Tag Archives: Brexit

Not so strong and stable

Schadenfreude

It’s difficult not to laugh at Theresa May today. Thinking she could take advantage of her huge lead in the polls (remember when that was a thing?), she called a snap election clearly intending to crush a weak and divided Labour Party and entrench the Conservatives in government for the foreseeable future.

Well that didn’t happen, did it?

Instead we discovered that, far from being strong and stable, May is weak, wobbly and terrified of encountering actual voters. Corbyn, on the other hand, has had a spectacular campaign. I remain skeptical of both the man and his agenda, but it cannot be denied that he is able to find and fire up supporters, and get them to go out and vote. This proves, if nothing else, that campaigns really do matter:

Theresa May ran what was perhaps the worst campaign in recent political history—robotic, cliché-ridden, condescending, slapdash and otherwise awful. By contrast Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn ran an inspired campaign. He started off with the huge advantage that expectations were so low; if he didn’t devour a baby on the screen people were pleasantly surprised. But as the election proceeded he turned into an impressive campaigner. He dealt with hostile interviewers with a zen-like calm. He explained his beliefs patiently. Mrs May’s rallies were abysmal affairs. She frequently imported party apparatchiks to pretend to be real people. Mr Corbyn’s rallies by contrast were thrilling—huge crowds of the party faithful flocked to see their leader.

The knives are already out for Theresa May and I really don’t see her surviving as leader of the Conservative Party until the end of the year. At the time of writing this post, it looks like she is trying to come to a deal with the DUP to stay in power but I don’t see this lasting for long. Much of her party have been keeping their heads down while she looked likely to remain in power, but now they’ve scented blood and the more liberal and tolerant (Ruth Davidson) wing of the Tory party are going to bring her down quickly if she cedes to much to the Irish Unionists. And if she doesn’t, they’ll bring her down slowly.

Having voted for Brexit by a small majority last year, it appears that the electorate aren’t as keen on driving the UK economy over a cliff as May had assumed. While Labour are still favouring exiting the EU, they also have their own red lines (such as retaining access to the single market) which has the potential to complicate things and cause no end of delays. As long as Labour are willing to work with other parties, including the more moderate wing of the Conservatives, they should be able to ensure that the May will have to pay more attention to Parliament than she does to the tabloids.

The rest of May’s ‘red Tory’ agenda is, of course, toast. Any dream of marching into Labour heartlands and hoovering up disaffected voters has been revealed to be nothing more than an over-excited fantasy. Labour Ukippers have gone back to Labour, Tory Ukippers have gone back to the Tories and UKIP have finally shuffled off it’s mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. Which is nice.

Against this background and the much vaunted (by most of the media) return to two-party politics, the Lib Dems have done well to increase their total seats. I have to admit that, at the start of the campaign, I expected them to do better than 15 MPs. With hindsight, though, I think the election was too early for a party that bet the house on opposition to Brexit. Brexit hasn’t happened yet, the negotiations haven’t even started and, while I still think it will be a disaster, the disaster hasn’t happened yet.

I find myself feeling pretty positive about this result. The Conservatives definitely deserved to lose but I remain unconvinced that Labour deserved to win. And that’s what happened. So well played Britain and here’s to Round Two in October.

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Parallels

Paddy Ashdown is currently researching the 1930s for a book about the German resistance to Hitler. He says he is horrified by the parallels:

The way that we have retreated from internationalism to ugly nationalism in Britain. The way that we have retreated from international trade to protectionism. The sense that somehow or other democracy is failing.

The habit of lying in our public discourse. What was it Goebbels said? Tell it often, tell it big … stick it on the side of a bus perhaps and drive it around the country. I’m not saying Hitler is around the corner, of course I’m not, although you might conclude the conditions for something like that to emerge are there.

I’m always a bit wary of making Nazi comparisons, but it can’t be denied that May is allowing an increasingly jingoistic press to drag her in a direction that is both populist and authoritarian.

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Quote of the Day: Consequences

A hard Brexit is very likely to hurt. The economy will tank; living standards will fall. But even though this mess was created by the right, don’t expect the left to benefit from the fall out: a fall in living standards will very likely make the electorate more selfish in their politics, blaming foreigners or enemies within for our woes. The end result of Theresa May’s failure may be to make Britain more right wing still.

Jonn Elledge

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Popular nonsense

Rafael Behr takes a look at Theresa May’s “no deal is a bad deal” shtick and finds it wanting:

Who wants a bad deal? If you are haggling in the souk, you threaten to walk away. If the merchant smells desperation, you will be ripped off. But the UK is not buying a deal from the EU. If article 50 talks fail, the rules of engagement with our neighbours still have to be settled. The difference is that the process would happen in a climate of acrimony, frozen trade, travel gridlock and financial meltdown. There is no such thing as “no deal”. There is orderly transition or there is frantic patching-up of essential arrangements as they expire. No deal is the final stop on the bad-deal train.

If May is bluffing, it is only her domestic audience that can be fooled, and they won’t stay fooled for long. If she isn’t bluffing, she is delusional. The rest of the world knows this and fears the consequences.

It really time that May and the rest of the Tory party starts explaining what they want to achieve, what they think they might achieve and what compromises they are willing to make. Because, right now, it looks very much like a weak leader and a deluded fparty are about to march the UK into a disaster.

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Quote of the Day: The customer is not always right

[A]gain, this raises the same problem of a truth that can’t be said by politicians. Pointing out that voters were wrong means you’ll be seen as an elitist technocrat whose out of touch with the people. … Politics is dominated by a mental model which sees voters as sovereign consumers. This means politicians can no more tell voters they’re wrong any more than companies can tell customers they are. Even when it’s true, it’s god-awful marketing.

Chris Dillow

When politicians are not able to point out to voters that their assumptions are wrong, they leave a space for populists to thrive and fester.

Brexit is going to bite, and when this happens people are going to become increasingly angry and will blame the same politicians who have let them believe that everything will be a bed of roses. I suspect that Britain will become a much nastier place when this happens.

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Voting tactically against Brexit

Even in light of recent polls, I still think the Conservatives will end up increasing their overall majority in June. But that doesn’t mean that the next five years have to be a walkover for Theresa May and InFacts have come up with a handy online tool to help you decide how to vote if you want to oppose the hardest, most catastrophic version towards which the Tories are marching.

If you live in England or Wales, put your constituency into the search engine and find the candidate best placed to oppose the extreme wing of the Conservative party.

(Via The New European)

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Quote of the day: Weak and anxious

The EU does not need to play dirty. European tails are up, with the eurozone economy expanding and the populist tide apparently receding. The EU already has the upper hand, both in terms of the too-tight article 50 timetable and the opening agenda, which it has dictated. Britain is a supplicant. It is divided. And on crucial issues, it does not seem to know what it wants.

The Observer on the uphill struggle facing Theresa May.

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Quote of the day: In which I find myself agreeing with a Brexiteer

I just think we should make the gesture, full stop. I don’t think there should be a quid pro quo, I just think we should make the gesture. They would look pretty churlish if they didn’t [reciprocate by guaranteeing the status of UK nationals in the EU].

— Billionaire Brexiteer, Peter Hargreaves calling on Theresa May to unilaterally guarantee the rights of millions of EU nationals already in Britain.

I really don’t see what Theresa May things she is going to gain from digging in here heels on this. She is burning up what little goodwill she has from the rest of the EU for no advantage whatsoever.

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The inevitable election post

So I returned from lunch yesterday and, while waiting for my coffee, I quickly glanced at Newsthump. It seems appropriate, somehow, that I learned of Theresa May’s snap election from a satirical article.

I was surprised. Given the number of times that May has ruled out a snap election, along with her delusion that no Brexit deal would somehow be better than a bad deal, I was expecting her to go into the 2020 election having “delivered Brexit” and worry about the consequences once the Labour Party were gone and forgotten. So there is a possibility that it has finally sunk in that extricating the UK from the EU will be a lot more complex than the bonkers wing of the Tory Party keep claiming, and that having everything done and dusted by the middle of 2019 might not be as realistic as she had led herself to believe.

Of course, with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, May can only have her snap election if two thirds of MPs vote for it. Will the Labour Party vote for its own demise. Of course it will. I have to admit, though, that I was surprised when only 9 Turkeys voted against Christmas (the other four belong to other parties).

Brexit is, of course, the big issue for this election as the New Statesman’s Helen Lewis notes:

On the steps of Downing Street, the prime minister said that her decision was driven by Labour and Lib Dem “threats” to vote against the final deal on Brexit.

… which also says a lot about May’s dislike of Parliamentary democracy. It’s the government’s job to convince Parliament to support, not demand that MPs blindly rubber-stamp every decision like some North Korean politburo.

On a related note, Tom McTague and Charlie Cooper in Politico observe that a larger majority would also enable May to push through a domestic agenda that is far more statist than many in her own party would like:

She has no manifesto of her own to deliver reforms such as an industrial strategy supporting struggling sectors, an increase in the number of selective schools, and tighter rules on big business governance.

An election that delivered a larger majority would make it less likely that a relatively small number of Conservative MPs could derail government policy, as occurred when the Chancellor Philip Hammond was forced to reverse tax increases on the self-employed in last month’s budget, to ward off a backbench revolt.

Although how much of a domestic agenda she can implement while Brexiting the economy to pieces remains to be seen.

And then there’s Scotland. The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon has called the election a ‘huge miscalculation’ and framed it as an attempt to finally kill off Labour in England:

That means that this will be – more than ever before – an election about standing up for Scotland, in the face of a right-wing, austerity obsessed Tory government with no mandate in Scotland but which now thinks it can do whatever it wants and get away with it.

Whatever the arguments in England, the election in Scotland will inevitably be about whether or not the SNP has a mandate to call a second independence referendum. As Alex Massie notes:

The case for independence itself remains unproven, of course, but that is a matter of secondary importance right now. Right now the argument is over whether or not there is a case for a second referendum. Until now, Unionists had on the whole the better of that argument, not least because a referendum inspired by Brexit could not sensibly take place until such time as the impact of Brexit is felt and understood.

Theresa May burnt that argument this morning. She did so as a Conservative, not as a Unionist. That is her choice, her prerogative. But it remains something she did not have to do.

I have a blog and an opinion which clearly qualifies (if not obliges me) to offer up my predictions. So here’s my take on what happens next.

The Tories will be returned to power with a three digit majority.

Labour will haemmorage seats across the country, but will still be the second largest party after June. Regardless of the size of the defeat, Corbyn will cling to the leadership of what remains of the Labour Party. Assuming there are enough moderates left in the party to prevent the McDonnell amendment from being inserted into the rules, Corbyn will refuse to resign and will probably lead them into another glorious defeat in 2022. If the far left do pass the amendment, then the Labour Party will cease to exist as a poilitcal organisation.

2015 was probably the high point for the SNP and they will probably lose a few seats, but will still send at least 50 MPs to Westminster. That said, I’m not sure who wll take seats off the SNP — maybe an unashamedly pro-Union, pro-Brexit Conservative Party will see a continued upswing in their fortunes.

The Lib Dems will do phenominally well in terms of votes and will increase their number of MPs. That said, for a party that currently has 9 MPs, doing well means double figures. The number of MPs the party gains will depend largely on how their share of the vote is distributed and I expect them to remain the the forth largest party in the Commons

In the aftermath, we will finally see what sort of Brexit Theresa May really wants. Scotland will see another independence campaign — and quite frankly, I don’t think anyone can blame the Scots if they do decide to leave the UK.

And, if I’m really optimistic, the fact of the Tories’ overwhelming majority will encourage the sane wing of the party to grow a spine develop the same sort of rebellious streak that the anti-EU Tories have displayed for so long. And then maybe, just maybe, it may be possible for a combination of Moderate Tories, LibDems and the SNP to reign in the worst excesses of the Brexit Delusion.

We live in hope.

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