The Address to the Nation

We sat crouched over the computer waiting for the address from the Prime Minister as we waited for our supper. She was late. Very late. Twenty five minutes late. Then, she appeared on screen in order to appeal to those people who voted in favour of Brexit nearly three years ago, as if she is their sole representative, not the House of Commons as a whole (let us not forget that the whole point of the vote was to reinstate the sovereignty of parliament).

She appears to have forgotten that there has been a General Election, which she called, more recently than the Referendum. She blames the House of Commons for not supporting her Deal, whilst ignoring that they voted against her Deal by an overwhelming majority, the biggest ever, and she has repeatedly refused to allow them to consider and discuss what the alternatives might be – and she seems to have been nearly equally as obtuse and negligent towards the Brexiteers as she has been towards the Remainers, let alone Her Majesty’s Opposition.

So, appealing to the country at this juncture in a broken voiced, pseudo-Churchillian manner, twenty five minutes late, does not seem the obvious best way to gain the support she – and the country – so desperately need.


8 thoughts on “The Address to the Nation

  1. I agree that I have never experienced in my lifetime such a fracturing of relationships between the government and the civil service, the two main parties, the different wings of the Tory party and, perhaps most especially, in the relationship between the Prime Minister and members of her cabinet. It feels scary in the speed of breakdown of trust. Did you study the origins of the English Civil War ? I seem to remember that historians could never agree on how and why it happened, just a rapid breakdown along different sectarian lines. Charles

    PS Very nice to see you in Maastricht !

  2. It certainly feels like as though Brexit would have led to a Civil War in an earlier era, so resolutely divided are the two camps. As a neighbour said on the morning after the vote, ‘this is what happens when you don’t invest in the education system’.

  3. Ivan Gaskell says:

    As an Oxford educated historian I was obliged to study the English Civil War, though the Glorious Revolution is as pertinent to today’s challenges. It seems to me that the current problems arise from the novel and equivocal role of referendums. There have only been three national UK referendums, in 1975, 2011, and 2016. All might seem to go well when, as on the first two occasions, the result accords with the prevailing wishes of parliament. But when that is not the case, the constitutional tension stands revealed. If parliament behaves as though a referendum result is binding, it abandons its sovereign authority. This can only mean the effective revision of the unwritten constitution with drastic consequences. These will be exacerbated by the turmoil sure to follow the demise of the present queen. We may see a rump England and Wales transformed into a Swiss-style cantonal republic. Yet historians should know better than to predict the future. (And yes, Maastricht was fun!)

    • Dear Ivan, Yes, a very clear view of the split between parliament and ‘the people’ and the current irreconcilabilty between a plebiscite and representative democracy. The biggest problem seems to have been that the 2016 referendum was an easy question to answer what turns out to have been an intractably complicated set of economic and political problems and a total unwillingness to re-interrogate the nature of the result, as if it was 100% mandatory. Charles

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