We may want it sorted, but Brexit isn’t getting any simpler
What I like about Swansea Market is how you can pop in to buy some duck eggs and a few Welsh cakes, and then be asked “Do you think Boris should resign, then?”, just as you’re being given your change. One thing you can say about Brexit is how it’s debunked the idea that political awareness is unfashionable. Don’t get me wrong, the subject is still best avoided at the dinner table, but there are nonetheless few of us without an opinion or a willingness to express it.
Just after the 2017 snap election, when embattled Theresa May saw her majority dwindle to single figures, I pondered a few scenarios in this column.
Among the more unlikely was the possibility of Parliament wresting control from the government in the Commons on key policy debates. Of course, I dismissed the idea concluding this would require massive ineptitude on the part of the prime minister and an outbreak of strategic cooperation between disparate opposition parties. Hey-ho.
My opinion on Brexit then (as now) is that a majority of people voted in favour of a principle. Their reasonable expectation was that politicians promoting ‘Leave’ would translate the outcome into a workable policy, which in turn would become a series of negotiated safeguard actions.
Where things went wrong is that the process was far more complex than anyone initially admitted. It also soon became a clash of genuinely held concerns and cynical opportunism. Unsurprisingly, some regarded it as a means of toppling the government while others saw a job vacancy on the horizon.
Ultimately, the problem lies with politicians whose selfish grasp continually exceeds their reach. Nowhere is this more apparent than the hostage to fortune created by desperate tories who opted to bolster their tenuous grip on Westminster with mercenary support from Northern Ireland.
I’ve had business associations both sides of the Irish border for over a decade. My experience is that any solution to the backstop question is going to be a lot less straightforward – and potentially more dangerous - than many try to suggest
As such, Boris Johnson will need to think long and hard about the longer-term impact of throwing the Good Friday agreement under the Brexit bus.
Maybe he should chat with a few people in Swansea Market.
Remembering those who serve the community
The last week has seen the passing of two individuals I had the privilege to know and work with in another life. Many will remember Byron Owen as someone who continually strived to deliver for Swansea and who was just as likely to pen you a song or poem as commission a key development project. He also turned out to be a fairly tidy wedding usher – but that’s another story.
I knew John Hague long before he was a councillor when I lived in Winch Wen. Few will be aware that he aimed to be a Labour councillor, were it not for the vagaries of selection. He always cut a determined figure in council and in the community.
Both were respected and unmistakably ‘old-school’ tough nuts who excelled in a tough political environment. Doubtlessly they drew from lessons gained during their respective rugby-playing days.
Both came from a generation who proved that becoming a councillor did not depend on education, status or knowing the right people. Their only qualification was a commitment to the community they served, a willingness to listen, and a wry acceptance that you will never get it right on any one issue in the eyes of at least half the electorate. Both will be missed and the city is poorer for their passing.