Three years ago I blogged on why I made the mistake of voting Remain. I would still prefer the UK to be a member of a reformed, multi-track, democratically accountable European Union. But that is not on offer. Ursula von der Leyan may be a surprise choice to replace Juncker but she is keeping Timmermans as her deputy and is a strong believer in building towards a United States of Europe.
I will be delighted if she does indeed turn out to be a reformer but until that happens I remain a reluctant believer that Brexit is the only way of bringing about the reforms to the EU that will make it worth be a member. And if that sounds “Irish” … it is. At the time of the referendum an Ulsterman who had worked as long and hard as I had on trying to make a reality of the Digital Single Market explained why had done the same analysis as I had … and decided to vote Brexit.
I have since come to realise that he was indeed right. Knowing what I know now, I would have voted leave.
I also understand much better why the different parts of the UK voted as they did.
The task ahead is not just Brexit
The new Conservative leader faces a massive task in re-building the Party round a shared set of values and visions for the future. Then comes the task of rebuilding trust in politicians, parliament, the civil service and the electoral system. No wonder the Conservative Party faithful want more hustings so that they can look the candidates in the eye and form their own judgements. And all that is before we start discussing the policies that we may, or may not, trust them to deliver.
My reasons for voting for Jeremy Hunt are based largely on his track record. I am less impressed by his claim to be one of the few entrepreneurs in politics than by the nature of the business he created: Hotcourses It is the world’s largest guide for would-be students and parents deciding where to invest their time, money and hopes when the pace of change is accelerating.
Those supporting Boris Johnson think he will be able chair a cabinet in which responsibility is delegated to them. I fear that the Civil Service, facing the post-Brexit existential threats of Devolution and Deregulation to their Whitehall Empires, will come together and run rings round them all.
After surviving his early baptism of fire at NHS, defending a badly botched junior doctor’s contract, Jeremy Hunt set about unravelling the culture of secrecy (including gagging clauses and the persecution of whistle-blowers) that had enabled those frightened of clinical responsibility to create some of the most inhumane (to both staff and patients) and inefficient working conditions in the modern world. The drop-out rate among student nurses is more than double that for students as a whole. Those doing nursing apprenticeships spend more than four times as much off-the-job because of the failure to use modern learning methodologies. I am married into a medical clan and have learned to keep quiet when the iniquities of the Royal Colleges are discussed.
My hope is that Jeremy Hunt will be able to lead a similar unravelling across the whole of central government, making it impossible for the “Empire” to strike back. The cult of “commercial confidentiality” with regard to the spending of public money, whether on in-house or outsourced services, needs to end.
My fear is that, by contrast, that Boris will go for gesture politics, as at the GLA, and will no more be able to begin the overdue reform of central Government than he could that of Transport for London or the Metropolitan Police. Both now in the hands of Sadiq Khan’t with everything blamed on “austerity”.
But it begins with delivering a constructive Brexit
I liked Hunt’s presentation at the recent Conservative Progress Conference – with rapid legislation on what has already been agreed so that it can be “banked” and the areas of uncertainty and fears of potential retaliation greatly reduced. This is the opposite to the more common approach of “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. It is, however, the approach adopted by some of the most successful negotiators – if one counts “success” as delivering win-win deals that build for the future. They isolate the areas of disagreement and weaken the positions of those holding out against compromise. They then praise everyone in sight as they start lining up their allies for the next deal but one. They are great fun to watch, especially because they are so under-estimated by more aggressive negotiators who make great play out of winning unnecessary battles.
And, as I said in my blog on the Golden Rules and Taboo Questions – the Irish Backstop is a McGuffin. It is there to prevent discussion on topics such as cutting our Corporation Tax rates so that Global High Tech Companies pay tax in London rather than Dublin on their UK earnings. Thus enabling tax cuts to yield higher tax takes.
I also like the clarity of Jeremy Hunt’s ten point plan
That bring me back to my due diligence.
Hunt made his money from providing usable guidance for students and parents around the world on where the invest their time and money in doing courses that would help them meet their objectives. Politely unravelling nonsense is what he is good at. And it is a very powerful negotiating tool.