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.

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.

No surprises

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I think most people with a passing interest in politics could have successfully predicted the main headlines in today’s papers. Even the ‘proxy’ referendum re-run appears to have come out around equal again, with both sides trying to spin it their way.

So what next? I’m still not quite sure what to make of the Brexit Party. They came out with a clear and concise message and stole a load of votes from Labour and the Conservatives in an election most people didn’t expect to even happen. But how does that translate into moving on to fight a general election, which seems less likely to be any time soon, given both main parties are on the back foot at the moment.

On the face of it, you’d have to assume Mr Farage, being Mr Farage, would be pro-business, pro-leave, lower taxes? etc. But that’s just the Conservative party. And as much as die-hard Tories like to have a bit of a hissy fit and vote Brexit party to show their erstwhile leaders just what they think of what they’ve done so far, I think very few would really hold out and stick with the Brexit Party long term unless it offered something worth sticking with.

That said, Mr Farage has surprised me in the past in debates when he’s perhaps shown that it’s he’s not so right wing in all his thinking and not averse to taking some ideas from the left. So perhaps he might try to find ways to differentiate the Brexit Party from the Conservatives. I guess we’ll have to wait for their manifesto to appear. Perhaps UBI will be in there…

On the Tory leader front, I took a quick peek at Boris Johnsons’ piece in today’s Telegraph. I do find the whole One-Nation Tory thing a bit nebulous. It’s meant many things down the years, and these days, with a burgeoning middle class, it doesn’t feel like a good story to work with. A bit like Theresa May’s ‘Burning Injustices’. Important, yes, especially things like poverty and modern slavery, but not that meaningful to your average Tory voter.

With Boris’s One-Nation thing, it feels like political game playing to get the likes of Amber Rudd onside. Fair enough if it is, but he needs to find a story for the average conservative voter soon, or there’s a real risk they will be lost to the Brexit Party. Although, if Brexit is the only issue on many people’s minds, the game may be up; I also noticed Boris’s tone on Brexit was somewhat toned down, and not as ‘Right, that’s it we’re leaving!’ as he was at the start of the weekend.

Cuts both ways?

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One of the enduring cries from those who voted for Remain in the Brexit vote (and one the government seems to have taken the line of itself, being on the whole, pro-remain – the ‘rational’ position), is that as the vote was ‘so close’, we should respect the views of the losers too, to try to find a balance between the two viewpoints. William Hague argues just such a thing in the Telegraph this morning.

I guess the whole dogmatic democracy vs. liberal democracy debate will bubble along under any democratic system, and I would hate to paint myself as a dogmatic type, but sometimes, context matters, and it does here.

If the vote in 2016 had gone as expected and remain won, what would the remainers have done in respecting the opinion of those who lost? There’s nothing they could have done, as nothing would have changed. They would have ignored calls to reform Europe, particularly after David Cameron’s failed attempts to change things.

Leavers would have continued to voice their protest – ‘It was so close, let’s have another referendum!’ These cries would certainly have fallen on deaf ears. Dogmatic democracy would have prevailed and it would have been considered reasonable.

Yet, Leave won, and because the majority of Leave voices promptly went silent after their unexpected success, liberal democracy suddenly seemed perfectly acceptable, giving rise to the ludicrous populist situation we find ourselves in now, with those ‘out in the sticks’ beyond London feeling betrayed by their ‘elite’ masters in their crumbling edifice.

Which is a shame, because Brexit was never a populist thing (more on that tomorrow), but now we find ourselves in a bit of a pickle. The Conservatives, in taking the liberal democracy approach have fluffed it up, and are now staring down the barrel of a gun they handed to the Brexit Party, which will divide their own vote and more than likely allow Labour to waltz into Downing Street.

Just goes to show, it’s not only the socialists that get hung up on rationalism to their cost.

Oh, and while I think about it, if we’d had Dominic Raab’s proposed 15% tax for the £11.5K – £45k bracket in 2017/8, it would have reduced the amount of tax by around £16 billion (down to £100.8 billion-ish from £116.8 billion-ish). Make of that what you will, but I suspect merging a few government departments wouldn’t cover it too well, although I applaud the idea of reducing tax for the lower earners.

Working 9 to 5-ish

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Momentum, it seems, are trying to get Labour to adopt the four day working week into their manifesto (as presented by the Green Party at the last election, as I recall).

This seems like little more than their usual tactic of coming up with some appetising promises that just won’t work in the real world.

Where I work, we’ve been experimenting with various options for ‘agile’ working over the past few months, including 9 day fortnights, stacking up hours earlier in the week to finish early on a Friday, and regular work from home days, among others. What’s become clear to me, even before the trial has ended is that there is no one format the works for everyone. I’m happy with the current arrangements I have with my boss, others have found what works best for them.

What is not on offer is a four day week, or, indeed, any reduction in the number of hours worked. Various studies have proposed that the four day week has health and productivity benefits, but common sense tells me that cutting out an entire day’s productivity would lead to either a huge slowdown in production (or more costs to employ more people to take up the slack) or more stress as people try to get things done in less time (or both), which a three day weekend would not really remedy.

And if you one of those that suffer from Sunday evening feeling, and poor sleep before going back to work, imagine how much worse that will be after an extra day of rest?

Momentum’s spokesperson called for the collective wisdom of the Labour membership to prevail in the democratic decision making process. I wonder how many of them will rue the choice, should it be made, when options that would have worked better for them are taken away?

Why the Under 25s Will (Mostly) Never Vote Tory

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It’s generally understood that younger people (in the UK) tend to vote Labour and older people tend to vote Conservative, and given that there’s a reasonable chance of Conservative leadership bunfight in the offing, along with local and Europeans elections looming, there has been a spate of articles in recent days (James Forsyth’s in the Telegraph for one) around how the Tory party have tried and failed to woo the ‘yoof’ vote.

I think, given what I’ve been focussing on in recent days, that the under 25’s proclivity to vote Labour has a lot to do with the fact that their right-brains are fully developed while their left hemisphere is still developing. As a result, they tend not to use their pre-frontal cortex for decision making as the integrative logical functions are still not fully formed, and instead tend to use their amygdala, buried down in their limbic system.

This makes them susceptible to more emotional arguments and viewpoints that the Left tend to rely on in their campaigns. Under 25’s also tend to focus on more self-centred issues – cost of education, cost of housing, getting a job. Labour’s very clever ploy to abolish university tuition fees played directly into this. The fact that it probably would have mostly been paid for by raising corporation tax, thus threatening many small businesses and a massive chunk of the gig economy, is a logical conclusion lost in the emotional maelstrom of limbic thinking.

I certainly remember getting swept along on the tide of emotion that engulfed the UK when Tony Blair powered his way to victory in 1997. I was 24 and I had no idea what either party really stood for. I had no time for logical arguments, I just wanted the smelly old Tories out. I totally bought into the message of ‘time for a change’. I’m not sure I can, hand on heart, say that change was particularly good, but there we go.

The problem with the Conservative message is that it is often portrayed through the lens of capitalism, with no recourse to the ideas of social evolution, and the almost mystical ideas of society from which capitalism emerges (more on that soon). These are nebulous arguments, and hard to sell at the best of time to anyone. So capitalism is reduced from the natural outpouring of human activity to work together to stay alive, and focussed through the emotional lens of cruelty and greed. This is something that resonates with the limbic system and gets the old noradrenaline flowing. Capitalism is bad! Businessmen are evil and greedy! The staple output of the left. Cold hard facts that contradict these stories are ignored (the Tories tend to be better at environmentalism and social care, and ‘capitalism’ can drive up living standards for all), the developed emotional right brain filtering them out.

I guess, with my filmmaker hat on, this also explains why the key demographic for blockbuster movies is the 18-25 range, they have the time, the money and the brain skewed towards enjoying films.