Don’t panic! Britain really isn’t in any sort of crisis at all
PUBLISHED: 15:21 09 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:39 09 July 2019
Crisis, what crisis? James Marston says we’ll be fine once Brexit is out of the way and regardless of whether it’s Boris or Jeremy in Number 10 by the end of the month
"James, you've had more column inches than Boris Johnson" someone said to me last week as my ordination to the diaconate in the Church of England hit the pages of the newspaper.
And he had a point, as rather like Boris I tend to write my own column inches these days - though with perhaps less references to the Greek myths.
Unlike Boris I have no ambition for high office, partly because I couldn't do all that public speaking and press interviews. I tend to like to ask the questions rather than answer them.
Added to which, despite our pretence it's all about policies, a man with thinning hair isn't usually a vote winner.
I'm not sure what it says about our nation that we turn to another metropolitan old Etonian when we are in trouble but I imagine that's what we'll end up with anyway.
But what I can't get a handle on is how Boris, or anyone else for that matter is going to fix the mess. Yet to be honest I'm also struggling a little to buy into the narrative that it's quite the mess everyone says it is.
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It seems to me that parliament is at the epicentre of our political life - not so many years ago it was considered in danger of redundancy and irrelevancy under Mr Blair's huge majority - and it seems pretty relevant to me. Indeed, representative democracy looks pretty alive and well after all, even if they can't agree on what to do.
I'm also struggling to understand why no deal holds quite the dangers we fear but maybe I'm rather too optimistic.
I also don't understand why Brexit or Trump is considered a populist movement when New Labour or Thatcherism wasn't. Or why a developed and wealthy country of 70 million can't have fast flowing efficient border controls and be out of the EU customs union. Or why big businesses supposedly can't prepare for this so-called no deal, when in fact they, of course, have. I also don't understand why people let their children run riot in restaurants, or why reality television programmes seem to exploit the vulnerable yet we are told we mustn't exploit the vulnerable.
Anyway it has all become completely confusing, our politicians openly admit they are in some kind of paralysis; and if I were a politician the collective incompetence of my professional class would be the last thing I'd admit. It is, it seems to me, a situation full of paradox, of misunderstanding, of complex nuance, of black and white - ish, of truth and half truth, of dangerous fear and equally dangerous certainty….
But I'm still not sure why Brexit, if indeed it ever happens, is going to change much at all. I suspect the gap between rich and poor isn't likely to change whether in the EU or not, nor are we going to suddenly trade outside the EU. I wonder if it is myth that we are facing the biggest crisis since the Second World War; our cities still stand, our national infrastructure is far more advanced and complete, our trading networks are comprehensive and developed, our public services work - most of the time, our shops and homes are stuffed full of things we don't need, for most our lives are far more comfortable than they have ever been. The other observation I have is that the Second World War unified our nation in a way that our current political situation shows no sign of doing - more's the pity.
I'm not saying we aren't up against problems but perhaps we have forgotten what we have got and what we have achieved since the end of the war, perhaps we have lost a little perspective, perhaps this is a seismic political and cultural change of which Brexit is only a symptom and not the cause, perhaps I am wrong, time will tell.
It does seem to me, nonetheless, that our political class has lost significant, if not total, currency and respect and it is they who are in crisis and unable to reconcile themselves to the views - whatever they are - of the people they serve. And Boris, whatever his sills and his faults, or whoever comes next, isn't going to change that overnight either.
But let's look on the bright side, at least every now and again; just like the Second World War one day Brexit will be over and we will have moved on to the next insurmountable crisis.
Do you think Boris is the man to trust? Can Britain get over this crisis? Have we lost our perspective? What do you think? Write to James at email@example.com
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