Three and a half shower thoughts

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.

The terrible cost of political realignment


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.

Martin Howe on the Boris deal

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?

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.

Workington Agonistes

“Workington” sounds like a name made up for a novel. But it is a real place, a small town in Cumbria that used to have a coal mine and now has the questionable fortune to have become for the 2019 election what Basildon was in 1992 or Nuneaton was in 2015.

Damian Lyons Lowe of the polling company Survation tweets,

On behalf of Simon Walters at Daily Mail, we have polled the seat many in the media have described as a “must win” in this election as an indicator for Conservative fortunes in parts of the north of England – Workington in Cumbria.

The results were: Conservatives 45% (+3), Labour 34% (-17), Brexit Party 13% (+13), Liberal Democrats 5% (-2), Green Party 2% (+2). The figures in brackets are changes since the 2017 general election.

It is only one poll, but the results indicate that, as suggested in the previous post, the Brexit party running in most or all seats may not harm the Conservatives as much as it would seem at first sight. In fact the presence of the Brexit Party in the contest could indirectly benefit the Conservatives by taking more votes from Labour than from them.

Interesting as the electoral horse race always is, let us not forget that this (potential) change in voting patterns is also a change in how people see themselves.

The Daily Mail produced this graphic of some of the questions asked in the Survation poll. Take a look at the answers to Q5:

Regardless of your current voting intention, if you change your mind before Dec 12, which other party would you consider voting for?

We see the old certitudes dissolve before our eyes.

Or maybe we don’t. Never forget that for the first few days after Theresa May called the election in 2017 that ended with her losing her majority, her already high polling figures rose yet further. Nor did the Tory vote share ever drop very far during the entire campaign – the trouble was, Labour’s rose sharply.

Pondering the political equation…

As a result of these calculations, a great deal of pressure via the media is being put on Nigel Farage and Richard Tice to pull back from standing Brexit Party candidates across the country. ‘Go and fight Labour seats with Remain-supporting MPs, but lay off seats where Tories might lose or could make gains,’ is the call.

Such a strategy might at first glance look good on paper, but it would actually be counter-productive to the Conservative desire to win an outright majority. Remember, the Conservatives must not only win seats but see Labour lose some. It helps the Conservatives for the Brexit Party to do well by taking as many of Labour’s Leave-supporting seats as possible – most especially where the Conservatives are very far behind.

From my personal experience as a one-time Conservative member for thirty years, who served two terms as a member of the Scottish Parliament and then fought and won a European Parliament seat in Labour’s heartland of the North East of England for the Brexit Party, I know there are many, many Labour voters who will never vote Conservative. They are not backwards at coming forward to tell me this. They will, however, consider however voting for the Brexit Party and in May they turned out in huge numbers to do so.

Labour voters and politicians also tell me privately that if Brexit Party candidates do not stand against Conservatives, it will be taken as proof that Farage’s new party is really the Tories in disguise and this will prevent Labour voters switching to them. It is therefore to be expected – and indeed in the Conservative Party’s own self-interest – that in the hundreds of safe Tory or Labour seats, the Brexit and Tory candidates fight each other.

Brian Monteith

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! 🙂