When Theresa May’s Meaningful Vote was defeated by a record 230 votes in January of this year, one of the more striking images was both Brexiter and Remainer crowds cheering the same result. While it’s true to some extent that one of these groups will end up being wrong about that vote being good for their cause – we either leave or do not leave the European Union – in another sense, both sides cheering for the same thing isn’t as bizarre as it first appears.
One thing that has been odd over the last year or so has been listening to criticisms of May’s deal coming from both Remainers and Leavers and about 80% of the criticism being remarkably similar every time, regardless of which side of the Leave-Remain divide the speaker happens to be on. This is a part of the emerging new Westminster politics that is not commented upon – it’s not just about Leave-Remain replacing Left-Right as the new meaningful axis, it’s also the divide between those who welcome this change and those who view it as a disaster.
I have long thought that part of why Leave won the referendum was dissatisfaction with the two established parties. I believe this strengthened when, after the 2015 general election, the Tories appeared to morph into something that was very unlike what they had been during the coalition era. This move away from the two party system was disrupted by the Lib Dems giving up for a while and UKIP turning into the BNP. But the frustration that had been building, probably since Iraq but definitely since the twin whammy of the financial crash and the expenses scandal, and never went away.
For instance, I really like Rory Stewart’s campaign to be Tory leader. He has been the sanest candidate by far and think in many ways he would be a great prime minister. But even I think his position on Brexit is a little lame. It’s still the most sensible of all the candidates running to be leader, but that says more about how crazy all of their positions are on Brexit than anything else. In a sense, I don’t blame Rory for this – he’s gone as far as anyone who could ever even have a hope of winning this contest can go on the subject – but it still leaves me cold.
I suppose the way I would summarise my feelings are as such: as much as the Brexit Party are the opposite of everything I politically stand for, at least I know what they stand for. On Brexit anyhow. Look at the Brexit positions of the Conservative and Labour parties: they are a total mess. At a time when the country needs leadership and clarity on the most important decision to face Britain since the war, they have both been worse than useless. If left to either party, this first phase of the Brexit debacle, which we are still in make no mistake about that, will go on and on and on, simply because neither of them have a way of internally ending it.
All of this is why I’ve decided that as bad as a Brexit Party victory in Peterborough would be in so many ways, sadly I’ve come to reflect that a Labour or Tory victory would be worse.