What Dreams May Come…
Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple always claimed that her detective skills were very simple; they came from seeing the world purely through the prism of her own, small English village, St. Mary Mead. The seething, suppressed resentment of her local butcher could be found in the face of a cuckold banker in London; the floozy, wanton nature of a film star matched the vulnerability of a needy local tea shop waitress and so on. The excesses and storms of a wider world explained through more prosaic means.
I feel much the same way. Natalie got her wish, the new pony arrived and within days, hours it felt like, the newcomer was fighting with the old pony and division and rancour was rife. A cloud had settled over the peaceful Loire Valley, and Natalie’s wish had turned sour. Now I really must stop comparing my wife to Theresa May because that really will end in tears and to be fair the two ponies had been friends previously, but that was on different territory and they had other horses around them, so none of us saw this coming. Unlike Prime Minister May’s grab for total power, followed by either a hard Brexit or a granite Brexit, which seems inevitable; well, be careful what you wish for is what I would say.
There were times of course, during the referendum, when even the loudest voices of the ‘Leave’ campaign were telling all and sundry that no-one was ‘threatening our place in the single market’. It seems almost churlish now to point out lies and half-truths from the referendum, as if it doesn’t matter, but one day they will and should. The thing is we were all terribly naïve, even Leavers who believed that the Single Market would still be an option were naïve too: You can’t win a vote built on xenophobia and immigration dog-whistling and not expect that to govern the aftermath. It has and it continues to do so. I suspect it comes back to a lot of people on both sides believing that Brexit would never happen, probably even hoping that it wouldn’t in some ‘Leaver’s’ cases. Firebrand, local council meetings about the tyranny of Europe, though yes we’ll take your cash and access your markets by the way, are on the way out; an easy platform has been removed and reality will now have to be dealt with.
The Conservative Manifesto made it clear that Great Britain will not be part of either the Single Market or the Customs Union. The reason for that policy is simple, they will not accept Freedom of Movement. The country, they say, will not accept Freedom of Movement and is willing to undergo whatever economic and social transformation is required to see that through. I wonder about that. The Treasury itself estimates the annual cost of a Hard Brexit at £66 billion a year, with nearly a 10% drop in GDP. The knock on to the wider public would be devastating in terms of education, NHS and other services and how long would the public really stomach that for? How long before that 52% starts asking for the sunnier hills they were promised, demanding answers from those that told them lies for temporary political gains? Like some genius pointed out, Brexit promised a Unicorn, what it may deliver is just a donkey with a carrot strapped to its head.
Now of course, this is a manifesto and is grounded in about as much reality as a Heston Blumenthal recipe book, so why make yourself a hostage to it? So that the House of Lords won’t vote against the final outcome, that’s why. The Conservatives know who their real opposition is, and it’s not Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party who also oppose Freedom of Movement and are therefore in favour of a Hard Brexit too, though some on the left say that one thing doesn’t necessarily mean the other. Yes it does. It’s a founding principle of the Single Market and they aren’t going to change that just because your leader hasn’t understood the small print on his supposed post-EU Socialist dreamworld. No, it’s the older, ‘we-don’t-have-to-worry-about-votes-thankfully’ ermine covered democratic makeweights that worry the Tories here, so they’ve headed the Lords off at the pass knowing that they rarely, if ever, vote against a manifesto ‘promise’. The Conservatives will also have the press to back them up too, and do their fighting for them. The manifesto has dropped a previous commitment to a second Leveson Inquiry and an independent press watchdog, all for favours given and to be given. Control eh? Sovereignty. Gawd bless it.
They’ll be able to rely on the ‘it’s all the foreigners fault’ headlines when they need them most. Which they will. At some point, probably when the UK flounces out of negotiations in the early autumn, the press will attack the ‘cunning’ of the EU, with their ‘organisation’ and their desire to trample on the British people and not JUST LET US HAVE EVERYTHING WE WANT BECAUSE OF THE WAR YOU UNGRATEFUL BASTARDS. Forgetting of course that nobody is ungrateful. I’ve attended War Memorial Services in France and believe me, no-one is ungrateful for what the British did. But more often than not these rallying cries aren’t from the survivors of World War Two, they’re from self-aggrandising flag-draped, stick-throwing wanabees. And it was 70 odd years ago. It’s time to stop the frothing sense of entitlement that’s shown off the back of the bravery and deeds of others. It’s time to grow up. The Daily Mail, which may have had more than an editorial hand in the Conservative Manifesto, has already kicked off its blurring of reality. The manifesto said that pensioners with assets of £100, 000 or more will have to use that as equity against their own social care, therefore reducing the value of their assets that they’d hoped to pass on to family who probably can’t afford to get on the property ladder in the first place. ‘You Won’t Have to Sell Your Home to Pay For Care’ screamed the Daily Mail, beginning what I suspect will be a long campaign of what I’m calling ‘These are not the droids you’re looking for…’ journalism.
A Hard Brexit no deal, rather than even a bad deal – nobody even bothers talking about a good deal anymore – could lead immediately to chaos. Business leaders, senior government politicians, the treasury, all believe that. There will be massive queues at Dover, we would be violating EU airspace if flights took their usual routes, the pound would plummet… It’s all a worst-case scenario obviously, but it’s remarkable how over the last year the ‘worst case’ bar has been lowered so that what would have been unthinkable even after the vote is now seen as likely or even ‘preferable’ in some cases.
Who knows if these Doomsday predictions will come true? I think some of them will, but for the more vulnerable rather than those who have thick enough, asset stuffed cushions to soften the blow, the sort who tell poor people what they should be feeding their kids, how to manage on a budget. Then we’ll find out if it was all worth it or not. Theresa May will probably get the strong hand that she so passionately craves, she’ll have her absolute power. But ask Natalie and both ponies, though we have one fewer now for everyone’s safety, what can happen with that. It can, and often does, bite you very painfully on the bum.
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