If Only Polly Toynbee Understood The Very Problem She Points At Over Brexit

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Yes, we know, Polly Toynbee is an ardent Remainer. Not for any real reason we suspect, rather because the sort of people she doesn’t like trend Leave. But, you know, politics, all that. Friend’s friend is my enemy or however it goes.

However, when identifying what the problem is it’s helpful to be able to identify the actual problem:

We’ll come out, deal or no deal, on 31 October. That’s the spirit! We’ve got to have the courage to tell the people of this country we can do it if we really want to.” So says Boris Johnson in his jaunty launch video, all blind faith that he alone can leap the Brexit impasse when he is anointed prime minister (odds now 11/10). Where’s the democratic legitimacy? We the people are mere dumbfounded onlookers at the insolence of this coup, not “taking back control” but letting him seize it.

Already his “no deal” talk is doing real damage. UK manufacturing shrank last month at the fastest rate since the referendum, with export orders at a three-year low. Construction figures fell their fastest for a year due to “ongoing political and economic uncertainty” as “a fragile dreariness descended on the sector”, according to the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply. Retail sales fell by 2.7% in May, the worst drop since records began, though consumer spending is what has kept the economy afloat. Wednesday’s service sector figures are unlikely to lift the gloom.

It’s not deal or no deal that is the problem. It’s, as in the quote there Polly uses, uncertainty which is. Just as it’s uncertainty which killed British Steel.

We don’t know what’s going to happen. That means people delay orders, put investments on the back burner, generally wait in order to see. And it’s that which becomes the self-proving action – economic times will be hard because we’re all already acting as if economic times will be hard.

There does actually become a point at which any decision is better than none. Even a bad decision will have less long term effect than not making one and suffering the continued uncertainty.

That is, we should have come out on March 29th, meaning that we wouldn’t have any of this uncertainty. That’s what Polly is proving there even as she fails to recognise it.

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Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

There’s an old military maxim to the effect that a good commander is someone who can make decisions quickly and then stick to them. If they can be the correct decision, that helps, too.

Jason Lynch
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Jason Lynch

“A good commander makes decisions quickly. A great commander makes correct decisions quickly.” is the version I’ve heard.

And one point routinely ignored or overlooked is that “doing nothing” is a decision and has costs and issues: delay only looks cost-free if “someone else” will have to deal with the consequences.