The Outrage!

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It would appear that my ‘admiration’ for Labour’s cunningly devised Brexit stance was slightly misplaced in its attribution of credit. According to Ruth Davidson today in the Telegraph, the plan was nothing to do with any Labour MPs at all, but the brainchild of a coalition of leaders from the five biggest Labour supporting Unions (Unite, Unison, the GMB, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and USDAW, the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers).

These brave minds, who clearly know a lot more than the Labour Party itself on how it should run it’s own affairs (amazing where £6.5 million of union members’ money will get you), apparently closed themselves in a room on Monday, formulated the plan and ordered Jeremy Corbyn off to the shadow cabinet for rubber stamping on Tuesday.

As Ruth Davidson points out, this complete negation of democracy appears to have at least initially gone unreported, or at least kept quiet long enough that no-one cared enough when it did break. And, yet, had this been the Tories, all hell would have broken loose.

I completely fail to understand just how something so opaque and, while corrupt is possibly too strong a word, it can’t be that far from the mark, can happen. I can only think that Labour MPs are so against any idea of free speech or liberty, and/or so in fear of the leadership, that they accept this fait accompli against all they, in their various factions, have fought for over the past few years.

If I were more left-wing in my outlook, I’d say it was outrageous, but I’m not so I merely shrug and move on.

Fudge no more?

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And so the glorious fudging of Labour’s stance on Brexit appears to be coming to an end with Jeremy Corbyn’s letter to Labour Party members saying that, in essence they will oppose any deal that the Conservatives generate, but if they win an election, they will ‘renegotiate’ a new deal. Quite what they think they can renegotiate that Boris the next Conservative leader can’t that actually looks like properly leaving, I don’t know.

Mr Corbyn goes on to say that ‘whoever becomes the new Prime Minister should have the confidence to put their deal, or No Deal, back to the people in a public vote. In those circumstances, I want to make it clear that Labour would campaign for Remain against either No Deal or a Tory deal’.

He tries to placate leavers saying that ‘a customs union [and] a strong single market… is a sensible alternative’. Last time I looked, that was just being part of the EU, without any of the benefits of being a member, and I think most people know that. Presumably, they are banking on people to reject it in a second referendum, which by that point will be so ridiculously one sided as to not even be worth worrying about, the options being, 1) Remain and 2) Remain in a really daft way.

What’s more interesting is that the Labour leadership do, finally, seem to be bowing to pressure to go all-out remain (albeit in a clever way); the threat of the Lib Dems just becoming too much for them. While they fudge it (there had to be a bit!) by saying that they haven’t decided on their stance for any possible election, the wording is strong enough that it would be fairly hard to renege on this stance if there is, as is becoming more and more likely, a fairly sharpish snap election once Boris the new PM is in number 10.

I suspect Boris Johnson’s more hard-line stance will also be another factor in this, as well as the diminishing opportunities for Grieve and co. to try to stop a no-deal Brexit with today’s amendment not being selected again.

Kicking your can

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I see Labour have kicked the can, as is the general rule of thumb with all things Brexit these days, a little further down the road in terms of coming out as the anti-Brexit party.

It still feels like Tom Watson and his gang are hedging their bets on an early autumn general election. The first thing that Boris or Jeremy will face as PM will almost certainly be a vote of no-confidence in the Government, and the remainer Conservatives, at least vocally, seem happy to bring down their own government rather than face the possibility of a No Deal Brexit (AKA the Boris Brexit, despite his protestations that it’s his plan C).

Whether these rebel Tories will vote with Labour or not, I guess depends on who wins, although I’d be amazed if Boris didn’t win, and that Labour didn’t immediately carry out the no-confidence trick (or shortly after the Brecon by-election).

Labour really must think that by alienating a big chunk of their electorate, they stand a chance of regaining the votes lost to the Lib Dems to make up for it. I don’t see it personally, I see that as more ‘suicidal’ than a No-Deal Brexit (not that either is particularly what anyone wants).

Labour would only be able to regain those they perceive to have lost to the Lib Dems in the EU elections, and I doubt many of them would seriously consider voting Lib Dem in a General Election anyway. I can’t see many Lib Dems jumping ship and switching over to a Marxist-led Labour party, just because they decided to become anti-Brexit.

What makes the logic even more spurious, is that a recent poll split people roughly 28% leave with no deal, 29% leave with a deal and just 43% revoke Article 50. By my reckoning that indicates a growth somewhere in the region of 5% for the pro-Brexit camp (compared to the Referendum).

I’m sure Jeremy Corbyn in senses that the keys to No. 10 are only just out of his reach; making a stand against Brexit may just snatch them away from him. It will also encourage the Tory membership to be more inclined to vote for Boris, and usher in more chance of a No-Deal Brexit, the one thing Labour are trying to stop.

Too late to change?

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Interesting to see Tom Watson argue today for Labour to come out in full as the anti-Brexit party. My suspicions are that is is driven more by a fear of the ‘resurgent’ Lib Dems and recently quiet, but still potent Brexit party, rather than really trying to shore up the inconsistent stance Labour has taken on Brexit (although that does deal with that too). The combined Lib Dem/Brexit Party threat must be perceived as more potent than the fact that they might stand to lose a lot of voters of a leave variety.

On this weekend’s Coffee House Shots Podcast (and in the Spectator), Katy Balls was musing about a potential early general election, possibly in the autumn. Given that short time scale, it would make sense that Labour want to shore up their stance in the anti-Brexit direction to regain those they think they’ve lost in recent weeks to the parties that have a definite stance.

To me, Jeremy Corbyn’s somewhat indistinct stance on Brexit makes perfect sense. Brexit is not a strict political decision, you can vote left or right and leave or remain, depending on what is important to you. It looks like someone has got wind of something in the offing and decided that something has to be done sooner rather than later about the voters they had obviously lost to both the Lib Dems and Brexit Party, although to me it seems a little late for them to join to the ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ movement.

If there is an autumn election, the feelings that drove people to move away from Labour (and the Conservatives for that matter) to one of the smaller, but definite stance, parties will still be fresh in people’s memories and I rather think that they may well be tempted to keep voting that way, no matter Tom Watson wants.

Come together

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There’s some depressing stats in the Guardian today around how little faith the UK has in the government and generally how pessimistic we are at the moment, with lots of people thinking that recriminations between Remainers and Leavers will get worse in the next year, that the Tories are generally useless and that Britain is the laughing stock of Europe.

Not sure they really needed to poll of 2000 people in London and Leicester to mine those gems of wisdom, (or maybe I’m just more prescient than your usually pundit – highly unlikely), but it’s good to see someone trying to get a good representative poll going, even if the results, particularly among the under 30’s, are fairly grim.

What did surprise me was the upbeat conclusion drawn in the article. Rather than wallowing in misery and gloom, it picked out the fact that many people think (as I do) that we Brits are pretty resourceful and that with the right leadership and the usual British resilience, we will get on with things whatever the eventual outcome of Brexit may be.

But it we do need leadership, and not just from the new PM, but from the whole government. The article ended on a comment from a remain voter who said he wanted to see us leave the EU to regain some national pride.

This also means Labour not trying to turn everything into a political stunt to oust the Conservatives at any opportunity. They have to take notice of this poll and realise that we will only get through this if we pull together. It may be painful for them, but they have to try, at least in the short term.

Whoever wins the the PM role will quickly need to recapture the spirit of 2012 and, preferably, somehow get the cost of housing and living down, while getting us out of the EU. I sense that all the candidates to some degree get this, as well as most of the Conservative MPs, given the number of votes cast this week in Boris’ direction. Let’s just hope they all deliver quickly.

Wrong again

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Well blow me, those wiley foxes in Westminster suffered an outbreak of common sense yesterday and voted against Labour’s patently absurd plans to stop No Deal. I was almost as surprised as on Brexit day, and possibly a lot more pleased (my main reaction on June 23rd 2016 was ‘faaaaaaaaaaaaaackin’ ‘ell, what have we gone and done?’ – I honestly felt my vote was somewhat wasted, but the whole sovereignty issue was too important to not vote to leave).

I do like being proved wrong in these situations. Yesterday I was being, despite protestations to everyone not to be, a pessimist, so fed up am I with the incumbent set of MPs and their undemocratic, remainer bent, and Labour’s apparent intent to just vote for anything that might get them into power, no matter how silly or contradictory.

One thing I learned early in life is that there’s no point getting het up about having to be right. I spent my formative years as a vaguely evangelical christian, before I went to Uni and had that nonsense kicked out of me (in a positive, scholarly way). I’m still embarrassed about some of the stupid thing I said in those naive days. But since then I’ve learned to respect other people’s opinions (something I was also severely lacking), and allow apparent contradictions in life to just be.

We don’t know everything, we never will, and this is the beauty of life; it will always surprise us. It’s how we react to that surprise that counts. Too many people, dare I say of an intelligent, if left-leaning persuasion, get hung up on being right. They will keep coming back with arguments well after the conversation should have moved on.

I always find this a little depressing. I guess we all to it to a degree, the trick is to smile, accept that you disagree, and move on.

The Milkshake Wars

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It looks to me that today we will see Parliament throw a giant milkshake at Brexit by (I suspect) almost certainly voting to ‘take no deal off the table’ for good, or at least try to change the table, which is probably the more accurate simile.

I think the likes of Oliver Letwin and any other Conservatives should be somewhat ashamed of themselves for getting involved in such a scheme at this time when the bulk of the candidates for Prime Minister are laying down the mantra that Brexit must occur before or on the 31st October.

To me, it’s clearly a scheme cooked up by Labour and the Lib Dems to undermine the Conservatives at this time of perceived weakness, so as to fortify their ‘gains’ in the recent elections/by-elections.

I’ve no doubt that No Deal is not the best scenario by a long way, and not one I would strongly advocate – leaving with a deal would be the optimum (even Theresa May’s one). At the same time, I don’t share the opinion that No Deal would be the complete Doomsday scenario that many people do, purely because I just haven’t seen the evidence to back it up (if you have some, I’d love to see it). All I’ve seen is hysterical hyperbole and passionate rants, much of which is driven by self-interest and an ultra-conservative mindset. Again, it comes down to the optimists versus the pessimists.

But to take the best card in the negotiators hands away completely will surely result in no Brexit at all, as there’s no deal negotiable in that situation that would pass muster. This would indeed be the end of the Conservatives, fuelling the further rise of the Brexit Party (further weakening the Conservatives) and gifting number 10 to Labour. And a lot more milkshakes flying about.

Not so Sweet Like Honey

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I’ve never had much time for Michael Gove. I’m still of the opinion that his actions in the last leadership contest, stitching Boris up as he did, was the catalyst that got us to where we are now with Brexit. (I realise that may be a little unfair, and the fact that 17.4 million people voted for Brexit in the first place also had a lot to do with it, but who was one of the leaders of the Leave campaign…)

Anyhow, now he appears to have gone one better. My son is just taking his GCSE exams, exams we parents have been warned from the outset would be much harder than the ones we sat, with no coursework to soften the blow. And whose bright idea was that? Our good friend Mr Gove.

So what an appalling time to confess to dabbling with class A drugs, just as thousands of stressed out kids are battling their way through new, tougher exams (with an incomprehensible marking system), and he’s swanning about looking to become PM. Admittedly, his experiments with cocaine appear to pre-date the plans to change GCSEs, but that hasn’t stopped a raft of humourous memes flying about the Internet.

If he does succeed, there will be a whole generation of people coming to voting age at the next scheduled election who will be less than impressed with the incumbent Prime Minister.

What’s next?

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Nigel Farage writes in the Telegraph today that he believes people no longer identify as left-wing or right-wing, but rather as Remainers or Leavers.

It’s an interesting stance to take, but I’m not convinced it holds much water. In the short term it does; all the time there is the chance Brexit could be stopped, conservatives (small c) that wish to keep things just as they are, will do all they can to preserve the status quo.

Mr Farage identifies these people as un-democratic, and focuses his party on ‘restoring democracy’. Obviously, this is a populist stance. It’s easy to paint the government as patently anti-Brexit, particularly with its pervading liberal authoritarian viewpoint. But Brexit is convoluted and complex. Most of the current MPs voted for Article 50; they all agreed we should leave. Since then though, they’ve become hopelessly divided over exactly how to leave. Simply reducing it down to ‘we haven’t left yet, democracy is broken’ might be a little bit disingenuous. Yes, the likes of Letwin, Cooper, etc. have tried to take control of the situation to ‘stop the process’, but they could only do that because of the division about the way forward and lack of leadership from number 10, not necessarily because the system was broken. Indeed some people went along with them as they saw it as a way to break the deadlock, particularly with the indicative votes.

This disparity of consensus is also showing up in the leadership race. Each of the 5 million candidates has a slightly different take on how to do the Brexit thing, from Hard-No-Deal Raab through to Second-Referendum Gyimah.

The thing is, ‘we haven’t left yet, democracy is broken,’ is a nice simple concept for people to wrap their heads around. It’s also emotive. It ticks all the right boxes to get the old brain chemicals firing and stir up a bit of conflict in the old grey matter.

But what happens once Brexit actually happens (and it should do, most MPs agree with that)? We’ll move on, some people will be disgruntled, others vaguely happy something got done, but maybe not so happy with the eventual compromises I think we’ll have to make (even No Deal is a sort of compromise). What does a Leaver or a Brexiteer stand for once we’ve left? These are the messages that the Brexit Party need to focus on, I think. Some of the conservative leadership candidates have cottoned on to this, like Boris with his UBI-lite school funding.

It’s about time the Brexit Party started defining more of what they would stand for post-Brexit, and show how they will unite the likes of Fox and the Widdecombe. There is plenty to talk about, I’d just like to hear it.

The Future

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Continuing on from yesterday, I mentioned that, for the most part, we aren’t aware of how our instincts shape our conscious thoughts and actions, and how they drive our decision making. For example, if it is the case the the Conservatives are driven by an instinct to preserve things as they are, which includes theoretically preserving the status of the elites over the rest of society, it’s not necessarily true to argue that results (good or bad) of such activity are through ‘deliberate attempts’ to achieve them.

The difference between right and left-wing thinkers is down to rationalism. The left-wingers’ ‘fatal conceit’, as Hayek calls it, is that they will instinctively rationalise. It’s something we all do to a degree. The difference is at what point you stop. Those of a more ‘right wing’ disposition (but not necessarily all right wingers) are happy to leave things unresolved, content not to know all the answers; accept that they cannot know everything.

In the real world, outside of politics, lefties and righties mingle, all bringing useful viewpoints, attitudes and ideas to the table. Certainly, I work closely with people who see the world very differently to me, and I’m always learning from them and appreciative of their different viewpoints.

I wonder if the future of politics doesn’t lie down this more less combative, more collaborative route? I guess a lot in politics would have to change, but it’s interesting that the Brexit Party, united by the narrow focus of the potential derailment of democracy by the current Parliament over Brexit, have left wingers such as Claire Fox working with ex-Tories like Anne Widdecombe.

Could we, in the future, be governed less by those focussed on left vs. right and more by those united by greater ideals, taking the the best of left and right, libertarian and authoritarian?