Posts Tagged ‘referendum’

The moment to work to veto Brexit has come

26/08/2017, 09:53:46 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Jon Todd’s article Ten thoughts for August raised big questions going beyond one month. It did not trigger an in depth debate, which raises the question whether blogging helps or hinders analytical discussion. But assuming for the moment that it does, here are some points about the immediate future – to the end of the year which is as far as is sensible to look in an age of rapid political surges.

Jon is probably right that an early general election is unlikely to happen but it is not impossible. As May is giving the dominant Brexit wing of her party everything it wants a new leader seeking a mandate is unlikely. The Tory website which could not see a successor – 34% voting none of the above and even David Davis failing to get 20% support shows that the Tories have no real alternative. However folly is folly, and the Tory Brexiteers are majoring in stupidity.

The option of a cliff edge No Deal politics is top of their agenda. If thwarted, May or a successor could call an election with a No Surrender on Brexit platform. Those like Stephen Kinnock, Heidi Alexander and Chuka Umunna who hope Tory Remainers would vote for a soft Brexit and defeat May ignore the political consequences. No Prime Minister could survive such a slap in the face. May certainly could not.

Because of this, there might be a snap election on Brexit. As it is possible that the government might fall Labour has to be prepared for an election at any time up to the moment of decision.  Corbyn told Michael Eavis at Glastonbury he expected to enter #10 in six months. This possibility means a choice has to be made, Corbyn Labour or Reactionary Conservative. It’s unavoidable, and the choice has to be Corbyn. There is no way a Tory government is preferable, as the bonfire of hard won rights through the so called Great Reform Bill will make clear.

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Uncut predictions for 2017: Blair will abandon support for free movement

04/01/2017, 06:23:29 PM

How to solve a problem like Brexit?

Ostensibly, it’s the reason for Tony Blair’s return to fray. He wants a second referendum to reverse the public’s decision to quit the EU back in June, but polls show the voters simply don’t regret the decision.

To get them to change their minds, the facts must change.

Ever the pragmatist, Blair knows full well this means abandoning free movement of people as an article of faith for the pro-globalisationists of British politics, of which, he remains the undisputed leader.

Could he follow contemporary Labour luminaries like Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, Rachel Reeves, Chuka Umunna and Hilary Benn who have each recently called for an end to free movement?

The impact of mass migration was the defining issue of the campaign and reforming it is an essential down payment in securing any fresh plebiscite. But, even then, there’s no guarantee one can be justified.

Of course, it also requires Europe to even discuss a special deal for Britain, which, variously, Angela Merkel, the Commission and east European Member States have all flatly rejected.

But we are through the looking glass in 2017.

And if John Major could secure his Maastricht Treaty opt-outs from joining the single currency and social chapter, Blair might calculate that a fresh deal on free movement is achievable.

After all, 2017 may be another tumultuous year for the EU, if Marine Le Pen wins the French presidency, or if Merkel is ousted in German federal elections later in the year.

Buying off the truculent Brits with a concession on free movement might seem the cheap option for a bit of stability.

Watch this space.

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Labour’s options? Different degrees of losing

07/12/2016, 09:18:55 PM

by Rob Marchant

It was always going to be important to wait until the dust settled around Labour’s second leadership election to see what was going to happen next. Now, settled it has and things are a little clearer, but only a little. What remains still looks like a panorama tremendously unhelpful to Labour moderates.

First, we might review the external changes that have happened since September. As the Independent observed yesterday, of Britain, the US, France, Italy and Germany there remains only one leader from just a few months ago, and neither is Merkel safe. Populist right-wingers have either won or are waiting at the gates everywhere. There are still all the signs of a tidal wave of political realignment across the Western world, and it would be reasonable to assume that Labour needs to either decide how to position itself or risk being swept away

Bizarrely, this is good news for Corbyn: it shows that the appetite for easy answers among the public has not diminished, and among the relatively tiny selectorate which has kept him in post, too, there seems little chance of minds changing before 2020.

The final piece of the puzzle is the information we now have about Brexit. A recent survey showed that Britons currently feel more strongly about their Remain or Leave positions than they do about political parties. This means that Labour’s positioning on Brexit is now crucial to its survival: the fudge that it lived with through the referendum campaign is no longer tenable.

So, what are these options?

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Nationalist thugs in Scotland will boost Scottish Labour’s vote

04/05/2015, 04:38:58 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Today, Jim Murphy showed why he is a strong leader. Unlike either David Cameron or Ed Miliband, he took his campaign to the streets to meet ordinary voters. It was the type of bold, smart politics that this election has lacked.

It was bold because rather than hiding away behind a lectern, at a ticketed event, protected by a ring of security, Jim Murphy had the courage to stand up and make his case at Glasgow’s St Enoch Square.

He knew that nationalist thugs would be there to shout him down. They always are. That they would try to deny his right to free speech and disrupt a peaceful political gathering.

But still he did it. Because democracy matters and speaking to voters, real people not the adoring activists bussed in for most political rallies, is the lifeblood of politics.

The intimidation and abuse that Jim Murphy experienced were a vivid demonstration of the dark side of Scottish nationalism.

And this is why it was smart, as well as brave, politics.

Media reports of this type of confrontation are more persuasive than any speech by a Scottish Labour politician on the dangers of an unchecked nationalist Raj in Scotland.

Not just for wavering Labour voters, but Tories and Lib Dems too, it shows how freedom of speech, the right to express a pro-union argument or even just a non-nationalist case, is under threat.

To resist the SNP surge, Labour needs the support of Tory and Lib Dem voters. In most Scottish seats, the Tories and Lib Dems don’t stand a chance. The choice is simple: Labour or the SNP. The pictures on today’s news make a powerful case for these voters to lend their votes to Labour to turn back the nationalist tide.

In the final days of this campaign, if Scottish Labour can clearly define itself as the pro-union party, the party that speaks for the 55% who rejected independence in the referendum last year, it can hang on to a swathe of Scottish seats that pollsters have written off.

Seats that the party desperately needs if Ed Miliband is to have any hope of making it into Downing street.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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A big argument on a big issue. Tony Blair showed Labour the way on Europe

08/04/2015, 10:28:09 AM

by Callum Anderson

As Labour’s most successful leader and prime minister, it has always struck me as odd (and rather self-defeating) that Tony Blair continues to be relatively unloved by the Labour mainstream.

Respected? Yes. But for a winner of three general elections, Mr Blair fails to stir the levels of positive emotions by the Labour faithful – in stark contrast to the cast majority of many Conservatives’ slavish adoration for Margaret Thatcher – even twenty five years after the end of her premiership.

In what could be a unique characteristic of the Left, too much analysis of Blair’s legacy focuses on the Iraq war and not enough on domestic successes (minimum wage, investment in schools and the NHS anyone?).

Yet, despite all this, as Steve Richards astutely observed, Mr Blair showed, once again, how he “remains the best communicator in British politics”.

As Mr Blair ventured, for the first time, into the 2015 general election campaign on Tuesday morning, we were reminded of the huge scope for a positive and patriotic argument regarding the UK’s position in Europe and, indeed, the world.

Not only did he make short, punchy jabs at Labour’s opponents – correctly asserting that the issue of the UK’s membership of the EU as “too important” to be treated as a “sop” to opponents, as David Cameron has done in response to the rise of UKIP; and UKIP’s nationalistic tendencies as “ugly” – but also made what was in all probability the most coherent case for Britain’s EU membership.

Indeed, with the Conservatives wheeling out clichés such as ‘Long Term Economic Plan’ and ‘securing a strong economy’, Mr Blair shrewdly highlighted that an EU referendum would cause chaos in the British economy. Any referendum would destabilise businesses, endangering inward investment into the UK, as Conservative MP Mark Garnier, JP Morgan and eight in ten small and medium sized businesses have all warned.

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Scotland: The madness has to stop now

12/09/2014, 08:06:04 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Mental health is said to be a ‘Cinderella’ service, lacking resources. Friedrich Nietzsche maintained, though, that madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule. He would be unsurprised, therefore, that I’ve received an email from a friend in Scotland who reports the Yes campaign is coming across “like a millennial cult”.

Similarly, Carol Craig has lamented that the approach of Stephen Noon, chief strategist for Yes, “is nationalism laced with a heavy dose of what looks like a whacky personal development philosophy”. Yes vehemently insist that doubts about UK breakup evidence only a lack of belief in the Scottish.

The then European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for Scotland to rejoin the EU after UK breakup. The Royal Bank of Scotland will leave Scotland if the UK breaks up. Given concerns about the currency, Ultimo, the company of the Scottish business woman Michelle Mone, would also follow them south.

Scottish nationalists will insist that the Royal Bank of Scotland doesn’t really believe in Scotland. That Barroso knows nothing of the EU and simply lacks faith in Scots. That Mone is full of it. She probably isn’t actually Scottish. There is no concern that can’t be dismissed if you are a true enough Scot.

Sadly, Mone, born and raised in Glasgow, no longer feels safe in Scotland having been targeted by Siol nan Gaidheal, an ultra-nationalist group that boasts of ‘in-your-face-confrontations’ with Jim Murphy. Friends also tell me of Better Together posters resulting in smashed windows. Sections of the Scottish population have thuggishly moved beyond reason.

The exasperation of Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, speaking earlier in the week was palpable. Currency union in the event of UK breakup would be “incompatible with sovereignty”, he observed, wearily referring to a speech that he’d given earlier in the year. He might as well have said, “I don’t know how many times I have to say this”.

If the treatment of Mone and Murphy is anything to go by, he’ll never be heard by some. Maybe heard but not accepted. Perhaps they think he’s bluffing. Or having a laugh. But this is not a stag party or another occasion for laughs. It’s even less of an occasion for laughs than a general election.

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We need more Jim Murphy and less Douglas Carswell

01/09/2014, 07:05:00 PM

by Jonathan Todd

On two separate occasions this year I have been surprised by intelligent Scots telling me that they are considering voting yes in the independence referendum. Why would they contemplate something that seems to me small-minded and inward-looking?

When I put this to them, they both replied with words to the effect of, “there is a better way to run Scotland.” “Can’t that be achieved within the devo-max that is inevitably coming?” “What makes it inevitable?” “Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are all committed to it.”

At this point in the conversations, one of them expressed cynicism in the capacity of these three parties to deliver. Another was more accepting that devo-max would come if Scotland remains in the UK and began to lament what would become of the rump of the UK if Scotland voted for independence.

Behind both of these responses is a belief that Scotland is a fundamentally different political universe from the rest of the UK. The first reveals a view that the leading UK parties are unable or unwilling to give Scotland the powers necessary to build the brightest possible future. The second is concerned about what will become of the presumed conservative England without the anchor of supposedly social democratic Scotland.

But at the last general election, only 3 per cent fewer people in Scotland voted Conservative than voted SNP. At the three general elections prior to this, Labour would have formed the government each time had only votes in England counted. Labour can win England. Scotland does have Tories. England and Scotland are not Mars and Venus.

Somewhat similarly, the Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly has claimed to have a lot more in common with Liverpool welders than Scottish Highlanders with agricultural backgrounds. If we accept that Scotland is not an island of social democracy in a sea of conservatism, instead sharing a spectrum of political values with the rest of the UK, and also take the leading UK political parties at their word, meaning that devo-max is a coming reality for Scotland, what remains for the yes campaign to advance their argument?

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Its Labour’s fault there’s no-one as good as Salmond

24/04/2014, 10:08:10 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Alastair Darling has many qualities. He was an effective minister, a mainstay throughout Labour’s years in power and as Chancellor, he steered the economy through the worst recession since the 1930s, leaving behind a growing economy in 2010. He is widely respected and admired. But as a campaigner, he makes David Moyes look like Jose Mourinho.

He is so ill-suited to leading the cross-party campaign to galvanise Scots behind the simple proposition that they are “Better Together” with their kith and kin in the rest of the union that the No campaign against Scottish independence looks set to snatch defeat from the jaws of what should, on paper, be an easy victory.

Yet a vote for independence is now a real possibility – with a poll last weekend putting the Yes campaign just three per cent behind the No campaign, a once unthinkable prospect. (To put this in context, a poll last November had the No camp leading by a margin of 29 per cent).

This is a calamitous situation with the polling numbers now starting to reflect what is all too evident to anyone watching this referendum battle unfold: The Westminster class has badly underestimated Alex Salmond.

Frankly, it has paid too little attention to Caledonian affairs in general in recent years, wrongly assuming the devolution settlement of 1998 was the end of the line as far as Scottish nationhood goes. This has left opponents of independence with a strategic problem. There is simply no equivalent Scottish figure now able to make the case for retaining the Union with the same panache Salmond displays in trying to break it up.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the UK and leader of the most swivel-eyed pro-Union party in British politics, can barely open his mouth on the subject without sending undecided voters flocking towards the independence camp.

Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, southern English and middle-class are clearly deemed surplus to requirements and have the good sense to stay out of it. Labour’s Scottish Leader, Johann Lamont, is tough and said to get under Salmond’s skin, but she is a provincial figure in comparison.

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Farage might have won the live debate but Clegg triumphed in the news packages. And more people watch the news

03/04/2014, 10:08:03 AM

by Atul Hatwal

A thumping victory for Farage. That was the consensus following last night’s big debate. The pundits said it, the polls said it; there was little doubt.

But for people like me, who didn’t see the debate, and whose only sight of the combatants was on the evening news, the result was very different.

In the contest of the clips, Clegg was the winner.

This doesn’t mean that the verdict of those who saw the live debate was wrong. Just that, as so often is the case, the highlights reel told a different story.

The BBC News at Ten package, which would have had the most viewers, focused on four passages in the debate: the clash over Putin, immigration, past Lib Dem promises of a referendum and the closing statements.

Nick Robinson’s report can be seen here.

While Farage had the upper hand in the latter two exchanges, the first two were the most resonant.

On Putin, the key moment was when David Dimbleby intervened to contradict Nigel Farage’s assertion that he had never said he “admired Putin.”

Although most viewers are likely to have minimal interest in Nigel Farage’s position on Vladimir Putin, it’s always extremely powerful when the neutral debate moderator intervenes against one of the participants.

Quite apart from the topic under discussion, it sends a clear message to the viewing public that this politician isn’t being straight with the audience.

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Ed’s new policy on Europe gives us the leadership we need

14/03/2014, 04:58:25 PM

by Alan Donnelly

Pro-Europe Labourites have been waiting for leadership on Europe and now we have it. The dilemma for the party was always this: unable to be unabashedly pro-Europe because of Eurosceptic polling, unable to refuse a referendum because of some in the party, yet secretly eager to build a positive reform agenda for the EU.

There was a period of time last year in which every PMQs was dominated by the referendum question, with Cameron urging Ed to say yes or no, and claiming he was the big man for giving the people a say.

He no longer has that card to play. Ed has set out Labour’s position clearly: only if there are further transfers of power will Labour hold a referendum. He has also been clear that on that basis he thinks there will not be one.

Cameron now has little to go on, and will be exposed as being in a weak position on Europe, pushed this way and that by his backbenchers.

Instead of attacking the reasons for the policy, Tories are claiming it is unclear. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Do we offer a referendum come what may? No. Do we want a referendum? No. Why? Because it’s counterproductive to reform, it’s unnecessary, and in the end will not “put the issue to bed” at all.

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