Politics was a pretty dull business for about 30 years - from Margaret Thatcher’s sad toppling and the end of the Cold War in the late 1980’s, things were pretty predictable. We knew that John Major would lose in 1997; that the charming young Tony Blair would win with a landslide, but that Icarus-like he wouldn’t last; that Gordon Brown was doomed, Captain Mainwaring; and that the Coalition would be the nemesis of the Lib Dems. The Referendum outcome was a surprise to all, but there was a dreary inevitability about events for a couple of years thereafter. Clearly Cameron could not stay on; Theresa May’ premiership was, if truth be told, pretty boring and low achieving. Her General Election in 2017 was a disaster, followed by a wearysome trudge through the slough of the EU’s despond.
Compare that with the last week or two. Mrs May’s defenestration was in the end more dramatic than any of the many leadership challenges we have enjoyed in the Tory Party, (this is my seventh) and most certainly the most dramatic toppling of a PM quite probably in all time. The Unwanted Euro-elections produced a weird (if probably predictable) series of results, especially of course, the dramatic success of the Brexit Party itself. Never have the two main parties done as badly as the Tories and Labour this time; and the pundits have no lodestar by which to predict who/when/why we will recover from this low point. We now have something like 15 hopefuls ready to fight like rats in a barrel for the questionable pleasure of being PM of a hung Parliament (the longest sitting one since the English Civil War, yet with virtually nothing left to do except Brexit); we have the continuing stalemate over how to carry out the people’s wish to leave the EU; we have the Labour Party in deep disarray under their Marxist leadership, Alastair Campbell being thrown out of the party for his Blairite views; and the courts about to prosecute them for their antisemitic views. No-one has ever seen anything like it. The Tectonic plates of politics may well be moving.
Or maybe not… Maybe it’s all just a storm in a teacup; a temporary aberration. Maybe we’ll get Brexit over the line, and life will return to its mundane normalcy. Who can tell? It’s a bit of an ‘If’ moment. “If you can keep your head while all around are losing theirs……”
So I am going to watch and listen with keen interest. I shall do what I think is best for the people of North Wiltshire (having no personal ambition); I shall be no more than a bit part player in the great Leadership battle which is engulfing us all; I shall do those things in Parliament in which I have the greatest expertise and interest (defence and foreign affairs, security, the environment, rural affairs, the Polar Regions, and in the conduct of the business of Parliament itself); and I will do my Constituency business with renewed interest and enthusiasm.
In the last few weeks, for example, I have: held four surgeries, visited the MOD in Corsham, and the three day event at Badminton, I have visited Luckington and Malmesbury Schools, I spoke at the Chippenham Constitutional Club Skittles Dinner, unveiled the defibrillator in Cricklade, attended a reception in Brokenborough and a dance in Shipton Moyne; enjoyed the Royal Wootton Bassett Carnival, welcomed a Major General to Malmesbury Academy, spoke at a dinner in Luckington; encouraged plastic collectors in Cricklade, attended the Malmesbury Mayor-Making and a host of similar local events. It may not be glamorous, but its good fun and interesting. And in my view it’s an essential part of an MP’s life.
So I am by no means certain that the tectonic plates are shifting. My personal ones most certainly are not.