RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor’s blog summarises research that shows a significant minority of people actually want chaos.

The authors [identify] those ‘in need of chaos’ who gain satisfaction from anything which may contribute to ‘tearing down the system’ … this research finds a much higher level of enthusiasm for destruction than might have been expected. They put forward three statements that propose this kind of radical action and find that 40% of people support two of them and 20% the third.

As the authors write, “A substantial minority of individuals are so discontent that they are willing to mobilize against the current political order to see if what emerges from the resulting chaos has something better in stock for them.”

In relation to hostile online material, the enthusiasts for chaos have no interest in whether it is true, nor even whether it supports their own ideological position. They will share hostile fake material both for and against their ‘side’, not simply for the devilment but because they see it as making collapse and chaos more likely.

It was getting close to a received wisdom that votes like those for Trump or Brexit were more votes against an establishment that had failed those voters. This seems an order of magnitude beyond that: as much as 40% of people (enough to win a general election in this climate) are probably happy for the current constitutional chaos. Maybe the Cummings/Johnson strategy is 4-dimensional chess after all.

Reading the various accounts of Boris Johnson’s shockingly poor approach to his day-jobs reminded me of the few times that I’ve met him. Most of those times have been fairly incidental, when he came to formally open the London Overground at Clapham Junction, for example, or ground-breaking some bland, identikit development at Nine Elms. The one time I had anything approaching a policy discussion was during his first London Mayoral campaign.

The Johnson campaign were having discussions with people from the London boroughs and, being Wandsworth’s turn, a group of us made the short trip to County Hall where the campaign had its offices. One of the first topics of discussion was the idea of having 24-hour Police Safer Neighbourhood Teams (or SNTs).

At the time, SNTs and neighbourhood policing were very much in vogue but a common complaint, mainly from people like councillors rather than actual residents, was that the SNTs weren’t always immediately available. It seems to have been particularly upsetting when they were off duty for a few days (perish the thought they have the equivalent of a weekend). This was largely down to a misunderstanding of what SNTs were meant to do. Neighbourhood Policing should be longer-term, building relationships and problem solving and not responding immediately to issues which is the function of, funnily enough, response policing.

Johnson was enthused by the idea of 24-hour Safer Neighbourhood Teams. They had been trialled by Hammersmith and Fulham Council (at that stage in its brief period of Conservative control) who were funding round-the-clock teams in two areas. I’d actually visited them and found the scheme under-whelming. It was expensive and without any robust evaluation of effectiveness but had strong political support which was evidenced, perhaps, by the lack of any exit strategy. An exit strategy wouldn’t be needed, I was told, because they would be successful. I was unconvinced.

Johnson, however, had no doubt they would be a fantastic success. I presented the alternative view that it would be an expensive white elephant. For around the clock coverage you’d increase the SNT wage bill by three or four times to satisfy a need that simply wasn’t there. London, outside the centre, is not really a 24-hour city and people, including criminals, tended to sleep at night. Realistically no-one needing the police at 5am would dream of looking up their SNT number rather than dialling 999. And if there were a few places that a middle-of-the-night problem was suited to SNT intervention SNTs would change shift patterns to match.

I did not persuade him. Johnson suggested that SNTs could be grouped to cover off-peak policing more cost-effectively. That this was in essence just replicating the sectors in which response policing was already organised was an irrelevant operational detail. His new area-based SNT-response team would, in some nuanced way, be different to the existing area-based non-SNT-response teams. Johnson voiced his opinion that 24-hour SNT policing would be hugely popular and the discussion moved into some other policy area.

Ultimately the idea did not make Johnson’s election manifesto. I don’t think that discussion had anything to do with that. While possible it prompted him to give the idea the few moment’s thought it would take to realise it was unworkable I think it more likely some advisor managed to quietly sideline the idea. Throughout his time at City Hall there was the fiction that it was a mark of his leadership qualities that he appointed high-quality staff to do the work. It seems more and more people are interpreting that less as a leadership quality as more as a reflection of his laziness and lack of ability.

The fact he’s anywhere near becoming Prime Minister should be terrifying. Especially when his likely Cabinet would surely be one of the lowest calibre the country has ever seen. That he’s somehow the favourite among the small, unrepresentative, Conservative party membership is just more evidence that our political system is broken and utterly unsuitable for the 21st century.

I took my children with me to vote today.

It has become a custom. Since they are barred by age from taking part in democracy I appoint them as my proxy. Then they can play some physical part in the process, whether it’s marking the ‘X’ or putting the ballot in the box they get to feel they have voted, that they aren’t just the passive victims of grown-ups’ decisions.

It might be a silly thing for me to do: the consequence of some naïve faith in democracy, a belief that it is intrinsically important. Whatever the reason I make sure we do it at every election.

So we joined the short queue and I answered their questions while we waited. What was the election for? Could we get rid of Theresa May? Would we stop Brexit? My answers disappointed them and I feared they didn’t help my aim of engaging them in the democratic process.

It’s hard not to feel pessimistic. Losing a rational debate is one thing. Losing to an irrational, right-wing populist argument is another thing entirely.

My children continued asking questions and made me realise that perhaps there are reasons to be more optimistic. Future generations are naturally far more global than their predecessors. As long as we can stave off a complete retreat into populism this will just be seen as a spasm. Brexit may or may not be inevitable. Remain may or may not win this particular battle. But what we’re really deciding is not about the bridges we burn, it’s about how many bridges the next generation have to rebuild when they inevitably take us back into Europe and the world.

I increasingly see things not in the light of a battle about the 2016 referendum result but instead about how we rectify the mess that vote created. In that light putting a cross in a pro-Remain box is an incredibly empowering act.