No Deal would suit Labour for the same reason as it would suit the Conservatives: with Brexit done each of the two major parties’ main rival would lose its main selling point. If No Deal turned out badly, that would suit Labour even better. They could blame the Tories for it while still scooping up its benefits. Discuss.
I could have stopped there. But in politics, where duplicitousness is common, there is an ever-present temptation to think that it is universal and that one’s opponents are only pretending to oppose. “Relax!” says a soothing voice. “We don’t need to do anything. They secretly want us to win and will open the gates before battle begins.” Everywhere I see Remain supporters claiming that Boris Johnson, Bluffer Boris, knows full well that leaving without a deal would be a disaster and will arrange at the last moment for it to be avoided. They add that he never even expected or wanted to win the referendum in the first place; did you not see his shocked face the morning after? He just wants someone else to step in and stop it so that he can blame them for betraying Brexit while still scooping up the benefits of remaining in the EU.
Long may they believe this. By “long” I mean until 31st October 2019. But I fear that my half-belief that Jeremy Corbyn secretly wants Brexit is merely another manifestation of the same comforting delusion.
I like this part of Boris’s letter to Donald Tusk:
This government will not put in place infrastructure, checks or controls at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We would be happy to accept a legally binding commitment to this effect and hope that the EU would do likewise.
The jurisdiction with fewer regulations has nothing to lose from such an arrangement, of course. The EU bureaucrats, however, want to be in control, and a source of cheap goods from a free-er jurisdiction must make them uncomfortable (as well as being highly profitable for Northern Ireland). Leaving the EU to build their own border infrastructure is the default position for the UK anyway: the UK cannot lose. This is a test of the EU’s commitment to free trade, as opposed to “free trade” as controlled by them.
The letter is only about the backstop. Theresa May’s agreement minus the backstop still has many problems. It remains to be seen whether Boris and Parliament will settle for it.
If Parliament continues to block Brexit, Mr Johnson is right to shut it down. Just this week a ComRes survey showed 54 percent of Britons would support him proroguing Parliament to ensure we leave on October 31. If Remainer MPs win a vote of no confidence, Boris should call an election for immediately after we have left. These barmy MPs must no longer be allowed to derail our democratic process. They voted to give us the choice in 2016 and must stick by their decision. It really is the People’s PM against Parliament – and Boris must win for the sake of democracy.
Otherwise what is the point of voting ever again? Especially when a handful of deluded MPs think it’s better to entrust our nation to a Marxist dinosaur than simply extricating ourselves from a failing EU.
Boris Johnson looks to me like he might well be a very successful prime minister. He has an air of winning about him. He is annoying the lefty media but Ordinary People seem to like him. Using Facebook to bypass the media and talk directly to the Ordinary People ought to do him good.
He makes some good noises. He is positive about leaving the EU. He hires special advisers from free-market think tanks. Jacob Rees-Mogg is in the cabinet. He has promised tax cuts. He takes a dim view of social engineering sin taxes.
On the other hand he is not very much different from any other Conservative MP. He banned drinking on the tube. He wants to spend more money on police and get them to stop and search people. He admires Pericles in part because of his enthusiasm for infrastructure projects. He talks about jobs as if they were a benefit and not a cost. He wants the police to stop and search people. Amber Rudd is in the cabinet. He is into all that green nonsense. He goes on about how wonderful the NHS is. The British Ordinary People love all this (except possibly the green stuff (and Amber Rudd), though they tolerate it, believing it is somewhat necessary). One of the reasons the lefty media is annoyed is that he is promising to do things they like so that all they can do is moan about how it can not be afforded because of tax cuts.
We will probably get our no deal Brexit, no matter how much Boris says he wants to do a deal knowing the EU probably will not. It will probably work out just fine. Britain will probably bumble along pretty much as before and after a few years it will all be forgotten. But with Boris as a successful and popular prime minister there is a good chance nothing much radical will happen. Corporation tax will not be abolished. Unilateral free trade will not be declared. Swathes of regulations will not be removed. Laws will not be repealed. Hong Kong citizens will not be given British passports.
It will mostly be minor policy tweaks made to sound more exciting than they really are. Trending in a slightly more positive direction, perhaps, but ultimately politics as usual: mild conservatives vs. liberal democrats, irrespective of what party they are actually in. PMQs aside, a successful Boris turns out to be a bit boring.
Me in 2006:
Communism is dead! I knew I’d find some good news if I looked hard enough. There had been a few indications before now that communism might be dead, but now I know for sure. It appears that Fidel Castro handed over Cuba to his brother while he had an op. Back when Communism was alive, they may have been gut-churningly evil mass-murdering scum, but they respected the forms. A society in which anyone could say, “Here y’are, bro, take the whole country” was exactly what they were there to extirpate.
The French Revolution finally died when Napoleon took to handing out the crowns of Europe to his relatives.
Me in 2019: Older, sadder, wiser and knowing John McDonnell is the Shadow Chancellor, I would no longer say so confidently that communism is dead. One day God will send us a silver bullet, but not yet. But Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz succeeding his brother as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba in the manner of a feudal lordship was and is a sign of Communism’s senility. Karl Marx wrote that “the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.” Yes, and when the the intellectual force of an idea is so visibly spent that its leading figures no longer even pretend to follow its tenets, it suggests that its material force will not last much longer.
Yesterday Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party and still its only MP, took to the pages of the Guardian to say, “I’m calling for a cabinet of women to stop a disastrous no-deal Brexit”.
We need an “emergency cabinet” – not to fight a Brexit war but to work for reconciliation. And I believe this should be a cabinet of women.
Why women? Because I believe women have shown they can bring a different perspective to crises, are able to reach out to those they disagree with and cooperate to find solutions. It was two women, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, who began the Peace People movement during the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland; it was two women, Christiana Figueres and Ségolène Royal, who were key to the signing of the Paris climate agreement; intractable problems have found the beginning of resolution thanks to the leadership of women.
So I have reached out to 10 women colleagues from across the political spectrum at Westminster and Holyrood – Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Independent Group for Change and independent – asking that we join together to stop the dangerous pursuit of a crash-out Brexit.
This is not an attempt to replace one coup with another. A small group of us should not be deciding on Britain’s future and that is not what lies behind my initiative. But we need to find a way forward that allows the British people to decide which course they want to take.
Her proposal did not go down well. Not a few pointed out that this terrible crisis that she claims only the leadership of women can solve had arisen under the leadership of a female Prime Minister and at a time when the UK was awash with female party leaders: besides Theresa May as PM and leader of the Conservative party, Nicola Sturgeon, Arlene Foster, Ruth Davidson, Kezia Dugdale, Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas herself all graced the political field at the head of their respective parties during the growth of the crisis. Like hens taking turns to incubate an egg, each of these ladies had a role in bringing the Great Hatching closer.
But that was a secondary issue. The main one was Caroline Lucas having dropped feminism. Dropped it like she never even knew it was a thing. Dropped it like a fashionista giving last year’s kitten heels to her maid. Out: women are held back from political power by false stereotypes of feminine docility! In: a woman’s gentle touch will soothe this troubled land.
Men were not made to feel part of the work of reconciliation by the idea of a government of national unity that had as its selling point that no nasty rough boys would be in it. The few women politically correct enough not to be repelled by the sexism were horrified to note that all the women invited were white. On this point, Comrade Lucas has now submitted to self-criticism. She should have known sooner, she now says, that her all-woman cabinet was insufficiently diverse.
The progressives have long used the George Orwell approach to language by labelling things the opposite of their reality. The latest casualty has been democracy. Now, it seems, ignoring the outcome of a vote is democracy and insisting that it be upheld is undemocratic.
Andrew Lilico of the Telegraph does Jeremy Corbyn an injustice. He writes,
Given that Corbyn could have forced a pre-no deal general election by holding a confidence motion on July 25, but his not doing so has made no deal hugely more likely, why didn’t he?
Here I must interject that unlike Lilico I do not believe for a moment that Corbyn could have won a Vote of No Confidence on July 25. For Corbyn to have won a VONC, several Tories would have had to side with him. For a Conservative MP to vote out a Conservative Prime Minister literally on his first full day of office would have been too spectacular a reversal of their loyalties.
Be that as it may, Lilico then argues that,
There are two parts to the answer. First, he may have feared a ‘Boris bounce’ in the polls, if an election had been held immediately upon Boris’ appointment. Some recent polls have shown Labour on barely more than 20 per cent (sometimes lower) and post-Boris polls have the Tories up as high as 30 per cent. Forcing a general election that gave Boris a majority to implement no deal could have backfired.
But the more fundamental reason is that Corbyn really sees no deal as an opportunity, not a threat. He doesn’t actually care whether the UK remains in the EU or not, provided he is not seen as responsible for either outcome. What he cares about is the overthrow of the current economic and political system and the introduction of a True Socialist state. Brexit is intrinsically a distraction, but in practical terms an opportunity.
The best outcome, from the point of view of promoting Corbyn’s vision, is a general election held at the maximum point of disruption post-no deal. He wants an election to be held, if possible, with strikes crippling public services, food shelves empty in the shops, medicine shortages at the pharmacies, chaos in Northern Ireland, and lorries backed up at the Channel. Then he can say: Capitalism has failed; give Socialism a chance.
I do not think it’s the case that Jeremy Corbyn is a cynical Disaster Socialist, although he cannot help but be aware that if disaster ensues he will stand to benefit.
But he does want Brexit. Firstly because he has wanted to be out of the EEC/EC/EU all his political life and his conversion to Remain was half-hearted at best, false at worst. But far more important right now is that Brexit – any sort of Brexit – finally happening will, at a stroke, wipe out the biggest reason for voting Liberal Democrat. Brexit will do for Labour what it will do for the Conservatives: destroy their biggest rival’s main selling point.
Most Remainers are left wing. What’s the point of them voting Lib Dem to stop Brexit once Brexit has already happened? To shake their fists at Labour for not fighting harder? That would be a futile gesture, and expensive if their wasted vote allows the Conservatives to gain by splitting the left wing vote. True, a hard core of Remainers will gird their loins and start the long campaign to rejoin the European Union. The Liberal Democrats will become the party of Rejoin, and as such will have a secure niche in British politics for decades to come. But faced with a choice between a long and possibly fruitless campaign and the best chance socialism has had in years, most left wing Remainers will pivot back to simply being left wingers.
Convincingly maintaining that you are prepared to walk away, even by appearing uninterested at all in the transaction, makes for good haggling. There is in fact no difference in appearance between a Boris genuinely happy with leaving without a deal, and a Boris who really wants a deal but thinks the EU will blink first. If they do, we may find that Richard Tice is right and we get a “reheated” Theresa May withdrawal agreement.
So Remainers, no need to panic: just because Boris is maintaining coercive credibility does not mean he will push the button. Leavers: keep holding your breath.
With a title like that, how could I resist posting this article by Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times to this site?
Mr O’Toole is very much opposed to what he calls “The Great Disruption”, but he can see that it is happening. Speaking as one who sees the Disruption, or the Realignment, or whatever you want to call it (though I am not a fan of Mr O’Toole’s other term, “The Rapture”) as a hopeful development with attendant risks, rather than as a new Pandora’s box from which will be unleashed all manner of disasters with hope as a weak afterthought, it is incumbent on me to look all the harder at those parts of the Great Realignment that I would prefer not to realign.
Mr O’Toole writes,
Welcome to the Rapture. Like religious cults waiting for the end of the world and the inauguration of the Kingdom of Heaven, political Utopians are waiting for the Great Disruption of a no-deal Brexit. But it is a sign of our weird times that there are three groups anticipating the Apocalypse, and each of them has a very different vision of the Utopia that lies beyond it. Those groups are the hard-right revolutionaries around Boris Johnson; the far-left revolutionaries around Jeremy Corbyn and, we can now say with some certainty, Sinn Féin. They do not want the same things, but if a no-deal Brexit happens it will be because their actions and inaction have coincided to bring it about.
The first – and at the moment by far the most decisive – group of Great Disruptors consists of the disaster capitalists fronted by Johnson. Their Utopia is Singapore. They believe, as Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Liz Truss and other Tory young Turks wrote in Britannia Unchained in 2012, that the British have grown lazy and useless, their buccaneering spirit sapped by a culture of dependency. They see no-deal as the Big Bang that will blow the welfare state, environmental standards and labour protections to smithereens. Out of this chaos will come a new Global Britain of very low taxes for the rich, unregulated hyper-capitalism and boundless “free” markets.
The second group is the high command of the Labour Party around Jeremy Corbyn. Their Utopia is Socialism in One Country. They believe that a no-deal Brexit will free Britain from the wishy-washy social market capitalism of the EU and thus ultimately from capitalism itself. They have their roots in the socialist distaste for the European project that was, it is easy to forget, once the mainstream of British Euroscepticism. In that mentality, the EU was seen as a last, desperate attempt to shore up a dying capitalist system. Thus, on the far side of a no-deal Brexit, lies the workers’ paradise that is the inevitable outcome of history.
The third group of Great Disruptors is Sinn Féin. Their Utopia is, of course, a United Ireland. They ostensibly oppose a no-deal Brexit, and indeed Brexit itself. But beneath this opposition lies the belief that the worse Brexit is, the quicker we will have a Border poll and the more likely it is that Protestants in Northern Ireland will swim for the green lifeboat to avoid going down with the British ship. Alongside the disaster capitalism of Johnson’s faction and the disaster socialism of Corbyn’s, there is this disaster nationalism. It does not deny that no-deal would be awful – it welcomes this awfulness as the Great Disruption that completes the Irish national revolution.
This is why Sinn Féin reacted with such extreme and immediate hostility to my suggestion that it could stop a no-deal Brexit by destroying Boris Johnson’s majority in the House of Commons. I wrote very respectfully of the party’s mandate for abstentionism and tried to find a way to honour it while activating the power of the seven seats it holds at Westminster.