I have never known such chaos in government. I speak as someone who was a Labour Party member in the dim and distant 1970s when a Labour Prime Minister, James Callaghan, like Theresa May, presided over a minority administration. True, Callaghan brought us the winter of discontent. However, prior to this ignominious end and after securing a loan from the International Monetary Fund, the 1974 – 79 Labour government carried out a number of reforms – establishing the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), SERPS (state earnings related pension scheme), plus an invalidity pension amongst many other social measures. It was a difficult time but the Labour government delivered.
Compare this to the current mess. Brexit is the biggest issue to face the United Kingdom since the country joined the Common Market in 1973, later confirmed in a referendum in 1975. In charge we have the most divided and incompetent minority administration since Ramsay MacDonald’s National Government in 1930.
I truly fear for our country. The catalogue of errors and chaos is legion: a Prime Minister who doesn’t seem to know whether she is coming or going, a recent reshuffle which had all the power of a damp squib, a divided Cabinet with no idea of what it wants Brexit to look like on top of a disastrous general election and a hopeless Prime Ministerial speech at the Tory Conference. In the interests of brevity, I will stop here.
The Twitter hashtag #brexitshambles is kind. Chaos and confusion without end would be more accurate.
The Labour Opposition in the House of Commons isn’t much better, though hopefully it may be moving away from the “will of the people” mantra.
The fact is that the kind of Brexit that may be emerging from the Tory chaos in no way reflects what the referendum campaign was about. There is no £350 a week for the NHS – in fact there is a massive winter crisis. There is as yet no sign of any trade deal. Britain is not ‘taking back control’. In fact all we are seeing is pathetic pleas by a country of 60 million people to a trading bloc of 500 million.
The Government and the Opposition should take more notice of the closeness of the referendum result. The Tories do not have meaningful support for a ‘hard’ Brexit and Labour would do well to remember that much of its support comes from young people in Britain’s major cities the majority of whom voted Labour because they thought Labour would stay in the European Union.
Division and disunity are rarely positive. Britain deserves better. The least damaging way forward would be to maintain the status quo and remain in the EU until the true will of the British people becomes clearer.