News Comment

Thursday 8 December 2016

Brits fortunate political instability hasn't blown up into civil disorder

Mary Dejevsky

Published 01/07/2016 | 02:30

Boris Johnson leaves his home in London ahead of his shock announcement that he would not enter the race to succeed David Cameron Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Boris Johnson leaves his home in London ahead of his shock announcement that he would not enter the race to succeed David Cameron Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA

In what may turn out to be one of his last speeches for a while on the British national stage, Boris Johnson said that now was "not a time to quail, not a crisis, nor an excuse for wobbling or self-doubt". It was a very British sentiment - all stiff upper lip and keeping calm and carrying on. But the MP and former mayor of London was as wrong about this, as he appears to have been in forecasting either his side's victory in the EU referendum or his chances of succeeding David Cameron as prime minister.

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For the past week, the UK has been in crisis, a crisis with repercussions far beyond Britain's shores. Some have drawn comparisons with the uncertainties and perils that attended the fall of the Berlin Wall; others go back further, citing Britain's choice to enter the conflict that became the Second World War.

Personally, I would go with Berlin, or the months before and after the Soviet Union's collapse. What defined these times was the sense of everything being in flux, of all the rules and structures underpinning our supposed stability being shown up for the insubstantial moorings they were. There was a sense of not knowing what would happen, either on the morrow, or in a month or a year's time.

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