Article - A common challenge

The last few days have been rather full of news - and, anyone sent to Westminster by the electorate, as a member of Parliament is bound to have spent a high proportion of their waking hours thinking about how best to secure a prosperous future for our country. 

Current national events are bound also to prompt reflections on a repeated phenomenon in our island’s modern history. Ever since neutral tolerance replaced the bitter religious conflicts that used to divide us, our politics has shown a tendency to unite in the face of common enemies but to divide in the face of questions about our trading relationships. The corn laws, questions of imperial preference, and tariff reform in the early 20th Century created huge fissures - and just at the moment the handling of Brexit is doing the same. 

For my own part, I am convinced that we are much more likely to find a satisfactory (albeit inevitably imperfect) solution if, instead of insisting rigidly on the fulfilment of our first preferences and maintaining traditional party divisions, we resolve to forge majorities in the House of Commons through the achievement of consensus across the House. Although there is no common enemy in this particular battle, we do face a common challenge, and we are far more likely to meet it successfully if we meet it together. 

It is also important to retain, throughout this difficult episode, a sense of proportion and to remind ourselves, that long after we have settled the question of our future trading relationships, humanity shall still be faced with significant questions. Some of these will, of course, require wisdom and statesmanship at a global level. Others will require concerted national action. But we will also need to operate effectively and cooperatively if we are to tackle more local issues. 

I was delighted, therefore, to see just recently that a collection of the various authorities involved in protecting the heritage and environment of our lovely part of England have physically co-located themselves in County Hall, thereby enabling themselves to do something so simple that it is often neglected - namely, to talk to one another. 

It is, as they say, good to talk. And the bodies involved - Natural England, the AONB, the Natural Environment Team, the Dorset Coast Forum, and a range of others - will certainly have a lot to talk about, since our land and our landscape and the buildings built in it will be with us long after the current issues about our trading relationships and our economic governance have become a matter for the historians.