Since about 2012-2013 – when there was a brief period of relative calm – British politics has been a dizzying whirlwind of elections, referendums, leadership contests, career implosions and historic events. It has been intense and extraordinary to see.

This is what is known in journalism as a run of stories that is generally “good for trade”, meaning good for business. Indeed, that has literally been the case since Brexit and Donald Trump’s capture of the White House. Subscriptions to publications such as the pro-Brexit Spectator and the anti-Brexit Financial Times have shot up. No-one any longer wants to admit at a dinner party or in the pub to finding current affairs boring. It obviously matters. It is interesting. And readers are prepared to pay for quality news, analysis and commentary. The Times, which I joined recently as a columnist, is surging ahead and absolutely fizzes with life.

Even in our humble little corner of the internut at Reaction the signs are encouraging for journalism. In under two months we have almost 1,000 paying subscribers already. Thank you if you are one of those who have signed up. It is much appreciated and there is much more to come, as we aim to welcome the next 1,000 subscribers, and then the next.

We are also launching, very soon, Reaction students, a scheme by which donors buy students a year’s free membership of Reaction, so that they might read our writers on politics, ideas, economics and culture. We already have a waiting list and the first batch is ready to go soon.


After this three to four year run of drama – a political nervous breakdown, a coda to the financial crisis? – all the signs suggests that everyone needs a holiday. I hear that Spain is nice this time of year?

No, perhaps not. For we are told that we are going to war with Spain over Gibraltar, a large rock attached to Spain but British since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. It should be self-evident that we are not going to have a war with Spain, but the surprising comments of the former Tory leader and usually careful Lord Howard that Theresa May would be steadfast and Thatcher-like in her dealings with Madrid have created one of those storms that social media and 24 hour TV news needs as fuel.

My instinct (perhaps wishful thinking) is that most people will not be paying any attention to such arguments. But the Brexiteers, or the most hardline MPs, would be advised to consider a spot of introspection before opening their mouths. Tory MPs on the right (a relatively small group with disproportionate influence thanks to the small Tory majority) tend to inhabit ultra-safe seats deep in England and do not have to think about perception and how they are perceived by non-believers, because they would have to do something truly unspeakable to lose their seats. As a result, some have not had to turn on their brains for 25 years.

The punchy rhetoric about Spain, an ally, is deeply unwise. A return to imperial weights and measures? Does anyone under 50 really, really, think this is a first, second or third order priority? A return to blue passports because, as one Tory MP puts it, the “pink” passports have been a source of national humiliation? Note the hopefully accidental signal the word pink sends. Nudge, nudge.

But they’re not pink. They’re bloody burgundy and the number of people under 50 who really care – I mean really care to the point of calling it a humiliation or even to the point of knowing the difference – could be squeezed into an old folks home in Reigate.

Brexit won a clear mandate. But the campaign was bitterly fought and the victory was decisive but not overwhelming. The Leave vote was formed of a coalition of interests. The best hope for Britain remains an alliance of moderate Leavers and moderate Remainers, which must be 60-70% of the country. Incidentally, one of the reasons Theresa May is so popular in the country is that she steers a course between the two extremes. Beyond that, the war between ultra-Remainers and Leavers is getting worse not better.

I politely warn you not to try to disentangle any of this fighting and name-calling on Twitter or social media, where journalists, activists and other obsessives go for a good square go. It ever more resembles a noisy bar with people joining arguments late and getting hold of the wrong end of the stick and proceeding to beat about the bush with it.

Some of this is just angry Remainers wanting to be proved right, and Leavers getting ever more sick of being bracketed with extremists. Yet the Remainers become ever bolder in calling everything a catastrophe while seemingly relishing reverses, taking the EU’s side and presenting the UK as powerless, when it is not.

Incidentally, one of the best pieces on this is in the FT, where  offers tips to furious Remainers. He suggests that they need to calm down and accept that both campaigns told lies and used half-truths during the referendum, it is just that the lies of the Remain side were more sophisticated.

Waiting for Brexit to produce an economic apocalypse is not a useful strategy, he says. The world moves on. As time passes it will become ever harder to disentangle the effects of Brexit from wider global economic and regional trends. Don’t expect that a future recession will automatically see Leavers recant.

Quite right. I would add that lot of Leavers made a quite deliberate choice, placing self-government and a rejection of the excessive power of super-national organisations above short-term personal and national economic considerations, believing we would find a way but thinking we need to leave the EU first. This is one of the most impressive and refreshing aspects of the whole referendum. Those voters eschewed an economically reductive view of the world.

Accept,  says to ultra-Remainers, that if the UK ever rejoins the EU then it will have to be the full lot, meaning the euro and Schengen. So, if you really want to dedicate your adult life to persuading your fellow citizens of this demented and electorally “bold” proposition, of begging to be let back into the EU, it is probably wise to stop calling the majority who voted for Brexit stupid and racist because you will need some of our votes when you somehow get another referendum, which you won’t. Just a thought.

As I said, everyone clearly needs a rest and/or a holiday.

And another thing… No. Stop it. It is is sunny outside.