One of the demonstrable disadvantages of having Government Ministers and Shadow Ministers who have spent all of their working lives in the isolated environment that is a political party is that they get use to fighting one another and then fighting the people in the other parties and lose sight of how the real world actually operates. This is made much worse when so many of those on the front benches in Parliament have not worked in communities or run real businesses for many decades. This sort of effect also occurs on a local level, even though their disconnect from local situations is far less severe and their need to continue to earn a living keeps them in touch with local people and the skills that get lost by our Ministers. When people have worked their way up to be selected as Councillors, MPs or MEPs and then are fortunate enough to get elected they know that their future like their past is increasingly tied to the party machine and stepping out of line will not be welcomed. This leads to the party organisation despising new ideas that come from left (or right) field and requiring that party members toe the party line. The parties become detached from reality and this adds to the disconnect shown by long serving MPs.
A classic example of how to get things wrong is explained in todays papers as the right wing Vote Leave papers like the Express attempt to use headlines to paper over the fact that Brexit is about to bite the UK hard on the bottom and they are to blame. However it also discloses how damaging the Governments strategy has been. The Headline reads “BREXIT PUNISHMENT: Brussels to strip UK of banking and medicine agencies” but throughout the article the tone is very different. The writer makes it clear that they and colleagues all saw this coming but we would have liked the EU to have been a bit more generous with us and allowed us to enjoy EU support for a bit longer. However the paper goes on to report “Mrs May hoped hardline European council guidelines ruling out a trade deal within two years would have been toned during consultation with the member states. But EU sources claimed Britain’s aggressive approach to the talks, including threats of becoming a low-tax, low-regulation state unless it was given a good deal, had backfired.”
The truth is that modern negotiation is successful when it involves old fashioned foot in the door, desk banging, secret keeping techniques. Modern negotiations demand an approach that is open and does not either start from a position of wanting everything, nor that has a lot of hidden requirements which emerge at the end of the process. This sense of honesty is worthwhile in settings where the two parties may never need to work together again, but it becomes essential where both sides of the negotiation have a great deal to gain by remaining on good terms with one another such as is the case with our departure from the EU. It has been significant how poorly Theresa May has handled this process. First she claimed that she wanted to keep her cards close to her chest, so much so that she refused to hold debates with Parliament and in effect denied the nation a chance for their representatives to participate in a discussion. This was a deeply flawed approach. There are few secrets that manage to stay in Downing Street, let alone in a Cabinet when the rest of Parliament is determined to find out what is going on. In such settings an open and honest approach makes much more sense to all. It also sends out a powerful message to the 27 nations with whom the negotiations will take place. Secondly she keeps on refusing to provide certainty for EU nationals living in the UK, believing this will strengthen her hand when it comes to calling for certainty for UK nationals living in the EU. Never mind the deep damage already caused to our communities here in the UK by unsettling people who run businesses and are key players in the public sector. Every one of the 27 nations that she is negotiating with see this as a threat to their citizens, it appears as though she is holding them hostage. This is a catastrophic mistake and made far worse by the fact that every other Minister has since June told us that they will secure the right to stay to these people and has since had to do a U turn.
It is hard to imagine how much worse things could get, but unless there is a dose of reality served up to both sides of the Houses of Parliament, and in particular the front benches, we can be sure that there will be a need for all of us to prepare for a much worse outcome than even the Daily Express is expecting.