Mr. Payne in the second and third paragraphs of his essay offers an evaluation of Mrs. May’s failed ‘vision’ for Tory politics, when she was elevated to replace the bungling and bulling Mr. Cameron.
Back in the summer of 2016, the country had voted to leave the EU, David Cameron had scuttled off and there was no plan for what should happen next. Mrs May emerged, pledging not only to honour the result but to tackle the “ burning injustice” that flows beneath society. She offered hope, in nigh biblical terms, to the quiet corners of the electorate often taken for granted.
Mrs May’s address has entered folklore. Partly because it was unusually empathetic; partly because it articulated a fresh blue-collar strain of conservatism that fitted the moment. One Labour shadow cabinet minister fretted privately: “If she does all the stuff promised in that speech, we are really screwed.”
‘One Labour shadow cabinet minister fretted privately:…’ when in doubt cite an anonymous source , that the reader has no ability to check against the political record. But the ‘Reforming’ Mrs. May simply disappeared. To the regret of her party members? Brexit is the political crisis, that will not be overcome by anything but bold and decisive action, across the British political spectrum, Mrs. May is unable to cobble together such an alliance.
Mr. Payne offers not a remedy for Brexit, but for a national revitalization of Britain. Brexit is the political catastrophe brought on by Cameron’s incompetence and the will of the electorate. How inconvenient!
When Westminster returns from sunning itself, MPs will go on arguing about the most prudent form of exit. But imagine if more of their energies were devoted to matters at home. We need a bold new constitutional settlement that moves towards a more federal UK and devolves power closer to the people through the elected city mayors. MPs should come up with a decisive economic plan to revive coastal and provincial towns by combining education and skills with sweeteners such as better regional railways. Reforming business rates might aid decaying high streets. The broken property market needs to be fixed with a mass building scheme.
Mr. Payne becomes, out of argumentative necessity, prescriptive:
To address the anger that led voters to support Brexit, the government should be more honest about the trade-offs between taxes and public spending. It should also draw up a new migration policy focused on filling skills gaps, not hitting arbitrary targets. The chancellor would seek a “square deal” for capitalism, inspired by Theodore Roosevelt, to tame the excesses of corporatism. A focused industrial strategy would target emerging technologies such electric cars and artificial intelligence.
It has escaped Mr. Payne’s attention that Mr. Corbyn offers, not a political riff on Teddy Roosevelt, but if we are to adhere to an American political context , a New Deal in the mold of Franklin Roosevelt. But wait! here is Mr. Payne in comic mode:
There is also a philosophical problem. Mrs May appears to have forgotten why she came to power. The Tories exist to conserve what is best about Britain.
And as always, Mr. Payne offers the dependable fear mongering of a Financial Times hireling , in his final paragraph: linking to a Financial Times essay, about the clear and present danger of Tommy Robinson, English Defense League founder, supported by both Bannon and Ukip. The manufactured Anti-Semitism Crisis of the Blairite faction of New Labour, in its campaign against Corbyn, remains unmentioned in Mr. Payne’s essay, it is held in reserve for use on a more pertinent political occasion.
Once the UK stumbles out of the EU next March, Britons will ask: what has changed? If Mrs May (or whoever succeeds her) has no answer, the fed up will turn to nastier alternatives on the fringes. With every passing day and missed opportunity, that danger rises.