Category: Political-Philosophy

Defectors From Democracy Itself

Note: This article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 21st February 2019

If they’re to generate maximum impact, political defections should ideally be both unexpected, and shocking.

In contrast, Wednesday 20th February’s defections to the recently-launched The Independent Group of eight ex-Labour MPs by so-called ‘Conservatives’ Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen, and their simultaneous resignations from the Conservative Party, must rank among the most anticipated and least shocking defections in British political history, if the prevailing reactions of “What took them so long?”, and “Good riddance” were anything to go by.

It had been obvious, ever since the result of the June 2016 EU Referendum, that their nominal allegiance, even to the allegedly-‘Conservative’ Party, had been hanging by a very thin thread, and that the claim by all three to be ‘Conservatives’ had long rested on shaky foundations.

Soubry even had previous form with defections. Having originally been a Liberal, she walked out on the Tories once before, back in 1981, to join the original Social Democratic Party after its launch by the Gang of Four who quit Labour in protest at its march towards Hard-Leftism.

Soubry quits for SDP 1981

She has always been the most vocally anti-Brexit of the band of Referendum-Refuseniks clustered around her in what’s become known as Remainer Corner in the House of Commons, on the Tory back benches away to the Speaker’s right, consistently opposing anything except either a Brexit-In-Name-Only Remain-by-Stealth, or something barely distinguishable from it, despite the inherent hypocrisy.

2017.01.26 Soubry on respecting Referendum result

Wollaston, too, is a flip-flopper, always in my view something of a false-flag ‘Conservative’ after being elected in Totnes via an Open Primary which the Tories managed to botch by allowing Labour and LibDem supporters to vote in it. During the EU Referendum campaign, she was initially Leave before switching to Remain in what looked like a pre-planned, orchestrated move to damage the Leave campaign. More recently, she has opposed a second referendum, before U-turning and demanding one.

Allen’s 2015 election to represent South Cambridgeshire arguably owed a lot to her predecessor, former Cabinet Minister, Andrew Lansley, but she has also been a serial rebel very much on the Left of the party who’s often seemed she’d be far more politically at home in the Lib-Dems. Despite voting to trigger Article 50, she’s consistently voted to give the Commons powers to dilute, frustrate, or even block Brexit.

A glance at the defectors’ resignation letter reveals, apart from a fairly tacit admission that their aim was always a ‘Conservative’ Party unmistakeably in a centrist Fabian-Blairite mould, a litany of self-serving hypocritical justifications for their actions, plus some assertions which either betray their true political colours to an extent they might not like, or display an astonishing lack of political awareness.

The Party is increasingly being dragged to the right, they insist, including, on  Brexit, by the “hard line” ERG and DUP in whose vice-like grip policy is trapped. Quite how this squares with a Cabinet dominated by Remainers, a party intent on capping the price at which energy can be sold and both taxes and public spending at high percentages relative to GDP, is not explained. And their slightly hysterical claim of a “Purple Momentum” taking over the party has already been comprehensively debunked.

They also seem oblivious to the fact that the ERG, having conceded much already, is merely trying to ensure the Government abides by the Manifesto on which it was elected in 2017, namely, to leave both Customs Union and Single Market – the same manifesto which all three defectors were happy to endorse and stand on to get re-elected – while the DUP has as its overriding aim protecting the territorial integrity of the UK from collusion between the EU and the Republic of Ireland which it perceives, not without justification, to be a threat to it.

At this stage, it’s early days trying to predict what their effect on the Parliamentary arithmetic surrounding the Brexit process will be. There’s an argument that, longer-term, the Independence Group that Soubry, Wollaston, and Allen have joined will fade into irrelevance, just like the original SDP. The potential for clashes, not only of policies given the member’s disparate political heritages, but also of egos, looks high.

May’s overall majority with the DUP over the combined Opposition parties has just been reduced by six, but I’m unconvinced that more ‘Conservative’ defectors won’t follow, including ones like Phillip Lee, Nick Boles and Dominic Grieve, against whom de-selection proceedings are either under way, imminent, or extremely likely. My initial view it that makes a formal ruling-out of a No-Deal Brexit, and a Second Referendum, both more likely (hence my blog-post of Sunday 24th February on why the latter would be totally devoid of any democratic legitimacy and so must be vigorously opposed).

All three defectors are, naturally, strong supporters of a Second Referendum, via the so-called People’s Vote campaign. Curiously, though, they seem not very keen at all on a people’s vote on themselves in their own constituencies, even though they’ve repudiated the manifesto on which they last stood and got elected, as, at the time of writing, none has pledged to seek a fresh mandate under her new flag by resigning to precipitate a by-election.

Soubry, Wollaston, and Allen are defectors from national democracy, in refusing to accept the outcome of the biggest democratic mandate for one single policy in British political history.

They are defectors from party democracy, in declaring that they would leave the Conservative Party rather than accept a democratically elected Leader who was not to their liking.

And they are defectors from local democracy, in switching sides rather than facing a de-selection process but nonetheless refusing to resign and trigger by-elections to allow each of their constituencies to vote on whether it still wants them to represent it in Parliament.

All three are certainly defectors: but not so much defectors from a political party where they never deigned to be anything more than conditionally semi-detached anyway, as defectors from democracy itself.

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Representative Democracy has now run its course

From Burke, to Bercow: its decline and fall shows how, as a philosophy, representative democracy has run its course and needs to be replaced 

Note: Amended, longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 24th January 2019

It’s the justification MPs habitually use when ignoring or defying the clearly-expressed wishes of their constituents, and also their perennial fallback when challenged on it. Our Parliamentary system, they assert, follows the Burkean principle. We are here, they insist, not as delegates, but as representatives: not to follow your instructions, but to exercise our judgement on your behalf.

edmund burkeThe principle derives from the political theorist and MP Edmund Burke’s Address to the Electors of Bristol in 1774, and in particular the paragraph cited below.

An elected MP was not, Burke reminded them, a mere delegate who should blindly obey the instructions of his voters: but their representative, empowered by them through the very act of their sending him to Parliament, to exercise his – not their – judgement, using his brain and his conscience,  of what was in the best interests of the country.

“But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgement, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Yet only 20 years or so later, in his “Reflections on the Revolution in France”, Burke was criticising those who deferred to technocratic experts, or who looked abroad for inspiration from regarding everything in the constitution and government at home as illegitimate or usurped. Extolling the inherent virtue in common-sense values, he said of them: 

“they despise experience as the wisdom of unlettered men”          

MPs have deployed Burke’s initial, 1774, argument ever since. But does it remain valid in early 2019? Or has it run its course and become effectively redundant, sustained cynically now by a cohort of MPs increasingly distant from, and contemptuous of, their voters, as a self-affirming expedient?

When Burke delivered his address, Bristol had an electorate of roughly 5,000 out of a population of about 80,000. This small electorate was based on a very restricted franchise. Very few working men and non-owners of property were able to vote, and women were not allowed to vote at all. There were no political parties as we know them, and no manifestos. Politics was, in the words of constitutional historian Dr David Starkey “a matter for gentlemen and their immensely rich aristocratic patrons”.

estimated illiteracy, england, 1500-1900Illiteracy remained at approximately 40 per cent for males and approximately 60 per cent for females (remarkably, illiteracy actually increased in the last quarter of the 18th century), and education levels were relatively poor, compulsory mass education being still several decades into the future. Even for those with both the franchise, plus sufficient education and literacy to convey their views to their MP, communications were poor. The main rail line between Bristol and London was opened only between 1838 and 1841. Before that, the mail coach between Bristol and London took around 38 hours.

How, then, would it have been possible, practically, for there to be regular communication between Edmund Burke MP and even his very restricted electorate? Arguably, Burke’s philosophy of the relationship between an MP and his electors was the only one which was feasible in the circumstances of his time.

Contrast the situation now. The median constituency size is about 72,400 in England (albeit slightly smaller in the devolved nations) but with a universal adult franchise. We have mass education, plus an adult functional literacy rate of approximately 85 per cent, but whose definition excludes people who “can understand short straightforward texts on familiar topics accurately and independently, and obtain information from everyday sources”. The proportion of people able to communicate with their MP is therefore probably over 90 per cent.

We have multiple sources of information, and multiple platforms of  mass communication. Nine in every ten people had internet access in the home in 2018. There is, I would contend, no bar to being informed about what our MPs are doing, and equally no bar to their communicating with us. Indeed, many are assiduous users of e-communication in all its forms to do precisely that.

Any structural justification for the continued applicability of the Burkean principle of representation has therefore vanished.

Our political parties, although more organised, are also more centralised. More than ever before – though admittedly with some variation between parties – election candidates are chosen, not by local associations, but by Party HQs either giving them a limited “choice” between two or three centrally-approved ones on a centrally-controlled candidates’ list, or imposing them directly.

Party policy boards, by whichever name called, decide the policies, which the candidate is pretty much required to endorse. Dissent and independence of mind are not encouraged, and seldom rewarded. Patronage is ruthlessly exploited and the whipping system ruthlessly deployed to keep most members in line.

The resultant submission to conformity is compounded by too many of our representatives being virtually professional career politicians, devoid of any significant formative outside grounding. In relatively recent times, MPs who were not wholly or mainly reliant on their Parliamentary income, and who, to decide their beliefs, could draw on real-world experience – rather than an immediate post PPE degree stint as a party assistant, researcher and unsuccessful candidate prior to acquiring a safe seat, were less inclined to undue deference to the Party hierarchy.

Hand in hand with that has gone an increasing tendency to outsource more policy-making which would once have been MPs’ responsibility to debate and democratically determine, not merely to Civil Service officials and QUANGOs, but to unelected and unaccountable international or supranational bodies like the UN, EU, NGOs and other elements of the International Liberal Order.

the liberal international orderThe consequence is that we now have a cadre of politicians whose role, rather than representing their electorates to the Government and the Executive, has morphed more into one of representing the Government and the Executive to their electorates. Far from becoming representatives and not delegates, they have become spokesmen and not representatives.

The Parliamentary chicanery which has occurred since the 2016 EU Referendum was not the proximate cause of this – it had been building for many years – but it has both exacerbated it dramatically and exposed it to public awareness like never before. It’s worth reciting some of the basic facts.

At the May 2015 General Election, it’s now widely assumed, having promised to hold an EU referendum if elected, but confident the promise would have to be junked as the price of their preferred option of a second coalition with the Liberal-Democrats, Cameron’s ‘Conservatives’ won an absolute majority which they were not anticipating.

In June 2015, MPs voted by 544 votes to 53 to hold that referendum.

In the 2016 EU Referendum, and on best estimatesBritain voted to leave the European Union by 406 parliamentary constituencies to 242. It voted to leave the European Union by 263 voting areas to 119.  Conservative-held constituencies in 2016 voted to leave by 247 to 80. Labour-held constituencies in 2016 voted to leave by 148 to 84.

In contrast, among 2016 MPs, Remain was the preferred option by 400 to 248. Charting 2016 MPs’ declared voting intentions against the actual voting results emphasises the relative chasm between MPs and the voters they claim to be “representing”, which persists to this day.mps votes vs public votes eu ref 2016In February 2017, MPs voted by 498 votes to 114 to trigger Article 50.

At the 2017 General Election, approximately 85 per cent of the votes cast went to the two main parties both of whom pledged in their manifestos fully to implement the Referendum result.

Yet something like a 70 per cent majority of MPs is clearly now intent on either diluting Brexit to meaninglessness, reversing it by spuriously demanding another referendum or extending Article 50, or preferably just cancelling it altogether in flagrant disregard of the largest mandate ever delivered for one specific policy in British political history.

The current anti-democratic and constitution-threatening procedural subterfuges being assiduously prosecuted by the cross-party Parliamentary anti-Brexit Movement are too many and too current to recount in detail here and most readers will be familiar with them anyway.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how our MPs as a body can any longer plausibly claim to be “representing” either their individual electorates or the nation collectively, even on the most generous interpretation of the principles Burke enunciated. Whatever takes their place must reverse the trend of the last thirty years or so and return to more truly “representational” methods of public political engagement. That means, in my view, much more direct democracy, and in several forms.

Reform of candidate selection should be high on the list. The Tories’ notorious A-List of Metro-Cameroon Cuties to be imposed on unwilling constituencies has thankfully gone, and Labour’s dominance by hard-left Momentum seem to have done for All-Wimmin shortlists: but with the occasional exception, neither main party appears at all keen to open up their candidacy processes to a wider selection and thus make them, not only more transparent, but more representative of their local members’ views and concerns.

So the case for constituency Open Primaries, by which all the members or even the registered supporters of a party in it can choose their candidate, is strong. There have been too many instances, in all parties, of either centrally-favoured “rising stars”, or ministers dumped out of a marginal and desperately in need of a safe seat, being foisted on to constituencies against their will, to the detriment of a sound local candidate who knows the constituency and its concerns far better.

A proper Recall Mechanism, by which a minimum percentage of constituents can “recall” a MP to face re-election, is a priority. Momentum for one, unsurprisingly, accelerated after the 2009 expenses scandal, and intensified when several MPs were caught out having voted in debates on legislation, in the outcome of which they had a direct financial interest.

One of whom, co-incidentally, was one Richard Drax, who made several protesting interventions when a Recall Bill was finally debated, to the effect that MPs were all honourable men whose reputations might suffer were their constituents to read in the Press that they were the subject of a Recall Petition. Which, you might think, was precisely the point.

But it’s not only to deal with misconduct that a Recall Mechanism is required. Since the 2016 EU Referendum was held and even more so recently, in several Parliamentary constituencies, the anger of majority Leave voters with their, not only Remain-voting, but actively Brexit-blocking, MP is fuelling attempts at de-selection, which, under the present rules, is almost impossible.

That exacerbates the need for proper Recall. In both main parties, how many Remainer MPs allegedly “representing” solidly Leave-voting constituencies would persist in obstructing Brexit in defiance of their electorates, if a mere 5 or 10 per cent of their voters could trigger a Recall and force them to re-stand for election and possibly lose their seat?

MPs, of course, are dead against it. Tory MP Zac Goldsmith’s Bill presented in the 2010-2015 Parliament, to allow constituents to recall an errant MP to face re-election, was watered-down almost to the point of ineffectiveness. MPs decreed instead that only a committee made up of themselves was fit to decide whether one of their fellow-MPs had misbehaved sufficiently to have to account to his electorate. So far, astonishingly, none has been so judged.

More referenda are needed, both to counter the tendency of the elected to ignore the views of their electorates once elected, and to sustain and/or enhance voter engagement in politics. For national-level democratic participation, we must rely on a once-in-5-years cross-marking exercise, based on manifesto commitments and campaign promises which, in the present Parliament, approximately 70 per cent of MPs are ostentatiously refusing to honour. But when we can book a holiday, arrange life-insurance, or apply for a university course with a few mouse-clicks or screen-touches, why should this be?

That the Swiss, who via decentralistion, localisation & frequent referendums have the most say in their government, routinely come out as the nation having the most trust and confidence in their government, is no accident. We should learn from them.confidence in govt switz topRepresentative democracy, as a philosophy, has run its course – effectively killed off by the very MPs who cynically use it as justification or excuse for their blatantly anti-representational conduct.

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Sorry, Establishment-Elites: Populism isn’t going to just fade and go away

Holiday reading: “National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy”, by Matthew Goodwin and Roger Eatwell (Pelican Books, 2008) 

Note: longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier on Friday 4th January 2019

Until comparatively recently – say, the last ten years or so – “populism” was a relatively neutral descriptive label, confined mainly to textbooks and dictionaries of political science.

Even my own well-thumbed copy of Roger Scruton’s Dictionary of Political Thought (3rd edition, 2007) discusses it primarily in the context of the Russian Narodnik movement and the late 19th century US Populist Party. In the 1950s, it was applied most frequently to the French Poujadistes, the union of small shopkeepers and artisans which campaigned against most forms of large-scale development and industrial modernisation. Even in 2007, Scruton alluded only briefly to the early stages of its current pejorative usage.

Since about 2013-2014, though, it’s been resurrected, to be deployed in a different way by the ruling – not only political but also media, corporatist, academic and cultural – Establishment-Elites who see their continued hegemony threatened by it, especially when, as with Brexit, Trump, and growing success by anti-EU parties in Europe, it produces electoral outcomes not to their liking.

“Populism” is now the anti-democratic, globalist, ‘Liberal’-‘Progressive’ Oligarchy’s preferred term of disparagement for the growing politics of pluralist mass democracy based on self-governing nation-statehood, one that rejects rule by unelected and unaccountable supranational technocracy.

gilets jaunes comp dec 2018

It’s about this movement that political scientists and academics Matthew Goodwin and Roger Eatwell have written in their new (late October 2018) book “National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy”, trying to explain its origins, its central tenets, and its prospects. It’s worth recalling, in passing, that Goodwin especially has elsewhere made a persuasive argument that Britain’s EU Referendum result, which so shocked the overwhelmingly pro-EU Establishment-Elite, had been “baked-in” for several years previously.     

Contrary to the assumptions of its contemptuously-dismissive opponents, the movement isn’t new. Goodwin and Eatwell show how its genesis pre-dates the 2007-08 financial crisis and the subsequent recession. However, they also argue convincingly that both events, and especially the globalist ‘Liberal’-‘Progressive’ Oligarchy’s policy-responses to them – hardship for those on low and middle incomes via austerity and greater job insecurity, but asset-value protection or even enhancement for the already wealthy via ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing – generated an increase in inequality and sense that the economic system was skewed in the Oligarchy’s favour, both of which significantly enlarged the political space for the movement to fill.

Nor is it, as its detractors lazily claim, a movement composed solely of old, white, men. In the USA 2016 Presidential election, not only did 53 per cent of white women voters vote for Trump, but 43 per cent of all women voters opted for Trump. Between 1988 and 2017, the percentage of French female first-time voters who voted for one or other Le Pen nearly quadrupled from 9 per cent to 32 per cent. Greece’s anti-EU Golden Dawn party drew significant support from the young who felt their prospects were deteriorating. Clearly, something other than the Liberal’-‘Progressive’ oligarchy’s lazy, clichéd, prejudices was, and is, at work.

Goodwin and Eatwell identify what they call The Four D’s – the historic shifts, the long-term trends which are a growing cause of concern for millions and which are driving the movement: and which, being structural, are unlikely to fade or dissipate, or be assuaged, in the near future.

First, Distrust – the way in which the elitist nature of ‘Liberal’-‘Progressive’ democracy, forever seeking to minimise the opportunities for meaningful participation in it by the masses, has promoted distrust of politicians and institutions on the part of millions who feel they no longer have a voice in the national discussion.

Second, Destruction – particularly the perception that culturally-‘liberal’ politicians, unaccountable supranational bureaucracies and global corporates are eroding, not only traditional communities, but also national identity and societal cohesion, especially via encouraging historically unprecedented rates of mass immigration, while politically-correct agendas strive to silence any expression of opposition.

Yet this isn’t channelled into racism or xenophobia, but into demands that immigration be controlled by democratic consent, that the pace of immigration be slowed, and crucially, that it be accompanied, not by non-judgemental, relativist, divisive, separatist multiculturalism, but by assimilation and integration. Notable in the chart below is how, on both sides of the Atlantic, people say that immigrants adopting the national language and sharing the national customs, values and traditions are far more important factors than their birth-nationality or ethnicity.   

imp of speaking national language

Third, Deprivation – the growing conviction of many, fuelled by rising inequalities of income and wealth, as well as the perception of cultural discrimination consciously practised against them by the ‘Liberal’-Elites, that they are losing out relative to others, and that the future for themselves and their children is not only diminished, but actually bleak.

future prospects for kids

Fourth, De-Alignment – the burgeoning gap, and therefore weakening bond, between rulers and ruled, between the traditional mainstream political parties and the people they purport (or even no longer bother even to pretend) to represent: manifesting itself in a much more fragmented, volatile and unpredictable politics.

Goodwin and Eatwell also show that, again giving the lie to the dismissive prejudices of its critics, the Populism movement is not anti-democratic. Its preference for properly representative democracy remains strong.percent believing in popular democracy

Rather, it opposes aspects of ‘Liberal’-‘Progressive’ democracy as it has evolved to date, and actually wants more democracy: more direct-democracy referendums and more-listening politicians who will devolve power to the people to exercise it democratically, instead of vesting it in what too often are unelected and unaccountable, bureaucratic and technocratic, economic and political elites.

Goodwin and Eatwell demonstrate, too, that neither is Populism “fascist”, as its belittlers and defamers claim, most notably near-hysterically in the aftermath of the Brexit and Trump victories and the strengthening electoral performance of anti-Establishment parties in Europe. The movement by and large does not seek to tear down failed institutions which turned anti-democratic and replace them with autocratic ones: but to repair them so that they once again serve the interests of those they are supposed to serve.populism vs fascism core themes

The authors argue, in my view correctly, that unless elitist ‘Liberal’-‘Progressivism’ acknowledges its shortcomings, it will fail to come to terms with the new Populism, and so will struggle to contain it. The omens are not good. That bastion of ‘Liberal’-Elitism, The Sunday Times, for example, has described it as one of most dangerous developments of modern times. Set against Nazi Fascism, Marxist-Leninist Communism and Islamist-Jihadism, that seems a curious way to describe a pleading by the denigrated and forgotten for the democratic settlement to recognise and accommodate their legitimate concerns more. 

Conversely, however, if can bring itself to dilute its self-exalting smugness and intolerance, and broaden its appeal by meeting the legitimate concerns of voters who do want radical action to roll back elite-driven agendas in areas like welfare-universalism, mass immigration, rising inequality and civil liberties, it may yet accommodate itself to it.

The former will mean Populism remaining outside the mainstream, but becoming ever more widespread while the ‘Liberal’-‘Progressive’ centrism shrinks. The latter will mean Populism becoming the mainstream as more of the present mainstream adapts to meet it, signs of which are already visible. Either way, it’s here to stay, and isn’t going away any time soon.

I bought Goodwin and Eatwell’s book immediately on publication, but only over the holiday period has it been possible to go through it more slowly, in depth. I’d have no hesitation in recommending that you do, too.

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The Fight for the Soul of the Tory Party

By deposing the Leader and Prime Minister largely responsible for its current ideological paralysis, the Conservative Party must resolve its intellectual vacuum about what modern conservatism stands for

Note: this is the longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 1st October 2018

“There are some of us, Mr Chairman, who will fight, and fight, and fight again, to save the party we love”.

In 2018, 58 years after they were addressed by its then Leader Hugh Gaitskell to the 1960 Labour Party Conference, opposing its move towards the hard-Left and its embrace of unilateral nuclear disarmament, those words need once again be addressed to a party conference. Only this time, to the Conservative Party Conference, and moreover not by its Leader, but at her.

As if Theresa May’s duplicitous preparation and imposition on her Cabinet of her now justly infamous Chequers Plan were not bad enough, she has carried on championing it even after its crushing, personally humiliating dismissal by the EU.

May humiliated Salzburg Summit 3She continues to cling obstinately, not only to Chequers as the sole Brexit option she is prepared to consider, but also, incredibly, to Olly Robbins, her thoroughly discredited No 10 Brexit adviser, whose brainchild it was, and on whose ‘expert’ advice that the EU would accept it she persists in relying, to the exclusion of all others.

Yet not merely other, but superior, alternatives exist, being urged on her constantly by allies and opponents alike, which both better reflect the desire manifested in the Brexit vote for clear political, judicial and economic separation from Brussels, and give better opportunities for a newly-independent post-Brexit Britain to forge new trading links around the world.

The Institute of Economic Affairs’ Plan A Plus maximises the scope for eliminating damaging tariffs and regaining control over our fisheries, as well as facilitating new Free Trade Agreements with the world’s dynamically-growing economies outside the stagnating and scelerotic EU: Chequers keeps us tied into it as closely as possible.

IEA Plan A Plus Launch Sep 2018The Canada Plus arrangement gives us total freedom of control over immigration policy, and independence from the EU’s ‘Common Rule Book’: Chequers gives us neither.

Yet they fall on deaf ears. May has her Chequers Plan, she insists that nothing else is acceptable, and that, for her, is that. To the evidence, both that it is less popular than No-Deal, and that its unpopularity exacerbates that of herself and her party, she is impervious.Unpopularity of Chequers dealBut there is worse to come. May’s obdurate adherence to Chequers is being compounded by her acceptance at the very least, or even endorsement if not something more, of a grotesquely cynical ramping up of Project Fear.

The scaremongering operation born out of the Treasury’s pre-Referendum antipathy to Brexit is now being pushed once again by May in full Stockholm-Syndrome mode – on new ‘expert’ advice from her preferred source? – but this time against a No-Deal Brexit as an alternative to Chequers, as part of a deliberate “Chequers or Chaos” strategy.

We saw a foretaste of it in the run-up to the early-July Chequers Summit, with Airbus warning of an exodus from the UK in the event of No-Deal, very soon, curiously, after discussions with Business Secretary and arch-Remainer Greg Clark. But since then, there have been plenty other examples. To quote just two or three:

After having previously instructed them to spend their summer holidays touring Europe to drum up support for her Chequers Plan, May was in early September ordering Ministers to stress to the public that there was no alternative to it

Or try the Association of British Insurers’ warning that it would become illegal in the event of a No-Deal Brexit for insurance-based pensions to be paid to UK-nationality recipients resident in the EU. Fortunately, fairly easy to demolish.

Then, as recently as last week, May’s government theatrically appointed a Food Supplies Minister, “to oversee the protection of food supplies in the event of a No-Deal Brexit”. Such an appointment has previously confined to wartime and was not even deemed necessary in the rolling strikes and disruptions to distribution experienced in the 1974 industrial crisis and the 1978-79 Winter of Discontent.

In summary, not only do we have a Remainer Prime Minister sticking resolutely to a Brexit plan already rejected out-of-hand by an EU no doubt confident that further concessions can be wrung from a desperate Theresa May in deep political trouble, but shunning all other, and better alternatives. We also have a Remainer Prime Minister colluding in, if not directing, a co-ordinated attempt to frighten the British public into accepting it.Project Fear 2018

It’s perhaps hardly surprising that 56 per cent of those polled by Sky Data think Brexit will be worse than expected. The Remainer dominated media and political elite, including even the Governor of the Bank of England, have done little for the last 28 months except attempt to talk the nation into a state of catatonic panic. Mrs May must be so pleased.

Were Brexit the sole source of the Conservatives’ predicament, the crisis might – just – be containable. But overlying May’s Brexit shambles is the Party’s severe ideological vacuum, epitomised by the instinctively statist, authoritarian, May, devoid of any discernible guiding philosophy, personality, or leadership ability, and of which her self-inflicted Brexit shambles is arguably merely a part – its apparently total inability to come up with any ideas, vision or policies to counter the 1970s-throwback, reheated hard-Left socialism of Corbyn’s Labour.

Not before time, commentators have been lining up this past week to highlight the depth, and cause, of this malaise, and rightly condemn it.

In The Daily Telegraph, Allister Heath correctly laid the vast majority of the blame for Corbynomics being so ostensibly popular with Middle England on the faux-‘Conservative’ Party which has largely stopped countering it and in effect capitulated to it.

McDonnell’s Mad Marxism is very likely to be an electoral winner, warned Maggie Pagano at Reaction, not because of any intrinsic merits, but thanks to Theresa May’s Tories’ timidity & incompetence.

The Conservatives, observed Ryan Bourne accurately, also in The Daily Telegraph, have now spent so long agreeing with Labour’s negative portrayal of our economic system, and even imitating its policies, that they have now deprived themselves of any effective criticisms of them.

Ministers like Philip Hammond, noted The Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, are incapable of fighting back other than with left-wing prescriptions like surreptitious tax rises or expensive new spending projects, so that Corbyn is actually leading the nation’s intellectual conversation.

The Conservative Party must re-embrace freeing individuals & businesses from creeping Nanny-State paternalism & authoritarianism, in favour of aspiration, opportunity & meritocracy, pleaded former International Development Minister Priti Patel MP, writing in the Parliamentary magazine The House.

Red-Labour has been made electable by the pseudo-Tories, fumed Gerald Warner at Reaction, condemning the so-called ‘modernised’ Conservative Party for squandering the once-in-a-lifetime chance given to it by Brexit to cease being an empty, principle-free shell.

The Conservatives, fulminated The Spectator editorial in its pre-Conference edition, are functioning as Corbyn’s Useful Idiots: years of failing to make the case for basic liberty and the free enterprise system, of stealing Labour policies in pursuit of electoral advantage, have left them unable to explain why Corbyn is wrong.

And when usually loyal Conservatives like Charles Moore and Tim Montgomerie legitimately ascribe culpability for the Party’s ideological paralysis to May and call for her to go, in effect saying, rightly, that she is all but guaranteeing the advent of a hard-Left Labour government led by Corbyn and McDonnell, her days are surely numbered.

So in Birmingham, over the next two days, there are parallel Brexit and non-Brexit battles taking place. The unofficial, but never far from the surface, impending leadership contest is almost immaterial, because the ideological struggle over the shape, not only of Brexit but of Conservatism, will determine its outcome.

Will the Party continue on its present ever-Leftward drift, preoccupied with fashionably politically-correct social-justice and identity-politics, and convinced, bizarrely, that the only way to stop full-strength Corbyn economically is to offer diet-Corbyn instead? Or will it somehow re-discover the moral and intellectual firepower to oppose Corbynism absolutely and offer a distinctive and optimistic vision of a freer, less-taxed and better-off society?

For anyone wanting the latter, an irredeemably intransigent, incompetent, inflexible Theresa May, a disaster for her party, the country and arguably democracy itself, and who ideally should not even be giving the Leader’s Speech on Wednesday at all, must be forced to declare that it will be her last. If ever there was a need for a repeat-in-reverse on Tuesday of Macmillan’s Night of the Long Knives, it’s now.

Drastic though it is, the present circumstances do justify a palace coup – whereby she is told by a co-ordinated procession of individual colleagues visiting her one by one as with Thatcher in 1990, and in no uncertain terms, that the game is up: that she cannot lead the party through Brexit, much less into the next General Election which could follow a failure to get her Brexit deal through Parliament before March 2019: and that her only alternative is to resign, with effect from the conclusion of her speech, in favour of a pro-Brexit caretaker Prime Minister.

Labour Party Conferences may well be mainly characterised by a succession of extreme-Left demagogues delivering two-minute rants from the platform on arcane and largely indecipherable motions. But at least policy is discussed and even voted on, albeit after a fashion.

But in almost comically stark contrast, the obsessively stage-managed, anodyne, debate-free rallies of the slavishly-loyal, listening dutifully to ministers’ set-piece speeches, which now comprise the formal proceedings of Conservative Party conferences, have become notorious – rightly mocked even by The Daily Telegraph as merely “paying through the nose for the privilege of clapping”.

Conference audience dutifully applauding

If the Party, despite its current dire ideological and political predicament, yet again prefers to close ranks, eyes and ears, and contrives to hold a synthetically-orchestrated, reality-ignoring Conference: and if the pro-Brexit, anti-May dissenters yet again recoil from openly mounting a challenge, both to her conduct of Brexit specifically and her party leadership generally: then a Corbyn government is a near-certainty, and they will have no-one but themselves to blame.

That modern-day equivalent of Gaitskell’s “fight for the soul of the Party” needs to be taking place. In Birmingham. Here and now.

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A Country on the Cusp of Major Change: The UK’s Emerging Political Realignment

Not only is a new British political divide emerging from the developing post-Brexit realignment of UK politics, but even new labels will be required to describe its opposing sides 

Note: this is the updated, long-read version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 3rd August 2018

It was evident, even well before the 2016 EU Referendum voting pattern and its aftermath finally showed it to be redundant, that, as a method of labelling political positioning and allegiance, the traditional one-dimensional Left-Right axis was inadequate and obsolete.

As a description purely of what was long assumed to be mainly economic interest, and moreover solely derived from social class, it was poorly equipped to reflect attitudes to non-economic, cultural and social factors like civil liberties.

In contrast, and although far from perfect, the two-dimensional representation often called The Political Compass, for several years familiar to both academic and amateur students of political philosophy, displays this better.

Political Compass Dual Display

By differentiating the horizontal economic scale – running from the big-government, high-spending, high-taxing, State-interventionist, collectivist Left, to the small-state, low-tax, low-spending, private-enterprise, free-market Right – from the vertical socio-cultural Authoritarian vs Libertarian scale, it allows a more nuanced and accurate description.

Thus it’s possible to distinguish, on the Left, between Left-‘Liberal’ economic-collectivists who want state-ownership of major enterprises, heavily regulated and taxed  private-enterprise, and big-spending public services financed by high taxes on private profits, but also uncontrolled mass immigration plus transgendered paedophilia for all: and semi-authoritarian social-conservatives who don’t object to a mixed economy provided the State has a near-monopoly on the delivery of major public services.     

And thus it’s also possible, on the Right, to distinguish between mild social-liberals who nominally support capitalism and private-enterprise (but which very often is actually over-regulated and lobbying-susceptible crony-corporatism): and buccaneering free-marketeers who are nevertheless quite socially-illiberal on issues like, e.g., gay rights or free speech.

And, of course, libertarian-minarchists like me, in the outer 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock positions in the bottom right-hand purple ‘Libertarian’ quadrants, who, to use the old ‘boardroom vs bedroom’ analogy, think the State should:

  1. confine itself to the basics like defence/security/border-control, law & order and justice, and the adjudication/enforcement of contracts; and otherwise
  2. pretty much keep out of both boardroom and bedroom, provided that everything which happens in either is done between consenting adults, and no-one is harmed either unknowingly or involuntarily.

Degrees of state involvement

Yet even those assumptions have been shattered by the EU Referendum and its subsequent political fallout. We know that, with the exception of UKIP and the LibDems, both of whose electoral propositions were virtually defined by the EU question, the Referendum vote broke both ways across all pre-existing party allegiances and political ideologies.

People voted how they did for varying reasons, but crucially, often voted in the same way as other people with whom a political affiliation would have previously been thought impossible.

As just two examples, over 70 per cent of the mainly working-class and lower middle-class electors of Boston, Lincolnshire, voted in the same way as patrician High-Tory grandees Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, while inventor and entrepreneurial businessman James Dyson voted in the same way as Paul Embery, the left-ish leader of the public-services Fire Brigades Union.

This seems almost unprecedented in modern British political history. Nor, crucially, was it a temporary, Referendum-only blip. Not only has it not gone away, but it even appears to be solidifying. Politics has not, as the pundits expected and many still fervently wish, ‘reverted to normal’.

The UK appears on the cusp of a major political re-alignment, which will render prior labels redundant. The old labels and allegiances have broken down: we need fresh labels reflecting the new allegiances which are forming, coalescing around commonalities of interest hitherto unimagined.

Moreover, and contrary to the “Brexit has divided the country” meme, while the EU Referendum may have epitomised and accelerated this division, the Brexit vote per se did not, in my view, actually cause it.

The Referendum merely exposed, and for the first time allowed to be articulated, deep underlying political divisions which had been simmering away for several years among a significant segment of the population, who were in effect disenfranchised by the structural inability – or more likely unwillingness – of the consensually-centrist cartel’s political settlement to accommodate them and allow their concerns to be voiced, until the Referendum provided the opportunity. 

It’s this that Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics at Kent University, means when he argues that the referendum result was ‘baked in’ for years before the actual vote. It’s arguably why, too, the result came as such a profound shock to the ‘Liberal’ New Class Establishment.

How, then, to summarise, in convenient label form, the nature of the new divide and its opposing tribes? Some brief illustrations of that divide’s manifestations may be a guide.

The multi-acronymed international organisations and EU-friendly big-business corporates, whose dire warnings of immediate Armageddon, in the wake even of a Leave vote, were so wrong, remain implacably opposed to the Referendum result being implemented, and are colluding with the Government  in a 2018 reprise of 2016’s Project Fear. 

Well-connected, but sinister lobbying interests continue to fund campaigns for what is claimed to be merely a People’s Vote (as if the one on 23rd June 2016 wasn’t!) on the final exit deal, but whose intention to turn it into a 2nd Referendum in the hope of overturning the June 2016 plebiscite are barely concealed.

Sections of the Remain-dominated media continue obsessively to pursue evidence for conspiracy theories to justify setting the 2016 result aside, seemingly impervious to the debunking  and derision they rightly attract.

On one academic psephologist’s estimate, approximately 63 per cent of Parliamentary constituencies voted to leave the EU. In contrast, about 70 per cent of the 650 MPs purporting to represent them strongly favoured remaining it in, and approximately 50 per cent of them, including the Government itself are still trying to dilute Brexit to meaninglessness, or stop it altogether.

On Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st July, respectively, articles in The Guardian by the Leftist Zoe Williams, and in The Daily Telegraph by the (allegedly)-‘Conservative’ Chair of the DCMS Select Committee, Damian Collins, each demanded that the dissemination of news and opinion via social media be controlled. Both ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ agreeing, in plain sight, on both curbing free speech and restricting access for news and opinion to compliant traditional media channels no doubt deemed by the Remainer-dominated political-class to be more amenable to political persuasion or influence. 

These last two are especially significant, as they seem to encapsulate what many feel to be the essence of the new divide, and are therefore a pointer to the correct new labels for its two mutually incompatible and irreconcilable protagonists – The People vs The Political Class, or in the wider context, The Establishment Elite vs The Rest Of Us.

Not that the Continuity-Remainer dominated New Class Establishment Elite aren’t dreaming up their own sets of labels, both to differentiate themselves from us, and to rationalise their referendum defeat. Three especially are particularly unpleasant, and show the largely-metropolitan ‘Liberal’-Elite’s contempt for mass democracy on full display.

‘Old vs Young’ is their first divide. The elderly so voted disproportionately for Brexit, goes this trope, so they have ‘stolen the future’ of the young, thus defining age as the new political divide. Spiked‘s Brendan O’Neill, writing in  May 2017,  treated this initially with the withering contempt it so richly deserves. 

Brendan O'Neill on ageist bigotry of Remainers

But, unsurprisingly, there’s more to it than that. As this chart from Lord Ashcroft’s immediately post-Referendum polling report shows, you have to get down to the 35-44 age group before the Remain vote outstrips that for Leave.

EUReferendum voting AgeGroups

EU Ref sky data turnout-by-ageAnd that’s exacerbated by the figures for turnout. We know that the young, apparently so in thrall to the EU and so angry and appalled by the prospect of leaving it, actually posted the lowest turnout of all age groups. Oddly enough, to win a vote, it seems you have to, ahem, you know, vote.     

Next is another favourite ‘Liberal’ metropolitan’s comfort-blanket, the ‘Urban vs Rural’ divide. Now invoking a European perspective as well, this seeks to differentiate the metropolitan (allegedly)-elite from ‘pitchfork-wielding populists based in small towns and the countryside’. Quite how this copes with the fact that substantial UK metropolises like Birmingham and Sheffield voted Leave, however, isn’t immediately apparent. On one reading, the theory actually posits that urbanites are so disgusted with the voting preferences of their non-urban and rural compatriots that they are questioning democracy itself as a concept for government, another useful pointer to the correct labels needed to describe the new political boundary.            

Finally, the ‘Educated vs Uneducated’ divide. On this, using purely the possession of any old university degree as the separator, the prime political split now defining the country is that between degree-holders (Remain, sophisticated, ‘educated’) and degree non-holders (Leave, barbaric, ‘uneducated’).     

Apart from its inherent post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy, the conflation of correlation with causation, and the potential impact as a driver for both of an Academy overwhelmingly dominated by Remain. . . .   

Voting intentions UK academics EU Ref 2016. . . .it’s a wholly specious differentiation metric. The idea, for example, that an indoctrinated 22 year-old snowflake with a 2.2 in Intersectional Gender-Studies from a third-rate ex-Polytechnic is somehow ‘educated’ and thus uniquely qualified to participate in deciding Britain’s political future, while someone in their 50’s with two or more professional qualifications and maybe twenty years at a high level in their profession but no degree is somehow ‘uneducated’ and thus isn’t, is so manifestly preposterous that it should be laughed out of Court. That it isn’t, but is actually taken seriously, speaks volumes.

You might think, on this basis, that the shape of at least one side of the new political divide is clear: ‘liberal’, centrist, urban, supportive of EU freedom of movement, pro-Remain. Yet, curiously, this isn’t the case. Comparatively recently, in a YouGov survey of the policy areas and political viewpoints on which voters felt most strongly that almost all of the current main political parties did not represent them, one thing was clear. That was, as academic Matthew Goodwin has also noted, that while there may well be a demand for a new political party in Britain, it certainly doesn’t appear to be for a ‘liberal’, centrist, pro-EU, pro-immigration one. 

New centrist party no

Which brings us back to the question of what labels we need, to attach to the new protagonists of Britain’s new, still-emerging political divide. 

David Goodhart’s Anywheres vs Somewheres is one of the best attempts to date. If I may paraphrase some of his remarks when I heard him talking about it:

These people [working-class and lower middle-class Leavers] are not racist or xenophobic. The British Social Attitudes Survey shows that only about five per cent of the population, at maximum, are genuinely racist. But they do think that the level of immigration has been too high, and that while they don’t want it restricted on an ethnicity basis, they do want it, not stopped, but controlled via a democratic process in which they have a say. They want an entitlement to welfare and State benefits to be conditional and contributory, not universalist. These are not big asks, yet for ten or twenty years all the main political parties have refused to even listen to them, much less answer them.’

This stuck me then, and does now, as being pretty close, but perhaps doesn’t quite catch it. Given the Remainer Elite-Establishment’s predilection for both intolerant, illiberal, political-correctness, and its visceral aversion to mass democracy in favour of ‘enlightened’ bureaucracy (its own, naturally), then maybe ‘Authoritarians vs Libertarians’, or ‘Democrats vs Technocrats’, or something similar, will be the new political paradigm when the dust settles.

At present, the incestuous political-class & its amen-corner of media courtiers are so mired in self-referential Westminster Bubble groupthink, that they are largely insulated from this burgeoning re-alignment, and therefore either uninterested or in denial about it. They also, let’s face it, all have a vested interest in preserving the existing system which sustains them.

But there seems no doubt that somehing momentous is afoot, even if we are in its early days. The transition may be smooth and benign, but given the determination of the Elite-Establishment not to yield one iota of its hegemony, that may not be guaranteed. Major political realignments of this magnitude in an established democracy are a challenge. What Britain makes of it may set a course, for good or ill, for most of our lifetimes.

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This Just Got A Lot Bigger Than Brexit

The May Government’s apparent determination to pursue only the softest of Soft-Brexits, by whatever means and at whatever cost, has produced a quasi-constitutional crisis of democracy that is far bigger than Brexit itself

Note: this is the long (and updated) version of the article first published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 10th July 2018.

A dramatic and febrile three days in the wake of the virtual imposition, including via the use of threats almost comical in their puerile pettiness, by an embattled but stubbornly-authoritarian Theresa May of her Brexit proposals at the Cabinet’s Chequers so-called Brexit “summit” on Friday 6th July, culminated on the afternoon of Monday 9th July in the resignation of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, following those of Brexit Department Secretary David Davis and Minister of State Steve Baker respectively, late on the evening of Sunday 8th July.

May has no right to feel aggrieved, or even surprised. First, her proposed negotiating position, about as far removed from her 2017 manifesto promises and previous negotiating pledges as chalk from cheese, were rightly labelled ‘Remain-By-Any-Other-Name’ and ‘Brexit-In-Name-Only’, and lacerated by multiple commentators for their disingenuousness and lack of ambition, their undue deference to Remainer intransigence and Brussels diktats alike, and even their downright mendacity. 

Foremost among these, though, was a devastating memorandum from Lawyers For Britain’s Martin Howe QC, exposing how, in contrast to the claims advanced implausibly by her sycophantic Remainer colleagues, May’s proposals would lead directly to a worst-of-all-worlds Black-Hole Brexit with Britain stuck permanently as a rule-taking vassal-state in the enduring grip of the EU’s legal and regulatory maw. 

On Sunday 8th July’s BBC Sunday Politics, presenter Sarah Smith extracted from Conservative Party Deputy Chairman James Cleverly an admission that, in contrast to what had hitherto been spun, the UK would automatically adopt any new EU rules, despite having no say over devising them, unless a (Remainer-dominated, remember) Parliament actually decided not to. Hardly the claimed “taking back control of our laws”.

Then it all got much worse. It emerged that May had  “shown” (or submitted for approval?) her Brexit proposals to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, before their disclosure even to Cabinet, ignoring every convention of collective Cabinet government. She was duly excoriated, both for a grave breach of constitutional protocol, as well as a characteristically appalling lack of judgement.

This was then followed by the additional revelation that her No. 10 Chief of Staff, Gavin Barwell and her staunchly anti-Brexit, pro-EU, éminence-grise Olly Robbins had seemingly been working on her ultra-soft Brexit plan, in secret, not even confiding in the Cabinet, apparently for months.

Fuel was added to the fire which by now was well beyond merely smouldering, by both the unequivocally-critical terms of David Davis’ utterly-damning resignation letter – 

“. .the inevitable consequence of the proposed policies will be to make the supposed control by Parliament illusory rather than real. . “

“The ‘common rule book’ policy hands large swathes of our economy to the EU”

and the blatant lie in May’s point 2 – “[we are] ending free movement” – of her reply

One type of free movement may be being cosmetically “ended”, but only to be replaced by a different kind of free movement: and May refuses even to guarantee not to discriminate against non-EU nationals in its application.

Speculation was rife on the morning of Monday 9th July that May would use the opportunity presented by the Davis and Baker resignations to abolish the Brexit department completely, and fold it into the Cabinet Office, to be oversighted by none other than Robbins. This truly alarming prospect turned out not so far to be true: but that it was regarded as a strong possibility at all surely speaks volumes.

Next on that same Monday morning came the news that May’s Chief of Staff, the former Tory MP Gavin Barwell noted chiefly for his labelling Brexit ‘the politics of hate’, was to brief Labour, Liberal-Democrat and SNP MPs on her (Non)-Brexit ‘Brexit’ plans. Although subsequently shelved, the implication of this was momentous, and clear: uber-reluctant Brexiteer May, prepared to solicit the votes of the pro-Remain Opposition parties in order to get her (Non)-Brexit plans through Parliament, against both her own backbenchers trying to hold her to her manifesto commitments, and the votes of 17.4 million people.

In my opinion, the scaremongering by the likes of Airbus and BMW of the previous week, with Business Secretary and arch-Remainer Greg Clark acting as the willing mouthpiece of pro-Brussels, crony-corporatist big-business, is indelibly linked to this. Who knows what donations have been threatened to be withheld unless Brexit is effectively killed off, or promised if it is?  

It’s now abundantly clear that we have a political class that is resolutely determined, almost at any price, not to enact the instruction given to it by the British electorate, and is led by a Prime Minister evidently prepared to destroy her own party & even democracy itself, in order to perpetuate Britain’s subservience to the anti-democratic supranational EU. Always more Miliband-ite than even Blairite, May’s mask has finally slipped.

This means that the quasi-constitutional crisis we now face is greater than the extant issue. This just got a lot bigger than Brexit. It’s about nothing less than whether we’re a functioning citizens’ democracy at all, or unwilling subjects of an unaccountable apparatchik-elite pursuing its own agenda in defiance of, if not actually against, the people.

We just have to win this fight, and now in a much wider sense than merely holding a reluctant or even intransigently-defiant government to the referendum verdict it promised to implement, or the manifesto pledge on which it stood for election.

It’s now about so much more than Brexit. We can’t afford to lose. Because if we do, a triumphalist and overwhelmingly Remainer Left-‘Liberal’ Elite Oligarchy, who dominate Britain’s political, media, academic and cultural classes and thus control virtually every institution of public life, are likely to try and wreak a terrible revenge on the ordinary people of this country.

We saw a taste of it in their furious reaction to the Referendum result, and about which I’ve previously written at TCW. I suspect it would intensify. So nearly thwarted, via the near-loss of what they revere as axiomatic, and moreover to what they contemptuously regard as a backward, racist, xenophobic, unsophisticated, uneducated, politically-illegitimate rabble, they would probably redouble their efforts to foist EU rules, uncontrolled mass immigration, progressive loss of civil liberties, multiculturalism and divisive identity-politics on us in greater measure for having had the temerity to rebel.

I can recall tweeting, just after 2016 EU Referendum, that pro-EU, ‘Liberal’-Elite, New-Class Establishment Oligarchy would not accept without a fight its defeat by the Demos, and especially on an issue as fundamental to its entire world-view as EU membership, and that we might well have to take to the streets, preferably and hopefully non-violently, to enforce the implementation of the Referendum result.

That prospect now feels closer than ever, and we may have no choice. To quote Thomas Paine: “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace”.

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Just Why Are The UK’s ‘Liberal’-Elite So Irredeemably Europhile?

The New-Class ‘Liberal’-Establishment’s EU-philia is primarily driven, not by concerns about the economy, trade and jobs, but by an elitist revulsion for mass popular democracy.    

Note: this is the long (and updated) version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 2nd July 2018.

On 23rd June 2016, 52%, comprising no fewer than 17.4 million people, of Britons who participated in the EU Referendum, voted to leave the European Union. On one expert academic psephologist’s estimate, approximately 63% of Parliamentary constituencies voted to leave it.

In contrast, about 70% of the 650 MPs purporting to represent them in Parliament strongly favoured remaining in it.

On 8th June 2017, approximately 85% of the General Election votes cast went to the two parties whose Manifestos and candidates pledged to respect and implement the Referendum result.

But many of those pledges, in hindsight, were self-evidently made dishonestly.

The passage through Parliament of the EU Withdrawal Bill succeeded only via mostly knife-edge votes, even with a Remainer-dominated Government, patently half-hearted about Brexit, making concession after concession to anti-Brexit Leftists, ‘Liberals’ and ‘Conservative’-Remainers alike, merely to avoid defeat.

Discount the Leave-voting MPs, plus the mostly Tory and a few Labour MPs who voted Remain but accept, however grudgingly, that the Referendum result must be honoured, and it’s obvious that, notwithstanding the Referendum outcome, the great majority of the political-class viscerally would far prefer to find a way of ensuring that Britain either stays in the EU, or ‘exits’ largely in name only.

The same attitude is discernible elsewhere within what we’re accustomed to calling the Metropolitan ‘Liberal’-Elite but what Martin Durkin, maker of “Brexit: The Movie”, perhaps more accurately labels the New-Class Establishment.

For the past two years, much of the media has gleefully reported, even embellished, every claim, however clearly implausible or parti-pris, that actually leaving the EU will bring about economic and societal catastrophe, while justifying the EU’s negotiating intransigence and (though not without good cause, but for the wrong reasons) criticising Britain’s approach.

While the cultural Establishment paints a picture of impending artistic desertification, the imminent demise of cross-border tertiary education has continued to be suggested by an Academy which was, and still is, 80% in favour of Remain.

Voting intentions UK academics EU Ref 2016

One wonders how the 150-odd countries, including most of the G20 economies which aren’t in the EU but manage to trade quite successfully with its member-states, manage to survive at all.

But now remember what happened to the most prominent of those dire pre-Referendum economic predictions. Goldman Sachs forecast a recession by early 2017, Credit Suisse a 1% fall in GDP, and Nomura a 1.3% fall. Instead, economic growth actually accelerated.

The Treasury, architect, co-ordinator and centrepiece of Osborne’s Project fear, predicted the loss of half a million jobs. Instead, over a million new jobs have been created and unemployment is down to a 43-year low.  Overvalued anyway in the run-up to the Referendum, the pound rebounded from its immediate post-Brexit slide to its former level.

Next, recall the condition of the EU itself, and Britain’s trade with it: Brexit is almost the least of its structural flaws. Economically, despite its expansion from 6 to 27 member-states, the EU’s share of both world trade and global GDP have actually been falling. . . . . 

EU share of global GDP PPP Jul15

. . . . while, at the same time, most future global growth is expected to come overwhelmingly from emergent non-EU economies. . . . 

Trade bloc shares of global GDP

. . .  .and as far as UK exports are concerned, the EU represents a market steadily declining in importance. 

Trend EU vs non-EU exports goods & services 1999-2019

Politically, the EU is beset with problems that pose a direct, almost existential, threat to its integrationist philosophy. The amount of central bank-held Euro-debt is deemed unsustainable. Its Mediterranean migrant crisis remains intractable, and unsolved, with Italy now taking matters into its own hands.

In country after country, voters are electing openly anti-EU parties, exasperated at how its supranationalist anti-democracy ignores or dismisses their legitimate concerns about unemployment and economic imbalances attributable to the Euro, the links between uncontrolled mass-immigration, crime, security, and Islamist terrorism, and issues of culture and identity. Yet it responds largely by hectoring and bullying.

Finally – and this ought to be painfully obvious by now, even to the most partisan Remain-voting, Brexit-regretting EU-phile – despite its multi-fronted crises, Brussels has zero interest in negotiating, in good faith, a mutually-beneficial separation settlement, as a precursor to a comprehensive agreement on the future relationship between itself and a former members who, despite withdrawal, nonetheless wishes to continue a close, but non-political arm’s-length, relationship with it.

The EU’s aim, explicity-stated, is to punish Britain, even at the cost of inflicting damage on itself or its member=states, for having the audacity to abandon the Project, so as to deter others from following a similar path.

And yet, faced with all this evidence, a majority of the ‘Liberal’-Elite would rejoice should the democratic will be overthrown and Brexit either not happen at all, or happen only cosmetically, or be so mishandled as to bring about a re-joining in a few years’ time, even on punitive terms.

Why? To expand this article’s title, just why are the ‘Liberal’-Elite so near-universally and instinctively EU-phile?

Once, I thought that EU devotees, though wrong, at least had an honourable viewpoint, in that they felt the economic, trade and employment benefits of membership outweighed its democratic deficit. I gradually came to realise, however, that, for many, their EU-philia was not despite its democratic deficit, but actually because of it.

The past two years have strengthened that conviction. My theory, for what it’s worth, is that their EU-philia, despite their protestations to the contrary, isn’t driven by concerns about the economy, trade and jobs, but by something both deeper and darker: an atavistic aversion to mass democracy itself.

First, it’s a convenient cultural signifier: a means of virtue-signalling, if you like, that they, unlike the unsophisticated, and mostly non-metropolitan, masses, are open, internationalist, cosmopolitan, ‘tolerant’, and ‘liberal’. In view of the experience of the last two years, many may find those latter two claims to be debatable, to say the least. 

Secondly, it seems increasingly hard to deny that, for so many, the overriding attraction of EU membership is that it enables as much politics as possible to be made immune from the need for popular consent – to be put beyond the reach of the capricious domestic democratic process and the electorate whose views they not only by-and-large do not share, but for whom they actively feel contempt.

If my theory is correct, then this has implications for the reform of our post-Brexit Parliament and legislature. To repatriate currently EU-decided politics to the United Kingdom, only to vest it in the same Parliament which over 45 years eagerly gave it away, and place it in the custody of MPs approximately 70% of whom actually hold a low opinion of the masses, and, by extension, of mass democracy, especially when it delivers an outcome unwelcome to them, would be unthinkable, and a hollow victory indeed.

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Bring on a General Election: and yes, even a hard-Left, Corbyn-led Government

A General Election would provide the opportunity, both for the Conservative defeat needed for it to lance the boil of its own Left-‘Liberalism’, and for the experience of a hard-Left, Corbyn-led Government necessary to lance the boil of Socialism.

Note: this is the long (and updated) version of the article first published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 22 June 2018. 

That Theresa May, on Wednesday 20 June 2018, survived that afternoon’s vote on Tory arch-Remainer Dominic Grieve’s amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which sought to give the House of Commons power in effect to halt Brexit in the event of no deal being agreed with the EU, was no victory, but yet another fudge, kicking the can down the road.

It was preceded by a Prime Minister’s Questions of quite staggering awfulness, not only from her, but from almost the entire House, with both sides first fawning over an Imam whose public utterances at the very least imply he wants any criticism of Islam banned, then competing furiously to virtue-signal their achingly politically-correct Left-’Liberal’ credentials at every possible opportunity.

That, plus the long-evident reluctance of most of its overwhelmingly pro-Remain membership to accept and implement the EU Referendum result, finally convinced me. The present Chamber is moribund, even rotten, led by a Prime Minister who is Dead May Walking, and another election is needed.

Why am I so keen on a General Election now? Or, if not keen, nevertheless reluctantly convinced of the necessity for one, despite the potential baleful adverse consequences? For three reasons.

Firstly, with both political attention-span and memory being relatively brief among the vast majority of the public who wisely don’t pay much day-to-day attention to politics, by the time 2022 comes round, many people will have largely forgotten the 2017-18 attempted, if not actual, betrayal of the 2016 EU Referendum result.

Not to mention, also, being bleakly realistic, that some of those now most angry about that betrayal and thirsting for the chance to wreak electoral revenge may, by then, no longer be around to vent that anger at the ballot-box. An early election would mean that voter frustration with both parties has an outlet before it subsides.

Next, the current Vichy-‘Conservative’ Party needs to suffer a heavy defeat, along the lines of the 1906, 1945, and 1997 landslides, to bring about either a split with, or a purge of, its Cameroon-Blairite Left-‘Liberal’ wing, whose current ascendancy is driving the Party Left-wards, both economically and culturally, with dire results.

Remember, in the last year alone, Theresa May has proposed having the State fix the price at which energy suppliers can sell their product: signalled an intent to intervene in the price/demand side of the housing market instead of liberalising planning controls to incentivise supply: threatened to crack down more on ‘hate-crime’ and ‘Islamophobia’, aka free speech: promised to control and police the internet: approved lifestyle and behaviour-nudging taxes: resiled from tackling mass uncontrolled immigration: and proposed throwing another £20 billion at an unreformed NHS while praising it fulsomely in ever more reverential terms.

And that’s before we consider the Miliband-Lite Tories’ eager appeasement of the Green Climate-Change lobby, the racial and religious grievance industries, an increasingly corrupt and partisan United Nations, and, above all, a vengeful and intransigent European Union over Brexit.

This resolute Leftwards march is no temporary expedient, but merely the latest phase in a process which has been going on for years, even decades. The great failings of the ‘Conservative’ party since the end of World War II, with the exception of the 1980s which sadly must now be viewed as an aberration, have been its reluctance to counter the Left intellectually, and its consequent willingness to accept the Left’s policies, especially when attractively packaged, for the sake of occupying office.

Indeed, the writer Peter Hitchens recounts remarks by YouGov’s Peter Kellner, man of Labour and the soft-Left through and through, to the effect that from time to time a Conservative government must be allowed to occupy office, so as to maintain for the electorate an illusion of pluralism and choice, but provided that it does nothing to unravel previous Labour administrations’ policies. Wittingly or unwittingly, the ‘Conservative’ Party has been happy to comply.

The Party therefore needs an unequivocal electoral defeat and period in opposition, to force it to re-think from first principles what it stands for, then devise a portfolio of policies that aren’t merely politically-promising, but intellectually-consistent, in order to be able to capitalise on it when the Corbynite-Labour bubble bursts.

Finally, the boil of Socialism now seemingly infecting so much of the electorate needs to be lanced. But with the increasingly soft Left-‘Liberal’ ‘Conservative’ Party having totally abandoned making a robust case for low-tax, small-State, civil-libertarian, free-market conservatism as the engine of prosperity, freedom and growth, in favour of timidly apeing Socialist-Labour in the vague hope of a few Corbyn-Lite policies enticing voters back, I  cannot see that happening without a new generation of voters experiencing for themselves the malign reality of a hard-Left government.

Psephologically, before the 2017 General Election, the Labour-to-Conservative crossover point – the age at which people switch to voting Conservative rather than Labour – was assumed  to be roughly 34. 

Age predictor UK politics

But the 2017 General Election, the first with Corbyn as Labour leader, changed all that. The post-election analyses moved that crossover point back by an entire decade or more, to somewhere between 44 and 49 . . . . . 

UK GE2017 voting by age groups comp

. . . . . and Labour now enjoys majority support in all voter age groups between 18 and 45, including the highest-ever ratings among under-30s since 1964.

Hist under-30s support Labour & Sep 17 vote intent by age comp

This shouldn’t be altogether surprising. It’s now nearly 40 years since Britain last had an economically-Left Labour Government (in contrast to the culturally-Left governments of all parties which we’ve had for about 35 years), so that almost no-one under the age of, possibly, 55 at least, has any memory or experience of actually living under one.

Add to that two more factors: firstly, the predominantly Left-leaning sympathies of the UK mainstream media, which means Corbyn’s socialist policies are seldom subjected to the critical examination and questioning directed towards their smaller-state, lower-taxes, and free-market leaning equivalents: and, secondly, the left-wing bias of the Education profession by which two generations have been indoctrinated . . . . . .

Teachers voting intentions 2015 & 2017 GEs comp. . . . . . . . and it’s arguably astonishing that Corbyn’s socialist prescriptions, superficially so enticing to those who’ve never suffered them in practice, aren’t even more popular. 

This is why reminders of hard-Left Labour’s insalubrious history of either supporting or at least excusing tyrannical Communist dictatorships – even while it simultaneously condemned the West of human rights, free speech and the rule of law as fascist – cut no ice. The past is truly another country.           

Corbyn does support some bombingThis is why pointing out Corbyn’s uncritical support for the IRA throughout the 1970s and 1980s, even as it was blowing up British women and children on the streets of the United Kingdom, doesn’t resonate. To today’s devotees of the Corbyn Cult, this is ancient history. It’s 30 years since the end of the Cold War, isn’t it? It’s 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement, isn’t it?

This is why warnings of strikes, power-shortages, punitively-high taxes, and fiscal mismanagement from Labour runaway spending and borrowing, have so little political cut-through with voters, from Generation X-ers through Millennials to Generation Z-ers. They’ve never actually seen it in Britain, so they just don’t believe it: and in my view, nothing short of experiencing for themselves the horrors of living under a left-wing Labour government will dispel their illusions.

In short, we’ve arrived at one of those points which seem to occur every 40 years or so, where a major political upheaval is needed to generate political resuscitation and renewal.

Yes, of course there are risks, and very serious ones, from a hard-Left Labour government, and as someone who abhors every manifestation of Leftism, I’m the first to acknowledge them. The Corbyn-McDonnell Terror won’t be pleasant. But capital markets, via demanding higher borrowing rates, and threatened or actual capital flight, via reduced tax receipts, have a habit of curbing the worst excesses of economcally-Left Labour governments.

In any case, is that really so worse than the alternative? Of years of a Continuity-May ‘Conservative’ Party, ever more in thrall to mushy Left-‘Liberalism’, governing hesitantly and ineffectively while the hard-Left poses self-righteously as Salvation Denied?

Just as, to cure a malignant cancer, painful chemotherapy has to be endured, so rejuvenating conservatism and defeating Socialism may require some temporary hurt. But the sooner the treatment starts, the less painful it is, and the sooner comes the cure.

Fortune favours the brave. Bring on that election.

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Faux-“Feminism” On The March

The Women’s movements protesting Trump’s London visit aren’t about genuine feminism, but about left-wing faux-minism 

The London protests of Friday 13th July against Trump’s visit to the UK have given a chance to see in action, more visibly than hitherto, a phenomenon until recently largely confined to America. 

Springing to media prominence in the aftermath of Trump’s November 2016 election and January 2017 Inauguration, the Women’s March Movement got known principally for marching around in pussy-hats or dressed as vaginas, not to protest the oppression of women regardless of perpetrators or victims, but chiefly to protest, from the Left, the outcome of democratic elections which it disliked. 

For their UK counterparts / equivalents / imitators, the opportunity presented by Trump’s visit was irresistible. To give a flavour. . . . 

Womens March Womens Equality notifys re Trump visit

. . .although the “day of joy and love” and “the thank-you he deserves” were perhaps not what most of us would have interpreted from those innocuous phrases.

Both the WML and WEP vociferously condemn Trump’s alleged misogyny and white-supremacist racism, indisputably evidenced by the shockingly-egregious appointments, made entirely on merit, of Indian-Sikh heritage Nikki Haley, née Nimrata Randhawa, as UN Ambassador, and Betsy De Vos, a former donor to his rivals, as Education Secretary.

Curiously, however they seem reluctant to condemn, except by a no-doubt heartfelt and eloquent silence: Female Genital Mutilation, which despite being statutorily illegal in the UK for almost two decades, has resulted in few, if any, convictions: Marital Rape: Religio-cultural so-called “honour”-based violence against women: the genocide, murder, rape and sexual enslavement of thousands of Yezidi women and girls by ISIS: and the systematic grooming, rape and trafficking of untold thousands of young or even under-age, vulnerable white working-class girls, predominantly by organised gangs of Pakistani-Muslim men. 

But let no-one doubt their commitment to calling out misogyny wherever they see it, even if they’re, ahem, somewhat selective about where they choose to see it. Or not.

WEP Trump misogyny compAt this point, it might be instructive to examine the so-called “Women’s Equality” Party and its co-founder, Sophie Walker, a bit more closely. Psephologically, the electoral potential of a party whose very name could by implication be read as specifically excluding half the electorate is debatable, but ignore that.

Walker has an undistinguished electoral record. In London’s 2016 mayoral election, she received just 0.6% more of the vote than the odious George Galloway. Then, in the 2017 General Election, she decided to contest the Shipley, Yorkshire, seat of Tory MP Philip Davies.

Now you might think that the natural Yorkshire seat for a “Women’s Equality” Party Leader to contest would be Rotherham, where some 1400, mainly under-age, vulnerable, disadvantaged, white working-class girls were groomed, raped and trafficked by gangs of mostly Pakistani-heritage Muslim menHowever, some women are obviously deemed less deserving of equality than others.

For Walker, Davies’ (far worse) crime was to impede the Parliamentary progress of measures to tackle male domestic violence against women, because they excluded any measures also to tackle female domestic violence against men. His arguing for true, not selective, gender-equality, claimed Walker, was “sexist” and “regressive”. So it was against him, and not for the Rotherham victims, that she stood. She polled 1.9% compared with Davies’ 51.3%

On BBC Sunday Politics London in early December 2017, she asserted, without offering any evidence: “gender-inequality is the main cause of domestic violence”. She continued: “the vast majority of men who experience domestic violence are in gay relationships”. Thus seamlessly blending a belittling of male-victim domestic-abuse with homophobia.

Walker regularly retails the stock Leftist narrative on the alleged gender pay gap. Yet this has been comprehensively debunked by economists who’ve shown that, once you control for factors like type of job, number of hours worked and lifestyle choices, the “gap” virtually disappears, or even favours women.

Reverting to the WML, potential clues about its own apparent insouciance about the religio-cultural abuse of young indigenous women aren’t that hard to find. The movement makes no particular secret of its advocacy of uncontrolled mass immigration, and a willingness, even eagerness, to excuse or even indirectly promote radical militant Islam, not least by readily deploying the Left’s specious “hate-crime” narrative to protect it from criticism, even in the immediate aftermath of an Islamism-inspired terrorist atrocity that killed 22 people attending something as clearly “Islamophobic” as an Ariana Grande concert.    

Womens March Islam open borders comp Womens March London Muslims comp

Where, then, does that leave their protests as “feminists” against the Trump whose alleged misogyny towers above all others?

Despite their names, these aren’t political movements about women, and especially not about securing for women even freedom from oppression, never mind true equality. If they were, they wouldn’t be so selectively myopic about the abuse of women from sources, and on motivations, to which they appear content, even keen, to turn a blind eye.

They are instead political movements for women, and specifically for women of a certain political persuasion, striking pretty much the standard package of Left-‘Liberal’, fashionably politically-correct attitudes and shibboleths.

Womens March London invite re Trump

Believe “women should have control over their own bodies”? Except victims of FGM, marital rape, and “honour”-based violence, presumably.

“Believe our planet is worth protecting”? But not the African woman cooking over a dung fire because Green-Left NGOs decree that giving her cheap, reliable energy would cause “catastrophic climate change”?          

“Believe racism should be fought every step of the way”? Victims of religo-cultural anti-white CSA need not apply.

Both movements come across as metropolitan middle-class left-wing movements, principally for metropolitan middle-class left-wing women favouring the aggressive cultural-marxist third-wave iteration of feminism which is viscerally anti-Western generally and anti-American especially.

One might ask, finally, where they were when Erdogan, appeaser of misogynist Islam and jailer of journalists (including women), was in London recently? Or where they were for the visit of Xi Jinping, fan of media censorship, show trials, torture of dissidents and summary executions, (including of women)?

Tumbleweed. Wrong kind of victims. The faux-“feminist” Leftists don’t march for them.

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Tory High Command Is Un-Commanding

Theresa May, the leader who can’t lead, must go.

Note: this article was first published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 29 January 2018

“Tory High Command” is a journalistic cliché not much seen or heard these days. With good reason. Scarcely has there been a period in the allegedly-‘Conservative’ Party’s recent political history when command of any kind has been so conspicuously lacking. It’s gone either AWOL, or missing in action.

Where, and even who, is it? It ought to have been axiomatic that the Party’s former Chairman, Patrick McLoughlin, absent to the point of near-invisibility during its disastrous 2017 election campaign, should have resigned in the early hours of Friday 9th June.

But he did not. Nor, apparently, was he asked to: presumably because Theresa May herself, near-fatally weakened by losing her overall majority in an unnecessary election, having fronted a campaign based on the personality of a Leader with no discernible personality, lacked the authority to demand it.

Instead, McLoughlin was allowed to remain in place for another 7 months, until May’s recent, botched, reshuffle. New Chairman Brandon Lewis has in effect been handed a poisoned chalice. The delay has not only diminished the political significance of the Chairman, but also exacerbated the structural and organisational issues he must grapple with before even starting to plan an electoral fightback. No “High Command” there.

Additionally, because May allowed blatantly-manoeuvring former Chief Whip Gavin Williamson to ‘recommend’ himself to replace Michael Fallon at Defence, she has a new Commons Whips’ team. They have to try to enforce the wishes of a Leader bereft of authority from frittering away their overall majority, among a parliamentary cohort including at least 15 resolved to frustrate the Government’s flagship policy. Not much ‘High Command’ there either.

Cabinet and senior MP discipline appears to have broken down almost completely, into open semi-revolt. Just in the last few days alone: – 

One inescapable factor is common to all of these. It is Theresa May’s own near-total lack of ideology, intellectual curiosity, governing-philosophy, vision, direction, commitment, strategy, competence, charisma, and, most of all, leadership ability.

The Hammond self-indulgence, contradicting what at least passes for Cabinet policy, is now her political litmus test. If May takes no further action beyond a timidly-mild rebuke to Hammond for going off-piste at Davos to signal appeasement to  the corporatist oligarchy, that will speak volumes, both for her own lack of Brexit-commitment and for her now terminally-expiring political authority and credibility.

To those of us who had deep misgivings about her on her unelected coronation in 2016, this comes as no surprise. In reality, Theresa May has been found out.

A surprise Cameron pick for Home Secretary in 2010, she flattered to deceive  at the Home Office, where a mediocre Secretary of State can hide behind the confidentiality that surrounds much of its remit. Other than refusing the extradition to the USA of computer hacker Gary McKinnon and finally procuring the deportation of Abu Qatada, her record there was largely one of failure, especially to reduce the level of immigration.

She’s remembered mostly for an instinctive authoritarianism – recall her proposed illiberal Snoopers’ Charter and Extremism Disruption Orders? – and for combining that with a default EU-philia which saw her opt back in to the equally-illiberal European Arrest Warrant, after UK membership of it had expired.

We now know that her fabled taciturn and non-committal demeanour, spun by her aides and supporters as ‘Theresa consults and weighs up both sides of an argument carefully before making up her mind”, was just that – spin. Too many voices for it to be coincidence have now come forward to say that the reason she sits and says nothing is because she has nothing to say – that it takes a while, but eventually they come to realise there just isn’t very much going on in there.

It’s now obvious this was more or less obscured, by her chiefs of staff during her first year in office as Prime Minister until they were forced out after the 2017 election débacle, and more recently by Damian Green in his de facto role of her deputy until his own forced resignation.

It was said of the hapless John Major that as Prime Minister he resembled a squishy cushion, in that he invariably bore, politically, the imprint of the last person who sat on him. The same conclusion on May is unavoidable. She is temperamentally incapable of leadership, essentially a careerist, preternaturally-cautious, indecisive, managerialist. Her government is pathologically timorous and desperate, trapped like a rabbit frozen in the twin headlights of a Brexit it’s anxious to dilute, and Corbyn.

This is no longer merely a question of putting Brexit at risk, much as though diehard-Remainer Tory MPs might welcome it as a consequence of their not moving against May. Continued leadership stagnation will usher in a Corbyn-led government, and the loss of their own seats with it.

May is simply not up to being Prime Minister. It’s an intriguing paradox that someone with such authoritarian instincts should be such an ineffective leader. But command ultimately requires leadership. Where there is no leadership, there is no command. Along with Hammond at least, she must go, soon, whatever the short-term risks.

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