“Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget;
For we are the moderate voice, that never have spoken yet.”
(With apologies to GK Chesterton and his poem “The Secret people”)
Indy 28 April 2017
Listen carefully and the sound you hear is the rumble of the tumbrils on the cobble stones
What has amazed, puzzled and frightened us these last three turbulent and revolutionary years, is that it has not been those inhabiting the shrinking, bewildered terrified circle of conventional politics who have changed things, but the angry beast circling it menacingly outside. It is people’s movements who have changed things, not political parties.
And yet, and yet, true to form when an election is called we still pull out our magnifying glasses and examine minutely every hair twitch and whisper inside the political circle and ignore what is happening in the wide circle of the millions outside it. Like Edmund Burke on Marie Antoinette, we examine the plumage, but ignore the dying bird.
Trump, Le Pen, UKIP, the SNP, Alternativ für Deutchland. They are ubiquitous, all pervasive, in many cases unresistable and to conventional politicians utterly, utterly terrifying. Mrs May is not an exception. If Mrs May did not want Brexit, then she is its true, if illegitimate daughter.
As Marianne to Marine le Pen, so is Britannia to Mrs May as she frog-marches our country out the exit door of Europe in this election.
Only Emanuel Macron seems – perhaps – we hope – to have found an answer.
The new voiceless and left out are not the hard left and nationalist right. They are now more than adequately represented. The new voiceless in Britain are the millions of those who are as angry as I am, as frightened as I am and as keen to change things as I am, but who have not yet found a way for their voice to be heard and make a difference. Of course I want these new left out millions to vote Lib Dem – and many now are. A strong force of Lib Dems in the next parliament is very necessary. But it is not sufficient. It is not good enough just to reduce the Tory majority. What we need now is to start building a force that can hold this Government to account in the next Parliament and replace them at the one after that. Labour cannot do that and the Lib Dems cannot do it alone.
Meanwhile the millions outside the political circle who believe as we do, remain voiceless scattered and broken, waiting for a lead.
But they are not getting one.
So far, from the progressive parties and the progressive voices within parties, there has been chiefly silence. Some braver souls, like would-be teenage lovers at a dimly lit party, have reached out furtively seeking fingers to touch across the divide, only to pull back for fear of rejection or discovery if the lights go up.
And so nothing happens. And if nothing continues to happen then we are- all of us -about to be run over by a proto-UKIP steam roller driven by Mrs May and then all we stand for will be lost for a decade. Dr Johnson used to say that the prospect of hanging in the morning sharpens a man’s mind wonderfully. But it hasn’t. We, who should be calling the progressive forces of our country to arms, remain stuck in torpor and uncertainty.
And thus will the Government of Britain be handed over, for the first time since the Great Reform Act, not to the moderate voices who represent the true political centre of gravity of our country, but to those who would divide us into extremes, isolate us from our neighbours and perhaps even break up our United Kingdom as a consequence.
What we need now is a British “En Marche”. What we need is a Macron. The problem is we haven’t got one.
But still and withal, given what is at stake here, is it really the case that sensible voices in and outside the political circle cannot find the way to make this happen? The only way to stop this election resulting in an elected dictatorship under a hard right, hard Brexit Tory Party, is to turn it, as Macron has done, into a clear choice powerfully advocated, between an open, liberal, internationalist Britain and one based on nationalism, division and isolation.
Hands up who’s up for the fight?