Well, maybe. Political discourse is the natural habitat of the hyperbole and you would be excused for thinking I’m doing my part to enrich the biodiversity contained within it. But before you chastise me too harshly for desperately trying to resuscitate project fear, let’s take stock of exactly where we find ourselves. For nearly three years, our parliamentarian overlords have equivocated and tergiversated and blabbered about how Brexit means Brexit. The government has spent month after month dealing in the currency of can-kicking, spitting vacuous metaphor after vacuous metaphor until no BBC studio was left un-moistened by the collective phlegm of their inchoate prolixity.
Clearly, the referendum result is yet to be honoured and until we leave the European Union, no one should manifest the same May-esque bamboozlement as to why the Party is polling at around 20%. On top of that, our country seems as divided as ever and the risk to the integrity of the Union grows by the day. We promised an in/out referendum on Europe in 2015, delivered that referendum in 2016 and have been tasked with following through ever since – the unpleasant reality is this kerfuffle was awoken, overseen and implemented by us and us alone. We haven’t just been caught with blood on our hands; we’ve been caught wallowing in a sanguine jacuzzi of Euro-guilt.
Unless Boris acknowledges this, there should be little doubt that he will be the last Conservative Prime Minister. Our Party will be encircled and devoured by some fungal concoction of flag-waving hysteria brewed by Nigel Farage on the one hand, or Vince Cable’s battalion of Europhiles on the other. The stakes could not be higher.
Our quandary is enrooted in how the debate over Europe has performed a sort of political electrolysis by arousing intra-party divisions. Historically, the issue of European integration has neatly split both major parties. Labour has sought to reconcile its traditional working-class Eurosceptic vote with its middle-class Trotskyite supporters, most of whom seem to have sequestered themselves into an echoic wonderverse in which a neoliberal market designed to facilitate the mobility of capital at the expense of social justice can be construed as the pinnacle of interpersonal compassion.
Similarly, the Tories have played ideological acrobatics to equilibrate the business interests to which EU membership appeals with their more patriotic rural heartlands which overwhelmingly gave Juncker the finger in 2016. The referendum and subsequent dilly-dallying over the outgoing PM’s amazingly inadequate treaty have shattered the traditional allegiances between parties and supporters and enabled, for the first time ever, for a four-party system to exist.
For the Conservative Party, this is where our grave could be dug. Brexit could be a wonderful opportunity to do what the EU was never, and will never be able to achieve: a true market-based economy, turbocharged by the juices of controlled deregulation, whilst extending commitment to the tearing down of regional and class-based inequalities through a new-look welfare state. We can appease our entrepreneurial constituency, rescue the Eurosceptics from their ill-fated voyage on HMS Farage and draw new supporters from sensible Labour folk who have rightly identified Jezza as the devilish pit of inanition he has been revealed to embody. In these circumstances, and with our socialist comrades seemingly on the brink of undergoing mitosis, I doubt anyone would bet against another decade of enviable Tory majorities.
Get it wrong or fail to deliver entirely, however, and what has been belittled as a short-term realignment will be solidified as our party inculpates itself in a crime which decimates trust in politics for a generation. Quite rightly, the electorate no longer trusts our politicians to run a bath. In fact, I doubt their collective ability to run a bath in Bath at the height of bathing season. Sure, our friends in the Lib Dems will jump around enthusiastically as they feast on our remains, but the centre-right could collapse in the same way it has in France and Italy – and with the same frightening consequences.
Of course, all of this may appear alarmingly clear: keep promises and win, break them and be punished. Yet, remarkably, even 5th place in a national election was not enough to awaken most to the reality that we all know to be true – our unapologetic mismanagement of the past year of negotiations have knocked the Party into intensive care with Nigel loitering at the bedside ready to administer the fatal blow. Boris must now face up to this truth, deliver Brexit by the end of October and seize the chance it presents us to build an energetic economy, balanced with an injection of social justice into our DNA. The campaign rhetoric he provided was encouraging, but action will decide our fate.
George Wright (Ex-Secretary, Former Deputy Returning Officer, Ex-Treasurer, Ex-Whip, Ex-Committee Member, St John’s College) is an undergraduate in his second year of studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.