Tag: EU-Referendum

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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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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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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No Brexit Roll Of Honour Is Complete Without The Name Of Steve Baker

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 2nd April 2019

When the definitive impartial, objective history of the 2016-19 traducing of Brexit – and in the process, democracy itself – by Government, Parliament and wider political-class alike, comes to be written, there will be many villains, but few heroes. Among The Conservative Woman‘s excellent Brexit Roll of Honour series, produced as a counterpoint to its equally good Brexit Wall of Shame collection, there must though be a prominent place for the scrupulously unbiddable Steve Baker, the ‘Conservative’ Party’s MP for Wycombe.

In some ways, this should not be a surprise. In sharp contrast to the legacy-Cameroon, pro-EU, neo-Keynesian, Fabian-Blairite tribute-act that the Party has become, he is a rarity. A sound-money Hayekian and adherent to Austrian-School economics, critical of both excessively-loose, expansionary central bank monetary and interest-rate policies and the unrestrained credit-creation capacity of fractional-reserve banking that generate asset bubbles followed by busts: an advocate of low taxes, fiscal rectitude and spending restraint: an unashamed champion of a smaller state, competition, and free markets:  and a long-term avowed Euro-sceptic on the grounds of the EU’s inherent economic inefficiency and its glaring democratic deficit, who chaired Conservatives for Britain, which eventually morphed into the successful Vote Leave campaign.  

A co-founder of The Cobden Centre think-tank, it’s easy to see from his own writing why he found no favour among the 2010-2015 Coalition’s ‘liberal’-centrist’, political-triangulation obsessed, devotees of sleight-of-hand “Osbrowneomics”, as it came, not at all unfairly, to be lampooned. Though he did serve on the Treasury Select Committee, it’s not difficult to imagine why he was left languishing, under-utilised, on the back benches: inside the Treasury, say, he would have presented a formidable intellectual challenge on economic and fiscal policy to George Osborne, like his predecessor-but-one Gordon Brown, one the most political of Chancellors.

He was among the Tory rebels defying the Government whip to oppose Euro-phile David Cameron by voting in favour of a EU referendum in October 2011, and for a cut in the UK’s EU budget in October 2012, and against the omission of a Referendum Bill from the 2013 Queens’ Speech.

His directly Brexit-related achievements, however, start in September 2015, when, according to Tim Shipman’s “All Out War”, it was Baker who was influential in getting Cameron’s attempt to have the Referendum framed as a Yes/No question, (where, psephologically, “Yes” typically enjoys a significant advantage), rejected by the Electoral Commission, and replaced with the more neutral Remain/Leave choice. Later that month, he was part of the rebellion by 37 Tory backbenchers which helped defeat Cameron’s attempt to weaken the rules forcing ministers and officials to be neutral in the pre-Referendum purdah period

He upped the ante considerably, however, after May’s post-Referendum unelected coronation, becoming chairman of the backbench European Research Group, and overseeing its activities in promoting a Brexit fully reflecting the historic 2016 vote and the vision of it which May initially (and, as it turned out, deceitfully) set out in her Lancaster House Speech and its Mansion House successor, until he was made a junior minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union in June 2017.

As we now know, he, and the Brexit Department’s other ministers, were cynically used as camouflage, and their work ignored, by May and her Number Ten team in their backstairs operation to produce her now rightly infamous Chequers Plan. On its being revealed in early July 2018, however, and unlike most of May’s largely supine, spineless, careerist Cabinet members, he followed Boris Johnson and David Davis in immediately resigning on principle.

Reverting to the ERG, but now as deputy chairman, he continued oversight and co-ordination of its opposition to May’s Chequers Plan and its equally-flawed Withdrawal Agreement successor.  Fortunately, he’s also avoided the temptation, sadly irresistible to its chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg, to deliver naïve platitudes to the media along the lines of “The Prime Minister is an honourable woman who can be persuaded to change her mind”, when the essential untruth of both propositions has long been obvious.

He has become more even steadfast in the recent weeks and days of the near-constant interplay of procedural chicanery between Parliament and Government over May’s cynical attempts to sneak her (non)-“Withdrawal” Agreement through the Commons by repeated votes, opposing most of the options in the Indicative Votes farce.

Where Baker has finally earned his spurs, though, and put his eternal place on any Brexit Roll of Honour beyond dispute, is in his furious reaction in the middle of last week, as, one by one, Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Jacob Rees-Mogg all folded and backed May’s deal: ostensibly as the lesser of the two evils of This-Deal or No-Brexit, but almost certainly, in two of the three cases, with an eye to garnering support from soft-Brexit MPs in an imminent leadership contest

Baker admits that he, too, wobbled momentarily, and at one time had even, reluctantly, decided to back May’s deal: but that, reflecting on what he rightly calls “the spite, pride, mendacity and pitiless commitment to trampling democracy with which we are governed“, decided that he could not, in all conscience, support it, even if that meant resigning the Conservative Whip. He was, and is, evidently made of sterner stuff than his numerous less-principled colleagues. 

Addressing them, and starting with a reference to May’s having just addressed the 1922 Committee only a few minutes earlier, Baker let rip.

“I am consumed with a ferocious rage after that pantomime. What is our liberty for if not to govern ourselves? 

Like all of you, I have wrestled with my conscience about what to do. But I could tear this place down and bulldoze it into the river. Those fools and knaves and cowards are voting on things they don’t even understand.

We’ve been put in this place by people whose addiction to power without responsibility has led them to put the choice of No-Brexit or This-Deal. I may yet resign the whip than be part of this.”

It’s already been extensively publicised and quoted, and rightly so. It might not attain the legendary status of Cromwell’s “In the name of God, go!” to the Long Parliament, invoked by Leo Amery towards Chamberlain in May 1940, but his “What is our liberty for, if not to govern ourselves?” won’t be quickly forgotten. Nor should it.

Only on Monday 1st April, Baker stated on BBC Politics Live that he could well now vote against the Government in a Commons Vote of No Confidence. With the stage Theresa May’s disastrous bungling and betrayal of Brexit has now reached – colluding with a terrorism-supporting Marxist whom not long ago she condemned as a national security threat and unfit to govern, in order to strangle Brexit, in opposition to half of her own Cabinet and most of her own MPs and Party – Steve Baker should not just support a Vote of No Confidence in her government if there is one, but resign the Whip and actually table it himself.

If by bringing this thoroughly rotten May government down, and swathes of her pseudo-‘Conservative’ MPs down with it, he somehow saved Brexit, then a place on any Brexit Roll of Honour would be among the least of the honours and accolades deservedly heaped on him.

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Why, Brexit or No Brexit, Leave-ers Must Rally In Parliament Square Today

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier today, Friday 29th March 2019

Disregard all the confected agonising about a few decimal-points percentage less GDP growth over ten years. Ignore the un-evidenced predictions about job loss Armageddon. Ever since the mid-February 2016 announcement of the EU Referendum date, the Remain campaign has been throwing economic sand in your eyes: because it knows that, on the key Brexit question, that of sovereignty, independence and democracy, it has no case.

Some things in life really are simple, but just not easy: the words aren’t necessarily synonymous. Especially in politics, however, some simple things are deliberately over-complicated by those who need to obfuscate them in pursuit of an agenda.

Brexit is actually a very simple, almost atavistic, existential question, arguably the oldest one of all. It goes back to Plato vs Aristotle. How are we to be governed, by whom, and from where? Do you want to be governed by people whom you can elect and can throw out? Or ruled over by people whom you can neither elect nor throw out?

why people voted leave 2Huge numbers of the 17.4 million who voted Leave, despite being disparaged as uneducated, stupid and bigoted, actually understood this, instinctively and viscerally, even if they couldn’t all necessarily articulate it lucidly. They knew what was, and still is, at stake. That’s why sovereignty and democracy – the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK topped by some margin the most extensive and methodologically-sound post-Referendum polling undertaken of the specific reasons why people voted for Brexit.

As one said to me: I’m voting for Brexit so that my children, and in turn their children, can live in a society where the laws they have to obey, and the taxes they have to pay, are decided by, and only by, people whom they can elect and can throw out, and by no-one else. As a justification, I’ve yet to hear that bettered.

Remember, Brexit was the biggest vote for one single, specific policy in British political history. An estimated three million people voted who don’t normally bother or who hadn’t voted before. Why? Because they recognised this had a significance far, far beyond that of mere elections, which are actually decided in no more than no more than about 100 swing constituencies, the rest being either tribal heartlands or even the modern-day equivalent 18th Century rotten boroughs. 

Because it was a nation-wide, whole-electorate poll, where they knew that this was one of the few times, possibly the only time, in their entire lives when their individual votes actually counted, and could make a difference.

But the overwhelmingly Remainer-dominated political class, enthusiastically assisted by its amen-corner courtiers in the media, culture and Academe, has, cynically and calculatedly, betrayed them all, and with tacit support from swathes of people on the losing side. The really shocking aspect of the last thirty-three months has been the exposure of just what a precariously thin thread British democracy hangs by, not just among the Establishment-Elite, but also apparently among a sizeable proportion of the electorate, when it delivers an outcome uncongenial to them. 

The readiness of so many simultaneously to withdraw the franchise from those who disagree with them, and cavalierly dismiss them as unfit to participate in deciding their own destiny, suggests that the Brexit Vote aftermath is a mere symptom of a much deeper underlying problem in UK society, not the cause of it.

After the past week’s events, there can no longer be even a scintilla of doubt that Parliament has now consciously voted to set itself against the people. It has, quite simply, declared war on the electorate, on Brexit, on the Constitution, even on democracy itself. It has, in effect, shredded the social contract. It is trying to steal from us the very decision that it asked us to make, because it does not like it. It is behaving like a thief in the night, breaking in to a poor man’s home to steal the one thing of value he has: his vote. 

May the burglar makes off with British democracy

Look at the first part of the video clip below. Ordinary people in an ordinary Northern town, discussing, albeit in maybe not particularly erudite or sophisticated terms, the iniquities, the democratic deficit, inherent in having a remote, unelected, unaccountable layer of government officials, above and superior to those they’re actually allowed to elect, but who themselves make most of the rules yet are both insulated from the need for democratic consent and immune from democratic sanction.

The leaders of a mature democracy ought to be proud that those ordinary people in an ordinary Northern town are capable enough and engaged enough to have discussions like this. Yet what was the reaction of the Remainer-dominated political class and its media, culture and Academe echo-chambers to their vote? “They didn’t know what they were voting for”. 

Now look at the second part, from 03:30 onwards. That ordinary Burnley lady, learning the EU Referendum result that she helped to achieve.  “We did it! Everybody woke up in time! Everybody listened! We’ve done it!” Possibly, like so many, the first time in her life that her vote actually mattered, the only time, perhaps, that it made a difference. Nearly three years on, it still retains its raw, emotive power.

Back in July 2018, just after the revelations of May’s Chequers deception, I wrote that this had just got a lot bigger than Brexit: that it was now about nothing less than whether we are a functioning citizens’ democracy at all, or just unwilling, powerless subjects of an unaccountable apparatchik-elite pursuing its own agenda.

We cannot let the cadres of disdainful, contemptuous, anti-democracy charlatans in Parliament get away with betraying those people of Burnley, and millions of others like them. We have to prevail. We cannot afford to fail. The alternative is too baleful to contemplate. That’s why Leave-ers need to rally in Parliament Square today. Not just to reclaim Brexit from the MPs who have stolen it, but to reclaim our democracy too.

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No Brexit Wall of Shame is Complete Without the Name of David Cameron

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 26th March 2019

It’s perhaps a natural tendency, when compiling a Wall of Shame relevant to current events rapidly nearing their dramatic dénouement, to concentrate exclusively on the contemporary actors in the drama. The Conservative Woman‘s excellent Brexit Wall of Shame series certainly contains plenty who thoroughly deserve their notoriety, based on their current or recent conduct. But such an approach can risk leaving some of those originally responsible for it undeservedly overlooked.

David Cameron is one such who surely deserves his dishonourable place. Not only did he initiate the events leading up to the 2016 EU Referendum and its unnecessarily chaotic aftermath, but he must also bear a large part of the blame for the ‘Conservative’ Party having degenerated to a state of such manifest ill-preparedness to deal with it.

First, for all that the man himself insouciantly chillaxes in retirement, the Tory Party now struggling and failing miserably to implement the largest ever mandate for one specific policy in British political history is still recognisably Cameron’s Party, and unmistakeably bears his imprint.

Just consider the current crop of senior Party figures, whether those still among ministerial ranks, ineffectively directing its policies and egregiously mis-directing Brexit, or those formerly so but now exerting malign anti-Brexit influence on the back benches. Theresa May, Michael Gove, Amber Rudd, David Lidington, Nicky Morgan, Greg Clark, Matthew Hancock, Oliver Letwin, Nicholas Boles, Justine Greening, to name but a few.

All are identifiably of the Cameroon “moderniser” ascendancy set in train by Cameron and Osborne during their time as interns then advisers at Party HQ, based around their disparagingly, but accurately labelled Notting Hill Set.

As Robin Harris shows in his superb “The Conservatives – A History”, once in control of the Party, its local associations and, crucially, its candidate selection process  – remember the notorious A-List and Cameron’s Cuties? – they consciously set out to re-make it in the mould of a red-Tory, closet-LibDem, very metropolitan-‘liberal’ amalgam.

Dave Hug A Husky 1Economically, fiscal rigour and low taxes were out, “spending the proceeds of growth” was in. Socially, the Left’s  ‘liberal’-‘progressive’ social justice warrior agenda was enthusiastically embraced, not just in its good parts, but in many of its worst aspects as well. Green-ery was accorded the status of incontestable truth, challenging which was tantamount to heresy.

Predictably, virtue-signalling appeasement of militant feminism, Islamism and cultural-marxism, and either acquiescing in the Left’s war on free speech, or pusillanimity in the face of it, is where his Party ended up.

A key part of this agenda was always an unquestioning pan-Europeanism and acceptance of, if not tacit support for, Britain’s EU membership. Even if occasional lip-service was paid to the membership’s majority Eurosceptic view, such heresy was never allowed to permeate the leadership’s thinking, the preference being to try and bury the subject as an issue.

Sometimes, however, the mask slipped. I still vividly recall a session of Prime Minister’s Questions when, to a question from one of his own back-benches along the lines of “Will My Rt Hon Friend the Prime Minister grant the public a referendum on our European Union membership?”, Call-Me-Dave responded with this: “No because it would not be in our interests to leave”. Just reflect for a moment on the anti-democracy implied in that wording.

No wonder this is a party which manifestly can’t cope with heeding and implementing arguably the greatest popular mass revolt against the Elite-Establishment since since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 permanently established the supremacy of Parliament over the Monarch, signifying the shift from absolute to constitutional monarchy.

Forward now to Cameron’s now infamous Bloomberg Speech of January 2013, in which he pledged an In/Out referendum on Britain’s EU membership, to be held after seeking substantial constitutional and institutional reform of it to address Britain’s legitimate grievances. (It included, incidentally, these words: “You, the British people, will decide.” – whatever happened to that, I wonder?)

Govt leaflet EU Ref once in a generation decision

It would be nice to think that Cameron’s motivation in conceding, at last, an In/Out EU referendum was the principled democratic one of giving the electorate the chance to have its first vote in 38 years on Britain’s continuing membership of a supranational political project which even then had moved so far beyond what was voted on in 1975 as to be almost unrecognisable.

Alas not. As Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant admitted only last November, Cameron’s prime purpose was the narrow, partisan, party-management one of ensuring that “the European question was neutralised”, so as to secure Tory Party electoral advantage. Party before country, and even democracy, in other words. Plus ça change. . .

It’s instructive to compare in hindsight Cameron’s lofty intentions to achieve serious EU reform, set out in his Bloomberg Speech, with the thin gruel indeed with which he returned, tail between legs, from the crunch negotiation in mid-February 2016, at which the EU refused to budge on any of its key policies and extended merely a few cosmetic concessions, after which his “deal” unravelled within hours. The parallels with Chamberlain’s similarly gullible and humiliated return from Munich in 1938 were both irresistible and inevitable, and justifiably satirised mercilessly.  

Cameron Chamberlain 2

It’s interesting to speculate whether, had Cameron pushed harder, had he told the EU that unless he got something like the degree of meaningful reform he’d outlined in his Bloomberg Speech, and threatened to walk away and campaign wholeheartedly for Leave if not, he might have achieved more and the Referendum might have gone a different way. But such an approach was never, I think, in his DNA, and probably politically-impossible even if it had been, given his previous record and his Remainer-majority Cabinet.

Without going in to the detail – examined fully in the copious literature that exists on it – of Cameron’s leadership – for, although de facto rather de jure, that is what it was – of the Remain campaign, one or two critically unedifying aspects cannot escape mention.

His decisions both to sanction spending £9m of taxpayers’ money, on essentially a pro-EU propaganda leaflet, and endorse Osborne’s egregious and cynical Project Fear, were appalling enough. But, above all, his instruction to Whitehall, born of his arrogant assumption that a Remain outcome was certain, not to undertake any preparation for a Leave victory, undoubtedly was a major contributor to both the febrile political climate and the negotiating débacle which have crystallised over the past 33 months.

Finally, we come to his indecently-hasty exit – eagerly imitating his role-model Blair in quitting the Commons rather than returning gracefully to the back benches for a time, in an acknowledgement of the transient nature of political power, as did Wilson, Heath, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, and even his immediate predecessor Brown – and that departure’s own, in turn, deleterious effects, from which we are still suffering.

Cameron resigns 24-Jun-2016

It’s arguable that, had Cameron remained studiedly neutral and above the fray during the Referendum campaign, he could have stayed on as in Number 10 as the statesman pledged to undertake his sacred duty to implement the people’s historic decision. But having been so partisan during the campaign, and lost, and having always been more effete dilettante and party-hack than principled statesman, this option was denied to him.

The consequences of his hurried departure, though, were the abandonment, by the senior legacy-Cameroons who had campaigned for Leave, of any semblance of public duty in favour of personal ambition, and the botched, confused, anti-democratic coronation of Theresa May, probably the most professionally-deficient and temperamentally-inept politician elevated to high office at a critical time for the nation’s fortunes since Lord North.

Now Cameron may not be directly responsible for May’s catastrophic calling of the 2017 election, her personality deficiencies, her deviousness and duplicity, and much else besides. But he cannot evade blame entirely. He did make her his surprise pick for Home Secretary in 2010, so cannot claim to have lacked knowledge of her manifest failings. He must have known there was a chance she would end up as his successor on his hurried relinquishment of his Seals of Office.

Cameron garden shed 2So, David Cameron, abandon, even if only briefly, your your lucrative but reclusive existence in your £25,000 designer “Shepherd’ Hut”, aka garden shed, churning out your doubtless tediously self-exculpating memoirs destined inevitably for the “Special Offer – Reduced – Only £4.99” section of dingy airport bookshops. Step forward and accept your thoroughly-merited prominent, permanent, and rightful place on The Conservative Woman‘s Brexit Wall of Shame

 

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Parliament – Cradle of Anti-Democracy

Last week’s three days of (anti)-Brexit votes showed how the House of Commons has finally reversed its mythical status, to become instead the Cradle of Anti-Democracy.

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 19th March 2019

Almost exactly a year after self-congratulatingly celebrating the centenary of women winning the right to vote, Parliament last week in effect told the 49 per cent of female participants in the 2016 EU Referendum who voted to Leave that their votes didn’t count.

However, mindful as always of the vital importance of gender-equality, it simultaneously did the same to Leave-voting men. Britain’s fabled “Cradle of Democracy” effectively withdrew the franchise from 17.4 million people, for having had the temerity to vote in a way not to its liking.

For an institution whose lineage can be traced back 804 years to Magna Carta, Parliament’s descent from consulting the people to dismissing their response has merely taken less than four years. It’s worth recalling some of the major stages in that decline.

In June 2015, Parliament voted by a majority of 544 votes to 53 to hold the EU Referendum, rightly recognising that such an important constitutional question could only be decided by the electorate. On best estimates in late June 2016, Britain voted to leave the European Union by 406 parliamentary constituencies to 242. It voted to leave the European Union by 263 voting areas to 119, and by 9 regions to 3.Conservative-held constituencies in 2016 voted to leave by 247 to 80. Labour-held constituencies in 2016 voted to leave by 148 to 84.

EU Ref by votes, constituency, region, party & MP

In contrast however, among the cohort of 2016 MPs, Remain was the preferred option by 486 to 160.

In February 2017, MPs voted by 498 votes to 114 to trigger Article 50. At the 2017 General Election, approximately 85 per cent of votes were cast for parties pledging in their manifestos to implement the Referendum result.

Yet Parliament also moved quickly to signal its intent to dilute, frustrate or preferably overturn the Referendum result. Just take the example of Select Committee Chairs. In October 2016, it elected the fiercely pro-Remain Hilary Benn as Chair of the Brexit Department Select Committee in preference to Leave-er Kate Hoey. At the same time, it elected the pro-Remain and open-borders/free-movement enthusiast Yvette Cooper as head of the Home Affairs Select Committee. After the 2017 General Election, it appointed arch-Remainer and Osborne coat-tailer Nicky Morgan to the chairmanship of the Treasury Select Committee. 

Those three appointments in particular could almost have been designed to ensure that the sidelining and use as camouflage by Number Ten for May’s secret Chequers Deal from Day One did not emerge until early July 2018: that Home Office preparations under arch-Remainer Amber Rudd to devise and prepare more robust immigration controls post-Brexit perhaps received either more opposition, or less rigorous scrutiny, than might have been appropriate: and that the arch-Remainer Chancellor Philip Hammond would not be too closely challenged, either on any refusal to allocate funds and resources to contingency preparations for No-Deal, or on excessively gloomy economic forecasts for almost any Brexit other than May’s Remain-by-Stealth, Brexit-in-Name-Only “Withdrawal” Agreement.

That was just the start. Week by week, month by month, over the past two-and-three-quarters years, both Houses of Parliament have come to insert themselves more and more into diluting or frustrating the Brexit process, and wresting not only the means, but the Brexit decision itself, back from the electorate whose decision it sought, but did not approve of.

Coming to a head last week, on Tuesday 12 March MPs voted by 391 votes to 242 to reject May’s (non)-“revised” “Withdrawal” Agreement & minimally-“clarified” Political Declaration. From many of the speeches made during the debate, especially from the Labour benches and the recently-defected ex-‘Conservative’ TIG-gers, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that even this softest-of-soft-Brexits was too much for some.

On Wednesday 13th March. following that defeat, May led for the Government on a Commons motion to rule out No-Deal, thus not only directly contradicting everything she has consistently asserted for the last two-and-a-half years, but effectively pulling the rug from under her own feet in any remaining negotiations. She initially granted her MPs a free vote on that No-Deal motion, not out of any respect for individual conscience or democracy, but solely to allow herself to get away with voting against her own Government’s policy – but then subsequently three-line-whipped it. 

In the run-up to the main vote, the amendment for the Malthouse Compromise Plan B, requiring the Government to seek an extension of Article 50 to no later than 22nd May 2019, and a transition period not extending beyond December 2021, was defeated by 374 votes to 164. With the anti-delay ERG complement probably amounting to 90-100 at most, it was clear that the 210 majority against the amendment indicated a considerable number of ‘Conservative’ unreconstructed Remainers hoping for a long, Brexit-destroying deferment.

The substantive motion, to prevent the UK ever leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement in any circumstances, was approved by 321 votes to 278.

It’s an accepted part of our unwritten Constitution that, irrespective of three-line-whip or free vote, the principle of Cabinet collective responsibility still applies. Yet arch-Remainer Cabinet members and Ministers Amber Rudd, David Gauke, Greg Clark and David Mundell abstained with no consequences. 

Rudd Clark Mundell

On Thursday 14th March, although there were defeats for two Labour amendments, the main motion for a delay to Brexit, for a short period via finally approving May’s exit deal on the third attempt by Wednesday 20th March, or for a longer period should that not be possible, was approved by 412 votes to 202

In the space of three days, therefore, the Remainer-dominated House of Commons has voted against leaving the EU even on May’s ultra-soft Brexit deal: against leaving the EU on No-Deal: and in favour of extending – or in many individual cases, preferably revoking – Article 50, to place the entire Brexit process in uncertain suspended animation. It has been made quite clear that there is in reality no Leave option which can command a majority in a Remainer-dominated House of Commons which is determined not to allow one.

Contrast that with recent opinion polls which indicate that a majority of the public expressing a preference do not support May or her deal, would prefer to leave with No-Deal, and are opposed to an Article 50 extension. Only 12 per cent said they believed that May’s Deal delivered the Brexit that the British public voted for. 58 per cent said that it does not. Once again, the yawning chasm that now exists between the voting public in the country and its MPs ensconced in their self-referential Westminster Bubble is exposed in unrelieved starkness.

Now, there is a persuasive argument that Parliament can posture all it wants, and vote in favour of anything it likes, but it cannot force its will on a Prime Minister unless the PM agrees with it. Unfortunately, though, the current Prime Minister is Theresa May, who contrived to lose her majority in Parliament, and whose private views on Brexit undoubtedly chime more with the Remainer majority in Parliament than they do with either the electorate whose verdict she purports to respect or the membership of the party she purports unconvincingly to lead.

Commentators have rightly neither hesitated, nor pulled any punches, in excoriating the antics of MPs in a Parliament increasingly antagonistic to the democracy which puts them there.

Hoc Brexit debates 2

Its smug, self-satisfied, self-entitled politicians have launched a coup against Brexit, with 800 years of democracy unravelling before our very eyes, thundered David Starkey in The Daily Mail.

This disgraceful Parliament has lost all legitimacy, rebuked Gerald Warner at Reaction. Yes, our Prime Minister is dire, but this shameless Remainer Parliament will go down to an ignominious place in history too, predicted The Daily Telegraph’s Dia Chakravarty. Britain’s Remainer elites have declared war on democracy, accused her colleague Allister Heath.

Parliament’s plot to thwart Brexit is as good as complete, observed Brendan O’Neill in The Spectator. The future of democracy itself is on the line, warned Tom Slater at Spiked.

They are all correct. Last week will go down in history as the week our democracy was in effect terminated with extreme prejudice, by anti-democratic Remainer MPs who think we are unfit to decide our own political future, despite having asked us to be precisely that.

The House of Commons, just like its Lords counterpart, has now become the Cradle of Anti-Democracy.

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Defectors From Democracy Itself

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

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

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

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

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

Soubry quits for SDP 1981

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

2017.01.26 Soubry on respecting Referendum result

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A second Brexit referendum would totally lack any democratic legitimacy

Note: Amended, longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 20th February 2019

At the beginning of this February, conventional Westminster-watch wisdom had it that the so-called People’s Vote (who did those 33 million votes cast on 23rd June 2016 belong to, I wonder?) aka Second EU Referendum, was dead in the water. The inquest was in full swing.

The Labour leadership effectively killed it by refusing to back a Commons amendment for it, complained alleged (and, as it turns out, no longer) ‘Conservative’ and Leave-Remain flip-flopper Sarah Wollaston. Accept it, we’re done with it, wrote Iain Martin in The Times: whatever air was actually left in its balloon has escaped.

The campaign for it is appalling, lifeless, and inadequate, wailed fanatical Remainer Ian Dunt at Politics UK. The People’s Vote campaigners know they’re championing a lost cause, declared Chris Bradford at Brexit Central. We’ve lost momentum, admitted the People’s Vote Group.

People's Vote lost momentum Times 31-Jan-2019

But then again, maybe not. Because during the last 15 days or so, the campaign appears to have sprung back into life. The underlying reasons are debatable, but little doubt exists in my mind that they have been boosted by Theresa May’s combination of slipperiness and intransigence towards her own MPs, but her contrasting weakness and appeasement when facing the Brussels negotiators, a dichotomy which The Conservative Woman‘s Co-Editor Kathy Gyngell comprehensively excoriated on 8th February.

It seems highly likely that it’s May’s latest Commons defeat, on Thursday 14th February, by 303 votes to 258 – the direct result of her devious insistence on amalgamating the previous week’s non-binding Caroline Spelman amendment (demanding the exclusion of No-Deal) with the main Government motion endorsing its desire to get the Northern Ireland backstop removed from her “Withdrawal” Agreement and replaced, and which thus caused her ERG MPs to abstain and so bring about that defeat – has re-emboldened the People’s Vote campaign.

If it ever really went away. On 3rd February, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry revealed that she had been, and still was, “working very closely” towards a People’s Vote with ‘Conservative’ Continuity-Remainers Dominic Grieve and Justine Greening. The Guardian has been reporting how campaigners have been insisting that the fight is not over yet.

“Bregret” articles from supposed Leavers-turned-Remainers demanding a second vote have started to re-appear in Remain newspapers. Campaigners are talking about a “breakthrough” in the struggle to secure a second referendum A ramping-up of the rhetoric in The People’s Vote twitter feed is definitely discernible, culminating in a new march and demonstration on Saturday 23rd March, just 6 days before our supposed departure date.

2019.02.18 People's Vote March & Demo Sat 23-Mar-2018

If it takes place, a second Brexit referendum will be the dirtiest, most rigged campaign in British political history. First, the franchise will be a target. I suspect there will be a drive this time to allow nationals of EU member-states residing in Britain but not on the Electoral Register to vote, which in 2016 they rightly were not. Predicting accurately which way they’re likely to vote isn’t especially hard.

I suspect also that there will be a repeat of the 2015-16 attempt to extend voting rights to 16 and 17 year-olds. Remember, this was tried last time, and foiled only by the determined resistance of Tory Brexiteer backbenchers, who rightly saw it for the blatant gerrymandering attempt that it was. Given the prevalence of Remainer opinion within secondary and higher education common-roomsforecasting correctly which way 16 and 17 year-olds would vote isn’t especially hard either.

Which prompts the thought that maybe there was more to the timing of last Friday, 15th February’s students’ “climate-change” protest than we assumed. Even if most were relishing the chance of a Friday bunk-off organised by teachers with an apparently remarkably easy access to Socialist Worker anti-capitalism, anti-Tory placards, images of politically-woke young people on a shouty demo can provide useful optics if you’re campaigning to include 16 and 17 year-olds in a new Brexit vote, whereas there’s a powerful argument, not for lowering the voting age but actually raising it

The referendum ballot-paper question would be rigged. Rather than a binary choice between Remain and Leave as in 2016, some campaigners have made little secret of their desire to see one where there would be two Leave options – No-Deal/WTO or  Theresa May’s BRINO-Deal, but only one Remain option. It doesn’t need a Mathematics PhD to work out the likely result of that. Just 34% could decide the winning option. How is that legitimate?

The 'People's Vote' Scam v1

The combination of two major changes in the make-up of the electorate which would asked to consider essentially the same referendum question in under 3 years, the skewing of the question’s terminology, and the attempt to procure a different decision before the first one had even been implemented, would be enough reasons on their own to call the legitimacy of it into question, but there remains one even more powerful than that.

Trust is the over-arching basis on which, in a representative democracy, politics rests. For any referendum to be legitimate, those who vote in it must have trust that its outcome will be respected.

That was certainly the case with the EU Referendum of 2016. The Cameron Government itself, despite campaigning unashamedly for Remain, went out of its way to emphasise the momentousness, born of infrequency, of the event – “a once in a generation decision”. Even more importantly, it committed itself to obeying the instruction of the electorate, which it had itself voted to ask them to give it – “the Government will implement what you decide”.

Gov EU Ref leaflet Govt will implement

On that basis, it’s beyond question that the 2016 EU Referendum was legitimate in the sense that the participants in it expected, and trusted, its outcome to be delivered. And this is true of both sides: would the Remain campaign have outspent the Leave campaign by the considerable margin that it did, and called in every favour from every acronymed international organisation it could think of, if it seriously expected the Government to say, in the event of a Remain victory, “Sorry, but we’re leaving anyway”?

But as we have seen, and has been comprehensively chronicled here and elsewhere, the Parliament which voted by 544 votes to 53 to ask the British people for an instruction has spent the two-and-a-half years since it was duly delivered doing its utmost to delay, dilute, ignore or reverse it.

If the democratic outcome of the first referendum can be so blatantly set aside in favour of a second, participants in a second referendum can therefore have no confidence whatsoever that its outcome would somehow be implemented if it was equally uncongenial to those charged with implementing it.

Any assurances to this effect that the 2016 losing side are giving with respect to a possible 2019 re-run are not worth paper they’re written on, and should be treated with the disbelief and scorn they deserve. No such trust is possible, A second referendum would be devoid of any democratic legitimacy, and is reason alone to oppose it as much as we can. 

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The Gaffe and the Gift that will Just go on Giving

The Chairman of the so-called “People’s Vote” campaign for a second EU referendum has unwittingly provided us with what could be any such referendum’s Geldof Moment 

If there was one image that defined the 2016 EU Referendum campaign – one which almost encapsulated whom, and not just what – we Leave-ers were having to fight against, it was this one. Remember it? “Sir” Bob Geldof, and a gaggle of his well-heeled and well-refreshed Remainer friends, mocking the Thames flotilla of pro-Leave fishermen from the comfort of their luxury yacht, provided and funded by the similarly arch-Remainer global banking giant Goldman Sachs. 

geldoff champagne socialist mocking fishermen

The image worked so well for the Leave campaign, and on several levels.

The contrast between the Geldof gin-palace packed with evidently-affluent, designer-clad, champagne-quaffing, pro-EU cool London metropolitans, and the modest working craft of the fishermen hailing from such glamorous places as Hull, Cleethorpes, Lowestoft and Fleetwood, desperately concerned about their livelihoods in the ongoing decimation of their industry by the depredations of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy – but at whom the Remainer bubbly-guzzlers swore, shouted, jeered and V-signed in response.

The hypocrisy of Geldof himself, who hinted that his disgust at a vote for Brexit would make him leave the country – though omitting, curiously, to confirm that his disgust would be so intense as to make him call in at Windsor Castle en route to Heathrow, to drop off his by then surely newly-relinquished honorary knighthood.

osborne & geldoffThe struggle of the fishermen to get their views and concerns heard and reported by a largely unsympathetic national media, while Geldof’s celebrity gave him privileged access to opinion-formers, decision-makers, and invitations to hector attendees at elitist, crony-corporatist boondoggles like the World Economic Forum, despite unresolved questions surrounding his own use of imaginative tax avoidance schemes, and his sometimes foul-mouthed reluctance to answer them.

For many people, it epitomised all that they loathed about the Remain campaign. Suggestions were even made that, given the level of revulsion it generated among voters who up till then were uncommitted, it may have been worth about half a million votes for Leave. If so, then as a stunt, it backfired spectacularly, and very satisfyingly so, too. 

But as we know, in the two-and-a-half years since the Referendum result, the losing side, which has refused to acknowledge, much less accept, the largest democratic mandate ever delivered for one specific policy in British political history, has never stopped campaigning to for it to be diluted, ignored, or preferably reversed.

In its various guises, Continuity-Remain has continually sought to de-legitimise the vote and disparage the voters. Its leading political lights, superannuated Blairite, Liberal-Democrat, or soft-‘Conservative’ political has-beens like Major, Heseltine, Clarke, Clegg, Adonis, and of course Blair himself, have regularly trooped to Brussels and European capitals, alternating between begging the EU to impose harsh, even punitive, terms on Britain for deciding democratically to leave the anti-democratic supranationalist project, and begging it to be lenient so as not to alienate the regretful millions of voters allegedly distraught at what they have done and desperate to correct their historic mistake.

clegg, adonis, heseltine etc etc lobbying eu

When, that is, those same leading lights have not been otherwise occupied in flooding the airwaves with ever more lurid predictions of economic disaster and societal breakdown, despite all their and their acolytes’ similar predictions in the run-up to the 2016 referendum having either failed to materialise or been shown to be 180° wrong.

In recent months, as the majority of MPs, equally horrified at the prospect of actually having to implement the instruction which, by 544 votes to 53, they voted to request the electorate to give them, have stepped up their own efforts to secure a second Referendum blatantly aimed at reversing it, Continuity-Remain’s risibly mis-named but extremely well-funded People’s Vote campaign, and its offshoots, have been ramped up. 

Despite attempts by Continuity-Remain to present the People’s Vote campaign as a mass popular movement, it is, notwithstanding its name, essentially a metropolitan, elitist project. Its Chairman, and assumed conduit for much of the funding with which it appears remarkably well endowed, is none other than arch-Remainer and City PR shill Roland Rudd.

Rudd has a background which could hardly be more at variance with the People’s Vote campaign’s pretence to be a mass popular movement. He is, essentially a well-connected corporate lobbyist and Europhile who has, since the early 2000s, been a reliably-obliging provider of apocalyptic warnings of how much Big-Business and The City needs and depends on Britain’s EU membership, and of what disasters would inevitably ensue should we leave.

bne rudd mythsRudd has been the main mover behind pro EU membership and pro Euro adoption lobby groups, and has long-standing connections to former European Commissioner and principal architect of Blair’s New Labour, Peter Mandelson. As has been recounted before, he worked with Mandelson to further the New Labour project, canvassed for Mandelson in the 2001 election, and Mandeslon is even godfather to one of Rudd’s children.

Rudd has previously been linked with the procurement from overseas governments of expressions of desire for Britain to remain in the EU which previous pro-EU occupants of No 10 Downing Street have no doubt found extremely helpful. He campaigned hard in the early 2000s for the movement agitating for Britain to join the euro, and with much the same apocalyptic warnings about what would happen if we didn’t as are coming now about what would happen if we exited the EU altogether.

Incredibly, he was still at it as late as 2008 and 2009, arguing that the slump in sterling justified a re-visiting of the alleged benefits of Euro membership and extolling its signal success. 

euro by rudd 3

This, then, is the chairman of the People’s Vote campaign. As Establishment-Elite Europhile a figure as you could hope to find. No wonder the most frequent criticism of the campaign is that it is a movement primarily for the rich losers in the 2016 Referendum who can’t believe they lost and want another go.      

The narrow, largely metropolitan pro-EU elitist background of the leadership of the People’s Vote campaign, ameliorated only when it descends into left-wing culture-war identity politicshas not stopped it trying some classic astro-turfing, such as grossly exaggerating the size of demonstrations calling for a second vote, and over-reporting the extent of support for one. And if it is really a ground-up, popular movement, where, exactly, is the money coming from? Because its recent spending belies that claim.                facebook spending by pro-eu groups oct 2018-jan 2019

This past week, however, it has all started to unravel. Following earlier rumours that all was not sweetness and light within the camp, followed by BuzzFeed‘s Alex Wickham’s revelations of splits and infighting within the movement over tactics between MPs coalescing around Chuka Umunna and senior campaign officials reportedly including Rudd himself, on Wednesday 3rd January, the Left’s poster-boy Owen Jones broke cover.

The official People’s Vote campaign, he said, was “an absolute disaster“, undermining the case for another vote. The New Statesman‘s George Eaton weighed in to report the damning verdict of a “Labour insider”: 

The Peoples Vote campaign has a worst of all worlds strategy. It’s fronted in the media by Blairites who are deeply unpopular with voters but knew how to win stuff. Its back room is run by Milibandites who are less elitist but don’t know how to win stuff.

Ouch! “Conservative” MP and ardent anti-Brexiteer Sarah Wollaston detected a left-wing conspiracy to derail a second vote, while Labour ardent anti-Brexiteer Steven Doughty detected a right-wing conspiracy to derail it. Involving largely the same people.

And all ignoring the latest indications suggesting that considerable numbers, possibly even a majority, of Labour MPs, including the front bench, will oppose a second vote, and that there isn’t a majority for a second referendum in the country.  Finally, the cross-party clutch of Remainer MPs lined up in sombre climbdown formation to announce that there would be no amendment calling for a second referendum tabled by them in the Commons’ debates and motions this coming week. 

The real nadir for the People’s Vote movement’s shambolic week, though, had already happened. On the morning of Tuesday last, 22nd January, came this absolute gem, and courtesy of the BBC, no less: as unlikely a source of embarrassment for any anti-Brexit, pro-EU campaign as anyone could possibly imagine.

2019.01.22 isaby davos peoples vote

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The optics, to use the current politico-media vernacular, could hardly have been be worse. For the chairman of the so-called “People’s Vote” movement, Establishment-Elite Europhile Roland Rudd, was at Davos.

Davos, that annual schmooze-fest of the globalist crony-corporatist oligarchy: where the great and the (mainly) not-so-good of internationalist (or preferably supranationalist – avoids so much of that tiresome nation-state level “democracy” stuff, you see) “Liberal”-“Progressivism” meet to decry the growth of “populism” as they network furiously over Caesar Salads at £43.50 a pop.

Davos, where as the Telegraph‘s Jeremy Warner put it, “the high priests of multinational-corporatism are now so strongly identified with Remain as to make the two virtually indistinguishable“.

Davos, into which descended 1,500 private jets discharging the global elite to lecture us on the importance of “stopping catastrophic climate-change”, aka enriching Big-Green crony-corporatism with eco-subsidies paid by environmental taxes and levies on energy consumers.

Davos, which no fewer than seven of Theresa May’s Cabinet clearly had to attend, despite Britain needing to replicate 30+ trade deals with countries around the world, with the clock ticking down to 29th March.

Davos, seemingly oblivious to the fact that, as Douglas Carswell put it, voters have come to realise that Davos-style technocratic “liberalism” is part of the problem. 

Davos, which, as explained by Tim Worstall, gives Oxfam the chance for its annual whinge about global inequality to CEOs paying themselves increasingly stratospheric multiples of their employees’ lowest salaries, while completely misreading the research that forms the basis of its argument.

Davos, where your schedule will most likely include, suggested Reaction‘s Iain Martin, “vegan cocktails with that hedge fund guy who wants to build an ark in Central Park to save all the animals from climate change

Davos, so aptly described by the Institute of Economic Affairs’ Philip Booth as “the gathering that perpetuates the myth that economic welfare is promoted by ‘experts“, and “the perfect environment for ‘crony capitalism’ to flourish. . .a huge magnet for politicians to work alongside leaders of largest businesses and other vested interests to devise yet more regulations, interventions, and barriers to entry that will undermine competition“.

Davos, whose ethos was brilliantly captured here by Andrew Neil:

That Davos. That’s where the “People’s Vote” chairman, Roland Rudd, joined us from. As Spiked‘s Tom Slater summed it up: “the grassroots campaign for a ‘final say’ on Brexit, brought to you by the global economic elite”.

It didn’t take very long for journalists and prominent Continuity-Remainers (frequently the same thing) along with supporters of the “People’s” Vote – (who was it who participated in 2016’s genuine EU Referendum? Martians? Lizards?) – to recognise the implications of Chairman Rudd’s gaffe. 

2019.01.22 brand, maguire, green anguish ar rudd davos comp

As well they might. Because, should it come to a 2nd EU Referendum, those 11 words  of a BBC presenter could possibly the greatest PR gift that could have been handed to a Re-Leave “Tell Them Again!” campaign.

The Chairman of the People’s Vote campaign joins us from Davos” could be its equivalent of Geldof and his rich Remain pals sneering and jeering from their luxury gin-palace on the Thames at working-class fishermen legitimately concerned for their livelihoods. It might even be worth another half-million votes.

Feel free to take a copy of the image below. Something tells me it might just be worth keeping. How does that old saying attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte go? Oh yes. . . .

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”

roland rudd with davos caption

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