I am grateful to my friend and colleague Roseanna Cunningham for introducing me to a new concept this week – that of “normalcy bias”.
The dictionary definition describes the belief as being one in which “people underestimate …the likelihood of a disaster…because they believe that things will always function the way things have normally functioned.”
UK politics is overflowing with normalcy bias at present.
Otherwise rational people, looking at the complete cluster-bourach that has been created by Theresa May and her incompetent, mendacious, self absorbed Tory Government still find it possible to believe that it will in the end “function in the way things have normally functioned” and take the rational (and available) steps to avoid the disaster of a “no deal” Brexit.
Some have even persuaded themselves that she is operating as a Prime Minister in the best interests of the country – as opposed to what is actually happening, which is a blatant attempt to promote and preserve only the interests of the Conservative Party.
This week, I will update the Scottish Parliament about the intensifying work that a very wide section of the public and private sector here is doing, in order to prepare for a “no deal”, at some considerable cost.
But it is clear that although the SNP Scottish Government will always do everything we can to help Scotland, on this occasion the sheer scale of the challenge means that we just will not able to do everything.
I don’t believe that a “no deal” is inevitable, and indeed, there are clear steps that the Prime Minister could and should take to stop any such idea in its tracks.
The first of those would be to seek an extension to the Article 50 process, and the SNP made a concrete proposal to that effect in the House of Commons on Thursday. It was, alas, voted down by the Tories whilst, incredibly, Labour told its MPs to abstain.
Of course, the ever compliant Scottish Tories continue to bray about the need to support the Prime Minister’s deal – or else!
But not only is that all but dead, killed by her own party, it is also potentially as bad as a no-deal for Scotland, leading, as it would, to the debilitating horror of what 40 very senior retired UK diplomats called this week a ‘Brexternity’ of endless uncertainty about our future for both citizens and businesses alike.
Add to that the particular dependence that Scotland has on freedom of movement (which the Prime Minister’s deal abolishes) and there is no way that any Scottish MP with a regard for his or her country and its future could or should support such proposals.
Getting more time, ruling out a “no deal” and then putting the issue to the people – as their politicians clearly cannot decide – is the sensible and rational way to take Brexit forward.
That would be the normal thing for a normal government to do, which is why so many people believe that it will eventually happen.
But there is precious little evidence that we have a UK Government that is functioning in the normal way in which all previous Governments have functioned, and there is rather a lot of evidence that it is off the scale in irresponsibility, deliberate time-wasting and damaging recklessness.
Kicking the can down the road week after week, refusing to acknowledge massive repeated defeats (including another one on Thursday inflicted by its own backbenchers) and regular resignations, bringing anodyne motions to the House of Commons every second week accompanied by a repetitious statement by the Prime Minister and insisting on having negotiating meetings in Brussels at which nothing fresh is brought to the table is not what normally functioning Governments do.
Yet that is what this UK one is doing, and has been doing for months on end.
So whilst not inevitable, the risk of a “no deal” gets ever greater and must be faced with honest and detailed preparation.
Yet some businesses and individuals are not yet doing so, so steeped are they in the “normalcy bias”.
It is, alas, time to throw away that comfort blanket. Time to wake up and smell the coffee, whilst we still have some left to drink.
This article originally appeared in the Sunday National.