Sunday 26 February 2017

Couterfactual - if the EU Vote had Gone Remain

There is a difference between 'fake news' (not a new phenomenon, as any reader of a tabloid newspaper will know) and the counterfactual. Historians can use counterfactual scenarios to understand what instead happened. They are like novels of what could have happened. So what would have happened if the British public had narrowly voted in the EU referendum to 'remain'?

EU Referendum Result: 51.5% remain, 48.5% result stay. Scotland votes remain very comfortably 65% to 35%, Northern Ireland remain 59% to 41%, Wales 50%-50%, England out 47% remain to 53% out.

The first point is that Prime Minister David Cameron hails the result as a success, and that a success is a success. There is certainly no justification for any further alteration to the EU relationship. However, it is clear that the large minority to come out determines a continued semi-detached membership, and that all future unifying measures in the EU will definitely exclude the United Kingdom.

However, UKIP is energised to fight the result and some forty Conservative MPs vow to campaign on to change opinion to come out of the EU. Cameron states that the issue is now settled for good, and the Conservative Government can concentrate on other matters.

The venom some Conservative MPs show David Cameron, however, spills into every area of government, and the Conservative Party becomes ungovernable itself and incapable of passing policy.

Jeremy Corbyn is seen as lukewarm towards Europe, as ineffectual, but some say he at least had the measure of opinion, and others say he showed lack of principle because had he fought for leaving he might have influenced just enough socialist voters to bring the UK out of Europe.

The Liberal Democrats hail the result and hope to rebuild their fortunes.

However, Cameron realises that his victory is hollow, because he cannot govern, and the Houses of Parliament repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act (only the Liberal Democrats and many in the House of Lords resist) replaced by the Parliamentary Elections Act so that in future a simple majority in the House of Commons alone after a Prime Minister's proposal can call a General Election.

In other words, Cameron realises that the European Union referendum was not enough to lance the Tory boil, and it needs a General Election as well. Nevertheless, the advice is that too many of the Tory Party including especially the 'leavers' would be returned to office and would still hate him for gambling and winning the referendum.

Thus Cameron comes to the conclusion he must first stand down. Gove thinks he can stand, as a leave voice to rearrange the UK's membership in Europe as more arm's length, but the moderate understated Remainer Theresa May becomes the safe pair of hands as new Prime Minister.

A manifesto is produced that has behind it the Liberal and then Conservative Unionist Joseph Chamberlain philosophy behind it. She recognises the high vote for leaving shows a disconnect with politics among many, and institutes an interventionist, somewhat UK nationalist, economic policy with an end to austerity and neo-liberalism. This turns out to be far more than a 'safe pair of hands'.

She then goes to the House of Commons for a vote to go to a General Election, daring the Labour Party to vote to go to the country. She has a divided party, but an advantage over a weak Corbyn as a disconnected politician with Labour voters.

The result is something of a shock, with a Conservative majority of about 100. Many of these new MPs may be eurosceptic, but owe loyalty to May. May now redefines the Conservative Party as centrist, interventionist, and early by-elections are won by her. There is no place for Gove or Boris Johnson in her government. The Liberal Democrats recover to 35 seats thanks to remain constituencies and a clear stance. Labour however implodes, and although Corbyn attempts to hang on this time the rump PLP will have none of it and forces a leadership election; the demoralised membership outside only just lets go of the socialist project given an alternative candidate, so that Corbyn stands down and Clive Lewis succeeds.

Clive Lewis then goes about making the Labour leadership office more efficient and effective and starts to organise opposition, but discovers that May is embedded and is rather difficult to shift because there is such a focus on social and interventionist policy. She declares that, "the Conservative Party is for everyone." So the railways are forced to become one nationwide company, renamed British Rail, and NHS hospital trusts take over social services across England. There is even a National Investment Bank for high tech support. Councils and Housing Trusts are allowed to finance and build houses, with a new and surprising emphasis on renting. Councils have this principle housing task having lost social services. Local Income and Business taxes replace Business Rates and Council Tax.

(The contrast with the reality today is that the governmental energy going into exiting the EU excludes such emphasis on economic interventionist policy.)

At the following General Election the Liberal Democrats get an equal share of the vote as the Labour Party, and it looks like a tipping point can be approached where the Liberal Democrats become the main and liberal/ liberty opposition to a Statist Conservative Party.

Friday 24 February 2017

By-Elections Disaster - Government Approval by Default

All the intentions and promises in the world made by Labour will count for nothing if Labour cannot win. Labour is not winning; it is failing and disastrously.

It won a by-election in Stoke Central on 7000 or so votes when one lot had 5000, another lot had 5000, and another 2000, plus then the collection of others. In other words, very unimpressive, and a minority of the votes. It went backwards in share of the vote when the government party went forwards. But Copeland is the disaster of a two horse race, when the government increases its vote share by nearly 7% against the opposition and wins.

You wouldn't think that the NHS is starved of investment, that social services have run out of money, that infrastructure is failing, prisons are in crisis, when the business rates face huge rises, that so many people are underemployed and unemployed (I don't believe the statistics anyway), and that we have second rate politicians running key departments of the government. Inflation is up on essentials: we are told the economy is all right - well we have not yet left the European Union. Trade is still tariff free, abroad is still like being at home. Just wait until we do leave.

The first response of Labour to their shambolic performance was a press release, pre-planned, to shore up Jeremy Corbyn. He is an abysmal leader, in practice as well as in ideology. There is no point running a fantasy opposition - an opposition must connect and be ready. The problem is that should Corbyn be challenged, the ideologues will gather again and keep him there. And for what? For a dream of: 'one day we'll have socialism.' Meanwhile, this day we get nothing. Nothing forms, nothing builds: it just slides backwards.

Once again we are crying out for political leadership. Let's not be fooled that the Tories are providing good leadership. They are not: the political economy, the social fabric, the happiness of people, the sense of community, are all going downward. The reason Tory poll ratings are 15 to 20% higher than the main opposition is because the main opposition is on another planet.

We need opposition parties to provide leadership now to do two things. One is to oppose the government, and the other is to form opinion to oppose leaving the European Union. I was noticing how on the evening of the by-elections that BBC Newsnight was explaining how the United States Supreme Court is positioned in the US body politic. Pity then that no one ever bothered to describe and educate how the European Union operates, rather than continue to put it up as a bogeyman and Aunt Sally about bureaucrats and bananas. Pity that the remainer campaign treated it as economic fear alone to come out. With a number of exceptions, MPs seem paralysed at present to go but in one direction only, when this does not take account of the actuality of what is involved in terms of economy and indeed political progress in integrating and mixing with 'people like us' abroad - the richness of European culture and sharing sovereignty.

Now, in 1966, the government won a by-election in Hull North. I'm in Hull East. Harold Wilson, ever the political manipulator, saw his opportunity to go to the country. He got himself the majority he wanted. Mrs May could too, via a simple repeal of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, and get a majority of 120 plus. What is so disastrous is that the by-election results could leave Corbyn and his shambolic office in charge of Labour, and so she does not even need an election and can happily go along to 2020 in the knowledge that Labour gives her a clear run while it heads for the electoral valleys. So analysis one is Labour stays as it is, with the ideologues sending it to defeat.

Secondly, Labour will shape itself up to provide 'loyal opposition' to the government, to get 'a good Brexit deal'. If it succeeds, then Mrs May will take all the credit and the Tories will be re-elected again on that basis alone.

The only hope (if it is 'hope') is that just as the out-vote regarding the EU led to Labour disarray and relative Tory unity (an in-vote creating Tory disunity), so the terms of the exit will be divisive for the Tories in 2019. This is because many Tories regard single market membership as necessary, and others regard it as little better than being in the EU. But Labour is not even pressing to stay in the single market. Labour is as vague about what constitutes 'a good Brexit deal' as the bunch who are heading up the Tory absence of policy.

The fact is that the EU vote divided up politics for the foreseeable future. If you think we should have stayed in, then most if not all scenarios of coming out are negative. Coming out should be opposed. Oppositions don't say, OK you won, we will now be like you. You make the argument. Form opinion to oppose leaving the EU! The Liberal Democrats are shaping up on this, but more is needed and from broader opinion. Some of the Labour 50 should be part of this newer, necessary leadership. We will not get to a point where staying in is a political option in 2019 unless opinion is formed in that direction. It should not be a 'Deal or No Deal' option of coming out only.

Perhaps some of the 50 or so in Labour, who voted not to trigger Article 50, can come to the view that the Labour Party is in a pretty much terminal mess. It won't gain from the Tory inability to produce a deal, because it has the same mixed up message confused leadership, and won't if the Tories do produce a deal. So perhaps it is time to be like Corbyn used to be, and start to restructure politics by doing their own thing, and doing what is of benefit for this land and people.