AS ALL MPs return to their constituencies after another tumultuous week over Brexit, they’re likely to be told by the more uncompromising voters to roll up their sleeves – and get on with the job.
Yet, while Britain’s intended departure from the European Union on March 29 adds to the urgency and immediacy of proceedings, neither the Tories, nor Labour, are well-placed to provide the leadership – and statecraft – that the UK needs and expects at this juncture.
As Justine Greening, the former Education Secretary, observes in The Yorkshire Post today, they have become so preoccupied with scoring cheap political points off each other that it is now very difficult, if not impossible, for them to now work together in the national interest.
The culmination of this is the stand-off after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – and also the Scottish Nationalists – refused to accept Theresa May’s offer of cross-party talks until the Prime Minister had made significant concessions of her own over Brexit.
Yet, as Ms Greening writes in her monthly column, this malaise doesn’t just apply to Brexit. She also cites social mobility, social care and housing as three nationally important issues where tribalism is frustrating attempts to “agree common ground to provide a platform a long term, ambitious plan that isn’t chopped and changed by politicians every few years”.
She is right. When she started making a difference as Education Secretary, and winning the trust of schools, she recognised that teachers wanted continuity and consistency and that consensus could deliver effective reform.
And while it is probably too late for Brexit unless Mrs May, or someone else, pulls off a miracle in the very little time remaining before MPs have to decide how Britain leaves the EU, or postpone Article 50, politics cannot continue to go on like this.
Irrespective of whether the main parties survive the current upheavals, or whether there is a realignment, well-held individual views on Brexit – Ms Greening, for one, has made no secret of her desire for a second referendum – should not stand in the way of a much needed debate on how decision-making, and the framing of new laws, can improve if MPs find a way to put country before party in the future.