Millennium Post

Boomerangs of Brexit

Suddenly, matters are getting a trifle too serious for Prime Minister Theresa May. And, the Brexit chaos has been getting worse. Lawmakers are set to hold a nonbinding vote on the future of Britain's trade after Brexit. It is a vote that could set in motion a series of events that could give the proverbial jitters to the government and add to its apprehensions. Amidst all the dissatisfaction, sound and fury within the ruling Conservatives in Britain, one sound, in particular, has been unmistakable: that of rising Tory angst about the party's future. It might be strange to witness such self-doubt at the moment. Britain's departure from the EU looked set to realise so many Conservative dreams. But, Brexit is perhaps one of those classic pyrrhic victories that cheers the "troops" while sowing the seeds of a seismic defeat that may lie just around the corner. Indeed, it is quite something that the Tories are still neck-to-neck with Labour in the polls, and they could still win the next election. But, their position nonetheless suggests encroaching twilight, for reasons that run much deeper than Theresa May's shortcomings. The evidence is plain. At the last general election, Labour was way ahead in all age categories under 40. The fact that the polarities were completely reversed among the over-50s heralded a new politics deeply divided along generational lines, with the Tories seemingly on the wrong side of history. While Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party can justifiably claim to be a mass movement, the Conservatives have not released any membership figures since 2013 and are reckoned to have as few as 70,000 members. According to recent polling, 71 per cent of Conservative members are men and 44 per cent are aged 65 or over. Even as the Tories have virtually ossified, the long, fitful process of modernisation that began in the wake of the John Major years has had some successes. Brexit has turned out to be this strand of Conservatism's nemesis. Britain's housing crisis and the impossibility of home ownership for countless people under 40 surely demands something different. From time to time, there have been attempts to come up with a Conservatism more relevant to people's 21st-century problems. If a Tory reformation is what is needed, there is a Conservative political tradition that screams out for a revival: pragmatic and moderate. It is one of the grimmer aspects of Theresa May's fate that in her brief burst of confidence, before the last election smashed her dreams to bits, this seemed to be where she was headed. Huge changes to technology, work and the age balance of the population are demanding new thinking from all sides. Meanwhile, Toryism seems to be all but limping. Such, indeed, is the fate of a sharply divided ruling party.
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