The hot topic of the day is the process of Brexit. With the High Court ruling in favour of those who claimed that the government lacks the constitutional authority to trigger Article 50 without parliamentary approval, it’s an absolute field day for legal commentators and armchair constitutionalists.
Those who cry that the judgement represents “a great betrayal” (that would be Ukip) are making a mountain out of a molehill. In truth, the process of exiting the EU was always going to involve a fair amount of feeling in the dark. These are uncharted waters, and navigating them was always going to entail legal, constitutional, political and bureaucratic compromise. While businesses could have done without the additional uncertainty that the ruling causes, it won’t alter the fact that the UK will leave the EU.
So, the process is now the issue that grabs everyone’s attention, but beneath this new debate there is still an underlying assumption about why people voted to Leave in the first place, and it runs like this: people were angry. Leave voters, we’re told, were the so-called losers of globalisation. They wanted to kick the establishment and register their general frustration.
This assumption, which is taken as fact among many commentators, is simply wrong. When it comes to globalisation, new polling shows that Brits are relaxed about it and are more than aware of its benefits. Nearly 60 per cent say that it’s been positive for the UK (with 24 per cent against) and 55 per cent say it’s benefited their own lives – against just 20 per cent who say the opposite.
Furthermore, polls show that Brits have the second highest net approval of social and ethnic diversity in Europe. This should shatter the patronising narrative that Leave voters simply woke up angry and expressed themselves at the ballot box. It’s far more likely that they researched the issue, considered it, and made an informed choice.
No 10 is worried about your feelings
After the PM’s speech at Tory party conference a No 10 official rang me to ask how we were likely to cover it in the next day’s paper. “Well,” I said, “we’re a pro-business paper and that wasn’t a very pro-business speech.” Enough said. It seems they’ve still got their eye on us, as another top official asked me this week “how do your readers feel about us?” I hope I didn’t speak out of turn when I said, on your behalf, that many are wary of their “taming capitalism” agenda.
In praise of being late
I pride myself on never being late. However, I often find myself being quite grateful to people who are. If I arrive for a 1 o’clock lunch and get a text saying my dining companion is running 10 minutes late, I find I relish the unexpected gift of a bit of time to do nothing. By coincidence, I’ve just been sent a review copy of Thank You For Being Late, by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, which makes my case brilliantly. I’ll take it to my next lunch in the hope I get a few minutes to read.
Booze, brexit & book launches
To Westminster, for a night of book launches. First up, BBC journalist Ben Wright celebrated the release of Order, Order! – a hilarious look at MPs’ relationship with booze through the ages. As you would expect, the wine was first rate – especially the Macon Lugny. Then over the road to Tim Shipman’s bash and a referendum reunion party for the launch of his All Out War – the inside story of the Brexit campaign – served up with a cocktail named Anglostirring Bitters. Very dry.
Downing Street turf war rumbles on
Everyone remembers the boiling animosity that existed between Blair’s No 10 and Brown’s next door operation – especially in contrast to the bromance that characterised the relationship between Cameron and Osborne. Relations between the current PM and chancellor are, we’re told, a little frosty. But one minister tells me there’s a simple explanation for this perception: any hostility is rooted firmly “at Spad level” – that is, among the Special Advisers on either side.