The Tectonic Plates Start To Settle

It would be too much to hope that politics would come to a shuddering halt with the high summer but the tectonic plates that are the two main political parties are beginning to settle into place once again.

The unopposed election of the social democrat Vince Cable as Leader of the Liberal Democrats passed unnoticed by most people. This traditional third party of British politics has been relegated to the sidelines until some cataclysmic event inside the Tory Party breaks the latter's spine. Thanks to the DUP, an uneasy balance of power in Parliament favours Brexit.

The Tories are rather stuck. They have committed to Brexit but, as we have seen in a previous post, a significant portion of the Parliamentary Party represents worried business interests and has suffered from the electoral strike by southern Remain voters in June. It is also nervous that Labour, far from being a useful pro-European back-stop for a centrist consensus on the value of the private sector, now threatens not only to achieve office but, in doing so, to impose a form of socialism that has not been seen in Britain since the days of Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan.

Neither faction, whether representing soft commitment to European trade or a hard Brexit, can move far for fear of bringing the whole house down. Both are compromising in an attempt to retain power under conditions where their respective media-driven propaganda operations are undermining overall trust in a Government that has long since lost its lustre. The negativity towards the Government within the angry liberal centre sometimes appears to support the negotiating position of what will shortly be a foreign power. A simmering and ultimately degrading cultural civil war lurks in the wings.

The furore over the BBC is one unconfortable incident amongst many. The liberal BBC was hoist on its own petard with the revelations not only of extremely high pay for 'talent' but, crime of crimes amongst liberals, major disparities in pay between male and female presenters. Here we have the internal contradictions of the metropolitan elite. Its liberalism is economic and market centred but also social and left-liberal. The BBC's embarrassment lay in the fact that it had placed the first ahead of the second when its natural constituency considered the second more important than the first.

The Labour Party's momentum since June 8th has not halted but the mood is tense. Brexit plays an important part in driving internal tensions but it is the arcane business of internal party reform that probably focuses most minds. It is a process that could have material effects on the future composition of the House of Commons. As for the claim in The Lawyer that Keir Starmer, Shadow Brexit Secretary, is to advise Mishcon de Reya, central to the Article 50 law suit, this has raised eyebrows and hackles over conflict of interest. But the real Brexit action lies elsewhere.

We have seen how reassuring messages were sent to distrustful Lexiters by Labour's Caroline Flint at last Monday's Policy Exchange meeting. This was followed by a surprisingly uncompromising message about free movement of labour from Corbyn alongside a statement that Labour would leave the Single Market. Corbyn even questioned whether the Customs Union was such a good idea after all. Remain Centrists may be getting headlines but, as the summer recess starts, their aspirations are now quite limited - little more than building on Tory acceptance of transitional arrangements for business.