Theresa May’s mistakes in the Brexit Odyssey are well documented. But it’s not all down to one imperfect human being, says Sean Walsh.

Matthew D’Ancona writing at the weekend offers the following claim:

“The right to think again is a foundation stone of any civilised society. Yet the Brexiteers treat the referendum result as though it were a cross between a sequel to Magna Carta and the most sacred pinky-promise in the history of the world. This is politics reduced to toddler talk.”

Interesting point. Can he develop it? Helpfully, he does. Elsewhere in the article Mr D’Ancona writes in favour of a second referendum on the grounds that:

“The “cooling-off period” is a cornerstone of consumer rights legislation”.
So just to be clear: reference to Magna Carta constitutes “toddler talk”; but comparing a reversal of the 2016 referendum result to returning a shirt to Marks and Spencer is a form of serious analysis.

D’Ancona wishes to encourage a second referendum on the grounds that since the referendum things have changed. And his premise is sound. Things have changed. They have a habit of doing that. Spring will often give way to Summer; the Doctor regenerates; right-leaning journalists find employment by left-wing newspapers and suddenly become left-leaning journalists.

What D’Ancona and his commentariat colleagues are attempting is a courtship of the UK polity that has two stages: persuasion that a second referendum is necessary and then an insistence that such a referendum must have Remain as an option. But this is impossible. In order for such a referendum to take place it would be necessary to refuse to implement the first referendum; and if politicians refuse to implement that referendum then they will be removing the single necessary condition of legitimacy that would make it a genuine one. That people can trust it.

Iain Duncan Smith has said that were another referendum to be proposed then it might force the voters of this country – those whose hands are not permanently and by entitlement attached to levers of power – to go down the charmingly Gallic route of aggressive civil disobedience. I hope, with him, that this doesn’t happen. Nobody voted to become more French. But that is not my point. My point is that another referendum -conceived of as a genuine reflection of the popular will – is logically impossible and not merely politically obnoxious.

We all know by now the nature of Theresa May’s culpability in the great sell-out. She has done to Brexit what Barbra Streisand did to David Bowie’s Life on Mars. Technically, in that they have the same title and copyright that’s the same song. But anybody with any musical sense knows that Streisand (another woman of tin-eared leftist sensibilities) offered up a bastardised version of an eternal classic. Theresa May has, likewise, presented us with the bad cover version of a genuine Brexit.

And Mr D’Ancona is one of the producers of that record, one of the enablers of the fraud being perpetrated against the rest of us. There is a deep connection between Truth and Simplicity. The decision of 17.4 million people was simple: “We decide to be free again”. The reaction of the commentariat was to smother that simple truth by wrapping it in layer on layer of unnecessary complexity. The Remainer Elite lacked both the ability to inhabit the sense of allegiance that we felt and the ability to conceptualise it.

But the rest of us also need to take some of the blame. We insist on sending to Parliament people who really want to go there. But these are the people who should be allowed nowhere near the place. Your normal parliamentary candidate will stand at the hustings and announce that they can change the way things are. How? By legislation. They arrive in Westminster (having out-competed the equally activist-minded opponent) and inherit the virus that flits between Brussels and Westminster: justify your existence by endlessly altering the lives of those you serve.

There are many things wrong with the modern world. “Not enough laws” is low on the list.

I’m lucky enough to be a recovering alcoholic. I understand the value of accepting the things I cannot change. But acceptance isn’t submission. Acceptance can be its own form of engagement.

And my active version of acceptance is to laugh at the whole sorry mess.

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