Archive for August, 2019

The Boris Backlash Builds: Will It Achieve Anything?

Friday, August 30th, 2019

This is a holding blog in the middle of mounting commotion in the media, in Westminster, on the streets and in the courts. There is no doubt that the move to prorogue parliament to pave the way for a Queen’s Speech took the opposition by complete surprise. But it is also true that the strength, breadth, and dept of public outrage has shaken the government significantly. Angry politicians are one thing but angry voters are quite another.

I am not convinced the legal challenges will succeed, since what has occurred is against  everybody’s expectation of what is decent and fair and nudges some of the nuances of the constitution back towards the power of the executive, but I do not think parliament’s sovereignty has been challenged. It remains the case that if parliament does not like the turn of events, it can quickly change the law or change the government within very few days starting next Tuesday. But for that it has to agree. And its inability to do that is why we are in this mess now. We will soon see if the enormity of events changes anything.


A Constitutional Outrage? No, Not Really.

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

The suspension, or proroguing, of parliament by the Queen would never have been approved by her, if it violated the constitution, because her many advisers and lawyers would have cautioned against it. Moreover it is following precedent and practice appropriate to the formation of a new government at a time of year when it is expected. What is unusual is the length of the suspension, but that does not make it unconstitutional.

What this move certainly is, is politically very sharp. It is also well calculated and finely tuned. It has taken the opposition in all its diverse forms by total surprise and their rage is obvious. Suspending parliament at a time of national crisis is unthinkable they say. Perhaps if we were being invaded by Martians, or there were a great financial crash, or a pandemic. But not, so very not, if the crisis is entirely of parliament’s making. After over two years of argument and voter after vote after vote, parliament has shown itself utterly unable to resolve it.

There is now only one sane way forward. A No Deal is  fraught with unacceptable risk. It is an act of self harm which even this government cannot rationally pursue, but such is the chaos that parliament has got itself into nobody seems able to stop it. If at the eleventh hour some deal is struck for an orderly Brexit, it will be there only because, while it would involve some political separation, it will keep us pretty closely tied to Europe. And that is nothing like such a good deal as staying in.

So the only course now open which makes any sense at all is to recall Article 50. Everything else sucks. If at this late date the opposition, all parties and every MP in its ranks not hell bent on a dive over the cliff, gets its act together and acts together, within not weeks or days, but hours of parliament reconvening next week, then something better might happen. On past form that is a very big if.


Boris Launches A Political Blitzkrieg

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Like  the German smash through the Ardennes in 1940, scattering the Allied armies hither and thither which nobody saw coming,  this proroguing of parliament followed by a Queen’s Speech establishing the new government’s credentials and programme for the country post Brexit, has caught all Westminster on hop. With a punch which makes the combined opposition, lauded yesterday for coming together on a course within which there are loads of differing views and hidden disagreements, look weak and undecided. It also re-establishes the constitution on a proper track, crucially firmly controlled by the government. The only way now to stop Brexit on Boris’s terms is to defeat the Queen’s Speech, which is a confidence vote, or to take control of parliamentary business and recall Article 50.

Unless the opposition changes its whole character and approach very fast and focuses on pin point targets rather than nuanced preferences, neither will happen. Boris was a showman Mayor, an incompetent Foreign Secretary and a clown leadership campaigner, but he turns out to be a Prime Minister  in a totally different league. He mastered the G 7 summit with a Trump bromance, but backed the EU against Trump on every major issue. He was the only personality to rival Trump for media draw. He has now thrown down a gauntlet that might well disable the opposition entirely. Evidently Prime Minister was the only job he ever wanted.

It may turn out to be the only one he can actually do. Really well.

Brexit: A Breather For Boris? Or a Trap for a Showman?

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

It depends on your point of view. The kindly gesture from  Merkel backed up by Macron that Boris had 30 days to come up with a workable and legal alternative to the backstop seemed to some as a chink of light and a sign that at last the wall of refusal so skillfully built by EU solidarity, is beginning to crack. The shrewder view is that by reiterating their refusal to remove the backstop under any circumstances, unless replaced by something as good or better, and by giving Boris thirty days to come up with a plan which has eluded the UK for nigh on a thousand days, they dished out a challenge they knew he could not meet. But they transferred ownership of the problem to him. From now on it is Boris’s fault if he cannot find an alternative that works.

And let this be understood. The backstop is treated by the Brexiteers as if it is some sort of procedural issue connected to customs arrangements for which technology is the answer. This is not what is about, so technology has nothing to do with it. Under the Good Friday Agreement Ireland became for all practical purposes of trade, domicile, movement of people and goods, one country.

Yes, the North was member of the UK, looking for governance to London.  The Republic, containing all but the six counties of Ulster, was fully independent of the UK and governed from Dublin. But all three were members of the EU. The purpose of the backstop is to retain the one country matrix, essential not only to prosperity in Ireland but peace also. Any kind of border which is actual and not symbolic is a no no.

It might be possible to go down a different route.  Sign an agreement with the EU to set up a free trade deal, details of which to be finalized over an indefinite transition period, allowing the invoking the often misquoted GAT 24 concession. This allows parties subject to an agreement already signed (the Withdrawal Agreement with an addition of the intention to sign a new trade agreement) to continue existing arrangements for up to 10 years. That would make a backstop unnecessary for a decade. If we walked away at the end without agreeing a future trade deal, Ireland would unite anyway, so there would be nothing to discuss.

I can’t see Boris buying that. But if by not signing into a backstop equivalent means he will have to give up his key to 10 Downing Street before Christmas, maybe he just might. Quicker than his very best friends would hope.

UK Crises: Things Are Hotting Up.

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

I use the plural because there are so many. Brexit, Constitution, Ireland, Parliament, underfunding of Public Services, Social Care are just the main centres of a gathering storm. So far the Boris government has had a pretty free rein with parliament in recess. The new team of campaigners and ministers surrounding him have kept up an optimistic barrage of predictions, promises and proposals, almost all of which have at once been shot down by a variety of commentators with knowledge of the issue. As a senior Lib Dem yesterday remarked ‘you cannot govern by headlines’.

So no predictions, bar this one. Boris is first about Boris being prime minister, second about his place in history as a great and popular leader and third about Brexit. If sticking to a crash Brexit will put the Union in jeopardy and his fabled ‘bumps in the road’ start to throw innocents out of the wagon, his government will be toast. He will become the shortest serving prime minister in British history. This is not a record he wishes to claim.

Therefore expect there to emerge something of a fudge which will be a Brexit not unlike the one promoted by Theresa May. He could still be toast, but the toasting fork might be in different hands.

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Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

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Sunday, August 18th, 2019

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Sunday, August 18th, 2019

No Deal Brexit: The Public Is Against It

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

So why is it still very likely and why has it not been stopped?

Because the majority of MPs who are either against Brexit altogether, for a negotiated deal which does not wreck the economy, for a people’s vote, or for recalling Article 50 cannot arrive at a compromise and united position. They are bordering on infantile in their behaviour. They argue about details and nuances, they argue about personalities, they talk, for the most part rubbish, which has nothing to do with the crisis gripping the nation and the existential threat to the Union and they fall far short, very far short, of the demands of the hour.

This has got to stop. It is very simple. Bring down this circus of a government run by the showman clown who spent the first part of his life wanting to be King of the World, follow the constitution and the FTPA, which involves the Queen sending first for her Leader of the Opposition and asking him to form a government and it that fails to gain a majority, there is the remainder of two weeks to come up with a name behind which a majority can unite. If that fails to produce an answer, parliament has the plug pulled on it and we go for a general election.

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Saturday, August 17th, 2019