BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
It was Socrates who declared that “intelligent individuals learn from everything and everyone, average people from their experiences. The stupid already have all the answers.” In fact this quote is at best a paraphrasing or a one-legged translation. Far more pertinent – for those of us opting to live real-world, outside-the-bubble existences – is the fact that wolves are more intelligent than dogs.
As No Deal Brexit enters the territory of likely possibility – something this magazine has argued since 2016 – I am reminded of the journalists who, during the fragile May years and at the height of Brexit shenanigans, succumbed to remoaner activism via their endless Twitter threads.
Alas, indelible virtual history shall never read well for these so-called Brexit commentators:
In mitigation, these very human pundits could not have predicted the Covid effect on Brexit. It was easier for (lazy of) them to listen only to politicians in Westminster, Brussels and Berlin. Nor could they have foreseen the massive December majority for the Conservative Brexiteers. On the other hand, could these faithless wordsmiths not have been a bit more in touch with the people, surely, and realised that what the sound, common sense majority of this country really want they always eventually get? A visit to any pub in Brexiteer territory during the last few years of Bercow meddling would have relayed to them a shopping list of popular choices – to get the hell out of the EU, throw Corbyn in a ditch, stop the flow of economic migrants posing as refugees, despatch the poison dwarfs in Westminster and Edinburgh, get our sovereignty back and mine’s a pint of Best, thank you very much. Why ignore the opinions of voters who have as much value in Clacton as Clapham?
Dominic Cummings has already cottoned on to the pub survey. You can’t run a ground campaign from an office. You have to get out and chat with the farmers, with the businesspeople and with so-called ordinary people wherever you can. Most people don’t attend Conservative cheese and wine events or summer fêtes where the MP shows up. It’s really not that hard to gauge the gist of public opinion in pubs and supermarkets – people are happy to talk. It’s almost impossible to work out popular sentiment whilst dining with the suited and booted at The Wolseley or The Ivy, let alone determine anything of any relevance these days midst the snores at The Reform Club or embellishments at the Traveller’s. As for Twitter – Satan’s invention – well, at least one’s never short of echo chambers.
Bridging the gap between the people and the Government is vital. Talk of moving elements of Westminster to York, albethey expensive, is a brilliant idea. Banter in the pubs of North Yorkshire, say compared to the blather in the taverns of Merseyside, tends to be sound and commonsensical. As the Government seeks to be rid of its autotopagnosia, so it should encourage more satellite policy making and sound-off groups so that it can learn to become de-bubbled. It is no coincidence that the fellow in the village who has the best solution for drainage is the bloke with the most imaginative ideas for improved planning legislation. The shopkeeper, she knows better than the politician how to stop the homeless from getting rat-assed by elevenses on Spar super-strength lager. The soldier with thirty years of dealing with ragtag Marxists and Islamists has some really useful input regards counter terrorism which economics graduates at Westminster think tanks really ought to get abreast of, sharpish. The local police officer has great ideas how to slash discombobulating red tape – better ideas perhaps than the former Home Secretary who worked as the ‘aristocracy coordinator’ on Four Weddings and a Funeral.
The aforementioned Cummings’ recruiting of weirdoes and misfits for Number 10 jobs was almost luminescent. The problem with these outsiders is that as soon as they arrive in Westminster they grab sarnies from the same Westminster Bridge Greggs, drink coffee from the same Costa on Victoria Street and imbibe ale in the same pubs as the already-bubbled crew. They are proverbial fish out of water and metamorphose amphibiously accordingly. To get the most out of outliers, you need to keep them in their outer realms, where they can pick their noses, cogitate laterally and enjoy long, relaxing baths in the late morning, rather than urging them to exhaust their grey cells crammed into tube trains and buses in-between rarefied Downing Street and stuffy shoe-box apartments in Cockfosters.
Once the lurgy is out of the way, it would be a fine thing to see Westminster’s journalistic and political class getting out and about more often. By then the pubs will really need their business. Beer is more nutritious than bread and – for those working in and around Government – should be far more profitable.
Dominic Wightman is the Editor of Country Squire Magazine.