Ending the anarchy

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Back in the 12th century the UK went through a traumatic period in its history, known as “the Anarchy” where two factions of the ruling Normans fought for control of the country, each supporting rival rulers. In this 18 year period, the many commoners were left to fend for themselves, as the lords fought, brigands ravaged the countryside and “the saints slept”. Well brexit has now driven the UK into another anarchy, as effectively the country does not have a functioning government.

The latest nickname for May is LINO, leader in name only. Hard to nail down, but easy to walk over. She sits surrounded by a cabinet of fools, which she is not the leader of. The traditional UK policy of cabinet collective responsibility having been abandoned some time ago. Hell at one point last week the brexit secretary gave the cabinet’s speech in support of a bill, then voted against it! Ministers are united in their incompetence, for which none are at the slightest risk of being sacked over (like Chris Grayling, aka Failing Grayling, Calamity Chris whose cost the country over a billion through shear incompetence and still in his job).

And can you blame them. May spent the last few weeks going around, threatening her party, the ERG and the DUP with a long delay if they didn’t vote for her deal. But to no avail. And parliament then subsequently voted to rule out no deal (which makes sense as it might not be legal to implement it) and request a long extension from Brussels. Then came her cabinet meeting last week in which a bunch of her brexit supporting minsters shouted at her and threatened to resign. And rather than fire them all on the spot (as any actual PM would have done) she just sat their nodding and saying nothing, turned around afterwards and said, we’ll only ask for a short extension (so in other words the ERG & DUP now have absolutely no reason to vote for her deal), then tried to turn the people on their own MP’s, blaming them rather than her and the hard line brexiteers for the mess the country is in.

No wonder the EU thinks she’s lost the plot. I mean they tell her to show up with a plan to the summit in Brussels and she basically shows up looking like a kid whose dog actually did eat her homework, forcing them to come up with a plan for her. And while the grown ups did the hard work, she was forced to sit in windowless room waiting for several hours while the UK’s fate was decided by the EU (that’s taking back control!).

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And not to be outdone in incompetence, Corbyn, walked out of a meeting with the PM because Chuka Umunna happened to be there. That’s how childish things have become. I ain’t sitting in a room with him, he called me a big fat meanie…and he smells. Corbyn will sit in a room with Hamas or Sinn Fein, but coffee with Umunna is a bridge too far.

And Corbyn (plus most of the labour front bench) were not only absent from yesterday’s rally (biggest demo in UK history, I’d have been down too but that would have involved using Chris Grayling’s railway service!), but according to labour party members he sent a sneaky notice out to them advising them to work on local party affairs this weekend. I’ve never heard of a labour party leader advising his members not to show up to a protest…well other than Tony Blair of course!

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Such a large show of support for remaining, a million people, the largest protest in UK history (contrasting that with support for leave consisting of a few hundred following Farage on a pub crawl), should have politicians sitting up and taking notice. Not to mention the article 50 revocation petition which has attracted over 5 million signatures. Well think again.

Politicians are by nature very slow to change course. I’m reminded of the story of how in the command economies of the soviet union, they’d set up committees to decide on the latest fashions, but by the time they actually got around to producing the clothes, nobody wanted them, as they were now out of fashion. The only difference with the UK parliament is that its probably easier to unseat a member of the soviet politburo that it is a UK MP in a safe seat. Such is the unfairness of the UK’s FPtP voting system.

For any UK politicians looking to advance their careers, best to ignore the people (what have they got to do with anything? Hell many of them voted leave in the first place!), hooking themselves to the brexit wagon is the best way forward. You want to be a future Tory leader/minister? You’ve got to join the hard brexiteer gang. And in labour, you’ve got to join Corbyn’s cabal, proclaiming lip service to the idea of a people vote, while actively working to undermine such a possibility (he had his party members abstain from a vote on a people’s vote the other week).

And the only way this is going to change if MP’s are faced with the threat of losing their jobs, or seeing their party destroyed. This unfortunately is how UK politics works. Unless you are prepared to go all the way, you’ll be walked all over, just like PM LINO. The reason why the ERG and the DUP are commanding so much attention in the brexit process isn’t that they command a majority (even amount Tories), its because they are prepared to burn the house down to get their way. So remain supporters need to be willing to do the same.

Everyone in that rally, or anyone who supports a people’s vote, needs to go away and figure out who their MP is and consult their voting history. If they are a leave supporter, then you need to tell them (I’d show up in their constituency office) they have lost your vote, not just for the next election but permanently, unless they succeed in reversing brexit.

Consider that over 26,000 have signed the article 50 petition in Corbyn’s own constituency that’s not far off his majority of 33,000. Yes, if enough people in his constituency were to commit to it, one of the safest of safe seats would suddenly become a marginal seat. Corbyn could actually face a Michael Portillo moment of being unseated over brexit. And any labour party members need to quit the party (ideally by cutting your membership card in half in front of your labour MP). Doesn’t mean joining TiG, or the lib dems (although the greens are a close match), you can always rejoin later. But so long as you support labour, you support leaving at any cost, even if it means leaving with no deal. Only when confronted with the reality that they are going to get annihilated next election can we expect to see any change of course from either the Tories or labour.

And the sort of action needed? That means parliament needs to take control of the situation. Neither May or Corbyn can be trusted anymore. They’ve made promises and broken them, even going against decisions already made by parliament (which would technically put them in contempt of parliament) or votes at party conferences. And while I’d prefer a people vote, arguably the window of opportunity for that has now closed. I’d argue the only realistic option left is to simply cancel brexit altogether. If, after he’s finished his pub crawl, Farage wants to have another go, let him win a general election first and then have a 2nd referendum.

Brexit, the Frankenstein child disowned by its creators

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The Guardian view of the no lobby after the vote….also the first of the paper’s “spot the fool competitions”

I came across a comment somewhere online comparing the UK parliament to a bunch of seven year olds. I immediately reported this comment to the moderators, as its grossly unfair…..to seven year olds!

This week the government suffered one of the worst defeats in UK history as May’s brexit deal was put to the house. Inevitably many pro-remain MP’s voted against this, no surprise there. But so also did many of the brexiteers! Like the Frankenstein monster, the brexiteers created this monstrosity and now having glimpsed their creation, they’ve recoiled in horror and disowned it. But yet, still it lives and it stalks the realm.

The funny thing is that most of those who voted in favour of May’s deal were the releaver block within the Tory party. These being MP’s who backed remain, but accepted the result of the referendum (flawed as it was). As one pointed out during the debate, he didn’t like May’s deal, but he (and his constituents) just wanted the government to get it over and done with, as they are all sick of hearing about brexit.

Well the bad news is, if your sick of hearing the phrase “brexit” buckle up, because your going to be hearing about it for at least a decade to come. As Sir Iain Rogers has pointed out, brexit is a process, not a destination. It will take ten years for the UK to completely untangle itself from Europe and sign new trade deals with the rest of the world (longer still in a no deal scenario). If you are sick of brexit, then nothing short of its cancellation will wipe it from the agenda.

So the question is, what next? Because having a few meetings (As May is currently doing) isn’t a plan B.

Well lets cross off the first option, May cannot keep putting her deal to parliament over and over again until they accept it. Parliamentary procedure states that you can only put forward a bill once in any particular parliamentary session. So in the absence of significant changes, or another election/referendum, it cannot be brought back to the house. Some clever use of legal language could allow one more go, but even that’s risky and she’d want to be certain it would work. Which means she needs to get the brexiteers to back it first.

But the brexiteers in her own party can’t back her deal. Why? Because, having sold the country on free unicorns and a land of milk and honey, backing her deal would end their political careers. Every election from now on, inevitably those empty promises would be brought up. They want it to go through for sure (ignore all the bravado about no deal brexit), but they also want to be able to create their own Dolchstoßlegende myth and blame the negative consequences on brexit on someone else (adamant that had THEY been in charge, oh it would have worked out soooo much better).

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A group of culture jammers called “led by donkeys” have been putting up bill boards showing past Tory promises on brexit.

So, what about the one true saviour Corbyn? He’s in a huff because May initially excluded him from any talks on a way forward (and visa versa). Well for once I agree with her. In fact, might I suggest a compromise. How about we take a potted plant from his allotment and put it in May’s office instead. Because it would make about as useful a contribution as he can.

Corbyn, even thought he’s also a brexiteer, has to oppose her deal (even though its actually quite close to kind of brexit he wants) for several reasons. Firstly, not invented here syndrome. He can’t be seen to back a deal proposed by a Tory PM. And openly supporting brexit is risky, given how strong opposition to it is in his party and how badly its going to impact his largely young and less than wealthy support base (while Tory brexiteers represent wealthier, older and often retired voters whose gold plated pensions will protect them from its worst effects). Supporting May’s deal amounts to Corbyn admitting the UK is worse off out than in and he just can’t do that.

And to be fair, supporting May is a risky game. This is the Tories we are talking about. If labour back May’s deal, the Tory narrative going into the next election will be, oh brexit was a disaster yes, but we all voted against May’s deal, while Corbyn and labour supported it….so you should vote Tory. Sounds stupid I know, but I guarantee you, that’s their plan. The problem for labour is that Corbyn is such a divisive figure, you don’t have to give voters a huge amount of reasons to vote against him.

Take the no confidence vote, I mean seriously, does anyone in the commons really have confidence in May? Hell I doubt she has confidence in herself (how about we repeat it but with a lie detector, doubt you’d get a single vote in her favour). You’d expect at least a few of her party to be suitably fuming to back the motion. But no, to a person, they all voted with their PM. If there’s one thing that unites the Tory party, its stopping Corbyn becoming PM. And while they might not have confidence in May, they have less confidence in Corbyn.

On which point, consider his objection to dealing with May. He wants her to take no deal off the table. Well she can’t. Why? Well as laid out in bills, which passed in no small part thanks to Corbyn, no deal is now the default option unless parliament can agree an alternative (he was warned of this at the time by remainers in his party, he ignored them). She can give personal reassurances yes (which she’s already done, question is would anyone believe her!), but she can’t legally guarantee anything. Its like one of my students refusing to turn up to class because I won’t guarantee they’ll pass. In short, Corbyn, with two months to go, hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing (even less so than May). Even the lib dems seem to have given up on him, making it clear they’ll not support any further no confidence motions.

Doesn’t the failure of Corbyn’s no confidence motion mean he’ll now back a people vote, much like he promised at conference? LOL! These momentum types crack me up! I’ve watched with some bemusement over the last few weeks labour supporters going into meltdown, whinging why oh why is Corbyn ignoring our views and going back on what was agreed at conference…..because he’s Jeremy f*’king Corbyn (you did at least google his name before joining?). The only way he’s backing a 2nd referendum is if wild horses drag him there. And of course May ain’t going to support one either (that would require her having a spine and making a decision and they’d don’t call her the yellow submarine for nothing!). So some brave MP’s are going to have to grow a pair, defy the party whips and propose it.

And realistically the only obvious way to break the deadlock IS another referendum. This would give the brexiteers cover to back May’s deal, while also silencing the remainers (if they lose of course). Why would it have to be remain v’s May’s deal? Why not no deal v’s May’s deal? Well firstly, because no deal is a fantasy which would violate international law. Secondly, you’d need to get it through parliament and nothing with no deal on it is going to get passed. And thirdly, you’d have to extend article 50 and the EU won’t agree to anything that involves an option they oppose. They’d rather the UK just crash out.

So in theory, if you are a leave supporter you should now back a 2nd referendum. Not least because there is a rapidly closing wind of opportunity for one to go ahead. After that, it becomes a choice between no deal and no brexit. And no brexit is likely to win in that scenario. Once you exclude the crazies, those who’ll vote against anything, no matter how sensible regardless of the consequences, the commons is split between remainers and the aforementioned releavers.

The releavers want brexit to go ahead, but not at any cost. Many represent districts which will suffer immediate negative consequences from a hard brexit. Kent will become a lorry park, hospitals and shops in Scotland and the North of England will run out of supplies, factories in the Midlands will shut. The releaver block will support some form of sensible brexit for now. But the closer we get to the end of march, the more tempting it will be to just cancel brexit altogether. And you can be all but guaranteed some remain MP will put that forward closer to the day. And in fairness to the releaver MP’s, should it come to pass, they’ll have a point. They didn’t want to leave the EU in the first place, but respected the decision all the same. They tried to push it through, but the bexiteers choose to sabotage their own project.

So again, brexiteers need to choose, its May’s deal or remain….or hand it over to the people to decide in a referendum (which polls suggest would likely mean remain). You have to choose one of these options, or the decision will be made for you.

Operation Liberal Shield at an end?

Meanwhile….back in Westminster, behind the Beach Volleyball court (odd that the government agreed to that! I hope the sight of pretty ladies in bikini’s out the back window isn’t detracting any civil servants too much), the UK coalition government is under serious threat. The planned reforms of the house of Lords has been dropped, largely as a result of Pimms swilling Tories who baulked at the prospect of an elected 2nd chamber, which would inevitably see commoners (too them the great unwashed) floating around. As a consequence, Nick Clegg has accused the Tory’s of breaking the coalition contract. It would seem the Lib Dems are about to go rogue (or finally growing a spine!), with suggestions that they will vote against efforts to change electoral boundaries.

This is a bit more serious that it would seem at first glance. We have coalition governments all the time in Ireland, and based on my experience of such coalitions, I’d say, unless the Tory’s can very quickly charm the lib dems back to the table, we’re now a year or less away from an election. Once these sorts of tit for tat bouts between ruling parties starts, it generally grows (as politicians on both sides build up resentment and mistrust), until eventually the government looses a vote of no confidence and an election is called.

Up until now, the Tories have been operating according to a plan, critics call, Operation Liberal Shield, where their buddies in the right wing media blame everything that goes wrong (even if its ultimately a Tory policy that’s at fault) on Nick Clegg and the lib dems. This has meant, as local elections have shown, that the lib dems have been the biggest losers in terms of public support and are likely facing annihilation come next election.

However there is an important dynamic at work which the Tories are neglecting. It means the lib dems know they now have nothing to loose. If there’s is an election, while yes they know they’ll likely get wiped out, that will probably happen regardless of the timing of the election, so they’ve every incentive to grab the Troy’s by the ankles and dragging them down with them. This is not an unusual occurrence in a coalition in other countries, when the junior party realizes they’ve little to gain any more from cooperation (indeed that’s the problem, there is no cooperation anymore!), ultimately then bringing about the downfall of the larger ruling party and an election where both parties are generally punished at the polls.

Consequently, the Tories now have three choices. Firstly, go to the country now while post-Olympic euphoria is at a high. Of course the risk with an election now (current opinion poll status of the party’s here), is they will loose seats, lead to a hung parliament with the Tories lacking a majority, nor any party willing to go into coalition with them, thus a rainbow coalition led by labour is the likely outcome.

So option two is, in order to keep the lib dems sweet, they drop one or two policy’s and let the lib dems have their way on a few things (gay marriage seems like a likely option, reimposing the 50p tax or a similar “rich tax”, ditching nuclear power another). Of course the problem with this strategy is that David Cameron’s control over his own back bencher’s (as revealed by their rebellion over lords reform, or any matter relating to Europe) is tenuous at best. Cameron could risk splitting his own party with such a strategy.

Which brings us to option number three, the default option I suspect that will be taken. The Tory’s continue with “operation liberal shield” in the face of a lib dem party that is increasingly willing to vote down Tory policy’s (the Mail’s nickname for Clegg could soon be Dr No) which will enviably mean institutional paralysis, until sooner or later it gets put out of its misery by labour (or Vince Cable!).