Now that the drama has died down, perhaps this is the best time more than any other to take a few steps back, and reflect on what has happened.
If the European Union is the political volcano of our time, Brexit is truly it’s eruption – a seismic eruption which disturbed the global community and irrevocably altered the fragile pieces of the UK’s loosely structured political constitution – an unprecedented eruption to a political equilibrium which has been shaped, and balanced over many years.
Ever since Benjamin Disraeli’s 1872 Crystal Palace Speech in which he laid out the One Nation approach to governance, the Conservative Party has seldom strayed away from this narrative. That is, of course, apart from Baroness Thatcher’s New Right approach to laissez-faire politics, which sought to impose market competition as the political paradigm, a corrective to the failed Keynesian approach, which Hayek had labelled as the ‘road to serfdom.’
On the evening of 23rd June, with the swift blow of British democratic expression, the whole of the UK’s political configuration was fractured overnight. There is an argument that it was exactly because of this disruption to the status quo, voter disillusionment with the current political trend, that so many voted to leave the European Union – a patriotic sentiment to reassert national sovereignty, whether justifies or not.
Now that the UK has instilled a new team to lead it forward, the challenge which faces Britain’s policy-makers is healing the ruins of those deep-running social and political divisions, and defining Britain in a new global age.
This will not be an easy challenge. The public will demand answers to questions which formed Britain’s political equilibrium. Questions about whether Ireland should reunify; whether Scotland should go independent; and whether Wales should be recognised as a nation in its own sense, will all demand serious responses. It can no longer be a case of simply providing superficial gestures about process; real action with substance is the only solution to issues of such a sensitive and profound nature.
Answering these questions will also demand much of the British spirit; resilience to get on with the job, diligence to consider carefully the future which lies ahead, and inclusion for those who are too often neglected when it comes to making decisions.
Nevertheless, with the application of true British spirit, these challenges can be won to benefit hard-working British people across the nation, and opportunities can be created to maximise the life chances of the next generation.
As Theresa May declared in her first speech to the nation outside Downing Street on Wednesday evening, people are at the centre of politics – and it is these people which must always be kept in mind when forging this generation’s new political consensus. At the same time, we must always be aware of where we have come from – our roots are as important as our fruits.
For the first time in thirteen years, David Cameron brought the Conservatives back from the wilderness in 2010, and incidentally became the youngest prime minister in over almost two centuries.
From having his photo taken cuddling a husky, to encouraging everyone to hug a hoodie, he was able to reinvent his auxiliary image, whilst holding firm to his inner core beliefs of social justice, mobility, and opportunity.
Whilst it is upsetting to see David Cameron, a leader whose One Nation agenda of opportunity and social justice saved Britain’s economic status when it really mattered, Theresa May will be a diligent and professional successor, as well as the UK’s second women Prime Minister to have made it on merit, and a character of indefatigable energy, and deep commitment.
With no signs that Labour is to let go of its One Nation narrative, which Ed Milliband adopted during his leadership, perhaps it is true that this One Nation approach will be the defining model of the new British political consensus of governance.
This is not a battle between Left and Right, but between state and market, regulated and competitive, equalising and enabling.
Whilst reverting to the old debate of class politics has the potential to depict the Conservatives as what Theresa May once called ‘the nasty party’, and the Labour Party as the movement of victim-players, the truth is that old-school economics has failed; stringent monetarism overlooks minorities, and excessive state-provisionism diminishes enterprise and alienates individuals.
A new One Nation model whilst unlocking entrepreneurial potential, puts the individual first, places help where individuals suffer, and gives opportunity where individuals can succeed.