We are cursed to be led by ‘sensible centrists’

The alleged grown-ups in the room are dimwitted and deranged.

Gareth Roberts

Topics Culture Politics UK

‘Midwits to the south-west, thousands of ‘em!’

Wherever you turned in 2023, centrists and sensibles were there – with their endless ‘if only we were in charge’ podcasts, their pained expressions and ever-so-naughty Margolyesian swears, and above all, their twee anger.

This twanger has reached its apex with the Christmas jumper that reads ‘DECK THE HALLS AND FUCK THE TORIES’, modelled on Twitter by couples in late middle-age, rather like Howard and Hilda from Ever Decreasing Circles. Comedy knitwear – like the Wooferendum before it – is the perfect encapsulation of this movement. It is a very Brandrethian, very Dictionary Corner revolution.

The News Agents, James O’Brien, The Rest is Politics, Otto English, Cold War Steve, Stella Creasy, Stewart Lee, Carol Vorderman, Alicia Kearns, Caroline Nokes, Elliot Colburn (for many Tories are ‘sensibles’ too), Gary Lineker – our politics and culture has been turned into a procession of Only Connect contestants, with their banjoleles and high blink-rate.

During the final months of 2023 – against a backdrop of the worst displays of mass racism this country has seen for centuries – they’ve been carrying on, in their usual cringeworthy way, regardless.

We’ve had Michael Sheen at the National Theatre in Nye, described as ‘an epic Welsh fantasia about one man’s dream of the NHS’. We’ve experienced the attempt by the ludicrously uppish Jolyon Maugham to organise a boycott of a posh bakery, because he doesn’t like the politics of its part-owner. Jess Phillips has tweeted that ‘few things make me feel more patriotic than the fact that the nation voted for Boaty McBoatface’, to which John Simpson shot back: ‘Great reply, Jess. It’s what makes us Brits.’

You may pause to vomit at this point.

The funny thing is, many of these people hate each other’s guts, even though they are ideologically almost indistinguishable, as we see sharply in the chummy podcasts of erstwhile enemies like Ed Balls and George Osborne (Political Currency) or Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell (The Rest is Politics). But the outcome of their politics – supposedly hugely different but actually incredibly similar – remains the same: decay and decline.

Centrism is the wrong term for this blight. It conjures up images of quiet background competence. But this is not the case with these people. They aren’t responsible, ordinary, sensible or anywhere near the centre. They are all mental. The things they believe in are bonkers. They seem reasonable only because they are well-spoken and dress boringly, seasonal knitwear excepted.

But they are very often brimful with potty conspiracy theories and harebrained schemes – barking-mad ideas that from sheer repetition we have become inured to. Just take Net Zero, uncontrolled mass immigration, some women have cocks, some blokes are lesbians, shutting down the economy and then blaming everything except shutting down the economy when the economy tanks. This is the centre? Of where, Nutsville?

We must also remember not to conflate sensibleism with wokeism, though there are inevitably areas of overlap. Sensibles aren’t usually particularly woke in themselves, with some exceptions, but they enable wokeism by ignoring it. Their attitude seems to be that wokeism must be okay, because it ‘owns’ the Tories. This is a very bad take, because as we really should’ve learnt by now, a very large cohort of Tory MPs want to own the Tories.

2023 was the year that should’ve ripped the lid off these people. The blatant mass racism we’ve seen following Hamas’s pogrom in Israel would, in a sane world, have blown up the discourse in the faces of these fools. But they have no shame, and so the horrific racism of the pro-Hamas hate marches doesn’t count – no white trash involved, you see. We saw this when the sensibles suddenly became hysterical at the sight of a few rowdy lads pushing through a little gate on Armistice Day.

Through the vehicle of the Labour Party, these people are just about to come to power by default, and unlike the Tories, they won’t be timid in using it. The civil service will miraculously become accommodating and helpful, though of course not any more competent. The civil servants will be as bad at ‘delivery’ as they are now, though they might have fewer conniptions and intranet meltdowns.

But what difference will it make? The ‘centrists’, whether Tory or Labour, always win. They keep winning. Even when they lose, and lose big like in 2019, they win. They’re too stupid to realise it, yes; they squeal and wail about tiny pushbacks that have no effect whatsoever, and plans – like the Rwanda policy or selling Channel 4 or fracking – that never happen. Their bête noire, Boris Johnson, actually governed as one of them, as a sensible, and they didn’t even notice. To almost all intents and purposes, with the sole exception of Brexit, these people have been running the country, in government and opposition, and through the institutions, for over 30 years. They’re still winning – because we keep letting them. Who are the bigger fools, them or us?

I don’t like making predictions (I incline to the Doris Day dictum that ‘the future’s not ours to see’), but barring some major miracle, I can’t see the imminent Labour government doing anything but fail. Labour has only one notable difference from the Tories – it is even worse.

The full extent of the terrible damage these supposedly sensible people have done to the country – ethnic hatred, a busted economy, nothing working like it should – is only now becoming apparent. The future may well be awful – though, fingers crossed, not too awful. But even if it’s time in 2024 to stick our heads between our legs and kiss our backsides bye bye, let’s go out laughing – at them.

Gareth Roberts is a screenwriter and novelist, best known for his work on Doctor Who.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Culture Politics UK


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