Post deal UK:

Have our problems 'come home'?

Reform?Reform?We are told a week is a long time in politics and it's well over a week since 'the deal'. So it's all over, the great Brexit saga has reached a conclusion? Sort of but we still wait for the EU to vote on this. On the other hand maybe just one of the 27 has a reason to refuse? That would be interesting! We start by taking a quick look at pre-deal UK, in 1961. For this was the year the UK made an attempt to join what was then the forerunner of the EU. The attempt failed, vetoed by the French, the French, fancy that! Thus for 60 years the UK has been wired in to a European political dimension and its European neighbours' desire for political federation. This has always had a profound effect on us and the UK has often been described by political commentators as, semi-detached from 'Europe'. To have finally faced up to this, held a referendum on the subject and created a new relationship is remarkable. It was always a jibe of the political elite, especially the metropolitan liberal end of the spectrum, that our semi-detached stance has, 'split the Tory party'. This was only ever partly true. A deeper look at the divisions brought about by our EU membership showed that the whole country and all political parties were divided. As it was the Tory party not only, 'got Brexit done' but rid themselves of the curse of the EU by doing so. This is part of the prize that has yet to be full recognised. Other UK political parties are not so lucky and the curse lingers on. In the Labour party Starmer will find he is being pushed by Rejoiners this will do him no good at all.

Another pre-deal period we should look at are the post- referendum years, the misrule of May. Theresa May worked with the civil service to frustrate the very idea of Brexit. Helped by Speaker Bercow and the Remainers most of what is less than good in the deal has its origin in those years. While most of the Remainers have left the HoC May and the civil service are left in post. People will mock May but the concept of her 'deal' still has its supporters. We are told it was a deal, 'that worked for businesses'. True it was popular with business and the Tory party likes to think of itself as the party of business, you could say it's not so much supportive of business but obsessed with it. However, in the HoC the performance of its MPs does not reflect a great depth of business acumen or understanding. While in the wider party it's full of people who think that what is good for them and their business is good for the UK. So post-deal, is the deal good for the UK? Much of the detail has yet to be proven by application. So far this is where the problem lies, what we can see is a failure of business to be ready. This was predictable. From mid- 2016 onwards May came under pressure from the business lobby. Their pitch was simple they could see the country had voted Leave but they knew best. It was during this period that a considerable number of business leaders showed ignorance on technical aspects of EU law. It was if they expected the government to use public money to make their lives easy. They could then bumble on and reap the profits. But then again seeing it from the business point of view why not? For this is what they have got a taste for. Take HS2 as an example, the government throws public money at a project which has never shown any attempt at cost control. Business has had four and half years since the referendum to prepare. The referendum was debated in the HoC long before that and being talked of in general terms even further back in time. If a business needs over ten years to learn how to deal with the paper work associated with its trade then it cannot be taken seriously.

However, what of the deal? It's not only endorsed by Nigel Farage but good it's out of the way whatever its flaws. So we have had Brexit, transcend and now we are in the age of, got Brexit done! This will allow government to get on with other matters. And that's the trap. Hitherto any troubles faced by government could be attributed to either a previous administration or the EU. Not any more. From now on all the options and problems have, 'come home'. The blame game has changed. In many ways Brexit was just one part of what became known as the Red Wall issues. Voters felt they needed to change their voting habits so voted for what they thought was a government that would bring about those changes. This leads us to the subject of reform. Now absent from government is Dom Cummings and remember it was his aim to reform the civil service. We have written about him, at length, and related topics before, see Home Page of the blog. With Cummings gone it's doubtful if a major rework is possible as the PM has chosen a new No10 team with a different approach. Will it work? That remains to be seen but it is worth noting that Lord Frost and his team did an excellent job for the UK in negotiating the trade deal. But generally the signs coming from government are not good. It looks as if they are squeamish about serious reform, or don't know what to do and how to go about it. For example the BBC looks to be allowed to carry on its own sweet way. Although a public service and not the civil service if the government cannot see the need to reform the BBC then that's weak and foolish. We see that Richard Sharp is to become the new Director General of the BBC and in a former job was the boss of Rishi Sunak when they both worked for the same bank. Even better Sharp is a very big time donor to the Tory party, so this is the great Tory chumocracy again, that will go down well in the old Red Wall territory.

And so to Covid-19. This issue will leave its mark on not just our present government but administrations across the world. We also have to weigh up who is doing what. Is the government leading here or following? Keeping the NHS, PHE and other organisations at arms length might be useful in the long run. But the fact is advisers advise and governments decide. This is the reason they get the kudos when things go well and carry the can when they do not. In the widest sense there are no winners here. Devotees of a particular regime and its approach to Covid will trumpet the 'success' of their favourite. However, comparing like with like is difficult for a variety of reasons so it does not take long for an equally strong counter argument to appear. At this point the debate changes. Much as in the days of Brexit, the Remainers, although now we should call them Rejoiners, were very quick to label Leavers, 'deplorable'. We now find those who would question government management of the pandemic called, 'Covid deniers'. The stupidity of this name calling tells us a lot. Within our political establishment regardless which side was taken during Brexit the fact is they rue the day the public got the upper hand. We may assume that another referendum, on any subject, is what they seek to avoid. Also they must assert themselves, show us who is boss. This is why despite the bungling and U turns all through our response to Covid we see a streak of authoritarianism.

But all they do via this process is draw attention to the failings of the NHS. The public are not bothered that
by some measures the UK is doing very well in fighting back against Covid. What they see is that umpteen forms must be filled in by retired Doctors who would volunteer to administer the vaccine. Considering that people inject themselves, diabetics for example, that our government allows the NHS to cling to this level of bureaucracy is stupid. We are in the third lock down now which in its own way shows the first two have a question mark hanging over them. What was their purpose did they fail if so why repeat the process? On the other hand were they a success, if so how do we measure that and will we have more? There was during the first lock down, as now, almost an air of propaganda about the reasons to support it. We were to protect 'our' NHS. But then the public knew it was theirs from the start as they had paid for it. They also thought that it would protect them, they thought that was its purpose. The language of lock down gets more bizarre and more officious as time rolls on. There is a sense of desperation here form the government and a desire to create another project fear much s we saw with the Brexit debate. And now the police have joined in the madness, two people were arrested for breaking lock down rules for drinking peppermint tea on a park bench. The rules are so badly defined there is real doubt this really is an offence and we now learn they will not be fined.

But what is offensive is that Priti Patel and Matt Hancock have defended police action here and this follows the awarding of a medal to the senior policeman in Bristol who stood back and allowed a statue to be pushed into a river during a BLM riot. What would either Patel or Hancock know about the law even allowing for the fact Patel is Home Secretary? But then again what would Hancock, PPE Oxford, know about health matters! But once again we see an authoritarian approach a rush to condemn that suggests the government is not at all confident about the future. In time there will be an inquiry about Covid much as we have an inquiry about Grenfell Tower now. There we see the official advice from the Fire Brigade, 'stay put' was stupid. With Covid it will be interesting to see how the responsibility is divided up. In both cases, Covid and Grenfell, neither the government nor any of the authorities are to blame. But the responsibility is a different matter. Also and in an ideal world there would be moves by government to reform public bodies seen to be needing this. But it is hard to see the present government having the courage to reform the NHS.

On the wider subject of reform we now turn to Nigel Farage and Richard Tice for the Brexit Party has now been renamed the Reform Party. It is convenient for the Tory party to mock Farage as he never won a seat for himself in the HoC. This is a classic distraction tactic as Farage is possibly one of the most powerful politicians never to have sat in the HoC. The grass roots political power he fronted cut short the time in office of both David Cameron and Theresa May, true they did not help themselves either but they were, essentially, brought down. It would be equally wrong for us to not recognise that the present position of Boris Johnson is partly due to the same power source. Naturally this irony is fully understood by the Reform party. They are in a unique position post Brexit and can expand their remit as they choose to include the so called, 'culture wars',a part of the political landscape that, so far, appears to be beyond the grasp of the present government. Such is the scale of government spending we can also imagine the Reform party would look at that too. This is post Brexit Britain and if the government wants to take the public with them then much more thought is required on how to do that. Constantly telling us to 'build, build build as part of, 'levelling up', will not do.