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Political culture

A second Restoration: back to “politics-as-usual”

John Michael Wright’s portrait of Charles II. Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty

After “eight long years” of political upheaval and disruption, says John Harris in The Guardian, the start of Charles III’s reign is oddly reminiscent of the last time a Charles took the throne. In 1660, the monarchy was restored when Charles II took over after a volatile 11-year republic, during which Europeans had come to see England as a byword for “rebellion, religious extremism and regime change”. The Restoration, after a weary and perplexing decade of political conflict, was greeted as deliverance from a “world of confusions”.

Today, a kind of “latter-day restorationism” has taken hold of both main Westminster parties. Rishi Sunak wants to be seen as a “technocratic full stop” after the “misrule” of Boris Johnson and the “ideological contortions” of Liz Truss. For Labour, the “nostalgic orthodoxy” runs even deeper. Jeremy Corbyn has been barred from standing as a Labour candidate, and senior Blair-era figures are back in the frame. New Labour cabinet stalwart Douglas Alexander has been deployed to help Labour win back seats in Scotland after Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation. And when top politicos from both parties met recently for a two-day “private discussion” to make sense of Brexit – “a restoration-ish move if ever there was one” – one of the Labour attendees was Peter Mandelson. Even “fallen Blairite prince” David Miliband hasn’t ruled out a comeback. The lesson of history is that most people prefer “stability and continuity” to disruption and noise. After an exhausting period, we may finally be seeing the return of “politics-as-usual”.