For two days in 1284, the government of England and Wales was administered from the tiny island of Ynys Enlli off the Welsh coast. An entourage of 100 people quaffed wine in tents on this holy island while Edward I dispensed alms after his brutal conquest of Wales. Whoever is governing Britain in 2023 would be wise to study Edward I’s canny statesmanship. This is when the Houses of Parliament are due to be emptied of politicians for six years for a £4bn refurbishment, with parliamentary business continuing in other London buildings.
By 2023, Britain’s political landscape will be transformed. Brexit will be complete, Scotland may have departed, and there will be no hiding place for our political class.
Living in Norfolk and roaming Britain’s countryside without Edward’s wine or entourage, I encounter a deep disgruntlement with globalisation. After Brexit, this hostility will turn from the European Union to the city-state of London and its global elites, currently absurdly embodied by George Osborne’s straddling of Westminster, the City of London and Fleet Street.
Insularity is viewed as a characteristic of isolated villages, but Westminster suffers from it too. Policymakers would find their groupthink challenged by sessions in Truro, Newcastle, Cardiff, Belfast or Glasgow (optimistically assuming that Scotland is still with us).
Of course London is not all rich and elsewhere all poor, but a travelling circus could dispense some of the alms needed to…