There’s a sense that some dust is settling in the UK political scene after what one commentator described as ten years of political events in a week. Here are a few thoughts.
- There’s a relief in having a prime minister who isn’t a lame duck. I want someone firmly at the wheel after the seismic result of the referendum vote and I wasn’t relishing a summer of jostling for position by the Conservative party leadership candidates.
- Theresa May is an unknown quantity as Prime Minister, but she didn’t hang around appointing a new Cabinet. She’s made interesting choices. The appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary has attracted most attention, but establishment of new cabinet positions (Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union; Secretary of State for International Trade) and accompanying government departments show thinking outside the box and a pragmatic approach to events.
- The new Cabinet has some old names. It’s a while since David Davis and Liam Fox have been Cabinet members and it’s many years since I felt that the country is being run by people older – and, I hope, wiser – than me.
- None of this makes delivering Brexit any easier or, for those of us who voted Remain, any more palatable.
- Pretty much every conversation I have with people still turns to the referendum. Why was it held? Why did so many people vote to leave? What package will be negotiated? Increasingly, talk is turning to practicalities – how will the UK find enough people to negotiate trade deals and work through the changes in law that will be needed?
- And there’s still a sense of bewilderment. As someone said to me last week, are people in London so out of touch with views around the country? The answer has to be Yes – and, as I’ve said before, that’s one of the most important lessons of the referendum vote and one of the most important points for the new government to address.
- We need to rake over the coals, but we also need to move forward. In that time-honoured phrase, we are where we are. The time for shock is over and we need to roll up our sleeves and make the best of some badly-spilt milk.
- It would help to have a viable opposition party. (For readers outside the UK, that’s an example of the very British art of understatement.) Politics in the UK is designed for there to be an opposition to the government. Please would the Parliamentary Labour Party get its act together and start behaving as the opposition? Vacuums have a nasty habit of being filled with things we don’t expect and I’m not at all comfortable with there being a vacuum in opposition in the current political climate.
We live in interesting times …