Two of the main characters in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited first meet under inauspicious circumstances. Sebastian Flyte leans through Charles Rider’s window – from the outside – and vomits into his room. Rider’s college accommodation at Oxford is on the ground floor and Sebastian is somewhat the worse for wear after he and his chums return from a good night out. Sebastian’s friends carry him away, and one returns to apologize:
‘The wines were too various,’ he said: ‘it was neither the quality nor the quantity that was at fault. It was the mixture. Grasp that and you have the root of the matter. To understand all is to forgive all.’
It seems to me that such a healing sentiment is desperately needed in this broken country of ours. The United Kingdom is split, our Parliament is split and the major political parties are split. And the problem is that no-one is listening to people of opposing views.
17.4M people voted to leave the EU, 16.1M voted not to, but why did they all vote the way they did? Did the Remainers believe Project Fear? Did they think that the country would slide into a pit of fatally damaged industry, crashing house prices and deep recession? And what about the Leavers? Did they believe that unrestricted immigration from the EU was damaging the infrastructure of the country, and taking jobs from British workers? Were they of the view that an ‘unrestrained’ UK would do far better in terms of trade outside the confines of the EU? Did they reject the concept of the EU project sliding into political union?
In a very real sense, the truth or otherwise of any of these views does not matter, because people hold them for better or worse, and so the country is paralysed. The only way forward, when the choice appears to be binary, is to compromise. If we stay completely in, half of the country will feel betrayed; if we completely leave, the other half will forever hold a grudge.
What we must do is try to understand the point of view of the ‘other’ side. It is no good calling either Rees Mogg or Anna Soubry insulting names, that simply increases resentment. It is time for men and women of good will to get together and sort this mess out.
Most politicians are conscious of their place in history. If the present lot screw this up, they will be forever remembered by future generations as Quislings who betrayed their country because they were too obstinate and stubborn to compromise.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs