The turmoil over Brexit raises big questions about the ability of today’s politicians. Would their predecessors have done a better job, and prevented the drama of the 2016 referendum result turning into a crisis? In my time as a political journalist, the calibre of our political class has changed, and for the worse.
When I landed in the Westminster village in 1982, some big beasts from the past still roamed – among them Denis Healey, Roy Jenkins, Edward Heath, Tony Benn and Enoch Powell. They, and contemporaries who had already died – such as Rab Butler, Iain Macleod and Anthony Crosland – have been called the “golden generation”.
Many were intellectual heavyweights. Some had expected a career in academia, but went into politics after distinguished service in the Second World War, with the noble ambition of preventing a repeat. Similarly, some had seen the deprivation of 1930s Britain and vowed “never again”. Politics was a natural path for the nation’s brightest and best.
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