Brexit has spawned a form of internecine politics in the UK that is a lose-lose for all – the politicians, parties, and the nations, and very likely, the public interest. Conservatives have referred to ‘blue on blue’ attacks on one’s own party members, but not as in military parlance, accidental. These are really intentional efforts to destroy other members of one’s own political party.
This blue-on-blue warfare was mentioned in the debate on 9 July 2019 between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, but that is but one example of a daily dose of destructive political hatchet jobs that leaves everyone diminished. Today, the former PM John Major threatened to take the next UK PM to court if he were to try to force a no-deal Brexit. Of course, politics in the USA is as vicious, if not more so – consider the warfare between the late John McCain and Donald Trump. All are diminished in such exchanges.
Has politics become more vicious and internecine, or has the media and social media made politics simply more visible? Optimistically, maybe it is the latter, an example of the media having what has been called by Joshua Meyrowitz as ‘no sense of place‘. Every insult, threat, or attack is immediately tweeted, blogged, leaked, and/or reported on the mainstream 24-hour news channels. No politician can escape the constant gaze of the media today, and most seek it, so arguably, we know too much to hold any politician on a pedestal.
So maybe it is the latter, and there is hope that politicians, the press, and media can learn to hold fire in the public interest. While this is unlikely, given that such internecine conflicts generate listeners, readers, and viewers, it is also in the self-interest of any politician to not indulge in, or try their best to avoid, these political attacks. In older times, one was advised to go ahead and write the memo to your boss or colleague to get your grievance off your chest, but then put it in your desk drawer, and read it the next day. The logic was that in the light of the next day, most vituperous memos or letters would be shredded and forgotten. Well, memos are rare today, as are desk drawers, and tweets work best in live action, so restraint will be more difficult in these times.
All parties need to realise that clicks, views, and news coverage are not indicators of agreement or support of a comment. This member of the public is becoming exhausted and disappointed by these internecine politics. Sadly, they alienate many of the public. Surely it is naive, but in everyone’s interest to be more civil, less personal, restrained, and more empathetic. Politics is the art of compromise, and not war carried on by other means.