Sunday 16 December 2018

The Strategy of a Cabinet Coup

So what happened was that Sir Graham Brady rushed the vote of confidence in Theresa May. By this method, and her saying she won't lead the Tories into a 2022 General Election, she stopped a vote of some 140 against her and clipped it to 117, a slight majority of those not on the government payroll.

The very next day she went to Brussels and failed to get any legal clarification to the backstop for the border issue in the island of Ireland. She went from a 'win' to pathetic in a day, and now seems to be playing for time.

It's like having a player with 2s and 3s in cards, but who also decides when the cards are played. As soon as another player is about to put down the winning hand against her, she pulls the game. We think she is delaying, but she did say the meaningful vote was 2016 and the important date is the date we leave. So she might be damning the country in a kind of personal madness. Whatever, she is engaging in Kamikaze politics.

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.

If you don't like it, there'll soon be a chance to get elected to change it. Because the Cabinet coup is for one purpose and one purpose only: to prevent a hard exit. It can look for any consensus in Parliament. If not, ram on the brakes. The days of constantly doing the Conservative Party Shuffle has to end; the party is pretty much bust anyway. The minority of Tories must be circumvented, isolated, forced to scream blue murder: but these are choices that have to be made. Not to have a hard exit means precisely that, and decisions must be taken.

The probable truth is that Norway plus could be quick but has similar disadvantages to the Theresa May deal, although without a never-ending legal trap. The reality is that with the brake off and a Cabinet decision to stay, politics can resume afterwards.

We might say, well, parties will form and reform and pressure will exist about being 'cheated' and the like, but at least this can happen without the cliff edge. Let's just see. My own view is that if Article 50 is withdrawn there will be a sigh of relief and many opposers will be fed up to do anything. They may come back later. The likely reality is that this has been Suez with knobs on, and what follows rescinding Article 50 is a country that will realise its lack of power, its stupidity over these past years, and that it will sit in the corner and lick its wounds.

All another referendum does, if you can find a question set that does not look like cheating, is generate more division. Instead, representative democracy has to face the coming punching from the electorate, so it won't be easy, but it will be reflective. Perhaps if the Tory Party collapsed before and after a General Election, it would never be able to gamble the country against its internal divisions again.

It doesn't follow that 'an extreme left wing government' will form, because in the reorganisation of parties and tendencies, many of those Labour MPs of now who will be re-elected will hold it in check. Nothing will be the same again. To me, Labour has been and still is as much in fantasy land regarding renegotiations and time left as are many Tories, except that it has not inflicted the same level of damage. The likelihood is a time in recovery of the patient post General Election, when there comes a coalition of factions of parties bigger than the parties themselves: so that the Cabinet post election may well be drawn from various parts. Eventually the political ship will come back together again from the wreckage.

But, meanwhile, Mrs May has to be removed, the Cabinet should shake itself out, become coherent to itself across the parties, and take out Article 50.

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.

The reason is twofold. First, it is not a shoe-in. It needs the agreement of thirty countries, those in the European Economic Area (all of the EU plus others) and in the European Free Trade Area. Secondly it needs the UK also to join the Customs Union in order to avoid the hard border in the island of Ireland. Thus we would be subject to all the EU decisions but have none of the say. This is half the problem with the Theresa May deal. In Norway plus the ECJ could fine the UK for breaches of its rules and yet the UK would contribute no one to the Council, the Commission, the Parliament or the Court. It was always so, it's just that Theresa May's deal also doesn't let us get out.

It undermines a sovereign state's ability to remove from a treaty. The Geoffrey Cox spin, before the government caved in to censure, was that the backstop could be subject to legal attack that would likely succeed. I watched him live on TV, and calling him as like Rumpole of the Bailey crystalised the bizarre nature of that attempt to circumvent the instruction of a Humble Address. His legal advice was rather different in tone, and no wonder the 'summary' was many times the length of the original. (Gosh, if academics did summaries like him, they'd make a whole book rather than a page for just one article summarised.)

Furthermore, it does look now that the matter of being in a treaty means, according to the European Court of Justice, that Article 50 can be withdrawn unilaterally, so long as this is a serious matter. In other words, it can't become an in-out dance. It means, in effect, one chance to remove it (and then perhaps restart it). The judgment comes very soon.

Also we now have the Dominic Grieve amendment. This means that the Standing Orders are put aside on this matter so that the House of Commons is able to give a roadmap to government on the way forward after a defeat on the Theresa May deal. Until now - as I stated - the executive was really the only force to give shape to a plan B. This is why I thought a rump Cabinet would arise to take a grip under a leader who had consulted MPs across the parties.

However, it still needs an executive to hear the Mind of the House. The media has begun to refer to a caretaker Prime Minister.

I remain opposed to a second referendum. This is suggested because it gives it back to the people. But no matter how this goes, people will feel cheated.

The House of Commons will circumvent the hard Tory right, and the Cabinet rump will shun them. This is why a select group of Labour, Liberal Democrat and even SNP people could replace the Tory right walking out of the Cabinet. So what would the choice be, disallowing the damage that a no deal exit would cause?

A) Theresa May's deal.
B) Remain as we are.

There will be many many spoilt ballot papers on that one, because the 'hard exit' would be excluded, the May deal seen as too close, too binding. Indeed, what would be the logic of this if May's deal is heavily defeated in Parliament?

A) Norway plus.
B) Remain as we are.

So one is like the other, except in A is closer and B is the same but with representation. Once again, expect many spoilt ballot papers.

A) Hard exit - no deal but basic arrangements as absolutely necessary.
B) Theresa May deal.
C) Remain as we are.

Well, there will be immediate cries of foul, as we see the exit vote divided between two options; plus, a three-way referendum means deciding something on a minority position.

Parliament will never countenance a second gamble of staying in or coming out without a deal, and three options with Norway plus does make Norway plus a bit superfluous as well as dividing up the main two (it could be seen as a half-remain option).

Plus, a referendum takes on a mind of its own. No matter how well constructed, how well the campaign is formed, it comes to stand for something else. In 2016 it represented the resentment against austerity and the Cameron-Osborne contempt for how too many ordinary people were being forced to live their lives.

So it is up to Parliament - people paid to take responsibility - to take these decisions. The most sensible seems increasingly obvious. Stop Article 50 and stop the process altogether.

There is still political damage, but this is unavoidable. The explanation needs to be that the referendum was offered under false political motives to do with the Conservative Party. Secondly, when it happened, it was hijacked into a misleading campaign and inept campaigning on both sides. In stress testing our membership of the EU over two and a half years, we realise that we cannot do such surgery without killing the patient.

Now, many will not like this, including Tory MPs of a certain kind. They will have to do politics, won't they? They can split off. Farage and company could form a new political party. It's not good, this, but it is better than a bad decision regarding representation on the European continent. The rump Cabinet may well have this job to do, before the inevitable General Election. The final explanation for the political failure of the last two and a half years is that we really have more pressing problems and needs, and these must be addressed, and frankly we have to do it from inside the EU. If you don't like it, then do the politics to come to power and so do otherwise.

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 for their appalling mismanagement of this country and threatening its very well-being.