Nissan deal and humble pie

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I’m increasingly of the view that the fabled Nissan deal struck by Theresa May and Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn is never going to work. There’s clear blue water between what Ghosn is telling his company he got the UK to agree too (i.e that they will compensate Nissan if the UK leaves the single market) and what the government is saying (no payments were promised). Let me illustrate the problem with a thought experiment.

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Let us suppose the UK leaves the single market. While the Tories seem to think they can “have their cake and eat it”, the reality is somewhat different. Any sort of restrictions on immigration and the UK is out of the single market. All the other nations in the EU would have to agree to the UK staying in (or joining later) and there is no way that’s going to happen, not if you’ve been listening to what’s being said in other EU countries. Yes Canada can get such a trade deal, but they are the other side of the Atlantic and aren’t being run by a bunch of racist nutters.

Leaving the EEA trade area would create a whole host of problems. For example we’d still be subject to EU food labelling (contrary to current government claims) as that’s actually controlled by the WTO (a bilateral agreement which lets the EU export food to non-EU countries). We’d need to hire a shit load of vets or go vegan (something to do with the slaughter practice of animals, there’s not enough non-EU vets to monitor this and yes those rules still apply if you want to export food abroad), we’d need to hire a small army of trade negotiators before we can even negotiate a deal with say China (and we have barely enough to negotiate a deal with the Vatican). Oh and btw the Chinese are prevented from dumping steel in the EU thanks to another bilateral agreement which won’t apply to the UK after brexit, raising the risk of an immediate trade war (unless the Tories want to see the recently rescued steel mills shut). The banks will also move some of their operations out of the country and sack tens of thousands of UK staff.

Certainly thought, the UK will forced to revert to WTO rules (if the UK can qualify as a member otherwise its chaos), which would slap tariffs of up to 30% onto all UK trade with the EU. UK cars will be hit by a tariff of 10%. A tariff of that scale on every car coming out of the Nissan plant would mean a government subsidy to the tune of several thousand per car and the plant produces about half a million of them per year. So that’s a billion or two a year to keep one car factory going.

Think about that, Theresa May is proposing to spend a few billion a year to keep 7,000 workers employed. That’s between £100,000-£200,000 per worker per year (depending on the breaks). And this could go on for many years (and it could take a decade to sort out any sort of deal….and there’s no guarantee of success at the other end). It would actually be cheaper for the government to simply buy the factory off Nissan, close it down and hand each worker, say half a million each on their way out the door, telling them to use it to sort their life out (pay off the mortgage, retrain, retire).

Even ignoring such absurdities, what about the other car makers? Do you think JLR, a direct competitor with Nissan in the SUV market is going to be happy with them getting a subsidy? No, they’ll sue the government and demand the same for themselves. Now if every UK car maker got the same deal, and really if one gets it they’ll all be entitled, that’s a subsidy from the government of say £3,000 per car (for some vehicles it will be higher, others it will be lower, this is about what you’d expect at 10% on the average cost of UK vehicles sold). The UK makes 2.5 million cars a year, so that’s a cost to the government of £7.5 billion per year!

Oh, and that assumes the EU doesn’t decide that this subsidy is unfair under WTO rules and doesn’t lodge a dispute with the WTO. That would see putative tariffs imposed by the WTO and the EU at a rate of up to 30%, so it could cost the government three times this amount in such a scenario.

And even this £7.5 billion figure is of course slightly less than the current cost of the UK’s EU membership. Add on the costs of propping up the UK’s R&D and universities post-brexit (up to £8 billion), the farmers (£3 billion), the fishermen, the regions (Cornwall and Wales, both in receipt of billions a year in EU structural funds), and we’re looking at a frighteningly high bill, probably tens of billions a year, certainly many times more than it cost to be in the EU.

And these are not one off payments, these are yearly costs. The one off costs of leaving the EU could be as high as €60 billion, if you listen to what the EU is now saying. And with falling tax revenue and a growing deficit problem, quite simply put, these are cheques Theresa May cannot afford to write. Because the banks who lend the government money (and in future they’ll be doing that from Dublin and Paris) will let those cheques bounce.

The UK cannot buy its way out of brexit. There will have to be some pain. And my guess is Nissan workers are going to be those how have to take some of it. Which begs the question, what class of a moron is Carlos Ghosn? Was he always this stupid or did he have to take lessons? (from Trump university I assume). How do you know a politician is lying too you? His/her lips are moving. And if Mr Ghosn is reading this and think’s I’m not being a bit mean, I’ve some magic beans I could sell him, plus a mate of mine is looking to sell the Forth road bridge, I’m sure we could do a deal…..

…..Or perhaps we need to consider the possibility that Mr Ghosn is a little smarter than the average bear (to be honest, falling for such and obvious con trick is entirely out of character for him). Let us consider the following, he knows he was lied too, but that’s okay. He knows the Sunderland plant might not be viable outside the EEA. He’ll have to undertake massive layoffs or shut it down entirely. Its just he’d rather see the government be the bad guy and explain all of this to the plant’s militant workers, as well as helping to pay for the close out costs if the plant shuts.

So the sequence of events will be, he waits until towards the end of the brexit negotiations and its clear the UK is going to leave the EEA. He pops up waving his little letter from the PM and demands she pays up as promised. Given that she can’t afford to do that (as explained above), she’ll hum and haw and backtrack. He’ll say, you lied to me you lied to the Nissan workers, the deals off, I’ve no choice but to shut the plant down (on the eve of an election) and I’m suing the government for the costs of doing that. The government will make a show of resisting this, but then quietly settle the case out of court (they don’t want to face a scenario where a sitting PM has to testify in court, not least because of the political crisis that would emerge if she perjured herself in the witness box a few months before an election).

And we have to consider that Ghosn might be acting under orders from Paris and Tokyo. Nissan is after all a joint French and Japanese operation, which has close links to both of these governments. They know that if the Nissan deal were to collapse like this in the middle of brexit negotiations, it would be setting off a bomb under the UK economy. There would be a chain reaction of other car makers and companies effected by a potential hard brexit coming forward and warning their work forces of looming mass redundancies.

The Tories would be facing going into an election with falling poll numbers. And there ally Corbyn will be gone. Any significant threat of mass layoffs and his pro-brexit stance means he’ll face a rebellion from the labour party’s union supporters, who will hold another leadership contest and see someone else elected leader. Likely this new leader will come from the hard left of the party as a compromise (Owen Smith, Tom Watson, may be even Ken Livingstone). Naturally said leader can expect an immediate polls bounce and the Tories will be faced with the very real possibility of losing an election to a hard left candidate.

Hence they will come crawling back to the negotiating table and take whatever deal the EU offers that keeps them in the single market. They’d sooner face a backlash from the swivel eyed UKIP loons than see the loss of large chucks of the country and numerous marginal seats to militant and recently unemployed workers and a hard left labour party coming to power.

So the Nissan deal means Theresa May won’t be having her cake and eating it. It means she’ll be getting a double helping of humble pie.

Exit through the wingnut shop

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There’s some brexiters who argue that the UK doesn’t need to trigger article 50, nor spend two years negotiating leaving the EU (and thus its all just a big conspiracy to keep the UK in the EU). We just tell the EU we’re leaving and that’s that. Ah…..no!

To draw an analogy, this would be like quitting your job by just not bothering to showing up for work any more. Okay, so you’ll be leaving without a reference, without your pension contributions, without reimbursement for any outstanding expenses, without your next pay cheque and without the protections afforded by the law. You’d be at risk of your employer suing you for damages (generally your contract of employment will specify an agreed period of grace either side must give before the contract can be terminated) and you’d also not be eligible to claim unemployment benefits. Does any of that sound like a good idea?

The whole point of negotiating is that its a two way street, you reach an accord which gives both sides an acceptable agreement. Perhaps this is the problem of course, the Brexiters think that they can have their cake and eat it and thus the idea that they have to “negotiate” or “compromise” is alien to them. However by refusing to negotiate the UK would essentially be a conceding the field to its opponents. In other words the EU will decide the terms of the UK’s exit, without the UK being consulted.

Naturally the consequences of this could be quite serious. There’s a long list of issues that needs to be resolved and not just with the EU. The UK is doing something that isn’t really governed by existing legislation, so in theory it could leave the country in legal limbo if other nations don’t co-operate. Keep in mind article 50 was originally written by a British lawyer to provide some semblance of an exit mechanism, should it become necessary.

For example that 60 billion the EU says they will charge the UK as its exit fee from the EU. Now I’d consider that at present a negotiating position that they’ll likely horse trade away in exchange for the UK making certain favourable concessions (although the UK will inevitably still face some sort of bill in the end and it will probably be in the tens of billions). However if the UK doesn’t negotiate its exit, then obviously they’ll just slap that bill onto the UK and give the country 30 days to pay, perhaps they’ll even make it higher.

What’s that you say? You’ll refuse to pay? Okay and then the EU starts ceasing UK government assets, freezing bank accounts, imposing punitive taxes on UK companies and businesses or ceasing goods at Calais. Recall that a few years ago, after the Russians reneged on their debts (under Yelstin) it lead to them facing all sorts of sanctions from creditors. At one point a bunch of lawyers showed up at a French air show and tried to impound a group of Russia airforce planes. The Russians actually took off and fled back to Russia to avoid being impounded. That’s the sort of stuff the UK would be facing. The UK’s failure to pay this bill would technically count as a sovereign default, which would mean the UK’s credit rating would be cut to near junk status which would cause a whole host of financial problems.

Ask any lawyer and they will tell you that if someone is suing you in court for money, the worst thing you could possibly do is ignore it. They’ll win by default, the court will appoint a bailiff who’ll come round to your house or place of business and start impounding goods. You can make all the excuses you want at that point, they won’t listen and they don’t have too (they have a county court warrant in their hand). If they are in a good mood they might give you an hour or two to come up with the cash, before then start loading your stuff into their van. And they’ll keep coming back and coming back until you pay up. That’s what the UK would essentially be facing.

And then there’s issues like the WTO. The UK’s membership of the WTO is in a state of limbo. Now in theory so long as nobody kicks up stink it should be easy enough to straighten that out. However, if we’ve left the EU without agreement and are now locked in a trade dispute with them, quite obviously that will have to be resolved first. Without WTO membership the UK will find it quite impossible to trade abroad in any meaningful way.

Then there’s the status of UK citizens in the EU. Without an agreement it will be up to the EU, if not individual EU states, to decide on their fate. My guess is they’ll offer some sort of duel citizenship to the UK citizens they want to keep (i.e. the working age taxpayers living in their countries) while kicking out the pensioners who they want rid of (more precisely, they’d refuse them health care and hit them with a massive punitive tax on their pensions to force them to return to Britain). The French will no doubt withdraw the current border arrangements and simply wave through masses of refugees straight onto Ferries bound for the UK. So we’ll see a drop in east European workers replaced by hordes of pensioners and Syrian migrants.

But we’ll be able to send all them Polish people back right? No! You can’t deport someone to a government whom you don’t have relations with. This is exactly the problem with refugees, they’re in legal limbo and thus can’t be deported back to their country of origin. If the UK left the EU without triggering article 50, then all of the EU citizens would fall into the same category. It would be legally very difficult if not impossible to deport them, or any Syrian refugees for that matter.

And it won’t just be people coming in but goods too. As I’ve pointed out with regard to the post-brexit Irish border, its not people you need to worry about but contraband. Without a bilateral exit agreement from the EU the smugglers will be having a field day. They’ll be shipping in truck loads of tax free booze, cigarettes and petrol, undermining UK businesses and depriving the treasury of valuable tax income. As it is there needs to be some sort of an agreement reached to prevent this becoming a major problem.

And they’ll also be shipping in drugs too. Ireland is already a known transit route for drugs into Europe and in particular shipments into the UK. Our rugged West coast with its countless inlets and bays is virtually impossible to defend and patrol. And the Irish countryside, with its rabbit warren of narrow boreens and remote farm houses, gives smugglers plenty of places to hide stuff. Currently intercepting such shipments is a major focus of attention by customs officials both sides of the border. And its achieved by mutual trust and co-operation. Destroy that agreement and the only winners are the smugglers. In short, leave the EU without triggering article 50 and the only think that will get cheaper in Britain afterwards is the street value of heroin and crack.

So no, the UK can’t leave without triggering article 50. Doing so would be the height of irresponsibility and grossly stupid. Yes article 50 is designed to basically let the EU screw over the country that is leaving. But that’s still better than the alternative, leaving and getting screwed over by the rest of the world permanently.

What to play at Trump’s inauguration

I understand that Trump is having trouble getting any artists to play at his inauguration. Which is not really that surprising really. And keep in mind even playing music is a problem. Artists have forced Trump to stop playing their music at his rallies, cos it kind of hurts sales when people associate your music with the likes of him.

The current best guess is that they are holding out for Justin Timberlake, but they’ll have to pay him to show up (normally he get’s paid not to show up), or publicity vampire Kanye West.

I’m thinking no, they should just go for some Rob Zombie or Alice Cooper. It might get us all in the mood for the next four years of his presidency. Either that or something Russian!

A failure of checks and balances

There’s quite a few Americans hoping against hope that America’s anti-fascist circuit breaker, the electoral college will trip up the Trump presidency before it even starts. There’s plenty of good reasons why it should, the latest revelations regarding how Russia assisted Trump’s campaign, his questionable cabinet picks and the clear signs of potential corruption, with him trying to use his office to further his own business interests. However its not going to happen. Yes it probably should, but it won’t.

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If there’s one thing Trump is correct about its how the US political system is broken, although he’s not going to mend it. His cabinet picks, a bunch of greasy brown envelope wielding Washington insiders and Goldman sachs bankers (quite a number of whom are close to Putin), should tell you all you need to know on that front. He could well prove to be the straw that breaks the camels back. Indeed its worth noting that the US is already one step away on the democratic Index from “flawed democracy” status….and that’s based on 2015 number prior to this election.

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Trump’s proposed secretary of state has many skills that suit him to his new job….of kissing Putin’s ass!

Firstly its worth remembering how the electoral college came about. It goes back to the founding of the US itself. The founding fathers were aware of the criticisms from the ancient Greek world regarding the dangers of democracy. They understood how a demagogue could manipulate the public into supporting him and cease power, thus ending democracy in all but name. And there was a perfectly good demagogue waiting to take over – King George, the original mad king himself. A historical fact of history that is often forgotten is that not everyone in America wanted to become independent. No, there was a sizeable number of Royalists who wanted to stay part of the UK.

So the founding fathers had good reason to be concerned. Their logic therefore, was that the people should essentially elect them to the electoral college and they would then pick the president, treading the actual vote as a sort of advisory election. Hence if the public voted for Benedict Arnold or something (make America British again), the founding fathers could just ignore that and put someone else in charge.

However, over the years this fact has been forgotte. Most of the electors these days are party insiders within the GOP and democrats. We are talking about the most odorous, party hacks you’ll ever find. The sort who both parties have to keep in back room positions out of public sight. Most of this bunch won’t get out of bed unless there was a brown envelope with a bribe waiting by the bedside from the carpet manufacturing industry. And they won’t wash unless there was another one waiting from the cleaning products lobby in the bathroom. The idea that this lot are going to rescue America from Trump is somewhat fanciful to say the least.

Now okay, I’m making an unfair generalisation. Yes there are some honest electors who take there job very seriously and have actually read the constitution. Indeed two electors are actually suing the state of Colorado as we speak to be given the chance to vote the way their conscience dictates. However they are likely to be in a minority, just take a look at the election results. The bulk of them will see Trump as an opportunity to loot the treasury as the city burns. About the only advice I’d give is to invest in the manufacturers of brown envelopes, because there will be a lot of them being used with Trump in charge.

And keep in mind there are some in the democratic camp who also aren’t happy about how Bernie Sanders was treated. Now with out going into the details of the rights and wrongs therein, my point is its just as likely that some of those in the democratic party will not support Hillary as those in the GOP will not support Trump. Indeed, recall that Colorado voted democrat. So those electors I mentioned earlier, are likely trying to avoid having to vote Hillary and might even support Trump.

So the great democratic circuit breaker is likely to fail, which begs the question, what exactly is the point of the electoral college? If there ever was a time for it to deny someone the white house now would be the time to do it. If they’re just going to be robots why have them?

Some say the electoral college is there to give smaller states more rights. Excuse me, isn’t that what the Senate is for? Rhode Island has the same number of senators as California, that’s whopping x40 over-representation for one state over another. What more do these states want?

And there’s a perfectly sensible way it could be abolished and still make Presidential elections a state by state contest. Have the election in two rounds. In the first round of voting, for a candidate to win he must carry +50% of the nationwide popular vote and +50% of the vote in at least 60% of all states. If no candidate achieves this, all but the top two candidates are eliminated and the election is repeated a few weeks later with a straight national popular vote runoff. This would ensure that whoever wins gets at least +50% of the vote in a majority of states.

Better still, let the Vice president be picked by the Senate (meaning the smaller states), with them picking from among retired governors. This is basically how Presidential candidates pick their VP’s anyway, so we’d just be making it a bit more democratically accountable. While also reminding who is ever in the White House that they can’t afford to neglect smaller states. By contrast the current system means we face the absurdity of a candidate who has not only failed to win the popular vote, but only got 46.5% of the vote (times the turn out that’s a support base of just 25% of the electorate).

And speaking of the Senate, there are others hoping that the Senate will block the basket of deplorables that Trump’s picked for his cabinet. Again, this is not going to happen. Many of Trump’s cabinet are lobbyists who have been greasing the sweaty palms of these senators with bribes campaign funds for years. Its kind of lacking in credibility for senators to get up and say “you’re a crook….and I know that because you helped to fund my re-election campaign”.

Yes there are some honest senators on both sides of the aisle. They can slow the process down, embarrass these nominee’s maybe even force one or two of them to withdraw. But they’ll be up against a corrupt majority who’ll vote them all in eventually.

America is founded on a principle of checks and balances. But all the indicators are that those checks and balances are about to fail, and likely too is America’s time as the world’s leading state. Indeed, its worth remembering how racism, populism and a push back against inequality and diversity may have helped bring down the Roman empire.

Tories favour diesel farms over wind farms

Reblogging this from my energy blog….

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There are no sliver bullet solutions to the UK’s current energy problems. Wind power can certainly help, its led to big drops in the UK’s carbon footprint already, but only as part of a balanced energy diet within a grander overall energy strategy. However the Tories are hostile to wind power, preferring instead foreign owned nuclear and fracking, even thought neither is in a position to deliver any significant quantities of energy for some time to come.

This raises the risk of black outs if something isn’t done to plug the gap. So what is the Tory solution to this looming energy gap? Well instead of wind farms they favour diesel farms, clusters of diesel generators in fields up and down the country, subsidised by taxpayers I might add. If you ever want an illustration of everything that’s wrong with UK energy policy this is it, where to start with this one.

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Well for starters, diesel generators, while cheap to install are expensive to run. That’s why they are only ever used for generating electricity where there’s no other alternative (e.g. off grid power generation or backup generators). And with oil prices now on the way back up, those costs will start rising. They aren’t very efficient either. Yes a diesel engine in a car is more efficient than a petrol engine. But for power generation CCGT or IGCC plants have significantly greater efficiency. Potentially up to 55% efficient v’s at best 35% for diesel (and more typically 30% once the BoP is accounted for).

This also means that diesel generators are far more polluting, both in terms of carbon emissions and in terms of all the other gunk that comes out a fossil fuel plant. It beggars belief that someone can object to a wind turbine, yet look the other way to a bunch of these noisy beasts belching out carcinogenic fumes morning, noon and night. And again, if you are a UK resident, your paying for em. Carbon capture and storage is also a lot harder to implement with diesel farms than with the aforementioned gas cycle plants. So we lose that option too.

The irony is that I’ve long favoured the idea of distributed power generation, over centralised power stations. However, my preference is for CHP systems. They can run on a variety of fuels, including biomass or hydrogen (as a long term replacement for natural gas). And as we make use of the heat to meet winter heating demand (which represents a greater proportion of the UK’s energy demand than electricity remember), they are much more energy efficient, up to 85% efficiency is possible (so even running on fossil fuels, they’re 2.5 times better than diesel farms and nearly twice as efficient as a gas turbine plant).

So it would be all too easy to alter this policy slightly and achieve a similar result, just one that promotes renewable energy, cuts emissions, lower energy costs and helps keep homes warm in winter. So why is the government opting for diesel farms over CHP? Because CHP plant would be based in cities were the plebs live. You think home county toffs what money spent on keeping the great unwashed warm in winter! When instead they can earn a nice pot of cash putting a few diesels in some idle corner of their estate. Furthermore CHP might actually work (up to 40% of some European countries installed capacity is CHP), hence they’re will be no need for fracked gas or new nuclear plants. They are picking the worst possible energy option not despite it being so awful, but because it is so awful.

Any semblance of sensible energy policy has long been abandoned by the Tories. I think the UK’s post-brexit motto has to be go sell crazy some place else, we’re all stocked up here!

Labour on a losing streak

The latest by election result from Sleaford, triggered when the previous MP quit citing “irreconcilable policy differences” with the government over brexit, is a conservative hold. Given that this was a safe Tory seat, this is hardly a surprise. The lib dems saw an increase in their share of the vote, while labour’s vote collapsed, with them dropping into 4th place behind UKIP.

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While the lid dem’s did see an increase in their voter share, it was perhaps a bit unrealistic to expect them to take the seat or present any significant challenge. This was again a safe Tory seat in the heart of pro-brexit country. But the fact they showed any sort of increase in support (even on a reduced turnout) does show that their tactic is working. However it also shows how difficult it will be to put together any sort of convincing anti-brexit alliance come next election. Such is the nature of the UK’s unfair voting system. It may take a number of election cycles before they are in a position to push for a 2nd referendum.

This hints at the fact that opposition to brexit must play the long game. Focus for the mean time on slowing down the process and holding the Tories feet to the fire to make sure they do it properly (and not just use it as an opportunity to fulfil their various ideological fantasies). Then, given time, once it because obvious that brexit was a bum deal and to be blunt, wait until all the old foggies who voted brexit have died off. Then another referendum is held and the UK rejoins.

So any Tory thinking that you’ve killed off the Europe question, think again. Already the EU is considering offering some sort of citizenship of the EU to UK citizens on a voluntary basis. This threatens to create a large block of pro-EU voters within the UK who will gradually steer the country back towards Europe as the baby boomers die off.

However, and this is starting to sound like a stuck record, the real loser was labour (again!). Of those who cast a ballot for them in 2015, only 1/3 showed up to vote for labour this time. You would think that Corbyn’s pro-brexit stance would win some votes at least. Again this constituency voted heavily for brexit, surely he’d do better here than in the last one? But no, instead it drove labour into fourth place behind UKIP.

Why? Because as I’ve been warning for months, the people who voted brexit are not labour supporters, they were generally UKIPer’s and Tories. There is nothing Corbyn can say to convince them to vote labour. He could adopt the most insane monty pythonesque UKIP policies (e.g. put a catapult at Dover to fire the Polish home) and it still won’t make any difference (Daily Mail headline would be “Corbyn plans to give Polish a free taxpayer funded fun ride”).

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The failure of labour to provide any meaningful opposition to the Tories is driving voters towards the lib dems (if they voted remain) or UKIP (if they voted leave). So his stance is a perfectly sensible strategy…..if you happen to be a Tory!

Richmond park autopsy

Its worth analysing the results of the Richmond park byelection.

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Spot the clown competition

Let us start with the facts, Zac Goldtwit Goldsmith resigned from the Tory party and stood as an independent. This was a direct challenge to the PM. Normal protocol would be for the Tories to field a rival candidate and deny him his seat. However, Theresa May worried that the lib dems might use this as a mini-referendum on brexit, decided she’d rather have Goldsmith sulking in the corner and making noise about Heathrow, than give the anti-brexit forces in parliament a boost. So the Tories didn’t field a candidate, neither did UKIP and they’ve actually been secretly backing him (an unprecedented move for a senior MP who has so publicly defied the party leadership). And yet despite all this the government and Zac Gravedigger Goldsmith still lost, clearly indicating that while the locals are upset about Heathrow, they are more worried about brexit.

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I have to say that I wasn’t convinced this tactic of the lib dems would work. Elections are rarely settled over a single issue, even something as serious as brexit. But clearly even I underestimated the depth of feeling about it. Of course Zac Goldtwat Goldsmith, who fortunately we’ll never have to see again, clearly failed because he was trying to fight an election on a single issue (Heathrow). Ignoring the fact that most of the other candidates were also opposed to Heathrow expansion.

This I suspect will have a pronounced chilling effect on the Tories. Its shown a strategy that the remain camp can apply to halt brexit. Many Tory marginal seats in the south east voted heavily for remain. Its therefore quite possible than any MP who votes for article 50, or if the government somehow wins its appeal and pushes ahead without a vote, then those MP’s will likely lose their seats . And those seats include several minsters. So while the Tories have been trying to put a brave face on it, I suspect there’s some panic going on behind the scenes.

In the event of a brexit vote many MP’s will now have to weight up the consequences if they vote leave yet their district voted remain. Namely the lib dems, the greens and SNP are likely to pick up a good few seats in many urban marginal constituencies across the country as strategic voting is launched to punish the Tories for brexit. While this will probably mean the lib dems & the greens ending up with a vast number more seats (and the SNP turning Scotland a solid shade of yellow) next election, its unlikely they’ll get enough to stop the Tories winning. The Tories you see have a secret weapon, a fifth column within the left  – Jeremy Corbyn.

The real loser in Richmond park was the labour party. Their candidate, who got only 1/3 the votes received in the last election, managed to not only lose his deposit, but he actually got less votes than there are labour party members in this constituencyIf Corbyn can’t even get members of his own party to vote for him, how in blue blazes does he propose to win the next election? What’s his cunning plan? And keep in mind that the greens and the other left wing parties all pulled out of Richmond park to give the lib dems a clear run. The very fact Corbyn didn’t do so should confirm what I’ve been saying for sometime now – labour is a pro-brexit party, they are allies of the Tories.

In a recent interview he made it very clear that he will not veto or vote against brexit, even if it means no protections for workers rights and the environment. Yes the current leader of the labour party is quite willing to sacrifice everything his party has strived for the last 70 years upon the high altar of brexit.

Now if you ask labour why they are adopting this stance no doubt they’ll mumble something about how the majority of the country voted leave and why we’re all brexiters now. I think the response from Richmond park can be summed up as – bollix to that! Firstly, the majority didn’t vote for brexit, only about 37% of the electorate voted for it (a majority would require +50% of the electorate to support the motion, brexiters might want to google the word “majority” sometime). The people who voted leave were Tories, UKIPers and other morons who read too much tabloid newspapers, likely the people frantically googling “what is brexit?” the day after the referendum. None of them will vote for Corbyn just because he’s adopted a pro-brexit stance. There is nothing he can say that will convince them to vote labour….except perhaps “I resign with immediate effect”.

By contrast labour party supporters voted overwhelmingly remain, at between 67-90% (it depends on who we count as “labour supporters”, only party members or anyone whose vaguely supports the party). Richmond park shows the pro-brexit stance of the labour party is likely to lead to a collapse in support come next election. They will be decimated, losing seats left and right to the lib dems, SNP, Greens, Tories and UKIP. Its a bit fanciful for UKIP to claim they can replace labour. But its certainly true that they will take a lot of seats off labour and likely see their voting share increase next election. Not thanks to anything the Tories have done, but thanks to Jeremy Corbyn’s pro-brexit stance, erroding away his own support base. And even Corbyn himself could lose his seat. While he may have secretly voted leave, 70% of his neighbours in London didn’t. And as Richmond park shows, they might well punish him at the polls for that.

However, if labour were to alter its stance, this would change things. An obvious compromise between the “never brexit” wing of the party and the “Muesli brexiters” around Corbyn would be to insist on parliament being involved (and voting on) the brexit negotiating process, with a vote against article 50 if the Tories refuse to do so. And there is no way they can hope to get concessions out of the tories if they don’t indicate they are prepared to push the nuclear button.

In the event of the next election, labour would threaten the Tories with a vow to enter into a strategic voting alliance with the other left wing parties (not fielding candidates in one another’s constituencies) with it agreed that should their coalition win they will hold a 2nd referendum.

This referendum would presumably have three options, A) brexit according to whatever conditions the Tories had already negotiated (or in the event of an early election a pre-specified brexit option that would be the coalition’s negotiated aim, presumably the softer Norway model, with a reverse Greenland option for Scotland and Northern Ireland) B) Brexit, but reject the terms negotiated (or a rejection of the soft brexit option mentioned above, in the event of an early election, so in other words the whole process would have to be renegotiated from a blank sheet of paper). Or C) reversal of the previous referendum result, no further referendums on EU membership for at least 50 years (this last condition is get the EU off the UK’s back, they will not appropriate this will they? Won’t they? going on any longer and might vote to eject the UK from the EU regardless of the outcome).

The scary thing for the Tories is, that’s actually quite a reasonable proposal. And in the first instance if the labour party were to vote against article 50, that’s basically the end of it. Theresa May is now down to a wafer thin margin of just 13 and like I said at least two dozen of her MP’s will probably lose their seats if they vote leave. They may not vote against the government, but they might abstain, swinging the majority back to the remainers. And of course the Lords is largely controlled by labour, so they vote against article 50, that’s a 6 month delay straight away. Add in another 6 months for various left wing filibusters and the government’s brexit plans lie in ruins.

And incidentally the Unionist’s too will likely not back the Tories. They are split on the issue of brexit and given that Northern Ireland voted against it they will have to consider the possibility of a backlash in Northern Ireland. Again, as Richmond park shows, back brexit at your peril if your standing in an area that voted remain. This could split the unionist vote and hand control of the province to the SDLP and Sinn Fein, which would lead to a border poll in the North, a nightmare scenario for the Unionists. Because even I won’t dare speculate on the result. Brexit is the sort of thing that could convenience enough people in both communities to vote to leave the UK. So its a risk the unionists would be fools to take.

The Tories probably won’t call an early election, because such a proposal actually might tempt enough voters to back this left wing alliance. And strategic voting would turn the unfair nature of the UK voting system (which tends to favour larger parties) on its head. It would give this coalition a good chance of putting together enough seats to gain a majority.

More importantly by labour changing their position on brexit it could, ironically, kill of UKIP. In such a scenario UKIP votes would face the dilemma of voting UKIP and thus voting against the pro-brexit Tories, giving the left wing alliance a descent chance of capturing more seats, or voting strategically themselves. While I suspect UKIP will pick up more seats in such a vote (they were unfortunate not to win more last election), their overall voter share will drop.

If there’s a nightmare scenario that has the Tories waking up in a cold sweat its “Jeremy Corbyn UK Prime Minster”. Worse, him as PM in a UK not constrained by EU laws. What they are planning to do to the unions and the migrants with brexit he will unleash payback on them and their non-dom allies. Obviously his coalition partners and the core of the labour party will likely restrain some of the more hard left policies he’s proposed, but certainly I suspect its a gamble the Tories aren’t willing to take.

Hence why I think we can turn the clock back. If Corbyn were to change his stance on brexit, I suspect the Tories will very quickly move to do a deal. They’ll consult with parliament, they’ll give them a vote, they’ll go for a softer brexit options and they’ll likely agree to some sort of referendum or early election to endorse any negotiated deal. So post-Richmond park the ball is now in his court, let’s see if he’ll do anything with it.

If he doesn’t then I would urge anyone who is even vaguely left wing to leave the labour party and make your views known to your local MP that you will vote against them next election or in any subsequent post-Corbyn elections to come.

The populist authoritarian tribe of the demagogue

I came across a piece by the Guardian encouraging its readers to break out of their bubbles and go read the views of those on distinctly republican websites, such as Reason or the American Conservative. While I appreciate the intent, the fact is there’s not much point. Regular readers of this blog will probably notice I occasionally reference these websites myself. The problem is that conservative voters don’t believe in conservatism anymore, Trump proves that.

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One could characterise republicanism as founded on four pillars – religious conservatism, a belief in small government, fiscal conservatism and strong on security. Trump breaks all of these rules. He’s a thrice married sex feint who thinks married women are fair game, fantasises about his own daughter and may have raped multiple women (or so they allege). There’s a big question mark over his religious beliefs, he is certainly not a regular attender at church. One could scarcely think of a worse choice if your a “values voter”.

As for small government, well he wants to impose trade tariffs which will basically jack up the price of many goods and services. By restricting immigration he’s basically dictating to American employers who they should hire. Keep in mind there aren’t many Mexicans in Ohio or the rust belt, they tend to congregate in the states where there are labour shortages. So if they leave or are forced out, who takes up their jobs? In short Trump is more of a central planner than either Obama or Bernie Sanders. As I discuss before, in relation to UKIP, anyone who even remotely considers themselves a libertarian or a believer in small government, you cannot be in favour of strict immigration controls. These two positions are simply incompatible. The American dream, that a migrant could come in and if he worked hard he could make something of himself, well that’s dead now.

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And as for cutting government debt, not only is that going to be abandoned under Trump, the only real question is how high does he push up America’s debt levels, some say $5 trillion, others say closer to $10 trillion, we’ll have to see. But certainly its baffling that any conservative, after all the stick they gave Obama over this issue, that they could then vote for Trump.

And as for security, well let’s just say Trump has a “unique” point of view. He’s clearly a Putin groupie, but the problem is that the US and Russia are rivals and its difficult to change that. Putin is currently installing nuclear missiles in Kallingrad, threatening not just NATO bases but US interests in the region. Putin’s allies include Iran, North Korea, China, Syria, Cuba, Pakistan and numerous others. In short, in almost any potential flash point Putin is either the likely enemy or the one supplying that enemy with weapons.

Historically republicans have believed in “firm diplomacy” of speaking softly and carrying a big stick. The idea, of the president going to Moscow and bowing before Putin and kissing his ass (which seems to be Trump’s plan) is about as far removed from a tradition GOP policy as you can get. I mean imagine if Reagan went to Berlin and instead of demanding that the Russians tear down this wall, instead he say’s actually that’s a very nice wall, can you put me in touch with the builder and does he do work in Arizona?

Campaigners pose on a 'United To Stop Trump' cardboard wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate to urge Americans living abroad to register and vote in Berlin

And already Trump is showing every sign of planning to ignore the constitution and use the presidency as a means of getting uncompetitive advantage and bully special favours from foreign governments to the benefit of his businesses, even thought that’s illegal. He’s showing every sign that he’ll be getting up to African dictator levels of corruption.

All in all if American conservatives were true to their values, they should not have voted for Trump. They could have gone into the polling booth, closed their eyes and literally voted for anyone else and they’d have been voting for a better conservative candidate. Yet the exit polls show they did and they did so not despite his policies but because of them. The fact of the matter is the republican party did not win the election, they lost it, they weren’t even on the ballot. The alt-right won the election.

And here in the UK, the Tories too have abandoned their long held political philosophy, they are no longer the party of small government and prudent financial management. Instead they are now a party of xenophobic central planners, who practice political patronage, lavishing gifts on those who they favour for political reasons (Nissian, Hinkley C), punishing those who they dislike (such as wind farms or solar power). And with the UK’s debt now out of control and inflation rising, the cost of goods in the shops going up, they aren’t even pretending to care about the state of the public finances. They’ll still serve the rich (that was never going to change) but they have essentially abandoned their political philosophy.

In this post-truth world the reality is that so-called conservatives don’t believe in anything anymore. As Adam Curtis discusses in his latest film many will now vote for a candidate who tells the most outrageous lies, even though they know that he lies and he can’t possibly keep his promises. And he knows that they know that he lies and don’t expect him to keep his promises. Its just that they find his lies more comforting that someone else’s facts. Many now subscribe to a form of government that can be best described as “authoritarian populism”, which favours big brash chest thumping strong men over anyone vaguely sensible. That he’s insane and will drive the country over a cliff in the long run does not matter to many so-called conservatives now.

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This is why Hillary and the remainers lost, they played by the rules and came across as the class swots. As this video highlights, we have now fallen for the demagogue trap Socrates and Plato warned us about in the very early days of Greek democracy. They warned that voting is a skill people need to learn. Letting anyone just vote for whoever they like is potentially very dangerous, given how easily people can be manipulated by a charismatic leader……and they were saying this without knowing about the internet or 24 hr rolling news.

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The jocks have now taken over the asylum. For them politics is now a sort of sadistic game, where they’ll cheer the murder of an MP by a racist with 50,000 tweets. For sure they’ll use their former ideology as a stick to hit the democrats with, but ignore it when one of their own tribe does the same or worse. All they care about is their tribe winning and winning by any means, even those that involve lying and cheating.

So ya, you can go visit these conservative websites if you feel like it, but it won’t do any good, republicans stopped believing in these things along time ago.