A LOST decade is drawing peacefully to its close – unless you are Labour, Liberal Democrat or Green party members whose Christmas has not been as merry as the Tories. Well, not unless they have drowned their sorrows.
After the election we can see daylight breaking over what could be the sunny uplands of the 2020s. Looking back on this lost decade, culprits – indeed, villains – are easy to find. For me the arch-villain is Gordon Brown, just about our worst Prime Minister since the Second World War.
I do not blame him for the global economic crash. Some argue he averted an even worst disaster. But the fact remains that he opened the spending taps so that there was little financial room to cope with the slump.
His £153bn budget deficit has been a millstone round the necks of every government since. Yet Labour has the confounded cheek to blame the Tories for a decade of “austerity” when they had no option but to try to repair Brown’s profligacy.
Brown paved the way for a minor villain – Ed Miliband – whose singular contribution to British politics was to invite Labour to be taken over by a motley crew of Stalinists, Trots, Marxists and ‘loony Lefties’ by introducing a £3 party membership.
The result: Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and the Momentum mob. With the help of the sheer spinelessness of Labour’s moderate majority, they may have destroyed a party that always owed more to Methodism than to Marx.
Yet somehow I cannot brand Corbyn & Co as villains. They have learned and forgotten nothing since they first became politicians. Academic tomes will be written about how they reduced the once great Labour Party to rubble.
It may be that Nicola Sturgeon is a heroine in her own lifetime in Scotland since she has led a recovery of the Scottish Nationalists’ cause. But her preoccupation with Scottish independence of England and subservience to Brussels as well as espousing the Corbyn creed would make her a laughing stock if she were not so dangerous to our 312 year-old union.
I classify her as a singularly obsessive fool.
This brings me effortlessly to the Tories who are by no means blameless for losing a decade. David Cameron had no political option but to handicap himself in coalition with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats who gloried in the extent to which they held back the Tories.
But Cameron did not help himself by surrounding himself with Old Etonians who did not go down well with the hoi polloi. And he made the miscalculation of the decade in holding a referendum on our membership of the EU in the belief that the majority would vote Remain and so unite the Tory Party.
Was he not aware that the UK had been split on membership since we joined in 1973?
Surely, he must have been aware of the growing concern about EU integration and Brussels’ bureaucratic domination. After all, Margaret Thatcher warned about it in 1988.
Or did he listen too much to Michael Heseltine who goes down in my book as one of the wasted talents of post-war Britain along with Enoch Powell and Tony Benn? Like Speaker Bercow, judgment is, or was simply not, in their DNA.
In these circumstances – and faced with a vindictively insecure EU – I do not see Theresa May as a total failure, still less a villainess. She may have been short of charisma and political skills, but I believe she tried her honest best for Britain in the face of a Tory Party behaving true to form.
As I often told Mrs Thatcher: “Your Parliamentary party is your worst enemy.”
The party was until the election littered with Remainers (and purist Brexiteers) who did their very best to thwart her and frustrate the will of the people. I leave them to their consciences, assuming they have any.
It has taken that charismatic gambler, Boris Johnson, to break the log jam. He no doubt benefited from Mrs May’s slogging in Europe but if there is a hero of a damaging decade it is – yes – an Old Etonian with the common touch.
Nigel Farage might have won gold had he claimed a moral victory and declined to compete with the only party – the Tories – that could get Brexit done. Instead pride brought about his fall.
My premier political award for the decade consequently goes to the amazingly patient constitutional majority of the British people. You are more mature than many of your politicians.
Happy New Year – and new decade.