"Politics is in such crisis," my friend says as he pulls the cork out from a bottle of Gran Reserva Rioja. Nothing like a cosy dinner party to discuss the ills of society and the wrongs of politics. He was, of course, referring to the impending Brexit, the imminent inauguration of Donald J. Trump - as Donald J. Trump illeistically calls himself, and the apparent rise of the Right. "Scary times," he says while studying the legs.
But the truth is, whether he likes it or not, something had to change. It was bound to. Opinions are dividing, and it was only a matter of time before politics caught up. After all, let's not forget the middleness in which we've been stuck over the past twenty years. With Blairism somewhere on one side of the centre, and Cameron's compassionate conservatism somewhere on the other, Clegg's adoption of the student fees and Miliband's support for Austerity left us confused, disappointed and hopeless; when the Left agrees with the policies of the Right, we know we're in trouble, and political apathy ensues with 'what's the point in even trying?'.
Politics simply wasn't politics anymore. It had lost its ferocity. Punch-Up Politics had disappeared, and it had become so hard to wedge even a piece of paper between any of the parties that all we had left to talk about was the jab of their finger, their PPE courses, and the shininess of their suits. The spin was the same; the look was the same; the aspiration was the same. But where was the cause? As New Labour and New Conservatism courteously danced around the same middle ground, politics was seemingly becoming duller, and more of the same - not that the middle-classes was particularly bothered; they were winning no matter how ridiculous the dance: if Labour were in power, even if they were squeezed in the middle, they could still afford to have the extra penny in the pound taken off for tax contributions, and get to ease their conscious in helping the needy and unfortunate in a bid to champion equality from behind a Man Booker novel or the confines of a music lesson; if the Tories were in power, they could, guilt-free, accept the extra penny in their pocket from tax cuts, and start that second hobby or invest in a second home as a buy-to-let. Either way, they won. It wasn't their children who relied on Sure Start; and it wasn't them who needed to know where their local food bank was; and if the waiting lists ever did get too long, well, let's face it, it wasn't never too much of a stretch to ask for parental help to go private, if need be. Quite simply, middle politics suited the middle classes.
But, of course, now change is in the air. And it's scary. Because this time, those middle winners are on the losing side. They didn't vote Brexit. They wouldn't have voted Trump. And they won't be voting Le Penn.
But the oomph is back in politics, and the middles-classes have fewer places to hide. Consensus is dead; and opposition is firmly on the table. And those who have not gained from the last twenty years are finding their voice. Those who have been side-lined over the past two decades - those for whom globalisation isn't yet working, those of whom integration has ignored, those who tried to aspire as they were told to by successive governments but still didn't manage to get on the property ladder or establish a university fund, those who don't have the luxury of working from an internet connection in their kitchen with a cup of freshly brewed coffee - are realising they have been left behind - and want in. It's not fair, they're shouting. Where's our fair share? Quite simply, they've had enough. And so they're on the march. And we can call it political demagoguery, we call it popularism, we can call it opportunism, we can call it what we want, but their frustrations and all their concerns are real; and they are finally being heard. Middle politics hasn't worked for them. It's left them wanting - no profits, no golden pension, no job for life. And they've cottoned on.
And so partition is back on the agenda. And yes, it hurts, and yes, it is divisive.
But at least it agitates. It stirs interest and debate. It gets people talking and engaged. It gets us to revaluate complacency. And it feels radical - even if it does feel in crisis. And yes, it feels a little scary. But probably it is necessary. Certainly it is part of the course. Goodbye sedentary, and hello freneticism. The chips are in the air and we'll have to see where they land. The questions we are left asking ask ourselves, now the cork is out of the bottle, is whether it was better when it was boring? And how much we're prepared to give up to get back there?Suggest a correction