As I argued in the Guardian earlier in the week, the Greens and Lib Dems should not be too overwhelmed by their results in last week’s Euro-elections. It is not the best Green result in these elections, and the Lib Dems managed a higher vote share in three recent general elections.
After all, what will it gain them, if their relative success lets in Farage.
There are in short other battles, other arguments, more important than Brexit or the progress of the Lib Dems. One of them is climate change – and the latest round of schools ‘strikes’ was on Friday – and the other is the looming battle for the nation, not between the Lib Dems, Labour or anyone like them, but between Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson.
It is likely to be a horribly backward-looking battle which entirely misses the point, and it is vital that the planet should win – and therefore all of us. In comparison to that battle, I am happy to sacrifice the Brexit argument lock, stock and barrel.
To those who say it is all one struggle, I would point to the 1930s. No doubt the German social democrats were pretty chuffed by their performance in the 1932 election (21 per cent) but history was against them.
Nor was history on the side of those who struggled in the UK for a commitment to the League of Nations or even for against Franco in Spain. Those who urged liberals to unite around one battle – against Nazi expansion in central Europe, and to ignore everything else – were probably right.
In the same way, the American strategists who fought the Vietnam War as a proxy, because of the Domino Theory of communist infiltration, were also wrong and tragically so.
This is not to pretend that the Brexit Party is somehow related to Hitler. Just that it is easy to be so self-obsessed that you don’t see the real historical shifts as they happen.
Nothing matters now apart from human survival, and that means beating Farage – who is sceptical about climate change – fairly and squarely on his own terms (it also means beating the old nihilist Boris). Not by revelations about where his funding is coming from. Not by clever scepticism about the intelligence of his voters – who we will need to be our voters. But directly.
That means we have to construct a vehicle on the radical centre capable of beating him. In fact, the term is suddenly emerging in public discourse – from Chuka Umana at Change UK and even from the most interesting of the Conservative leadership hopefuls, Rory Stewart.
This is difficult because we will need to put aside anything that divides. It needs, for example, to be universally welcoming. That means no politically correct language, which seems to be to be designed to exclude ordinary people. It means explicitly shunning the pointless rage of political correctness and identity politics – this will need to be a crusade that welcomes men and women equally, and without the bias of the traditional right or the cynicism of the traditional left.
It also needs to put Brexit behind us, even if that means accepting the result of the 2016 referendum – with no aspersions cast on those who voted for to leave or remain. It is hard for a broad democratic movement to turn its back on democracy. I accept of course that the Lib Dems can hardly go soft on their opposition to Brexit now, but they will need to continue it while somehow articulating it in such a way that it involves and includes those who voted Leave.
Because no force on earth can stand up to a grassroots political movement which believes it has been betrayed by the elite.
We have all been over the past generation. So don’t let the new Farage elite have all the best tunes.