We do not yet know which 100 citizens will make it to the ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ to be chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which will look at ways of preventing a no-deal Brexit. So we cannot yet judge whether the organisers have come up with a system of selection which improves on the representative powers of parliament.
But really we do not need to, because we know already that they will not be able to bring the ‘reconciliation at a time of national emergency’ which the Archbishop seeks. This is because the idea that a no-deal Brexit must be prevented is not an irenic proposition around which people can unite, but an intensely political one over which they inevitably divide.
This is not a case of ‘All we are saying is “Give peace a chance”.’ That is not all they are saying: the Bishop of Buckingham reacted to Tory criticism by asking, ‘I wonder what Iain Duncan Smith is afraid of.’ Those are not the words of a gentle pastor, but of a combatant. Early on in the referendum saga, Archbishop Welby said that Christians could legitimately differ over Brexit. He was surely right, yet his assembly is taking sides on just this point.
This article is an extract from Charles Moore's Spectator Notes, available in this week's magazine, out tomorrow.