John Bird: All the ingredients for perfect chaos

Never in modern times have so many people believed so little in an election result that did not go their desired way

A few days ago I received a photo of the Queen walking with Daniel Craig, the current James Bond. In speech bubbles James is saying “All of Parliament, Ma’am?”, and the Queen replies “Yes 007, the damn lot of them.”

Over recent months many have felt that the House of Commons has led people to conjure up such fantasies as the above. I think I might have felt similarly angered; but is that the sensible response to a completely unprecedented chaos?

For some years now, and in these pages in particular, I have been going on about ‘Ingredientism’. Ingredientism is as simple as it sounds: what are the elements that make up something in particular? I have been looking at the ingredients that made up the First World War, trying to extract what was necessary for this calamitous event to happen. I am sure that what I call ‘ingredientism’ is called something posher in the academies of history and philosophy. But I could not from henceforth look at anything as something, as a thing in itself.

I had experimented with this in the beginning days of The Big Issue. I started describing homelessness as ‘the tip of the social iceberg’; the presenting problem. That what you saw was the homelessness of a person, but underneath it were all of the variegated elements, ingredients that made it up.

If you look at the crisis, the chaos, the inability of MPs to converge into a coherent mass behind a policy or programme, you have to realise that it was a long time coming. That like the First World War, or homelessness, dozens of things had to happen for anything to happen.

The chaos is completely predictable, but probably also avoidable. Looking back to when David Cameron led us into a referendum, absolutely convinced that he would get his ‘remain’ mandate, and could shut up his Eurosceptics, he provided many of the ingredients that make up the kerfuffle of the current House of Commons.

But he was not alone. Farage and political disdain based on Old Etonian rivalry conspired to make more ingredients. This was coupled with deep distrust of Europe among Thatcherite Tories, and a growing sense of loss among many people about Europe’s distant decision-making. Another ingredient that might also have contributed is being an island people off the main body of a continent; you could magnify the elements, the ingredients. And they all add up to the problems of current times.

Add to this a kind of Them and Us that stalked the land, and you are beginning to get the explosive cocktail that leads to chaos.

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But the biggest element was that never in modern times have so many people believed so little in an election result that did not go their desired way. ‘Sore loser’ does not quite work, or explain, the deep-seated rejection of the result by the part that lost, the Remainers.

So if you have a pro-Remain Parliament, by about 70 per cent in both Houses, who voted 80 per cent for the referendum, and you end up with the wrong result, then you might get confusion and chaos en masse. If the losing side accepted the result you would not get this chaos. This would have all been done and dusted.

But because deep in their hearts the Remainers inside and outside Parliament can’t swallow the result, you have the constitutional crisis where seemingly over 600 MPs want different things; individually.

If you find yourself thinking what a bunch of nutcases have got into the Commons, bear in mind that they are living a crisis that is reflected foremost in the minds of all of those who reject the result

Most of my fellow Remainers who I know cannot accept the result. And because of that cannot accept the resultant Brexit, in whatever form it presents itself. This is a recipe for chaos. Because every major piece of government and politics in this country for over 100 years has relied on both sides accepting the result.

If you cannot accept the result then you cannot accept the process of our democracy; hence MPs can only in the end chase their own tails, seemingly. Yet what they are largely trying to do, this 70 per cent ‘remain’ Parliament, is square the circle over the referendum result.

And it’s not possible.

The biggest ingredient is the rejection of the result. That is the new thing in our Parliament. A new element: they cannot accept the result, even though they have to struggle towards a recognition of that result. If only legally.

So if you find yourself thinking what a bunch of nutcases have got into the Commons, bear in mind that they are living a crisis that is reflected foremost in the minds of all of those who reject the result. They are the living embodiment of what goes wrong when two sides can’t agree on the result of a contest once it is over.

And each Remainer MP, setting aside those who jockey for higher office, believes that they cannot just sit back and suck in that result. It is to them a catastrophic result. They cannot sit idly by and watch us untangle from what has been seen as the revitaliser of post-war Britain.

No solution presents itself. But one thing we cannot do is simply look at this and blame our MPs for not being able to converge into the old groups. These MPs are the presenting problem, manifesting a deeper issue amongst us all. We are witnessing a sea change and Parliament is likely to look very different after all this splintering.

Not many people actually wanted a war in 1914. And not many people want a revolution in 21st-century UK. Chaos has its own reality.