So today is the day. Article 50 and all that. We knew it was coming, and here it is.
What I’d like to take time to talk about will seem odd to some of you. But here goes: what the Eurosceptics have achieved should inspire today’s progressives in one particular way, which is this: regardless of how hopeless things can feel politically for your side, it is amazing what hard work and unity of vision can achieve.
Dan Hannan is fond of relating a story about when he had a conversation with CCHQ in 2009 during which he said he was going to devote himself to getting Britain to leave the EU. They apparently laughed at him following this declaration. Regardless of which elements of Hannan’s tale are apocryphal, the central message is true: back in 2009, one would have been laughed at for thinking Brexit was an achievable aim. Yet, here we are, only seven years later, and it is reality.
What they had on their side was relentlessness and purity of vision. They had a goal; it was easily understood what that goal was; and they went for it single-mindedly.
This is why British progressives could pull off the same trick – if only there were the same elements in the mix. If there was unity and a set of policies to get behind, the same thing could be achieved, probably over a similar timespan. Saying this, we’re a long way away from that being the case. Progressives are sitting in several, competing camps – hell, the Labour Party itself is in open civil war. Perhaps one day, unity can be achieved. Perhaps Brexit will be the catalyst. Perhaps not.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that while things seem hopeless for progressive politics at present, it takes less than you think to turn it around. Or put another way: so near, yet so far.