Sunday 2 September 2018

New Political Season: A White Knuckle Ride

The new political season is upon us, so it is now time to be a fool and make some predictions. The one lesson we must have been taught these past five years or so is not to make predictions. So, here goes.

Jeremy Corbyn won't last two months as Labour leader. Oh how things change within a year. His failure to stop a story has now led to him being fatally weakened. If Labour holds a cheering rally this year as last, it will look hollow and confirm negativity. Labour's rescue is in their own hands: Corbyn stands down. No doubt the members will elect another left winger, but maybe one without the Corbyn associations.

If he does not go, then Labour MPs cannot simply hold another vote of no confidence. If they do that, then it is up to them to act. It means a split, but the lesson of the 1980s is that there is no place for a fourth party. Another lesson is not to split the left to let in the right. These days the first past the post system lets parties win when the other side is divided, which is why now (with fewer marginal constituencies than back in the 1980s to 1990s) hefty vote blocks can still lead to minority government.

Thus a split will only work if the Labour MPs mean to isolate the current Labour Party and sink it. That's the reality. Otherwise, they needn't bother.

Much of this may be overtaken by the demise of Theresa May. In this case, the Labour MPs as opposition do an informal split. They'll do the necessaries later (as they see it). Because we have the pincer movement of the Chequers Proposals of the EU negotiation on the one hand, and the Houses of Parliament on the other. Theresa May can get the coming legislation through if she loses the party majority in the House of Commons. What comes up regarding the EU is greater than any party leader and, indeed, any party position, especially as the Conservative Party is split to the point of name-calling. There is bitterness in those ranks. If May runs with 'Chequers' or a watered down version, she loses the Tory Party, if she doesn't run with a watered down version, she loses the Commons. However, don't rely on the Tory rebels: they have a habit of caving in at the last minute. But the days of caving in and waiting until next time are running out: there is no next time. Now is the time to at the very least stay in the Customs Union and Single Market.

However, ever since the days of Tony Blair not trusting the House of Commons, the government has controlled the Commons timetable. There are no more guillotines or filibusters. The time to strike is pre-ordained now, so everyone must be ready at the appropriate moment, with no more absences and forgetting. The point is, it is very difficult to rise up in the House against the government even when there is the majority to do it. Who will facilitate this? Corbyn won't. As well as being incompetent, he isn't of a mood to protect our place in the European Confederation.

Nevertheless, as well as the leadership plotting, there have been cross-party meetings. I still don't think there is quite enough to lead to a new Centre-Radical Party. A trigger for a formal split may be reducing the MPs from 650 to 600, demanding reselections, if the legislation is introduced and goes through. 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.

May be this will force a General Election. But a General Election will only work if MPs organise informally or formally and have personal manifestos on the Europe question. Only the Liberal Democrats and UKIP are set up as unified pro and anti European Union. There may well be template manifestos, so that there will be this group and that group providing choice at the General Election - again, bypassing the Party system as it stands.

Labour's new leader may prevent a split; the Tories' new leader is likely to cause a split. The trauma of politics today is likely to cause divisions and new alliances, but at the moment the job is to strike at the timetabled legislation according to need.

So, let's go with the new political season. It is going to be a white knuckle ride.

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