sudden resignation of British Defence Minister Michael Fallon is a
symptom of the profound political crisis at the heart of the British
elite ever since the British people voted by a clear majority for
Brexit in the referendum last year.
this crisis the
day after the vote took place, and it is important to say that it
continues today unabated
is something of a whiff of 1789 in the mood in Britain today.
people have voted, the pro-EU liberal centre where Britain’s
political class is located has discovered to its horror that the
people have rejected it (decisively so in England outside London),
but there is no clear sense of where things are going.
get the strong sense that several of the leaders of the Leave
campaign did not expect to win and were using the campaign more to
gain leverage within the Conservative party than because they
believed in the cause. Now that to their amazement they
have won they don’t know what to do with their victory……..
mood here is febrile with much of the political class struggling to
understand a result that none of them truly anticipated or fully
understand and with no-one having a clear plan for going
forward. The extent to which the party leaderships in
London have become disconnected from their supporters and have lost
legitimacy amongst English voters has come as a shock. So
much so that there are some people who are talking quite seriously
about cancelling the referendum result and holding the vote all over
again in order to get a different result. That of course
has been done previously elsewhere in the EU. However
trying to do it in Britain after a clear vote to leave the EU would
be complete madness and would risk turning the mood here very ugly. I
cannot seriously believe that in the end it will be done.
way or the other Britain is going to experience a period of chaos and
drift which will continue for several weeks if not months. As
it happens I doubt a clear sense of stability or direction will
emerge for several years. What the political landscape
will look like then is anyone’s guess.
famous maxim for once sums it up exactly:
crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the
new cannot be born”.
I wrote those words on 26th June 2016 David Cameron – the Prime
Minister who called the Brexit vote – has gone, his successor
Theresa May has been exposed as an empty suit, and an election which
was supposed to consolidate the Conservative government’s authority
has ended up badly weakening it.
a great deal of hesitation Theresa May screwed up the courage in
March 2017 to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union,
supposedly setting in train Britain’s departure from the EU.
it has since become painfully clear that she has no negotiating
strategy to speak of, and no clear conception of how to prepare
Britain for life after Brexit. As a result she was recently
reduced to begging the EU to grant Britain a two year extension of
time for the negotiations to take place, which the EU has however so
far failed to grant.
problem is that though everyone now seems to agree that Theresa May
is discredited and that her authority is gone, no one in Britain’s
Conservative government seems to have much idea of what to do either.
result is that Theresa May – discredited after the election and
with no authority to speak of – remains Britain’s Prime Minister
because no-one within Britain’s Conservative government has a clear
plan of what to do which commands the necessary support to take her
result is paralysis, with the government no longer doing much of
anything, and the government descending into increasing factionalism
and infighting as it loses direction.
is this atmosphere of gathering disintegration which has brought
Michael Fallon down.
the climate of chaos and drift that now grips the government someone
– inevitably – has put together and is circulating a “black
book” outlining the sexual misadventures of various Conservative
appears to be a pretty indiscriminate affair targeting MPs of all
factions. However it is adding to what is already a pretty
febrile atmosphere, and is a symptom of the government’s loss of
grip and authority.
Fallon is the first victim, and it is quite likely that before long
there will be others.
to say that will reduce what is left of the government’s authority
situation in Britain’s opposition Labour Party is marginally better
in that its leader Jeremy Corbyn unlike Theresa May has succeeded in
consolidating his authority following a successful election campaign
and seems to enjoy a high degree of personal support amongst the
Jeremy Corbyn continues to suffer from the same problem that has
beset him ever since he became Labour’s leader, which is that the
vast majority of the members of Labour’s parliamentary party are
bitterly hostile to him, and continue to do everything in their power
to obstruct him.
calls into question how stable any government he eventually forms
the only route out of the crisis is a new government, which
realistically only Corbyn can now lead. Preferably this should
be after an election in which he wins a majority.
those who worry that a Corbyn government would be a disaster, I would
say (1) that he has been the most gravely underestimated politician
in British politics over the last three years, making it at least
possible that he will be a successful Prime Minister just as –
contrary to all expectations – he has turned out to be a
surprisingly successful Leader of the Opposition; and (2) that a
drift towards disaster is anyway what we have now.
expect this logic – unwelcome as it is to many people – over the
next weeks and months to start to take hold.
so then before long we will probably see another election, with a
Corbyn government being formed shortly after.