A friend of mine who is a journalist on a right leaning outlet said to me several years ago: “The thing about the Left is, they are always talking about things that either can’t be done or would never be done. Like socialising off licences or abolishing prisons. It’s always fantasy politics which is why the Right usually wins.” Putting aside his wildly exaggerated claims around what the Left seeks to achieve in policy terms, he had a valid point. Left of centre parties often promise things that are undeliverable (think Lib Dems and tuition fees for a particularly painful example), while parties of the Right are all about the reality of the moment – what can realistically be achieved.
Well, except they used to be. A lot of wild fantasy politics is being thrown around on the Right these days. Brexit is where you want to look for an abundance of this sort of thing. You could start and stop with David Davis and get the gist. The narrative is becoming old already: the EU will give us a perfect package because they “need us”; we’ll shut up shop immigration wise and have all the single market access we require. It will all be okay for a reason that in the past has been thrown around by the Left all while being criticised for being ridiculous by the Right: because history is on our side and besides, we want this to work out so badly it just has to.
The question that comes from all of this is this: what happens when the Right goes a little bonkers at a time when the Left has gone a lot bonkers? After all, let us remind ourselves that the Tories can get away with this type of thinking for now because there is no opposition. They are free to do what they like knowing that the fallout will be entirely internal. And this will possibly only get worse after the next general election, when the Conservatives have a massive majority.
I have no idea what’s going to happen out of all this, but I do know that both halves of our body politic giving up on pragmatism doesn’t sound like it will end well. I guess we have to hope that the Tories find their core sensibility at some point in the near future. I never thought that was something I would find myself wishing for.
North of the border, Ruth Davidson seems to be playing a tune of practical politics, attacking the SNP’s talk of independence and a further referendum see for example https://twitter.com/RuthDavidsonMSP
Interesting to contrast her approach with some of the wilder talk about Brexit from elsewhere in her party.