It’s hard to focus on publishing when the country is convulsing around you. In none of the moments of national crisis in my lifetime, the winter of discontent (1978-79), the miners’ strike (84-85), the poll tax riots (90), Black Wednesday and crashing out of the ERM (92), the summer riots of 2010, did the country appear unable to cope.
But, in the impasse we have now reached, where the whole country is utterly divided and distrustful, the very institutions of state and government seem incapable of finding a resolution which will not leave half the country feeling angry and embittered. The state appears to be failing.
Theresa May survived yesterday’s vote of no confidence, but the events of the last 24 hours have not moved us any further forward in finding a way out of the Brexit maze.
What are the implications of this momentous period in British history for publishers? Twofold.
Firstly, publishers have a responsibility not to foment disorder. As Donald Trump might say, there are “very fine people” on both sides. Demonising individuals or groups on either side of the leave / remain divide, through loose talk of “betrayal”, can only end in disaster. There are enough unhinged people on the margins of society and sanity to do terrible things in pursuit of what they believe to be a righteous cause. Remember Jo Cox.
Secondly, serious publishers must seize this once-in-a-lifetime publishing opportunity. The public’s thirst for the truth, for intelligent and trustworthy analysis, insight and guidance will be unquenchable. Newspapers and current affairs magazines have a real chance to demonstrate the quality and depth of their editorial and to boost sales. This should be UK publishing’s equivalent of the “Trump bump”. If we can’t sell subs now, then when?