Cameron will leave a legacy of bitter division

The positions of the Brexiteers and Remainers have polarised to such an extent that, post referendum, civil war is almost inevitable. What has been said, can't be unsaid. Cameron will leave a legacy of bitter division

The unlikely face of division
Robin Mitchinson
On 16 May 2016 07:01

'………the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world’.

The Referendum Campaign, of which the public is heartily sick and tired, nevertheless looks as if the end result, regardless of the vote itself, will be the greatest political schism since the Gang of Four split the Labour Party and formed the SDP.

In one of my early posts I referred to the EU as ‘the Fourth Reich’. The Moderators obviously thought that this was in the worst possible taste, and chopped it.

It has now entered current usage, the latest being by Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph in which he fulminates (and nobody can fulminate better than Heff) against almost total domination of the EU by Germany.

Boris Johnson managed to get ‘Hitler’ into his latest assault on behalf of the Leavers. He said that the past 2,000 years of European history have been characterised by repeated attempts to unify Europe under a single government in order to recover the continent’s lost “golden age” under the Romans.

“Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically,” he says. “The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods’.

Cameron got a well-deserved shafting for talking about Brexit enhancing the prospects of another European war. What was seen as a relatively amiable difference of views has now become a brutal contest over the future of the Tory Party. Those two diametrically opposite positions aptly sum up the state of the Tory Party.

Whatever the outcome of the referendum, things will never be the same again. The positions of the Brexiteers and Remainers have polarised to such an extent that, post referendum, civil war is almost inevitable. We have been here before, with John Major’s ‘bastards’.

The outcome was 18 years of Tories in the wilderness. What is much more intriguing this time is that there is no Tony Blair to charge through the breach; only a totally unelectable opposition party led by a parody of a Labour leader.

In advance of his departure in 2020, Cameron is in the process of doing more farewell tours than Frank Sinatra; he may in fact be due for an early bath if Brexit wins. All that is needed for a leadership contest is  signatures from 15 percent of sitting Tory MPs to the 1922 Committee, the device used to eviscerate Maggie.

Regardless of whether a Tory leadership contest happens in 2020 on Cameron’s promised departure, or earlier on a Brexit win, it is a virtual certainty that the contest will be between the winner and loser of the referendum.

The succession contest has suddenly become interesting. Until very recently George Osborne was seen as a shoe-in and Boris Johnson’s ambitions seemed to have faded like the morning mist. Then the chatterati began to big-up Theresa May. Michael Gove then got on to the list of runners-and-riders.

Current odds are Boris 5/2, Osborne 5/1 and Gove and May at 6/1, so an election soon would probably see Boris home and dry in Number 10, but thereafter it is too close to call.

Cameron’s legacy is likely to be one of division, bitterness, enmities, and disunity. The Tories will very likely find themselves dumped by the electorate if the Labour Party gets a credible replacement for ‘Nowhere Man’ Corbyn.

The front runners at this time are Dan Jarvis, Hilary Benn, Tom Watson and John McDonnel. The latter two are Corbynistas and therefore the Tories’ best hope for survival. Benn is very ‘yesterday’.

The man to watch is Jarvis. He is being quietly and carefully groomed. He is academically well-qualified. He has an appealing personality and an admirable domestic life. And as an ex-Special Services officer with service in Northern Ireland, the Balkans. Iraq and Afghanistan, he has rather more experience of life (and death) than most politicians.

And where does all this leave EU membership? If the Remainers win, look forward to ‘ever closer union’, which actually means a federal Europe dominated by Germany, the admission of Turkey and the extension of Europe’s borders to Islamic countries, and the continued growth of neo-Nazi parties.

After Brexit, what then?

Well, for a while not very much. There will need to be enabling legislation, another cause of strife, and the serving of 2 years NTQ. And expect at least 10 years to unscramble the omelette, which should keep our British Eurocrats in work.

‘The best lack all conviction, while the worst

    Are full of passionate intensity’.

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world


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