“Here’s what I think”: A reason to be cheerful

Tom Cleaver

Writing these articles as someone who has two “homes”, I find myself using words such as “we”, “us”, and “this country” for more than one place. Last week it was Cyprus, where I live, and today it is the U.K., where I was born. 

For those unaware, the U.K. has been leaving the European Union for the last three years, and at time of writing is still yet to do so. As I wrote about some weeks ago, leaving the EU has created a crisis in British politics that in peacetime had seldom or never been seen up to now. The incompetence shown by successive British governments and hordes of politicians in the face of the most significant moment in British politics in at least half a century was quite simply astounding, and a little bit frightening. 

I’ve written already about the embarrassment that is the U.K. government, a bunch of hapless far right wannabes seemingly hellbent on tearing the country limb from limb while simultaneously unable to organise a piss-up in a brewery. Examples of this include the comical awarding a ferry service contract to a company that has never owned a boat and had borrowed its terms and conditions from a takeaway restaurant, and the less comical systematic deportation of elderly black British citizens to the Caribbean.

If you weren’t aware, therefore, it’s an absolute shower. Domestic policies which have left life expectancy tumbling, 3,7 million children in poverty, crime on the rise while police numbers fall, and the National Health Service recording its worst month in performance since its creation in the 1940s, in addition to the crackpot idea of leaving the European Union, the organisation which the U.K. relies on for about half of its trade and the customs union and free movement area that keep Northern Ireland from becoming a warzone, prove that. 

You get it, the government’s rubbish, but I’m not done yet. The official opposition has hardly covered itself in glory these last few years; taking an ambiguous stance on the most important issue of this generation was at best a bit silly and at worst downright irresponsible. Sure, we’ve all been quoted reasons for doing so, but none of them seem to have the weight of saving the country from a historically bad decision such as leaving the EU without a single idea as to what to do next. Jeremy Corbyn, while a likeable enough figure at times, has overall proven himself to be lacking the political acumen required to be a leader in exceptionally testing times, and given that we are in exceptionally testing times and he is leader of an opposition that hasn’t taken the fight to the government as it could, he can’t go blameless in this mess.

“He portrays himself as a typical posh gentleman yet is completely lacking in the charm, intelligence, or courtesy”

Further, with the whole “brexit” movement, we as a public have been exposed to some of the most odious types of people one could ever imagine. Nigel Farage, a multi-millionaire career politician and merchant banker who somehow is “anti-establishment”. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who portrays himself as a typical posh English gentleman yet somehow is completely lacking in charm, intelligence, or courtesy. Dominic Raab, a man who by his own admission managed to become Secretary of State for Leaving the EU before realising that the Dover-Calais crossing was quite important to the U.K.. 

There are others, you know there are others, and thank God I didn’t call out current members of the government by name or I’d have been writing this for three weeks. However, among the indicative votes, “meaningful” votes, and generally the ride we’ve all been taken on over these last few years, I have finally found a reason to be at least in the smallest way cheerful. 

Just behind the surface which is the incompetent ministers, the charlatans, the demagogues, the racists, and the race-baiters, a number of competent and conscientious politicians are becoming prominent. Now, I’m not about to simply list some politicians who agree with me but rather politicians who have been honest and principled in a time when honesty and principles are seemingly in short supply.

“He’s bluer than a smurf with a chicken bone stuck in its throat”

Take Dominic Grieve, for example. As the Conservative MP representing Beaconsfield since 1997, he’s bluer than a smurf with a chicken bone stuck in its throat, and hardly a natural political ally of mine. However, in an era when his party line has violently contradicted his own views, and is seemingly leading the country to division and economic ruin, he has stood up and loudly spoken out against it, in a time when many of his colleagues have gone along with it or stayed silent. In doing so, he may have torpedoed any further political career he could have had, as far right entryists in Beaconsfield have voted no confidence in him, but he is an unlikely beacon for those of reasonable thought.

In the same ballpark are The Independent Group, or Change UK, or whatever they’ll call themselves next if they get sued for using the latter name by similarly named organisations. The group of eleven former Tory and Labour MPs who felt so strongly that the views which attracted them to their particular parties were being ignored that they left altogether is also potential career suicide and also admirable, especially given the vitriol aimed at them from the supporters of the two parties which they left. 

Sure, you may disagree with them on many issues, but showing a backbone and being honest with their electorate about what is actually going on are admirable qualities in an era when that is not the norm, especially when considering that their careers are in jeopardy as a result. Sure, one could argue for example that Anna Soubry was probably on her way out already with only the smallest of swings away from the Tories in her constituency of Broxtowe required to unseat her, so therefore had nothing to lose by being honest, but in answer to that I point you to Amber Rudd, who in contrast has wrapped herself in the government’s line despite being just 300 votes from the trap door in Hastings & Rye. Soubry’s honesty, therefore, is far from a given. 

“John Bercow’s unending desire for laws to be followed have consistently protected Parliament and therefore the country”

There are many more, too. Speaker John Bercow’s unending desire for laws to be followed have consistently protected Parliament and therefore the country from the wannabe authoritarian government, and he was such a great political ally of mine that I voted against him when I lived in his constituency at the last general election. Turn on your TV tonight and you may be lucky enough to hear the reasoned tones of Caroline Lucas from the Green Party in the lobby, or maybe David Lammy who has proven himself a fine politician in these testing times, or his Labour colleague Jess Phillips. 

There are others, you know there are others, but I’m not going to go on listing names for ever. The point I’m making is this: we are in a difficult time as a country, a moment that will go on to shape its future for as long as any of us live and most probably longer. We are staring disaster in the face, be under no illusions about that. However, if we can just make it through this, if we can avoid the worst of this disaster, then I believe there’s potential for a better future among us, and among the politicians we have already. If we can make it through this, there might be a better future waiting for us on the other side, with a more skilled, more honest, and more principled class of politicians ready to legislate for it, and that is my reason to be cheerful.