THERE was a time not so long ago when insipid consensus reigned in UK politics and sterilised all that it touched. The popular version of this re-alignment holds that the demarcation lines between Britain’s two main parties had become blurred to the point where it was difficult to distinguish one from the other. Tony Blair loved Margaret Thatcher and rebuked the left in his party for making it unelectable.

Mrs Thatcher returned his affections and chided her own party for not being more like that nice Mr Blair. In the background Labour’s mordant Chancellor bristled and brooded and harrumphed but made his own sweetheart deals with finance and corporation when he thought no one was looking.

In assorted Oxford drinking clubs, those lascivious finishing schools of future Tory administrations, they continued to quaff champagne and to appropriate the heads of farmyard animals, regardless. They smiled inwardly because they knew how this dance always ended and that if they timed it right they would soon emerge to pick up the pieces and re-arrange them to their own whims.

Of course, it was all a painstakingly crafted lie. For something approaching political consensus to emerge there first has to be a degree of compromise on both sides. During the late 1990s and into the early years of this century the compromises were all Labour’s. Mrs Thatcher’s anti-trade union legislation remained intact and Gordon Brown’s annual promises to curtail the excesses of the High Street banking cartels evaporated before the brandy came out at the end of the Lord Mayor’s Banquet.

Right-to-buy, Mrs Thatcher’s flagship confidence trick, was similarly untouched. There are now barely two million council houses left in Britain, down from six and a half million when the legislation was introduced in 1980. London became the favoured destination of international money-launderers and crime syndicates, including the government of Saudi Arabia. Corporate tax avoidance went largely unchallenged. Labour ditched Clause IV, the commandment which had always provided its moral centre, and Socialists were rounded up and forced into re-education camps. This wasn’t consensus; it was capitulation.

A political generation has since elapsed and few would contend now that Left isn’t Left and Right isn’t Right. The Bullingdon boys were indeed rewarded for their patience and have feasted on the entrails of the New Labour project by fostering the rise of an insidious hard-right within the Conservative party to facilitate their coup. They may not themselves believe in the ethnic superiority of the British race (whatever that is) but they leveraged this and manipulated its acolytes under the slogan of “taking back control of our borders”. Soon, they will have exploited a hard or no-deal Brexit to put Theresa May out of her misery and are on the verge of taking control of the country and re-casting it on the old caprices of Empire.

For a time there Jeremy Corbyn had brought back Socialism to provide Labour with its moral purpose once more and there were signs that it was finding a place in the generation who had been betrayed by the New Labour surrender. Even the attempts to derail him by labelling him an anti-Semite and a Soviet spy were revealed for what they were: the calling-in of favours promised by newspaper and BBC executives a generation ago in Oxford’s black tie crèches. However, Mr Corbyn has been undone by Brexit and his option to stick, even when the cards seemed to have fallen for him.

Across the world the progress of extreme right-wing philosophies has been troubling. One of its most prominent emissaries is Steve Bannon, the reactionary American agitator who provided the spiritual foundation for Donald Trump’s supremacist manifesto. Mr Bannon is currently building a bridge between the secular and the spiritual by suborning an assortment of powerful and very rich Catholics in Britain and America. He recently received a delegation from the conservative Catholic Herald, including its owner the multi-millionaire and Brexit-supporting hotelier Rocco Forte and urged them to establish “a Catholic Spectator”. Their supporters are united in a common hostility to some of the recent social teachings of Pope Francis and can command vast fundraising resources to further their ends.

In Venezuela a distressingly one-sided narrative has been permitted to fly across the globe supported in part by some ridiculously biased reporting by the BBC. There, crowds of protestors hostile to the elected president Nicolas Maduro have been endorsed as legitimate while similar gatherings in his support are routinely dismissed as fake. The world is being softened up for another US-backed coup in South America with no attempt made to provide a degree of political context within the longer history of Venezuela. Nor has there been any scrutiny of America’s egregious transgressions against many of its southern neighbours. In these it has routinely deployed the CIA and vast financial outlay to prop up violent, right-wing regimes and undermine impertinent democracies.

In Italy the two populist deputies in a fragile coalition government have manufactured a diplomatic incident with France by giving succour to the yellow vest movement. It is a microcosm of the hard-right’s strategy of manipulating working class communities and stoking their fears. All the while they are seeking to restore an ancient order which is built on the exploitation of these same communities. Nothing is more certain than that similar fractiousness will be supported within the EU by Mr Bannon and those among the UK’s Brexiters who have given him houseroom.

The Queen is the latest public figure to urge caution and old-fashioned British reserve and reasonableness in the face of oncoming chaos. Several well-meaning but naive commentators of the Left have also loftily pronounced on the dangers of societal division and the need for cuddly consensus. A cursory acquaintance with recent history will tell them that the hard right and the global power-elites thrive when the rest of us are wringing our hands and deluding ourselves that we’re building bridges.

These groups know only one gospel: the survival of the fittest and the richest and they are gathering their forces to the ends of the earth. This is no time for the Left and men and women of goodwill to be reasonable and meek. Instead we should be inspired by the advice of the great Baptist preacher, Dr Vernon Johns to his protégé Martin Luther King: “If you see a good fight, get in it.”