Category: Party politics

Party politics

The terrible cost of political realignment

£22k!

The Manchester Evening News reports:

A Parliamentary candidate who could lose out on £22,000 in taxpayer cash if she is not elected to a Trafford seat next month says it could leave her unable to pay her mortgage.

A leaked letter revealed MP Angela Smith, who is standing as the Lib Dem candidate in Altrincham and Sale West, has appealed for a change in government rules.

She could lose out on the cash if she’s unsuccessful at the General Election on December 12. She says she is ‘fighting for fairness in how MPs are treated’.

Ms Smith, who ‘hates injustice’, described her ‘horror’ at the thought of missing out on the money.

She previously served as MP for Sheffield Hillsborough, from 2005 to 2010.

Ms Smith is currently MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, having been elected to the seat in 2010.

She quit the Labour Party in February alongside six other MPs. They formed The Independent Group, later renamed Change UK.

Government rules state that if an MP loses their seat, they are paid two month’s salary in a ‘loss of office’ payment.

The cash gives former MPs time to find alternative employment and adjust to life outside Parliament.

But, because Ms Smith is standing in a different constituency to the one she currently servces, she would not be entitled to the money if she is not elected in Altrincham and Sale West.

This is not the realignment you are looking for

Via Guido, a report from the Resolution Foundation (“an independent think-tank focused on improving the living standards for those on low to middle incomes”):

The report finds that a new consensus has developed relating to the size of the state: namely that it should be bigger. Ahead of the publication of the election manifestos, we speculate as what that expansion might look like by using what the two major parties have said about their ambitions to date to model some illustrative scenarios. Those scenarios suggest that the UK public finances are heading back to 1970s levels over the coming years – whoever wins the election.

The report is a little light on hard evidence. It cites the Chancellor’s already announced £15.5bn Whitehall spending round boost until 2021; his £100bn infrastructure promises; and it makes claims based on “the main parties’ pre-election stances”. There is also a reference to the Chancellor’s speech of which the “clear implication was that he hoped to increase spending further still in the coming years” — a speech in which he also mentioned the need for low taxes and fiscal responsibility, so much was it trying to be all things to all people.

Meanwhile the Tories talk of cuts to national insurance, but nothing yet about income tax, VAT or corporation tax.

Nevertheless I am increasingly worried that the choices on Brexit might be between variations on Brexit In Name Only, and the choices on the rest of politics between left and far left; between a bigger state and Marxism.

The unity candidate

The Sunday Times reports,

Jeremy Corbyn ‘would support John Bercow as unity PM’

This is some new meaning of the word “unity” not previously known to me. I do not believe I am alone in preferring the honest fanatic Jeremy Corbyn to John Bercow.

Jeremy Corbyn has privately told allies that he will step aside and allow someone else to become prime minister if Boris Johnson is forced from power.

Sources say the Labour leader has concluded that he would not win the support needed to lead a government of national unity. Corbyn has signalled to allies that he might support another candidate as long as it is not a Labour or Conservative MP.

John Bercow, a Tory MP before becoming Speaker of the House of Commons in 2009, has emerged as the Labour leader’s favoured compromise candidate after he ruled out Kenneth Clarke, the former chancellor, who was expelled from the Tories last month.

I suspect that this is a trial balloon designed to make Jeremy Corbyn look good by comparison, but if John Bercow does “emerge” his way into being Prime Minister it will make his decisions made as Speaker during the last three years look as if they were nothing but a conspiracy to gain power, a process of emergence from the shadows brought to the threshold of completion by his recent meeting with the EU’s President-of-whichever-bit-of-the-EU-he’s-president-of, David Sassoli.

And fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling, Show’d like a rebel’s whore

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?

He Who Fights Monsters

As Guido reports, the speech that Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator, made to the Liberal Democrat conference was rapturously received.

He said,

We cannot continue, dear friends, with a Europe that is always acting too little and too late. In the world order of tomorrow – the world order of tomorrow is not a world order based on nation states or countries; it is a world order that is based on empires. China is not a nation, it is a civilisation [inaudible word]. India – you know it better than I do – is not a nation. There are two thousand nations in India. There are twenty different languages that are used there. There are four big religions. At the same time it is the biggest democracy worldwide. The US is also an empire, more than a nation. Maybe tomorrow they will speak there more Spanish than English, I don’t know what will happen. And then finally, the Russian Federation. The world of tomorrow is a world of empires, in which we Europeans and you British can only defend your interests, your way of life, by doing it together in a European framework and in the European Union.

Some people objected to Guido’s description of this speech as saying that the EU needed to become an empire. Fair enough, he never said that. But he certainly seems to think that in order to survive among a world of empires the EU must become more like an empire than it is at present. And – how shall I put this? – neither he nor his audience seemed unhappy at the prospect. Liberalism once meant something different from this.

What value parties?

Almost 50 MPs (almost 8% of the house of commons) have changed party since the June 2017 election. (Some have changed several times, so there have been 73 switches of party overall – like divorce, party infidelity rates can seem higher if one forgets that a smallish number of people contribute a lot of the statistics.)

For better and (often) for worse, parties, not personalities, have been how we vote for three centuries. Burke wrote that he

was quite sure he rested wholly on the Whig interest and would not obtain a single Tory vote (in point of fact he did obtain but one)

in Bristol in 1774 – and few MPs have done better. Manifestos, not our local MP’s opinions, are most of what we vote for. Party leaders, not local MPs, are most of whom we vote for. And parties are how MPs are disciplined to pay attention to these things – and therefore to our votes, and therefore to us. It doesn’t work at all well – but the alternative is relying on MPs’ consciences. That works well sometimes – but fails often.

One of Churchill’s reasons for praising the oblong shape of the house of commons was that when you changed party in Britain you “crossed the floor” (something he did twice but, as with other aspects of his career, that was unusual). Everyone saw Churchill cross the floor – and Churchill was very aware of himself doing it. In the continent’s universal semi-circle, representatives could gradually move their sitting positions leftwards (or rightwards) without ever facing such a moment of public admission.

However when “everybody’s doing it” and SW1 approves, the effect is weakened.

That the great realignment sees a breakdown of the old party structures is hardly something to complain about. But until we can get something better – until we can get not just a few who are better but 632 who are better – I fear we need either a new party or a purged one with the same discipline – or both. If the current crop of Tory MPs are purged to the point that we can safely rely on MPs’ consciences to deliver Brexit, not party discipline, then well under half will be in the next parliament.

Failing, flailing, and doing surprisingly well in the polls

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.

Yet…

“If Parliament is unable to decide on Brexit it would be better to have a snap General Election”

Agree: 50%
Disagree: 18%

-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)

Con 33%

Lab 23%

Lib Dem 18%

Brexit 14%

A purge long overdue

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.

The real reason Jeremy Corbyn wants Brexit

Andrew Lilico of the Telegraph does Jeremy Corbyn an injustice. He writes,

Jeremy Corbyn will not stop no-deal, because he believes it’s his only route to power

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.