Tag Archives: Brexit

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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Quote of the Day: Her Majesty’s Craven Opposition

By going along with hard Brexit now, Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer have torpedoed Labour’s ability to oppose the government’s approach when it fails later on. This is not acting in the national interest.

Nobody would claim that Brexit is easy to navigate politically, but Labour has rendered itself impotent on the most important set of issues facing Britain in most peoples’ lifetime. Setting a series of belated “tests” for the government will hardly reverse the damage.

Peter Mandelson

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Pyrrhic Victories

Peter Black makes an obvious point:

[D]espite the bravado by the UK Government that they will not pay a leaving fee they know that if they want to secure a trade deal with the single market then that is precisely what they will have to do.

I keep on seeing articles in which various groups of people try to make some legalistic argument or other about the UK not paying the balance of its debts, and this is the thought that keeps leaping out at me. You can’t go into negotiations having already poisoned the atmosphere — as the Tories are increasingly doing — and then expect a decent deal at the end of it.

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Corbyn on Brexit: Labour not wedded to a principle

I have to hand it to Jeremy Corbyn: he never ceases to amaze.

Back in September, he said:

It isn’t migrants that drive down wages, it’s exploitative employers and the politicians who deregulate the labour market and rip up trade union rights.

It isn’t migrants who put a strain on our NHS, it only keeps going because of the migrant nurses and doctors who come here filling the gaps left by politicians who have failed to invest in training.

It isn’t migrants that have caused a housing crisis; it’s a Tory government that has failed to build homes.

This was quite a remarkable position for Corbyn to take as it it managed to be principled, consistent and true.

So, it was probably inevitable that he would abandon it:

Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle.

But nor can we afford to lose full access to the European markets on which so many British businesses and jobs depend. Changes to the way migration rules operate from the EU will be part of the negotiations.

It’s not that he’s trying to weasel his way into an imaginary compromise between the leave and remain factions of his own party that is so impressive, it’s the spectacularly inept manner in which he has attempted to do it.

The best thing that Labour could do now is pack their collective bags and go home in order to leave the way clear for a competent and progressive alternative to emerge.

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Brexit means…

Extrapolating from UK by-elections to a general election result is always a dodgy proposition, but we have seen two in short order so I’m going to stick my neck out.

In Richmond Park, a constituency that voted solidly to remain in the EU, the unambiguously pro-remain Lib Dem candidate trounced the Brexit supporting Tory. And no-one was fooled by Zac Goldsmith’s pseudo-independence.

In Sleaford and North Hykeham, a constituency that voted to leave, the pro-leave Conservative candidate comfortably won, beating UKIP into a distant second.

Both by elections centred on the Brexit vote and the government’s response, and this clearly remains a live issue for many voters. In constituencies in which the remain vote was strong, voters are turning to the Lib Dems as the only unambiguously pro-EU party. In pro-leave constituencies, voters are not buying UKIP’s accusations of the government backsliding on Brexit, and are continuing to back the Tories.

It would be foolish to try and make a general election prediction based on two by elections. But the one thing that has become clear is that when Theresa May says “Brexit means Brexit”, what she means is that Labour’s slide into irrelevance can only accelerate.

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Manipulating System 1

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman looks at the mental shortcuts we take and the ways in which these shortcuts mislead us. In doing so, he describes two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is quick, intuitive and emotional while System 2 is slower, more deliberative and more logical. Both systems have their place, but System one tends to dominate and is relatively easy to manipulate.

AC Grayling argues that this has happened, both in the Brexit referendum and the Trump election.

What Kahneman and other researchers have empirically confirmed in their work is that the majority of people are ‘System One’ or ‘quick’ thinkers in that they make decisions on impulse, feeling, emotion, and first impressions, rather than ‘System Two’ or ‘slow’ thinkers who seek information, analyse it, and weigh arguments in order to come to decisions. System One thinkers can be captured by slogans, statements dramatised to the point of falsehood, and even downright lies, because they will not check the validity of what is said, but instead will mistrust System Two thinkers whose lengthier arguments and appeals to data are often regarded as efforts to bamboozle and mislead.

Grayling goes on to say:

A senior BBC news editor told me that there was fierce debate among his colleagues about how they were reporting the Brexit referendum campaigns. They were conscious that that the Leave campaign, in particular, was putting out highly doubtful if not downright dishonest statements either very late or very early in the day in order to have them reported in morning news programmes, knowing that fact checking and the need to modify or retract misleading statements would only come later in the day, by which time the statements would have done their work with System One audiences.

And the media often compounds this problem by seeking a balance that (unintentionally) results in false equivalence.

I’m not sure what the solution to all of this is – or even if there is one – but surely it starts with more teaching and use of critical thinking and a better use of journalistic resources so that untrue and misleading claims can be quickly and effectively debunked.

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