People keep saying our present problems are unprecedented.

If you read much history, you will soon realise that hardly anything is unprecedented. We’ve made the same mistakes before. Usually many times. We don’t learn from them anything like as much as we think, as I have said before.

Isn’t Parliament’s failure to manage Brexit unprecedented?

Not really. There have been other times when our politicians couldn’t agree on anything and parliament became ineffective. The early days of the reign of George III come to mind. After he forced Pitt the Elder to resign, and sacked most of his supporters, the king found he couldn’t find a leader with enough followers to form an effective government. There followed years of indecision, ended with the appointment of Pitt the Younger, but he got off to a rocky start.

Our present mess is similar to that of 1660. Was that unprecedented?

In 1659 Oliver Cromwell died. Parliament tried to rule the country, but was ineffective, partly because they couldn’t agree about anything, and also because they kept debating the wrong things. Law and order began to break down. Things weren’t getting done. Then the exiled Charles II issued the Proclamation of Breda, promising (in summary) to be a good king, unlike his father.

What did they do with that unprecedented offer?

Nothing. They wouldn’t even discuss it, unlike everyone else, who did nothing else. They came to their senses when Major-General Monk arrived from Coldstream on the Scottish Border and demanded they debate the Proclamation. He was backed by his soldiers, the predecessors of the Coldstream Guards. Parliament invited Charles to return. That’s why we have a monarchy and parliamentary government.

An English regiment marched from the Scottish border to break the unprecedented (?) impasse

The Saltire of Scotland. An English regiment marched from the Scottish border to break the unprecedented (?) impasse

So a military coup wouldn’t be unprecedented?

Not really, but Monk didn’t set up a military dictatorship. He probably saved us from one. I am not advocating military intervention. Perhaps a second referendum would be gentler. But Parliament needs to act to break the deadlock. Other outcomes would be both undesirable and unprecedented.