Divisions seem to dominate the news.
Will divisions over Brexit lead to the breakup of the UK? Or to civil unrest and violence?
If we were divided before, the prorogation had made things much worse. Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are divisive figures within their own parties as well as in the country as a whole. People throw abuse, online and in the real world, at politicians, journalists and celebrities whenever they disagree with them or disapprove of their actions. Some find it all very unbritish. As ever, I delved into history for anything comparable. I had to go back to 1642.
What were the divisions in 1642?
The big issue was the power of the king versus that of parliament. Although that was a political division, religion played a big part too. Parliament contained a lot of puritans, whilst King Charles I favoured the high church, that is Church of England with Catholic leanings.
I saw a recent documentary on the BBC about King Charles’ downfall. It put the issues and events clearly and succinctly without dumbing down. I thought it was fairly balanced, given the controversial nature of the subject matter. It showed how in fifty days the country went from simmering tensions to actual civil war.
Are today’s divisions as serious as those of 1642?
We now tend to resolve things through the ballot box and the political process generally, but many people are disillusioned with that process. Extremists play on such feelings for their own ends. The PM’s latest move makes some dispair of the process if he can hijack it like that. Let us not be complacent. The moderates and compromisers need to speak up. I can’t believe that in 1642 everyone was either a roundhead or a cavalier. Surely, there must have been many in the middle ground, which disappeared as time went on and people had to choose sides. Today, many who want to leave the EU with a deal may think they have to choose between leaving with no deal or remaining in the EU. I expect the same is true regarding other issues.
Is there hope? What did the divisions of 1642 lead to?
There was a civil war ending in 1649 when parliament tried King Charles for treason and had him executed. Parliament then tried to rule without a king for a decade, but after a few years they had to make Oliver Cromwell ‘Lord Protector’ so that someone was in charge. The encouraging thing in all this is that in 1660 they invited Charles II to return and reign. He had promised to avoid some of the mistakes his father had made. Yes! A king negotiating with the people: the beginning of constitutional monarchy. So the moderates won in the end!
Divisions can be useful for novelists
Most fiction involves conflict of some kind or another, whether international, societal or interpersonal; physical or psychological; or even internal. Some writers might use our present divisions as material for their next novels, but for me the Civil War looks tempting. Perhaps I will set a murder mystery in that period, once I have completed one or two other projects, notably Highwaypersons Book III, Stallion Man and The Stone Age Detective. I must resist distractions. On the other hand, the distractions tend to give me ideas for the future.