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It’s 7a.m. in the sauna at the Leisure Centre; a tight dog-leg affair tucked into the corner, to the left of the baby pool.

It’s 7 a.m. and someone said the B Word.

It’s 7 a.m. and someone said the B Word and things are hotting up.

It’s 7 a.m. and someone said the B Word and things are hotting up – and the temperature is rising. (This is somewhat of a first as usually the temperature in this sauna would barely warm a cockle let alone boil a shrimp. If the least that the B word might do is to bring the sauna to a serviceable and job-fulfilling temperature, I’m all for it.)

Someone said the B Word.

And silence falls. 

From me at least. To begin with.

I choose to stay out of it [which for a very over-opinionated man takes some doing]. 

This sauna resides in a broadly LEAVE realm, heavy with the fust of Faragista.

In this particular sauna, tucked as it is into a small green corner of East Sussex, a mix of ages, genders and ethnicities all broadly ascribe to an Anti-European, Self-Determining future with incumbent bumps, recessions (double dip or otherwise) and social crunches as a wholly acceptable part of the bill for the heady freedom.

We’ll struggle through.

We’ll manage.

Sure we’ll figure it out

Ok so it’ll be tough but we’ll soldier on.

And, much like flatulence;

Better out than in.

In the sauna the language is of a wartime nature. Valiant struggles. The underdog. The enemies abroad. The vision of prevailing. The idyll of remaining free! 

What did we fight for in the first place? 

In some ways the years from 1945 to now seem to have simply fallen away.

The odd usurper brings a whiff of Remain into the room, emanating enlightenment. They are mostly brimming with humanitarianism and belief in diversity of culture as a healthier model for that inclusive society. Many of them work in and are supportive of the Public Sector, a strong  social contract, and an inclusive society.

Sensibly [I sense], they hear a whiff of cod Farage/Bojo speak and just stay silent or leave. 

These are not wall flowers – simply people who mostly prefer to discuss the complexity of this matter in a rather less heated, cramped and sometimes overbearingly ‘righteous’ atmosphere.

Now our LEAVERS, lets be clear, do tend to index towards the cliche – being older, white males and females of what someone once cruelly described as the ‘Little Englander’ variety. They are [publicly at least by their own admittance] Express and Mail readers, or, otherwise, don’t read the news at all: 

Its all bullshit

Can’t trust a word of it

All written by lefty Guardian types.

So in the Leisure Centre sauna, as the Weather Girls sang, the humidity’s rising – barometer’s getting low…and, in BREXIT terms, politically at least, its raining men.

White. Privileged. Righteous. Right leaning. Men. To be precise.

Which brings me to the point of this piece, and the types of leader we desire and aspire to. And the issue of whom do LEAVERS respect and laud – and why?

My concern is that the nature of our current slew of would-be LEAVE heroes strikes me as the antithesis of what we need to get through this coming B Word Debacle by the skin of anyone’s teeth.

BREXIT is not a simple puzzle to crack whatever the common wisdom or otherwise about No Deal Dead Stop all out departures

Given:

  • the complexity of the Exit Agreement;
  • Legal mandates, preexisting agreements and precedents; 
  • the supplementary conditions & back stop issues;
  • the number of British & European stakeholders; 
  • the back room Trade Bloc chess game of Yes trade Deal No trade Deal played by everyone including our Special Relationship cousins;
  • the subsequent civil strife, bad feeling, victimisation, bullying, vitriol, political mismanagement, jingoism and blame throwing generated by a referendum based upon a rather spurious question surrounded by disinformation, propaganda, and smoke and mirrors on all sides;

it’s a wonder anyone in the normal world has even half a handle on what’s going on (and some would say that, given the nature and degree of popular feeling, most do not.)

At a time when we need steely resilient statesman-like acuity, a labyrinthine capacity for detail, a prodigious Machiavellian sensibility and most importantly an ability to ‘stick with it’ – the banality of it, the wheezing mind numbing boredom of it all in room after musty, hot-shoe room – to secure the right exit for Britain, what do we have?  

Well at first glance it seems the majority of England have abdicated responsibility for robust discourse, reasoned debate and seasoned global geopolitical nous to the writers of The Beano and Topper.

And it is their characters that we now see striding towards Downing Street, keys jangling in their fat sweaty greedy hands.

And the ‘unts and the Bojos are not the only power players here – we must include the minstrels in their populist galleries, Farage and Rees Mogg. And though down, His Right Royal ’my hand is on the tiller of environmental destiny’  Gove is certainly not out. [I am uncertain as to whether he or anyone else realised that his sole task was simply to make Bojo look more presentable and capable.]

It seems that at a time when we need the zenith of political nous, insight, application and a tireless irrepressible pragmantism, we have:

  • A philandering, straw haired clownish buffoon with a Churchill fetish.
  • The greatest reoccurring spelling mistake in British politics
  • A Gin, Jag & Fag spiv in a camel coat,
  • A turncoat with a cocaine stain on their heart
  • A monocled monochromatic Victorian Undertaker with a taste for off shore trading

Frankly between Bojo’s ego libido sandwich salad combo, ‘unts self righteous ‘only real alternative’ sorry that’s my Olympic accolade shtick, Gove’s yearning hands & insincere masque, Farage’s blatant people-powered self-interest [and tendency to run for the hills at the first sign of real responsibility] and Rees-Mogg’s fun-fair side-show Victorian Toff (there’s definitely a market in putting coin-operated ‘Victoriana Stove Pipe Hatted Rees Mogg Fortune Tellers on every British Seaside Pier), we really have all drawn the short straw.

I said.

Loudly.

In the sauna.

My Inside voice outside voice mechanism had failed me.

Ah well. In for a penny in for a pound.

Yeah and it would be a cent and a euro, not a penny and a pound, if you lot had your way.

The immediate flavour of the room was not favourable

After some uncomfortable shuffling and murmuring I was able to point out that, given the result and what we need to do as a country, I was in fact simply offering an opinion (which in a democracy that sanctifies the freedom of speech I feel more than happy to do). I was offering an opinion on the quality and measure of the politicians the LEAVERS were celebrating as our potential leaders out of this fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, Stanley. Leadership Quality of the right calibre and nature to be specific.

My punt is that what we really needed all along was not a Churchill or a Disraeli. We needed a Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry. 

A much maligned yet highly influential British politician of the 18th and 19th Centuries, it is is not for his suppression of the Irish Rebellion, Act of Union, Treaty of Chaumont, Engagement of Wellington (a fellow Northern Irishman) against Napoleon or his forthright Leadership of the House of Commons that I invoke him. 

No.

It is specifically for his dogged resilience in carving out the greatest and most stable outcome possible for post Napoleonic Europe at the Congress of Vienna. In collaboration, collusion and sometimes in spite of and against Metternich, Castlereagh forged something unheard of out of a snake pit of self interest, bile, vengeance and self service: a long-term period of stability in Europe that united the great powers. And he did not forge this through compromise of our trading position. His vigilance in regards to Britain’s imperial interests was unsurpassed.

It is unsurprising that Henry Kissinger, whose Harvard Dissertation was an idealistic entreat in support of the realpolitic of pragmatists like Castlereagh said of him that ‘he developed a reputation for integrity, consistency, and goodwill, which was perhaps unmatched by any diplomat of that era.’ [Kissinger’s re-invention as a widely misunderstood politician and statesman is brilliantly set out by Niall Fergusson in his book Kissinger: 1923-1968:The Idealist]

So, no-ones perfect, but some people are perfect for their time. Castllereagh was just such a man, destined to be in the right place with the right influence to do something humanity struggles to do all to often when left to its own devices. Get over itself.

To exit where we are requires I believe, the irrepressible pragmatism and the stoic ability to ‘stay in the room’ that Castelereagh exemplified in his engagements in the Congress of Vienna – an ability to keep talking, and to not allow a descent in to some bar-room oratory or scrappy jingoistic sleight every time we don’t quite get out way. [Sound familiar?]

When using those leadership criteria, I do not see a man or woman for our time.  I do not see in our ‘leaders’ the requisite traits and character.

If we’re lucky we’ll scratch under the cod Churchillian crack and reveal a streak of Castelereagh in someone somewhere and we might all be better off for it. If not I say lets match the Topper Toff throwbacks like Rees Mogg and raise them – and get The Bash Street Kids to take over the Commons. (Though some might venture that between the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour Parties we have already got that strategy pretty much covered off  – which begs the question who Danny, Plug, ‘Erbert, Fatty, Sidney, Smiffy, Spotty, Toots, Wilfred, Wilfred, Cuthbert are currently masquerading as?)

The sauna fell silent.  

Knob.

Too clever by half.

Got a right to his own opinion though.

Fair enough.

Anyways, Castle who?

 

More from the Sauna soon.

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