On the evening of Ash Wednesday, having prayed, fasted, and abstained from meat and, as far as was humanly possible, from uncharitable thoughts about Donald Trump and the Holy Father, I went to what must have been one of the most enjoyable Remainian parties ever given. As you will imagine, the company was delightful: charming, funny, liberal, patriotic, gentle, elitist, sceptical, generous, forgiving; and the talk was not obsessively one-dimensional.
There was discussion of Brexit, too, of course. In fact, the party was held to launch Harry Mount’s latest book, Summer Madness: How Brexit Split the Tories, Destroyed Labour and Divided the Country. Mount, as it happens, voted Leave, but he was almost the only Leaver at his party. Only in England, as they say in America.
Mount is a moderate conservative, as you would expect of the new (and young) editor of the Oldie and occasional contributor to this magazine. He is neither angry nor bitter. Perhaps that is because he doesn’t take politics personally. There is absolutely nothing pious about him, either, but if there is one thing he really hates it is Nasty. From Summer Madness: “The schism [caused by the referendum] wasn’t just political; it was also emotional, spiritual and and intellectual. Politics is famously a ruthless, nasty game. I had never seen it so ruthless or nasty.”
It remains nasty and ruthless, but there seems to be an emerging consensus among the better Remainians that it is time to chill, time to stop the snooty attacks on, for example, the football hooligans and provincial shopkeepers who voted Leave, and to take a walk on the bright side. “It’s going to be OK,” said one of the guests at the launch party. “Things will get back pretty much to normal. We are not going to get hard Brexit.”
Perhaps the same mood is emerging among the better Leavers, too. Last week the Eurosceptic Spectator ran a very conciliatory leader, pegged to John Major’s modest suggestion at a Chatham House gathering that Brexiters might think of chucking the “cheap rhetoric”. According to the Speccie: “Some of Brexit’s most prominent figures are in danger of showing a disregard bordering on contempt for the 48 per cent who believed our future was more secure within the European Union.”
Mount knows many of the key players in the referendum battle, from the men and women who wanted Britain to “take back control” – of its human rights, its bendy bananas, and, most of all, of its borders – to those who fought for Remain, not least among them David Cameron, who has the distinction of being Mount’s second cousin.
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