English, and Therefore Sedate, but a Revolution All the Same
By Sean Gabb
(14th July 2016)
My friends are generally disappointed by the new Government. Looking at the short term, it is hard not to agree with them. At its head, we have Theresa May. She was a monstrous Home Secretary. She gave us at least one Investigatory Powers Act, the details of which chill the blood of any liberal. Her Psychoactive Substances Act makes everything pleasurable we can eat, drink, sniff or inject illegal unless specifically allowed by law. Despite assurances to the contrary, she presided for six years over Merkelesque levels of immigration. She even campaigned for us to stay in the European Union. Now she is Prime Minister.
Or we have Boris Johnson. I could write a philippic on his lack of good character, but suspect he will soon resign, engulfed in scandals old and new. Phillip Hammond may turn out a competent Chancellor, but was a dismal Foreign Secretary. As for Amber Rudd, the new Home Secretary, all I can presently say about her is that she sounds like an exotic brand of e-liquid. David Davis, put in charge of leaving the European Union, may be an excellent choice, or he may not. At least, he will be some restraint in Cabinet on the dominant puritans.
This is all I have to say about the personnel of the new Government. They will have to do, and they probably will do. We seem to be in a state of revolution, and one of the regularities of such states is that those who preside at the beginning seldom direct the main course. In this light, we can see Mrs May as a kind of Mirabeau or Kerensky or Bakhtiar. These all had obvious connections to the Old Regime, and their immediate objects were to moderate the forces that had brought them to power. You need some knowledge of history to know their names and what they tried to do. Everyone knows about Robespierre and Lenin and Khomeini.
It seems that Mrs May’s objects are to take us in the most minimal sense possible out of the European Union, and to hold the United Kingdom together, and to keep herself and her friends on top.
Her first object will probably be achieved. A 52:48 referendum vote is not overall a solid mandate. At the same time, the details of the vote show a solid preference to leave among the English. It is obviously in the interests of the Conservative leadership to give us what we want, and it will be given. The details of how we leave are mostly unimportant. The European Union itself is an unstable construct, and the Referendum may have put its plans of “ever-closer union” into unstoppable reverse. Even so, what we agree in the next year or so can be unpicked at our leisure. What matters is to simplify the lines of accountability, so that the politicians in London are unambiguously our rulers. It even helps that the new Prime Minister was a Remainer. She is seen from the outset as untrustworthy, and will have to struggle to be taken at her word.
Keeping the Union together may succeed or fail. English politicians have no legitimacy in Scotland, and it is for the Scotch politicians to decide what they want and can get away with. So far as we are concerned, North British events are about to recede to the inside pages of the London newspapers.
But I return to my chief point. Mrs May’s third object may not be achieved, and ought not be achieved. What the English delivered last month had nothing to do with worries about subsidiarity in the regulation of the sheepmeat sector. It was a vote of no confidence in how our country has been governed for at least the past half century. Unless we lose our nerve – always, I grant, a possibility – those who fail to carry the revolution forward will be discarded. They will be replaced by others whose names may as yet be unknown. We have asked for our country back, and we now find ourselves in the best position I have seen in my lifetime to get for ourselves and our children the most noble status of free citizens of an independent country. Beside this, details to who is in and out of the new Government are as trifling to all but future historians as who said what to whom in 1789 about the King’s civil list.
In the meantime, Theresa May will have to do.