Saturday 14 December 2019

The Unsaid: Final Thoughts

As reflection time takes place among some, I do have some final thoughts.

The General Election was conceded by the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, as no one then could get through a second referendum.

The Liberal Democrats assumed they would be a focus for remain, but failed on two counts: one was they had a lack of publicity, including thanks to Prince Andrew's legacy when they launched their manifesto. It wasn't particularly the revoke policy at fault - they simply failed to explain it properly, as they were forced to do when more realism kicked in and the second referendum was emphasised again. But it is usually fatal to make policy adjustments in an election campaign. We also discovered the inadequacy of the Jo Swinson leadership, with far too much emphasis on her face, her image and her performance instead of on a team. Imagine if Ed Davey had won (I supported him) - there would not have been that attempted cult of personality. She was an unknown entity and this was too much of a gamble.

We forget, too, that Jeremy Corbyn was a block to the Liberal Democrats as he was to Labour. The difference was Labour MPs suppressed their criticism, but the Liberal Democrats expressed it. So two parties that would have had a referendum could not get together, because of the man that the Labour electorate so roundly rejected. It doesn't matter if the press did it, or the Marxism did it, or the antisemisism did it. Labour and he knew very many months back that he was no good, but his belief in his own necessity - to give socialism just one more push - had support and simply backfired. But it backfired for the Liberal Democrats too. Swinson was forced to be anti-Corbyn, and rule out Labour, and this was all a distraction to the emphasis that should have been on policy.

(I was opposed to a second referendum as I was opposed to the first. The argument for revoke needed explanation regarding parliamentary democracy but it failed to be explained, as it should have been long before the actual campaign. Parliament - the House of Commons - was not at fault: it did its job. But we saw that the opposition was easily dispersed, and this came into the campaign, and the personality of Corbyn was large in the actuality of the public response.)

The slight majority remain position was dispersed, and First Past the Post gives victory to those that are coherent. Farage let his own tyres down, and had further consequence to support voting Conservative from a leave perspective. Even then, although it told leaver people to vote Conservative, Farage cost Conservative not Labour seats.

Take Hull East. Had Farage's company not stood, a portion of his votes would have gone Conservative. The Conservatives would have won here too. The Conservatives nationally could have had a majority of 180 rather than 80, had Farage stood down completely - and that was with Labour getting more votes! (The quoted figure I've seen is 188.)

Labour must get rid of Corbyn and that whole approach he revived. It must find an alternative to State Socialism. Sometimes nationalisation is good, for some natural monopolies and services, but it must be managed at a more local and aspirational level. The Labour manifesto was a back to the seventies approach. It was a cluttered and gathering collection of State Socialist freebies. It did not appeal. The Liberal Democrats, as historically Liberals, identify themselves in relationship to the left (e.g. trade union based non-socialist Labour Liberal MPs) - even though they have, historically, lost people off to the right (think Joseph Chamberlain). Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy built a Liberal Democrat identity just to the left of New Labour, with the expected Liberal philosophical twist. But this cannot be done if Labour has an antagonistic leadership. This is partly why Jo Swinson, receiving ex-Labour anti-Corby people, became 'tribal' according to friendly critics. She went with the Scottish Nationalists for a General Election, but lost coherence as Labour tried to neutralise its own remain and leaver dilemma, and so the Liberal Democrats suffered as well.

That's my point, to remember in years to come: for Labour to get rid of State Socialism and its trapping membership, and for the Liberal Democrats to remember its more open, less tribal, left-ecumenism.

The Liberal Democrats also suffered because of the Coalition and their self-discipline to keep it going to the very end, after which the appreciative Conservatives turned on them with their electoral machine. The argument the Liberal Democrats could have used in defence against facilitating austerity was that at least government then was competent - proper cabinet government. They failed to make even this case for the defence. Jo Swinson simply did not do it, and so much rested on her shoulders.

As for active policies now, the opposition MPs are there to turn up and vote, but that's about it. The real opposition to policies will come from the Conservatives to the Conservatives. Let them get on with it. If they harm us, we will protest. Johnson will want to hang on to as many convert constituencies as possible, to go for a further five years and into a future quite possibly beyond my lifespan! Johnson went to captured Sedgefield, Tony Blair's constituency, to stamp his feet there, to reach out beyond, and to be the Tory Blair. Let's see if this is what happens, domestically. The Scottish and Irish have more immediate and strategic oppositional and future creating strategies, to be watched with interest. The European Union will become more co-ordinated and likely more powerful, and the UK will feel it from the outside. We will likely end up taking, and not contributing, but it will be decades before our opportunity to contribute may come about again. This is tragedy of the moment: a future of isolation for a diminished England and Wales, and even Wales itself considering its future identity as a political unit.

The future of Britain in the European Union really did matter. This is defeat. Let the victors take the spoils. We'll be back later, but much later, when the wheels come off the wagon, and when there are an alternative set of wheels and indeed a repair to be made to the wagon itself. All political careers end in failure, after all. We pro-Europeans know this for sure.

Friday 13 December 2019

Defeat on Europe and the end of the UK Union

It is time for me to move on from politics in this blog. It used to be a religion blog but became exclusively political as the Remain-Leave battle took place.

The remain voters were dispersed and the leave voters cohered (mainly). I voted Liberal Democrat but Hull East was nearly lost from Labour to Conservative. The Brexit Party may have taken Labour votes, but had it not stood many voting for it would have voted Conservative and Karl Turner MP would have lost. Those were conditions for me to vote Labour! The campaign was Leave versus other issues, not Leave versus Remain. In the past few years Jeremy Corbyn should have stood down as his mismanagement was obvious; I'd also say the Liberal Democrats voted for the wrong leader. Ed Davey would have been more nuanced and had a broader resource for thinking strategy.

But the remain side has been defeated by First Past the Post, and that's it. We lost.

The Conservatives could well be disastrous. Leaving the European Union is not straightforward and I agree with Jo Swinson's attack against nationalism today (though I have sympathy for civic nationalism as demonstrated by the Scottish Nationalist Party). Beyond this, his vague promises and his constituencies and MPs will make Johnson a kind of Tory Blair. He also wants to be liked, as Blair did. Johnson is a conman who needs to keep convincing people as he sells his dodgy motors. Let's see what happens.

But it is his and theirs now, to see what they do. As the issues tighten, people will start to respond. The European Union will become more co-ordinated without what is left of the United Kingdom, and I will have my support from it from afar. As for Ireland, I hope it reunites peacefully and in an orderly fashion, and Scotland will surely now become its own nation. Wales needs to think about its future. As for England, well, we reap what we sow, and we have sown Tory seeds.

Effective Landslide for a Tory Blair

Johnson didn't exactly win: Labour imploded. The old Liberal Democrat narrative of disappointment has come again. In First Past the Post terms, this means that Johnson has walked it.

People (like me) who wanted to stay in the European Union are defeated. Johnson will have the freedom to have trade talks closer to the EU, or have an extension, or anything he likes. A liar lies on, but a Prime Minister (especially a near sole campaigner) has enormous power. He has the monarch's powers - we learnt that once he took power months back, needing the Supreme Court - and he has party dominance.

I'm sorry Jo Swinson lost her seat, but she turned out to be a poor strategist and poor campaigner: she had profile but probably needed to nurture her seat more. Chuka Umunna failed too. All the ex-Tory independents failed. Liberal Democrat losses have undermined gains.

However, the Scottish Nationalist Party has done very well, and Irish Nationalists/ Republicans for the first time have a majority of seats in a Westminster General Election. The Union is likely finished, now, because Scotland is another country and Ireland wants its place in the European Union throughout the island. Johnson cannot ignore this, or these nations will rip away.

I'm going to go against the grain of many of my political friends. I think Johnson will be a kind of Conservative Blair. He talks about "One Nation Conservatives", and now he has MPs in deprived constituencies looking for public spending - spending that he has sort of promised. Of course he could spend three years being a political and economic bastard and two years appealing to voters, but my guess is that he'll want to connect and be loved. Blair wanted to be loved and then let his bigger simplistic politician George Bush take him into Iraq. The Tories will provide their own opposition over the next five years.

Corbyn should have gone long ago: ineffective from the off with his office, and saved by one campaign in 2017 and membership, making some sort of progress against the weak and indecisive May Prime Minister. It was a case of a party of devotees out of touch with a wider electorate. It's no good having a supposed fantastic manifesto if it fails to attract wider support, and it should have appealed over a neutralised Brexit policy and toxic leader (justified or otherwise). He should go soon, but he wants to hang about presumably to maintain the left wing policies - because Labour will fight over its left-right split. The membership should retain the party's left wing stance, but many will also give up party membership. Blair at least knew how to win elections, even if people saw less from his majorities than they desired.

The Liberal Democrats will rise again as the Conservative bloat fails - and it will because of the Brexit nature of the vote. But it will need another good strategist for the Liberal Democrats: another Paddy Ashdown ,really. If they don't find such a new leader, their future will stay low level.

In five years I'll be a year off pension age, so we just have to live with this. Is the body politic renewed by this General Election? Probably not. Even so, we'll still have to wait five years.

Tuesday 10 December 2019

It was Not a Leave Versus Remain Campaign

If this was the Brexit General Election, then it hasn't balanced the Leave versus Remain argument. It has been, rather, a contest of Leave the European Union versus a whole bunch of policies - because we've had Boris Johnson and his 'Get Brexit done' lie of a slogan versus Jeremy Corbyn and his neutral stance.

Some photos of children in hospitals have given a sideways shove to the control exercised through the Tory election machine - notice how the press do their duty with the same fed stories. It may help to show the truth against the consistent spin and claims: Johnson so far has got away with it.

Jo Swinson hasn't been able to compete. She can't get a look-in, or rather when she does it is along with a jumble of others. Nevertheless, the actual Brexit division, leave versus remain, may be happening at constituency level, begun by the Brexit Party deflating its own tyres. The result is that as support for this party declines, the Brexit vote coheres and the remain vote looks split, because Labour can, via its other agenda, attract some remainers. The Liberal Democrats have also been hampered by their reputation for participating in austerity, for which they have only themselves to blame. Jo Swinson's apology for measures attacking the poor sounds as hollow as the apologies for dumping free tuition fees once in government. The anti-austerity agenda is as much about what has happened as what will happen.

Nevertheless, the voting options are narrow. If I still lived in New Holland, I would have to vote Labour. This is despite being culturally, intellectually, and politically, Liberal. In East Hull, I can help build the Liberal Democrat vote in a safe Labour seat.

Or at least I thought so. There is a chance that the Tories could win even in a place like East Hull. So should I now vote Labour? I think the answer is no, because if the Tories do win in East Hull then they would be on an incredible landslide anyway. So I think I have the luxury of a first choice vote - one to waste. This is again the issue of First Past the Post, a rotten system when there are four parties, and one that has been upheld in the media campaign to squeeze out the remain case.

Seeing this, I'll vote for remain. I think. I don't like the local Labour candidate, and did say I would not vote for him. But I am not wholly decided yet. I don't like State Socialism as a means to solve problems, but I accept we need to solve them and do need some rebalancing in the economy. I don't find the Corbyn political office effective, and it suggests incompetence in governing. But it couldn't be as bad as the present shower in office, devoid as it is of an ethical heart - it is heartless and lying is to be expected.

I'll likely vote Liberal Democrat but do so despite the campaign and not because of it, in how it actually failed to make an impact.

Friday 6 December 2019

Less than a Week to Go

Less than a week to go before polling and where are we?

Corbyn is still having to fend off questions on antisemitism which, overblown or not, is sapping the life out of the Labour election campaign and still raising questions whether the number of Labour MPs won't shrink.

This is no good to anyone, partly because a weak Labour Party allows a majority for the Tories even if other parties do well. Sometimes one thinks that Labour should have seen this coming, and for the sake of the Labour Party Corbyn should have resigned, even in favour of another left winger. Failure at the polls means it's too late: they should have acted by now.

The Tories and, in particular, Boris Johnson won't stop lying, and giving slogans, but he just seems to be getting away with it. May's repetitive slogan was her undoing, but Johnson has the coherence of the Brexit vote behind him, especially as the Brexit Party continues to disintegrate. The communicability of the amoral conman must work or the conman has nothing. He won't be interviewed by skilled interviewers because the conman looks for the line of least resistance, and does not care about scrutiny.

The Liberal Democrats nationally have failed to cut through. It launched its manifesto when Prince Andrew was in a lot of media trouble, and it seems barely able to push through. The Remain Alliance seems to be weak as an attractor. Whatever happened that generated the million strong marches for a second referendum? It's as if the Brexit side of the argument is getting a free run, and people on my side of the argument are going down to defeat.

There are few days now to turn this around, and the next leaders debate again excludes others.

Thursday 28 November 2019

Emergency! Danger!

I was going to write about Corbyn damaged but, otherwise, has presented himself and the Labour Party quite well, that Swinson had recovered from her Leaders' Question Time low point but this recovery is qualified by lack of media reach, and Johnson has gone for safety first and whose reputation is beginning to have impact.

But, forget all that. The YouGov poll is a wake up call to optimists. It predicts what I was beginning to think in Scotland, but throughout the UK.

I thought in Scotland that the Conservatives would resist better than we expected and, as the Scottish National Party progressed, it would be Labour that would be squeezed.

It seems that, according to the YouGov poll of 100,000, this is so across the UK and, not only that but the Liberal Democrat experience of disappointment isgoing to be repeated. I could have written about the latter, and now it seems the indicators are this could well be so.

YouGov predicts: Conservatives 359, Labour 211, SNP 43, Liberal Democrats 13, Plaid Cymru 4, Green 1. However, there is a margin of error that leads to the Conservatives having a majority of one to a landslide - 328 to 385 for the Tories.

The Brexit Party burst its own tyres weeks back, and now they have deflated completely. They could still deprive the Tories of some eight seats, but utter collapse improves the Tories further. The view that it was the party to take on Labour seats seems now to be fading away, and the Leave vote will give itself to Johnson's Conservatives. The squeeze on all others will lead to Labour having Michael Foot 1983 numbers of MPs and this when the Tories haven't just won the Falklands War.

The Remain Alliance is likely to fail completely. Defectors to the Liberal Democrats won't win unless local factors operate. In essence, the unity of the leave vote and the weakness of Labour lead to this likely Tory majority result. The Liberal Democrats simply cannot organise the remain votes to itself, not unless it takes from an even weaker Labour and that means a bigger Tory majority.

I take the view that half a loaf is better than none, but we are up against a Labour Party that thinks if ideological purity is not possible then we may as well have the Tories. It is this logic that leads to us having the Tories.

We have two weeks to turn this around. It needs dedicated 'least worst' voting in every constituency with a marginal flavour. I notice that even once safe Labour East Hull, my constituency, is at risk of a Tory win - not Liberal Democrat - and this means I may have to swallow hard and hold my nose. It is a likely Labour win, but it used to be rock solid.

Friday 22 November 2019

Liberal Democrats Need to Regather

I watched the two hours of four leaders meeting an audience. Now, to be clear, I am Liberal Democrat and support the revoke policy. But there is no doubt that the worst performance on that programme was that of Jo Swinson. More than that, I could see it coming. It was coming because Corbyn was matter of fact and played a straight bat, and then Nicola Sturgeon showed her skill derived from being First Minister, answering questions and even creating some room for some teasers about what Corbyn would and would not expect if ending austerity and promoting the public sector was his priority. I could foresee Johnson in some trouble as well, which he was but then had cheering supporters.

Jo Swinson will not get this policy understood if she doesn't do a Jonathan Sumption (the ex-Supreme Court Judge) and point out that a referendum is no more than an opinion snapshot and is not a part of the British Constitution, that no government or House of Commons can bind another, and a General Election is the opportunity for a party to make its manifesto promise. Instead, she was forced on to the back foot.

But her other weakness is her voting record in the coalition, for which the Liberal Democrats will get punished. For that she should promote government discipline, and contrast it with what has been missing this last three years, and that arguments were made in government, agreed, and then delivered. She can say a lot was regretted, but the necessity was for certainty in government at a difficult time. Failure to say this makes her look like a charlatan - and she looked like a charlatan in the programme.

Visuals matter, and Johnson didn't look good, but his waffles and defensiveness was not good either. The cheers of the crowd did not bail him out. The main result of his appearance was not his policies but the dodginess of his character and how he expresses himself.

There is no doubt, therefore, that Jeremy Corbyn continues to have a good General Election. He did it last time in 2017 through rallies and 'momentum' (to use a word) but now he is doing it by having a strong policy thrust. The Liberal Democrats manifesto launch was overshadowed by other news.

To describe The Tories and Brexit Party as having a 'stitch up' is to open the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru to the same charge. The reason Swinson as less likely to be a PM is not the Brexit Party retreat but lack of impact of the Liberal Democrat campaign.

I receive many Liberal Democrat emails, but they cannot deny that they are having a rough election so far. They need not to change the revoke policy, but change how it is defended and where the second referendum policy fits into that. It is the case that a Liberal Democrat majority government would be such a seismic change that it would be the equivalent of a second referendum.

I'm not over worried at this point. That Labour is doing much better helps defend it against shirnkage, and it doesn't follow that the Liberal Democrats are less able to take Tory votes. Towards the end, Swinson made that point quite well. (She also made the anti-semitism accusation over Labour well.) So the result of the present moment could be better in terms of avoiding a Tory majority. But the Liberal Democrats need to gather round and sort this out fast; it needs something of a relaunch without it quite being a relaunch.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

A Month to Go: How Goes It?

I thought the initial General Election launch was good for Labour: straight out of the traps with policy announcements. The Tories were a bit of a mess in comparison, and then the Liberal Democrats somewhat disappeared in the national media.

Since then, Labour was slightly derailed by some of its past personnel, and the Tories continued to have accidents. The Liberal Democrats emerged with its revoke position and a few policies, such as mental health. At this point Labour had more to vote for, because it painted the broader brush. The Tories were incredulous regarding their offerings, and we'd sort of heard them before.

The press thus did its duty, putting out Tory HQ propaganda, e.g. on Labour's spending cost. I increasingly object to television 'reviewing' the press, because the press is simply biased from top to bottom. Broadcasters have a duty of balance, and the Sky Press Preview, for example, treats stories as something worth talking about when they are propaganda and misinformation.

So we had accidents and skirmishes, but the big event at the end of the beginning was The Grand Old Duke of York, Nigel Farage, deflating the tyres of his own lacklustre troops and marching them down again. In this one-man party, he decides - or rather he and President Donald Trump of the United States. He won't stand in 317 Conservative held seats, unilaterally (we are told). This has a number of interesting effects, and why the Tory press has come out with the fed message to stand down in them all.

This is a General Election to be fought constituency by constituency. Farage's intention is for Labour voters to (more likely) vote Brexit Party than Conservative, and thus undermine Labour seats. But it means the Conservatives less likely to win such seats, even if Brexit can focus more on Labour.

And then some Labour voters, who saw Brexit as an alternative party from the Conservatives, might regard Brexit as (obvious to the rest of us) a right wing party. So the resistance to vote Tory might translate to Brexit, with its Trump association and its likely impact on the United Kingdom. However, militant brexiteers won't be affected: they'll vote Brexit or Tory.

It doesn't affect the Liberal Democrats: in fact it improves their position. This is because Conservative 'soft remain' voters will realise that the party is now compatible with the Brexit Party. They are likely to take behaviour from MPs who left the Conservatives for the Liberal Democrats.

It does not follow, even with Farage's help, that the Conservatives can maintain their 317 seats. The Liberal Democrats can chip away at some of those votes, either to their own advantage or to let Labour in. This is why the Tory right and press want Farage to stand down: because the impact of his action to make Trump happy is more limited than people may think.

Liberal Democrats = unaffected, may even benefit
Labour = will be squeezed, but Brexit becomes Conservative associated. It means even more Labour should promote a broad agenda for this electorate.

The Remain Alliance is a formal version of redirecting votes prior to Farage's climbdown, but the Alliance is likely to have minimal effect I'd think, even if it does cover sixty seats. The Remain Alliance may help the Liberal Democrats if there is a Green-leaning Climate Emergency vote: Labour is making a big effort on that as part of its headlines of broader concerns.

Johnson's reputation is failing. The MPs Russia report was frozen, probably because the Tory party is funded by rich Russians, these of Russians who killed in Britain. Johnson looked a comparative mess at the Cenotaph, but of course he wasn't Michael Foot. He's had to follow, not lead, over the flooding in Yorkshire. His reputation as a political liar is growing. He actually shields Corbyn in this: and, indeed, Corbyn has never made any racist statements in his life but Johnson has. How much this matters we don't know. Many Labour voters will withhold their votes with Corbyn as leader, but a lot of that is the drip drip of the press and the nature of the more right wing Labour voter, the one that surfaced as a result of the European Union membership referendum.

Also some people think that Parliament wasn't working before - the fact that it kept holding the Government to account seems to be lost in this. It was Government that was continually crass in how it approached matters through the May and Johnson years.

Furthermore, Scotland is another country and Wales is beginning the think differently, such that Wales is more of a mystery now.

There is a month to go from today's date to polling - four weeks and two days. It must be a possibility that the Brexit Party will stand down from more seats as its vote diminishes. Its decision so far, and any further, will also sharpen the minds of the other sides, whether Labour or the clearer Remain parties. There'll be much less complacency that the other side will split its vote. It is too early to predict trends, but Labour are campaigning better than the Conservatives and could pick up support, and we still do not yet know whether the Liberal Democrats will make real inroads using its database and constituencies focus or get squeezed again as the campaign pans out. If it is a 'Brexit' General Election then the Liberal Democrats should do well, but it may be otherwise.

Wednesday 30 October 2019

So It's on the Twelfth of December

So we have a General Election, made possible by the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party joining hands and writing to Donald Tusk, outgoing President of the European Council, so that we achieved the full 'Benn Act' extension to January 31st 2020. In the end, however, their December 9th would not carry. Johnson restored ten of his own party dissidents, his majority therefore dropping from -45 to -25, although John Mann (Labour, who often voted with Johnson) was off to the House of Lords to do a Theresa May job.

Labour will use its 'neutralise' Brexit policy (of a deal involving the Single Market and Customs Union, with a second referendum with remain on the ballot paper) as a means to talk about other things. It could well drive the General Election agenda with a range of policies.

Many Labour MPs disliked the gamble: a few voted against (e.g. David Lammy, very pro-EU) but many abstained (e.g. Jess Phillips, angered and sympathetic when Luciana Berger left Labour, and my own MP Karl Turner at Hull East). 127 Labour MPs voted for an election, 11 voted against, and 106 abstained. Indeed, the huge majority in the House of Commons - 438 votes to 20 - disguises the high number of abstentions. This included the SNP (one against) and Lib Dems (all, including Luciana Berger) on the basis of the unwanted later date. The Independent Group for Change wanted no change and three out of five voted against. Some ex-Tories not restored voted to abstain (e.g. Justine Greening, unfortunately leaving politics, Ken Clarke, retiring, and Oliver Letwin).

For other policies, the Tories have a largely incredible reversal to their long austerity, and why should we trust any of its spending intentions once a General Election is done? Why, indeed, trust Johnson on anything?

This is why it is important for the Liberal Democrats to have a range of policies, as well as the simplicity of revoke: only if the swings were so enormous in seats that they won a majority. Otherwise it will be second referendum time on some deal: May's, Johnson's, Labour's with a push for remain.

Presumably the Brexit Party will show its colours with a manifesto, but it spans a wide range of supporters - yet it's a one man love-in really and like all charismatic parties depends hugely on the one person leader. He is a right-winger and a Trump associate.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have predictable trajectories for voting, but England and Wales suffers from four parties per constituency, meaning that low percentages can win outright and a small vote for one party squeezes take away another's win. In terms of the whole, it's like throwing dice in the air and seeing what happens. The system doesn't work. Most votes are wasted. The more people vote tactically, the fewer the votes wasted.

Monday 28 October 2019

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act Does Its Thing

So this follows on from the previous post.

Johnson's stock is so low that he couldn't get this bill through. The nearly identical bill turned out to demand the 12th December, whereas the 9th is said to have students still in place. With Johnson confirming the extension to the end of January, Jeremy Corbyn has run out of excuses for no deal.

We all noted the rift with Independent Group for Change, based on the hope that a second referendum will come; however Jo Swinson confirmed that the action with Ian Blackford was significant in getting an extension to January 31st, resisted by Emmanual Macron. The two wrote to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council (the bureaucrat who guides the making of decisions - this time by ambassadors, and the French nodded it through).

There could be splits in the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party, because of the time of year and the matter of the change of policy regarding the confirmatory referendum. One Lib Dem voted otherwise tonight. This is why Jo Swinson put an Early Day Motion down to support a second referendum - presumably to satisfy most of the the nineteen and to show the limited support for this referendum.

(I have never supported a second referendum, and certainly not Mike Gapes view to make it mandatory - such changes the constitution and legitimises the first referendum.)

A General Election is a gamble, but frankly so is a second referendum. We'll see what happens tomorrow. The squeeze on Labour now is a forerunner to the squeeze in the General Election.

Taking the Initiative

We didn't get counter-intuitive moves, instead we had a bit of nifty footwork by the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party. I said to my friends on Sunday 27th October that this action was to prevent Emmanuel Macron offering a smaller extension.
It also had the humiliation aspect that the opposition (or some of it) called for a General Election that the Government could not achieve. It further had the benefit of showing Labour's indecision. Anyone watching Diana Abbott on the Andrew Marr programme on Sunday must have felt their own life-force draining away, similarly a day later Jeremy Corbyn was arguing that no deal must be taken off the table before a General Election, when no deal had been taken off the table (there are tiny technicalities left of a bureaucratic nature - yes, we don't trust them at all).

To escape such humiliation, the government, if losing its own preferred vote (this is written before 5 pm Monday), would introduce an almost identical bill as the Lib Dem SNP one: again, be careful of the small print. On the basis that it is so, the Lib Dems say they would support it. The Lib Dem bill enshrines the election date in law, so that Johnson after Parliament has been dissolved cannot alter it.

It could be that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act procedure for a General Election vote leads to an alternative Government in charge, but this seems unlikely now.

The current betting in a General Election is that the Lib Dems gain, the Conservatives get a leave vote, possibly upset by the Brexit Party, The SNP does very well, and Labour is squeezed. But it is also likely that a perverse reactive mood arises, where people put Labour's six of one and half dozen of the other Brexit in the bag and vote on the basis of social, communal and economic policies. Labour might be regarded as lousy at running anything, because they can't run themselves, but the fact is that it is Johnson who made so much of October 31st and the failure is his. He must own his own failure to act.

Furthermore, many people so fed up with 'Brexit' and realising that the trade deal negotiations extend on, the nightmare might just lead to an electoral mood to give up and vote to end it all, via the Lib Dem offer.

Who knows? Add to this the randomness of four parties in First Past the Post, and no one has a clue about the outcome.

Saturday 26 October 2019

Counter-Intuitive Moves

The notion that the French can apply pressure to the British by granting a short European Union extension won't work, because it will prevent going for a General Election. The way to get a result (Dear France) is to be counter-intuitive, which is to grant a very long extension, one that can absorb a General Election in the spring and a possible second referendum also in the spring, either one coming before the other. Also a very long one means the EU can look elsewhere for other pressing issues.

Another counter-intuitive action to make movement could be for Johnson is to get Tory MPs to vote no confidence in his own government. He would assume other MPs would join in, and he gets an instant General Election.

The way out of this trick is to be observant and nifty and abstain among the opposition, even if the opposition introduce such a vote, so that the move is made to a fortnight's effort to find a new Prime Minister.

Best result = Removing Boris Johnson and a new cross-party PM to negotiate with the EU
Second best result = Boris Johnson caged in as now
Worst result = Boris Johnson left in power as Parliament is dissolved with use of monarchic powers to negotiate and enact on EU matters, breaking conventions.

Jeremy Corbyn would have first shout, but then the Prime Minister job would fall to another senior back bench Member of Parliament This is the best way to proceed, for it would remove Johnson and put in a 'grown up' to run the government. The extension could then be as long as the temporary regime needs and wants.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats must take advantage of Brexit fatigue, by pointing out that if we leave one way or another, the whole Brexit thing will go on, with a trade deal to be negotiated and another no deal cliff edge approaching. The Liberal Democrat campaign is then to be to stop Brexit completely, to end the nightmare.

A long extension may also have other results. More MPs might cross parties. Jeremy Corbyn may well resign, probably for a female left-winger. He would do this as at least in an attempt to start to prevent Labour shrinkage at the next General Election. At the moment he wants a General Election when many Labour MPs do not.

Saturday 19 October 2019

General Election Most Effective Remain Strategy

So, here we are, with the Letwin Amendment passed, 321 to 306, and people think it is some sort of victory for the remain camp. It isn't.

It was passed so that those who wanted to vote for the deal can do so without risk of crashing out with no deal. Otherwise they would have been forced to vote against the deal in a meaningful vote.

Had the meaningful vote been passed, the Benn Act would have fallen, and then the legislation defeated, by Brexiteer types and all others, leading to a no deal crash out. Given Dominic Cummings' position in this Government, this could be an intended outcome. Johnson on this was not to be trusted. (Indeed, his letters to the EU indicate that he has broken his word in the Scottish Court to send the letter of extension and do nothing to contradict this: the court assumed he was as good as his word and refused to assume otherwise. How wrong they were.)

The Government itself then pulled the meaningful vote. According to its submissions to the Scottish Court of Sessions, the Prime Minister must both write the letter requesting delay and not do anything to contradict that request for delay - it is two-pronged.

But when the Government brings back the meaningful vote, the likes of Letwin, Boles, etc. can vote for the agreement, and the mathematics suggests that the Government is likely to win.

Had the Democratic Unionist Party voted with Johnson, this would have gone through. Now, put under a bus by Johnson, they are even more likely to vote in favour of a second referendum as an amendment to legislation for the Withdrawal Bill, coming up next week. Beyond devilment for being dumped, this is because the democratic test in Northern Ireland is a simple majority in Stormont, rather than community based, and because for some Unionists it is better to remain in the EU than to have customs checks down the Irish Sea. (There is also a chance to add a Customs Union provision, but that would amount to renegotiating the agreement, which the EU does not want to do - a second referendum on the deal does not itself affect the deal.)

The fact is that those who wish to stay in the European Union are on the back foot. There aren't the votes for resistance, and may be not for a second referendum, even of the DUP added support. So the option shrinks to whether the Government wants a General Election, and it seems that is the most likely step that makes good with a delay and changes matters: the 'democratic test' that the EU needs to grant a longer extension. It is likely to happen leaving Boris Johnson in charge of the Government while Parliament dissolves.

The problem here is that four parties and First Past the Post means it's like chucking dice in the air to find out who wins. The outcome could be strange indeed.

Friday 18 October 2019

It Turns on a Sixpence: Tories Boom, Labour is Finished?

At this moment in time, Thursday evening, it looks like the Tories will win the vote and the deal with the EU will go through.

The reason why is almost all the ejected Tories, except those who changed party, will vote for the deal. The ERG right wingers, the English Nationalists for sure, will vote for the deal. But crucially many Labour MPs will vote for this deal.

The Tories and Boris Johnson in particular will romp into a General Election. He will have achieved all his key wishes. The Amber Rudd criticism about him is answered.

The whole thing is turning on a sixpence. What was going to break the Tory Party looks like it will destroy the Labour Party.

The party will be shown as split, and the Tories will exploit it mercilessly (just as they attacked their one-time coalition partners). The Labour leadership will be shown as incompetent, on top of the reappearing (in the media) anti-semitism. The 'remain' Labour MPs will find themselves homeless.

A huge argument to drive this is fatigue - to just get any deal across and move on.

People like me who wish to stay in the EU with our friends, who believe in the European project, are going to have to think fast. At the moment, the argument is on the deal side. The argument will become one of how long it takes to negotiate free trade deals, and the reality of the economic downturn, and the loss of political influence.

The political revolution as such is still coming, but it won't be the destruction of the Tory Party but of the Labour Party. And Johnson's whole project was to save the Tory Party. Like he said, The Brexit Party are Tories, and bring them back. And he might just do that as well.

Thursday 17 October 2019

The English Nationalist 'Deal' with the EU

The not yet ratified Brexit deal is a statement between the lines that only some are noticing. It is English nationalist from a right wing Conservative point of view.

It does seem that a number of Labour MPs will support it, despite the fact that changes to the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration means that Britain (and it is Britain) will be able to move from European Union product and service standards, and labour market standards. It gives every potential for a race to the bottom. It does this because it isolates Northern Ireland and frees up Great Britain for a free market economic liberal future. It means that Scotland's social contract will also be ripped up, however much devolution offers limited protection.

The consent issue was solved by moving to a simple majority vote in Northern Ireland's Assembly (after four years) for what is not a backstop but a frontstop. The calculation is that demographically, and given the view of business, a simple vote will always keep Northern Ireland aligned to the EU. But it does, as the Democratic Unionist Party says, drive a coach and horses through the identified communities consent and veto dissent mechanism currently in place in the Good Friday Agreement.

This EU withdrawal talks that Northern Ireland is in the British customs territory, but puts it in Ireland's in practical terms (that is, the EU) and the customs checks happen at the ports (the Irish Sea). The DUP have been dumped and it's goodbye to their supply votes for the Tories.

Andrew Bridgen is typical of the English Nationalist Tory, because for all his noises over the guidance of the DUP, the prize of a free market competitive Free Trade Agreement distance from the EU is too great to lose. The ERG group will likely vote individually based on their view of the UK Union or the English prize.

The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is starting to say that we would be better off in the European Union. Quite so. That keeps Northern Ireland in the UK, has an open border south, and allows the communities to move slowly one way or the other or not at all.

Let's be clear too, that Scotland won't have this, creating a competitive free for all, and Wales will have a real sense that it is being overwhelmed again by the English dog. This yet to be ratified deal is the one that breaks apart the British Union.

But the future dilemma is becoming clearer. This always was the Tories' last stand. Had the yet to be ratified deal not happened, the extension would have finished the Tories. The deal, if it happens, will probably save most (but not all) of the party - its remain dissenters will now have to shave off.

The alternative is increasingly looking like revoke. It seems to me we need a political revolution in how parties are supported and rapidly.

Some Labour MPs will deliver a reward to the Tories at the next General Election if this deal succeeds on Saturday in the House of Commons. But if it doesn't succeed, we go to a General Election knowing that the Tories must be defeated and that Labour, frankly, aren't and haven't been up to it for so very long. Labour itself is under incredible strain and policy confusion, and this deal going through (after which the European Parliament will ratify) could well shake Labour to pieces. Corbyn now is pretty much finished, from a number of different angles of ineffectiveness, not least damaged Lousie Ellman MP going independent - indicating the ongoing chronic problem with the Labour leadership.

My support for the Liberal Democrats today is stronger not weaker. If we leave then it is good to hear that the EU door will be open to the UK in future, and just maybe the needed political revolution will be a return of the social Liberal side to political power with others to get us back inside a multinational confederation that was always based on peace and economic sharing, with political institutions to match.

Sunday 13 October 2019

While Waiting...

What would the supposed deal be via the apparent negotiations? What would tackle the issue of consent and no border.

The answer that would work would be a referendum in the North of Ireland/ Northern Ireland to give permission to have a seamless border with Ireland.

However, if this was offered, it would likely head rapidly towards a deal. Is this likely? Would the Democratic Unionist Party object to such a snapshot of opinion? Probably, because it would bypass (non-functioning) institutions where they have a lock on progress, as does each ethnic community.

The trick, presumably, is a deal that is the most the DUP can allow, and the least the European Union would accept. But as the possibility goes one way, the agreement lessens each side.

In the end, it is the British who must concede the most, in that the May agreement with the EU was about as far as the EU could go to have both its Single Market and Customs Union maintained whole and have no economic border on the island of Ireland.

A collapse in the talks is still most likely, a gap that cannot be bridged. Then, of course, British politics intervenes from a different angle. A head of steam is trying to combine the legal delay application to the EU with a second referendum rather than a General Election. Labour policy has not changed, but many MPs are moving in the deal or remain vote for the public.

My own preference is against a divisive, gambling, second referendum. We have representative democracy. So we should go to a General Election, and see what comes. It is likely to be a hung Parliament again, except four English players, Scottish Nationalist dominance and more nationalism in Wales could mean huge unpredictability. I want to see Liberal Democrats campaign for revoke as the policy in Government, although they are likely to have still the opposition policy of a second referendum. MPs have decided the disaster of a no deal means it cannot go on the ballot paper, as indeed they are entitled.

A Government speaks for itself only. If subsequent others want to take its policies on, that is up to them. No Government has to agree to observe another's policy, including that 2016 referendum, and the legislation at the time made it clear.The danger is that some MPs would make a second referendum compulsory in its outcome, and thus introduce a new constitutional element. MPs can overturn any law by a new law. A new Parliament, and a new Government, means evaluating the situation yet again.

It is by no means clear that, even if its support rises, Labour will add seats. This is because of how the other three parties in England extract its critical support in each constituency. The same is true for all the parties. The Liberal Democrats may do very well, or once again find disappointment (as in 2010 when hopes were high). Tories could lose many 'remain' votes and lose 'leave' votes to the Brexit Party, as may Labour, but Johnson is a better communicator than May, even if toxic for many. The Tories could lose out in Scotland. Scotland is a different country. Nevertheless marginal and not so marginal constituencies will change MPs and it will lead to a fresh approach.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Stopping the Breaker of Conventions

The danger of a vote of no confidence made against the Government, which seems ever closer, is that the Government party will vote no confidence in itself, to achieve a two-thirds majority against itself, and run directly to a General Election after the leaving the European Union date. (Indeed a General election called from last week would happen after the EU leaving date, according to present Statute Law.) In this way, the opposition, rather than producing an interim Government to write the extension letter to the European Commission, would find itself and all MPs dissolved but leaving the Government under Johnson in place.

Whatever the opposition parties do, they need to keep in legislative place to check Johnson and his manoeuvres.

The other issue arising is the suggestion that, without a deal passed, the Government might opt to use emergency powers to thus both obey the law and leave the EU on 31st October - circumventing the Act of Parliament requiring the application for an extension on 19th October. This would surely be one for the Supreme Court - the unwarranted use of emergency powers, but an injunction granted first.

The allegations around Jennifer Arcuri - thus Johnson arrives at the Conservative Party conference with his otherwise backstage girlfriend - only support the matter that Johnson was and is unfit to be Prime Minister. The serious business is his breaking of conventions by powers given to a Prime Minister from the Monarch. That's what the unlawful proroguing was all about.

There is also political funding allegations from those who would benefit directly and financially from leaving on the 31st October. This would be present-day corruption.

Parliament must be present to check him, or a secure means found to remove him. He ought not to be there, and ought to be removed, but the issue is finding the legal means to remove him, and taking away these monarchical powers that need democratising.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Dangle the PM on a Political Piece of String

As I once discovered in a local land dispute, when a court rules the axe comes down. There are real winners and real losers.

The judgment of the Supreme Court is an axe that came down with a thud. It is reassuring too.

The The Inner House of the Scottish Court of Sessions had established the facts, so the only question (as in the English judgment) was whether the Court had any role to play at all. Once it did assert this, the result was likely to go against the Government.

Let's be clear. This is a matter about the Monarch power as held by the Prime Minister, and the Court referred to as far back as 1611 of the Court holding the King to law. Obviously, on this matter, 'The Glorious Revolution' - the removal of James II - was the definitive beginning of Constitutional Monarchy.

As I learnt from the advocacy of Aiden O'Neill, Parliament could not legislate proroguing into Statue Law (as has happened with calling a General Election) because it required the Monarch's consent to take it into a Bill for Parliament to debate and enact. The Monarch's consent means the Prime Minister's consent. Let's be clear: the Monarch is not some Constitutional guarantee, but just does as is told by the Prime Minister in Cabinet and in the person of the Prime Minister.

However, the Court rule is that the Monarch is under Law. Imagine it otherwise: not just that he could prorogue Parliament again, but that he could do anything where his powers derive from the Monarch.

So what is next. Truly, he should resign. Ordinarily, he should be forced into a General Election. But the latter dissolves Parliament, and the Government under him continues - changing the date of a General Election might be subject to a Supreme Court check but it might be a convention-breaking act that he succeeds in doing. Best then that, regarding Boris Johnson, being cornered and neutered, Parliament now does its work and makes sure the Government applies for the extension if there is no deal.

He may present a deal that Parliament rejects; Parliament then may have to reassert the necessity to apply for an extension. Did I hear that a member of the Cabinet thinks he ought to resign? Did another say he should change strategy fundamentally?

As for resignations, the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, ought to go, because he said such a prorogation was legal and the opposing view was 'political', and so should the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who acted for the Government alone rather than represented Parliament to the Government. He took the trip to Balmoral for the Constitutional method of telling the Queen to sign the Order in Council.

Boris Johnson was, and is not, fit to be a Prime Minister. His remarks in New York indicate this, as he babbles on in a diversionary fashion. He is not Napoleon. His actions come under the Law in his use of Monarchic powers. He is unfit to govern by his very comments beyond the Court's judgment - he disagrees. Who cares whether he disagrees or not?

He should be told to resign, and he should, but if he doesn't he should be hung on a piece of string until the extension is secured. Then we have a General Election. Some will want a referendum first: would he offer one with a deal he brings back? That would be clever, but he is bombastic and his 'do or die' is likely to be 'die' for his actions.

Thursday 19 September 2019

Why the Legislators Could Not Take Over Proroguing

The answer to why the legislators did not overturn proroguing first before proroguing and then take time to make sure no deal happened has been given in the submission at the Supreme Court, by Aidan O'Neill QC.

He pointed out that a power that rests with the Monarch (and therefore with the Prime Minister) can be legislated against but only after the Monarch has agreed to give up the power. This means the Prime Minister, because the Monarch only acts on advice. So Boris Johnson would have refused to give up the power, and therefore Parliament could not have legislated to bring proroguing under Statute Law.

In the case of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, the legislation was introduced by the Government and therefore the Prime Minister at the time will have 'advised' that the power was given up. Therefore the Monarch's power on that one was moved into Statute Law, and the Prime Minister lost the exclusive power (in the name of the Monarch) to call a General Election.

Perhaps the next Labour or Liberal Democrat government will bring proroguing under Statute Law and the operation of the legislature, although a difficulty here is that the ceremony is the Monarch inviting the House of Commons to the House of Lords for the proroguing ceremony to take place. It might be in legislation something for the House of Lords to do, but if it did not follow the Commons then the Commons might have the power to overrule it - according to such an Act of Parliament. Only suggesting!

Sunday 15 September 2019

Waiting and Moving - British Politics

Far be it from me to determine what the Supreme Court should think about proroguing Parliament. However, the Edinburgh Appeal Court finding was factually based, and so there are only two grounds that the Supreme Court can reverse its 'unlawful' finding: one is that the facts are wrong, and the other is the facts are right but it is political. But if the latter is the case, then what political means are there to reverse a decision that closes down the ability to resist proroguing?

We know that the monarch is not able to do anything other than what the Prime Minister demands, so the protection of conventions comes down to the courts and the law. The advice may well be to take proroguing into Statute Law, so that it cannot happen again, although the problem here is that the Monarch through the House of Lords invites the Commons to it for proroguing - how does that work if the House of Commons makes it subject to Statute Law?

While we wait the Liberal Democrats are at Conference, and its MP numbers are boosted by defections. I would suggest that one reason more ex-Tories (removed or fed up) might cross over is because they have failed to set up a (let's call it) National Conservative Party, to be a more moderate one than that which contains the European Research Group and is being misled by Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.

The situation now is equivalent of that of Robert Peel and the repeal of the Corn Laws. The Tories became the Conservative Party, and, for that matter, the Whigs became Liberals. The parties of the Monarch versus the Nobles evolved, which it was bound to do after James was removed and a different kind of monarchy was introduced - from Orange to Hanover and beyond. The parties were reforming for the new Middle Class (especially the Liberals; the Conservatives connected the landed and the workers until the Liberals radicalised somewhat). The Conservative Party today is overstretched between its pro-European socially concerned strand and its mainly English nationalist wing. Labour is still trying to manage its Social Democrat versus Socialist wings; at present Corbyn has put his ideology to one side to make a more across the parties effective opposition. But the Liberal Democrats are sniffing a pivotal role themselves, seeing a centre-radical position for electoral gain. If the four party system creates freak, random results, damaging the Tories and Labour, the Liberal Democrats may be able to get over those tipping points in constituencies and really build up the numbers. However, they have hoped before and been disappointed.

By the way, it has always made sense that the demand for a second referendum is a policy for opposition: if the Liberal Democrats ever won a General Election that is sufficient to revoke Article 50. It does not need a second vote when that is the second vote.

Saturday 7 September 2019

Johnson Found Out - Above His Abilities

Opposition MPs and parties, including those chomping at the bit for a General Election are holding off. It is the correct procedure for maximum effect.

Boris Johnson has shown that the MPs must not trust him, and the worst move now would be to pass a law to insist on seeking an extension, or having a deal, or having back the May deal via the Kinnock amendment, and then leave it in Johnson's and Cummings' hands to do as they wish.

Proroguing Parliament as Johnson has forced was for a long time regarding scrutiny but a short time regarding extra waiting for a General Election.

(It shows that proroguing ought to come under Statute Law and not Monarchic power as has happened with calling a General Election.)

The upshot is that Johnson has prorogued against himself. Unable to pass laws by his own actions, the date will approach in which he must ask for an extension to stay in the European Union, and enact it, or have a deal ready.

My guess is that he will never have proposals acceptable to the European Union regarding replacing the backstop, and that, as a last ditch measure, he will table the Theresa May deal off the shelf. It may even approach a majority to get it through. The Kinnock amendment means that Parliament must discuss it as according to concessions offered by the government after the Labour and Conservative talks.

(Originally, the government failed to provide tellers so that there would be no measure of the number of Labour MPs voting for the Kinnock amendment that would then be a competitor to the government's approach of going for a deal, or no deal, without the backstop. The price of this was the amendment succeeding by failing to provide the tellers. But it may be that the government uses this in having a deal, any deal, to remove us from the European Union.)

BUT this project has been all about protecting the Conservative Party from the hard-right Europhobic wing, and May's deal will betray that wing and can only get through with Labour votes. Labour of course won't support it, and this time will want a General Election. The same will be so for the Liberal Democrats, Greens, Plaid Cymru and the all-important Scottish National Party.

Labour must wait, because at the moment Labour is weak, but waiting until beyond the end of October weakens the Conservatives more, because of its internal betrayal and a recovery then in the Brexit Party. The weakness of the Conservatives will also help the SNP be sure they pick off the Tory MPs in Scotland.

So until then it is vital to keep Johnson weak. The Cabinet will soon become frustrated.

If he does go for a General Election by votes, until he prorogues Parliament, if it looks to be successful then make sure it is successful by less than two thirds so that an emergency government can take the reins and actually deliver the delay request ahead of the General Election.

Something else. It was often said - and virtually by Johnson himself before Theresa May was selected to be Prime Minister - that the office of Prime Minister was above Johnson's abilities. This looks to be the case. He does not command detail - at least Theresa May understood her brief - and he just blusters and makes it up as he goes along. He has been found out. The notion that he had the charisma to communicate - and he had a good run prior to scrutiny - has fallen flat, just as his ability in the job has been shown to be inadequate. The Cabinet will surely now overcome the 'reign of terror', which was only to cover up for Johnson's inabilities by Dominic Cummings driving the ship, and so it won't be long before Johnson is gone. He may even realise it himself and go, to be replaced by a caretaker government, to secure the extension and then go to the country.

I would not be surprised if he then changes his used name back to Alexander.

Thursday 5 September 2019

Prorogue Him from Calling an Election

Boris Johnson likes playing games, but it would be a laugh a minute if proroguing Parliament denied him the opportunity to call a General Election, given the fortunate situation that calling an election is now under Statute Law. This is what needs to happen with proroguing too, indeed any monarchy based law.

Closing Parliament is serious when it needs to scrutinise the exit goings on of the Government, although we realise there are no proposals going to the European Union. At the same time, it is not a long period to wait before having a General Election.

The only other way to do it would be via a temporary government on the fortnight basis of choosing a person who could command the House of Commons - but this is frustrated by the proroguing, unless, of course, someone is ready to receive a vote of confidence to then kick out Johnson. Trouble is, on such a vote of no confidence to kick off the process, Johnson could instruct his own MPs to vote no confidence in his own government - to go straight to a General Election leaving him in charge and able to change the date of a General Election - breaking another convention.

He cannot be left in charge when Parliament is unable to sit. This is what would happen, in that we don't always have Parliament but we always have a Government. Thus he should be denied a General Election while Parliament is prorogued - hard luck mate. It's your bed so lie on it, as you lie about much else.

Sunday 1 September 2019

Conventions and Removal

The idea that proroguing Parliament is 'normal' as this government has done it is simply not credulous. It is an anti-democratic move, and it should be no surprise that the government is also considering not handing legislation passed by Parliament to the Monarch to sign into law.

This all blows the notion that somehow the Monarch is a protector of the unwritten constitution into the wind. The Monarch only ever does what the Prime Minister says, and this inheritance gives a Prime Minister enormous power. What usually stops a Prime Minister from abuse of power is convention.

There are two identified types of convention. One is ordinary and the other is embedded. The difference, Professor Vernon Bogdanor has told us, has never been defined. Nevertheless, proroguing Parliament in this devious manner is a convention, and likely to be regarded as politically unacceptable but legal. For a government to fail to send legislation to be signed by the monarch would flout an embedded convention, and the Supreme Court would stop it.

In any case, should the Fixed-term Parliaments Act run out of time in terms of having an emergency government (say headed by Harriet Harman or Yvette Cooper) because of proroguing, and/ or Johnson in power, then Johnson may call a General Election for after October 31st.

In this case there are two options. One is that noting the voting the European Union unilaterally extends Article 50 and then, to keep trade and people flowing, a new government legislates retrospectively. Alternatively a new government uses Article 49 and legislates retrospectively.

Being anti-democratic in a democracy run by conventions is a dangerous move. I think this is enough to have its perpetrator dismissed from office by anyone of liberal democratic sympathy.

Friday 30 August 2019

Why Parliament Should Act on Proroguing

People make the mistake that the Monarch has some sort of independence, or can act as a last stage defence against fascism (etc.). The monarch cannot, and only acts on government advice. In other words, it is a power given to the executive.

The answer is to do as with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. Instead of passing legislation to extend the date to avoid a no deal exit from the European Union, pass an Act of Parliament to turn proroguing Parliament into Statute Law. Then Parliament - specifically the House of Commons to do this - can enact the law in the specific case to keep parliament open. That done, there becomes ample time to extend Article 50, via another law passed.

It is said that Johnson won't present such an Act of Parliament to the Queen, and of course the Queen does as the Prime Minister says. This would then go to law, and the precedent is already set that breaking an 'embedded convention' is illegal, whereas breaking a simple convention is legal. Johnson has probably broken a convention by proroguing Parliament for such a long time, but not to deliver an Act of Parliament to the Monarch would be to frustrate democracy itself and would break an embedded convention. The Supreme Court would therefore force the government to act on pain of legal penalties.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

The Monarchy (Powers) and UK in Peril

MPs in opposition went for the soft option, the one that was most practical of course, to prevent a no deal. They may still do this, but it would need instant action. There is not a formal process to stop a proroguing of Parliament, because it is a monarchic power held by a current Prime Minister via the Privy Council.

This is the reason why, just as with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, this monarchic power will have to be changed to Statute law. The reason is simple: to prorogue (instead of suspend for party conferences - there is a difference because in suspension debating stops but committees and questioning of ministers can continue) and for such a long period before a Queen's Speech is a declaration of war on the totality of the Constitution.

My argument was, and still is, that power had to be taken from Boris Johnson, and now he has played a card that shows precisely why control must be taken from him.

This act of his could well destroy the Union and even the monarchy itself. Scotland won't have it, the North of Ireland/ Northern Ireland won't have it, and sufficient Conservative MPs realise the significance and danger of this. We have Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservatives Party Leader, considering her position in Scotland and this is a huge development. This means Scottish Tory MPs, of course, as well as MSPs in Scotland.

The argument that this is 'normal' is, of course, bogus. There is nothing normal in this. This is an attack on parliamentary democracy. Philip Hammond MP, the former Chancellor, said that Tories agreeing with him were prepared to wait for Angela Merkel's thirty days to propose anything, but now they cannot thanks to this proroguing of Parliament that he calls profoundly undemocratic. And this is the point: this action of a 'tinpot dictator' makes the compromises going about less and less available.

The opposition had a good meeting the previous day and this has now to be built upon. We need the independents and Change UK among them to get on board. They need Jo Swinson in particular to persuade them on this. They might still have time to change legislation, but the government may simply break the law and force legal action afterwards when it is too late. One legislative route is a Humble Address, passed by both Houses of Parliament, that asks the Monarch to reverse the proroguing decision.

We need to get established - and it is not - that a referendum does not trump Parliament. Sovereignty lies in Parliament, and the Act that allowed the referendum made it clear that it was advisory. The monarch's powers in a Prime Minister after all this passes must be curtailed, and this action of this Prime Minister must be stopped or the Union of the United Kingdom has had it.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Legislative Route after a 'Free Run'

Opposition parties (could have had one individual Conservative, unable to attend) have agreed the legislative route to oppose a no deal exit from the European Union.

This is a limited strategy, unfortunately, and has the disadvantage that it leaves the government and decision taking in the hands of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

There is a logic to this, because it is a first move, and one that must show success. The difficulty that the opposition parties face is that Johnson has 'hit the ground running' and had a 'free run', able to oush with a strategy which, until about a week ago, looked like a reckless run in no deal one direction, to then and now look more like a strategy to get a deal.

The free run is over, very soon, but also we know that Johnson's 'thirty days to propose something' from Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, to replace the backstop and preserve open human and trade movement in Ireland, is likely to produce nothing at all. He has been on maximum bluster on this one, in that there is nothing to propose what the backstop was able to give. We should see his 'positive conversation' today with Jean-Claude Juncker in this light, Johnson doing some ducking and weaving to try and take back the initiative from the opposition and keep the attachment of likely wavering Tory MPs.

The problem with the legislative route is what it is for, and whether anything beyond a purposeless extension is on offer. The action of taking power is quite different, because it is a demonstrable change of direction. It is also its own guarantee. It is also temporary, towards a General Election.

It's rather like Jo Swinson's rejection of Jeremy Corbyn as caretaker Prime Minister. It didn't matter what her own view was on this, but that the numbers for that were impossible. Now, after Johnson's relatively good 'free run', Tory MPs are less likely to come over, beyond those who know Johnson all too well and are unimpressed by him (to say the least). But party loyalty is likely to kick in at this stage, and the practicality is to go for the legislative route.

We also have the problem that many opposition MPs are wedded to their own gamble of a second referendum rather than Parliament taking the necessary decisions including a General Election.

The Johnson gamble itself is the early General Election, that producing a caretaker government is rejected as he, in effect, votes no confidence in his own government - the two-thirds vote achieved that then goes directly to a General Election. He would want a majority, just as Theresa May did, and he thinks he is a better campaigner than she ever was.

He cannot chose to be Prime Minister after the fortnight between a vote of no confidence and the vote of confidence stipulated in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. He does stay on if no one else comes forward. This is where a Ken Clarke, Harriet Harman or Yvette Cooper (etc.) can become caretaker leader in the following vote of confidence, she or he then going to the Palace. The monarch is not involved other that to receive such a person, selected probably by some indicative vote or even a formal signed letter by MPs.

It is the act of receiving a vote of confidence that it removes Johnson. I suspect after Johnson's free run that success in this needs further tension, a sense of crisis and wheels coming off his wagon that will lead towards a vote of no confidence. At present then the Johnson vehicle can stay on course, but with others getting a legislative hand on the steering wheel, while his and his special advisor's grip on the wheel and all pedals remains the stronger.

Saturday 17 August 2019

What Happens Afterwards?

If the UK crashes out of the European Union without a deal, the Liberal Democrats and a Remain Alliance can still function if they won government. Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty sets European Law for a State joining. It needs unanimity in the Council of Ministers (heads of government), consultation with the Commission (its civil service and initiator of legislation and guide of regulations) and a majority vote of the European Parliament. The UK House of Commons would pass retrospective legislation that we did not leave. Fast action can minimise economic disruption.

A General Election would be fast because of economic chaos coming, and even if the opposition parties could not agree an interim Prime Minister, they are likely to vote down the Budget even if the Tories remained in power.

Suppose we get an emergency fortnight plus government, and it delays Article 50? I think it would also take the leave date out of leaving legislation and vote money to the EU. What is likely then?

The Conservative and Johnson would go to the country humiliated and having failed. They'd be picked off in a critical number in each constituency by the Brexit Party.

A situation will have existed where Corbyn failed to become interim Prime Minister and someone else did instead: let's say Yvette Cooper.

In order for many Labour MPs to vote her in, some will have defected as a result of not wanting Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister and/ or being annoyed at his apparent selfish tactics, putting at risk getting a delay. Many would go independent, some join Change UK (as renamed) and some the Liberal Democrats.

Many Tories on the remain side will have broken with Johnson's actions and defected themselves, most I'd think straight to the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems will have to have worked on a Remain Alliance.

So Labour will go into the General Election is a distressed and confused position. The Conservative Party will be disintegrating. The Brexit Party might win some seats, but find breaking through difficult, and the Tories versus them will create a losers' result.

So there might be a very strong clear Remain Alliance, if it is handled well, and - surely - if it wins it is enough to declare this as good as winning a second referendum and then revoke Article 50 straight away.

Those who want to leave will have to achieve power through the ballot box and make their claim. There is no doubt that many will be uneasy with politics, but they are now. The damage was done by using Direct Democracy in 2016 when it does not work in the British Constitution - because we have MPs paid to discern and decide, who consider minorities and changes of view, even though they are guided by manifestos.

The Process of Deciding

On Politics Home, Caroline Lucas MP lays out the process I suggested in the previous blog entry. I myself question the need for a second referendum: Parliament is sufficient for taking decisions. For example, if the Liberal Democrats with the Remain Alliance won the General Election, then this is enough to revoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

She added: "I would back a vote of no-confidence if Jeremy Corbyn calls it, but what I ask him to do is to guarantee that if he fails to win the confidence of the House, even for a time-limited temporary Government, that he would commit to supporting an MP who can do that, then deliver the crucial letter to the EU asking for an extension of Article 50, then a People's Vote.
 So, again: MPs have a vote of no confidence. This is successful. MPs then vote indicatively on a new Prime Minister, beginning with Jeremy Corbyn. He loses this vote. Then MPs vote on Ken Clarke. He might win. Perhaps Labour would whip against him. But what about Harriet Harman or Yvette Cooper? Would Labour whip against either of them? So we get a temporary Prime Minister and Executive that can introduce legislation and make decisions: thus the same majority as selected, say, Harriet Harman votes through an EU extension and an end to having a leave date in UK legislation. They also may have to vote through money to the EU as a result of extending. Then Jeremy Corbyn, still Labour leader, as will Jo Swinson, Boris Johnson and Ian Blackford, can present manifestos and UK wide leaders can compete to be Prime Minister on a full programme of legislation.

Harriet Harman, say, would choose a Cabinet perhaps devoid of all party leaders, but capable people to run government for a short period. This would be the Executive during a General Election. We might often not have a Parliament, but we always have a Government.

Of course, Jo Swinson may have helped engineer a Remain Alliance, and if it was to win power it should revoke Article 50 altogether. It does not need a referendum if a General Election is won.

This is where I disagree with Caroline Lucas: we should not elevate snapshots of public opinion into anything beyond that: referenda are not part of the British Constitution and we should not make them so. Parliament exists to consider, think, act, taking into account minorities and changes of views.

If then people still want to leave the EU, they can vote for a party to do it. It might be the Brexit Party, if the Conservatives have disintegrated.

Friday 16 August 2019

London, We Have a Problem

So now the parties are talking about an interim, emergency regime. It is not a unity government, because it is taking power from a leaving the EU side 'do or die' and replacing it with at least an extension in before a General Election.

So Jeremy Corbyn says he wants to lead it, and Jo Swinson says he does not carry sufficient authority - not among Tories needed to bring down the Johnson regime (to counter Labour ones who would, remarkably, prop him up), not among independents, not among her own party, of whom the odd number said bye to Corbyn and his leadership, and not among many Labour MPs either. Pivotal Dominic Grieve has said 'no' to Corbyn. Although Jo Swinson is here leader of the Liberal Democrats, she is also speaking for a wider group of MPs.

There is an obvious danger here, that Johnson is left in position, the opposition cannot agree, and a no deal exit happens anyway.

So, how to do it...

First, have the vote of no confidence, because that sets the marker.
Second, let Jeremy Corbyn put himself forward as interim leader. This fails.
Third, then let's have someone like Ken Clarke, and force Labour to vote against.
If too many do, then try Harriet Harman or perhaps Yvette Cooper or Hilary Benn.

For then it would be Jeremy Corbyn telling his troops, not anyone else being obstructive, to vote against such people. But it may be the point at which his MPs ignore him, and when all sorts of Conservatives and others come on board.

Such a person, different from Jeremy Corbyn, would have to win a vote of confidence two weeks after the vote of no confidence. It may well be that such a person needs to go to the Queen first; therefore, it would need a procedure of most MPs recording their support for such a person ahead of a vote of confidence, perhaps in a signed letter. The monarch is not passive, but nor is she doing the choosing and calling: on that, she would call party leaders - and this is the basis of Corbyn's action. But it is not the only basis on which a government can be formed.

But, to repeat, if Corbyn is not acceptable, it then becomes up to Corbyn to show his true colours by attempting to whip MPs to vote against someone who is acceptable, even from within his own ranks, or instead to let such a person govern as he plans his coming General Election campaign.

We can get such a different person in power, to control the executive. The person does the delay, takes the date out of the withdrawal Act altogether, and as the Government authorises extra budget contributions to the European Union.

Thursday 15 August 2019

Good Idea Wrong Person

So now we have a proposal for an emergency Government to stop no deal using the process of the Fixed-term Parliament Act. It has come from Jeremy Corbyn, and it is to make Jeremy Corbyn as the temporary Prime Minister.

Tony Lloyd, speaking on BBC Newsnight, said it's not about personalities. Well, if it is not, Jeremy Corbyn can wait.

Jeremy Corbyn heads a political party that has its own electoral programme for office. His programme seems to include, though no one is very sure any more, a plan to negotiate a Labour deal to leave the European Union and/ or to have a second referendum. He seems to want the latter in his proposal, if in power after a General Election.

Jeremy Corbyn does not command the widespread confidence of the House of Commons. If it is not about personalities, then we need a temporary Prime Minister who is someone else, for example a respected member of the Labour Party, or one or two Conservatives (Clarke, Letwin) there to do one job, and not necessarily to introduce a second referendum either. The task is to delay by rock solid legislation a no deal exit - take the date out of existing legislation.

I have written on blog entries here for months about using the Fixed-term Parliaments Act provision as the sound way to stop Johnson, and indeed remove him from power.

The people in government for the temporary period would come from the people active in trying to prevent no deal to date. There would only need to be a basic Cabinet for the duration: the short time would mean the Civil Service running a number of departments as if in a General Election period - which would follow.

We have the madness now of plans in a no deal exit to load large lorries full of medicines on to huge aircraft to come from Europe to the UK; we also have from this crackers government a scheme to put anti-knife crime messages on the side of chicken shop packets - reflecting an ethnic stereotype that says all one needs to know about this lot in charge at the moment.

 We have this notion, still heard from a few deal-wanting Tory MPs, that Johnson is loading up the gun pointed at our own heads as a way of bringing the European Union to heal. Well, Angela Merkel made that clear today - the agreement was made between the EU and the British Government and that is the basis forward. Even after a no deal exit, any trade agreement with the EU would have to include the Withdrawal Agreement with its insurance policy for the north of Ireland/ Northern Ireland. This government is stupid, gambling again (as Cameron did in holding the referendum) with this country to save the Tory Party. It is playing fire with Scotland and Northern Ireland in particular and seems not to care less about all the UK tensions exposed by the government's stance.

It is very pleasing that Sarah Wollaston has joined the Liberal Democrats, and this is earlier than I expected. It must be clear to her as it is to more MPs that we base assessing the Johnson government by what it does and not on what it says, and it is on this basis that it must be stopped. And for this we need a temporary government and a temporary Prime Minister: not Jeremy Corbyn, not Jo Swinson either. They have programmes for government.

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Stopping Boris Johnson

There are two forces lined up against Prime Minister Boris Johnson. One is those who won't accept no deal and those who think we should remain. The fact is that the latter to some extent rely on the force of the former. The more Johnson pushes towards a no deal and does nothing to meet the European Union for a deal, the more the two opposing forces come together.

On Facebook, Boris Johnson has referred to a “terrible kind of collaboration” between people who think they can block Brexit in Parliament and the EU. This, yet again, castigates the EU as an 'enemy' and groups those once in government against himself.

The European Union is not an enemy and not another side. This is where the whole language has gone wrong, into the language of hostility, and we should not buy into it.

It is the British Government that intends to leave, and the British Government who therefore should go to the EU with a proposal. It has not done this, and thus leaves little doubt - by its inactions - that no deal is effective policy. It is an act of self-harm to be enacted by a government.

Meanwhile, the Speaker John Bercow has his concern over proroguing Parliament. It must be able to 'parle' and act with effect.

To achieve the first group's objection a delay is necessary for negotiating. This means nothing less than introducing legislation and changing the law - to asking for a delay, to removing the leave date from existing legislation, and (possibly) to have revoke as an action if there is no delay. The latter gets us to the second group, people like me, remainers full.

The reason Johnson opposes this is because he thinks leaving the EU is the last chance for the survival of the Conservative Party. The party is already split, so it seems rather a pointless road, but he fears that it will become demolished if this act of national self-harm does not take place. Those Tories who oppose this act of self-harm put the country above party.

People like Amber Rudd and Nicky Morgan used to have such a view, but they accepted Johnson's shilling and are now part of the government madness towards self-harm and have shown their lack of personal consistency at best and likely lack of integrity. But others haven't gone along with the charade, and understand Johnson for who he is, and there are about twenty of them to add to the others already opposing him.

These Tories with a limited objective are being lumped with the others, but it's the others (the actual remainers) I think who probably now have to change party. To this extent Johnson is right: the Tory Party will be toxic upon failure to deliver 'do or die'. (It is the UK that will 'die' - die economically and die into its various nations split apart.) Those who think that continued membership of the EU offers us the 'best deal' available, really now put themselves outside of the Tory fold; and why would they stand under accusation of such tribal disloyalty and stay with such a toxic brand?

Nevertheless, the Johnson government direction offers no choice, but than using all tactics and means to oppose him in Parliament. I maintain that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act alters the statute means to challenge the legitimacy of government, to form an Executive to 'dominate' the House of Commons by which legislation is introduced. It means the members delivering a no confidence vote forming the Executive and it put into action limited delay legislation as above and removing Johnson from the ability to delay a General Election until after the leaving date. This is what must be stopped. There may be other ways to do it, but I would not leave him in charge.

Friday 9 August 2019

Tory Dissidents Must Change Party

At the same time as Kirsty Wark was failing to listen to what Vince Cable was actually saying about an emergency Executive - she wouldn't get off the tramlines of how no confidence votes used to work - Michael Portillo was fronting his slightly out of date Channel 5 documentary on the Tory Party's demise.

A lot of his two-parter trod over known events, but the emphasis was that if the Tory Party does not get 'Brexit' done then it is toast. Once again, this whole thing is about the Tory Party and the British electorate are subjected to its continuing machinations over time.

Nevertheless, there was enough in the programme to demonstrate that the Tory Party became ever more Eurosceptic, and that it is now reaching a crunch point in how the European Union and the Conservative Party cannot get on.

If the Conservative Party 'rebels' stop Johnson, via various means, including a vote of no confidence under the law of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, the Conservative brand at a General Election beyond an emergency Executive/ Fortnight plus Executive will be toxic. The Tory Party will have failed.

The fact is that the Johnson line is now set. They won't make proposals to Brussels and so there won't be any deal. The survival of the Tory Party, even if it wrecks the country, is based on getting out on the 31st October. This is Johnson's agenda - the survival of the Tory Party, do or die.

Those Conservatives who think about the British economic (and political) future instead will have to walk away from the toxic brand. I would expect a few MPs to cross the floor of the House in September, perhaps demonstrated during the political party conferences, but if most do their dissenting from the Conservative benches then they will go to a General Election under a toxic brand of the political party that has failed.

So, really, they ought to consider their stance on Europe and realise that it is better handled from a different political base. It could be as Independent Conservatives, or the Independent Group for Change, or indeed the Liberal Democrats. It won't be possible, in the future, to be pro-European and stand as a Conservative, but even if it is possible it would not be a brand to stand under. This coming to a dramatic climax in British political life is likely to finally break the Conservative Party.