Charles Moore Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 22 June 2017

Also: Brexiteer anxiety and Remainer humbug; the Queen’s Speech; the rise in attacks by cows

How much longer can it go on? Deaths caused by terrorism are always followed now by candlelit vigils, a minute’s silence, victims’ families/ government ministers/emergency services/clergy/imams all clustered together, walls of messages and flowers, flags at half-mast. Instinctively, I feel uneasy because the meaning of it all gradually suffers attrition, and also, perhaps, because it asserts a solidarity which isn’t quite there. Yet the fundamental cause of mourning is true and deep enough — it is first for the dead, then for a civilisation which may be dying.

In these pages, on 4 February, Matthew Parris wrote that Brexiteers seemed very anxious, despite having won. He thought this was because they were ‘secretly, usually unconsciously, terrified that they’ve done the wrong thing’. The following week (Notes, 11 February), I suggested that our undoubted anxiety was more likely attributable to fear that ‘having come so far, we might be cheated of what we thought we had achieved’. Exactly a year after the referendum, this fear of being cheated is even stronger. Last week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, came within an ace of saying in public that Britain must not leave the customs union, thereby undermining the negotiating position of the government in which he serves. Even when restrained by cabinet colleagues at the last moment, he still said that leaving without a deal would be ‘a very, very bad outcome for Britain’. The people who lost a year ago now tend to say that, while respecting the result, they wish to find some ‘middle’, ‘incremental’ solution, ideally presided over by some cross-party commission thingy. This is an ancient Establishment skill, which is not explicitly to prevent something, but to find a way of quietly making it impossible. As Enoch Powell liked imagining himself saying to the people who usually run this country, ‘I admire your gift for humbug.

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