ignoring the elites and despising the experts, while Blair, after all, is quite rightly a deeply unpopular figure.
Yet, as in A Christmas Carol, despite being initially unwanted and unwelcome, the ghosts and their legitimate concerns were heard and understood; the necessary improvements were made; and then off they disappeared into the silence of the night once more for us to enjoy the things we had once thought expendable.
Featured image: AFP Photo