“The Liberal Democrats misread the political mood. Yet perhaps not all is lost”, writes Martin Kettle.
Three conclusions follow. The first is that Brexit has not reshaped the electoral battle as comprehensively as some believe. That is not to belittle the fact that Brexit has done much to recast British electoral politics. This is still a Brexit election, because its results could mark a point of no return on this most all pervasive of current issues. But it is not year zero. The idea that the Lib Dems, by being clear on the biggest issue of the day, will automatically attract all remain voters en masse to their cause is being proved false. It’s as false as Labour’s equivalent fantasy that, by being clear on the need for a radical post-austerity political economy, it will automatically attract all the votes of those who agree with that policy. In both cases, belief in practicality and trust in the leader are crucial to making the sale.
I would add to that final point about trust something that Martin Kettle almost certainly would not. It is a line from an article published yesterday by Mr Kettle’s Guardian colleague John Harris: “Labour’s ‘red wall’ is looking shaky. But the problems started decades ago”.
Mr Harris writes,
Running through a great deal of what I heard was a point voiced time and again by all kinds of people: in the absence of Brexit being delivered, why should they trust politicians to do anything else?
Sometimes all one can say is “Read this”. It is by peer-turned-pollster Lord Ashcroft, who used to be Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, but whose relations with the Tories are no longer so friendly.
It was always clear that the “credible Leave option” that the Labour party proposes to pit against Remain in a second referendum is a fake. The plan is for Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry to get together with their EU opposite numbers and, after the least arduous negotiations imaginable, to emerge beaming with a “deal” deliberately designed to be as unattractive as possible.
But if that wasn’t enough, the Labour manifesto plans to make assurance doubly sure, as Macbeth said when deciding to murder Macduff. I quote:
We will oversee the largest extension of the franchise in generations, reducing the voting age to 16, giving full voting rights to all UK residents, making sure everyone who is entitled to vote can do so by introducing a system of automatic voter registration, and abandoning plans to introduce voter ID which has been shown to harm democratic rights.
–“It’s time for real change – The Labour Party Manifesto 2019”
The innocuous phrase “all UK residents” includes non-UK citizens from any country. As it says elsewhere in the manifesto, there are three million EU residents in the UK. They will get to vote on whether the UK remains in the EU. The majority by which Leave won the 2016 referendum was 1.3 million.
When people tell me “you must vote for Boris’ party or we will never get Brexit” I usually respond with “Because you trust & believe a Tory leader to actually do what he says & are willing to just hand-wave the last 3 years away?”
Well the Tories may be the only game in town in some areas, but decades of voting for the lesser evil is how we ended up with a ‘Conservative’ Party that isn’t conservative. If I thought Boris was actually serious about meaningful Brexit, I might hold my nose and vote Tory one last time. But if ‘No Deal’ really isn’t an option even now, I just don’t believe anything Boris says about truly wanting out of the EU.
Do I want to risk Corbyn getting in? I would rather he doesn’t but I am done voting Tory on the basis they are a slower acting poison than the alternative.
1) I am beginning to think that the best strategy for the Leave side would be for the Brexit Party and the Conservatives to make no official pact, and to continue to denounce each other vigorously, but to make a de facto pact in terms of which seats receive money and campaign volunteers from the two parties.
(EDIT 12:30, 11 Nov 2019: Whether or not that would have been the best strategy, it is now off the cards. Guido Fawkes reports, Brexit Party will Stand Down in 317 Seats the Tories Won in 2017)
2) In an effort to correct for the errors of their disastrous 2017 campaign, the Conservatives are deliberately holding back their main effort until later. This may be an overcorrection, but we’ll see. Expect the fireworks to start after the launch of the Labour manifesto. (The Conservatives’ own manifesto will be as short and uncontroversial – for which read fiscally incontinent – as possible.)
3) Talking of which, the line over which the campaign will be fought will be the words from the 2017 Labour manifesto that may or may not appear in the 2019 Labour manifesto: “Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union.” If these guys were to get their way the election result would be a Tory landslide. But Labour’s instinct to fudge will probably prevail.
3.5) It is sad to note that if I am right, both (2) and (3) require the Conservatives to move in an anti-Libertarian direction in order to win.
Is Boris Johnson’s deal with the EU BRexit In Name Only? What kind of exit from the EU will a Tory party with an overall majority deliver? Important questions for anyone struggling to decide whether to vote Conservative to just leave already, or vote Brexit Party to send a message that we want as much Brexit as possible.
Martin Howe is a Queen’s Counsel and so likely to understand the deal as well as anyone. He was against Theresa May’s deal because it bound the UK into a transition period (backstop) until the EU decided otherwise. He is in favour of Boris Johnson’s deal.
According to him, the deal looks a lot better than I had previously thought:
it foreshadows a Free Trade Agreement under which the UK will be able to operate its independent trade policy, instead of the UK being locked into the EU’s external customs tariffs…references in the PD to the UK aligning its rules to EU rules have been deleted…commitment to shadow the EU rules on competition and state aids in Theresa May’s WA has been replaced with a more open ended commitment not to distort competition [similar to that seen in most FTAs, according to the Telegraph version of the article]…explicitly making clear the right of the UK to determine how it would respond to any invitation by the EU to participate in joint action in the defence field
None of these things you would learn from reading comments on Guido…
Howe is honest enough to detail the bad stuff.
the long term subjection of the UK to rulings by the ECJ…the so-called transition period [during which] the UK would be subject to all EU laws, both those that exist now and those that are brought in during that period…financial obligations on the UK which go well beyond the UK’s obligations under international law
Overall, Howe thinks this is much better than Theresa May’s unacceptable deal, is not BRINO, but is worse than leaving with no deal. The question then becomes: is it still possible to leave with no deal?
There is news, my friends, and my title quote from the first canto of Byron’s Don Juan could apply to both parties involved:
New Brexit deal agreed, UK PM Boris Johnson says
Michel Barnier optimistic of deal after PM makes concessions on Irish border
This may be a minority opinion round here, but I hope that a deal is agreed today. If it is it will probably be a bad deal in many respects. Nonetheless I would prefer not to let the best be the enemy of the good, or more to the point, the possible. Once we are out, new things can happen. I feel the need of some new things.
If, after that, Remainers manoeuvre to block such a deal (after wailing for months about how terrible the absence of one would be, as I was discussing yesterday) – that’s on them. Let them defend their choice to start playing Brexit II: Just when you thought it was safe to look at the news again.