'The modern Scott' — like Theresa May — 'is unsure how deeply he is in it' © Getty
Experimental feature

Listen to this article

Experimental feature

Is it not time that today’s politicians received a copy of your celebrated former foreign editor Nico Colchester’s seminal 1988 essay on the cycle of “wealth” (in its broadest sense) in their in-trays? Our father gave it to us with the instruction that we should use it as our “life manual”.

For Colchester, things divide into the soggy (bad/vague) and the crunchy (good/decisive). For example, “the going was crunchy for Captain Scott as he plodded southwards across the sastrugi. He was either on top of the snow-crust and smiling, or floundering thigh deep. The further south he marched the crunchier his predicament became.” Colchester went on to describe sogginess as “comfortable uncertainty. The modern Scott” — like Theresa May — “is unsure how deeply he is in it.”

Like Colchester in 1988, we see parallels today. The comforts of sogginess are much in demand. It does not have to be this way. The US acted in a co-ordinated fashion after the 2008 financial crisis and has been rewarded by a boom. The S and P Index is up over four times since. The Euro Stoxx Index is up, by comparison, a meagre 20 per cent. The FTSE has gone nowhere in 20 years. Lehman was allowed to go bust (crunchy) whereas we saved our banks and their 40x leveraged balances sheets and regulated them into utilities (soggy).

Surely there is a lesson here? Compromise (the very essence of “sogginess”), as espoused by today’s government, satisfies nobody. Why is everybody so scared of a “no-deal” Brexit? It would after all be the embodiment of crunchiness. 

Yes, there would be a crisis for sure. The lights would go off (crunchy), rather than dim (soggy). Sterling would crash (it was 1.50 to the USD before Sunderland reported on referendum night v 1.30 today, so surely we could survive a short-term move to 1.10?). 

However, out of all the mayhem we might get a Churchillian leader (from either major party) to drive a proper, crunchy recovery and give us the economic advantage over Europe that we had in mind when we crunchily decided to leave. In this case, what former transport minister Jo Johnson has already described as a “failure of British statecraft on a scale not seen since Suez” would at least have led to positive change.

Failing this, my brother and I may have to leave the country of our birth to look for better long-term economic opportunities abroad. Might the unintended consequence and ultimate irony of the ending of “freedom of movement” be the precipitation of a generational departure from the UK?

Hector Tyser (aged 16)
Caspar Tyser (aged 13)
Midgham Park, Nr Reading, Berks, UK

Letters in response to this letter:

Sometimes sogginess is the reasonable response / From David A McM Wilson, Cambridge, UK

A glimpse of things to come? / From Carol Wilcox, Christchurch, Dorset, UK

Get alerts on Letter when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

Comments have not been enabled for this article.