Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Agreeing to disagree

The increasingly public disagreements within the UK cabinet would be funny if the issue weren’t so serious.  Their attempts to claim that they’re saying the same thing when they are very obviously saying something very different are stretching the meaning of language considerably.  Agreeing that ‘freedom of movement’ ends in 2019 because the EU rule no longer applies, but then arguing that ending compliance with the rule does not mean that people will no longer be free to move for some years to come is a distortion worthy of Orwell.  And even that distortion isn’t acceptable to the Foxes of this world.
It isn’t only the Tories who are struggling, though.  When John McConnell claimed last week that Jeremy Corbyn and Carwyn Jones ‘are on the same page’, I surely wasn’t the only one left asking myself whether they were indeed looking at the same page number, but in completely different books.  In a similar attempt at distorting language, it seems that the claim is based on them wanting the same thing – the ‘exact same’ benefits of membership of the single market.  It’s just that half of them believe that they can have that without being a member of the single market whilst the other half have at least a nodding acquaintance with Planet Earth.
The denied divisions are having a serious impact on both parties.  On the government side the paralysis caused by infighting and a lame duck Prime Minister is increasingly hampering the government’s ability to do anything very much; and on the opposition side, some are even starting to talk about splitting the party over the issue. 
Margaret Thatcher once famously said that her greatest achievement was New Labour; that she had, in effect, provoked a change as a result of which the party became little more than a clone of the Conservative Party.  She didn’t do a lot for the Tories, though.  She left them as she found them – bitterly divided over Europe.  It’s a division which has haunted her successors.  The Cameron-May legacy doesn’t look to have done anything other than made that problem worse, although perhaps they too will look to what they’ve achieved for Labour instead.  Infecting that party with the same toxic virus over Europe as their own party has suffered for many years is an achievement, of sorts, I suppose.

No comments: