Monday, 28 October 2019

"I have a plan, Sir"

The Lib Dems are considering giving their support to an attempt to by-pass the Fixed Term Parliaments Act to give Boris Johnson an election:
Boris Johnson has been offered a route to securing the pre-Christmas election that he has been seeking, through a plan that would only require the support of a simple majority of MPs.

With most Labour MPs still against the idea of a snap election, the prime minister looks set to lose his bid to secure a December poll on Monday in a vote that requires the backing of two-thirds of MPs. Other parties are also opposing an election until the EU has granted a three-month Brexit delay, although the DUP hinted on Saturday it could back the move.

However, in a sign that the coalition opposed to an election is under strain, the Liberal Democrats have drawn up a plan allowing Johnson to secure a December poll with a simple majority of MPs, with the support of Jo Swinson’s party and the SNP.
Typical short-sighted tactics by the Lib Dems, undermining the one good thing to come out of the Coalition. Undermining parliament's control over its own destiny.

This ploy could be used by government to bypass the FTPA and have an election at their convenience. If the Lib Dems do it now, they have legitimised it and any future PM will be able to use the same mechanism. The moral injunction against anyone doing it evaporates as soon as it is done. So they shouldn't do it, in case a some point in the future they want to be able to tell other people not to do it.

I want an election but I want it done properly and in accordance with the law, not through some wily subterfuge that will later on become a tool for cynical PMs.

Labour, meanwhile are calling on Johnson ruling out No Deal. I'm interested in seeing what Labour mean when they are calling for No Deal to be ruled out. That's consistent with what they have always wanted so it makes sense. I'm not sure how they expect it to work - unless it is based on a promise from Johnson, which isn't worth much - but I accept they *MAY* be smarter than me and know what they are about.

I wouldn't give them too long to sort it out though.

Surely the Lib Dems would be interested in preventing No Deal?

There is an alternative.  It proceeds on the assumption we get a lengthy extension, which the EU seems to be about to announce. The main aims (as I see it) at this stage are: remove No Deal from the table as a 'default' option; secure a second referendum; secure a second election; humiliate Johnson to ensure maximum chance of doing well in that election.

The proposed route where the FTPA is by-passed is not satisfactory. It sets an unpleasant precedent that could be abused later on. Also, it gives Jonson control. He's not going to rule out No Deal, it won't get a second referendum, he's going to set the terms of an election and he's going to come out of it enhanced, not humiliated. So a big old fail there.

If I was Seamus Milne, this is what I might be planning:
  1. Demand the PM puts forward a bill (or something) pledging that No Deal is not an option. Argue it has to come from Johnson so he is honour bound to stick with it if he wins the up-coming election. Johnson, of course, refuses.

  2. Spring a VONC in the government when Johnson refuses to rule out No Deal. If Johnson survives, so be it. At least they tried. If the motion succeeds, Johnson's government falls. He is humiliated and loses control of the schedule.

  3. Try to set up a GNU, led by Corbyn. Dare the Lib Dems and pro-remain indies to vote against it. If they do, then Labour can campaign arguing their true colours were exposed and their commitment to the EU was found wanting; if setting up the GNU succeeds, then they have a short window to pass legislation ruling out No Deal, setting up a second referendum and having the election at the time of their choosing. They might even have time to grab an 'off the shelf' Norway style deal from the EU.

  4. If a Corbyn GNU can not work, throw the party's weight behind another candidate. The important thing is to be seen to be genuinely trying. If that doesn't work, an election follows.

  5. In the election, campaign like fiends, pointing out that Corbyn was PM for a month and the sky did not fall, or that he gallantly set aside his own ambitions to enable a GNU, or that he tried his utmost but the Tories, Lib Dems and supposedly pro-Remain indies frustrated his efforts.
Steps 3 and 4 are the crucial ones - if the push came to shove, would the Lib Dems and pro-Remain Indies actually support a Corbyn led GNU? Would Corbyn be able to rally his own party to support another figure?

You have to wonder about a party where the leader muttered something about supporting Johnson's deal (with the proviso of a second referendum) and which now is contemplating supporting his efforts to undermine a law the Lib Dems insisted on being passed in the coalition years.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

A wee rugby interlude

I struggle to maintain interest in rugby these days, and this will probably get me expelled from New Zeal, but I am enjoying this rugby semi and find myself instinctively supporting Englerland.

Why?

  1. They're the underdogs. That makes them almost Scottish.
  2. They're British, and I guess that counts for something.
  3. They're playing proper, Northern hemisphere driving, forwards based rugby, with none of this silly fancy-boy back stuff.
  4. They don't have twenty people called Barrett in the team.
  5. The English team all look like squat trolls, which is endearing. Proper rugby stock.
  6. The All Blacks all have silly moustaches and even some mullets.
  7. The English team doesn't have Will Carling, Rob Andrew or the Underwoods in it. Which makes it possible to like them.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Lib Dem's anti-Corbyn poster

The Lib dems have unleashed this:


Playing on the same themes that the Conservatives have been using against Corbyn - that he's naive, possibly a bit ideologically suspect ("Comrade?") and hinting at supposed disloyalty.

I don't think it is 'offensive' as some are claiming; but I do think it is shit and every time I think mebbe we've been a bit too hard on the Lib Dems they pull some stunt like this - and then I think, "Too Hell wi' them."

I see the Lib Dems are back to their Revoke fantasy politics (they only need about 310 more seats to do it!); but in the real world, do they really expect sane politicians to leave No Deal roving about as an option in this mess? Any referendum has to be between Remain and a Brexit deal of some sort. Preferably Soft Brexit, but anything will do right now.

It's also effin' hypocritical of the party that literally put the Conservatives into Downing Street (2010-2015 coalition) and facilitated austerity and class war obscenities like the 'Bedroom tax' to be making a poster themed on Labour working with the Tories.

I'm not sure the Lib Dems - whose current leader was actually a part of the coalition government - really want to get into a dirty fight with Labour about who enables Conservative misrule.

Just sayin'.

Monday, 21 October 2019

What the actual Hell?

Keir Starmer has hinted that Labour might vote in favour of the Johnson government's shoddy deal, with the proviso that a second referendum is attached:
Speaking to BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, he said: “We will see what that looks like but it makes sense to say that by whatever means we get that referendum. 
The spirit of this is clear. We offered this to Theresa May. We said: we don’t think your deal is very good but if it’s up against the safeguard of being able to remain then we will allow it to proceed in that way.” 
He added: “The position we have adopted is whatever the outcome, whether it’s Boris Johnson’s bad deal or a better one which could be secured, it has got to go to a referendum up against remain.”
Backing a referendum amendment is common sense.  Backing the whole bill is stupid.

It was stupid when Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson was talking about it and it is stupid now when Starmer is talking about it. Even if it is just a ploy, a bait-and-switch, it will encourage rebels - "You were considering backing it, so you can't blame us for just taking it a step further."

And after all the rhetoric about the deal in the last few days either Labour look like liars if they are now willing to back a deal they'd described as so awful, or they look untrustworthy and cynical for saying it was so bad and then voting for it.

Of course, a referendum might result in Remain winning, and the whole sorry episode being brought to a close starting over again. But that's not a risk I am comfortable taking. I'd rather have Remain run off against Soft Brexit because - guess what - everyone was confident the British public would more likely than not reject Brexit back in 2016. They didn't.

Also, Labour voting for the deal makes it harder for them to then campaign against it. "You're tellig us to stay in the EU, Jeremy? But you voted for the deal."

Vote for the amendment and vote against the deal.

The only acceptable explanation to me is they are waiting for the EU to grant an extension, before coming out against the bill.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Remainers starting to sound like fascists

As Brexit comes to a grisly conclusion (perhaps) people on all sides are saying intemperate and uwise things.  Some, like the Daly Mail, have been doing it for years.

People as normally level headed as Jon Lansman are calling for automatic deselection of MPs who vote against a (likely) Labour three line whip for Saturday's vote on Johnson's crappy deal.

Others have called for automatic withdrawal of the whip for rebel MPs.

I can understand that people feel very passionately about this.  It's easy to preach moderation from the comparative safety of New Zealand.  But this extremism is worrying.

Crying out for automatic expulsion is Draconian. It's the sort of behaviour people have condemned 'Corbynisas' for in the past - all that talk of deselection, trigger ballots and crushing of internal dissent. Now - because this is an issue that tickles their fancy - these people are adopting the same language and tactics allegedly used by 'Corbynistas'.

Defying a three line whip has never lead to automatic expulsion, as far as I'm aware. It should lead to some sort of sanction, but that is at the behest of the Chief Whip - a set up that is deliberate, intended to prevent party leaders using direct threats against MPs to intimidate them.

Back in 2003, 121 Labour MPs (including a certain Jeremy Corbyn) defied a three line whip over Iraq and were not expelled. I think we'd agree Iraq was at least as serious as Brexit. Can no-one see how a reaction like automatic expulsion for defying a 3 liner sets a very dangerous precedent for the future?

Also, by adopting tactics similar to what self-described 'moderates' claim 'Corbynistas' are using in CLPs they're legitimising the 'Corbynista' tactics as well. The ends justify the means. Whatever these alleged 'Corbynistas' believe in, they doubtless believe in it just as strongly as the alleged 'moderates' believe in Remain.

Or, as another chap once wrote:
Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
The moderates are starting to sound like what they claim to hate, advocating crushing opposition to their vision by any means. It is disappointing how everyone seems willing to embrace dangerous precedents and endorse behaviour they would condemn in other circumstances; and how quickly they start to sound like a fascist if they are provoked just a bit.

We all like to think of ourselves as wise, rational, level headed, moderate lovely people but turn into swivel-eyed monsters demanding purges and punishments when we're scratched. Mike Tyson said, everyone's gotta plan until they get punched on the nose." You could say the same about calm rational moderation. We've all got it, until we realise it isn't going to get us what we want.

It is dangerous to start using the language and tactics of your enemy - it has a way of sticking, and after your enemy is defeated, you discover they've actually won, because you've become like them.

Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Labour MPs supporting Johnson's turd-sandwich deal?

I find this unbelievable:
I've compiled a list of possible reasons why Labour MPs might consider voting for a dire, incoherent Conservative vision of Hard Brexit:
  1. Because they actually believe in this Brexit thing, which is terrifying.

  2. Because some of them accept the referendum result and want to see Brexit achieved, in some for or another.

  3. Because some of them represent Remain constituencies.

  4. Because they want this poisonous, divisive issue finished so they can get on with politics as normal.

  5. Because they are idiots.

  6. Because they are idiots.

  7. Because they are actually alien replicants in the style of invasion of the Body Snatchers.

  8. Because they would do anything - even endorse a Conservative uber-crappy Hard Brexit deal - if it meant sidelining Jeremy Corbyn.

  9. Because they are idiots.
I think that covers it.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Swinson's swithering

Jo Swinson is doing even worse at this Being Sensible lark that I'd thought.  I've just become aware of the following utterance

Right at the end - after many attempts to avoid answering the question - she finally says, "I will vote in favour of a bill to put the deal to the public."

So she'll vote in favour of a crappy Conservative hard Brexit deal, with the inherent risk of No Deal following if the deal is rejected by parliament or the electorate; but not in favour of a Corbyn lead GNU to seek an extension and pass referendum legislation with the possible end result of a better deal or Britain staying in the EU.

And we're to believe her refusal to offer support to a Corbyn led GNU was about anything other than tactical, anti-Labour maneuvering?

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Swinson backing calls for a second referendum (again)

After a brief dalliance with 'hard Revoke' it looks like the Lib Dems are changing ground on on Brexit, with leader Jo Swinson reverting to calling for a second referendum on Johnson's deal.
The party has tabled an amendment to the Queen’s speech requesting that any deal brought back from Brussels by the prime minister is put to another public vote. 
The Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, said: “The Liberal Democrats are the strongest party of remain and have been the leading voice in the People’s Vote campaign. 
“Boris Johnson is determined to have a general election, but the best way to resolve the Brexit chaos is to have a people’s vote and give the British people the final say about their future. 
“The best deal we have is as members of the European Union and we want to give the people the chance to choose to stop Brexit.”
This seems foolish as it overlooks obvious dangers - the likelihood of a Brexit winning in a Deal v Remain referendum. That's why we need the best deal possible (i.e. the least Brexity Brexit) to run off against Remain. So if Remain loses, it isn't too awful.

And - even more ominous - there is the risk of getting No Deal on the ballot in any referendum set up by a Conservative government.

I can foresee the Lib Dems making such a hash of things we end up with Johnson's deal running off against No Deal; and the Lib Dems and everyone sane being forced into voting for Johnson's deal, giving him reason to call himself the great negotiator who not only sorted Brexit, but who crafted such a deal even Remainers voted for it ... Because you know he would try that.

Get rid of this toxically useless government, Jo, and then sort of out a referendum on your terms from a position of relative strength.

Unless you're more interested in making noise on the sidelines, of course.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Much love to my loyal Ukrainian readership

For some reasons, my post about the mystery message from inside the Downing Street bunker seemed to catch people's attention.  Quite a lot of hits from NZ (unsurprisingly) and the USA (a bit more puzzlingly, but hi there, USAians!!) and 76 views from the Ukraine.

I've celebrated my Ukrainian readers in the past, and it is good to see they are still there, still taking a peculiar interest in Brexit, as filtered through the twisted psyche of an expat Scot living in New Zealand.

Here's another nice Ukranian girl singing a traditional folk song:


Perhaps my Ukrainian following will join me in celebrating Scotland's 61-0 demolition of Russia in Japan.  I was slightly scared going into that match, after watching the Russians ask a few early questions of Japan.

Still in with a chance!

Another day of bonkers GNUmours (again, sorry)

First, almost a score of Labour MPs seem to have sent a letter to the EU basically begging them to accept a deal - any deal - just so Britain can get the Heck on with Brexiting instead of being trapped in limbo:

They are literally asking the EU to accept a Conservative Prime Minister's hopeless deal, rather than try to gain power and sort out a better deal for Britain. They are effectively enabling and extending an even-more-dangerous-than-usual Tory government, rather than trying to bring it down.

(The even scarier thing is they aren't even the maddest Brexiteers in Labour - you won't see Kate Hoey or John Mann's name on that list. It's far too diluted for them. They like their Brexit neat, if that isn't some sort of oxymoron.)

This is why I think a non-Corbyn GNU will struggle to get across the line. That's 19 votes that probably won't be available for an alternative candidate, whereas they probably would be available for Corbyn. Basically, they cancel out the Lib Dems. Assuming those 19 - and Hoey and Mann - refused to support a non-Corbyn GNU, and all the other Labour MPs did (a huge assumption) then then it would be at 283, still needing the pro-Remain Independents to support en masse. Possible, but difficult.

Where as Corbyn, the SNP, the Lib Dems, Plaid and the Greens can probably get there, or very nearly there, as he can expect his MPs to support him.

But wait, there's more ... According to the Financial Times, in a sort of exchange student MP deal, fifty MPs, including three cabinet ministers have threatened to walk out in Johnson makes a No Deal Brexit an election commitment:



Obvious the problem with this story is ... Tories. Until they actually walk out the door, assume they will do the opposite of what they say they will do. But it does suggest the antipathy towards Johnson's 'dead in a ditch' approach is growing.

(It also suggests the 50, particularly the cabinet ministers, are pretty dimwitted, as an fule could see from years ago (well, a few weeks back) that Johnson hadn't the slightest interest in a deal. If they actually thought they were assisting other than a Titanic style Brexit, they were clearly rather hopeless - which raises the worrying possibility that their resignations might leave the Johnson administration brighter and more dangerous, by some strange alchemy.)

So, yeah, just another day of lunacy in Brexitland.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Inside the Downing Street bunker

James Forsyth at The Spectator (I know, I know) has tapped one of his contacts inside Number Ten for an insight into the Johnson administration's thinking and strategy.

It is fascinating, unsettling and quite, quite mad.  Some key points:
  • Negotiations have stalled and the Johnson administration are keen to blame the EU: "Varadkar was keen on talking before the Benn Act when he thought that the choice would be ‘new deal or no deal’. Since the Benn Act passed he has gone very cold ..."; of course, it has nothing to do with the Johnson administration wasting everyone's time, acting in bad faith and proposing a ludicrous alternative to the vexed Irish Backstop.
  • It is all the fault of the Germans Boche and the French Frogs: "There are quite a few people in Paris and Berlin who would like to discuss our offer but Merkel and Macron won’t push Barnier unless Ireland says it wants to negotiate." This is like reading the story of Brexit as re-told by Commando Comics; which, now I think about it, is a very apt description of how the Johnson administration is approaching the whole thing.
  • The Euro-meanies and the Remoaners are conspiring to Do Britain Down, but they will be shown up in time by British pluck and cold hard steel, which has always seen of their Continental guile: "Ireland and Brussels listen to all the people who lost the referendum, they don’t listen to those who won the referendum and they don’t understand the electoral dynamics here."
  • The Johnson administration really is intent on going full steam ahead into the iceberg, because they are more scared of Nigel Farage than they are of ruining the country: "To marginalise the Brexit Party, we will have to fight the election on the basis of ‘no more delays, get Brexit done immediately’."; never mind the arguments about 17.2 million voters, this is about one man. Oddly, their plan for stopping him is to do exactly what he wants, which seems a bit silly, but they aren't interested in what is better for Britain here - it is simple psychopathic careerism. Cock up, blame everyone else and hope that people will fall for it so you don't lose your job.
  • The Johnson administration intends to Subvert the 'Benn Bill' to prevent delaying Brexit: "Our legal advice is clear that we can do all sorts of things to scupper delay which for obvious reasons we aren’t going into details about."; one wonders if this 'legal advice' springs from the same mind that told them proroguing parliament for five weeks was legal, and that they could win court cases without presenting sworn affidavits?
  • They will use bribes and threats to try to get the EU to vote against offering a further extension: "We will make clear privately and publicly that countries which oppose delay will go the front of the queue for future cooperation — cooperation on things both within and outside EU competences. Those who support delay will go to the bottom of the queue."; so,having failed to win any intellectual arguments, they will resort to bullying - "within and outside EU competences" is particularly ominous.
  • The EU offering something that has been requested by the British PM acting on the instructions of the British parliament is "hostile interference in domestic politics, and over half of the public will agree with us"; presumably they will apply the same 'logic' to any attempt to form treaties or agreements in the future. And the cynical statement that the public will agree with them reveals they are intent on plunging even further down the Faragist populist bullshit rabbit hole. All, you know, to stop Farage.
  • They actually still think this is all about them: "We will also make clear that this government will not negotiate further so any delay would be totally pointless. They think now that if there is another delay we will keep coming back with new proposals. This won’t happen." Hate to break it to you, guys and girls, but people are now hoping that it won't be "we" coming back with new proposals.
  • They will take their toys and go home: "Any delay will in effect be negotiated between you, Parliament, and the courts — we will wash our hands of it, we won’t engage in further talks, we obviously won’t given any undertakings about cooperative behaviour, everything to do with ‘duty of sincere cooperation’ will be in the toilet, we will focus on winning the election on a manifesto of immediately revoking the entire EU legal order without further talks, and then we will leave." Yes, gentle reader, they actually think the courts and parliament are somehow irrelevant obstacles in all this, not the things that give them legitimacy. Heads up! If the courts say your are doing illegal stuff, it means lack legitimacy; if parliament refuses to back you, you lack legitimacy. You will not have the authority to put anything in the toilet. And for all their eager talk of elections, there is one simple way to get one - request an extension so an election can be held without the country falling out of the EU by default. But the Fear of Farage is overwhelming, and they can not bring themselves to do that Very Obvious Thing.
  • They are deluded: "Those who pushed the Benn Act intended to sabotage a deal and they’ve probably succeeded." No, your bad faith negotiations, posturing and hopeless alternative' to the Irish Backstop killed a deal. Which you probably knew all along it would. The ferocity of the pro-No Deal language in this whole message reveals the lie in this weak attempt to pass the blame.
It is worth keeping in mind this might be what the 'strategic geniuses' WANT us to think they are planning.

But, nah.  I'm going with this actually being what they are planning - for want of a better word.

Are GNUs extinct?

Another round of tactical talks about forming a Government of National Unity have come to nothing with the Liberal Democrats still refusing countenance putting Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street:
Opposition talks on Monday made little headway over when to try and vote down Boris Johnson's government and who might succeed him as prime minister.

Labour said the Lib Dems were being "irresponsible" in refusing to back a temporary Jeremy Corbyn-led government.

But Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said he did not have wide enough support.

The SNP called on the other two parties to "grow up" and warned that time was running out to stop the UK leaving the EU on 31 October.
The Lib Dems and the pro-Remain Independents and TIG4C (henceforth, "the Lib Dems") are being idiots over this. It is senseless. There is no logical reason not to throw their weight behind a Corbyn candidacy.

If Corbyn GENUINELY does not have the number then it could be proven in Parliament by simply having a VOC. But they know that - with their backing - he would win that (Tories + DUP = 298) and they don't want that. So they are making fantastical claims about some mythical 'number' he needs and can not achieve and insist that he 'step aside' for some equally mythical unity candidate that they can not even identify, far less demonstrate that this unicorn of a candidate has the 'numbers.'

They say they don't want Brexit, but talk is cheap. Actions speak louder. The Lib Dems are exaggerating their anti-Brexit credentials as a unique selling point but fundamentally don't seems to actually intend to live up to their rhetoric.

They've nicely put themselves into a position where they are either going to have enable No Deal Brexit, or renege on their loud talk about being unable to support Corbyn under any circumstances, or have to sit sullenly on the sidelines while Labour actually go about trying to do the thing the Lib Dems have been saying they really, really want to do.

Any of those scenarios leaves them looking like posturing clowns playing politics and not even doing that well; diminished, irrelevant, mealy-mouthed and ineffective.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Guardian: Poll shows DISASTER for Corbyn and the End of Times

The Guardian - ever eager to forewarn of doom and disaster on the left - are leading with a new poll from Opinium, which puts the Conservatives 15% clear of Labour.
Con 38% +2
Lab 23% -1
Lib Dem 15% -5
Brexit 12% +1
Green 4% +2
This isn't good news, and it would be very bad news if it wasn't Opinium; they consistently give the Conservatives large leads; the largest, indeed.  Looking at recent polling (i.e. September to present moment), here's how the different companies compare:

Large Tory leads (6% or over in majority of included polls):
  • You Gov (leads range from 7% to 14%, 7 polls included)
  • Opinium (Leads range from 10% to 15%, 5 polls)
  • Kantar (Leads of 14%, 1 poll)
  • Ipsos Mori (Lead of 9%, 1 poll)
Small Tory Leads (5% or less in majority of included polls):
  • Panelbase (Lead of 3%, 1 poll)
  • ComRes (Leads range from TIE to 4%, 5 polls)
  • Survation (Leads range from 3% to 5%, 2 polls)
  • Deltapoll (Lead of 3%, 1 poll; BUT a poll released 31/8 gave a Conservative lead of 11%!; make of that what you will.)
(BMG are also included in Britain Elects' table but don't seem to have released a September poll.)

So, from that, what can we conclude?  Nothing.  The polls are all over the place but at least individual pollsters seem to be finding fairly consistent results.  Someone is definitely wrong, and it is just about possible everyone is.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Clever legal fellow on Scottish challenge to Brexit

I make no claims to having much legal knowledge,  so I defer to those trained in this area.

I am very much enjoying this twitter stream from m'learned friend in Edinburgh, deciphering the legal arguments around the Scottish court challenge to Boris Johnson, based on the charmingly obscure principle of Nobile Officium.

My favourite bit this far:

Ouch!

I also enjoy the occasional images of Edinburgh and references to drunken escapades on the Cowgate, which remind me of my own mispent youth in that most wonderful of cities.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Jermey Corbyn, I don't like GNU (sorry)

So, the latest ruminations on the gnews from Westminster (Again, sorry; I'll stop making that pun right now).  This follows on from, and likely repeats bits of, my last post, on the suggestion that a Government of National Unity (GNU) should be set up and then oversee a referendum before calling an election.

You will recall, gentle reader, that I am not in favour of this ideas as the GNU simply won't have the numbers to survive that long, nor to deal with any governance issues, and because if it lasts more than a few weeks it will taint those involved, strengthening the Tories for the subsequent election. Remember all those jibes and sneers at Johnson as an 'unelected' PM with no mandate? Can you imagine how much more vicious they would be, aimed at a GNU cobbled together from multiple parties 'with the sole aim of overturning the will of the people'? Cummings would love to be able to run that attack line for six months before a referendum, and then (having won the referendum) for the subsequent election.

I admit there is a risk in the election then referendum strategy - what if the Conservatives run on an anti-EU platform and win a majority? Then they could cancel the referendum outright. Hopefully, the GNU / EU will see that coming and in their agreement will stipulate that a second referendum must be held during the extension ... effectively giving an indefinite extension period if the referendum is cancelled.

Nobody on the Remain side can command a majority. Otherwise they would already be PM.

Corbyn is closer, by virtue of having the Labour Party behind him. Any other candidate will be starting from much further back and - after all this talk about how not voting for Corbyn because he "doesn't have the numbers" (conveniently forgetting that "the numbers" are nebulous) - would need to be able to demonstrate they "have the numbers" before they can anticipate support from Labour; which makes it impossible, since Labour has over a third of the MPs and most of them are going to support a Corbyn bid.

I think the Lib Dems have done an impressive job of shooting themselves in the foot over this - an, unfortunately, possibly shot all of us in the foot as well.

This is what I think will happen:
  • VONC / failure of the Queen's Speech once parliament resumes. 14 day count down to an election commences ...
  • Attempt by Corbyn to set up a GNU. Gets 280 votes and is voted down by the Tories and DUP. Independents and Lib Dems abstain / vote against. - Attempt to set up a Clarke led GNU. Gets about 150 votes.
  • Possibly other attempts to set up a GNU under other candidates. All the time, the clock is ticking. None get more than 200 votes.  Maybe 250, depending on how flakey Labour MPs are.
  • Second attempt to set up a Corbyn GNU. This time, some of the more nervous (or responsible) Lib Dems and / or Independents vote in favour, with an eye on the clock. It gets 300 votes. Crucially, a few less fanatical Conservatives abstain / are mysteriously absent and the vote against is only about 290. Corbyn is PM!
Interestingly, once he is installed, I think things may become slightly easier. the Lib Dems / Independents can say, "We think this is a really rotten idea and we wish it was someone else, but we will try to work constructively with the new administration and make sure it remains (pun intentional) on track to agree an extension and pass the referendum legislation.)

Reckon Jo's gonna decide to ride Jerry's GNU at the last minute?

Now, I need to get something off my chest here.

At heart I am a Remainer. I can see no purpose in leaving the EU. I've always accepted Labour's position that the country voted for Brexit (because it did) and that any Brexit should do the least damage to the country and people's jobs as possible (because people voted to leave the EU, not trash the economy, make themselves unemployed and tear the already frayed social fabric to pieces - that wasn't on the voting paper.) I've welcomeed their painstaking moves towards supporting a second referendum pitching Remain against a new soft Brexit deal.

Contrast that with the Conservative's Titanicesque intent on crashing the coutnry out of the EU in four weeks time, or the Lib Dem's intention to give the electorate the finger and ignore the referendum. Labour's policy has always been the only sane one in the room, which is why it has been hated on by both extremes.

Suppose some miracle lead to Article 50 being revoked tomorrow. Would that end Euroscepticism as we know it? Nope, it would just carry on as before, with Farage demanding a new referendum and so on and on until they got it. If it was a bad horror B movie, it would be the Revenge of the Night of Nigel Farage.

Suppose we got a Hard Brexit / No Deal. Would that be the end of it? Nope, because we know that is going to screw up the country for the next twenty five years, and we'll probably end up rejoining and having to take the Euro and all the other things we're currently opted out of. At which point the Son of the Night of Nigel Farage pops up and starts campaigning to leave.

Whereas a shoddy, half-assed Brexit was always the sensible option that left everyone disappointed but at least feeling the other side hadn't won. Human nature being what it is, we don't mind losing - its the sense that someone else has won that pisses us off. So a sort-of Brexit means everyone thinks they've lost and feels somewhat unhappy in a typically British sort of way, but not narked to the point they want to kick the can of worms over again might have been the least rotten outcome, unless we really want this dire soap opera to run into another season.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

GNUs move VERY slowly

In the hours since my last interminable wittering about the possibility of a Government of National Unity (GNU) in Britain, there has been a slight maybe development:
A Corbyn-led caretaker government could then sit for several months while it enacted and delivered a referendum with the support of smaller parties and rebel Tories, several MPs suggested. 
An election would only then follow, probably next spring. Another option would be for a ‘government of national unity’ to sit while the referendum legislation is passed. 
Corbyn listened to the advice of the PLP but did not say he agreed with it. His position has been that he thinks an extension of Article 50 is a priority to stop a no-deal exit, followed quickly by a general election. 
“It was the most united PLP we’ve had in months,” said one present.
Which seems to reflect a strengthening of Corbyn's position, if he has the PLP more-or-less behind him (which must be a novel situation for him, and them).

Well, I'm glad that some progress is being made, albeit at a snail's pace. In about another thousand years, they might finally get ther heads around the idea that a Corbyn lead GNU is the most practical option ... though I must add my breath, while I wait, is resolutely unbated.

The tactical / short term problem with this idea is the numbers are so dreadful it would be almost impossible to do anything in the interim. We'd have six to nine months of endless Brexitry, with the government - for want of a better word - unable to actually do anything about the many ills afflicting the nation. That would REALLY taint Corbyn and Labour.

From a purely strategic perspective, it would also give the Tories a chance to regroup and rebuild. I quite like the idea of Johnson being bounced out of office and then forced to face the country. If they manage to get their act together, and a protracted build up to a new referendum has embittered people against the GNU, then it is possible to imagine the Tories profiting in a summer election.

Parliamentary number crunching [Very sexy]

So,   more on the possibility of a Government of National Unity (GNU) in Britain, which is once more exercising Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson.
Ms Swinson, who declined to be interviewed by Sky News alongside the other leaders, has said she would only support a compromise candidate for PM like Tory grandee Kenneth Clarke or Labour veteran Dame Margaret Beckett.

"He simply does not have the numbers," Ms Swinson said after the meeting.

"I have been crystal clear but I will do so again - Jeremy Corbyn is not going into Number 10 on the basis of Liberal Democrats' votes."
The numbers in parliament make things very difficult.  Anyone who is saying X will happen or Y is impossible is spinning.  I'm looking at you here, Jo.

We can not tell and will not know until votes are actually cast.  And possibly more than one round of increasingly fraught voting, as brinkmanship is exposed and people have to choose between what they do not like and what frankly terrifies them.

Here are the numbers in parliament:

Conservative Party - 288
Labour Party - 246
Scottish National Party - 35
Liberal Democrats - 18
Democratic Unionist Party - 10
The Independent Group for Change - 5
Plaid Cymru - 4
Green Party - 1
Independent - 35

(Sinn Fein have 7 MPs but they do not take their seats.)

Insanely, as it stands, no party can command a majority. This is why Johnson can't win a vote (currently at 0-7, probably the worst losing streak in government history.)  Even coalitions are problematic, with 3-4 party combinations needed to get to the 'magic number' needed to command an outright majority.

(More on the 'Magic number' later.)

At the moment, parliament can't even vote to put itself out of its own misery, via a general election, because Johnson won't ask the EU for an election and the opposition parties won't trigger one without this guarantee.

The numbers don't make a GNU easy.  Looking at a Corbyn lead option, first ...

A coalition of Labour , SNP, Lib Dems, Greens, PC and half of the independents gets to 322, which is the actual number needed to command a majority with the Speaker and SF not voting (though the Speaker would be obligated to vote with the government in the event of a tie.)

(That's assuming TIG4C do not support the GNU, even though they are meant to be fervent Remainers.  Their hatred of Corbyn runs very, very deep.)

Excluding the Lib Dems and the independent MPs, Labour, the SNP, PC and Greens can get to 286, just behind the Conservative Party.

But the idea of a Corbyn lead GNU has proven problematic.  The SNP and Greens have said they will support it.  Assuming Plaid Cymru are also amenable, that gets the coalition to 286.  But the Lib Dems and the Conservative rebels have said they won't support a Corbyn led GNU and want him to step aside for another 'less divisive' candidate.

The problem with that is any candidate that is 'less divisive' for the Lib Dems and Conservative rebels will be a very hard sell to Labour MPs.  They are by no means 100% behind the party's declared policy of a second referendum, or even behind its previous position of a soft Brexit.  There aren't too many Hard Brexit headbangers in Labour, but there are a couple; and there are a lot more Eurosceptics of various degrees of virulence (including, of course, Jeremy Corbyn) and others who will be thinking long and hard about where to position themselves, having looked at how their constituency voted in the referendum, and the mood of their local party.

Whereas the numbers for non-Corbyn lead coalition are more nebulous. Sure, you'll get the Lib Dems, the SNP and so on, and let's say you get TIG and ALL the independents. That gets you to 102.

102.

How many Labour MPs are going to agree to put another Conservative MP into Downing Street?  Particularly if the Conservatives and Lib Dems have refused to vote for Corbyn?

Even if the bulk of the party does - sullenly - vote for a Clarke (or whoever) lead GNU, Labour MPs who support leave probably won't. Based on the 'indicative votes' held earlier in the year, that's between 10 and 30 MPs who are opposed to soft Brexit or a second referendum.  If it is 10, then the GNU works. If it is 30, it is tantalisingly close, but still short of a definite majority.

Again, it could work - Labour leavers might be persuaded to abstain, or more Tories might desert to support a non-Corbyn GNU. But it is all very sketchy, and anyone claiming one side or the other does or does not have the numbers is spinning. We won't know until votes are cast, possibly several rounds of them.

What is the 'magic number' needed to govern, anyway?

It is not 326, which is half the number of MPs in the house.  You need to knock off SF's 7 MPs.  That gets you 322.  But even that isn't the number needed, because votes are passed on a majority of the MPs who are present to vote, not the absolute majority of all MPs.

Not one of the indicative votes involved more than 600 MPs voting.  The far more critical Benn Act still saw 21 MPs mysteriously absent or abstain.  You can get along with far fewer than 322, though it does make things trickier.

All of which gets us no further forward that we were at the beginning of this long and - I admit it, very unsexy - post.

Which begs many questions - will they (Libs and Cons) stick to their "Not Corbyn" position even if it means crashing out on the 31st? Will Corbyn? What is the 'magic number' anyway? Do Labour really need the Libs and Cons to get to it?  Would enough Labour MPs support an alternative GNU for it to work?

The more I think about it, I am thinking that Corbyn should simply go for the VONC, defy the Lib Dems and Con Remainers to stop him, and see if he can run a short term government focused on getting a delay and a second referendum in spite of them.

It would be amusingly ironic if the Liberal Democrats - the party that have consistently opposed Brexit in all forms - managed to exclude themselves from stopping it. Which would destroy them with their voters in the subsequent election.

Song for Georgia