Like Dr Alf, I take a keen interest in current affairs, and I also look at history to see whether there is anything that it can teach us about current events.Sometimes it shows us parallels and at other times with Black Swan events it can teach us little.
With the Birmingham Mail story about a “Liberal Democrat fightback ” on Brexit I can see parallels from the past. Dr Alf may remember a young and vigorous David Steel telling his Liberal Democrat colleagues to “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government”. They went back as instructed but their electoral promise was dashed. David Steel then became very old and unenergetic indeed and little or nothing is ever heard from him perhaps because he is considered not worth listening to anymore.
I can remember the attempts to revive the fortunes of the Liberal Party as it was originally known by a telegenic doctor (now he is Lord Owen ),people from the right wing of the Labour party and of course the same David Steel(now Lord Steel). The attempt failed because the “Head and Heart” television commercials did not work and were seen through by a skeptical public who could not equate the serious business of running the country with Tofu eating, bearded sandal wearers from the southwest of England. Then we had Paddy Ashdown the ex-SBS operative from Yeovil who was going to revive the fortunes of the Liberal Democrats; he is now Lord Ashdown, old, embittered and another example of the Liberal Democrats to revive themselves. We had the attempt at decency by the patrician Laird Menzies Campbell, always a masterpiece of sartorial elegance. He too failed to make the Liberal Democrats electable in their own right. He was too old and too slow. In more recent times we had Nick Clegg who had his day in the sun with a Coalition Government that but for David Cameron’s blundering stupidity should have been the Conservative’s for the taking.
In 2011 whilst in China at an outsourcing conference as one of the guest speakers the student riots erupted over tuition fees. The young students working for the conference hosts asked me to explain what was causing the mayhem unfolding on the television screens, in particular, the riot and forced entry into Millbank at Conservative Party headquarters. I carefully explained the background to the riots, the preceding austerity, the promises of Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats and the Coalition Government. These were students who had completed a degree in China, had then gone to the UK and America to get additional degrees in International Business and who spoke fluent American English and Mandarin. They could not see that the Liberal Democrats or Nick Clegg had any credibility and that it would take a very long time for them to ever recover it.
Under Tim Farron, a diminutive and uncharismatic man, I cannot see their fortunes recovering even if they formed a new party, the Democrats, headed up by George Osborne which would then position itself to take the right wing of the Labour Party, Tory “wets” like Dominic Grieve and other similar troublemakers like the successor to Andrew Lansley in South Cambridgeshire.
The Conservatives under May have a problem because they have lost the element of speed and surprise and because May has allowed matters to drift in a way Lady Thatcher would never have done. May should have called an election and gained a decent sized majority if she was going to wait all this time. Then House of Lords abolition and replacement with a 200 person Senate and a cull of 449 MP’s could have followed, further entrenching the majority for the Conservatives and allowing for the BBC to be privatised. Instead we had the climbdown on executive pay and binding votes for shareholders and the sleepwalking performances by Fox, Johnson and Davis plus the incompetence of Rudd at the Home Office and the failure to deal with strikes on Southern rail,the tube and effect Post Office reform.
Brexit negotiations are going badly because all our moves are being “telegraphed” in advance and because we are creating “no facts on the ground”.
The country is in danger of being “legged over” as Lord Sugar would say, because the negotiations have been entrusted to intellectual lightweights and a dithering Prime Minister who is under the impression that reasoned dialogue will produce the desired result with people who only respect brute power.
John, I read your views with interest. But in the age of populism, fake news and social media, I’m not sure that history provides the right insights. It’s not about traditional party politics, which have become tainted. Britain needs an Emmanuel Macron, in my view. See my blog citing the related Politico article http://wp.me/p1m0kg-cid
Britain probably does need an Emmanuel Macron but the trouble is out of all 649 of our MP’s I cannot see anyone who remotely fits the bill.
One may exist who has yet to emerge from the ranks of aspirant politicians or from some unrelated occupation but as yet it is a case of “Cometh the hour cometh no-one “.
The rise of the Liberal Democrats represent flash in the pan success but the biggest risk to the Conservatives is not their opposition but their arrogance and complacency plus May’s dithering.