After the delightful respite of the Easter recess, it looks like this week will see a return to the incessant internecine fighting that British politics has now become. On Tuesday the 1922 Committee will meet to discuss the changing of the rules on electing a leader. This is assumed to include both removing the year-long gap between leadership elections and allowing four, rather than two candidates to go the membership for election. Should those changes be implemented, we will see Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative party within months.
What will poor old Boris preside over though? A party where today 40% of its councillors say they will vote for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Movement rather than their own party. A party where the majority of its MPs will oppose Johnson from day one. According to a poll in the Daily Mail even with him as leader, 22% of the same councillors would still vote for Farage.
As has been long and painfully argued, replacing the leader will not heal the schism that years of infighting has now left untreatable. So perhaps we should consider loftier matters. Political parties come and go but as the song says, there’ll always be an England.
Brexit is not simply the end of the UK’s membership and role in the EU — it is now expected to be the end of the UK itself. Much has been debated about what colour should the British passport be after Brexit with blue, the colour of the old one being by far favoured. We might have to be asking now what colour should the English passport be.
Even before the Brexit civil war was initiated in an act of politically partisan recklessness, the old Union was creaking at the seams. Devolution and the establishing of assemblies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales was well advanced before 2016. The justification for ruling four countries from one parliament is an anachronism in the 21stcentury.
Since the 2016 referendum the justification is completely lost. How did leaving the European Union ‘take back control’ for the people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales if that control is exercised in Westminster? It is now for them to take back control of their own nation states and to leave the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If they wish to then hand back that control to the EU, then that must be for the people in those countries to decide.
In 2014 the Scots voted to remain in the UK, but a UK that was a European Union member. In Northern Ireland a minority party dominates the Brexit debate, even holding the British government to ransom in doing so. If anything should convince us that the United Kingdom is defunct, it must be that.
For those who will be sad to see the end of the UK, we can take comfort from Nigel Farage’s assurances during the Brexit debate. He informed us that Brexit was no big deal, we could still be friends with our European neighbours. Even more reassuringly, he told us we could still drive German motorcars, and eat French cheese while drinking French wine. So nothing to worry about at all, we can still drink Scotch whisky, eat Caerphilly cheese and Moy Park chickens for our Sunday lunch when the UK is no more. We can still visit Scotland, Ireland and Wales as tourists — so long as we respect they they control their borders.
So we will need an English passport very soon. What colour should it be? Well in the current climate in politics perhaps a nice pink blush would be appropriate.