What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?

What a crazy election it has been.

In my opinion, in some ways at least, the outcome is okay. For instance, we now have a government with a worthwhile majority that is able to get on with the job of running the country without having to do dubious deals with the DUP.

I’m sorry, Theresa, but that was never going to be a recipe for stable stewardship of the nation.

But, on the other hand – and this is my point today – we now have an awful lot of angry people everywhere.

Far more than I can recall seeing in politics since the grim days of the miner’s strike in the 1980s.

At one level, I blame David Cameron.

Mild-mannered and “call me David” he may have been, but he unleashed not one but two devastating referenda upon us that have shattered the national karma in a way that isn’t going to heal anytime soon.

Cameron clearly underestimated the power of nationalism, perhaps concluding, tragically, from the drab 2011 Alternative Vote referendum that national plebiscites could be managed without fuss.

Has anyone ever been more wrong?

As we all know now, referenda are a Pandora’s box and their effects surely one of the strongest arguments for parliamentary democracy. Their lack of nuance is a dream for tedious sloganisers of all stripes, with echo chambers inevitably forming around them, full of partly informed, true believers firmly entrenched for the long haul.

Renewed appeals for a second Scottish independence vote are likely to reverberate year after year – the dreaded ‘neverendum’ – and will bore and/or aggravate voters and politicians to tears until we finally get one. And all this, in spite of the fact there were more votes were cast for unionist parties than the sole separatist one.

Similarly, even though demands for a People’s Vote on the final terms of Boris’s Brexit deal will surely now subside, we can expect more left wing fury as Momentum and XR supporters double down on their frustration.

Expect to see lots of arm-waving, placard-carrying demonstrations, with smatterings of low-grade violence and a few increasingly novel stunts from increasingly desperate activists.

Of course, you could argue all this is a good thing.

To those of us of a certain age, it doesn’t seem five minutes since Tory strategists complained about the difficulty of putting clear blue water between themselves and Labour, as the two main parties almost coalesced in the centre of the political continuum.

Voters, especially the young, stayed away from elections in droves, perhaps because it had all got too boring. After all, it didn’t matter who you voted for; the government always got in.

How did it all change so quickly?

Must stability always breed instability?

As regular readers will know, it was, for me, 2008 that changed everything.

The total collapse of the banking system, triggering the worst recession since the 1930s, followed years of ultra-light touch regulation and a property boom that had appealed only to our baser instincts.

It ushered in a whole new world, in the West at least, with inevitable funding cuts leading to years of austerity, followed, almost as inevitably, by the rise of nationalism and its dreary demagogues.

In the UK, both mainstream parties were to blame. Labour’s cozy accommodation with the City during their 13 years at the wheel would have put a laissez-faire capitalist to shame.

And the Tories’ refusal to deal with the banks on their return to power (it’s truly amazing that nobody went to jail), instead inflicting austerity on the poor, only made a cock-up look like a conspiracy.

No wonder people got angry. And anger does weird things to people and spills over uncontrollably.

And so here we are.

An election battle between two apparently racist party leaders would have been unthinkable just a decade ago but is, it would seem, okay in 2019.

Sorry, but anti-semitism and islamophobia are both always wrong, all the time.

Nowadays, there are battle lines drawn all over the place.

You can find yourself cursed by someone one minute (‘you Tory ****’, ‘you climate denying *******’) and kissed by him the next (‘We Remainers must stick together!’, ‘Labour or Tory – we must unite to save the union!’).

Such is the madness that fury brings. The only good thing about it is that nobody any longer speaks about the great elephant in the debating chamber: the economy, which, thus ignored, continues to do pretty well, paying for everything whilst politicians are, mercifully, elsewhere engaged.

So … where to from here?

Clearly, there are no easy answers but, I’d argue, there is only one place to begin as we enter a new decade and leave a tumultuous one behind.

As someone once famously asked, what’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?

It’s time for cool heads and restrained language. And an end to demonisation of the other guy.

It’s time to knock the ad hominems on the head. And, instead, proffer olive branches across all the different divides.

Let’s begin with an acknowledgment, on all sides, that none of us has a monopoly on truth.

It really is time, to quote another peddler of popular tunes, to give peace a chance.

There really is nothing weak about agreeing to listen a little more and talk a little less.

Only then can the still small voice of wisdom ever have a hope of being heard.

Nigel