Theresa May: a tragic figure

When you’re looking for advice, it’s difficult but necessary to listen to all views, including those coming from people you don’t like. I had that experience just now, listening to BBC Radio Four. Tony Blair, the  man who took Britain into Iraq as the poodle of the American cowboy, and totally destabilized that country and was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, was speaking.  I resisted my initial impulse to fill my morning kitchen with rude words and switch him off. Now I’m glad I listened.

Because in the enormous, lumpy, shapeless mess of vile-smelling confusion which British politics presently exists in, Blair took about ten minutes to lay out clearly the options facing the UK. As with all truly clear thinking, it seemed dead obvious once he’d said it.

England (I was going to say ‘Britain’ or ‘the UK’, but we all know it comes down to England really) – England can do one of three things with the Brexit time-bomb.  It  can go for a hard Brexit: we’re leaving, nice knowing you, sin é. Unfortunately if they do, they’ll suffer catastrophic economic damage, and so will we, as we’re tied to England’s coat-tails.  Second option: England can go for a soft Brexit, which means following as closely as possible the rules of the EU, as does Norway. Unfortunately if England does that, leaving the EU becomes patently pointless – you’re now following the policies laid down by the EU but you have no say in the formulation of those policies. So much for taking back control. Third option: you go for a second referendum. You ask the people of the UK if, given the lies told last time but more particularly given the humungous mess that things are in and the unattractiveness of the other two options, do they still want to plough on or turn back and remain in the EU.

Blair advocated the last of the three options but acknowledged there were risks and difficulties with it. People being asked to think again suggests they didn’t think very clearly the first time out, and no one likes to admit that. But it also does something similar to what any parliamentary democracy does: it asks the people every few years what kind of government they’d like. Theresa May did that very thing after a two-year interval – just as a second referendum after two years would be asking the English people what they’d like now.

Listening to Blair’s view on Brexit makes sense, because Theresa May looks more and more like a drunk man who says he’s definitely going home but keeps mistaking cupboard doors for the way out. Or maybe it’d be kinder to compare her to Shakespeare’s tragic hero Macbeth. He’s been given promises by the three witches, all of which seem good, but in fact were worthless. Now Theresa is peeping out the window of Number 10 and wondering if that is isn’t Birnam Wood coming up the street.

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