Looking Forward to The Autumn

There will be a break in postings from now until late September - a combination of holidays and new contract work - so it seems as good a time as any to look forward to the next year.

It is customary to do this in December or January but the time to take stock is not the short mid-winter break but the long summer one when most politically engaged people take some holiday or it is too hot to do anything except mount a street protest or either plot and plan one's political future or the reception of one's legacy.

The 2015/2016 British political year has been one of the most exciting in decades. Albeit with less intensity, we can expect some more of the same in the Autumn. We should think of these events just as aftershocks following the main earthquake. In fact, the general framework for long term stability has now been set so long as Prime Minister May shows material progress towards Brexit within two years and her phalanx of trade-orientated ministers (Johnson, Davis and Fox) actually do deliver the basis for future prosperity under her leadership. Ay, there's the political rub.

The excitement will come on the periphery of this central project. We can discount the fears and complaints of special interest groups, especially the Celts, although they will circle the May Government opportunistically waiting for her and her boys to slip up. We can also consider the small parties irrelevant unless the Tory Party falls apart which is very unlikely. The interest lies in what sort of opposition May will face when the Labour Leadership Election concludes on September 24th - a populist socialist alternative or a traditional centre-left party speaking for Europe.

During the Autumn, the British Government will also have to adjust its position to two realities - a new President of the United States and a shift of emphasis back from Festung West based on the Atlantic trading bloc to a post-imperial commitment to trading globally with countries who many Americans consider problematic to say the least. The reassurance given today by Prime Minister May to China captures the British dilemma - concerns for security within an historic post-war relationship are being set against the need, not desire, for international trade as never before.

As for the US, the American establishment money is on Hillary Clinton but only because it cannot comprehend that the people might choose Donald Trump on the day. We remain cautious if only because we saw the same certainty in the UK before Brexit. We all know what happened there. The May Government will be aware that liberal media negativity towards a candidate or a position no longer amounts to a row of beans in the age of internet news sharing. Trump presses some of the same buttons that forced the British Government to change direction less than two months ago.

Perhaps, like many Americans, the British are not exactly enamoured of either candidate. Much of British foreign policy in the early Cold War was a matter of trying to restrain the hyper-nuclear monster that Churchill had once encouraged. After the embarrassment of Chilcot and with limited resources to play soldier, the same restraint may now be paramount in dealing with its latest liberal internationalist incarnation. The flurry of diplomatic contacts with 'isolated' Moscow suggests nothing less than panic amongst the allies that Syria and Ukraine be resolved before Hillary arrives.