Category: UK-Current-Affairs

The Declaration Deadline Day Dilemma

With Farage’s withdrawal of the Brexit Party from all 317 Tory seats, what should Brexiteers in a Leave-voting constituency in which a Tory-Remainer MP is squatting do to avoid in effect being disenfranchised?

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 14 November 2019

Imagine being a committed Brexiteer in the parliamentary constituency of Tunbridge Wells today. At 4.00. pm yesterday afternoon, the deadline for the nominations of General Election candidates was passed, so the options of where to cast your vote are now set in stone.

Obviously, a vote for any of the pro-EU, leftist parties, whether formally part of the so-called Remainer-Alliance or not, would be out of the question.

But the ‘Conservative’ Party candidate re-standing for election in your constituency is arch-Remainer and former Business Secretary Greg Clark. Along with former Chancellor Philip Hammond and former Justice Secretary David Gauke, Clark was one of the most prominent members of Theresa May’s Cabinet arguing against, if not actually working to undermine, any EU exit deal other than, in effect, a Brexit-In-Name Only.

Clark Hammond Gauke Noakes

Moreover, in 2018, Clark was reportedly Theresa May’s backstairs fixer of pro-EU crony-corporatist Big-Business’ endorsement of, and participation in, that period’s iteration of Project Fear, designed to scaremonger voters with dire warnings about the dangers for jobs and exports of a No-Deal Brexit.

More recently, of course, he was one of the 21 Tory Remainer-Rebel MPs suspended and deprived of the Party Whip in the House of Commons for voting to allow the anti-Brexit opposition to seize control of the Parliamentary agenda, pass the so-called Benn Act making a No-Deal Brexit illegal, and force the PM to seek an extension to the Brexit negotiating period. His inclusion in the MPs allowed back in to the fold in advance of the election rightly caused eyebrows to be raised.

The 21 Tory whip-deprived Tory rebels

Not an appealing prospect, is it? Yet for a strongly pro-Brexit voter in Tunbridge Wells, that’s the consequence of the concession made to the Conservatives by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage in agreeing to stand down its candidates in all 317 Tory-held seats

The Brexit Party’s seat-contesting policy since this election was called has been muddled to say the least, oscillating between near-invisibility and overkill. MEP John Longworth’s suggestion of fighting a mere 20 seats was incredibly unambitious for a party purporting to be a major factor in bringing Brexit about, as well as having the disadvantage of almost guaranteeing that the party would get little if any media and Press coverage, and certainly no presence in any TV debates.

At the other end of the scale Farage’s initially declared aim of contesting up to 600 seats – but not one for himself – erred in the opposite direction. It would have diluted resources instead of concentrating them to greatest effect, and in many cases it would have been a wasted effort. What would have been the point of contesting an inner-London seat that is both solidly-Labour and solidly-Remain? What conceivable benefit could there have been in fighting against a staunch Tory Brexiteer who has consistently voted against May’s (non)-‘Withdrawal’ BRINO, thus running the risk of splitting a genuinely-Leave constituency-level majority?

But Farage’s decision to withdraw from all 317 Tory-held seats is potentially misguided. For a start, the excuse he gave – that PM Boris Johnson has committed to pursuing a Canada Plus-style trade deal and to leaving the EU by the end of 2020 with no extension of Transition – looks suspiciously thin and contrived. In practice this means by the end of June 2020, because if it became apparent that it wouldn’t be possible to negotiate a trade deal in such a short time, the UK’s one-off option to extend the Transition period would have to be made on 1 July 2020.

As valid as the need is to avert the horrendous prospect of a Corbyn Labour or Corbyn-led Remainer Alliance government, and as much as the risk of jeopardising Brexit happening at all is real, Farage would have been perfectly justified in declining to withdraw in seats held by ardent Tory Continuity-Remainers (or possibly even, but mainly as a bargaining chip, reluctant soft-Brexiteers). Despite several of the most prominent Usual Suspects in these two categories standing down, there’s no guarantee that several of their successors won’t be similarly inclined, given the background of some of them, as has already been remarked.

It’s notable that, as Kathy Gyngell, Editor of The Conservative Woman, wrote yesterday, the reaction of the Tories has been, not gratitude and an offer of reciprocation in Leave-voting seats with large Labour majorities which, given their conventional electoral brand-toxicity, the Tories, even with a promise to enact Brexit, could probably never ever hope to gain, but instead to bank the concession and demand that the Brexit party stand aside in even more seats.

When Farage, quite reasonably in my view, provisionally refused, the Tories changed tack, offering an ‘eleventh-hour’ electoral pact whereby they would undertake only minimal token-campaigning in 40 Labour-held seats on the Brexit Party’s target list.

But in view of this proposal’s inherent drawbacks – Tory candidates being on the ballot at all would undoubtedly draw some votes to them and away from the Brexit Party, while agreeing and subsequently abiding by mutually-accepted criteria for ‘minimal’ campaigning looks fraught with uncertainly and fertile ground for dispute – as well as the Tories’ hitherto contemptuous dismissal of previous overtures, it’s difficult to criticise Farage for being sceptical.

On the calculations of the informative Leave Alliance blog, there are about 43 vulnerable seats which the Tories hold on slim majorities, but also, crucially, about 50 almost all Labour-held and Leave-voting seats which look ripe targets for the Brexit Party, it having come first there in the 2019 Euro-elections.

Caroline fff Labour BXP targets fullThe key statistic here, to my mind, is that in Column 9 – the percentage vote-swing needed for the Tories to capture the seat from Labour. In no case is it under 10%, and in some cases it’s over 20%.

Do the Conservatives really think they’re in with a good chance of persuading sufficient Labour voters – even pro-Brexit ones who voted Leave in the 2016 referendum and have since been frustrated with both their Labour-Remainer MPs’ and the Labour Party itself’s policy vacillation and obfuscation on Brexit – to change the voting habits of a lifetime, hold their noses, and vote Tory in big enough numbers to achieve the magnitude of swing required to turn the seat from red to blue?              

I’m doubtful. In my view, therefore, in no circumstances should the Brexit Party agree to stand aside in these. In fact, it’s already announced a very strong candidate for its top Labour-Remainer target seat of Kingston-upon-Hull East, which voted Leave by 73:27 in 2016 and where the Tories trailed Labour by nearly 30% in vote-share in 2017, in former The Apprentice winner and broadcaster Michelle Dewberry.

I’d even be inclined to provisionally add the next 20-30 Labour seats on that target list, but no more. Farage however, appears to have committed the Brexit Party to standing in all Labour-held seats, even including those of the few Labour-Leaver MPs. What is the point of opposing someone like Caroline Flint, who has risked and received such opprobrium from Labour-Remainer MPs for insisting that the democratic verdict of the electorate to leave the EU must be respected and implemented?

I can also see little reason at this stage why ardent Tory-Remainer MPs should enjoy an immunity from other, genuine-Leaver, competition in this election. We risk forgetting too easily how many of them were by no means reluctant to repudiate the manifestos they stood on to get elected in 2017, and, even if not openly opposing a meaningful Brexit by rebelling, nonetheless managed to dilute and soften it by signifying their potential opposition.

It wouldn’t have been unreasonable, therefore, for the Brexit Party to have opposed, say, between 20 and 30 Tory-Remainer MPs squatting in the most heavily Leave-voting seats. That would have added up to something like 90-110 seats in total for the Brexit Party to target, However, the concession having been made, it would be an act of bad faith to withdraw it. But no further concession should be extended.     

Powerful arguments are already being made against the effective disenfranchisement of thousands of Leave voters which the Brexit Party’s standing down in all 317 Tory-held constituents represents. In addition, it puts Leave-voters in the invidious position of having to balance two unpalatable alternatives to decide which is the lesser of two evilsThat being the case, it’s hard to see why anyone could object to Brexit Party PPCs now deprived of a candidature shouldn’t instead stand as Independent Brexiteers.   

Couple the still unresolved horse-trading over who should or should not contest which seats with growing disquiet about some of the new candidates being selected in Tory vacancies, and an hitherto mere unwelcome suspicion starts to harden: that, despite their pre-election blandishments, the Tories’ principal objective in this election is to procure a metro-’liberal’ Tory majority, rather than a pro-Brexit majority, in Parliament, and the former even at the expense of the latter.

Where is this leading? Well, time will tell, but I’m personally becoming more and more convinced that the Tory Party hierarchy’s strategic priorities are:

  1.  ram through something which can plausibly be labelled Brexit, so they can claim to have ‘got it done’, as if it was just a box to be ticked and then forgotten; and
  1. once having done that, get back to business-as-usual in terms of the political system substantially unchanged, which suits the entrenched Westminster elite down to the ground.

That, it strikes me, is not the outcome most critics of the last Parliament wanted in calling for its dissolution. If correct, it seems likely that people may opt instead for their own ‘withdrawal’ option, manifested by the attitude of, as The Conservative Woman‘s Editor Kathy Gyngell put it yesterday, “A plague on both their houses.”

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Conservative Party Candidates: Local Consensus or Centralised Conspiracy?

A discernible pattern of preference being given to parachuted-in favoured Party-insiders, in the selection of Conservative candidates for the General Election, is emerging

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 9th November 2019 

The selection of “Conservative” Party General Election candidates by local associations is now in its final phase before the 14th November Declaration Day deadline. However, some intriguing claims are emerging, especially from constituencies where the sitting member is standing down, about Party HQ attempting to micro-manage the selection process in favour of its own preferred choices, even to the extent of excluding a local candidate whom the local CA would choose.

First, to a currently Tory seat in the South-East whose MP is standing down. I was told last week, by a friend who happens to be a stalwart of the local Conservative Constituency Association that ructions were very likely to occur at the CA meeting scheduled to be held shortly to discuss the new candidate.

She alleged growing disquiet at what she described as Central Office trying to impose, over the head of an eminently suitable local councillor, a favourite of the Candidates’ Board on their central list with no constituency connection whatsoever. As she put it to me, if objecting causes fireworks, then so be it, but she’s damned if he’s going to rubber-stamp the selection of some chinless-wonder staffer who’s coming straight from being a Central Office gofer after getting a 2nd-class PPE, and who’s seeing the constituency solely as the first step on his or her political career-path.

Second, let’s move to Mid-Sussex, where archetypal patrician Tory grandee Nicholas Soames, one of the 21 anti-Brexit rebels deprived of the Conservative Whip for in effect voting to stop Brexit happening on 31st October, is bequeathing a current majority of over 19,000. In the frame for this are a current Government SpAd with pro-Brexit credentials but who, reportedly, nevertheless supported May’s BRINO (non)-“Withdrawal” Agreement: an educationalist  whose both current and recent political activity, as well as residence, is centred on London: and the current Tory MP for Eastleigh, Mims Davies.

Is there really no suitable local candidate? In the case of the first two, any connection with the constituency is perhaps rather more claimed than it is immediately obvious. Davies, however, does appear to have some genuine connections with the county, having been a Conservative town councillor and as a district councillor on Mid-Sussex District Council from 2011 to 2015 before becoming an MP.

Yet despite this, it’s Davies who turns out to be the most intriguing case. Despite sitting on a 14,000 majority in her Eastleigh seat that voted 54:46 in favour of Leave, she’s definitely trying to up sticks and move to Mid-Sussex. Her somewhat disingenuous previous statement that she “would not be a candidate” in her current constituency originally gave the impression she was quitting Parliament altogether, so the revelation that she is instead seeking a safer seat has given rise to speculation that fear of losing to the LibDems is her real motivation.

UPDATE: Davies was selected to contest the seat for the Conservatives.

Third, let’s journey westwards, to Devizes, which, although voting Leave by 51.4 per cent to 48.6 per cent, was, at least until the dissolution of Parliament at 00:01 am on Wednesday 6th November, the domain of the wildly over-promoted and eco-gullible Claire Perry, with a majority over 21,000. There, elements of the local association are objecting in no uncertain terms about the possible selection of Danny Kruger, Eton-educated former speechwriter to David Cameron and current Political Secretary to PM Boris Johnson, to the extent of circulating annotated (mostly unfavourably) copies of his CV to all members. 

Kruger is clearly perceived by his detractors as one of the favoured metropolitan-‘liberal’- Cameroon glitterati, and it’s arguably difficult in the current climate to imagine a more damning assessment than “definitely on the Nicky Morgan, Amber Rudd, side of the party”. But that’s their verdict.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Devizes Constituency Conservative Party has resigned, allegedly in protest  about the undue influence the Party’s Head Office has had on the choice of candidate for the safe seat. The original shortlist of six has apparently been arbitrarily reduced to three, none of whose connections with the constituency appear especially strong, or particularly convincing.

Perhaps many local Tories in Devizes are just not prepared to have what, rightly or wrongly, they see as a Cameroon carpetbagger imposed on them by Central Office willy-nilly. Is there really not a good, genuinely-Conservative local councillor who would make a good constituency MP? After years of being “represented” by Claire Perry, one can understand Devizes’ local Tories being wary.

UPDATE: Kruger was selected to fight the seat.

Fourth, let’s travel north, to the East Midlands and Bassetlaw, the seat vacated by staunch anti-Corbynite Labour Brexiteer John Mann when resigning as a MP on 29th October. In the 2016 EU Referendum, Bassetlaw voted 68:32 for Leave, a margin of over 2:1. With Mann’s majority of only 4,852, and Labour having all but formally declared itself to be a Remain/Second Referendum party, it’s obvious that mere 2,500 voters switching from Labour to Conservative would turn it blue.

Bassetlaw 2017 GE result

Yet from Bassetlaw comes the allegation that the 2017 Tory candidate, apparently a former local councillor and previous Tory CA chair, who campaigned for Brexit in 2016 and significantly reduced Mann’s majority in 2017, thus turning it from a safe Labour seat into a marginal – but was, it’s claimed, critical of Theresa May’s approach to Brexit – has twice been rejected as its 2019 candidate by Tory Central Office, despite being originally admitted to the candidates’ list. The expectation is that an external candidate, presumably acceptable to Tory HQ, will be parachuted in.

This is doubly troubling when the Labour candidate selection process in Bassetlaw is itself in near-total disarray, following a Momentum/NEC decision to overrule the local party and de-select its choice of candidate in a manner more reminiscent of a kangaroo court than adherence to due process. Objections have predictably followed, and the Labour selection process now appears mired in complete confusion.

Presented with an open goal in Bassetlaw, therefore, Tory Central Office appears to be kicking the ball off the pitch.

Fifth, back to the South-East, and to Sevenoaks in Kent, which until the dissolution of Parliament was the seat of former Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, with a 21,917 majority. Included in the Party HQ approved shortlist for it was a self-employed local councillor: the former Number Ten 10 adviser to David Cameron, Laura Trott (not our quadruple-gold Olympic cyclist, sadly, but her namesake): and the former MP for Peterborough, Stewart Jackson, a staunch Brexiteer who latterly was David Davis’ Chief of Staff at DExEU.

UPDATE: Trott was selected to contest the seat.

Sixth, again in Kent, and to Orpington – Jo Johnson’s old seat – which over the weekend chose Gareth Bacon, current Tory leader in the London Assembly, to contest the general election for the Conservatives from a shortlist of three. My mole at the selection meeting tells me that, to his intense dismay, and despite Bacon’s local government experience in the area, Bacon nevertheless “turned up with his fan club in attendance”, and that it was obvious as soon as he entered the room that he would win.

Which prompts the thought: if Bacon chaired the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority for the final two years of Boris Johnson’s mayoralty, i.e., from 2014 to 2016, was he not involved, at quasi-political level at least, in formulating the Fire Service’s what we now know to be highly contentious advice to residents of high-rise residential blocks like Grenfell Tower to stay put in the event of a fire, and not try to get out of the building? Has anyone made that connection yet?

Does anyone see a pattern here? Now it may or may not be coincidence, but there has recently been an abrupt change at the top of the Party hierarchy, with the resignation from both the Candidates’ Committee and the Party Board of a senior MP over “rising tensions in the Candidates’ Committee about the controversial approach to selections which CCHQ is pursuing”, amid mounting fury over the Candidates’ List, with local associations increasingly pushing back against central control.

Awareness, and anger, even among Tory candidates seeking re-election as MPs, is growing.  The allegations of “doing a chicken run” have duly followed the selection of Mims Davies for Mid-Sussex, and complaints are reportedly being aired on MP’s Whatsapp groups of “lots of special advisers on shortlists, and many more poor, but connected, candidates“.           

One would have thought the “Conservative” Party would have learned from the débacle of the Cameroons’ now notorious A-List, which eventually was quietly killed off. Evidently not.

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Treat this Vichy Parliament with the contempt it deserves

Much huffing and puffing in indignation yesterday from Sarah Wollaston, the “Liberal” “Democrat” (well, this week, anyway – she does change parties so often) MP for Totnes, at PM Boris Johnson’s pulling out of today’s scheduled meeting with the House of Commons Liaison Committee, comprising the Chairs of all the principal Select Committees.    

Wollaston’s response unwittingly highlighted the questions hanging over the democratic legitimacy – or, increasingly, not merely the lack of it, but even contempt for it – of this Rotten Parliament, which has long exceeded either its usefulness or its ability to represent the electorate. She is a perfect vehicle to illustrate it.

Always more of a false-flag, closet Lib-Dem inside the “Conservative” Party than a true Conservative, she nevertheless became its candidate for the Totnes constituency via an Open Primary which the Tories managed to botch spectacularly, firstly by not sufficiently checking the politics of the actual applicants, and secondly by allowing anyone to vote in it, regardless of their political affiliation.

She initially declared for Leave in the run-up to the 2016 EU Referendum, only to defect noisily to Remain in mid-campaign, in what many suspected was a put-up job aimed at discrediting the Leave campaign by her ‘defection’. More recently, she has opposed a second referendum, before U-turning and demanding one. In the last 8 months, she has changed parties in Parliament twice, first defecting from the Tories to the ill-fated and serially multi-titled The Independent Group, and subsequently to the LibDems.

Yet despite having twice in effect repudiated the manifesto which she endorsed and was content to stand on to get elected in 2017, she resolutely refuses to resign and trigger a by-election so as to give the voters of Totnes the opportunity to decide if they still want to be represented by her in the House of Commons. And she has the gall to criticise the PM for an unwillingness to “face scrutiny“. The hypocrisy is off the scale.

Wollaston epitomises a Parliament that is treating the electorate, and even democracy itself, with contempt. As Prime Minister, Boris Johnson was entirely justified in reciprocating in kind.

But it shouldn’t stop there. Including the 21 Tory Continuity-Remainer rebels who have either resigned the Conservative Whip or justifiably had it withdrawn from them, there are now approximately 50 current MPs who have defected from the parties under whose banner they were elected in 2017. Like Wollaston, not one of them has had either the integrity or courage to return to their constituents and seek a fresh mandate for their changed affiliation – or, in most cases, for their 180-degree swivel from the platform on which they sought and gained office.    

It is time to start treating them with equal contempt. Not only the PM, but all ministers, should refuse to appear before the Commons Liaison Committee while Wollaston remains its Chair. They should refuse to appear before any Select Committee chaired by one of those 50-odd MPs, and refuse to answer any question asked by any one of them at any Select Committee hearing.    

This should be carried through to the House of Commons itself. Following the example which should immediately be set by the PM at Prime Minister’s Questions, Ministers should refuse to answer any question, even about their own Departments, coming from one of those 50-odd MPs. And their lack of democratic legitimacy, absent because of their refusal to obtain a fresh mandate from their constituents, should be cited as the reason, every single time.

This rolling disapproval should manifest itself in one other significant way, too. The PM, and all ministers (with other MPs whose democratic legitimacy, regardless of their party, is not in question encouraged to join in as well), should with immediate effect refuse to refer to any of those 50-odd MPs by the title “Honourable Member”. They are in no way “honourable”, and to continue referring to them as such merely compounds the contempt with which they are already treating their own electorates. Would a newly-elected Speaker really want to start his or her period of office by standing up for them?

This abject, quisling, Vichy-Parliament refuses to approve a Brexit Deal but also refuses to approve No-Deal. It claims to be acting on behalf of the electorate but refuses to submit itself to the verdict of the electorate by conceding a general election. And then there’s this:

It is treating both the electorate, and even democracy itself, with utter contempt. High time it received the same treatment.

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Parliament’s Day of Reckoning

As the one of most important days for UK politics and House of Commons history in years, possibly in decades, dawns, with Boris Johnson attempting to secure MPs’ approval for his Brexit deal, how does the parliamentary landscape look?

It’s worth bearing in mind, at the outset, just why we are in this mess. It’s because, essentially, we are saddled with a Remainer Parliament resolved to frustrate the expressed will of the electorate that delivered the largest ever popular democratic mandate for one specific policy in this country’s political history.

EU Ref by votes, regions, parties, constituencies, & MPs

Even on the basic party arithmetic, with no other factors taken into account, Johnson’s prospects for success in the Commons look very tight. The Government currently has an operational “majority” of minus 44, so in order to win, it broadly needs, not only to keep all of those in the Aye lobby, but also attract some others to it. The votes “in play” fall roughly into four key groups.

The DUP have officially rejected Boris’ deal “as it stands”, on the grounds that its revised Protocol covering customs, the NI-RoI border, and Transition arrangements does not fully assuage their objections to Theresa May’s original (non)-“Withdrawal” Agreement. However, it’s emerged in the past 24 hours that this may not be unanimous, and that some of the DUP’s 10 MPs may be prepared to concede pragmatically that this is as good as it’s likely to get, and thus support the Government. The support of former Northern Ireland First Minister Lord Trimble looks to be a major boost.

Then there are the 21 Tory-Remainer rebels from whom the Whip was withdrawn. Rumours abound that an increasing number of these may relent and vote for the Johnson deal, on the basis that it is at least a deal, whereas their objection was to leaving with no deal. But this group also contains a cabal of pro-Remain MPs, some of whose professed determination merely to prevent no-deal is a transparently thin veneer to cover their determination to prevent any Brexit at all, democracy notwithstanding. Some of them are either standing down as MPs or are likely to be de-selected, and so have nothing to lose.

Next come the roughly 80-90 MPs of the European Research Group and its so-called “Spartans” sub-set. Many of this group voted for Johnson in the Tory leadership election, after voting against May’s deal twice but voting for it on its third attempt. As Johnson’s deal, for all its flaws, is at least demonstrably better than May’s, their support, bar possibly one or two hold-outs, looks more or less assured, although, intriguingly, two ministers from this group were reportedly on “resignation watch” yesterday.

Finally come the prospective rebels from the Labour benches, a growing number of whom are already on record as saying they would support Brexit as long as there was a deal, and who may well decide the issue, one way or another. 19 of them wrote to the EU asking it to agree a deal so that they could vote for it. At the time of writing, Labour was threatening to impose a three-line whip, but many of them are likely to be standing down or de-selected in a Momentum/Corbynite purge anyway, and will quite possibly disregard it.

As a general observation, for many Remainer MPs, this is crunch time. Irrespective of the merits or demerits of Johnson’s deal, those Continuity-Remainer MPs from across all parties who have hitherto been insisting that they “respect democracy” and oppose only a no-deal Brexit are finally going to have to stand up and be counted on what their position really is. Not before time,  and for some, it could well be blood on the carpet.

One tweet by the Daily Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson perhaps sums this up. 

The arithmetic is complicated enough. Factor in the possibility of a wrecking amendment, and how it might play out, and we are into the realms of crystal ball gazing.

As this tweet from The Institute for Government’s Maddy Thimont Jack shows, MPs had already started proposing amendments to the relevant motion yesterday morning, the key one being (and little doubt exists that it would be selected by the pro-Remain partisan Bercow as Speaker) that proposed by serial anti-Brexit meddler and arch-Remainer Tory MP Oliver Letwin and signed by all the usual suspects:

The effect appears to be to force withholding of Parliamentary approval for the deal until the legislation to implement it has been passed. The immediate question which occurs is this: how can Parliament pass legislation implementing a deal which Parliament itself has not approved? Has Letwin, not for the first time, been too-clever-by-half?

Its ostensible purpose is to prevent Johnson’s deal being passed but the legislation to implement it being derailed, resulting in a no-deal Brexit on 31st October by default. However, there seems little room for doubt, given their past Parliamentary shenanigans, that the real aim of the cross-party anti-Brexit plotters clustered around Dominic Grieve is to trigger the Benn Surrender Act, and force Johnson to seek an extension to Article 50 until 31st January, thus giving the Remainer Alliance in Parliament time to force through legislation for a second referendum. The Letwin amendment is, in effect, a spoiler.

There are other possible options for die-hard Continuity-Remainer MPs to take, with outcomes ranging from another bid for a risibly mis-named Government of National Unity to an Article 50 extension even without triggering the Benn Surrender Act.

Contrast this reluctance and foot-dragging on the part of irreconcilably Continuity-Remain MPs with the attitude of the UK electorate, which now appears, and by a substantial majority, to want Brexit implemented on the basis of Johnson’s deal. The remoteness of this Rotten Parliament from the people it is supposed to represent grows more marked by the day. 

It must be said that, even if Johnson’s deal is approved today, and the implementing legislation follows in short order thereafter, the timing is still tight. The deal, as approved, still requires the approval of the EU Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament. Given their glacial pace, that has to be doubtful. The future of Brexit remains uncertain.

One thing however is certain. Today will show, once again, the sheer extent of the demos-phobia embedded deep in the psyche of the majority of MPs that the Brexit vote and its aftermath has exposed. Hopefully it will be the last gasp of the creatures before the swamp is drained.

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Is Boris’ Irish Border Backstop Plan Bluff or Breakthough?

Bluff – but bluff by whom, and targeted at whom? There are several possible candidates for both.   

Note: Extract from article first published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 15 October 2019  

Those, maybe, are the real questions, because this drama has multiple actors, all of whom have interests and agendas that may be colouring their reactions.

Though Boris has, since last Thursday remained fairly tight-lipped about the details, some kind of, in effect, double customs union, involving keeping Northern Ireland in a de facto, if not de jure, customs union with the Republic, appears to be the basis for this tentative rapprochement.

RoI-NI

But when 85% of Northern Ireland’s exports are to the UK, with only 5% and 3% to the Republic and the EU respectively, it’s hard to see why Northern Ireland would burden itself with onerous EU costs and regulations for such a small proportion of its trade, and risk disruption to the flow of the major part of it.

Which might explain why, as early as last Friday, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds had already rejected the double customs union as ‘unrealistic’, asserting that the Province staying in a full customs union with the UK was non-negotiable, and that for the ongoing ‘tunnel’ talks in Brussels to disregard this pre-condition would be counter-productive.

Presumably, Dodds had already perceived what other commentators have since come round to concluding – that, far from negotiating in good faith, the EU is actually trying to squeeze Northern Ireland into a NI-only backstop, a view which Barnier’s rejection of Johnson’s proposals and demand for more UK concessions does little to dispel.

The technical assessments of Johnson’s proposals are not especially favourable. Anand Menon of The UK in a Changing Europe reckons the long-term economic impacts are negative, and potentially more damaging than the deal negotiated by Theresa May, but the chart below appears to acknowledge that they do give the UK more independence and flexibility. ALR readers are recommended to visit the UKinCE website for themselves and make their own judgement of its pro or anti Brexit stance.

N Ireland May Deal vs Johnson proposals

Theresa May’s former Europe Adviser, Raoul Ruparel of Open Europe, however, is more sanguine. There are some concerns, he says, but they can be managed. ALR readers should visit OE’s website https://openeurope.org.uk and make their own judgement about its pro or anti Brexit stance, too.

As former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson points out, a double customs union would also potentially be a breach of the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement, and a violation of the Principle of Consent which was enshrined within it.

We also know, because former Secretary-General to the EU Commission Martin Selmayr was indiscreetly frank about it, that it has long been the EU’s position that relinquishing economic sovereignty of Northern Ireland is the price the UK must be made to pay for leaving the EU. It would be unwise to assume that the reactions of both Brussels and Irish Taoiseach Varadkar, who has shown himself regrettably ready to pander to nationalist Republican revanchism, scrupulously disregard this.

Bluffing about seeing a way forward would certainly be in Boris’ interest, and the Conservative Party’s. The almost exclusive focus of politicians, media and public on the Northern Ireland backstop serves to obscure the suspicion that, ultimately, he will try to get what otherwise is essentially Theresa May’s (non)-‘Withdrawal’ Agreement through the Commons. Its numerous flaws remain as serious as ever they were.

But Boris knows that, if he fails to achieve Brexit by 31st October, the chances of both his own survival and that of his government, are damaged. As political scientist and Professor of Politics at the University of Kent, Matthew Goodwin, points out, the votes which, because of May’s defenestration and Boris ascendancy to Number Ten on a Brexit do-or-die ticket, have come back to the Tories from the Brexit Party after its resounding victory in the European elections, could once again vanish.

Brexit Election Tracker Goodwin mid-Oct 2019

So he has every incentive to play up the chances of a deal after all, and exaggerate its significance, if it can be presented as something which warrants getting a soft-Brexit over the line. The recriminations can come afterwards.

Brussels and Dublin equally have an incentive, to understate  the significance. The EU will be calculating that, by playing hardball, it increases the chances of a Remainer Parliament, which has already passed the Benn Surrender Act, forcing Boris, failing a 31st October Brexit, to seek an Article 50 extension on humiliating terms, probably involving conceding a second referendum.

In short, almost none of the actors in this drama has an incentive to be 100% genuine. Safer, perhaps, to assume that none of them are?

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Just How Good Was Boris’ Conservative Party Conference Speech?

Note: This article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 3rd October 2019

Forget the haughty disdain for it in both the broadsheets and tabloids whose politics are irreconcilably anti-Conservative, anti-Brexit and anti-Johnson anyway. Ignore the bloviating about it from the overwhelmingly Left/Remain-leaning social media. Discount even the carping, nit-picking parsing of specific language by the former chief speechwriter to Tony Blair in The Times.

None of them would have had a good word to say about any Boris Johnson speech, and certainly not his Leader’s speech to the Tory Party Conference yesterday, even had it simultaneously deployed the rhetoric of Churchill, the logic of Aristotle and the compassion of Mother Theresa.

The other end of the political spectrum was in many ways just as partisan. It brought the house down, enthused Michael Deacon in the Daily Telegraph. Weapons-grade, showing us that the magic is still there, gushed The Spectator’s Fraser Nelson. The best speech of his career, rhapsodised Janet Daley in the Daily Telegraph.

Both Daley and Nelson, in my view, succumbed to hyperbole in their assessments. Boris’ Conference Speech didn’t strike me as “easily the best speech he has ever given”. For me, his House of Commons speech on 18th July last year, just after resigning both as Foreign Secretary and from Theresa May’s Cabinet over her duplicitous Chequers Plan, was far better.

But yesterday’s was good, and certainly the best Tory party leader’s conference speech for a long time. Although, to be fair, that wasn’t a particularly high bar to clear, after three dreary, robotically-delivered paeans to soft-statism from The Maybot (don’t even mention the dancing!) and before that, several years of Cameron’s unconvincing, spivvy glibness.

Boris Conf Speech 2019

One doesn’t expect a last-day-of-conference, motivate-the-troops barnstormer to be structured with a beginning, middle and end, via an introduction, point-by-point exposition and conclusion, in the same way that a conventional 5,000 word, 40 minute address or a 1,000 word article for a newspaper would be. If it was, it wouldn’t fulfil its purpose. A different aim and a different medium require a different technique.

But even allowing for that, to me it came across as just a bit too unstructured, occasionally rambling and sometimes repetitive. Almost every policy subject or theme – whether it be police, NHS, transport, education, whatever, even  Brexit – is dealt with by short, individual references peppered throughout the entire text. To try and derive an overall impression of, say, Boris’ Government’s policy on transport, would be quite difficult.

It also struck me that there was one glaring intellectual inconsistency in it.

Boris enthused about “creating the economic platform for dynamic, free-market, capitalism”, and “a dynamic, enterprise culture”, to “release the economic potential of the whole country”. Fine – as he remarked, in a nice sideswipe at the statist Theresa May, when did you last hear a Tory leader talk about capitalism? Not under her, that’s for sure.

But in different sections he appears wholeheartedly to embrace the Green agenda, talking about “virtually unlimited zero-carbon power”, “a country that leads the world with clean green technology” and “reducing greenhouse gases that cause climate change”. Oh, dear – even at the most basic level, is Boris not aware that the UK’s CO2 emissions are estimated to represent under 2 per cent of the global total?

Is he not aware that the Green agenda, especially in its draconian “de-carbonisation” targets and timescales, is not only inimical to promoting the “dynamic, free-market capitalism” he extolled only a few minutes earlier, but is avowedly anti-capitalist? Has he not been listening sufficiently closely to the demands of both the hard Green-Left Extinction Rebellion and the cynically manipulated Climate-Puppet Great Thunberg which even some of his own senior Cabinet colleagues seem desperate to appease?

Boris’ speech was workmanlike, and encouraging, but also, and primarily, functional for its purpose in a very specific, almost technical way, and deliberately so. Apparently, the salient buzzword is “clippable” – meaning that the speech purposely contains lots of 20 to 25-second memorable, and easily-memorised, soundbites, which can be extracted and then fed on to social media over and over again, to reinforce the message and the messenger, in almost constant campaigning. It’s a different method of ensuring that, unlike most conference speeches, it won’t be forgotten.

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The Curious Case of Peston’s Paramour

Note: Revised version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 2nd October 2019

Right from the outset, both the story, and even its layout, looked fishy.

When, late that Saturday evening, the Sunday Times splashed with the revelation by its Deputy Political Editor that its new Style Magazine columnist Charlotte Edwardes was using her very first column to accuse Boris Johnson of squeezing her thigh beneath the table at a private lunch, the doubts arose immediately.

For a start, only at the foot of the fourth paragraph was it clarified that the allegation was no fewer than 20 years old. Could that have been to make that rather important detail invisible to a non-paywall reader?

Set against the apparent 20-year delay in going public on the accusation, the timing of its eventual revelation looks intriguing. Because if the alleged assault was as discomforting as Edwardes suggests – and there is no reason to believe that, if it indeed took place, it was not discomforting – then she does seems to have missed a remarkable number of opportunities to bring it to wider attention.     

Since the time when Edwardes claims she was assaulted by Johnson in 1999, it’s possible to identify at least 11 politically-significant occasions on which she could reasonably have reported it to the general public, and thus amplify in the public domain the issue of his suitability or otherwise for office. She could, for example, have disclosed it –

  1. when Johnson successfully stood for election as MP for Henley in 2001. She didn’t.
  1. when he successfully stood for re-election as MP for Henley in 2005. She didn’t.
  1. when he successfully stood for election as Mayor of London in May 2008. She didn’t.
  1. when he successfully stood for re-election as Mayor of London in 2012. She didn’t.
  1. when he was selected as the candidate in 2014, and successfully stood for election as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in 2015 . She didn’t.
  1. when he successfully stood for re-election as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in May/June 2017. She didn’t.
  1. when Michael Fallon resigned, and Damian Green was accused, both over historic – 15 years and 3 years respectively – allegations of “inappropriate touching” of women, in November 2017, in the wake of the #MeToo scandal. She didn’t.
  1. when Johnson and his wife announced their separation and intending divorce, in September 2018. She didn’t.
  1. when he confirmed his bid for the Tory leadership, in May 2019. She didn’t.
  1. when the blazing row with his girlfriend, to which the Police were called, was front-page news for several days in June 2019. She didn’t.
  1. when he was successfully elected as Tory Party Leader, in July 2019. She didn’t.

At this point, one might well ask: if Johnson was such a danger to women as Edwardes claims to have felt, why did she apparently not feel compelled to use her privileged position in the media to alert other women who might conceivably find themselves vulnerable to a similar assault?

Instead, the revelation has appeared only now, for the first day of Johnson’s first Conservative Party Conference as Leader. And, moreover, in the approaching culmination of his struggle to extricate Britain from the European Union, in fulfilment of the largest ever popular democratic mandate in UK political history, in the teeth of intransigent opposition from a recalcitrant, Remainer-dominated and election-averse Parliament, a judicially-activist Supreme Court, and a substantially pro-EU hostile media.

If that is merely a coincidence, then it’s certainly a quite astonishing one. And potentially a very convenient one, too, for several of the various elements of the anti-Brexit Establishment who increasingly seem willing to resort to any tactics to stop Brexit.

It could, for example, be very convenient for Amber Rudd, ex-Cabinet ardent-Remainer, who has resigned the Conservative Whip, and who, only 2 days prior to Edwardes’ revelations, was reportedly positioning herself as our prospective interim, caretaker Prime Minister in the risibly mis-named all-Remainer “Government of National Unity” being proposed by the similarly all-Remainer Rebel Alliance attempting to coalesce in the Commons around a Parliamentary coup to oust Johnson as PM. ALR readers will no doubt form their own judgement.

Two general points about the current climate of multiple attacks on Johnson from various sources are perhaps worth noting.

First, what we’re seeing from the anti-Johnson-as-proxy-for-anti-Brexit camp is neither new, nor even original. Shenanigans and procedural chicanery in the legislature: synthetic outrage in the media: febrile talk of impeachment: and now, decades-old sex allegations. They’re taking their tactics from exactly the same playbook as the Democrats and wider US “Liberal”-Left, echoed by their reliably on-message media amen-corner, are deploying against Trump. It’s a measure of their bubble-insularity and remoteness that the possibility it might be counter-productive just doesn’t seem to occur to them.

Second, despite desperate efforts by the marinaded in anti-Brexit groupthink mainstream media, with BBC News and Sky News as ever to the fore, to give the original story legs and keep it going, as far as the non-mainstream media online political audience and community is concerned, it seems to have succumbed, to widespread derision, within 48 hours.

2019.09.30 Me on Boris & Peston's Paramour

Contrary to what I suspect the aim of the story was, people aren’t outraged, or even much fussed, about Johnson’s inveterate eye for the ladies, being far more interested in whether he delivers Brexit on time.

Social media may have its faults, and its corporate inclination to left-“liberal” censorship is a growing worry, but the power it can give even 280-character citizen-journalists to, in the jargon, disintermediate the media, and thereby disrupt and counter their desired narrative, is not to be denied.

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Was this the week UK Democracy died?

Note: This article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 28th September 2019

From the instant Remainer reaction of knee-jerk outrage when last Tuesday’s Supreme Court Judgment, ruling that the prorogation of Parliament had been unlawful, was criticised as a “constitutional coup d’état”, one always suspected that there was actually something in that criticism.

SCoUK delivers ruling on Prorogation

That the Supreme Court’s Judgment reversed the earlier verdict of the High Court that prorogation was essentially political and thus not justiciable – a verdict reached by a panel comprising no less than the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls, and the Chairman of the Queen’s Bench Division, all of whom rank superior to Supreme Court Judges in the Judiciary – did nothing to ameliorate it.

As the week has gone on, that suspicion has grown. As one of the better analytical commentaries showed, the Judges took it upon themselves to rectify an absence relating to prorogation in the body of Parliament-made Statute Law by first arrogating to themselves the law-making power vested in the elected legislature, and then making it themselves in effect under Common Law. Previously, all constraints on the Executive’s prerogative power of prorogation were statutory.

Moreover, by effectively substituting its own judgment (of what constituted ‘good political reasons’ for prorogation) for that made by the Executive, and then evaluating the actual prorogation against its own criteria, the Supreme Court inserted itself into the political process. But as Lawyers for Britain’s Martin Howe QC pointed out, for a court to determine whether an issue of high government policy is good reason or not presents it with an insuperable difficulty. How can it know what was or was not in the government mind?

SCoUK judges constitutional coupThe  implications for the Constitution, already creaking from a Remainer Parliament’s tangible unwillingness to accept and implement the outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum, and democracy itself, are momentous.

As Spiked’s Jon Holbrook says, there is now no political issue on which the judges are not prepared to rule: if an exercise of the prerogative power to prorogue Parliament can be set aside by judges, then almost any political decision can be. The effect of which is, as Gerald Warner so trenchantly explained at Reaction, is, to all intents and purposes, to deprive Britain of a functioning government under a constitutional monarchy. In the words of the Daily Telegraph’s Philip Johnstone, Britain has become a republic with Bercow at its head.

2017 Remainer ParliamentWhich brings us back to our dysfunctional current Parliament. Having passed the Benn-initiated Surrender Act which, by requiring an Article 50 extension request be submitted should no deal be agreed with the EU Council meeting on 17-18 October, was effectively both an open invitation to the EU not to agree any deal, and a total shackling of both of the Prime Minister’s negotiating hands behind his back, what will it do next?

Self-aggrandising BercowI suspect Parliament’s Remainer-Leftist so-called Rebel Alliance will, with Speaker Bercow’s enthusiastic collusion, seize control of the Parliamentary agenda via Standing Order 24 and then, again using an accelerated procedure to ensure all three Readings in one day, amend the Benn Surrender Act (or Appeasement Act, if you prefer).

The amendment would be to bring forward, to a date before the EU Council meeting on 17-18 October, the date by which Boris has to come back to Parliament with a deal the Commons would approve. The effect of this, of course, would be to tie his hands even more.

The additional baleful consequence which is starting to be dimly discernible in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling is this: if (as I personally believe they have) its Judges have indeed carried out a constitutional coup d’état by arrogating more political power to themselves – by in effect inventing a convention that Prorogation is justiciable, even though Parliament has passed no Statute limiting or restricting Prorogation – then one wonders whether even Royal Assent to bring a Bill into law, or more crucially perhaps, Royal Assent to a dissolution of Parliament, might itself be justiciable.

The terrible spectre of, in extremis, a Remainer Parliament legislating to amend or repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act so as to perpetuate its own existence, followed by the refusal on the advice of the Prime Minister of Royal Assent to it, being itself justiciable and liable to be overturned by a politicised Supreme Court, is no longer unthinkable. At that point, democracy is dead.

With this week’s Supreme Court ruling, mass-participation democracy has in effect ceased to be the foundation of our political society: it has become, instead, merely an obstacle to be circumvented by the anti-democratic, either those in Parliament or those with the deepest pockets and most influential connections, whenever they are defeated in a popular vote.

SCoUK Lady Brenda Brooch-SpiderThat the central political issue of our time is now that of The People versus The Establishment has become starker than ever. By its ruling, the Supreme Court has ensured that the next general election will be about one thing and one thing only: The People against Parliament and The Establishment.

A self-respecting Labour Party would be up in arms about this. Keir Hardie and Tony Benn must be spinning in their graves. The purported party of the working-class, cheering on the well-connected and the monied as they overturn the biggest democratic mandate in UK political history.

There has been much lofty comment this week, mainly from the ‘Liberal’-Intellegentsia, about a proper re-setting of the delicate balance of power between the Monarchy, the Government and Parliament which the Supreme Court’s Judgment presages. There has been much also, from the same sources, about the reinforcement of Parliamentary sovereignty.

Less mentioned, curiously, has been the awkward fourth element in our political settlement. The People, in whose name the aforementioned triumvirate of powers professes, unconvincingly, to govern, but from whom Parliament derives its sovereignty in the first place.

Earlier this week, Brexit Party MEP John Longworth wrote lucidly about how the conflict between two competing philosophies of government and society, a conflict dormant but still unresolved since the Civil War, has been revived by by the Brexit vote and its aftermath. It is worth reading.

It’s worth recalling, too, that full universal adult franchise was not achieved until 1928, despite the Great Reform Act being dated 1832, such is successive generations of the Establishment-Elite’s determination not to yield its political power to the demos it considers unworthy to exercise it. That Democracy lasted under 100 years before we reverted to oligarchical rule is no longer inconceivable.

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Boris Johnson’s Brexit Election needs the Brexit Party

Note: This article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 3rd September 2019

Over the last half of August, the prospective date for a General Election has been a moveable feast.

Until then, the expectation was that an ostensibly anti No-Deal – but in reality a Stop-Brexit – Vote of No Confidence in PM Boris Johnson’s government would be tabled, either by Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour alone, or in conjunction with the other parts of the loose Remain-Alliance, as soon as the Commons returned from recess: and that, if lost, Johnson would immediately seek to dissolve the current Parliament and call a General Election for mid-October. 

That plan folded, though, when allies of Corbyn privately admitted that he did not have the numbers required to bring down the Government, after prospective support from among Continuity-Remainer Tory rebels collapsed, and Corbyn was persuaded to adopt the legislative route instead, which had the effect of moving the anticipated date out to early or even mid-November, i.e., after Britain would have left the EU.

However, Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament for a further few sitting days beyond its normal Party Conference Season prorogation – which, despite all the theatrical, confected Remainer outrage and bloviating hyperbole, was neither unprecedented, nor a ‘coup’, has had the effect of goading, not only the Remain-Alliance with its risible, wholly hypocritical and constitutionally illegitimate alternative ‘People’s Parliament’, but also the Tory-Remainer rebels, led by Hammond and Gauke, to accelerate and intensify their legislative guerrilla campaign.

The result is the proposed European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill 2019, which in effect forces Johnson to beg the EU for an Article 50 extension, and accept whatever duration of extension the EU deigns to stipulate.

The drafters of the Bill protest that they have included a parliamentary veto over a long EU extension: but they have also said, in advance of the Bill’s publication, that the veto cannot and will not be used, because Parliament cannot and will not allow No Deal under any circumstances.  The Bill effectively, therefore, hands the EU control over the Government, Parliament, Brexit, and, by inference, whether British democracy itself still exists.

The number of Tory-Remainer rebels pledging to support the Bill and vote against the government is already confirmed at 10and will possibly rise to 20 or 25, meaning that a Government defeat looks increasing likely.

In response, Johnson has already insisted that there are no circumstances in which he would seek a delay, so that, according to sources within Number Ten, in the event of a Commons defeat, Johnson will dissolve Parliament and call a snap General Election for 14th October, which would in itself require the support of two-thirds of MP under the terms of the Fixed-Terms Parliament Act.

Crucially, that date would be in advance of the next European Council meeting, scheduled for 17th-18th October. This does not augur well for the proper, clean-break Brexit that Johnson has given the impression – but not much tangible evidence – of both favouring and working towards since becoming Prime Minister.

If he gets a fresh mandate on, say, 14th October, then he can use that European Council meeting, and the last two weeks prior to 31st October, to stitch up a new Brexit deal – which I believe he wants, much more than he’s been prepared to admit, and much, much more than he wants a No-Deal, clean-break Brexit – for the narrow personal and tribal objectives of securing his own legacy and keeping the Tory Party together.

Any such deal would be not much different to May’s, except possibly for the Northern Ireland backstop. Johnson has already dropped a hint, at the end of August, that that he might seek changes to the backstop, but could leave the rest of the Withdrawal Agreement intact. It would still have all the vassal-statehood disadvantages and disasters which have been so eloquently warned about by, among others, Professor David Collins, Briefings For Brexit’s Caroline Bell, and Lawyers For Britain’s Martin Howe.

But in my view, Johnson doesn’t care. I’m convinced he just wants something he can push across the finishing line in Parliament. He has hitherto delivered nothing much more than bluster, despite his insistence at the Biarritz G7 that ‘the Withdrawal Agreement is dead’. But his next sentence specifically referenced that pronouncement to Parliament, suggesting he could mean ‘dead’ only in the narrow political sense that the House of Commons would not pass it in its present form. That patently did not, and still does not, exclude it re-emerging to a greater or lesser extent in different form. 

Cynical it may be, but I will believe that May’s execrable (non)-‘Withdrawal’ Agreement and integral Political Declaration are ‘dead’ only when either they are replaced by an acceptable Free Trade Agreement along the lines of a Canada++, or failing that, when we exit on a WTO-reversion No-Deal.

Moreover, a No-Deal, Clean-Break, Real-Brexit would be far more likely to be the catalyst for the sorely-needed upending of our entire political system: which, in my view, for all his bluster, Johnson doesn’t want. Politically, he is invested in our current, democratically-deficient settlement in which the two main parties have largely rigged the system to ensure their own advantage and perpetuation, and he has no desire to see it changed to something more genuinely pluralist and robustly participatory.

Which brings us to the role of the Brexit Party in the coming election, and why it will potentially be vital.

It’s rare for me to disagree with The Daily Telegraph’s Allister Heath,  whether on economics or politics – the public realm has far too few small-state, low-tax, free-market, sound-money Hayekians – but on his hypothesis that it’s time for the Brexit Party to shut up shop because the battle has been won, I believe he’s wrong.

Firstly, it treats TBP as a one-issue party: which it isn’t, because it’s about more than Brexit. Which it correctly sees must not only happen if we’re any kind of democracy at all: but must also be, not just an end in itself, but also that catalyst for changing the way we do politics to a way which I suspect Johnson does not especially want.

Secondly, in the light of the preceding paragraphs, and as former Leave Means Leave head and now Brexit Party MEP John Longworth emphasised only a day or two ago, the dangers of a new Brexit betrayal are very real. If, as it looks, we may be heading for merely a largely cosmetic re-packaging and re-branding of May’s deal as something ‘new’, then the role of the Brexit Party in the election in drawaing attention to that fact will be critical.

Thirdly, Heath has been vociferous for several years in (rightly) castigating the “Conservative” Party in numerous policy areas other than Brexit: its pandering to leftist Social-Justice-Warrior obsessions and to those who would curb free speech: its disastrous energy policies and gullibility to the Green agenda: its neo-Keynesian monetary and fiscal policies: and its excess regulation, spending & taxing. But without the more or less permanent threat of a Brexit Party snapping at its heels to keep it on the straight & narrow, the still overwhelmingly Fabian-Blairite Tory Party would be back to its bad old ways in no time at all. They are not to be trusted.

As political scientist Matthew Goodwin points out, the Conservative defection rate to the Brexit Party has slumped from 37 per cent before Johnson became Prime Minister, through 25 per cent when he entered Downing Street, to a mere 16 per cent as at 31st August. It’s presumably on this re-defection pattern that Johnson and Dominic Cummings believe they can secure a Leave-er majority for the Tories with a snap election.

But that surely also pre-supposes that, to compensate for losing Remainer votes in the South to the LibDems or a Remain Alliance, the Tories can capture enough working-class Leave-er votes in the Midlands and the North repelled by Labour’s coming-out as an unabashed Remain Party. That is something of a gamble, to put it mildly, because the Tory brand, rightly or wrongly, is still toxic in many of those areas. But the Brexit Party would be far better placed to bring those votes under the Leave-er banner, which is why the Tories should not close the door to the Brexit Party’s overtures for a tactical alliance.

The resignation of Ruth Davidson as Tory leader in Scotland ought to support that hypothesis still further. Her departure potentially weakens the Tories in Scotland, which must put at least half, if not all, of their seats in Scotland – without which, remember, they wouldn’t have been able to form a Government in 2017 at all, even with the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party – at risk, especially as Scotland hates Johnson anyway. Which in turn means that Johnson could end up needing support from, or even that Leave-er tactical alliance with, the Brexit Party even more to secure more seats in England.

It’s a risky strategy. As Matthew Goodwin set out on Monday 2nd September, it could all go wrong for the Tories and Johnson. His problem is that things are starting to work against him, and for Farage: and they will do so even more if he’s forced by Parliament to scrap No-Deal and gives the appearance of settling for a Remain-Lite, Brexit-In-Name-Only because that’s the very most that the majority-Remainer, anti-Brexit Parliament would approve.

Johnson should swallow his pride, make temporary accommodation with the Brexit Party, and enter into that tactical alliance. To win this coming election, and deliver the Brexit 17.4 million voted for, both he and the Tories need it.

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Meet the Charmer Caroline

Meet Caroline Voaden, the ‘Liberal’-‘Democrat’ MEP for the South-West region of England. What a delightful piece of work she is.

Unaccountably, Caroline has not hitherto impinged much on the national consciousness, despite costing us a no doubt disproportionate share of the following (amounts subject to fluctuations in the Sterling-Euro exchange rate):

her annual MEP’s salary of approximately £90,600: her ability to allocate more than three times as much as that in expenses: her general allowance of £46,680 a year: her £257,974 annual staff allowance paid directly to employees: her personal annual travel allowance of £3,675: and her £275 daily attendance allowance for each day that she signs the register in either of the European Union’s Potemkin Parliaments in Brussels or Strasbourg (but is not thereafter obliged to participate in its proceedings).   

However, that relative anonymity vanished recently, when she ostentatiously ‘welcomed’ the politically peripatetic and therefore serial defector Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, the member for Totnes, to the Lib-Dems in her own constituency. 

2019.08.17 LibDem MEP Voaden 2

Wollaston, of course, will need little introduction to most ALR readers. She always was more of a closet Lib-Dem inside the “Conservative” Party than a true Conservative, having become its candidate for the Totnes constituency via an innovative Open Primary which the Tories managed to botch spectacularly, firstly by allowing anyone to vote in it, regardless of their political affiliation, and secondly by not sufficiently checking the politics of the actual applicants. 

She initially declared for Leave in the run-up to the 2016 EU Referendum, only to defect noisily to Remain in mid-campaign, in what many suspected was a put-up job aimed at discrediting the Leave campaign by her ‘defection’.              

Given that Wollaston, despite being the allegedly-‘Conservative’ MP, was always ideologically closer to the Lib-Dems, one might wonder why she actually needed ‘introducing’ to their local members and supporters at all, but we’ll let that pass.  

Now, aren’t the actual words used by Voaden revealing?  “…..passing on the view from Westminster and Brussels.” Both clearly see their role as representing the views of Westminster and Brussels to their constituents, not as representing the views of their constituents to Westminster and Brussels.

Not content with that somewhat idiosyncratic and self-serving interpretation of representing the people, however, Voaden went on casually to disparage her own constituents. In response to mischievous comments on social-media about the overwhelming predominance of white faces among the local supporters of the famously ‘diversity’-worshipping Lib-Dems, she tweeted thus:          

2019.08.17 LibDem MEP Voaden 1

What a charmer. A regretful ex-habituée of lefty North London, who’s happy to be aboard the Brussels gravy-train to ‘represent’, inter alia, Totnes, where she actually sees her job as representing Westminster and Brussels to Totnes rather than vice-versa, while impliedly castigating its residents for being 95 per cent white.

With hindsight, we should perhaps have been forewarned by her contribution to the Bournemouth hustings for the 2019 EU Parliament elections. ‘Our democracy is completely broken‘, she claimed, while curiously neglecting to add that a major cause of its fracture is ‘Liberal’-‘Democrats’ like herself who refuse to accept the largest mandate for one specific policy in UK political history, and are determined to deny, dilute or preferably destroy it.

Her experience as a reporter in the former Yugoslavia, she insisted, gave her an insight into ‘a country being torn apart by nationalism and hate‘. Whether she was specifically equating the Britain that voted for Brexit with the former Yugoslavia was not clear, but in the light of her remarks since, that’s surely at least a plausible inference.

Perhaps, however, someone should have reminded her that the break-up of Yugoslavia also provided an ominous example of what can happen when disparate nations and peoples are subjugated against their will in an overarching authoritarian polity which denies them proper political representation, self-determination, and self-government within independent sovereign nation-statehood.

As you might have expected, Voaden was both prominent in, and unapologetic over, the Lib-Dems’ puerile ‘Bollocks to Brexit‘ T-shirt display at the opening of the EU Parliament’s current session. . .

Bollocks to Brexit EU Parliament

. . . thus demonstrating a distaste for decorum every bit as keen as her evident distaste for democracy. She was somewhat less insouciant, though when robustly confronted by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain over her and her colleagues’ infantile, anti-democratic exhibitionism, and was eventually, despite repeated attempts to dodge the question, forced by him to swear on live TV.

More recently, Voaden has, ahem, ‘distinguished’ herself by apparently managing miraculously to find some fishermen in Newlyn, Cornwall, who don’t think Britain’s fishing industry has been largely decimated by EU membership and the depredations of the Common Fisheries Policy, and actually want to stop Brexit in order to protect it. 

2019.08.22 Voaden Newlyn 1

At least that’s the impression which a quick, casual read of Voaden’s tweet above would convey, isn’t it? So why, then, the “apparently”? Well, look again at the sophistry implicit in the wording she used: not “fishermen“, as you might expect, but “those working in and around the fishing industry” – which isn’t necessarily the same thing.

It seems that her principal interlocutor and source for her “findings” might not actually have been a working fisherman or fishermen at all, but one Chris Ranford, whose job it is to help distribute grants from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (of which, it will be noted, the UK is far from being the largest beneficiary). In other words, an EU bureaucrat paid to give back to the UK fishing industry some of, effectively, its own money, minus a Brussels-skimmed handling fee. Which makes the conveniently anti-Brexit emphasis of Voaden’s “findings” rather more explicable. 

To describe Voaden’s tweet as, at best, disingenuous, would be eminently justified: though that might perhaps be construed by her as a churlish act of lèse-majesté, given the tenor of her reply to two sceptical Brexit Party MEPs, at least one of whom really does know what she’s talking about when it comes to the baleful effects of EU membership on our fishing industry.

2019.08.22 Voaden Newlyn 2

Fortunately, all this may be but a temporary irritation. Because the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate already selected by the Lib-Dems to fight Totnes at the next Westminster General Election is already objecting to potentially being supplanted by the turncoat Wollaston. Because the chances are that neither she nor Wollaston would now get elected anyway.  And most of all because, with only 66 days to go before we finally leave the EU on 31st October, and even as one of the merely peripheral benefits of Brexit, the ‘Liberal’-‘Democrat’ MEP covering Totnes will soon be out of a job.

We shall not see her like again. With any luck. 

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