The Independent‘s John Rentoul is scarcely likely to be happy at what the latest poll by Opinium says, but dutifully tweeted it anyway:
Opinium poll for Observer, Cons back to 15-pt lead:
Con 38% +2
Lab 23% -1
Lib Dem 15% -5
Brexit 12% +1
Green 4% +2
2,006 UK adults 3-4 Oct, change since last week
So after all those Remain victories in Parliament and the courts, Boris Johnson’s Tories are slightly more popular and the Liberal Democrats are significantly less popular? How can this be?
Brian Micklethwait argues that no (overt) pact is needed between the Brexit Party and the Conservatives in order to get a Parliament of leavers. The Brexit Party can make the pact unilaterally:
all Brexit voters need to know who to vote for in their particular constituency, come the day, to ensure Brexit. So, the Brexit Party just needs to tell them. If the Brexit Party campaigns for Conservative Brexiters who’ll win, but for its own candidates when they are more likely to win, the Brexit Party will get its deal.
Meanwhile Boris might do well to avoid a pact:
in the event of such public collaboration, there was and is a crucial slice of Conservative but only Leave-ish voters in the affluent south who would have been put off voting Leave, and would who would now be put off voting Conservative and would switch to the LibDems
It might just work.
I read everywhere that Boris Johnson’s government is flailing and failing. They have been soundly defeated in the Commons. It looks like Boris will be forced to ask the EU for another extension, and according to the Times it has been pre-approved:
Rebel Tory MPs and opposition leaders received private assurances from European leaders that a request by parliament for a three-month Brexit extension would be granted in one last attempt to break the deadlock.
The Times understands that senior figures behind the bill to force an extension on Boris Johnson cleared their plan with EU capitals before it was published this week. They received reassurances that the European Council, which is made up of EU leaders, would not stand in the way of one final extension if it was approved by parliament.
Amber Rudd is but the latest high-profile Tory to resign the Conservative whip, to the delight of her brother Roland Rudd, the chairman of the People’s Vote campaign.
“If Parliament is unable to decide on Brexit it would be better to have a snap General Election”
-Tweet from the “Britain Elects”, quoting a poll by ComRes carried out from the 4th-6th September. It is not the only such result. The Independent‘s John Rentoul has observed,
Average of 3 polls this weekend (Survation, Opinium, YouGov)
Lib Dem 18%
Johnson threatens Brexit rebels with party expulsion
Sayeth that bastion of anti-Brexit sentiment Reuters. But what I find more interesting is this:
House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said any wise party would prepare for an election and that the rebel legislation would be considered a matter of confidence in the government. “It is important for the government to establish the confidence of the House of Commons and this is essentially a confidence matter: Who should control the legislative agenda, Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson?” Rees-Mogg said.
As I have said before, the way to get Nigel Farage (not Jeremy Corbyn, that is a canard) in No.10 is for enough of the Château-bottled shit who make up much of the ‘Conservative’ Party to prevent Boris from delivering a clean Brexit. That is the magic ingredient which transforms Farage from a remarkable political outlier into a political kaiju who will flatten London (well, Westminster specifically). The Brexit Party exists almost exclusively to rip the two main parties apart (but particularly the Tories) if we end up with No Brexit or Brexit-in-name-only. There are enough adults in the Tory Party to have figured out that out too, meaning they understand that certain ‘Big Beasts’ like Ken Clarke and several dozen others need to be purged from the party utterly, completely, unambiguously and unapologetically, or the entire Parliamentary Tory party will be able to drive to the House in three or four black cabs after the next General Election.
They have it within their power to make the Brexit Party pretty much just go away, and they would have to be cretins not to see how to do that. Sadly, if we have learned anything in the last three years, Parliament is awash with cretins. I always used to think it was a mistake to assume my enemies were idiots, but… well, we will see.
Finally, Parliament gets treated with the contempt it richly deserves.
And now more than ever, we will need the Brexit Party to keep a political knife to Boris Johnson’s throat, or the most likely last minute result will be a sell-out ‘deal’ that delivers the utterly appalling Withdrawal Agreement (“Whether you’re a Brexiteer or Remainer, this is a deal that a nation signs only after having been defeated at war. This is not a deal fit for purpose for any sovereign country.”), probably minus the distraction of the backstop.
Right, the whole lot of you will now kindly fuck off
Some sort of clean break Brexit is looking far more likely than it was when Theresa May was Prime Minister. What happened?
Today Nigel Farage made a speech to the Brexit Party (the event is ongoing and his speech starts about 17 minutes into that live stream).
Back in March of this year all seemed lost. We had a Labour and Conservative party, both of whom were happy not to take us out of the European Union. […] The talk was that not only were we not leaving the European Union but we were to face a second referendum. […] That is why I founded the Brexit Party. […] We managed to turn all of that anger that was out there in this country into optimism and hope. We made people begin to realise that actually Brexit was going to happen. […] It was our rise and success that got rid of the worst and most duplicitous prime minister in British history. I think we pretty much guaranteed that her successor would be a leading brexiteer. Indeed if we hadn’t fought those elections I suspect Mrs May would still be there.
Farage claims that at this point Boris is mostly aping Brexit Party lines. But he does not mind. He is pleased that Boris has brought some energy and optimism to the job, and that he is saying we will leave on the 31st October, “do or die.” But Nigel is skeptical, since we heard similar things from Theresa May early on, and Boris looks like he might be satisfied with the withdrawal agreement minus the backstop. Boris and the Conservative party can not be trusted, Nigel says.
It is clear that Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party are the ones keeping Boris honest. Will it be enough, or will they also be the ones bringing about the downfall of the Conservative Party should he fail? Says Nigel:
The withdrawal agreement is not Brexit. The withdrawal agreement is a betrayal of what 17.4m people voted for, and if you go with the withdrawal agreement we will fight you in every single seat up and down the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.
He talks about another possibility: that Boris proceeds with leaving with no deal. Nigel thinks no deal is the best deal. He calls it a clean break Brexit, leaving the UK independent and sovereign.
If Boris Johnson was to summon up the courage to lead this country into a clean break Brexit on 31st October, and if the only means of achieving that was calling a general election … then we would put country before party … we would be prepared to help him, perhaps in the form of a non-aggression pact at the election.
He goes on to suggest that the only way the Conservative party could win a general election is with the help and support of the Brexit Party. “We will not get a genuine Brexit without the Brexit Party being involved.”
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.
Professor Matthew Goodwin is the author of National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, which I have read and found good. As an academic he maintains an attitude of detachment but it is clear to me that he wants Brexit, partly from fear that if the referendum result is thwarted the result will be a resurgence of the nativist Right, who will have been shown to be correct in their claim that democracy is a sham.
Goodwin believes the most likely thing to happen in the next few months is that Boris Johnson will succeed in delivering Brexit and will win an election on the strength of having done that. In this article, “Boris Wins Big … Right?”, he details four scenarios that end very differently. I approve of that type of thinking.
One lesson of the past decade, as I usually point out in my talks, is that we should always challenge Groupthink. It’s not that I find the above implausible, because I don’t. If things do not change then Boris has a pretty good chance of winning a majority, albeit one that in my view will be much less spectacular than Twitter would have you believe. But it could also go very wrong and we should recognise that conventional wisdom has a dismal record. Long-time subscribers of this bulletin know that it is only by challenging Groupthink that we saw 2016 Leave victory coming. So where could it go wrong for Boris? Here are four things his team need to think about.
Of the four factors he cites, only the first two strike me as big risks. They are:
– 1. He fails to unify Leavers
– 2. Corbynomics remains popular
In all the hullabaloo about Brexit it is easy to forget that a generation has grown up who only know of Margaret Thatcher as a kind of Bogeywoman and who know nothing of the failures of socialism that caused her to be voted in. Corbynomics is indeed popular, more popular than Corbyn himself. Never forget that the hard Left was a vital part of the coalition that won the 2016 EU referendum.
Added later: I said I admired Goodwin’s willingness to think about how he could be wrong in his predictions and how things could go contrary to his desires. In contrast Polly Toynbee seems constitutionally unable to think for very long about uncongenial matters. She writes, “Only a government of national unity can deliver us from no deal”, without once mentioning the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems are as vital to the Remain coalition as the Hard Left are to the Leave coalition; to put forward the idea of a government of national unity (headed by Margaret Beckett of all people) that does not include them is to add an intra-Remain absurdity on top of the wider absurdity of proposing a government of “national unity” to force through something bitterly opposed by half the electorate, as a commenter called “Katherine1984” pointed out.
Lest I be revealed as unable to think of uncongenial things myself, let me say that unfortunately the Remain side includes many brains more flexible than Polly’s. Dominic Grieve, for one.
It appears that Tory leader Boris Johnson is now moving towards a reheated version of Theresa May’s terrible Withdrawal Agreement – the worst deal in history, a treaty that was accurately described by Boris as reducing the UK to a state of ‘vassalage’.
After a few short days making positive noises, the new Prime Minister is already talking about an extended period of Transition. A period when we would effectively still be in the Single Market and Customs Union, we would not be able to implement new trade deals, would still be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and would not have control of our fishing waters. Under the terms of Mrs May’s agreement, we would also unnecessarily be paying £39 billion without the EU agreeing to any new trade deal.
– Richard Tice, Chairman, The Brexit Party
One by OpiniumResearch, fieldwork 24-26 July changes with respect to 5th July:
CON: 30% (+7)
LAB: 28% (+3)
LDEM: 16% (+1)
BREX: 15% (-7)
GRN: 5% (-3)
And one by DeltaPoll for the Mail on Sunday:
CON: 30 (+10)
LAB: 25 (-1)
LIB: 18 (+2)
BRX: 14 (-10)
CUK: 2 (-2)
The fearful symmetry of that +7, -7 and +10, -10 is burning bright in the tangled forests of polling data. I rejoice.
I do not rejoice for the Conservatives, or mourn for the Brexit party. When the Tories’ voters deserted them en masse for the Brexit Party just before the European Parliament elections I was happy for the same reason that I am happy now: those splendidly disloyal voters were sending the message “We voted to leave the European Union. Forget building high speed railways or cancelling them, or whatever other scheme you think matters, we want Brexit. And we will vote for whichever party has the best chance of getting it done.”
Edit: Good grief, there have now been four polls published tonight. They’re like No. 9 buses, you wait ages then four turn up at once. The two later polls did not give such dramatic rises for the Tories, but one of them, by ComRes, yet again followed the pattern of a rise for the Conservatives precisely mirrored by a fall for the Brexit Party. Only YouGov did not follow this pattern. It showed a rise for the Conservatives and a fall for the Brexit Party, all right, but they were not quite equal. I repeat: it is not the rise or fall of either party that interests me. What interests me is that this demonstrates there is a most un-blocky bloc of voters for whom Brexit is the key issue.
In recent weeks there has been a slew of comments from the Remain side that asked, with a pitying shake of the head, what would the poor shambling Leave voters actually do if Article 50 were revoked? Get out on the streets with their Zimmer frames and riot? (The search term riot Zimmer frame Brexit gets 51,600 results. Recycling is all very well, but someone needs to donate them a second joke.) Well, besides the route taken by one Brexit-supporting old girl who won’t see seventy again – become an MEP and make Greens cry – there is always the option of swing voting.