The political conference season is well underway and, separating bombastic rhetoric (of which there is much) from true intent (of which there is somewhat less evidence), there is already a sense of combativeness, of challenge and of ambition in the air that will pose significant threat to the beleaguered Conservative government.
It's clearly a part of our human nature to detect weakness in an opponent and then battle to widen the debate into further weakness - and in certain respects this is the role of any political party in opposition - to challenge, dispute and highlight shortcomings. Or so it used to be when Westminster was a far more predictable arena to watch political sports in. Nowadays, there is a much foggier atmosphere, less clear distinctions between the camps and even cross-over manoeuvres between the parties when certain votes are at stake.
Why, we may ask ? What has shifted, not just in this country but around the world, to make the political class so exposed, so vulnerable and so unsure of themselves that error after error compound the crises that many governments now face ?
I doubt there is any single reason to explain the phenomena but it occurs to me to stem from a basic detachment by the politico's from the very purpose and prime objective of government - to serve, protect and uphold the values of its societal communities, its people. Government has drifted away - worldwide - from core purposes and become embroiled in baffling and so complex an array of international debates, eg, climate change, mass migration, economics, foreign aid, overseas adventurism, etc, etc, that the home ground has almost been sidelined and ranked as a lower priority. As globalisation has expanded, so has the mindset of governments, perhaps particularly so in the West, and domestic matters have suffered as a result. That's not entirely surprising as we do expect our governments to keep up with the times and compete for advantage on this world stage. But the cost of this is division, split factions within the political machinery and, as the pendulum starts its return swing, a growing realisation that too much focus has been devoted to the outside world and not enough on the domestic world.
In Britain, I suspect that's more or less where we are at right now. Loyalties become tested when good causes find themselves in competition for scarce resource, camps are set-up, divisions created and arguments ensue. There's nothing inherently wrong in the dynamic of argument but we are seeing the negative side of that being aired through the conference medium as it translates more (or is being interpreted that way) into naked ambition than a true desire to reconcile the international versus domestic challenges of government. And let's face it - no government is going to get it all right, so it's up to the whole political class to ensure that balance, proportionality and common sense are entered into the debate. In other words, good, sound Opposition activity in the House of Commons.
As most of us know, that is not the scenario we currently experience. That's not a vote of confidence in our current, Conservative government and neither is it a condemnation of parliamentary opposition groups, but it is a recognition that we are at a turning point in our history - a point that will actually enter the history books read by future generations - and that political ambition (for its own sake) is not the recipe that will win us any credit in those chapters yet to be written. Co-operation, support, advice and flexibility are the ingredients we need across the political spectrum as the nation tackles its future within Continental Europe and the rest of the world, getting the best minds and the best ideas put to work to create the right solution. Such a solution won't please everyone - again, that is our human nature at work - but we must find the right path through a sense of national identity, unity and purpose that is as good as it can get. That means getting the right people with the right outlook, adaptability and force of commitment to tackle the challenges - and that means absorbing wise minds from across the political divide into the battle-space.
Time is of the essence for Britain now. Party politics is already in a divided atmosphere so let's put country before party and get those wise minds working together.