The existential questions that the Tory leadership election and Brexit pose

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There are moments that require anyone to reappraise what they think. Brexit has been one, of course. The Tory leadership election has been another. Put them together and the toxicity of the combination becomes apparent.

I think Ian Blackford was correct when he described Boris Johnson as a racist in parliament yesterday. All the evidence supports Blackford’s view.  It hardly, in itself, needs further debate. And yet Johnson is likely to be our next Prime Minister. It is as if the Conservative Party does not care.

That is a possibility for which the evidence is heavily reinforced by polling by YouGov, which reveals the staggering indifference of Conservative Party members. As YouGov noted, as reported  by Politics Home:

Tory members are willing to destroy their own party, sacrifice the Union and allow Scottish independence and a united Ireland if it means leaving the European Union, according to a new poll.

A survey by YouGov suggests a majority of them would prefer Brexit took place to a host of scenarios, including 61% in favour of it even if it caused “significant damage to the economy”.

They added:

Almost two-thirds of the members would be willing to allow Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, and 59% would rather Northern Ireland left than Brexit not taking place at all.

This research is not a freak; it replicates previous findings. The important thing is what it suggests. Whole books could, of course, be written on that. I will restrict myself to four thoughts.

First, there has been a collapse in the traditional culture of caring for a neighbour as you would for yourself. This could, of course, reflect the declining influence of the Christian Church in all its varieties, with its emphasis on the Good Samaritan. Other faiths do, of course, embrace similar ideas. Those ideas appear to be very unfamiliar on the political right wing now. What is very clear is that we are all worse off as a result, whether culturally, socially, economically or politically. 

Second, irrationality has become the norm. Although I have still to meet anyone who can actually explain what the benefit if Brexit might be, barring a mistaken belief that this will give us back the control over migration we have always had and not used, the Tory membership is apparently willing to impose substantial economic cost on everyone to secure that non-existent gain. Rational thinking has, then, departed. Blind faith in mythology is taking its place. That is the foundation for toxic populism, and worse.

Third, this is a gift to Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalists. The repair being observed is very largely English. My belief that the Union is nearly over grows by the day. And I am increasingly convinced that Scotland at least will not wait for English permission to depart. 

Fourth, the prospects for the collective action required to manage climate change do not look encouraging. If human life on earth is to survive we must act together, locally, nationally and internationally to create the changes required, which are radical and far-reaching. And what we can see from this evidence is that a significant part of the population is basically indifferent to all others apart from themselves, or their very narrowly defined tribe. 

So, some questions. What prospect is there that they will change? Will the reality of the climate crisis provoke that necessary reaction? Or will it give rise to even greater denial and factionalism? All our futures may depend upon the answers to those questions.