Time for a national government

In Provocateur's view, this article seems so far-fetched as to be implausible. But we are in a world where yesterday's implausible becomes today's common-place. Dermot Gleeson is arguing that the government is now so weakened and so deficient in authority as to have lost all credibility. That is hardly an absurd claim. Even those who disagree with Mr Gleeson ought to acknowledge that he is striking a note of moral seriousness. In current circumstances, it is hardly surprising that thoughtful observers take radically different views of the national interest. Here is one such, which does not lack radicalism.

It is time to recognise that the UK’s approach to the achievement of Brexit, by far the most critical and complex task with which the government of the UK has been faced in many years, is fundamentally flawed and should be abandoned.

An obvious, though insufficiently discussed, precondition of a successful and sustainable Brexit is that Britain’s negotiating team enjoys the widest possible public support. This cannot be achieved by a minority and divided Conservative government, propped up by the purchased votes of the dispiritingly sectarian Democratic Unionist Party.

What is needed, in this profoundly unsettling and divisive period in British history, is the creation of a national government involving representatives of all the main political parties. Those who voted leave came from all parts of the political spectrum and were motivated by many different concerns. Whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, it will be easier to secure enduring public consent for it if it is known to have been agreed on a non-party basis.

The only person who appears (to this writer) to have the intelligence, the communication skills, the problem solving abilities, the vigour and the sheer political cunning to lead such a government is Michael Gove. If he wants to take the startlingly vituperative but immensely talented Dominic Cummings into Downing Street with him, he should be allowed to do so.

Once formed, the new government should ask the other member states to stop the Article 50 clock for, say, six months, in order give ministers time to agree their negotiating objectives. In the radically changed circumstances created by the national government’s existence, such a request would almost certainly receive a positive response.

It is true that the formation of a national government might well lead to irremediable splits in both the Conservative and Labour parties. But there are strong grounds for believing that a realignment of our political parties is long overdue. It is time for MPs to put the interests of the country first. 


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