THE simultaneous turmoil at the very top of the Tory and Labour parties, unprecedented in modern history, is masking an even bigger vacuum; namely the governance of this country after Britain defied its political leaders and voted to leave the European Union last Thursday.
A void brought about by a defeated David Cameron announcing his intention to resign, can the UK really afford to wait until early October for a new government to be formed as the ramifications of the Brexit vote begin to hit home?
The timetable will become slightly clear when the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee meets to determine the rules of engagement for a leadership contest which will revolve around the merits of Boris Johnson, a polarising figure at the best of time and who is already being blamed by vindictive Ministers and MPs for bringing about Mr Cameron’s political demise. This does not bode well for the future.
Nor does former leadership contender Liam Fox’s suggestion that the process should extend beyond October’s party conference – the one-time Defence Secretary wants a repeat of the 2005 contest when candidates made their pitch to activists before MPs shortlisted two men, Mr Cameron and Haltemprice MP David Davis, who took part in a series of hustings before the result was announced in early December.
This is a lame duck Government, aided and abetted by a dysfunctional main opposition party, at a time when Britain needs the strongest of leadership to determine not only the future of trade as it extricates itself from the European Union but start addressing the breakdown in trust between Parliament and the rest of the country.
Yet what is happening? Promises made by Brexit campaigners, most notably on the NHS, are unravelling; young people feel betrayed by older generations; Business Secretary Sajid Javid is trying to claim that the economic fallout will not be as serious as portrayed by the Chancellor; George Osborne doing another of his Gordon Brown-like disappearing acts; no meeting of the Cabinet; Scotland moving towards a second vote on independence; the UK’s sole EU commissioner resigning and Mr Cameron facing the humiliation of being excluded from the second day of this week’s EU summit.
If this paralysis is a precursor to the governance of the UK until October, or even later in the year if Mr Fox gets his way, this country’s standing in the world will be even more diminished.
At the very least, the Government needs to be assembling the team of civil servants and negotiators who will need to negotiate with Brussels on the UK’s behalf. Where possible, this work needs to be undertaken on a cross-party basis. One issue is farm subsidies. The Rural Payments Agency is renowned for its serial incompetence. Now it has devise a new system of payments from scratch.
That said, Mr Cameron should not invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the formal process which triggers Britain’s disentanglement from the EU, as one of last his acts. Despite the EU flexing its muscles, this will be for his successor. And the sooner this person is selected, the better. This is not a time for navel-gazing – the need for strong leadership has never been greater.
Rather than leading from the front, Mr Cameron and the remnants of his Government are leading from behind as he becomes the third successive Tory PM to be brought down by Europe. If his party is not careful, his successor will almost certainly be the fourth owing to the chaos they will inherit.
Labour’s lunacy: Politics of unintended consequences
IT is not for The Yorkshire Post to tell Jeremy Corbyn what to do – Labour’s leader has proved singularly incapable of listening to sound reason and the haemorrhaging of his party’s vote in the EU referendum left him bereft of credibility before the universally respected Hilary Benn, the Leeds Central MP, was sacked as Shadow Foreign Secretary after daring to speak the truth.
It is impossible to see how Mr Corbyn can now form a Shadow Cabinet – most of the Parliamentary party, including most of its big hitters from Yorkshire, feel unable to serve under him. Yet removing the leader is not straightforward. Just as the Tory members are not representative of the country, the same applies to Labour where its activists remain supportive of Mr Corbyn because the misguided belief that the Leader of Opposition is responsible for presiding over a sixth form debating society. Much of this discord can be traced back to September 2010 when Ed Miliband beat his brother David for the leadership. If the older brother had prevailed, Labour could have won the last election – and Britain would still be in the EU. Talk about the fickleness of unintended consequences.