Lessons From France - And Our Past
Frustration and anger with the permanent political establishment across the Channel has boiled over onto the streets of towns and cities throughout France. Donning yellow high viz jackets a cross section of young and old are taking to protest against the body politic and impact of lowering living standards. Taxes both direct and indirect are making it a monthly challenge for working families to maintain a stable and affordable life year on year. And then there are the young, the unemployed, the socially distressed.
The French have form in not meekly accepting platitudes and crumbs from the top table by their governing elite. Massive social resentment at the ruling class brought about revolution in 1789 and a bloody upheaval which led to a revolutionary government and emergence of a certain Napoleon Bonaparte whose rise to power and grandiose ambitions for France still resonate in the Europe of today.
Again in 1968 the French took to the streets again, providing the government and political parties of the day an equal taste of popular protest. Over successive decades French farmers, fishermen, railway workers, and the student body have seen fit to forcefully oblige various governments to backtrack and amend ill-judged political policies found to be contrary to public interest.
Today in Britain public disquiet at the machinations of our political class and hidden influences embedded in Westminster over all is at a simmering level. Not that our national equilibrium and forebearance is readily prompted to take to violent protest. However the lesson of a previous Conservative Prime Minister's efforts to force an unpopular tax down the throats of an unwilling electorate is still a reminder of how public acquiescence and docility has but a thin veneer. England's Mining communities may have been bludgeoned into submission by sheer force of the State; but steadily rising discontent with the state of this country's railway system dominated by usually foreign owned private sector companies - coupled with the national disgrace of homelessness, the food bank survival needs of many; the absence of social housing programmes all coupled with the stealthy cuts from Westminster to the exchequers of local government - are but visible disquieting tips of a very large iceberg of discontent and frustration at what passes today for the country's political management
Not since Neville Chamberlain ventured to Europe in 1938 returning with a flimsy sheet of paper presuming he had secured the interests of Britain with the signature of a rampant Nazi Germany - have we witnessed such an exercise in niaivity; this time involving over 500 sheets of tightly scripted text whose depth of malintent has now become evident through Parliament's insistence on full disclosure - against strenuous efforts of the Cabinet Office and Number 10 eager avoid publication
The consequent outrage of all political Parties represented in Parliament to the reality of what has been signed off in Brussels by the Prime Minister with her tight team amid much obfuscation over two long years of interminable shuttling back and forth by umpteen civil servants, has brought this UK government towards a blazing bonfire of self-obsessive vanities. The incessant drum role of all of this being 'the best deal' and 'the only deal' that a minority government can deliver for the strategic interests of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is still being pandered up and down the country. Flying missions of Cabinet Members are sent off to do the Prime Minister's bidding more or less on a damage limitation exercise over the heads of our elected representatives. Crass efforts piled upon desperate measures now on full public view.
When the scales fell from the eyes of Parliament in 1939 on the deluded policy of Mr Chamberlain and his supporters, braying then against heretical criticism of government - at least Neville did the only thing in his remit and resign from office. We are approaching a similar denouement (another French legacy from those revolutionary times) next week. Whether this clearly fixated Prime Minister, who like Captain Ahab has pinioned herself to a prophetically doomed course of action, will much like Chamberlain in 1940 take an honourable exit and fall on her sword after the critical Parliamentary Vote next Tuesday, remains an open question for her Party and for the Country. Or whether further parliamentary actions calling on like minded Members across the political spectrum can finally rid us of the interminable distress and damage inflicted on the country by this Prime Minister and a supine Cabinet over two years.
The consequences of this Government's actions and apparent disregard for the wellbeing of the country (irrespective of whether pro-EU or not) will be incalculable over the decades to follow. Whilst 'Brexit' dominates political decisions and transmutes across all aspects of our economy and national wellbeing - the condition of much of the country continues to fray, bringing distress to increasing numbers of citizens and sections of society. A very high price indeed is being paid for this malaise. Much as during the late 1930s - there is a need for someone to echo the cry in an earlier Parliament 'you have stayed overmuch in this place - in God's name Go' - I paraphrase.
The French have a more forthright view on the need on when t oblige their political establishment to wake up and smell the coffee.. News from Paris on Saturday lays this bare.