Category: Shenanigans


Making doubly sure Leave cannot win

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.

If I were Dominic Cummings, this is one line I would push

My past self rebukes my present self for saying this, but there is one thing that Labour let slip over the last few days that the Tories would do well to seize upon.

On October 28th Labour submitted “wrecking amendments” to the bill that authorised the election that would have extended the franchise to sixteen and seventeen year olds, and also to EU citizens.

Nothing came of it. The two amendments were not selected for debate by the Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, on the grounds that they were not relevant to the motion. In normal times one would have assumed that of course amendments proposing major constitutional changes would not be permitted to be tacked on to another bill as an afterthought, but in the last days of the era of John Bercow there is no “of course” about it. He might well have seen votes for sixteen year olds and foreigners as his last gift to the nation. Fortunately his deputy was in the Speaker’s chair on this occasion.

The proposal to give the vote to 16-17 year olds was an obvious ploy to gather the votes of da yoof while they still know little of the world beyond what their teachers have told them. I would imagine that the sight of Labour advocating this arouses more weariness than outrage. Votes for foreigners is a different matter. Although the mainstream media lost interest as soon as it was clear that the Deputy Speaker would not allow the amendments, my subjective impression is that to many ordinary people the news that Labour apparently wants to add around three million non-citizens to the electoral roll almost eclipsed the news about the date of the election.

I may be wrong about this. I was abroad for the last week and did not spend much time on the internet. Thus what I did see might have been too small a sample from which to draw conclusions. On the other hand, perhaps the fact that I was only skim-reading allowed me to see the spike in anger more clearly. I was not in a position to collect hyperlinks, but, trust me, a lot of people saw this in terms of Labour wanting to replace its former voters.

For the times they are indeed achanging

When I saw a Brexit-related link on instapundit, clicked on it and realised I had arrived at the New Statesman (!!!), I almost clicked the back button. Decades ago, I gew up in a household that took the New Statesman – a schizoid hard-left rag whose first (political) half lauded the noble working class oppressed by the evil Tories, and whose second (social) half reviewed avante-garde books and arty-farty plays that no representative member of the working class would go within a mile of, in pretentiously-predictable articles mostly written by the sort of reviewers described in George Orwell’s essay “Confessions of a book reviewer”. You can picture my amazement at finding that the article instapundit linked, written by the New Statesman’s book reviewer John Gray, though not without flaws (and with a title chosen more to encourage the average New Statesman reader to read it than to convey its contents 🙂 ), has some valid points.

Trivially, the writer’s thoughts on Burke are wrong – but he’s right that misquoting a travesty-version of Burke is one of the ways the remoaners (haute-remainers is his phrase) whistle in the dark to keep their spirits up. And I’m unsurprised that a man who writes for the New Statesman, even one with some sensible observations, has a cluelessly cynical attitude to tradition.

More germane to his thesis, the writer’s idea that, for Cummings, “strategy takes priority over any ideology” perhaps shows he watched the BBC dramatised series on Brexit referendum campaign more attentively than he read Cumming’s own articles. The series was (I think, AFAICT) competent at showing the how of winning the Brexit campaign but revealingly clueless about the why – the remainers got to explain themselves but one could not tell from the script why Cummings, Boris and other leavers wanted to do what they were doing. Things must first work before they can work to any given end, and the more the ‘haute-remainers’ make politics warfare, the more Boris, Cummings and the rest have no choice but to outmanouevre them before they can pursue any end not immediately part of that – but that hardly shows they have no desired end. Gray also does not discuss (does not see?) that Blair’s constitutional innovations (e.g. the supreme court, only 10 years old this month) might not evolve but simply be abolished along with the FTPA.

More germane still is his limited understanding of how the public, as opposed to the pundits, grasp the issues.

Pundits and MPs kept saying ‘why isn’t Leave arguing about the economy and living standards’. They did not realise that for millions of people, £350m/NHS was about the economy and living standards – that’s why it was so effective. (Dominic Cummings, How the Brexit Referendum Was Won)

Gray says that

Farage has never wavered in his commitment to libertarian economics, and today this is a clear vulnerability. Johnson has to show he is committed to using the power of the state to repair the damage inflicted on society by markets [NK: ‘markets’, a revealingly inadequate word – ‘globalism’ would be less imperfect]

Gray does not realise that (to paraphrase Cummings) for millions of people, controlling immigration is about protecting them from the damage that elitism, political correctness and globalism inflict on their society.

These (and other) constructively-intended criticisms aside, the article has grasped one thing: the futility of an immediate remoaner victory even if they could gain it. As Burke developed his campaign against Warren Hastings in the mid-1780s in what looked like a very difficult political environment, a perceptive government supporter wrote, “I do not see how they will get rid of Mr Burke.” Similarly, the article grasps how all the remoaners’ tactics positively push them further away from getting rid of Brexit: “Ces institutions périssent par leurs victoires.” He also understands how modern “liberals” (US sense, though very appropriate to today’s LibDems) are very far from being the rational ones.

When liberals talk about reason they mean a mishmash of ideas they picked up at university. Scraps of Rawls, Dworkin and Thomas Piketty, together with a smattering of modish conspiracy theories, form the folk wisdom of the thinking classes. Rationality means deferring to this ragbag of ephemera and ignoring enduring truths about the deciding forces in politics.

Sense peeps out from an article in the NS! – not the Britain of my youth indeed! 🙂

Parliament cut off its own nose to spite the people’s face

Two things have been key pillars of parliamentary government’s ability to function for the past 330 years.

One is the government’s power of dissolution. Bagehot (‘The English Constitution’) explained that parliamentary supervision combined effectively with government functioning because:

“Though appointed by one parliament, it can appeal if it chooses to the next.”

The ridiculous fixed-term parliament act (passed to provide reassurance to the libdems during their 2010-2015 coalition with the conservatives) removed that pillar.

Another is its direction of the parliamentary agenda.

I am guided by and must operate within the Standing Orders of the House. (Speaker Bercow, 26 September 2014)

The Standing Orders are of course our rules, and by those rules we must all abide. (Speaker Bercow, 29 June 2017)

Those conventions and precedents are important to the collegiate operation of this House. (Speaker Bercow, 26 March 2018)

I am clear in my mind that I have taken the right course of action. (Speaker Bercow, ditching 330 years of precedent against the unanimous instruction of his law clerks on 9 January 2019 – and on several occasions thereafter, h/t the Spectator)

If parliamentary government could have functioned, it could have delivered Brexit, so, egged on by a cross-party coalition of MPs, most of whom were breaking highly-specific election pledges, and led (appropriately) by a speaker whose job exempted him from facing a contested election at all, they wrecked parliament’s ability to function rather than submit to the humiliation of obeying their promise to voters instead of their own opinions.

The result is: parliament has been non-functional for most of this year – and everyone sees it. People who think ‘parliamentary standing orders’ are how it pays the electricity company for lighting in late-night sittings see it. People who think ‘parliamentary standing orders’ are MPs’ drink preferences at the House of Commons’ subsidised bars see it. People who haven’t a clue what happened in 1689 see it. Every day in every way, this parliament is getting itself more and more despised – not the way I’d have chosen to show I belonged to an elite.

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.

Dear Santa, I have been good. If I can’t have Brexit, this is what I want for Christmas.

Senior Government figures are considering a series of proposals to “sabotage” the EU’s structures if Brussels refuses to agree a new deal or let Mr Johnson deliver Brexit without one.

Two Cabinet ministers told this newspaper that they were among those backing a more “aggressive” approach towards Brussels.

It is understood that plans under discussion include blocking the EU’s 2021-27 budget, which is due to be agreed early next year, and nominating a British commissioner who would cause disruption within their portfolio.

Senior ministers discussed the prospect of sending Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party, to take up the role.

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?

We are oh so far past the stage where all must abide by every corrupt legal nicety

When leaders represent the will of the people – and the laws they are breaking are illegitimate or undemocratic – violating them is nearly always justified in retrospect. As it would be in this case. The Benn Act became law earlier this month because of the connivance of the unconstitutionally partial Speaker, John Bercow. When he allowed the Opposition to pass legislation in Government time against the will of the PM and his Cabinet, 300 years of constitutional precedent was overturned.

The Benn Act was a very English form of coup d’etat, orchestrated by an anti-Brexit faction in Parliament to subvert the clearly expressed will of the people. It is, therefore, necessary for Boris to break it to restore the proper constitutional relationship between Government, Parliament and people.

Andrew Roberts