Boris’ Resignation Speech: Did He Flunk It? No, He Didn’t

Boris Johnson’s subtle resignation statement wisely avoided what would have been a counter-productive personal attack on Theresa May’s leadership, in favour of a forensic filleting of her Brexit negotiation policy, a tactic likely to prove more successful in the long run

Note: this is the (updated) version of one of the two contrasting arguments set out in an article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 20th July 2018

Former Foreign Secretary Boris’ Johnson’s ‘resignation speech’ (technically, his post-resignation Personal Statement made with the permission of The Speaker) delivered in the House of Commons on the afternoon of Wednesday 18th July, was actually quite clever.Boris resignation speech 18 July 2018

Had he modelled it on Geoffrey Howe’s fabled 1990 equivalent on Margaret Thatcher, mounting a personal attack on Theresa May culminating in an explicit demand for either her resignation or a challenge to her leadership, it would almost certainly have backfired, and been counter-productive.

First, it would have too easy for May’s defenders and the Tory-Remainer MP majority to dismiss it as mere petty revenge for his own thwarted 2016 leadership bid, and motivated purely by personal pique and ambition.

Second, Boris recognises the political realities of that current Remainer-dominated Tory Parliamentary arithmetic. On a direct challenge, via 48 letters to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee expressing ‘No Confidence’ in May, leading to an internal ballot among MPs, she’d probably win and survive, possibly even strengthened.

Graham Brady Chair 1922 Committee v2

The Tories may justifiably be known as ‘the stupid party’, but not suicidal: its MPs aren’t going to risk a leadership change causing a general election in which many of them would lose their seats.

Moreover, under the Tories’ election rules, if May won, she’d be secure for another year. And that would mean goodbye to any hopes of replacing her Soft-Remain (non)-Brexit with one more aligned, not only with her January 2017 Lancaster House and March 2018 Mansion House speeches respectively, but also with the clean-Brexit which 17.4 million people clearly voted for.

Third, there isn’t a figure waiting impatiently in the wings and sharpening the dagger in gleeful anticipation of wielding it, unlike the odious Europhile Heseltine in 1990. Rees-Mogg, arguably the obvious contender, has been scrupulously polite, both about May and also (albeit unconvincingly) about her openness to persuasion that she needs to change course.

Instead, Boris praised May fulsomely for the post-Brexit vision which she had articulated in her Lancaster House speech and again in her later Mansion House speech, particularly the commitment to leave both the Customs Union and Single Market, and especially her assertion that No-Deal was better than a bad deal.

May Mansion House March 2018

The potentially-lethal rapier to the heart of her leadership came as he then went on to note regretfully, using her own words, the myriad ways in which that vision had, since then  – impliedly because of May’s own inherent lack of personal commitment to Brexit, undue reliance on less-than-impartial advisers, excess caution, political timidity and lack of ambition – been progressively weakened and/or abandoned into the subservient vassal-statehood proposed in the egregious Chequers Deal, which he accurately summarised as a ‘miserable, permanent, Limbo’.

The effect was metaphorically to put the May-Robbins Soft-Remain (non)-Brexit Chequers Plan through the shredder, cut up the strips, and then burn the pieces.

There was, Boris concluded, still time to repudiate this misguided approach, and salvage a proper Brexit. In other words, pleading specifically for a change of the policy, rather than a change of its executant.

Astutely, that still leaves room for Boris, or another, to revert to the personal if and when, as she undoubtedly will, May obstinately refuses to budge and ploughs on regardless with the Chequers Deal (or worse, because the Parliamentary votes of Monday 16th and Tuesday 17th July have effectively rendered it dead on arrival on Brussels).

The speech placed the lid on top of May’s (political) coffin, but didn’t start to to screw it down. The unmistakeable message was: she could still climb out of it. If, that is, she wants to.

Boris, I suspect, also recognises that, given the adverse Tory Parliamentary arithmetic, it’s the burgeoning Tory grassroots anger that’s likely to unseat May and force her to resign, obviating a direct leadership challenge and a vote solely among majority May-supporting Tory MPs. He is immensely popular with the grassroots, too, which May, putting it mildly, is not, so his speech might well motivate them to intensify their efforts.

I’m not a huge fan of Boris’: he’s a dilettante, a gadfly, and prone to indiscretions. But when he decides to be serious, and he means it, when his personal interest aligns with the country’s, he can be  formidable, even statesmanlike. Yesterday was one such instance.

Fortune favours the brave, but not necessarily the reckless. Had Boris just gone straight for the jugular, it wouldn’t have worked. As it is, a warning shot has been fired close across May’s bows, but the guns are still shotted, primed and aimed.

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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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Tory Armageddon or Tory Anti-Climax?

Will today’s House of Commons debate votes on the House of Lords’ wrecking-amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill prove to be Tory Armageddon or anti-climax?

This article was first published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 12 June 2018. 

Theresa May’s default instinct is procrastination. Her entire conduct of the Brexit negotiations has been characterised by deferral and delay, rather than decision. Today, however, comes the confrontation she can duck no longer. The House of Lords wrecking amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill come back to the House of Commons.

We can, however, totally dismiss the arguments of Unreconciled Remainers like Chukka Umunna and Gina Miller that for the Government to require all 15 Lords’ amendments to be debated and voted on in just 12 hours or so over the next 2 days is somehow an affront to democracy.

It takes either a breathtaking degree of chutzpah, or a staggering lack of self-awareness, for Umunna and Miller to (presumably) believe that their own blatant attempt to overturn the democratic decision of 17.4 million voters and stop Brexit somehow isn’t a far greater affront to democracy, but leave that to one side.

In 1999, the Blair Government, of which Umunna was, and Miller I suspect would have been, an enthusiastic supporter, made the Commons consider no fewer than 820 Lords’ amendments to the Greater London Authority Bill in just 5 hours.  The Remainers’ faux-outrage over 15 amendments in 12 hours or so over 2 days is risible, as well as being nauseatingly hypocritical.

Before her misguided decision to call last year’s election, May probably had the numbers, including the DUP and Labour Leavers committed to respecting the democratic outcome of the EU Referendum rather than Corbynite game-playing, to defeat the amendments and send the Bill back unamended.

Now, however, with May’s majority vanished, the picture looks very different, even with the votes of the DUP and those principled Labour Leavers. The rebellion by unrepentantly pro-EU, anti-Brexit Tory backbenchers – notwithstanding that, under a year ago, every single one of them stood for Parliament on a Party manifesto pledging to implement Brexit and leave both the Customs Union and Single Market – is now well into double figures.

It was boosted by Justine Greening’s refusal to accept a (justified) demotion in May’s Cabinet reshuffle, and by the (also justified) resignation of Amber Rudd as Home Secretary, because both have promptly joined the Soubry and Morgan claque in what is known as Remoaner Corner. Just in the past few days, former Environment Minister Caroline Spelman has thrown in her lot with them.

So attention has now reportedly turned to differentiating the 15 Lords’ amendments into Green, Amber and Red categories, in order of acceptabilty. Fine in theory, but most of the Red Amendments on which the Government might actually be inclined to dig in its heels, like continuing Customs Union and/or Single Market membership, or continued ECJ judicial supremacy, are precisely those on which the pro-EU Left in Parliament and the Tory anti-Brexit rebels intend to inflict a defeat on the Government, because they amount to their aim of a soft-as-mush Brexit-In-Name-Only.

As if that wasn’t enough, as a prelude the past few days have been dominated by David Davis’ (latest) implied threat to resign over the Northern Ireland backstop. At the time of writing, opinion is divided, depending on whom one chooses to believe, on whether Davis has once again backed down on a fudge, or May has capitulated by agreeing to time-limit the backstop, however nebulously.

It’s only a few days ago that comment and analysis was predicated on the forthcoming EU Summit on 28-29 June making the Parliamentary and Cabinet arithmetic difficult afterwards. Intriguingly, and as a reflection of how fast-changing this whole situation is, it’s now at least arguable that this judgment needs to be reversed.

Firstly, if May really has conceded a time-limited Northern Ireland backstop, (and even if she doesn’t resile from her concession in the face of unrelenting pressure from the viscerally pro-Remain mandarins of the FCO and Cabinet Office), it’s almost certain that Barnier and his Brussels colleagues will reject it out of hand at that EU Summit. Their aim is to exploit the UK/EU border in Ireland to stop Brexit.

Secondly, if she goes to that Summit on the back of several Parliamentary defeats brought about essentially by her own disloyal backbenchers, her position will be severely weakened. It’s the Parliamentary arithmetic that will make the EU Summit difficult, not the other way round.

Paradoxically, May’s, and Brexit’s, lifeline could be to refer back to that unnecessary 2017 General Election. It did at least have one advantage, of making the vast majority of her Remain-voting MPs face their constituents and promise to implement the Referendum result. She should have no qualms about reminding the rebels of that, and then make every Amendment vote a Vote of Confidence, in effect threatening them with another election.

But if she won’t, then she must go. For some time the political blogosphere hasn’t been reticent in calling for May to be ousted, not even necessarily to save Brexit, but because of her manifest inadequacies both as a Prime Minister and Party Leader – I myself called for her to go at TCW on 29 January this year –  but now the heavyweight commentators are even joining in, economist and Conservative Andrew Lilico’s devastating indictment of her at Reaction last week being but one example.

But her potential Brexiteer ousters, it appears, lack the courage to back their words with deeds. Like so many of their predecessors, it will be their fate to be remembered, not as Tory statesmen who upheld democracy, but Party hacks who, when it came to the crunch, put party before country. Anti-Climax seems far more likely than Armageddon to be today’s outcome.

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The De-Legitimisation of Democracy and the Demos

The reaction of the pro-EU Remain campaign to Leave’s victory in the 2016 EU Referendum has been an attempt to de-legitimise the Demos and even Democracy itself

Note: this is the long (and updated) version of an article first published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 08 January 2018

The EU Referendum was a seminal event in our political history for many reasons. One of them, however, was unique in modern times. In reaction to their defeat, the losing side’s leaders unleashed their inner contempt, not just for the result, but for the mass electorate, and arguably even for democracy itself.

The several distinct strands discernible in the Ultra-Remainers’ interpretation of the Referendum result were, and are, all intended to justify either ignoring, diluting, or overturning, it. That the flaws in them are so self-evident and so easily debunked, however, highlights their desperation.

‘The Leave vote was driven by racism and xenophobia, to stop all immigration’.

This first, knee-jerk, reaction has endured, an enthusiastic adherent being the habitually self-unaware Owen Jones, who in effect repeated it approvingly in a blog criticising the Remain-Elite’s demonisation of Leave voters (yes, really!). But, apart from the logical fallacy that wanting to stop all immigration (a minority view even among Hard-Leavers) is not prima facie evidence of either racism or xenophobia, how the accusation explains the large number of BME and Eastern European origin Leave voters is unclear.

The definitive rebuttal, though, emerged from Lord Ashcroft’s polling which found the majority of Leave voters voted on ‘Sovereignty and Democracy – the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK’. Even the second choice – ‘for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders’ – is about control, not prohibition: the usual Remainer accusation of “to stop all immigration” is therefore exposed as just anti-Leaver prejudice.

‘Leave voters were predominantly un-educated, ‘low-information’ people, who didn’t know what they were voting for’

Even discounting its inherent repugnance – when did a vote’s democratic validity under universal adult franchise suddenly become conditional on educational or knowledge qualifications defined post-facto by the losing side? – this meme’s central tenet, that mere possession of any old university degree makes your opinions and vote valid, but those of your not similarly-endowed fellow-voters invalid, is risibly false. Just to give one example, 55% of graduates, apparently, believe that both poverty and income inequality are increasing, when in fact the exact opposite is true.

‘The Leave vote caused a spike in hate crime’

This imprecation was made possible at all only by the balefully-imprecise definition of ‘hate-crime’, an ‘offence’ requiring neither complaint, victim, evidence nor corroboration to be accepted and recorded. Rightly described by Brendan O’Neill as ‘the most cynical, politically motivated crime panic in memory’, and ‘the invention of a crime epidemic to the cynical, political end of defaming Brexit as hateful and dangerous’, it has now largely subsided, leaving its levellers looking especially malevolent, or foolish, or both.

‘The Leave vote was secured by Russian influence and bots on Twitter’

With this allegation, Remainer desperation descended into fantasy. It was rapidly demolished, not least by academic Matthew Goodwin’s comprehensive dismissal of the so-called ‘evidence’ for it. In summary, approximately 86 per cent of the allegedly Brexit-“influential” tweets, which themselves represented only 15 per cent the total analysed, were actually sent after the polls had closed, and fewer than 1 per cent of voters polled cited Twitter as their preferred information source.

‘They didn’t vote to be poorer, or to leave the Single market and Customs Union’

Actually, they did. The repeated insistence by Cameron and Osborne alone that a Leave vote involved quitting both the EU’s principal economic institutions meant that no-one could be unaware of those consequences of their Leave vote. The prominence given it, plus the findings of the Ashcroft poll, suggests Leave voters recognised there were economic risks in leaving, yet were still prepared to risk a temporary financial downside for themselves to ensure their children’s future in an independent,`self-governing democracy.

Varied as all the above reactions are, they do have one common factor which appears both unprecedented in recent history, and very disturbing. Albeit in different ways, they all seek, not merely to condemn or oppose the Leave vote, but specifically to de-legitimise it, as justification for ignoring, negating or overturning it. As historian Robert Tombs puts it: ‘Never in modern times has there been such an overt and even contemptuous attempt to deny the legitimacy of a popular vote.’

Previous unexpected election outcomes produced shock, as in 1992, or noisy street demonstrations by the losers, as in 2015: but I cannot recall a previous vote in modern UK political history after which the losers have embarked on a blatant campaign to invalidate the votes of the winners, and to such an extent as to challenge even the legitimacy of democracy itself.

Why? Well, those of what we can accurately label the Ultra-Remainer mindset, even carried over into regular general elections, have not been on the losing side in any election for approximately 25 years. After 1992, they got, in succession, Blair, Brown and Cameron: in effect a continuum of Blairite government reflecting their politics, right up until its abrupt repudiation by 17.4 million voters on 23rd June 2016.

For them, losing is a new experience, one which they don’t like, and can’t handle. And the underlying reason is that, as they’ve now shown and continue to show, they actually hold a low opinion of the masses, and, by extension, of mass democracy, especially when it delivers an outcome unwelcome to them.

It’s clear that, for so many, the overriding attraction of EU membership is because 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.

In a way, we should thank them. Their Referendum-denying, insult-hurling, anti-Brexit demonisation and attempted de-legitimisation of 17.4 million people’s votes has revealed starkly the sheer extent to which this country’s elites tolerate mass democracy only for as long as it produces the results they want. When it doesn’t, they’re viscerally eager either to disparage it or suspend it.

And they are still disproportionately both influential and vocal, in politics, government, the media, academia, and big-business. As we go into 2018, Brexit is still not certain, despite being the largest vote for any single policy in British political history. It’s starting to feel as if democracy itself is dangling by a very tenuous thread.

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Same BBC Bias, Different BBC Source

Changes to the BBC Question Time format mooted by a former BBC honcho would do little to alleviate the programme’s bias, merely expand its sources 

Note: this is a longer version of an article first published at The Conservative Woman on 3rd November 2017.

Complaints about the sometimes blatant left-‘liberal’, pro-EU, pro-Green bias of BBC Question Time, in the selection of questions, panels and audiences, are perennial. However, they have recently been given significant backing, at least as far as allegations of the programme’s institutional anti-Brexit bias is concerned, by some old-fashioned investigative journalism.

In summary, since the  EU Referendum, Remainer panellists have outnumbered Leaver panellists by nearly 2 to 1, and no fewer than 86% of the panels have been Remainer-dominated.

So it was intriguing to come across this article in The New Statesman by former BBC grandee Roger Mosey, on how the programme format might be changed by its new editor.

In fairness, Mosey was one of the very rare voices at senior level in the BBC, not only to detect its innate metropolitan-‘liberal’ bias but also to go public with admission and criticism of it. It won him plaudits from journalists with no reason to sanitise it.

But his New Statesman article alludes to the bias issue only very obliquely, and the changes it suggests would, in effect, not so much alleviate, much less eliminate, the bias as invite it from a different source, under the guise of improving the quality of the programme’s output.

Briefly, he suggests panels with fewer politicians, largely ignoring those from outside the two main parties, and spending more time on “major topics”: but, significantly, he also favours inviting more experts, academics and scientists “who know their subject inside out”, to explain things more clearly.

There are some glaring flaws with this. Presumably, however, the current BBC – apparently so out of touch with the vast majority of the country that doesn’t inhabit the politico-media bubbles of Westminster, North and West London that it was utterly shocked by the EU Referendum result – would think we non-metropolitan proles would be too dim to notice them.

First, as we’ve had demonstrated to us all too vividly over the past two years especially, but also before that, the so-called “experts” are frequently – and sometimes spectacularly – wrong.

In the early 2000s, the CBI experts harangued us that for the UK not to join the Euro would be a disaster. They were wrong: the true disaster has been near 40% youth unemployment in the Southern Europe’s economies. In 2009, economics expert David Blanchflower predicted 5 million unemployed if UK public spending was cut. He was wrong too

In the EU Referendum, the Treasury experts, echoed by their tame and equally pro-Remain media courtiers, warned us a year-long recession would follow a Leave vote. They were wrong.

Central banking expert and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney assured us of an “immediate and profound economic shock” which would follow even a vote to Leave. One didn’t.

The polling experts told us a defeat for Remain was unthinkable. How did that work out?

“Pensions expert” Baroness Ros Altmann (still, incidentally, using her peerage in the unelected House of Lords to try and derail Brexit), predicted a fall in equity markets after a Leave vote. They rose instead.

Next, apart from their prediction errors, the experts, academics and scientists are just as prone to biases in their judgements as politicians. I wrote on this site only a month ago of the massive Left-‘Liberal’-Green bias among UK Academia, and particularly of its pro-EU bias.

Couple that with the BBC’s inherent left-‘liberal’ pro-EU bias, and it isn’t hard to guess the direction that most experts, academics and scientists invited on to a new-format Question Time by the BBC would probably be coming from.

Can you imagine it would risk having Economists For Free Trade’s Professor Patrick Minford on a panel, countering a Remainer politician by explaining how post-Brexit Britain, outside both the EU Single Market and Customs Union, would actually thrive under free trade?

Or the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Dr Benny Peiser, highlighting the physical-science flaws in the Green climate-change consensus, showing there’s no established causal link between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature, and describing how the temperature records data used to back the CO2→AGW theory is “adjusted”?

There are other objections, too. It would be interesting to analyse all the questions asked on Question Time over, say, the last two years, so as to place them in one or other of these two categories: my guess would be that between half and two-thirds were questions whose answer had to be based on a value or moral judgment, in contrast to factual data or empirical evidence. In other words, purely political.

To illustrate this, take the issue of votes for prisoners, now back in the spotlight as a result of the May Government’s reported preparedness to relax the restrictions for some types of prison inmates.

You could be presented with all kinds of evidence from social scientist or an academic expert in the criminal policy field, in the form of data on, for example, the success or failure of rehabilitation strategies, or re-offending rates, or practice in other countries, and they might influence your opinion to a greater or lesser degree.

But in the end, your view on the issue surely comes down to the value judgment of whether or not you believe that the judicial penalty for an offence serious enough to warrant a prison sentence should also include withdrawal of a prisoner’s civic right to the franchise for the duration of the sentence. As suggested above, this is purely political.

Which leads on to two other factors. Although there’s been a constant trend in recent decades of elected politicians outsourcing their legislative and even administrative decision-making powers to unaccountable outside bodies – whether externally such as to the EU and UN or domestically to tribunals, quangos and NGOs – actual policymaking still largely rests with them, certainly more than it does with academics and “experts”.

So shouldn’t it therefore be primarily the politicians’ views that we need to ascertain, certainly on what, for all its faults, is the most-watched political programme? We have precious few means and opportunites to even semi-hold them to account, isolated from their party scripts and special advisers, as it is: that shouldn’t be diluted further by replacing them with substitutes who are immune from democratic verdict.

Additionally, if the programme is always by its nature destined to be more political than empirical, the suggestion of excluding minor parties looks almost designed to entrench two-party hegemony. Insurgent political movements challenging the established parties are at a disadvantage anyway under our First Past The Post system: restricting their access to prime-time political TV just looks anti-democratic.

If the BBC wants to change the composition of Question Time panels, it could do worse than dropping the vacuous celebrities whose bien-pensant virtue-signalling might send a frisson of excitement through the BBC’s metropolitan culture-warriors, but who contribute little else.

Padding Question Time panels with experts and academics, though, is the wrong answer, and on several levels: not least that it substitutes bias from one source with bias from another, less easily discernable, one.

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The Academics and Socialism

Indoctrination of the university student and graduate population with the predominantly left-wing political attitudes prevailing in higher education has a growing effect on British elections

Note: this is the longer version of an article first published at The Conservative Woman on 2nd October 2017.

Why”, asked Laura Perrins, Co-Editor of The Conservative Woman on 22 August, “should you risk sending your children to university for a full three years of left-wing propaganda?

For the parents of any young adult raised in a household even moderately inclined towards social conservatism, EU-withdrawal, a smaller state, lower taxes and free-market economics, this is an increasingly pertinent, even worrying, question.

Because, as Laura pointed out, after three years at an educational establishment which institutionally not merely disagrees with your views, but positively hates them and thinks they (and consequently you) are evil, your children will more than likely emerge from it thoroughly marinaded in left-wing thinking (and hating you in their turn).

The young’s voting patterns in recent election results certainly seem to bear this out. The YouGov analysis of voting by age group in the 2017 General Election shows that, in all three age-groups spanning the ages from 18 to 29, the Labour vote was over 60%.

Higher Education and Academe as a bastion of left-wing indoctrination is an impression that’s widely held. But to what extent is it true?

Fortunately, we have some empirical data from within the last two years. The chart below shows the results of a poll taken shortly before the 2015 General Election, asking for the voting intentions of UK University academics.

The responses leave little room for doubt. In no discipline did the intention to vote Labour drop below 40%, while you have to go as low as 20% in every academic discipline before encountering a voting intention other than Labour or Green.

Overall, the academics’ voting intention went 83% to the four main parties of the Left (Labour, LibDems, SNP and Green), while in the General Election proper, their vote share was only 47%. In other words, university-tenured academics inclined towards parties of the Left at a frequency nearly double that of the electorate as a whole.

A similar poll of UK academics’ voting intentions was conducted in the run-up to the 2016 EU Referendum, by The Times Higher Education Supplement. Here, the results were even starker.

In no discipline was the intention to vote Remain below 80%, while in only one discipline, Engineering and Technology, did the intention to vote Leave break through the 15% threshold. As everyone now knows, the result was 52%-48% for Leave. Once again the academics leaned Remain-wards at a rate more than 1½ times that of the voting population.

So, on the face of it at least, the perception of the University experience as being an academic indoctrination process in Europhilia and Leftism has some evidential support. If you have the impression that your child has emerged from University brainwashed into an ardently-Europhile Leftist who hates you and everything you stand for, you’re probably right.

But what seems explored much more rarely is: why this should be so? Why should the supposedly academic and intellectual elite overwhelmingly incline towards leftist and statist parties and policies that concentrate decision-making power in bureaucracy rather than democracy, and reject those which favour liberal-individualism and free-market competition? And do so, moreover, at a incidence nearly double that found in the adult population as a whole?

Well, the first thing to remember is that this phenomenon isn’t new. Hayek analysed and excoriated it decades ago in his “The Intellectuals and Socialism”, famously referring to “the professional second-hand dealers in ideas”.

Politically, the Academic and Intellectual Elite has an aversion to capitalism and free-market competition because, being a system based on voluntary exchange reflecting consumer preferences, it doesn’t confer on them either the superior societal status or the monetary rewards to which they consider themselves entitled because of their (assumed) far superior intellect.

Arguably, Robert Nozick put it even better in his 1998 essay Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?

“Intellectuals feel they are the most valuable people, the ones with the highest merit, and that society should reward people in accordance with their value and merit.”

This is especially marked when they compare themselves with people successful in what, to them, is the rather grubby business of designing, producing and marketing products that people will voluntarily part with their hard-earned, post-tax cash to own. Think, for example, how much more popular in the public mind James Dyson is than A C Grayling. The old disdain for “trade” has crossed over from the Aristocratic Landed Elite to the Intellectual Academic Elite.

Consequently, the academics and intellectuals incline, politically, away from free-markets democracy towards the more collectivist politics of markets-averse, leftist-statist bureaucracy. Not only does it value them more than competitive free-market capitalism does: but it can also use the coercive power of the State, manifested via the taxation system, to enforce on wider society at least a financial recognition of their assumed superior intellect and desired superior status.

This also explains their near-homogeneous support for remaining in the European Union. Yes, academics and intellectuals do favour the EU as an additional source of funding. But because the EU is an essentially socialistic, authoritarian, top-down bureaucracy, they also view it as a means to impose on the UK the kind of Leftist policies which they themselves are attracted to, and without the necessity and inconvenience of obtaining popular democratic consent. Remember, as we saw in the aftermath of the EU Referendum, their opinion of the demos borders on contempt.

This leads to the next question. For how long do the academics’ and intellectuals’ pro-Left, pro-EU biases continue to influence their recipients’ voting behaviours after inculcation?

Conventional psephology held that most had grown out of their youthful flirtation with socialism by about 30, by which time advancing careers, along with marriage, family and mortgage responsibilities, had altered their perspective. Indeed, as late as April this year, a YouGov poll suggested that the Left-Right crossover point comes roughly at age 34.

However, the results of the 2017 General Election have forced a re-evaluation of that hypothesis. It seems that the Labour/Left voting tendency now persists for at least a decade beyond that. As the Ipsos MORI chart below shows, the phenomenon now extends well into the 40s, and that it’s only after 45 that a Conservative-leaning tendency starts to prevail.  

This seems to bear out what Iain Martin has recently written on “the widespread assumption among those aged below 45 that Tories or pro-market people are an inherently bad bunch with motives that are inherently evil”.

Perhaps, though, it could have been better predicted. Because the age distribution of voting patterns in the 2016 EU Referendum shows a similar pattern. Once again, it’s only at the 45-54 age group does Leave start to prevail over Remain.

Neither does this look to be a temporary aberration, attributable to the more fractious political atmosphere before, during and since the EU Referendum. The pattern seems to be persisting, and hardening. The Remain=Labour and Leave=Conservative assumptions are by definition somewhat crude proxies, but it does appear that an overall shift in age-related voting patterns may be taking root for the short-to-medium term at least.

As far as countering it is concerned, the first thing to remember is that this may not, after all, be so historically unprecedented, and so in the end be so permanent, as excitable media comment suggests.

Albeit not of the same magnitude, there have been similar trends observed before, as the chart below of under-30s percentage voting patterns in General Elections since 1964 shows. The under-30s Labour vote almost halved between 1964 and 1983, and again between 1997 and 2010.       

Under 30s support Lab & Con since 1964

However, that might be where the optimism ends, at least for the time being.

In 1983, the Conservative Party, though faced with a Labour opposition similar to Corbyn’s in its socialist programme, was itself ideologically committed to a smaller state, free markets and capitalism, and unafraid to take on its opponents publicly in the battle of ideas. In 2010, it benefited from a widespread disillusionment with the dysfunctional Brown government after 13 years of increasingly tawdry New Labour.

Today’s circumstances, however, are nowhere near so propitious. First, no-one under 50 has much, if any, memory of what life in Britain was like under the last real even semi-socialist government: and given the prevalence of left-wing attitudes in higher education, they may well not have been taught an accurate history of it. To under 50s who lean Left-wards, therefore, Corbynism, however flawed, can seem fresh and exciting. 

Far worse, though, is that, as has been so starkly shown this past week, the Conservative Party is mired in intellectual atrophy, apparently completely incapable of unashamedly making the case against state-socialism and for a lower-taxed, less-regulated and more entrepreneurial economy, capitalism and free markets. So ideologically-sapped, and so devoid of confidence, does it appear, that it is reduced to offering, almost apologetically, diluted versions of previous flagship Labour policies.

Unless the Conservative Party is jolted from its torpor by the prospect of impending ejection from office and replacement by the most disastrously socialist government since the Labour Party’s formation, then the left-wing ideological indoctrination of the young via higher education – and Laura was surely right in her original 22nd August article to suggest that one of Blair’s motives in greatly expanding university access was to expose more to it – will yield results, with dire consequences, not least for those welcoming it.

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The People-In-Parliament

Unreconciled pro-Remain MPs cynically exploiting an interpretation of Parliamentary Sovereignty to try and negate the EU Referendum result have highlighted the urgency of radical post-Brexit Parliamentary reform

uk-supreme-courtThe Supreme Court decision in Miller – that the Government’s powers under Crown Prerogative did not include the power, despite the unequivocal popular mandate given it by the result of the EU Referendum, to issue notification under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, so that a specific Act of Parliament was required – has re-activated the question of what Parliamentary Sovereignty actually means.

I was brought up to believe, and was in fact taught, that what the doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty expresses is the supremacy of Parliament over the Crown – that the Crown cannot arbitrarily compel the passing of laws or the raising of taxes without the consent of Parliament, but by extension also, therefore, without the consent of the people whom Parliament merely represents.

In other words, that Parliament is sovereign over the Crown, but not sovereign over the people, comprising as it does merely their temporarily-elected representatives.

Admittedly, the question is disputed by constitutional writers. Burgess suggests that this is indeed the case, and argues that, by asserting or assuming sovereignty over the people, successive Parliaments have exceeded their powers. Loughlin, on the other hand, suggests that Parliament is indeed supreme over the people, and infers that this is legitimised by freely-held, non-coercive elections under our system of representative, rather than direct, democracy.

I’ve always been uneasy with this latter interpretation: to me, it seems far too conducive to an elective dictatorship, able to act with impunity in defiance of the people’s expressed wishes. When we send MPs to Westminster, we are not relinquishing or transferring ownership of our democratic powers to them: we are merely lending them, and delegating temporary custody of them, to MPs until the next election – and nothing more. 

This has even more resonance when Parliament, without our approval, agrees to transfer power or jurisdiction over domestic policy matters to unelected, unaccountable supra-national bodies like the EU. Because our democratic powers as a people are only lent, not relinquished, to MPs, they do not become the property of a transient Government or those MPs to dilute or even cede to another polity, without our specific consent.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller, however, making implementation of the clear popular mandate given the Government by the EU Referendum in effect subject to approval by Parliament, appeared to reinforce the interpretation that Parliament is supreme, not only over the Crown, but over the people also.

Crucially, however, that is certainly the way it has been gratefully interpreted over the past three days by very many anti-Brexit MPs in the current Parliament’s inbuilt near two-thirds to one-third pro-EU, pro-Remain majority: a pro-EU majority that stood in stark contrast to the UK electorate’s 52% to 48% vote to leave the EU, and which, translated into Parliamentary seats, has been calculated would produce a pro-Leave landslide.

2017-02-07-hannan-on-parliamentary-sovereigntyWhen Parliament voted, by a factor of no less than 6:1, to hold the EU Referendum, what it did was to hand back to the British people, in relation to the specific issue of remaining in or leaving the EU, the powers that the British people had, once again, temporarily lent to it, via the 2015 General Election. Dan Hannan’s tweet above perhaps clarifies how.

ref-leaflet-contract-with-the-votersFor this particular issue of Britain’s EU membership, Parliament gave back to the people the sovereignty which we temporarily lend it. It said, in effect: “this is for you to decide, not us on your behalf”. It even emphasised as much – “The Government will implement what you decide” – on its information leaflet.

And the decision of the British people, and its implied, consequent instruction to its elected Government, was clear and unmistakeable.

To have, therefore, seen diehard-Remain MPs trying over the past three days to confect and exploit a cynical, self-serving  misinterpretation and distortion of Parliamentary Sovereignty to mean Parliament supreme over the people, to further their own nakedly anti-Brexit aims in defiance of the democratic decision of the UK electorate which they voted by over 6:1 to confer on it, has been utterly nauseating.

We’ve seen unashamedly pro-EU MPs, who for years accepted torrents of EU legislation into the corpus of UK law with near-zero scrutiny, suddenly converted to the apparent necessity of line-by-line scrutiny of Brexit aims and negotiating strategy.

snp-mps-hoc-may-15We’ve seen Labour, LibDem and SNP MPs, supported by unreconciled Tory Remainers, proposing amendments to the Article 50 Bill which were blatant attempts to slow the Brexit process to a standstill: and making it clear that many want either not to leave the EU at all, or else remain in it in all but name.

We’ve seen the vast majority of Labour, LibDem and SNP MPs, again with support from unreconciled Tory-Remainers, making it abundantly plain that their wish to “scrutinise” the Government’s Brexit negotiating strategy is only to expose & weaken the Brexit negotiators’ hand, before negotiations start.

We’ve seen pro-EU MPs, who for years were so eager to give UK voters’ democratic powers away, now fighting hard to stop them coming back. Many of their disingenuous amendments clearly were mere devices to negate implementing the decision which Parliament gave to the electorate to make, and some of those pro-EU MPs could barely be bothered to conceal it.

We seen unreconciled pro-Remain MPs, one after the other, indulging in competitive hand-wringing over the post-Brexit plight of EU nationals currently in the UK. Their cynicism has been quite breathtaking: it’s easily ascertained that approximately 84% of EU nationals residing legally in the UK would not be affected one iota.

soubry-distraught-hoc-wed-07-feb-2017Their speeches were in effect re-fighting the EU Referendum itself, and re-running the combined Remain campaign’s Project Fear. They left no doubt that, for them, being pro-EU means being anti-democracy, and that the prospect of leaving the anti-democratic EU horrifies them.

It’s difficult to deny that, when Leave-ers voted on 23rd June 2016 to recover Parliamentary Sovereignty, what they meant was leaving the EU altogether – so that, in a Britain once more an independent, self-governing country from being outside the European Union, their laws & taxes would in future be decided by, and only by, the MPs they elected to Parliament, and by no-one else.

why-people-voted-leave-2In other words, that Parliament would be sovereign over any foreign legislature in the determining the laws they have to obey and the taxes they have to pay. Remember, both the Government and Remain campaigns to stay in the EU had been totally unequivocal in warning that a Leave vote meant exactly that – leave completely.

I suspect what they did not mean by recovering Parliamentary Sovereignty was Remainer MPs interpreting it instead as Parliament in effect deciding whether the UK is to leave the EU at all. Yet it’s been obvious from the last three days’ Article 50 Bill debates that that’s how the Diehard-Remainers see it, and have tried to interpret it. Their conduct has been nothing short of pro-EU anti-democracy chicanery.

So what implications does this have for the future of Parliament, and our democratic politics, once Brexit has been achieved?

One consequential necessity above all, I’d contend, has long been pre-eminent: that, having succeeded in retrieving and repatriating our democratic sovereignty, we cannot risk merely entrusting it once again to the same body of MPs who for 40 years eagerly and arguably illegitimately gave it away without our consent in the first place: at least not without imposing some very robust limits on their powers in that respect.

They have shown that, quite simply, they cannot be trusted. The reaction of too many to the, for them, unwelcome Referendum result has betrayed their disdainful attitude towards their electorate.

Many remain unreconstructed advocates of the EU Project: it’s been clear that, for so many, the prime attraction of EU membership is that it enables them to fulfil a visceral desire to put as much policy-making as possible beyond the reach of what they see as the capricious domestic democratic process and an electorate whose views they by-and-large do not share or even find repugnant.

We cannot assume that a future Parliament, especially a left-leaning, residually pro-EU one, would not surreptitiously resume the powers-ceding process of the last 40 years all over again. Their hands, in short, need to be tied.

commons-chamber-normalSo we must strengthen the post Brexit Parliament’s democratic accountability to the electorate. To more of a People’s Democracy that makes legislature and executive work, not in the interests of the Establishment cartel, but in the interests of the people.

We need, and urgently, a proper Recall Procedure, in the hands of voters. The Bill presented in the last Parliament to allow a minimum percentage of constituents to recall an errant MP to face re-election was voted down: instead, Members decreed that only a committee of MPs was fit to decide whether one of their fellow-MPs had misbehaved sufficiently to have to account to his electorate – his constituents, impliedly, were not . So much for “trust the people”. Real voter Recall is a cause going by default.

We need Open Primaries for candidate selection. We may no longer be in the days of the Cameroon Cuties’ A-List, and Labour’s infamous all-women shortlists seem to have fallen out of favour: but with the occasional exception, none of the main parties seems at all keen to open up the candidacy process and make it more accessible, less subject to capture or manipulation by party hierarchies, and more transparent. The case for Open Primaries is strong, but not being robustly made.

evelA fairer constitutional settlement for England, shamefully neglected in the rush to confer domestic powers on the devolved assemblies, is long overdue: but the issue of an exclusively English Parliament, or English Votes for English Laws, has retreated towards the back burner.

Yet by re-advancing it, English MPs would rightly be re-asserting domestically the fundamental principle on which the EU Referendum itself was fought and won: that the laws governing the citizens of a discrete polity can legitimately be those, and only those, made by, and only by, the representatives directly elected by the citizens of that polity, and whom they can remove from office via the ballot-box at the next election.

For national-level democratic participation, we have to rely on a once-in-5-years cross-marking exercise, based on manifesto commitments which few expect their parties to honour, once the inconvenience of an election is out of the way. But – in an age when we can book a holiday with a few mouse-clicks, or apply for a university course with a screen-touch, why should this be?

confidence-in-govt-switz-topThe Swiss manage successfully to hold referendums on issues other than major constitutional questions like their voting system or EU membership. It’s no coincidence, to my mind, that the Swiss, who have the most direct say in their government, via localisation & frequent referendums, express the highest confidence in their government and regularly show highest public-engagement in politics. We can achieve the same. We need more referendums, not fewer.

The political-class, of course, hates them. They’re “divisive”, they’re unpredictable, they take control of campaign messaging away from party machines, and, worst of all from their point of view, referendums let voters take control of a single issue outside the 4/5-year election sequence when an entire manifesto is voted on.

There can be few better reasons for having more referendums than a demonstrably unrepresentative, voter-averse, political class being opposed to them. If we were more accustomed to using them as an instrument of democratic consent, they’d be far less “divisive”.      

Whatever method of future democratic engagement we adopt, we need, too, to eliminate the loopholes, if not downright electoral fraud, made possible from now rampant abuse of the postal (or virtually proxy) voting system. There have been too many instances reported of, as just one example, multiple postal votes per household, to continue leaving glaring abuses unchecked. A return to the previous very tight criteria for postal voting eligibility, plus a requirement for photographic ID at polling booths, is necessary if the democratic process is not to be further subverted.         

We need, also, enshrined in law, an absolute bar on the transfer away to any other body, whether domestic or international, of any part of the democratic sovereignty temporarily and conditionally vested in Parliament by the electorate. Remember, it’s not just to overseas or supranational unelected, unaccountable institutions that our democratic powers have been transferred – think how much policy-making has been put beyond the reach of democratic disapproval or change over the years by being delegated to quangos or semi-autonomous government agencies insulated from the democratic process.

The Coalition purported to remedy this with its 2011 European Union Act, essentially requiring a plebiscite on any further significant transfer of powers from Westminster to Brussels. Crucially, though, it largely left to Cabinet discretion what actually constituted a significant transfer of powers which would trigger a referendum. It was basically a sham, designed principally to head off demands from a growing-Eurosceptic Conservative Party and public for an EU Referendum while in coalition with the fanatically pro-EU, referendum-averse LibDems. We need a new law which is far more prescriptive.

The EU Referendum and its aftermath – especially the disconnect it revealed between, on the one hand, an electorate the majority of which is opposed to both EU membership and continuing uncontrolled mass immigration, and on the other, a Parliament largely in favour of both – has dramatically exposed how the traditional model of representative democracy is no longer working, in that, patently, it increasingly fails to represent. And as representative democracy’s disconnect between the views of rulers and ruled grows more and more apparent to more and more people, dissatisfaction with it will only grow.

The current anti-politicians (but NB not anti-politics) sentiment isn’t a mere passing phase. It augurs a permanent change in the relationship between rulers and ruled, to one where the balance between representative and direct democracy shifts more towards the latter.

That’s why, after Brexit, radical Parliamentary reform is needed to make MPs more accountable to their electorates, and ensure they can never again give away democratic powers which, because they are merely custodians of them our our behalf, are not theirs to give.

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Bearding Branson For Bucks

Branson was dead keen to play for Remain. To pay for Remain, though, not quite so much….

Recall how, during the EU Referendum, one of the Remain campaign’s most prominent and vocal celebrity supporters for keeping Britain in the EU was Richard Branson?

Despite laying himself open to charges of rank hypocrisy – Branson, remember, is such an ardent advocate of Britain’s EU membership that he bases himself in the (non-EU) Caribbean, and his business interests in (equally non-EU) Switzerland – Beardie was nevertheless adamant about what a sheer, unmitigated catastrophe for Britain a vote for Brexit would be.

Neither the numerous critics of his arrant hypocrisy, nor the multitude of commentators who pointed out how, er, spectacularly inaccurate a track record he had on the entire issue of the Euro and the Single Market, could deter him.

euro-by-branson-2

Now surely, you might imagine, such a committed pro-European wouldn’t have hesitated to back his unshakeable convictions with a sizeable chunk of his considerable fortune? Via even some kind of significant contribution to such a transparently noble cause?

Alas not.

For, as Michael Mossbacher and Oliver Wiseman recount in their book “Brexit Revolt – How The UK Voted To Leave The EU”, Beardie, although keen to be associated prominently with the case for a Remain vote, was, shall we say, rather less keen to stump up all the moolah to pay for it….

mossbacher-wiseman-quote-re-branson

That’s right – the Remain camp had to tap up billionaire pro-Labour, pro-EU donor and peer Lord David Sainsbury to pay, in addition to this other donations to the Remain cause, part of the cost of Billionaire Branson’s Remain-supporting ads.

And now, being openly unwilling to accept the democratic verdict of 17.4 million people, Beardie’s also agitating for either a second Referendum, or in effect a Parliamentary blocking of Brexit implementation. 

branson-demand-for-2nd-referendum-poster-05jul2016

Presumably he’d want to play an equally prominent pro-Remain role in any second Referendum. And possibly even a third if a second once again delivers the “wrong” result.

Let’s hope for Sainsbury’s sake that he has a lock on his wallet….

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The LibDems Can’t Half Pick ‘Em

The LibDem candidate for tomorrow’s Richmond Park by-election is an unconvincing combination of contradictions. She deserves to be defeated.

We’re used to the LibDems occasionally picking slightly iffy parliamentary candidates to contest either General Election or by-election seats.

The case of one Ibrahim Taguri, the alleged “fund-raiser” forced to resign as candidate in Brent Central after a “donations-in-return-for-access” scandal, comes to mind: as does the case of George Cunningham (Chair of “Brussels & Europe LibDems”, incidentally), suspended as parliamentary candidate in Thanet North after allegations of impropriety which included bringing in donations from abroad.

In the case of Sarah Olney, candidate in the Richmond Park by-election being held tomorrow, though, the LibDems appear to have picked a candidate whose problem isn’t so much one, as it were, of convictions, as of contradictions.

Firstly, on the central issue behind the by-election occurring at all, i.e., former Tory Zac Goldsmith’s resignation as an MP on principle to re-stand as an Independent on his declared opposition to Heathrow runway expansion. Olney, as one would expect, both as a Green-tinged LibDem and, to be fair, on local nuisance grounds, is also opposed to the third runway: but here’s the contradiction – her husband is a town planner who played, it appears, a key role in developing Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

olney-richmond-3 That of itself is perhaps a tad awkward, but probably no more than that if fully disclosed – it’s his profession, after all, and everyone has to live – but the contradiction has been exacerbated by her decision to play down the fact almost to the extent of concealing it.

Her campaign leaflets, we learn, make a point of mentioning his “significant experience in implementing large-scale infrastructure projects”, but, er, omit that one particularly “large-scale infrastructure project” he helped to implement was the last-but-one major project at the facility whose expansion she vehemently opposes.

There’s an interesting potential conflict of interest here. If Olney wins, on an overtly anti Heathrow expansion ticket, she acquires all the pecuniary and status rewards of an MP. On the other hand, the development will probably go ahead anyway, so her husband, with his experience, also stands to gain professionally. Win/win for the Olneys?

If she loses – and bear in mind that the least she’s likely to achieve is a good second, because neither the Conservatives nor UKIP are contesting the seat, and the Labour candidate looks like a no-hoper –  she’s no worse off than she is now, and the Heathrow development probably proceeding anyway still stands to benefit her husband.  No-change/win for the Olneys?

The contradiction between the public position (and it’s without doubt sincerely held) and the limited potential for personal downside is intriguing.

That’s the local factor at issue in the Richmond Park by-election. The national one, of course, is the EU Referendum, Brexit, and the desire of the LibDems either to dilute it to the point of virtual impotence or preferably frustrate and overturn it entirely, whether by parliamentary or judicial manoeuvres. Which is where the second contradiction arises.

As you’d expect, and again as a fairly standard LibDem Europhile, Olney is opposed to Brexit. As their candidate in Richmond Park, where over 70% of votes cast in the EU Referendum were for Remain, she’s also an at least implied backer of the anti-democratic Unreconciled Continuity Remain cabal’s machinations – prominent in which are two of the party’s former leaders and also its current one – to delay, diminish and preferably negate it, whether by Judicial Review, parliamentary vote(s) or even by pressing for a second Referendum.

The contradiction here is this: Olney is on record as previously saying that people must accept the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and that the government should not seek to “re-run” the vote.olney-richmond-2She had even gone as far as calling for Leavers and Remainers to “come together”, and “make a success of Brexit”. But with her party leader Tim Farron already having pledged to make the contest a “Brexit by-election”, the question arose as to how Olney would handle such an embarrassing contradiction.

Very much in the same way, it turns out, as she handled the Heathrow contradiction: by concealing it. On the afternoon of 26 October, apparently, she deleted her personal website and its call for the democratic verdict of the British people to be respected. She now suggests that Theresa May should commit to a second Referendum on our EU-exit terms “to buy herself time and negotiating capacity”. That’s quite a U-turn, even for a LibDem…..

When Olney started her campaign, it was mainly, though in fairness not exclusively, a local one. Airport expansion was the key issue, she claimed, and a vote for the LibDems would “make a stand against Heathrow”.

Whether the third contradiction – the switch of primary focus from the local to the national issue – has come about from anti-Brexit conviction or from embarrassment at family connections with Heathrow expansion is a moot point, but come about it most certainly has.

olney-richmond-4Far from being a “stand against Heathrow”, a LibDem victory would now be nothing less than a “Brexit game-changer”, seemingly. [Notwithstanding the fact that it would bring the number of LibDem MPs up from only 8 to only 9, presumably, and hopefully thereby make not one whit of difference to the Government’s proceeding to implement the democratic Referendum result.]

olney-letter-richmond-parkThat was on 23 November. In the space of a mere week, however, it has mutated into something even more momentous. No longer a mere “Brexit game-changer”, the Richmond Park by-election tomorrow is now, we are told, “the most powerful vote you ever cast”. 

Wrong, Sarah. The most powerful vote any of us alive have ever and will ever cast was the vote of 23 June 2016, when no fewer that 17,410,742 of us voted to defy the imprecations and exhortations of the globalist-utopian political, economic, financial and cultural ‘liberal’-elite, and recover our political and economic sovereignty to our own shores and our own ballot-boxes, to be determined democratically by us and us alone.

For that reason above all, it’s important that the LibDems don’t win this by-election.

I’m frankly ambivalent about Zac Goldsmith. His Mayoral campaign was abysmal: his languid environmentalism is a turn-off: his susceptibility to, and collaboration with, Exaro’s rightly now-disgraced “Westminster Paedo Ring” campaign was misguided or worse: and I believe his opposition to Heathrow expansion is strategically wrong.

But I admire his principled decision to abide by his commitment to his constituents over Heathrow, even at political risk to himself: his advocacy of more direct democracy via a proper MPs’ Recall Mechanism: and above all, his unswerving devotion to the Brexit cause. For those reasons alone, I hope he wins.

But there is another. If Goldsmith does manage to win, it will mean that the Europhile, anti-Brexit LibDems, for this by-election allied with the Greens instead of competing with them for the same voter demographic, and in possibly one of the most LibDem-friendly, Remain-supporting, anti-Brexit constituencies in the country, will have failed.

That would send a powerful message to the egregious Farron, Clegg, Ashdown and all their motley crew of embittered, anti-democratic Remainer plotters, intent on ignoring or overturning the expressed will of the people.

And that will be a very fine contradiction indeed.

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Oikophobia Unleashed

Brexit then Trump has caused hitherto-muted ‘Liberal’ contempt for the masses to erupt unconstrained

A week may be a long time in politics: but the 4½-month period between late-June and mid-November seems to have gone by in a flash.

Because, between the aftermaths of the two political earthquakes represented by the UK electorate’s vote for Brexit on 23rd June and the US electorate’s vote for Trump on 8th November, the chorus of Left-‘Liberal’ anger, objection, complaint and condemnation has been both continuous in frequency and unchanging in content.

A word on semantics. I habitually use “Left-‘Liberal'” for two reasons: the “Left” to distinguish it from the Classical-Liberalism to which it now bears hardly any relation, and the quotes around ‘Liberal’ to convey that its truly ‘liberal’ components are harder to detect. In US, and increasingly now in UK, usage, ‘Liberal’ actually means Left-‘Liberal’: so the remainder of this piece will use it as such.

‘Liberal’ opinion would always have been anti-Brexit. It prefers unaccountable, democracy-bypassing supranational institutions to the democratic sovereign nation-state: it favours unfettered immigration rather than even mildly-controlled borders: it supports elites-benefiting crony-corporatism over genuinely competitive markets: and it would rather single-regulatory-area trading blocs than free trade.

times-frontpage-wed-15jun16-osborne-threats-brexit‘Liberal’-elite received-opinion, anti nation-state and globalist, overwhelmingly informed the anti-Brexit argument. It was all-pervasive, from Government through the plethora of acronymed organisations to the Remain campaign itself, and all echoed faithfully by their largely equally-‘Liberal’ media amen-corner. So its palpably-traumatic shock when 52% of Referendum voters ignored or rejected its pro-EU exhortations, scaremongering and pressure, and voted instead to Leave, was at least predictable.

Less predictable, however – although, as we’ll see, perhaps not entirely – was the volume and tenor of the vilification heaped on the 52% who had shown the temerity to ignore the instructions of their self-assumed intellectual and cultural superiors, and vote instead for economic and political self-determination.

They were not merely wrong, ran the ‘Liberal’ narrative, disseminated via innumerable furious and vitriolic denunciations in the visual, print and online media. They, especially the swathes of working and middle-class voters outside the M25 who voted Leave in droves, had voted the way they had because they were perverse, racist (pick any “-ist” you like, really), ignorant, xenophobic, and – favourite of all – “uneducated”. The Referendum, they argued, should be ignored, and the question re-put

Moving from the particular to the general, democracy itself was soon identified and duly arraigned as the alternative culprit. The Referendum wasn’t even about EU membership at all, it was claimed, but about something else entirely. So Cameron, went this theme, had been wrong to concede something so unpredictable as a referendum at all: the arguments were too complex for the great majority of the voting public to understand, let alone decide on: why, perhaps even mass democracy itself was a flawed concept, seeing that at least half of the voters were plainly cerebrally-challenged, and manifestly too ill-equipped intellectually to participate in it.

b-oneill-rage-of-the-elitist-campMany were surprised by the unabashedly-articulated virulence. But not all – more astute commentators noted that the reaction was more a case of the mask slipping. The reflex was new, not in substance, but only in the extent to which ‘Liberal’ opinion no longer felt any constraint or reluctance about expressing it so clearly and openly.

Among the affluent, mainly-metropolitan, upper-middle-class, educated, intellectual and cultural Left, a faux-solicitude for the masses going hand-in-hand with a visceral revulsion for them has a long and unattractive history. One could perhaps cite as examples the early Fabians, or that epitome of Bloomsbury disdain Virginia Woolf: but suffice it to refer to that George Orwell quote from The Lion And The Unicorn with which so many are so familiar:

“In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanised. 
They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the 
general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident 
thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals 
are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always 
felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman 
and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse 
racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably 
true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of 
standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a 
poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping 
away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes 
squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always 
anti-British.”

scruton-on-oikophobiaThe philosopher Roger Scruton deploys what I still consider by far the most descriptive term for the phenomenon of mainly metropolitan ‘Liberals’ consumed by contempt for the nation & its white working and middle classes. He calls it Oikophobia, from the Greek oikos, meaning home: a repudiation and irrational fear of, even hatred of, one’s own nation, heritage, traditional culture and people.  

He went on to amplify it in his magisterial speech entitled “Immigration, Multiculturalism and the Need to Defend the Nation-State”, delivered – with a prescience that in retrospect one can only marvel at – on 23rd June 2006, exactly 10 years to the day before our own Referendum Day. This is the passage that stands out:

scruton-on-oikophobia-2

That rampant ‘Liberal’ oikophobia, aimed at the Brexit-voting classes, whatever their socio-economic status and irrespective of their reasons, has scarcely diminished since its post-23/6 eruption.

why-people-voted-leave-2In vain do its targets point out that, far from being a vote by the allegedly prejudiced, hatred-filled, “xenophobic”, “uneducated” mob, 53% of those voting Leave gave as their reasons the fundamental issue of sovereignty and democracy: the principle – clearly anathema to sophisticated ‘Liberals’ – that decisions about the UK should be taken by, and in, the UK.

As a usually very non-political friend put it to me: “I voted Leave because I want my kids to grow up and live in a society where the taxes they have to pay, and the laws they have to obey, are decided by, and only by, politicians who they can elect and throw out, and by no-one else“.

It’s hard to better this as a simple summary of the Brexit case, and I’ve unashamedly borrowed it: but apparently it establishes beyond doubt millions’ racism, xenophobia, hatred, lack of sophistication, stupidity, and every other conceivable moral failing sufficient to consign them in ‘Liberal’ opinion to beyond the Pale of respectable society.

Then, just one week ago, a second cruise missile tore into the ‘Liberal’ citadel and detonated. Confounding the instructions, predictions (and, let’s face it, the heartfelt desires) of virtually every TV outlet, pollster, psephologist, media-pundit and cultural-commentariat apparatchik in the USA and beyond, the American voting system spurned the robotic, compromised, shop-soiled doyenne of the politically-corrrect, globalist ‘Liberal’ Establishment in favour of its ultimate ogre, Donald Trump. ‘Liberal’ opinion reeled in shock, denial, anger, and then exploded in incandescent almost hysterical, fury.

mount-st-helens-eruptionTo borrow a metaphor from volcanology: if Brexit 23/6 was the 20 March 1980 earthquake that created the bulge of sub-surface magma, visibly growing daily, on the north side of Washington State’s Mount St Helens, then Trump 8/11 was the 18 May 1980 rapid-succession earthquake, landslide and lateral blast that blew it apart and triggered the volcano’s eruption. The ensuing pyroclastic flow of ‘Liberal’ rage, frustration, hatred, bile, vituperation and contempt for the voters who delivered the dual earthquakes has both intensified and continued ever since, and it shows no sign of abating.

Just as in its post-Brexit phase, disparagement, firstly of the electorate and then secondly of democracy itself, are ‘Liberal’ opinion’s both default reactions and predominant responses.

Voters went for Trump, ‘Liberals’ insist, because they share his alleged misogyny (overlooking that 53% of white women voters and 43% of all women voters voted for him, and that among women without a college degree, he was 20% ahead).

The vote for Trump was an outpouring of latent white racism and xenophobia, they declare (ignoring that Trump garnered only 1% more of the white vote, but 2% more of the Hispanic vote, than Romney in 2012: that he attracted more Afro-American votes than Romney in 2012: and that whites voted for Obama in record numbers in both 2008 and 2012). 

The traditionally Democratic-voting working class in the battleground Rustbelt states broke for Trump, ‘Liberals’ informed us, because they were, above all, “low-information” (currently the en-vogue euphemism de choix for “thick”). Whatever happened to ‘Liberal’ concern for the economically-disadvantaged and the mission to improve their educational opportunities?

Trump won because Obama is black, suggested a Professor of African-American Studies at Princeton. Entertaining this proposition requires you to make the prodigious leap of logic to infer that not liking the fact that Obama is a black man made usually-Democratic voters not vote for a white woman. Right……         

61 million Americans voted for Trump, The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland implied, because they share his complete abrogation of any moral values. That a working-class man in Michigan or Wisconsin, job constantly at risk, no pay raise in 6 years and family home just re-possessed, might not regard transgender bathrooms as a first priority, seems not to have occurred to him. Perhaps it really was about the economy, stupid.      

Predictably, perhaps, in view of his meltdown on BBC Question Time earlier this year, the historian Simon Schama positively dripped with metropolitan-‘Liberal’ condescension & contempt. Those with a different view to his, let us note, are not merely political opponents, but “sweaty agitation”, inclined to “nativist populism”, and, worst of all, are “people who don’t read broadsheets”. The horror.  

So what conclusions can we draw from this near-visceral outpouring of ‘Liberal’ bile directed at those impudent enough to hold a contrary view? Spiked!’s Brendan O’Neill, again, put it well in a Facebook post yesterday, and the next three paragraphs draw from it. 

brendan-oneill-on-liberals-view-post-trump-15nov16We’ve learned that many ‘Liberal’, Democratic-voting “feminists” actively dislike to the point of vilification any women who hold an opinion different to their own, and think moreover that the 43% of them who voted for Trump must by definition be stupid and selfish, without even bothering to consider what their reasons might be.

We’ve learned that the ‘Liberal’ media-commentariat doesn’t after all have a high regard for the working and middle classes, but instead positively reviles them as backward, unsophisticated, “low-information” disrupters of its own preferred model of an anodyne, “civilised” consensus-politics, deracinated of any substantive ideological difference.

We’ve learned that even democracy itself is something that ‘Liberals’ don’t value highly when it delivers verdicts outside their acceptable range of outcomes: so much so that some are openly discussing the presumed necessity of political-IQ tests for voting, or if not, reserving big decisions exclusively for “experts”.

And finally, as Melanie Phillips put it so aptly in The Times yesterday, we’re seeing the grotesque spectacle of ‘Liberals’ weeping over the supposed demise of democracy from its inherent deficiencies, even as they simultaneously dismiss half the population as too stupid and unfit to participate in it, and speculate on ways of excluding them.

For the ‘Liberal’ globalist order, Trump after Brexit presages an existential crisis. After the Brexit vote, its repudiation by 17.4 million UK voters might have been dismissed as a one-off: but not after Trump. The rebellion against ‘Liberalism’s 30-year hegemony is growing. Next year sees elections in France, Germany and The Netherlands, with parties opposed to the ‘Liberal’ globalist order poised to make substantial gains. ‘Liberals’ therefore have to fight back, and the current deluge of Oikophobia is just the start.        

Where we are with this is quite bad enough: but where we could be headed is chilling. Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Jason Brennan, author of “Against Democracy”, condemns the assumed inseparability of mass democracy and voter ignorance. There is, he says, “no real solution to the problem of political ignorance, unless we are willing to break with democratic politics”, arguing instead for an epistocracy, a kind of “aristocracy of the wise”, where experts can determine political policy for those of us who are too “low-information” to have a say in them ourselves.

This too, like Oikophobia itself, has an unlovely provenance: taking us back, by inference, towards the eugenics whose possibilities fascinated Wells, Shaw, the Webbs, and the early Fabians, concerned to address the adverse societal implications of “feeble-minded” people, but this time transferred from the restricted area of welfare-entitlement to nothing less than the political-participatory process itself.

‘Liberal’ Oikophobia in isolation is unpleasant, and illiberal, but rarely more. Unleashed, and combined with a resentment at the outcomes of mass democracy whose perceived solution is mass democracy’s delegitimisation, however, it constitutes a far greater threat than does any consequence of a Trump presidency or an EU-exiting Britain. It has to be countered.        

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