Thursday, 11 April 2019

Treat the European Parliament Elections as a Referendum

I could have blogged half a dozen times since the last entry, but I left it until the European Union Council. It has just agreed an extension until October 31st with a review in June; however, failure to take part in the European Parliament elections means we must leave without a deal on June 30th.

What this means is that those European Parliament Elections - the government has made the order to hold them - could be a substitute referendum. Such MEPs would not sit for very long.

We now need Change UK, the Liberal Democrats, Greens, Scottish Nationalists and Welsh Nationalists to put up candidates with the simply policy to revoke, and set them up against, no doubt, The Brexit Party and UKIP as these would want an instant deal. Many Conservatives will not bother to either stand or support, and Labour will stand but obviously cannot support a revoke position.

With a breather given by the EU Council, the Tory Party is free to spend some time to eat itself. This party must be punished for introducing the damned referendum in the first place, its Prime Minister running away when he lost his gamble of party against country (both lost), and then having a pathetic Prime Minister and Cabinet that could not manage this properly, from Chequers to the Withdrawal Agreement with a sort of six of one and half a dozen of the other that satisfied no one.

I noticed a change of tone on a Sky News vox pox on Wednesday 10th: people saying this had gone on too long, the process had failed, and it was time to stop it.

Meanwhile, Labour must not bale out this government with some, as it used to be called, 'smoke filled room' deal with the government, to try and then raise a minority of the two main parties to get the Withdrawal Agreement through. After all, 177 Tories voted against any extension on Wednesday. Corbyn would be finished at that point, if he isn't already.

Theresa May has to be removed. A Tory right wing Prime Minister would lose Tory support; as the remainer wing would resign the Tory whip. In fact the space now allowed also gives space for breakage of that party. It could now be that Cabinet Ministers resign: they didn't after long political and governmental Cabinets because they could see Labour snared in, but if Labour escapes the trap then there is nothing left, and the Cabinet leavers can cause their disruption as seemed logical.

Revoke keeps the UK in the European Union and the nations of the UK together. However, there are political fall outs that will happen as a result of a wasted three years and trauma to the body politic.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Evaluating Theresa May

I am motivated here by Philip Norton's lecture on 18th March at the Speaker's House, shown on BBC Parliament. The lecture is about the feasibility of a William Whitelaw premiership. Norton took a leaf out of Weberian sociological method and produced ideal types of politicians that make it to Prime Minister. He also uses them in a 2015 e-textbook called The British Polity.

So let us use them here:

Innovators seek power to implement a future goal of their own vision and drag their party behind them (as with wartime Churchill, Thatcher).

Reformers seek power to implement a particular programme drawn by the party (as with Neville Chamberlain, Clement Atlee).

Egoists seek power for its own sake and seek to preserve it with them at all costs (as with Anthony Eden, Harold Wilson).

Balancers either seek power to achieve a balance within the party and society or do this having been conscripted into the role (as with power-seeking Harold Macmillan, or conscripted Alec Douglas-Home).

As ideal types, Prime Ministers can in all reality straddle more than one. Clearly Theresa May is a Balancer, and sought power to be this. Her belief system was little more than loyalty to the Party; we can see this in her immigration decisions at the Home Office, and fairly disastrous they were. But she may also be an Egoist, perhaps surprisingly, in the way she seems to regard her own position in office as vital and is hard to shift.

She shares characteristics with Edward Heath in not being pally and not engaging in small talk. Edward Heath, says Norton, was not an ideologue, as sometimes considered in his Selsdon Man days, but was a technocrat. And Theresa May is also a technocrat. Heath did have a hinterland, but May is more like Thatcher in not having a hinterland. When politics is your life, you are very difficult to remove from office, and this is the case with May. Her promises to go are always conditional and she wants to control the timing, as well as pretty much everything else. Like Thatcher, the act of removal will prove bloody, this at a time of national weakness. I have written often now that the remainers in the Cabinet have to remove her first to get the others to resign, and fill the void, otherwise it could all swing the other way, and the exit group will stay as the remainers go - and then they will strike without mercy.

Theresa May is an Egoist in as much as she believes in her own resources, and, unable to persuade, gets support by bashing people over the head and creating panic from the ticking clock. It is a very bad way to get support - the difference between wind and rain and sunshine in getting someone to remove their coat. Bad feeling results in bad reactions, bad policy.

One might play this game with Tony Blair. This can be left to another time.

In the aforementioned lecture, Philip Norton refers to the fact that he also use this Weberian method in 1990 to survey and produce types of Tory MP. These were, then, the Neo-Liberals (market forces), the Tory Right (morality, law and order), the Populist (left wing socially and right wing on law and order - today they would have become pro-gay and lesbian), the Thatcherite (market forces plus law and order), the Tory Faithful (party over ideology), the Damp (some government intervention) and the Wets (government intervention as needed).

What we know is that May is not Thatcherite or neo-Liberal (these can be placed together now). The last vestiges of these within Cameron and Osborne were gone. She is slightly populist, as today, but has never been pro-LGBT herself. She panders to the Tory Right, on Europe, but clearly her Downing Street speech on becoming Prime Minister shows that she was not one, and also she has shown some intended Damp but not very Wet. She is, of course, Tory Faithful.

This has proved her undoing, because being Tory Faithful is to be split on Europe; the Tory Right might also be regarded today as nationalist, and the Damp and Wet are pro-European. (Thatcher saw the European Union as a back door to socialism, whereas the Single Market was hardly that.) Being Tory Faithful, when the party is in at least two places on the key issue of the day, is rather self-defeating.

Apparently Ian Duncan Smith is considering throwing his hat into the Tory leadership ring. He might have been the worst Tory leader in modern times, but Cameron and May must be ranked as being the worst Prime Ministers. I'd rather forget Cameron than subject him to these ideal types. He was a Blair-clone who gambled the Party for the country and ran away when he lost the gamble and plunged us all into the mess we are now in under his incompetent successor.

So she is a Balancer of the Tory Faithful, predominantly. And it is not what was needed. She needed to be a Reformer as well as Balancer, and Damp. One has to think that, beyond loyalty to the cradle of her political party that defines her life, Theresa May believed in little else. She might have drawn on the Liberal Nationalism of Joseph Chamberlain, but there is little evidence of that; most evidence is that she was devoid of political philosophy. Her Downing Street speech showed some populism and dampness, but they were not implemented. She constantly referred to the Party, and it is on its broken back that she has fallen.

How a General Election Can Produce a Result

At last Labour is ahead of the Conservatives in the polls. The Mail on Sunday reports a five per cent lead. The Cabinet implosion that seems increasingly likely makes a General Election more likely too.
May says that a Customs Union solution to leaving the European Union with a deal would be against her party's manifesto. What she means is that half her Cabinet would walk out if she took this and used it to apply for a long extension. On the other hand, failure to intend to go to the EU Council Meeting on April 10th with a solution would cause the other side of the Cabinet to walk out as well. Also some 170 Tory MPs are demanding no long term extension. The upshot is a broken record, to try again for the Withdrawal Agreement and/ or the Political Declaration probably pitched against the Customs Union option on the notion that she could win against a Customs Union. Not with 58 short on the WA that would be more with the PD - so a straight fight would garner forces for the Customs Union, even amongst those who would remain as full members. Once there is a delay, anything is possible including remain. So this becomes a final battle, and either the government goes for the Customs Union or the government collapses at Cabinet level - in that the hard right walk out and then we get by fast footwork the removal of May, a caretaker and bringing in a set of opposition politicians who could guide the result through.

We are forever told that a referendum on the deal is divisive, and this is surely true. I am myself not a fan of any referendum, except one to support or reject a given decision. This second one might fulfil that condition, but it might equally be an either-or that is another gamble, and carries the political risk that no deal off the table (the economic risk being too great) is seen as a stitch-up.

We are also told that a General Election cannot decide the issue because the parties are split. I have thought this too, but now there are grounds for thinking otherwise. What may make the General Election something to decide the issue is the lack of credibility in both main parties, the Tories for making a mess and Labour for apparent indecision, PLUS the emergence of candidates for the Brexit Party and Change UK. Change UK do need to negotiate with the Liberal Democrats. But there could be a Macron style from nowhere result here, if only because the Brexit Party and the now undoubtedly racist UKIP will take votes from each other and won't be able to negotiate unlike the Lib Dems and Change UK. We know that the Social Democratic Party collapsed, but the SDP were derailed by the Falklands War and, of course, the voting system. But if the two main parties melt down, then the first past the post system can deliver as it did to the Scottish Nationalists the moment they lost the Independence referendum.

The meltdown would happen during the campaign, in part because the manifestos would be confused and Theresa May or a caretaker leader would head the Tories' campaign. Whether Corbyn could rally support as he did in 2017 may depend on whether the remain supporters rally to the Labour flag again. There is some doubt about this. Other issues of pressing need may well benefit Labour. But Tory and Labour remain votes may well go to the Liberal Democrats and Change UK. The Scottish National Party have domestic issues to tackle but for a UK representation they are bound to advance on Labour and the Tories this time. UKIP and Brexit Party may draw Tory right votes, but cancel each other out in effectiveness. It is not clear how the Tory right will do; also the Democratic Unionist Party may suffer in Northern Ireland for being unrepresentative of a narrow remain province and assisting uncertainty.

So there is a real chance that the outcome may well produce a result for the country, and a likely remain parliament again. And this time the remain aspect would be revoke. Set against this is the fact that ever fewer constituencies are marginal: what would have delivered landslides in the past delivers small victories or minority administrations now. But, if the meltdown happens, the change (pun intended) to something new is possible, once the tipping point is passed.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Extend for a Full Term...

Well, the margin was bigger than expected - 58 votes - and surely means that it is dead. But the bunker mentality continues, to put her (presumably) political declaration this time up against the one that might emerge from the indicative votes on Monday. But that would leave the Withdrawal Agreement unpassed, and without the legislative time to turn it into law. In other words, there must be now a long extension at the very least.

The question is, given Theresa May's turn-off performance at the last European Council meeting, is she really the person to go there for a long extension? It would make a significant difference if the Prime Minister was someone else, such as David Lidington or even Amber Rudd. Then the fresh face and the different intent would assist a process of extension. The 'run off' proposal is hardly the most important aspect.

It is up to the Cabinet to remove her. No one else will, and nothing fresh will happen without this.

The 'price' of an extension I think - if I was the EU Commission and Council President - is a full term. If you elect Members of the European Parliament then they should be elected for a full term. The UK could then have that amount of time to pause, consider, propose and sort itself out.

If this leads to no exit of Britain from the European Union, then, oh dear.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

When a Resignation is Not

So the coup went so far, to push Theresa May on to the cliff edge to let her wobble in the considerable wind and different gusts. She has offered to go if she gets her deal through, which also means she has offered to stay if she does not.

The first stage of the indicative votes have gone through, with a referendum to a deal and a customs union as having the best votes, but not sufficient. The possibility is the Prime Minister's deal coming into the list of options, and many that abstained might vote for it.

Jacob Rees-Mogg was against it, very strongly, and then reluctantly in favour of it, and now he is against it again because the Democratic Unionist Party are against. The DUP was never going to vote for it, and indeed will vote against it. This means the hardcore Tories will be joined by others, like Rees-Mogg, to still vote against it. That May has made her wobble to go from her own mouth means that Labour MPs are less likely to vote for it beyond the three if it facilitates installing a more exit the EU type Tory leader.

Although revoke got a limited support, the fact is that up against a no deal exit on the last days, many of those who rejected this may be forced to do it. There could also be a fatigue of stopping and reconsidering. Clarke's custom union proposition wasn't exactly his own preferred choice. He would revoke.

Theresa May was brought up in the Tory Party. Civil servants are minuting government meetings in Cabinet carefully because these refer not to the country so much as what is best for the Tory Party. When the big Public Inquiry comes into this appalling mess, they will want how they have been compromised by our third rate politicians to be on the record. Theresa May's whole basis for decision making has been based on the Tory Party. She was never able to take them on.

One thing that was fairly disgusting in last weekend's press leaks and attack on May from within Tory Party high levels was about a team of people ready to take Theresa May out of the Commons rapidly. This was supposed to be based on her running down mentally under all the stress. This was kicking the woman on something else: she has type 1 diabetes and a drop in blood sugar due to extended answering in the House of Commons could lead to confusion and ill health. This 'plan' for her rapid exit will have existed from the first day she became Prime Minister; it may well have existed when she was Home Secretary. But politics is a dirty game, and in generating a coup attempt the gutter can be visited.

This does not mean she has been an appalling Prime Minister. She has been the worst, if after Cameron. He party-first strategy, forever feeding the crocodiles, had been disastrous. Cameron gambled the country for the party, and she has continued to do the same.

She's likely to go anyway. It doesn't follow that an orderly leadership election follows, because she could indeed go to require interim leadership. Plus the Cabinet coup makers may need the interim leader to get ahead of an exit enthusiast. They abstained on these indicative votes as a stop-gap to making a decision about anything; but if the remainers walk out of the Cabinet then the leavers will indeed install their own.

Theresa May never believed in anything. She was a remainer on balance, but so was the Tory Party with the expectation of a narrow win for Cameron and then his fall. When the vote went the other way, the infighting arrived at her as last one standing, and so she declared that Brexit meant Brexit and they were going to make a success of it. But she has not. The reason she has hung on and hung on is because she still wanted to make a success of it - some how. But the cul-de-sac has left her with nowhere to go. She is still trying to hang on, to be sure.

Northern Ireland may not have its Stormont, but the UK hasn't had a fully functioning government now for a long time. The UK is much diminished abroad, and is almost falling in on itself at home. Services aren't working, problems are not being corrected, more people are living in poverty, and there is a real sense of hopelessness. Forget these unemployment figures: when they compare with 40 years ago they are not comparing like with like. Universal Credit is causing real pain and the DWP is in chaos itself as it trains staff for something that is not working. Many people are underemployed, many badly paid, and those relying on benefits are having a terrible time.

It may be - and I think it looks like this - that Theresa May needs to be pushed out of office. She hasn't said she will go, she is instead trying to make a bargain, but if the deal is still dead then she won't go. She needs to be pushed. They need an interim leader that becomes more flexible.

If Gove or Johnson, and indeed if a number of exit enthusiasts win the Tory leadership, it will definitely split. But MPs can see the options for the future, how two Tory candidates will go to its elderly membership, and a split can project forward easily. I'm expecting a few more now to come to The Independent Group and, quite possibly, a new pro-European Conservative Party forming as well.

The Independent Group had better get its skates on, because if a General Election comes soon it needs a name and a set of candidates and an agreement with the Liberal Democrats and Greens. The Liberal Democrats need a new leader rapidly as well. If revoke is to be serious beyond Scotland, these two parties have got to move and quickly.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Week Ahead

Theresa May in her zig-zagging wants to put her deal forward again, but is advised to hold back, see other options fail and then put hers in again.

A Prime Minister by virtue of the office holds cards, and plays them, and most Prime Ministers look at the values on the cards and realises weaknesses as well as strengths. Theresa May could be doing two things this weekend at Chequers:

1) Saying goodbye to the staff, before announcing her end.
2) Still trying to force her way through.

However, everyone is fed up with this bunker mentality. She placates one side and then the other. By having two extensions, the EU has boxed clever. Both sides have their chances, both sides see their losses ahead. In this, there needs to be movement, and we cannot be having Theresa May imposing herself.

She said next to nothing in supporting remain in the referendum campaign, where her strategy was to pick up the leadership if Cameron won - the Tory right would have turned against him and he would have had to resign anyway - and she received the leadership after he lost, partly through the attack of Gove on Johnson and the incompetence of Andrea Leadsom's mouth - a quality she is now demonstrating against the Speaker of the House of Commons.

But the signs were there with Theresa May in the Home Office. She took ages to make a decision and then became utterly rigid. Windrush and the Hostile Environment were both her legacies, and disasters they were. It was Tory Party politicking then, and populism. She really does not believe in anything much. That flexibility was a charade for the rigid loyalty to the football team. The Tory Party had brought her up and now she owed it for giving her pole position.

But as it was for the British West Indians' human rights, so she became for us - a disaster. Both David Cameron and Theresa May have been the most disastrous Prime Ministers ever in recent times. Both have gambled the country for the sake of their Party.

The British Constitution does not say that party leaders should be chosen to then command the House of Commons. It says someone comes forward to be chosen by the Monarch who can command the House of Commons. This is why a Cabinet coup is entirely legitimate.

One can see David Lidington taking over, and he will do so without a personal agenda. Other people will effectively run his show. But it has to be highly likely that the Cabinet will split, and many exit of the EU types will resign. The sensible thing then would be to appoint people from around the House of Commons. This is because the Tory Party will be at war with itself. Stability will come if people like Liz Kendal, Chuka Umunna, Jo Swinson, Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve, or variations like them get appointed to Cabinet positions with the task of sorting out the Brexit mess. But even without this, the main players will be the likes of Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Philip Hammond.

There are at least two, maybe three Tory Parties. There is the hard right (leavers), the compromisers, and the left (remainers). The election of a leader from any wing but the compromisers will itself be enough for formally split the party, but the war in the party should be enough to divide it regardless. It may go three ways or two, forcing compromisers to choose. Why? Because the party is incapable of presenting itself for a General Election.

As for Labour, it isn't in much better shape. Its leader has shown sectarian party first attitudes recently, and has shown his own 'tin ear' and not a little incompetence in running his party. Unless there are wide-scale deselections, and there are not, the right wing elected will prevent the socialist wonderland Corbyn and close would like to pursue. Despite the fact that the Tory government is a shambles beyond all expectation, Labour have been behind in the polls. It's incredible.

Vince Cable is solid but not an inspiring leader; it is good that he is going but a new leader must relaunch the party, and do so with The Independent Group (by whatever name they choose suitable for elections).  I can only think that The Reform Party makes sense. Dominic Grieve calls them Social Democrats. Heidi Allen is, but I'm not sure about Anna Soubrey or Sarah Wollaston. It does not follow that the Tory left split will join this group: it is more likely that they will form their own. Each new Tory group will try to become the replacement Tory Party.

There may be a Norway plus result to the May-free search, but in the end that arrangement is EU without having a vote: there is a place for EEA and EFTA membership and not all of its institutions and policies are those of the EU. But it is a grouping that is for countries that may join sometime, not those who left - or not until up to now. It may be all that the UK can manage.

I do not underestimate a revoke happening: because a revoke allows a full stop, a pause and the political spill-out (painful as it will be) to debate without pressure where we want to be, and allow political parties - like a right wing Tory party, to make the case for exiting, to win parliamentary seats, form a majority, and enact its policies. Parliament makes the decisions, managed by the executive branch, not referenda. Referenda should be reserved only for the people to support or reject a major decision already taken by government and parliament, not to pass the buck on a gamble like Cameron did.

The Cabinet Coup to be Completed?

The Press is predicting a cabinet coup. Blow my own trumpet time. I was on the case last year. I didn't predict everything, especially the timing, but the internal logic has unfolded.

Sunday, 2 September 2018: New Political Season: A White Knuckle Ride

But, in the meantime, there is enough co-operation for someone like Chuka Umunna to be the man of the moment to rise up beyond his front bench and do some informal leadership...

So I am predicting that there will be a new informal leadership in the House of Commons bypassing both front benches. Chuka is the leader, and the group covers many Labour MPs, all the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Nationalists for the purposes of the EU legislation, and the Tory pro-Europeans. Each Party will have its own sub-leaders too. This is important for co-ordination. In such a situation, Theresa May will fall, the House of Commons will organise itself, Corbyn will also be sidelined.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018: Brexit Crunch Pincer Movement

For a while now Downing Street has had a bunker mentality, believing it can fix this and fix that. One should never underestimate the ability of government to get its way. The government controls the parliamentary agenda, and has since the Blair government. It now timetables procedures, and long gone are attempts the extend and ruin the timetable. Secondly, an agreement is' boots on the ground', rather as people have learnt that the EU is 'boots on the ground'...

In that the Government holds the cards, the Government will try to make it a binary deal or no deal scenario, and thus the 20 plus Labour MPs may well grow in number. The number of remainer opposers on the Tory benches may well shrink. Nevertheless, the betting has to be that the draft agreement cannot get through Parliament.

What then? May would have to go, although she is likely to try and hang on. A Brexit Tory Prime Minister simply will not carry the Tory Party: it will be 1846 all over again...

Somehow, Parliament has to become itself the executive because this is where the hole is going to appear. There would have to be a huge political realignment at a time of national crisis, perhaps to organise a second referendum, or, better still (or both), ram on the brakes.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018: Surely This Could Not Be a Treaty

I have tried to imagine what this agreement would look like as a treaty. It won't get there, of course, but what if it did? It means we have no political representation in the EU, an extendable transition period, a backstop that means a sort of customs union and Northern Ireland in the Single Market and Customs Union in effect.

What would future governments do with this? The trade agreement to be UK-wide must match Northern Ireland. Would they keep extending the transition period? Would the backstop be the model for the trade agreement?

This is like some or most of the advantages of being in the EU, without the political representation? What is the point of this?

Sunday, 25 November 2018: Come the Hour, Come the Woman?

A problem is that with a 'Brexit failure' the Tories will not vote for a General Election and it won't get the two thirds majority as required by the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which also removed calling an election by the Prime Minister, a one time monarchical power held by the Prime Minister. There is not a majority for a second referendum, and no one would know the questions to ask or have the rapid mechanism available to decide these. A Tory Party leadership election takes time and would be riven by division.

Oh dear oh dear? What will happen. There is a road forward, and no one has set this out. it is based on the fact that there is no requirement for a party leader to be the Prime Minister, and who is Prime Minister remains a monarchical power, this is to say the Prime Minister can be anyone who will present to the House of Commons and carry the vote in the house.

So we have the formal statement. The government may pledge to find a way to present the agreement back. Suddenly those 48 letters appear, to have a vote against Theresa May, but she would still win because Tories cannot agree on anyone else.

However, what matters is that the Cabinet itself implodes. In effect, the Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond faction of the cabinet, along with Jeremy Hunt and more, realise there is a crisis of an unprecedented kind, and effectively the five exiters (plus) resign - to begin with. The exiters cannot themselves force a cabinet coup. They can be replaced.

Sunday, 9 December 2018: The Movement Towards the Logic of Remaining

Saturday 8th December and Amber Rudd speaks out in a way that suggests she might emerge in the manner of my last blog entry to take the reins of government for the purpose of sorting out the exiting the European Union mess.

I need to adjust my crystal ball gazing, however, and in a manner away from what Amber Rudd was suggesting. The thought the Norway plus solution has potential in the House of Commons and Parliament as a whole. I rather agree with Anna Soubrey, however, that it seems to be receding.

Blame David Cameron and his gamble. He 'won' the Scottish Independence Referendum and thought he could do the double. Blame the Liberal Democrats for propping up the Tories: done in a previous crisis, but went on for too long and at too high a cost. Let's hope that the Conservative Party as it is reaps the destruction to them and benefit to us...

Sunday, 16 December 2018: The Strategy of a Cabinet Coup

But all this just goes back to what I have been suggesting here, and still no one seems to be saying this in the broader media. It is that the Cabinet has to remove her, via people who have not descended to May's brittle bunker mentality. It will be bloody, in the sense that someone must take over, many must walk out, and people from other parties come in, and start acting to produce legislation. The principal act has to be to pull out of Article 50, either to buy time or stop the thing altogether.

Saturday, 5 January 2019: Decisive New Year?

What I wrote in the previous blog entry stands. It will go to the wire. May's agreement with the European Union will fail to get through, and a crisis will lead to a cabinet coup, in effect, and a necessary rescinding of Article 50, ostensibly to buy time. The Prime Minister will have changed, and the Cabinet will propose such emergency legislation not based on party but on informal networks of MPs, some into the Cabinet. So I predict. And it will be a very rough time of reactions and betrayals.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019: Massive Defeat - What Next?

A second referendum is a dangerous strategy. It will be divisive, the proposers will again lose control of it like they did in 2016 (it became an expression of anti-austerity and looked to kick the government), and of course it could still result in a no deal exit. Such a referendum may happen, but only if Labour back it, and many MPs will not.

No referendum creates two tough choices. One is to leave with no deal on the 29th March later this year. The House of Commons can always produce a majority to stop this, and the Cabinet can also stop this, given the balance of opinion. But the only way to stop this is to revoke Article 50...

Even if there is a referendum, it does not follow that the EU 27 will approve unanimously an extension to Article 50. So it may still need to be revoked, which the UK government can do: the Cabinet can do it as an executive act of governing. However, done as the only viable means to prevent a no-deal, it should get a majority in the House of Commons - if it goes to a vote.

Expect Cabinet resignations, but also possibly expect across the House of Commons appointments into it. This will destroy the political parties as they are, but the predicament demands that incredibly difficult yet necessary decision. They will sell it to give the UK time to think. The Attorney General says we can only revoke if it is to stop it altogether, but (as Kenneth Clarke asked) does this mean for all time? Of course not. To invoke it again is surely allowed once. This is how they will sell it.

Monday, 18 February 2019: Labour Split: a Surprise and Due to Internal Incompetence

While the various 'remainer' MPs from different parties have worked together, it would be a big move to find several Tory MPs now joining Chuka Umunna and company at this stage. There may be other Labour MPs joining first, especially if Corbyn carries on in his usual moribund way of ignoring everyone except a small clique of people like him, plus the struggling Keir Starmer.

I am still expecting we get to a point where political forces, in the form of a Cabinet coup, revoke Article 50. Everything is pointing in this direction, a very binary crash out versus the revoke option.

The government is chaotic, trying to force people into its cul-de-sac and then try to force them to help it out by passing the dog's breakfast of a partial subservient attachment to the EU. It isn't going to happen, because the far right of the Tory Party have this blue-eyed mist that wants to send the country over the cliff edge. Cameron's gamble to hold his party together at the risk of the country has resulted in neither winning the bet. The country is going into a period of self-harm and the Tory Party will split.

One suspects Corbyn and company rather like leaving the EU because it will give them the opportunity to launch a socialist wonderworld - well, the MPs won't buy it. The result of the seven leaving is to constrain the next manifesto. Labour is likely to be conflicted for a long time.

Saturday, 23 February 2019: The Coup is On

My long predicted coup is on. After a week in which eight Labour MPs formed and joined the Independent Group, and three Conservatives then joined it, three Cabinet Ministers have written in a newspaper to signal that they will vote to give Parliament control and thus extend Article 50 if the Prime Minister has no deal to present to Parliament. There is also the possibility that the Prime Minister will receive a positive vote if she accepts putting it to a second referendum.

However, it is not clear that there will be anything to vote on in terms of a revised deal.The so-called Malthouse Compromise is dead in the water, and the issue remains the withdrawal agreement backstop - which the Brady Amendment a fortnight ago said should be replaced and now is only subject to legal reinterpretation, if that.

The Prime Minister with nothing (much) to report may well try to delay again, but really time is up for this...

Sunday, 10 March 2019: This Week Coming: Hold on to Your Seats

The late Robin Day used to say: "So here we are and here we go." This is the week of the crucial votes regarding leaving the European Union, or we think so. One has to give a little qualification to this, because they have been promised and pulled before, and frankly Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, as has achieved nothing at all...

Tuesday, 12 March 2019: The Dead Rabbit from Strasbourg

it would be a miracle if the whole agreement passes the meaningful vote. Plus the fact that many in Parliament tomorrow will have had little sleep. They will feel like they have been treated with contempt. It is not the way to get people on-side. Out of the hat came a dead rabbit.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019: Turmoil: and the Tory Split Coming Fast


Wow. Tonight in parliament turned out to be even more riveting than yesterday, with the government suddenly whipping against its own (amended) motion. It lost by 43, so the whipping was rather pointless. Seventeen ministers including four Cabinet ministers, including Rudd and Clark, abstained against its own policy, with one resigning by voting against...

Is the Cabinet going to allow the Prime Minister to keep dealing her low value cards? As I have put earlier, the Cabinet coup is operative, as seen tonight, but it is incomplete...

The Tory Party is so angry across itself tonight that it will surely split.

Also Wednesday, 13 March 2019: Chaos

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox marked his own homework and must have put Failed at the bottom. The unfolding disaster on Tuesday saw the Democratic Unionists say 'no' and obviously the 'headbangers' said no - and across the opposition. Even then some 40 or so votes switched. Only three Labour MPs voted with the government.

Theresa May may have symbolically lost her voice but I nearly lost mine when, after the 149 votes defeat, Nicky Morgan MP, in an interview soon after, considered a third vote on the Prime Minister's proposed deal. How dead does this have to be before it is buried? ...

The only good speech of leaders was that of the Scottish National Party Ian Blackford, who made the case for the European Union: the case that should have been made by the Yes campaign in 2016...

The disaster may be ended by revoking Article 50, with consequent negative effects for democracy. If people want to leave the EU, they should produce a majority in Parliament to do it. Parliament takes decisions and referenda confirm or reject decisions, rather than make a decision for Parliament. For this reason I remain opposed to a second referendum...

In effect, Labour's Shadow Shadow Cabinet (its influential driving backbenchers), Tom Watson's party within a party, a few Labour front-benchers, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Green, The Independent Group, a few backbench Tories and connected ministers, have to cohere and grow the will to put an end to this. Some of these people may well be consulted by a rump Cabinet in pursuit of tackling the crisis, revoking Article 50 and then going to the country.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019: The Prime Minister Must be Forced to Resign.

It is now time to for government members and Parliament to remove the Prime Minister. It should be done fast and with a caretaker leader, one that will allow facilitation of votes to find what is consensual in the House of Commons. I say this as a convinced and unapologetic remainer...

Why has this come about? Because, in her zig-zagging, last week a long extension was on offer that would allow 'The House' to find its consensus and act on it. What changed was half her cabinet revolted, to threaten resignations if she did go ahead with a long extension. And we had the free vote last week where the government sought approval for an extension beyond March 29th, and where eight cabinet ministers voted against, including the Exiting the EU Secretary who's just spoke in favour

Friday, 22 March 2019: Theresa May Zig-Zagging: Don't be Fooled

Don't be fooled by Theresa May's sudden change of tone: how wonderful MPs are doing their jobs and a reference even to alternatives to her deal. She zig zags and we have seen it too often: she will revert to type regarding this deal. The bunker mentality is still there.

She has to go. David Lidington could become a caretaker Prime Minister but he would be like the Fuhrer after Hitler: in the sense of chaos in defeat after political suicide and an inability to hold a divided Cabinet together. So half the Cabinet could walk out, presumably the harder exit half, and thus instead mean a Hammond or Rudd leadership and reference to other party personnel - to facilitate navigating the process through of indicative votes. This would complete the Cabinet coup I expected long back.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Theresa May Zig-Zagging: Don't be Fooled

Update:

The situation changes by the hour. As soon as I write a blog entry, there is a development! The announcement by the Democratic Unionist Party of not only no support for the May agreement with the EU, but a devastating criticism of her approach, means that Theresa May is now finished as a Prime Minister. The only route ahead now is that of indicative votes requiring a long extension that she said she would not countenance.  The DUP statement is almost an invitation for a confidence vote where they would vote against the government. Without that being explicit, Theresa May has to go.

Original Entry:

The European Union at the recent summit looked over the cliff edge and decided to do the opposite of coastal erosion.

Don't be fooled by Theresa May's sudden change of tone: how wonderful MPs are doing their jobs and a reference even to alternatives to her deal. She zig zags and we have seen it too often: she will revert to type regarding this deal. The bunker mentality is still there.

She has to go. David Lidington could become a caretaker Prime Minister but he would be like the Fuhrer after Hitler: in the sense of chaos in defeat after political suicide and an inability to hold a divided Cabinet together. So half the Cabinet could walk out, presumably the harder exit half, and thus instead mean a Hammond or Rudd leadership and reference to other party personnel - to facilitate navigating the process through of indicative votes. This would complete the Cabinet coup I expected long back.

The Tory Party will then tear itself apart. It deserves all that comes to it. The good news should be that the Tory right is sidelined and at the moment it thought it had won it loses. Unless, of course, we fall over the delayed cliff edge. It is still possible.

The simplest solution is to revoke; it would allow pause, time for other necessary political actions for social needs, and a debate without pressure about the relationship wanted with the EU. There isn't the vote for that yet, beyond the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Green and The Independent Group (the latter need to come on board). Labour might, most of them, but I wouldn't trust Corbyn to do anything. Walking out before engaging in opposition talks with the Prime Minister because Chuka Umunna was present displays nothing more than sectarian party politics when the pressing need was to contribute. Corbyn shows many parallels with Theresa May, including party over country, and a chaos in running his office, and tensions with shadow ministers, and therefore shows why he would be an inadequate Prime Minister.

A General Election of confusion beckons: candidates not lined up on the basic present political question of the moment. It may not resolve anything on this basic issue, but at least the Tory Party would be a leaderless divided entity that could be much diminished as a result. Hopefully the Liberal Democrats can get on with choosing a new leader, and work with the Independent Group if it wants a future as a Reform Party (?) in parliament in any numbers - or it will vanish as limited to this parliament alone.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The Prime Minister Must be Forced to Resign.

It is now time to for government members and Parliament to remove the Prime Minister. It should be done fast and with a caretaker leader, one that will allow facilitation of votes to find what is consensual in the House of Commons. I say this as a convinced and unapologetic remainer, and all my comments have been directed at how we might stay in the European Union. What was missing in the Prime Minister's statement of bluster against MPs, was no reference to other ways to achieve leaving the European Union.

Why has this come about? Because, in her zig-zagging, last week a long extension was on offer that would allow 'The House' to find its consensus and act on it. What changed was half her cabinet revolted, to threaten resignations if she did go ahead with a long extension. And we had the free vote last week where the government sought approval for an extension beyond March 29th, and where eight cabinet ministers voted against, including the Exiting the EU Secretary who's just spoke in favour, and where 112 Tories only voted with the government and 188 of the 202 against were Tories. Previously the government had a free vote that was amended, and then whipped against its own policy and thus saw four cabinet ministers abstain.

Yet again the Prime Minister with her low value cards is being allowed to keep dealing the pack. We thought the Speaker had stopped this, but then it can be a vote attached to a delay if passed. So there will be another. And she will likely position the vote inches from the cliff edge.

So all the swivel-eyed enthusiasts for the cliff edge, who were under pressure last week to support her deal or risk no exit, are now getting out the champagne. They have no incentive to vote for it. The DUP don't care, so long as Great Britain is not perceived to be different from Northern Ireland. They were under pressure last week, but they are no longer under pressure. So the vote will go down again.

The blockage is not MPs, but the Prime Minister. She has played this as a Tory Party problem, and yet her delay went through by opposition votes: a majority of Tories voted against. So why not extend that practical possibility.

Corbyn, who seemed to find higher ground last week, who might speak with other parties to produce a consensus, has reverted to type with his sectarian battle with The Independent Group. But the other opposition leaders who saw Theresa May offered her her deal if it is also put to the public. But she is uninterested. She seems not to recognise that she did not win the election in the sense that she could set the agenda, and yet she has gone on and on doing it.

Let's be clear. She won't revoke, she won't delay so that we get a chance for representation in the European Parliament, she won't do anything other than this deal that is all based on her own view about what constitutes leaving the European Union. So she won't have the alternatives of out either. This is reckless behaviour on her part, and is enough on its own that she should be gone.

The Cabinet coup that began a fortnight ago needs to be completed. We need a caretaker Prime Minister who will stop the crisis. It can only come from within the Cabinet, and it must include the Chancellor who seems unwilling to do what is necessary.

This is like the descent into the First World War. Nobody but a few mad generals want it, but no one seems able to stop it. But the revoke mechanism is there, and so are alternatives and so is (still) the delay to enact alternatives. It is not quite binary. But the bunker mentality is overwhelming.

Perhaps I should not refer to Adolf Hitler, but the film Downfall was shown the other day. What it showed was a leader who never budged, and was deluded about the state of the conflict, and he would rather his country was destroyed than he got out of the way. In the end, he shot and poisoned himself.

If the Prime Minister takes us over the cliff edge, she will be gone anyway. If there is a long delay, it is the opportunity to get her out and try different approaches. (The EU will give a delay based on the actual strategy - the question Donald Tusk faced today was a narrow one.) If the deal was voted through, she'd have done it and would go. So she should go NOW before she does this country real harm.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Turmoil: and the Tory Split Coming Fast

Wow. Tonight in parliament turned out to be even more riveting than yesterday, with the government suddenly whipping against its own (amended) motion. It lost by 43, so the whipping was rather pointless. Seventeen ministers including four Cabinet ministers, including Rudd and Clark, abstained against its own policy, with one resigning by voting against. Four Cabinet ministers voted for the Malthouse Compromise too, including Javid and Hunt, apparently, which went down and is gone.

The amendment wasn't expected to pass, dropped by its Tory sponsor and picked up by a Labour one, and it made the motion clear, toughened up, and giving the clarity of having no deal off the table. It still does not change the law.

The stupidity is that next week the Prime Minister likely returns the defeated deal: which was the logic (as I put before now) of having this no deal vote after and not before the Withdrawal Agreement vote, voted down by 230 and 149. The idea is that, just as David Davies did, MPs will vote for the 'rotten deal' instead of an extension. But there are not enough of them to get this thing through, even if the European Research Group cracks. How can the DUP vote for an agreement that still has the backstop without a moment of extra negotiation before a third vote. Even if they did, the government majority is so slim that the ERG people who cannot support it, the remainers who won't, and now some who voted for it who say it is dead and move on and vote against it - it will not go through. They surely now have to look at other possibilities.

It is unlikely that Farage from abroad can get a single State to veto an extension, should one be granted by the EU 27. If he did the anger would be such in Parliament that revoke would rise up rapidly.

Is the Cabinet going to allow the Prime Minister to keep dealing her low value cards? As I have put earlier, the Cabinet coup is operative, as seen tonight, but it is incomplete. Corbyn also sounded in 'take power' mode, to put and find proposals from his office among MPs across the House, doing what May should be doing anyway - and still is not. His deal or close might emerge, to then somehow go to the EU. Taken by Theresa May?

The Tory Party is so angry across itself tonight that it will surely split. The point also is that if there is no discipline applied to Cabinet Ministers who abstained and all the other ministers, then there is no certainty that ministers will obey any line decided and then just go ahead to abstain again. Sarah Newton resigned herself: 15 ministers have now gone since the 2017 General Election.

I am pretty sure that a further few MPs will join The Independent Group from the Tory side. The government's behaviour, but also the meltdown in the Tory Party, will take some off elsewhere including TIG. It also depends how, in a formal sense, that the Tory Party emerges as two entities. If we descend into a General Election then there would have to be an emergency way of choosing a leader - when one would be contested - and this might do it: all candidates would be effectively divide into leave and remain candidates, regardless of party. There would have to be a choice in each constituency.

Chaos

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox marked his own homework and must have put Failed at the bottom. The unfolding disaster on Tuesday saw the Democratic Unionists say 'no' and obviously the 'headbangers' said no - and across the opposition. Even then some 40 or so votes switched. Only three Labour MPs voted with the government.

Theresa May may have symbolically lost her voice but I nearly lost mine when, after the 149 votes defeat, Nicky Morgan MP, in an interview soon after, considered a third vote on the Prime Minister's proposed deal. How dead does this have to be before it is buried?

But that was my point: why the vote to approve no deal or not followed the vote on this deal, so that when all the votes were done: the deal, no no-deal and extension, the decision for no no-deal would result in, yes, this twice defeated deal being flogged again.

One can image that, a Commons vote for an extension to Article 50 results in a half-hearted attempt by government to stretch out the leave date and really, instead, come back on this deal again. But 150 defeat cannot be overcome. It is dead: bury it now.

The vote, Wednesday, today, to say no to a no-deal is to be a free vote on the Tory side because the Cabinet cannot agree.  Theresa May will plod on, only because to go will plunge the country into complete crisis. The Cabinet coup I predicted months back is in full swing, but a leader will emerge from within. It could be very bloody and very quick: it is not about a Tory leadership election. The Prime Minister is there is name only, taking instructions, including from Cabinet battles and an emergent leadership.

The only good speech of leaders was that of the Scottish National Party Ian Blackford, who made the case for the European Union: the case that should have been made by the Yes campaign in 2016. Cameron threw the dice and the Tory Party's divisions spilled out on to the streets, he said. The SNP is coherent in the way that Labour and the Conservatives are not. Tom Watson is trying to hold Labour together; the Malthouse Compromise was a feeble attempt to hold the Conservatives together that could never be realised.

The disaster may be ended by revoking Article 50, with consequent negative effects for democracy. If people want to leave the EU, they should produce a majority in Parliament to do it. Parliament takes decisions and referenda confirm or reject decisions, rather than make a decision for Parliament. For this reason I remain opposed to a second referendum, even one one or against the deal on which Parliament cannot agree. Nevertheless, if there is one, I will vote as I did in the 2016 referendum, and vote to remain in the European Union. But Parliament should have the guts to do it, by declaring in effect the 2016 referendum illegitimate. We were all fooled by both appalling and barely legal campaigns. I do see why we may well end up with a second referendum, but it will be divisive again.

The democratic crisis is upon us anyway, and we needn't add to this an economic and social crisis any more than we have already got. Perhaps as a result of this we may end up with a Council of the British Isles, with independent nations meeting to make joint decisions, rather like the EU is constituted - a confederation rather than either a federation or unitary (devolved) State.

Labour wants a General Election. How can it be behind in the polls when the shower in charge is so chaotic? Yes, it would catch up and may overtake this shower in charge. But what will the Tory Party propose for policies and who will lead whatever is left of it as a party? It is at least two parties with two agendas: such an election will not resolve the exiting the EU disaster.

In effect, Labour's Shadow Shadow Cabinet (its influential driving backbenchers), Tom Watson's party within a party, a few Labour front-benchers, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Green, The Independent Group, a few backbench Tories and connected ministers, have to cohere and grow the will to put an end to this. Some of these people may well be consulted by a rump Cabinet in pursuit of tackling the crisis, revoking Article 50 and then going to the country.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

The Dead Rabbit from Strasbourg

I spent much of Monday listening to BBC Parliament on television, and became astonished when the clock was ticking past a 10:30 pm (we're still on GMT, by the way) time give for the House of Commons to have documents agreed to be able to be scrutinised for the Tuesday (today) meaningful vote.

The House of Commons was full, for a statement that was not a statement until we had the Strasbourg statement. The MPs had nothing to see. The Speaker earlier had said that the House of Commons should be treated properly. MPs will make a huge decision based on less scrutiny than much minor matters. Yvette Couper MP complained the strongest.

So what rabbit came out of the hat? Two documents were agreed by the UK Government and the European Union. The first is a "joint legally binding instrument" on the withdrawal agreement. It is an add-on. It could be used to start a "formal dispute" against the EU if it tried to keep the UK tied into the backstop. However, it would go to an arbitration procedure, which is again joint and could still trap the UK in the backstop. This is why the Motion to be debated tomorrow states that there is a "reduced risk" of being held in the back stop.

What does this mean? Was it not always 'reduced' anyway in terms of intentions? How can the Democratic Unionist Party vote for something that retains the risk, that could still treat Northern Ireland separately from the UK? Only sheer political double-dealing could see it change its vote and say this revision of perspective on the same agreement is sufficient. If the DUP says no, so will the "headbangers" (Kenneth Clarke MP) of the European Research Group.

This is the crux of it. The second document is a wish document, a commitment of intention. The intention is in the UK and EU's future relationship in a commitment to replacing the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020. This is the best endeavours side, and if the EU doesn't have best endeavours then that dispute procedure starts, as in the first document. However, the example of these negotiations surely shows that with best endeavours we could well fall into the backstop. Of course we would come out of it eventually: this is the basis of why Kenneth Clarke will support the agreement.

Whilst we might accept that all those who supported the agreement last time will next time, e.g. Nicky Morgan, there is a possibility that some remainers will vote against afresh, because they see the opportunity of delay and of a different and softer agreement available. Nicky Morgan MP won't, because she has been part of a movement to keep the Tory Party together. Incidentally, along the Cabinet that met without Theresa May, being in Strasbourg, the line along the front bench did not include Amber Rudd. Just noted. I didn't see Kenneth Clarke either, in he packed House, because he was in the Newsnight studio.

Meanwhile there is the strange extra document that is a "unilateral declaration" a view that nothing prevents the UK leaving the backstop if discussions on a future relationship with the EU break down. This document must be pretty meaningless, as the result of this is arbitration.

Attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, will publish his legal advice on the changes to the deal before the vote. He is supposed to be independent, and yet he was involved in the negotiations. Nevertheless, the clue must be in the motion: that the changes "reduce" the chance of being stuck in the backstop.

And on this basis it would be a miracle if the whole agreement passes the meaningful vote. Plus the fact that many in Parliament tomorrow will have had little sleep. They will feel like they have been treated with contempt. It is not the way to get people on-side. Out of the hat came a dead rabbit.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

This Week Coming: Hold on to Your Seats

The late Robin Day used to say: "So here we are and here we go." This is the week of the crucial votes regarding leaving the European Union, or we think so. One has to give a little qualification to this, because they have been promised and pulled before, and frankly Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, as has achieved nothing at all. The fact that he has been involved in the negotiations himself, to then pronounce on them as a law officer, is, as one MP has called it, "Marking his own homework." Having achieved nothing much, the MPs are almost obliged to vote as they did, but some will look at the clock and take fright.

The votes are actually in the wrong order. So they vote on May's deal, then (day 2) on accepting no deal, then (day 3) on a delay. If one calls the second vote, in reverse, rejecting no deal, then it should have come first. Thus is the suspicion, then, that rejecting no deal after rejecting May's deal becomes an excuse for trying May's deal a third time. That would depend on the delay.

Assuming the delay is agreed, it then becomes about how long, and earliest July to go avoids participating in the European Parliament elections. But this may not be on offer. If it is a long one, then we participate, and there is a whole different vista of decision taking. A short one only makes sense with a Norway plus style deal agreed, or a rush to a General Election (that solves nothing - it will finish off the Independent Group). A referendum on the deal takes some organising, and no matter which way it is arranged it will either be seen as a fix, a stitch up, as divisive, as reckless gamble number 2... In fact it still beaks the rule of referenda: you only have one for the public to confirm what a government has already decided, not to make a decision for governance. This is what was wrong with the 2016 referendum: it was instead of a government decision. It was a gamble by Cameron for preserving the Tory Party and shutting up its rabid right wing, and failed on that first account and will on the second.

This whole process is straining the political institutions to destruction. The parties have been made weak. They could shatter before it is done.

It is said that the passing of three Tories to The Independent Group (though Heidi Allen was hardly a Tory at all after her poverty roadtrip with Frank Field) has prevented more Labour MPs going over to it, and indeed Tom Watson has tried to stem the flow by his 'party within a party'. Labour, however , is even now still prevaricating, and this could overwhelm Tom Watson's efforts. And watch out for more Tories going over this week as the chaos continues. If the Tory Party shows itself as overwhelmingly a no deal block vote, many on its left and pro-EU side will leave. Justine Greening is a key figure. If ever Liz Kendall goes to it, then it really will attract over many more Labour MPs. Possible. If Jess Phillips joins her mate Luciana Berger then Labour is finished. Very unlikely. But most likely of all is this group does last the rest of this Parliament; it has already made a mistake calling itself the Independent Group because 'independent' is a reserved word in elections, so it will have to find a new name. The Reform Party is a good bet. But it lacks the SDP gravitas at its launch.

So the upshot of a technical extension (to July) won't cut it without a definite leave policy in mind, otherwise it has to be longer. May may well try a third go. There is a possibility that Corbyn talking to Tories leads to a Norway Plus outcome, but if this was to go through the Tory Party would have been beaten in a chess game that will also cause its destruction.

Her career is now finished. A long extension must see new leadership. A short one leads to chaos or such overtaking.

But there is no time for a leadership election: thus comes the Cabinet Coup part 2. It was successful plus many ministerial resignations to get taking no deal off the agenda (formally, not practically) and then the status quo ante seemed to continue regarding the cabinet. But the situation could well see an effective temporary leadership in the cabinet do the steering of votes to get an outcome.

Nothing is certain, and in the end the economic and social disaster versus the referendum disaster could well result in such a cabinet or outcome revoking Article 50 altogether. The recriminations have already started (how it all went wrong, a history of botched negotiating) but the result is not complete.

It is a national crisis. My bet is a cabinet coup continuing. Oh, this talk of a 'Brexit Tory Leader' - it makes no difference other than another way to destroy the Tory Party.

Hold on to your seats.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

The Coup is On

My long predicted coup is on. After a week in which eight Labour MPs formed and joined the Independent Group, and three Conservatives then joined it, three Cabinet Ministers have written in a newspaper to signal that they will vote to give Parliament control and thus extend Article 50 if the Prime Minister has no deal to present to Parliament. There is also the possibility that the Prime Minister will receive a positive vote if she accepts putting it to a second referendum.

However, it is not clear that there will be anything to vote on in terms of a revised deal.The so-called Malthouse Compromise is dead in the water, and the issue remains the withdrawal agreement backstop - which the Brady Amendment a fortnight ago said should be replaced and now is only subject to legal reinterpretation, if that.

The Prime Minister with nothing (much) to report may well try to delay again, but really time is up for this - surely because there is no indication that there is any deal forthcoming beyond the one which she approved of more that two weeks ago. This means that in the face of this hapless Prime Minister MPs must now act regardless of a revised deal or not being presented.

It hardly needs to be said that it is unprecedented that Cabinet Ministers should signal their intention to vote in a contrary fashion to the Prime Minister, but then this is a national crisis of potential self-harm that must be prevented.

The route of the coup is via Parliament, whereas my prediction was executive action. If the three ministers, Rudd, Gauke and Clark, vote against the government, they may well then resign and the government could effectively collapse. If instead they tell May to sack them if she dare, this could be where the executive action takes over: the Prime Minister in office but no longer in power. Her tin ear and rigidity is finally too much. This is something she shares with Corbyn, and his inabilities to run his office effectively (never mind the loss of confidence over anti-semitism) makes him unfit for such high office. But this also applies to Theresa May: we've learnt about her in office that she simply is not up to the job. She talks but does not act, she is rigid, deaf to others, and leaves the body politic frustrated and weak.

It is not right that a person holding cards of such low value should be allowed to hold up the game. She has got to be overrun or forced out. We have Cabinet government and all that is needed is command of the House of Commons. There is no need for a leadership election for government to function.

The whole leaving the EU politics is breaking our body politic, especially in the hands of a Prime Minister who is out of her depth. The task is beyond her, and as she freezes in the face of the headlights he political parties are being shaken into their divisions. She has to go, and for the good of Labour and its prospects, Corbyn has to go, and also for the chance that the Liberal Democrats may revive, Vince Cable has to go - he is authentic, thoughtful, and capable, but he has a legacy and does not inspire.

So, the coup is on, and next week shall either be decisive or - well - the mess will shake the parties and the sense of frustration even more, with surely mass purposeful defections from the Conservative Party: 1846 all over again.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Labour Split: a Surprise and Due to Internal Incompetence

I am surprised at this stage that there has been a small Labour split. The split for Labour, following the 'leave' majority in the referendum, came first, and I expected a Tory split now. There is an effective split in the Tory Party, but it surely will split if there is a no deal exit from the European Union. The split is really a result of continuous Labour leadership incompetence. One remembers how John Smith and Tony Blair undermined the Tory government in their day and set their party up to govern; this shower fail week after week to land a blow on such a shambolic government and now seem to be offering the government a way to leave the European Union not much different from the government's own.

While the various 'remainer' MPs from different parties have worked together, it would be a big move to find several Tory MPs now joining Chuka Umunna and company at this stage. There may be other Labour MPs joining first, especially if Corbyn carries on in his usual moribund way of ignoring everyone except a small clique of people like him, plus the struggling Keir Starmer.

I am still expecting we get to a point where political forces, in the form of a Cabinet coup, revoke Article 50. Everything is pointing in this direction, a very binary crash out versus the revoke option.

The government is chaotic, trying to force people into its cul-de-sac and then try to force them to help it out by passing the dog's breakfast of a partial subservient attachment to the EU. It isn't going to happen, because the far right of the Tory Party have this blue-eyed mist that wants to send the country over the cliff edge. Cameron's gamble to hold his party together at the risk of the country has resulted in neither winning the bet. The country is going into a period of self-harm and the Tory Party will split.

One suspects Corbyn and company rather like leaving the EU because it will give them the opportunity to launch a socialist wonderworld - well, the MPs won't buy it. The result of the seven leaving is to constrain the next manifesto. Labour is likely to be conflicted for a long time.

It is not clear what the seven will do. Likely they will just be coherent among themselves, but there was a call to join them and from other places than Labour. The Social Democratic Party was launched in the 1980s with big beasts of politics, whereas the seven are capable politicians among a third rate selection. Look at the present Tory government, from an incompetent Prime Minister to a whole bunch of unlikely Secretaries of State. Few have any gravitas. We have Chris Grayling making everything he touches into rubbish, and a Home Secretary who likes to beat his chest when international law says otherwise. Labour is run by people who are very unimpressive, giving every impression of being no good in government - and also no sense that they are ever going to get elected to government, unless in a minority administration at very best.

The crunch is coming. Cabinet ministers may resign to vote in favour of Parliament grabbing the reins over the EU crisis. Alternatively, they may say enough is enough, and remove Theresa May and take power to stop the big time self-harm that is so close now.

Some think a referendum might legitimise staying in the EU. I see nothing but problems with it: the questions to ask, the division reopened, the loss of control over the central questions and invasion of other issues,  the stupidity of campaigns and mutual accusations. It is Parliament's job first to say that the 2016 referendum was illegitimate and secondly to keep us where we should be, inside the European Union and contributing to its decision making.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Massive Defeat - What Next?

I did think the defeat of the government could be upwards of two hundred, and sensed that far from the whips shaving off opposition that opinions were hardening. Thus the strategy of Theresa May in delaying the vote completely backfired. She lost by the meaningful vote 230. Not many more Tories than the payroll vote supported the deal.

It is dead, but much else is unclear. A House of Commons Liaison Committee may try to direct traffic towards, initially, indicative votes for how to leave the European Union, but it is clear that the Cabinet is going to do this anyway. There is no way now that Theresa May will be given the freedom to try and do what she wants; leading members of the Cabinet will be getting a grip with a new consensus seeking direction to policy.

The scale of the defeat gave Jeremy Corbyn no choice but to go for a vote of no confidence, and he is likely to lose this. There may be a few wild Tories to vote 'no confidence', but there are enough to stop this in possibly one of the last acts of the Tory tribe coming together. This means that Corbyn is bypassed: the option of a second referendum may still not be his policy despite party conference policy.
So the government can limp on, and another proposal that won't pass without Labour support is a second referendum. Neither of these being enacted, the European Union 27 States by unanimity will not be able to have grounds to extend Article 50.

A second referendum is a dangerous strategy. It will be divisive, the proposers will again lose control of it like they did in 2016 (it became an expression of anti-austerity and looked to kick the government), and of course it could still result in a no deal exit. Such a referendum may happen, but only if Labour back it, and many MPs will not.

No referendum creates two tough choices. One is to leave with no deal on the 29th March later this year. The House of Commons can always produce a majority to stop this, and the Cabinet can also stop this, given the balance of opinion. But the only way to stop this is to revoke Article 50.
Even if there is a referendum, it does not follow that the EU 27 will approve unanimously an extension to Article 50. So it may still need to be revoked, which the UK government can do: the Cabinet can do it as an executive act of governing. However, done as the only viable means to prevent a no-deal, it should get a majority in the House of Commons - if it goes to a vote.

Expect Cabinet resignations, but also possibly expect across the House of Commons appointments into it. This will destroy the political parties as they are, but the predicament demands that incredibly difficult yet necessary decision. They will sell it to give the UK time to think. The Attorney General says we can only revoke if it is to stop it altogether, but (as Kenneth Clarke asked) does this mean for all time? Of course not. To invoke it again is surely allowed once. This is how they will sell it.
However, as soon as it is done the government and legislature will breathe a sigh of relief. There may well be public disorder, but it is public disorder versus serious economic disorder and self-harm when there is no agreement what to do to leave. Politics will be allowed to form what to do to leave, but the government has so many other pressing needs.

I keep to my prediction: a cabinet coup involving Amber Rudd, supported principally by Philip Hammond and Greg Clark; expect many resignations and the sidelining at least of Theresa May herself. There is nothing in the British Constitution that says a party leader must be Prime Minister, instead such a person must command the Commons, and on the basis of preventing a no deal European Union exist, one of these people can command the Commons.

Furthermore, if the Cabinet does not go in a cross-party direction, the result of a new government direction yet within the Tories alone will result in Tory exiter zealots voting in a later vote of no confidence against such a government. Only cross party support and even inclusion into government will allow such a Cabinet as a shifted government to survive and implement the revoking of Article 50.

They must act on it before economic disaster strikes. They need to prepare now on how to explain the revoking of Article 50: the bad referendum campaigns, the lack of agreed interpretation as to what it meant, and the need to avoid disaster. The political system is being stress-tested indeed.

The principal person to blame here is David Cameron, who thought he could gamble the country to save his political party, and secondly Theresa May for behaving equally in a party manner and taking on a bunker mentality after her own failure in calling a General Election. She failed on that and she failed on delaying the meaningful vote. She paid a hefty price on both occasions.

There'll be the simple choice looming, and starkly presenting itself: either go over the cliff edge or revoke Article 50. As the tension rises the Cabinet must get a grip, and the prediction I made a long time back was that it will do just this. The Tory Party is at its 1846 moment, and the Labour leadership is about to be bypassed. Once Article 50 is revoked, it is likely that a General Election will follow, but the political parties may be well divided. The Cabinet might well introduce proportional representation before it goes, simply because 4 political parties (or near enough) out of two is chaotic in First Past the Post, and so a more consensual legislature will be necessary.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Decisive New Year?

Here we are, and Parliament reopens for what is a hugely critical time in The United Kingdom's political future and likely constitutional crisis.

What I wrote in the previous blog entry stands. It will go to the wire. May's agreement with the European Union will fail to get through, and a crisis will lead to a cabinet coup, in effect, and a necessary rescinding of Article 50, ostensibly to buy time. The Prime Minister will have changed, and the Cabinet will propose such emergency legislation not based on party but on informal networks of MPs, some into the Cabinet. So I predict. And it will be a very rough time of reactions and betrayals.

Let's look at the present and likely condition of the political parties instead.

Labour ought to be streets ahead of a government that is incompetent on so many fronts. this Government has second rate Cabinet Ministers, many of whom seem incapable of doing their jobs. Government seems impossible on so many pressing need fronts: housing, transport, welfare benefits, poverty, health funding, education funding.

Labour is close to the Tories on polling. As the party has grown its membership, it seems not to impress beyond this. In the last General election, it attracted those usually less likely to vote: younger people. But many of these supposed that Labour would be more pro-European. In fact, Labour negotiation would end up rather where May has ended up.

The point of a second referendum is to reverse the decision to leave the European Union, but Labour's process policy is contradictory. First it wants a General Election and only then a referendum. But, if it got a General Election, and won, it would negotiate to get something similar to May. It says the 'a customs union' would be different, but up against the EU law based method for having the Single Market and the Customs Union, the Labour result would be like May's.

In any case a second referendum would take a long time and be divisive again, and governments lose control of referenda as a method to heal division. Anyway, they do not.

The ambiguity focuses on Corbyn himself: lifelong voting anti-European, he was in favour of remaining, but refused to campaign alongside others of different parties. Like May, he presented a quiet and neutral position.

Labour at the time of Healey and Jenkins went to the left. Jenkins quit and Healey did not, and that probably saved Labour from a most damaging split and further diminution then. Under soft-left Kinnock, Labour drifted back to the right, becoming centrist under Smith and then spanned from the right to mildly-left under Blair. Now, captured by the ideological membership, it has gone left again. Yet Corbyn is not the far-reaching charismatic figure some think he is, and he would now never use the phrase, "Read my lips," as some politicians have (most notably George H. W. Bush in the United States). He has also been damaged by his political obsessions and loyalties. He lacks the political quality of gravitas.

Labour is split now, and it's not that divergent MPs will 'fall in' but will, in any government it runs, assert themselves. But it is not clear at all that Labour will win any coming General Election. Persistent poll ratings are poor for this opposition, especially at a time like this with government incompetence; also, the sorts of majorities Thatcher and Blair achieved are not available now as fewer seats are marginal and swings have less effect.

At the same time, the Liberal Democrats seem to have become forgotten. It may well be that a General Election will boost them in the real constituency level of results set against Tory weakness. Liberal Democrats principally benefit from Tory weakness, on the ground. The converse is true, and thus why they were all but destroyed under the post-coalition General Election: the Tories benefitted from Liberal Democrat weakness and the vote they had built in Tory constituencies: so many went elsewhere, to Labour for example (with little positive effect). Vince Cable has credibility, but he is no campaigner and they need someone else. Even then Cameron achieved a small majority and on a still good vote May lost even that.

The Conservative Party is split now, and this is 1846 all over again. If the Cabinet acts to prevent a no deal before late March, the party will probably self-destruct. But this is only further on from how it is already, and the likes of Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond will just have to bite the bullet, assisted by people from other parties. (This is my necessary Cabinet coup scenario.)

UKIP outside parliament is going up a dangerous blind alley with its racist direction wanderings. The Tory right wing may become another UKIP without the identity nastiness of this horrible fringe party.

Only the Scottish Nationalists seem to have shown a steady and consistent bloc of leadership with clarity in the House of Commons. Of course other small minorities like the Green MP and Plaid Cymru have been in a kind of alliance of resistance to this absent (except on 'Brexit') government.

The Democratic Unionist Party may play an important role presently, but it is out of step with a Northern/ North of Ireland that voted to remain, and with businesses that want a deal, and with people who want an invisible EU border on the island. It may have a political price to pay. People may largely blame it for the political crisis.

We see the problem at present. The political parties seem to be in a melt-down. Labour looks confused and divided, the Conservatives are in a split to become a chasm, and the Liberal Democrats are invisible.

It is why the House of Commons, at a time of deep political  and increasingly constitutional crisis, has to step up to the plate across parties, but the fact is that it cannot be the executive, and this is why a Cabinet has to take decisions and introduce emergency legislation to save this country from catastrophe, and it also act by working across the parties.

Suppose it does. What then?

The fall-out of necessary current Cabinet resignations, for other party people to go in, even on a temporary basis before a likely General Election (there is no time for that first or a referendum: actions must be taken), means that the Conservative Party will cry betrayal and disloyalty in different directions. The Labour leadership will be bypassed, and many will think this is no bad thing. It hasn't exactly shown that it would get a grip: its public performance and internal operation seems lacklustre. The Liberal Democrats might provide into a Cabinet, informally, but only if the rescinding of Article 50 is to stop us leaving the European Union and not to mess about afterwards.

A view has to be taken that the referendum in 2016 was bogus: bogus by both campaigns being terrible and ill-informing, bogus by making binary such a complex issue, and that the whole thing was a failed Tory Party exercise to silence the Eurosceptics - gambling the country to save a party. It is Parliament that is sovereign, not advisory referenda, and, if you don't like it, vote for MPs standing on an anti-European Union ticket. It is perfectly possible for a government, after the rescinding of Article 50 by a predecessor, to invoke it again and, if so elected for the purpose, to take us out of the EU.

Again, Party manifestos will matter less than personal manifestos.

It is because parties are now so divided and weak, that new parties are likely to emerge. The lesson of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, is not good: not good as a split that weakens its own side. But it may be different given the Tory self-destruction and the Labour leadership incapability, and Liberal Democrat national invisibility. I expect a new Nationalist ex-Conservative Party, a Centre Party with a reforming streak (like the left of the American Democrats), and a left wing party that will not be as on the march as it thinks. To me, Labour is on the march to do as it has so often done: pluck defeat out of the jaws of victory, and it isn't presently even in the jaws of victory. Policies matter, but then one wonders whether the people to present them can actually step up to the plate.

Politics is going to be rough, very rough, and many people will not like what is coming along.

The alternative is that we go, like the leaders did into the First World War, into a situation where legal and business chaos takes place. No one really thinks that this Keystone Cops Government has contingency plans that will work - look at Chris Grayling, for one example, hiring a ferry company that has no boats and won't find any, a firm with previous questionable management at best, and with a single dredger working at Ramsgate Harbour.

If the Tory Party does not destroy itself under my predictions, the voters will destroy it over the chaos that will come along so soon. Never before has a country decided to commit self-harm, as is optionally coming along - if the politicians do nothing, because they freeze like rabbits facing the coming headlights or just because they cannot manage it, the cliff edge will really hurt at the bottom thump. This is the very real danger.

So goodbye to the once secure political parties, and let's hope for controversial but necessary political decisions to stop the disaster soon down the line.