The UK is governed not by Theresa May, but instead by an unaccountable ‘progressive’ coalition that transcends party lines, argues Nick Turner.
The machinations of the British political class since the referendum has been nothing if not instructive. The behaviour of MPs has been predictable, reflecting a healthy though not the overwhelming majority of their respective supporters. The Labour party is rabid for Remain, just as their Conservative counterparts are largely for Leave. At the top of the party hierarchies, the picture is far less clear, the Tories being led by a reluctant Remainer while Labour has a lifelong Leaver. But as Jeremy Corbyn happily allows his progressive MPs to obsess over Brexit while he continues his internal revolution, Theresa May has to fulfil a mandate that could push her own progressive wing into coalition with their nominal opponents across the aisle.
This progressive cross-party has never won an election and certainly has never stood on a manifesto, yet they continue in power whatever the democratic decision. They are the ruling class, the representatives for the received wisdom. Impervious to the usual slings and arrows of fortune that routinely outrage them, they have their own welfare state of quangos, charities, big business and big media to parachute their periodic falls from big government.
Nick Clegg was a political failure. Under his leadership the Liberal Democrats went from sixty-two seats in the House of Commons to eight in just two elections, losing seats in each, before a third saw him lose his own. However, since finally getting his marching orders from the electorate, he has not only received a Knighthood but has seen his How To Stop Brexit voted Parliamentary book of the year. Another Brexit book writer, Craig Oliver, was also knighted, presumably for similar services to the losing side.
Officials like Baroness Morgan leave the Blair government only to pop up in companies providing government services, while Matthew Taylor’s advice on how to further overburden the economy is followed whether the government is Labour or Conservative. Though Tristram Hunt found a sabbatical directing the V&A preferable to labouring for the people of Stoke-on-Trent with whom he so fundamentally disagreed, Gavin Barwell wrote How to Win A Marginal Seat, promptly lost it and was promoted to Number Ten. A previous Downing St. resident, George Osborne, found his departure sweetened by half a dozen lucrative positions including the editorship of a daily paper to continue spinning his Project Fear propaganda. Meanwhile, Amol Rajan, fresh from running the print edition of The Independent out of business, becomes the media editor at the BBC and occasional guest host for Jeremy Vine’s mind control at midday slot on Radio 2.
If this intermarried clique limited itself to Westminster it is doubtful many would care, but their oligarchic behaviour infects all that government touches from charities to banking. Scandals at Kids Company and Oxfam are tragic but do not threaten the country to the degree that a rotten financial sector does. Yet the man largely responsible for the quagmire of regulation that led to the banking crisis, Sir Howard Davies, is now Chairman of RBS by way of the Gaddafi scandal at the London School of Economics and the government’s oh-so-successful Heathrow review. Nor did the head of the other bailed-out bank, HBOS’s Andy Hornby, find his job prospects much affected when he went on to head Alliance Boots and Coral.
What has become clear since the referendum is how useless much of the ruling class is. Two years on from David Cameron’s ill-fated renegotiation and they continue to press for yet another deal, no matter that a majority voted against such inevitably inedible euro-fudge. Rather than thinking about how to capitalise on the freedoms Brexit offers, the political class is stuck in a never-ending debate from 2016. Even if progressives like Lord Adonis were successful in engineering a second referendum, without the manifesto promise and subsequent election win Tory eurosceptics managed, what would it say about this ruling class? What then if they lost a second time? Would not their illiberal, undemocratic, parasitic and superfluous nature be revealed to all?
For the European Union is a regressively progressive paradise, an unelected utopia for those who would pile counterproductive policies upon government-created crises, a too-big-to-fail gravy train of subsidised decline. Yet the ruling class remain wedded to this Orwellian vision of a Super-EU, convinced that Britain is too small to survive outside. Never mind that the EU is a dwindling backwater whose policies progressively destroy its peoples, whereas European nations like Norway and Switzerland thrive outside its suffocating embrace.
The UK is home to many of the world’s top motor racing teams and supercar manufacturers, but why would anyone develop a car just for the British market? This fallacy is akin to looking through the wrong end of a telescope, it is by deregulating and encouraging innovation that the UK could produce cars that others may wish to buy. If Great Britain remains a recipient of rigged rules written by German companies, they may keep producing competition for Audis, Volkswagens, Skodas or Seats, but they will all essentially be the same car. Deregulation does not have to be a dirty word, the UK already goes far too far ‘gold plating’ EU rules. The idea that it cannot simplify those regulations for the 21st century and still keep standards above those of an EU 27 that includes Romania and Bulgaria is laughable. Nor would a sophisticated market like Britain accept sub-standard products.
The government has been far too weak in appeasing the progressive voices in Britain and on the continent. To promise not to seek any regulatory or competitive advantage is foolish in the extreme, especially if such nonsense were written into a treaty that bound successor governments. If a harmonised EU were to raise tax rates or harmful regulations, should the UK automatically follow so as not to unfairly compete with their neighbours? The government is also too sanguine in its estimation of the EU’s motives. Mervyn King noted how EU officials were attempting to recreate the Holy Roman Empire, with Angela Merkel fatally weakened and the French President the first choice of Brussels, those officials will now drive the process. Is there any chance of an acceptable deal when Janus-faced Juncker says something one day and makes a contradictory speech on the other? His Dauphin, Michel Barnier, certainly must be seen to punish Britain should he wish to ascend to Juncker’s throne.
Almost a century after the Treaty of Versailles and the British government seems set to emulate the defeated German delegation rather than the confident statesmanship of Bismarck in 1871. At the very least they could follow the advice of Milton Friedman by taking a “consistent and principled stance” in saying to the EU and the whole world:
“We believe in freedom and intend to practise it. No one can force you to be free. That is your business. But we can offer you full co-operation on equal terms to all. Our market is open to you. Sell here what you can and wish to. Use the proceeds to buy what you wish. In this way co-operation among individuals can be world-wide yet free.”