Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

Labour needs to avoid another Gogglebox moment on its Brexit policy

09/11/2019, 10:39:25 PM

by Tom Clements

I still remember the agony of the 2015 exit poll with vivid horror. The chiming of Big Ben leading to David Cameron and the words ‘Largest Party’ winded me; and then David Dimbleby’s confirmation of the projected number of Labour seats knocked me to the ground. I hadn’t given up hope until the result of South Swindon was announced showing that the Tories had done more than enough to continue to govern.

Dazed and confused, it took me a while to process the result before starting to think about what factor could possibly explain it. It wasn’t until I watched that week’s Gogglebox election special that I could start to understand why Labour had been so decisively rejected in 2015.

From the Leader’s Question Time event in Leeds, they saw a voter ask Ed whether he thought New Labour had spent too much. When Ed replied that he didn’t, despite some grumbles from the audience, I barely batted an eyelid.

But on the Gogglebox sofas, family after family spluttered their disbelief. Whatever the validity of the coalition government’s argument about the public debt, it had clearly stuck Miliband and Labour as being economically profligate defecit deniers. And in the stark light of the disastrous election result, the realisation hit me that this is what people had thought all along and we had been unwilling to counter it.

Whether or not we would learn from this has been low on the list of problems facing the Party since 2015 so I hadn’t given it much thought.

Until recently.

Hearing Corbyn, Starmer and other favourites of the front bench struggle through explaining the Party’s Brexit policy, I felt a familiar dread. Upon hearing the dear leader proclaim that his plan is “clear and simple” brought me out in a cold sweat.

Unless Labour establishes a clear, coherent and easily explainable position on the key issue of this election, then we will be facing a similar Gogglebox moment. And, even though it has been plain to many for some time, now that the definitely, maybe plan has been exposed to the public, the penny might finally drop.

So Labour needs to get real on its Brexit indecision and establish a clear plan.

Firstly, they need to publish their proposed deal. Despite the embarrassment of the Ed Stone and shadow budget in 1992, if we are to be taken seriously on Brexit then it is the least we can do. We need to explain why we believe in maintaining the custom’s union and keeping strong ties with the EU.

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This election is about stopping Boris Johnson

30/10/2019, 01:03:00 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“Politics,” as JK Galbraith sagely put it, “consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”

While Jeremy Corbyn’s approval ratings indicate that some find him unpalatable, there is no doubt that Boris Johnson is disastrous.

“Who governs?” asked Edward Heath. “Not you,” came the general election verdict. “Get Brexit done,” Johnson says. “No, thanks,” must be the response.

Done, in the Johnson lexicon, means endless debates about our relationship with the EU sucking the oxygen out of our country for years. The end of the beginning of Brexit’s joyless revolution. A decisive threshold, depriving us of hard-won rights to live and work across our continent, but only an appetiser.

The main course propels Northern Ireland towards a united Ireland, Scotland out of the UK, and the bedraggled remains of the UK on a desperate trajectory towards a US president who finds so much to dislike in a European Union founded on the rule of law, committed to tackling climate change, and acting together to have more clout.

The UK best endures, only remains recognisably what we have known it to be, by remaining in the EU. We only stay in the EU via the confirmatory referendum that the 2017 parliament has denied us.

Of course, it would have been better to have had that referendum and then this election. Labour should have offered to support Johnson’s withdrawal agreement in exchange for that referendum.

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Time for parliament to take back control

02/09/2019, 07:00:59 AM

by Jonathan Todd

There is no mandate for no deal Brexit. We did not vote for it in the 2016 referendum or the 2017 general election. On both these occasions, we were told that Brexit would be negotiated. That it would deliver “the exact same benefits” and more.

Theresa May could not negotiate these benefits. Boris Johnson won’t. Nor would Jeremy Corbyn or anyone else. This is less the art of the deal and more the impossible Brexit cocktail.

We can’t mix this cocktail and keep the UK united. We can’t exit the single market and customs union and avoid a border on the island of Ireland or in the Irish sea – otherwise the UK serves as a backdoor to EU tariffs and regulations. We can’t allow a border on Ireland and uphold the Good Friday Agreement – risking peace on the British Isles. We can’t deny Nicola Sturgeon that such a UK is a very different one from that which Scotland voted to remain part of in 2014 – creating grounds for a rerun of that vote.

We can’t mix this cocktail and maintain our prosperity. We can’t erect trade barriers with our biggest trading partner and avoid this. We can’t be poorer and afford better public services. We can’t move overnight from EU membership to third country status and not subject business to a sudden erosion of competitiveness, which no amount of preparation can fully mitigate, while also so diminishing the leverage of our trade negotiators that they will grasp at chlorine-washed terms.

We can’t mix this cocktail and sustain illusions of “taking back control” and being an “independent country”. We can’t stop the world and get off in the 1950s – we can only choose, as we inevitably must, with whom we align. We can’t Brexit and not be a pawn in the destructive games of Trump, Putin and the IRA – with a senior IRA member wanting “Brexit … as hard as hell.”

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Peterborough shone a light on the dire state of Labour. The Tories’ beauty contest is the same shade of awful

15/06/2019, 10:08:33 PM

by Rob Marchant

The week before last, numerous MPs went to campaign for a racist sympathiser. I am sure most thought they were doing the right thing, dutifully answering the campaign call, as politicians do. Quite possibly some didn’t even know the story, or did not dare pull out at the last minute. Either way, they supported Lisa Forbes, surely one of the worst candidates we could have ever chosen for a by-election.

Thanks to the scrutiny a by-election suffers, all parties generally try hard to get the right candidate, one who will not suddenly find themselves at the centre of a media storm.

This time Labour failed dismally, presumably because those leading the party and its machine – not, you understand, the regular staffers, decent folk who have to live with the constant shame and embarrassment about their superiors – couldn’t care less about a bit of anti-Semitic dabbling.

Rather, they see it as a badge of honour: of being “sound” on Palestine, unafraid to speak truth to power (“power”, in this case, meaning simply “Jews”).

On the day, Labour showed it still had a tight machine, which the Brexit Party did not, and beat them by a whisker. But it still won on a simple principle, which seems to be a novel, new party strategy: winning by having their vote decimated a little less than the Tories.

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The UK’s decline will continue as long as our Brexit riddle is unresolved

11/06/2019, 07:00:35 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Brexit is bigger than Labour and the Tories. As it renders our domestic policy dysfunctional, shreds our external reputation, and holds our economy hostage, only the deluded think that Boris Johnson trumps Brexit.

Let’s face it: The UK is now a failed state.

At the heart of Brexit’s tremendous power is its meaninglessness. Professor Danny Dyer sums it up:

“Who knows about Brexit? No one has got a fucking clue what Brexit is, yeah. You watch Question Time, it’s comedy. No one knows what it is – it’s like this mad riddle that no one knows what it is, right?”

This riddle is subtly complex. It seemed straightforward at the 2016 referendum. Brexit means Brexit. Most MPs voted to trigger Article 50.

MPs so voted because they wanted to respect the referendum, but they cannot take this respect further without solving the riddle.

They cannot. If they could, cabinet would not divide over Brexit’s meaning, parliament would vote through a version of Brexit, and Theresa May would be triumphant.

The unsolved riddle leaves these stark realities:

  1. The EU are not going to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement and the chances of getting this agreement through parliament remain slim.
  2. The default position is that we no deal at the end of October. While the only thing that parliament can agree is its desire not to no deal, we may soon have a prime minister prepared to no deal and an EU, frustrated with the UK, willing to.
  3. There is no mandate for no deal. This was not promised in 2016.
  4. If a prime minister wants a mandate for an approach to Brexit that leaves open no deal and creates a parliament more likely to vote for their version of Brexit, they might seek this through a general election. But, as our two-party democracy transforms into a four-party circus, a general election now would be a lottery.
  5. Even in a less volatile climate, a general election would only solve our Brexit riddle if the parties stood on unambiguous and deliverable Brexit platforms. It requires a highly generous interpretation of their limited capabilities to think that they would do so.

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Remainers need to accept they lost. Make the argument for re-joining instead

23/05/2019, 07:00:35 AM

by Kevin Meagher

On Thursday night, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party will comfortably win more votes than the Labour and Conservative parties put together. This is the price we will pay as a country – and a political system – for the failure to deliver on the public’s vote to leave the EU in June 2016.

The European elections will represent a second people’s vote and an undeniable rejection of Remainer politics. Surprise is the very last reaction that is warranted. Over the past three years, there has been scant interest from the Remain camp in listening or reflecting on why they lost the referendum, let alone an attempt at persuading and winning round voters who backed Brexit.

For nearly three years, their actions have been condescending, tone deaf, incompetent and foolish. They resemble British tourists in a Spanish hotel in the 1970s shouting louder at the waiter in order to be understood.

British politics has changed, but there are those who still cling to the old certainties. No amount of sophistry about messages on buses or Russian interference has had any effect. Voters are wise to the tactics of the political class. When they hear Remainer politicians talk of a second referendum they simply hear, ‘We’re giving you another chance to give us the right answer.’

Am I a Leaver? No, I’m a democrat. When you’ve lost, you’ve lost. Accept it, learn from it and come back stronger. I’m also a rejoiner. I want Britain’s long-term interest to be served by being part of the European Union. I simply recognise that the short-term position is now lost.

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Will the voters punish Corbyn for betraying everything he promised in 2015?

22/05/2019, 07:00:09 AM

by George Kendall

In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn made an idealistic call for a different kind of politics. In the four years since, step by step, he has broken an astonishing array of his promises.

He promised straight-talking, honest politics. What happened? One front-bencher, Barry Gardiner, now proclaims: “Labour is not a remain party now”, but the deputy leader,  Tom Watson, says: “We are a remain and reform party.” Yet from the leader, all we get is obfuscation and manipulation. When talking about a People’s Vote he uses weasel words like “a vote.” This could mean a confirmatory vote on May’s deal without an option to remain, a general election, or even just a vote in parliament. After two years of watching him enable a Tory Brexit and undermine the campaign against a People’s Vote, and after listening to how he talked about the EU as recently as 2010, does anyone honestly believe that he is a genuine supporter of EU membership?

Back in 2015, he promised that Labour members would have the final say on policy. Yet, on the most important issue of the day, when Labour grassroots wanted a chance for Conference to vote on a clear commitment to a People’s Vote, his people organised to block it.

He promised to usher in a new era of civility and bring seriousness back into debate. Instead, an army of his supporters hound any who disagree with them, on social media and in real life. They dismiss any inconvenient facts with an attack on the person speaking. And when they hear an inconvenient fact from a respected think-tank or a left-of-centre media outlet, they dismiss it as biased, while failing to provide any alternative authoritative source.

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Chuka’s missed a trick. He should have set up a London party instead

20/05/2019, 09:55:11 PM

by Kevin Meagher

‘I love it when a plan comes together,’ a grinning George Peppard used to say in The A-Team when the gang had yet again outfoxed the bad guys and won the day.

Not a phrase that’s used much over at Change UK, I suspect. Things aren’t exactly going swimmingly for the intrepid band of Labour and Tory escapees. They’re finding out the hard way just how limited the market is for soggy centrism and that the tribal nature of British politics is, well, tribal.

They’re encountering the cognitive dissonance of the British public too. Everyone says they want a new kind of politics, but the problem, for anyone who takes this claim seriously, is that hardly anyone ever votes for it. Perhaps the bigger snag, though, is that no-one much likes defectors. Least of all the voters, judging by the latest polls.

Change UK is already scuttled. Latest polling has them on 2 per cent. Break the mould? They haven’t even dented it.

Whatever anyone thinks of the SDP’s Gang of Four, they were household names, seasoned Cabinet Ministers who had run the country. If it wasn’t for first-past-the-post, they would have become a permanent presence in British politics, coming within a whisker of Labour’s share of the vote in 1983.

Of course, that same system that has so successfully stymied new entrants for so long is still in place. Which is why Change UK needed to do well in the European elections, where proportional representation gave them a chance of making a breakthrough.

Sadly (for them) that isn’t going to happen.

To be fair to Chuka Umunna and his moon-sized ego, his ambition was clearly to establish a new, national political party, subsuming the Lib Dems and drawing in enough like minds from the Labour and Tory ranks to build enough heft and momentum to shatter our existing model.

He hasn’t been able to achieve anything close to that because he’s just not a compelling enough figure and doesn’t stand for anything distinctive. Fluent, yes, but an empty vessel. All sizzle and no substance, as Barack Obama once noted of David Cameron.

Actually, there’s not much sizzle either.

As The Guardian’s John Crace put it the other day: ‘Change UK is dying before it even learned to walk. Its MPs know it. Its candidates know it. The public knows it.’

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Labour’s dreadful local election performance is the clearest possible public verdict on Corbyn

03/05/2019, 07:41:02 AM

by Rob Marchant

Facing the most incompetent, divided, rudderless and risible Tory government in living memory, Labour has somehow managed to go backwards in the local elections.

It’s unprecedented and entirely a judgement on the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

This isn’t a bolt from the blue, Labour’s slide has been entirely predictable and, unchecked, catastrophe beckons at the next general election.

Fast-forward to 2022, the projected next general election: Jeremy Corbyn, safe in his position as leader, has been leader of the Labour Party for seven years.

With regard to tenure, that will put him as the seventh longest-serving leader in the party’s century-long history. MacDonald, Attlee, Gaitskell, Wilson, Kinnock, Blair and Corbyn. That is the peer group: all party leaders for more than one term.

While some might reasonably quibble about MacDonald, the first six are undoubtedly heavyweight, historical names. And party leaders with that kind of tenure are, clearly, the ones with the best chance of shaping their party in their image.

Jeremy Corbyn already has.

In three-and-a-half years – he is currently at the rough midway-point of those seven years – he has reduced his party to one riddled with, and about to be formally investigated for, anti-Semitism; and provided a nonsensically equivocal position on Brexit, as a result shoring up what many have reasonably come to think of as the worst government in history.

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Our summer of terrible dilemmas

26/04/2019, 09:10:09 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The temperature is rising. On our thermometers and in our politics. We face a summer of terrible dilemmas.

Should the Democrats seek to impeach Trump?

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the Mueller report says. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Mueller does not exonerate Trump. Mueller also recognises the Justice Department guidelines debarring prosecution of a sitting president. Mueller has taken matters as far as he feels he could.

It is for Congress to take them further. To not do so would set a dangerous precedent, while to do so would go against political realism.

In the absence of Republican support, an attempt to impeach Trump would not succeed. It would energise Trump’s loyal supporters. It would detract from focus on issues – such as healthcare – that are more likely to help Democrats in next year’s presidential election.

Who should pro-Europeans vote for in the European election?

Pro-Europeans have had few better friends in recent years than Andrew Adonis and Seb Dance. They intend to seek election as Labour MEPs.

The Labour leadership has been less solid. Barely exerting itself in the 2016 referendum. Slow to interrogate that vote’s dark money. Quick to push the “jobs first Brexit” oxymoron.

Theresa May, pace the ERG, has not defeated Brexit. Nor has parliament. Brexit – its contradictions and conceits – is defeating Brexit.

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