The phrase 'paradigm shift' celebrates its 55th anniversary this year. First coined in Thomas S Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, it concerns a fundamental change in assumptions that is not gradually determined; the change takes place instantly.
Such a paradigm shift took place last June when the UK voted to leave the EU. Up until then, it had been consistent Conservative leadership policy since 1961 for the UK to be in the EEC/EU. It had been Labour policy since the late 1980s, when socialists realised that even when they were not in power, their European comrades could still force socialism on to a Conservative government through EU Law.
The shift meant that Labour was wrong-footed. The political divide in this country had been up until last June fiscal. It concerned how much the government of the day was willing to overspend on social projects, and where to get that money from. Suddenly, this ceased to be the frontline of politics. It is now how a newly independent Britain will make its way in the world, or exactly how independent Britain should be.
So there is now a new battle line in British politics. Strangely, it resembles one from over a century ago, namely that of Home Rule. Back then, this referred to the devolution of power to Ireland in such a way as to not disenfranchise the Protestant minority. The issue dominated British politics in the late 19th century. It was highly divisive. Gentlemen of differing views stopped associating with each other in clubs. Liberal Unionists were welcomed in Conservative social circles.
The same is happening today. Home Rule, or Brexit, as it is now called, is the new dividing issue. Private Eye this week lampoons what must be happening in numerous dinner parties, where Leavers and Remainers assemble and identify themselves. Awkward silences, hard stares are being directed against the Leaver who admits their choice. It is not an issue of debate where a rational synthesis can emerge from opposing views. This is a (French) cheese-and-wine civil war.
This is also a battle line where Labour is now all but irrelevant. The party is playing catch-up after belatedly realising that a party polling at 25 per cent should be attracting the votes of the 48 per cent who voted to Remain. This is made complex by Labour having a leadership who wanted Article 50 invoked the day after the referendum result. Thus Labour is in party split mode, again.
The Remainers are going through the political version of grief in its stages. There is the denial; the referendum result was only advisory, and Parliament can vote to ignore it. There is anger; witness all those 'spontaneous' street demonstrations where the placards abuse Leave voters. There is bargaining; the result and how the Government deals with it has been through the courts. There is depression; the Remainers, who seem to dominate the media, are now abusing their position to manufacture apocalyptic visions of Britain's future as an independent country to make us all feel as miserable as they are.
We also now have a kind of acceptance: Brexit In Name Only.
Remainers accept we are leaving the EU. However, they want us to enjoy the benefits of membership all the same, so presumably they may continue to travel to their weekend villas in the Dordogne, and have their offspring work in Brussels with minimal bureaucracy intervening. They want us to be outside the EU, but to pay for single market access and the rest as if we are inside. This reduces Mrs May's 'Dear Donald' letter, delivered last week, to 'a scrap of paper' in the eyes of the Remainers.
Their argument is that the UK voted to leave the EU, not the single market. They state that the British public was not told that one was the consequence of the other. This is a lie. In fact it was made very clear, by the Remain campaign, that we would be outside the single market should we vote to Leave. This was the central element of Project Fear, depicting a future full of devastation from earthquakes, tidal waves, killer bees, and World Trade Organisation tariffs.
Perhaps 'Remainers' is no longer the best way to describe these well-heeled apocalyptists - the liberal elite who are abusing their well-paid positions in politics, media and commerce to reverse a free, fair, and honest vote cast by people they unjustly demean as social inferiors, whose opinions should be ignored. This is an Alliance of Liberals for Brexit In Name Only (Albinos).
Albinos, a freak of nature, colourless, afraid of exposing their motivations to the full glare of external scrutiny. It is said in politics that sunlight, something albinos avoid, is the best disinfectant. The Albinos work in the shadows and only come out in the dark. The full influence by the EU on British politics is not entirely clear, but numerous think-tanks and media organisations seem to accept Brussels gold. The chief Albino protagonist is Peter Mandelson. It seems a rather appropriate description of these latter-day fifth-columnists in our soon-to-be-free Albion.
(Image: Jeremy Segrott)