Tag: European-Union

Is Boris’ Irish Border Backstop Plan Bluff or Breakthough?

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

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

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

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

RoI-NI

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

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

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

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

N Ireland May Deal vs Johnson proposals

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

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

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

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

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

Brexit Election Tracker Goodwin mid-Oct 2019

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

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

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

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Was this the week UK Democracy died?

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

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

SCoUK delivers ruling on Prorogation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boris Johnson’s Brexit Election needs the Brexit Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meet the Charmer Caroline

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

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

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

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

2019.08.17 LibDem MEP Voaden 2

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

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

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

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

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

2019.08.17 LibDem MEP Voaden 1

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

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

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

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

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

Bollocks to Brexit EU Parliament

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

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

2019.08.22 Voaden Newlyn 1

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

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

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

2019.08.22 Voaden Newlyn 2

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

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

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PM Boris risks disappointing us – and not only on Brexit, either.

Eight key tests, of which delivering a proper Brexit on 31st October is only one, that will determine whether Boris Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister will be fulfilment or failure 

Note: Longer, updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 26th July 2019

Expectations matter. After the near-euphoria of the thirty-six hours or so that elapsed last week between Boris Johnson’s victory in the Tory leadership contest, and the completion of his dramatic and rightly stables-cleansing inaugural Cabinet reshuffle, the expectations being projected on to both him and his new administration are so varied as to be probably irreconcilable.

No matter how welcome were the long-overdue defenestrations of May’s Remain-Lite BRINO-loyalists such as Hunt, Mordaunt, Clark, Fox, Lidington, Gauke and the rest, and as much as the new Cabinet was initially hailed by Brexiteers as unashamedly and determinedly pro-Brexit – a Brexit on 31st October without fail, and on a WTO No-Deal basis if necessary – the actual picture is a lot less clear-cut.

Right at the start of the reshuffle, I suggested that a 3:1 ratio of Leavers to Remainers should be the benchmark to justify such a welcome beyond dispute.

2019.07.24 Me ALR on Boris Cabinet Remainer-Leaver ratio

That was arguably unrealistic: but what has actually transpired is nothing like it. 

True, Number Ten itself and the three “Great Offices of State”, namely Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, are occupied by Leavers, provided one accepts, in the last-named, the commitment of Sajid Javid to the Brexit cause, despite having voted Remain.

It’s difficult to overlook, though, that charged with No-Deal preparations, as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Cabinet Office Minister, is the similarly loyal to May’s Remain-Lite BRINO Michael Gove: that  other Secretary of State positions have a slew of Remainers in themand there are some surprising, on the face of it, retentions, rehabilitations, and omissions.

For example, why has Amber Rudd, until very recently doyenne of the anti-Brexit Tory-Remainer Metropolitan-‘Liberal’ Elite, kept her Cabinet seat? Why has prominent Remainer Nicky Morgan been recalled to the Cabinet? Can we be confident their apparent acceptances of Brexit as a democratic necessity are any more than skin-deep expediency? Why is there no place for prominent Brexiteers with past Government experience, like Owen Paterson and David Davis?

And above all, why was Steve Baker given such a derisory job offer that he felt he had no option but to refuse it? This looks like a very bad mistake by Number Ten. A nominally pro-Brexit Government that could not find within it a position that Steve Baker felt able to accept – has it just made a serious error of judgement, or is another agenda is in play? Do the headline appointments mask a more ambivalent commitment reflected in the lower ranks?

It didn’t take committed Conservative Party activists very long to realise that something didn’t appear quite right, and to start questioning the rationale for so many Remainers and at best soft-Brexiteers, supporters of May’s deal, being in a new nominally determinedly pro-Brexit government.  

2019.05.25 Molly Giles Boris reshuffle

It’s possible, of course, that Boris and his formidable team headed by the mercurial Dominic Cummings and the experienced Eddie Lister are just boxing clever. The language deployed, and guarantees given, by Boris since his accession leave no scope for any Cabinet member to claim later that they weren’t aware, when agreeing to serve, of precisely what they were signing up to.

And, as far as those who were sacked or who resigned in advance are concerned, there’s nothing like neutering the opposition through splitting it, by keeping some in the tent while conspicuously leaving others out of it, to wonder whether their erstwhile colleagues were ever really on their side at all, or, if they were, whether they’ve now sacrificed their opposition for the sake of office. That, however, is a double-edged sword, because, as already appears to be happening, it can also encourage disloyalty among those retained and thoughts of defection among those dismissed.      

But a very possible explanation also is the canny realisation that, despite his emphatic victory among the party membership, Boris’ rating among Tory MPs is far less favourable, so that the wafer-thin House of Commons majority, plus outright opposition to No-Deal among many Tory MPs, means that keeping the reluctant, soft-Brexiteers on side via what would, to us, be their over-representation in Cabinet, is probably unavoidable.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Meets With His New Cabinet

However, that factor, combined with the wafer-thin Commons majority, can’t but increase the danger that, Boris’ protestations of willingness to exit on WTO/No-Deal notwithstanding, we may end up with what is little more than a refreshed version of May’s vassal-state (non)-“Withdrawal” Agreement, with re-branded wording on the Northern Ireland backstop, but spun as something different. 

Which in turn raises doubts about a Boris-led government’s general direction of travel, apart from Brexit. For all his free-trade, free-market, tax-cutting rhetoric, the suspicion remains that Boris will be more in the One-Nation “Wet” tradition of ‘Liberal’-Conservatism, still very much alive and well in some of his Cabinet choices, than many of his supporters realise, and want.

In few areas is this more evident than in his repeated apparent willingness to pander to the fundamentally eco-totalitarian Green Agenda. He intoned the fashionable but false mantras about “tackling climate-change” and “producing Green jobs” in his speech outside Number Ten on returning from Buckingham Palace. He went even further in his statement to Parliament on Thursday 25 July, extolling and endorsing its recklessly officially uncosted, but estimated to cost at least £1 trillion and 1-2 per cent of GDP, commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, despite its having already been comprehensively debunked.

Make no mistake, Boris will govern as a cosmopolitan centrist, says The Daily Telegraph’s Allison Pearson. How much he can resist the demands of the SJW Continuity-Mayites is a hitherto unknown factor.  Remember, Boris’ big weakness is that he loves to be liked. He doesn’t appear to have Margaret Thatcher’s emotional resilience, that imperviousness to criticism and immunity from needing the constant approval of others which is vital in leadership when big, difficult, controversial, and probably unpopular, decisions have to be taken.

I’m especially unconvinced that, if it came to the crunch, he wouldn’t prioritise narrow party survival over upholding the national interest and even democracy itself. 

Despite being a Brexit-absolutist, I’m also a Boris-sceptic. Although he was infinitely preferable to his ultimate rival in the leadership contest, Jeremy Hunt, rightly portrayed as Theresa-In-Trousers, he wouldn’t have been my pick as either Tory Party leader or Prime Minister. The least worst option on the ballot paper isn’t necessarily the ideal choice.

So here are eight key tests by which we might judge whether Boris will satisfy, or disappoint us.

Will he ensure – come what may, including if necessary by proroguing Parliament, to prevent its 70%-plus Remainer majority stopping Brexit – that he takes us out of the EU on 31st October, on a WTO No-Deal if Brussels maintains its intransigence, and with Britain as thoroughly prepared for it as possible?

Will he take, or authorise Dominic Cummings to take, an axe to the higher reaches of the Whitehall Civil Service machine which has proved so unwilling to accept our decision to leave the EU, and so hostile to implementing it? As Douglas Carswell points out in this podcast, Brexit has exposed deep and fundamental flaws in Britain’s administrative state, and without tackling its homogeneously pro-EU, left-‘liberal’ groupthink and institutional atrophy, Boris will get little done.

Will he abrogate Britain’s accession to the UN Migration Compact, cynically signed by May largely under the radar in December 2018, and under which it effectively becomes illegal and a “hate-crime” to criticise mass immigration, which the Compact deems an inviolable human right? Because if he doesn’t, his pledge to reduce immigration and control it via an Australian-style points system is just so much hot air.

Will he instruct the new (Remain-voting) Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to unwind all the surrender to the EU of control over policy, rules and structures which govern the future of our Armed Forces which has been deceitfully and surreptitiously undertaken by May since the EU Referendum? Anyone in any doubt about what this means should listen to this Briefings for Brexit podcast from last November. 

Will he abandon the futile drive for expensive Green renewable energy, concentrate on developing alternative energy sources that promise reliability of supply at lower cost, and formally abandon the Government’s ill-informed, scientifically-illiterate and economically-damaging commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 of CO2, a colourless, odourless, invisible 0.04% trace gas essential to all plant life on Earth?

Will he commit to rolling back substantial parts of Theresa May’s obsessively politically-correct and divisive left-‘liberal’, SJW agenda, of which mandatory gender pay gap reporting, ethnicity pay disparity audits, and enabling people officially to change their gender in effect via box-ticking with no independent medical justification, are merely some of the more egregious examples? 

Will he guarantee to address the pressing issue of voter and electoral fraud, in particular the vulnerability of the lax postal-vote system to rampant abuse, as happened so recently in the Peterborough by-election, and Leftist objections to making ID at the polling booth mandatory in order to be able to vote?   

Will he promise to address urgent constitutional reform? In particular the position of the undemocratic and anti-democratic House of Lords, whose role in the Establishment-Elite’s drive to thwart, if not overturn, the popular mandate for Brexit has been widely criticised? Will he undertake to overhaul the corruption and cronyism inherent in the Honours system by which failed politicians ousted by the electorate can be rewarded and sustained in positions of power and influence? Will he end the racket whereby taxpayers are forced to fund the political activities of former Prime Ministers who, despite being rejected by voters, still want to remain active in public life?         

Boris comes to office carrying the burden of big expectations, not only about delivering Brexit, but also about re-setting the compass of Conservatism back towards a more traditional direction, after the abjectly Fabian-Blairite tribute-act it has become over its last three dismal decades.

To a certain extent, those expectations are ours, placed on his shoulders after the drift, despair and desperation of the wasted May years. But to a great extent also, they have been created by him. The responsibility to fulfil, and not fail, is his alone. But the trouble with engendering big expectations is that the disappointment and disillusion among those who have invested their hopes in you is all the greater when you do fail. The risks of Boris disappointing, on several fronts, are very, very real.

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May’s Baleful Legacy: Division, Distrust & Defeat, plus Democracy itself in Peril

Note: Updated version of article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 28th May 2019

Theresa May might well be one of our worst Prime Ministers, if not the worst, ever, but she will leave office with an achievement matched by few of her predecessors. Almost invariably, the verdict of history is kinder to previous Prime Ministers than that of the contemporary commentators at the time of their resignation. In the case of Theresa May, it is likely to be even harsher.

May back No 10 after resignation speech

Both the factual history of her disastrous premiership, and specifically the events of the week leading up to her resignation on Friday 24th May, are sufficiently well known not to require repetition here. But to delve deeper – into why they occurred in the way that they did, and then to try and set them in context for a political obituary and assessment of her legacy wider than the mere recitation of facts can provide – perhaps needs more of a focus on the personality of May herself.

It’s not as if there haven’t been question-marks over her personality and psychological make-up before. As long ago as January 2018, I wrote about the curious paradox of how her near-total lack of charisma and communication skills combined with an instinctive authoritarianism to produce a taciturn, careerist managerialist who is temperamentally incapable of leadership.

And that was six months before the leaks that emerged from the infamous Chequers Summit revealed an additional overlay of Machiavellian duplicity and mendacity, plus a determination to pursue a soft-Brexit very much at variance with the assurances she had been giving since her uncontested coronation.

As the inevitably of her resignation grew during last week, more clues about how May’s psychological make-up governed both her actions and her attitudes started to emerge. In some cases, they were clearly always in the public domain to an extent, but discreetly un-mentioned or underplayed. In others they comprised information hitherto known privately only to comparatively few, but who now felt able to disclose it.

What they portrayed was a solitary child with few friends, more comfortable with elders than contemporaries, who grew into an adult more comfortable relying on a small coterie of trusted confidantes because of her inability to engage in collegiate fashion with a wider circle – from which she never learned the knack of accepting others’ ideas or acknowledging alternative viewpoints, or its corollary, the art of persuasion and compromise.

What they also showed, and which exacerbated that, was the influence of her father’s unbending High-Church Anglicanism, producing a kind of virtuous arrogance, labelled pithily as “vicar’s daughter syndrome”, but described more specifically by one acquaintance thus: “She has this view of herself, which must be connected to her faith, which is that she has a morality others don’t understand.

One quote from a “senior Tory MP who has known her for decades” was very revealing. “Theresa was annoyed when Margaret Thatcher became [the first female] Prime Minister and beat her to it”. Beat her to it? At the time Thatcher became Prime Minister, in May 1979, May was only 22 years old.

Now this has been speculated before, so to see it supported by the remarks of a close acquaintance is interesting. A totally illogical resentment, leading to a determination to pursue a politically-opposite path, in order to trash as much as possible of Thatcher’s legacy in revenge, could explain quite a lot about May.

Or take another one. “She doesn’t have any ideas, so once she’s absorbed her brief she just doggedly decides that that is it.” In other words, she is supremely manipulable. What an absolute gift to the subtly-feline Sir Humphreys of our viscerally anti-Brexit Whitehall she was.

As was more or less confirmed by another quote from the same source: “The last cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood was a smart guy, because he realised this was the civil service’s chance to take back control. After 2017, he was instrumental in ensuring David Davis was bypassed and Olly Robbins became her Brexit adviser so the civil service could maintain control of the Brexit process.

So much of all this backs up long-held reservations. The blank mind susceptible to being filled by others: the apparent deficiency in emotional intelligence: the obsessiveness: the seeming cognitive dissonance, like when, the day after the loss of her majority in her botched 2017 General Election, she delivered a tone-deaf, tin-eared speech in Downing Street which barely acknowledged, if at all, the shattering humiliation she had received.

Theresa May Downing St morning after 2017 GE

Much of this was manifested in her resignation speech last Friday

She waxed lyrical about about the merits of compromise and bemoaned the lack of it among her colleagues, seemingly oblivious to her own actions in refusing to pursue the Brady Amendment to her duplicitous Remain-Lite, Brexit-In-Name-Only, “Withdrawal” Agreement, even after Parliament had voted for it: in insisting that the only alternative to her “Withdrawal” Agreement was No-Brexit: and in attempting to ram it through Parliament not merely three times but even a fourth via abject concessions to Labour to solicit its support.

She claimed to have fought “the burning injustices that still scar our society”. Yet she presided unmoved over the Windrush scandal, which represented real, tangible, injustice: and by introducing her much self-proclaimed Gender Pay Reporting and Race Disparity Audits at the behest of the grievance-mongering SJW-Left, she contributed to inventing victimhoods where none existed, thus boosting pernicious, divisive, identity-politics.

She was attempting to re-write the history of her own disastrous premiership, augmented by an aura of anguished self-righteousness. Whereas the unvarnished truth is that, presented with an almost unique opportunity to implement the biggest popular mandate in UK political history, she instead lied, dissembled and deceived, in order to try and dilute it, if not frustrate it completely.

Her legacy will be dire indeed. She leaves not only a country still bitterly divided – which, to try and be fair, it might arguably have been, albeit to a lesser extent, anyway – but also a political system in near-chaos, distrusted and despised by increasing numbers of voters, and thus quite incapable of even ameliorating, never mind healing, those divisions.

Despite saying she will be “the second female Prime Minister but certainly not the last” – my, the “second” still rankles, doesn’t it – she will almost certainly have created a danger that it will be a long time before the “Conservative” Party takes such a risk again. Which, should that reluctance materialise, will be a tragedy, considering the abilities of some of the already currently-identifiable future female candidates in its pro-Brexit ranks.

May leaves a party abandoned and rejected by its voters in a virtually unprecedented scale of electoral attrition, as the 2019 EU Elections results, revealed on Sunday night 26th May, show. Fifth place in a national election. A mere 9% vote-share. 15 out of 18 MEPs gone. The party’s worst result in a national election since 1832, beating even the 1906, 1945 and 1997 landslides.

Euro-election final results 28-May-2019

An electoral attrition potentially repeatable, moreover, in a General Election, with truly calamitous results for it. Though any attempt to read across from an EU to a General Election must obviously be caveated with health-warnings about the comparatively low turnout in the former, the likelihood of different voter-allegiance patterns in the latter, and the different electoral systems – d’Hondt PR vs FPTP – under which they are held, the general trend is there to see.

If the 2019 EU election results were replicated in a Westminster General Election, the “Conservative” Party would literally be wiped out. Zero seats. What a legacy for Theresa May.

Electoral Calculus W'Mnstr prediction based on parties' Euro-Elections 2019 vote-shares

And this at the hands of The Brexit Party, which despite being formally launched only 6 weeks ago, is surging in Westminster Parliament voting intention just as it was in the European equivalent. Why is this?

Not, as you might think, primarily because of Brexit itself, which May mis-interpreted and mis-handled so badly: or because of concerns about immigration, which she totally mis-construed. But because of widespread about an even more fundamental question: whether we live in a functioning democracy at all.

Democracy is not merely being able to put your cross in a box. It’s being able to put your cross in a box, knowing that if your vote wins, the Government and the legislature will respect it, and the losing side will accept it. That millions of people evidently believe that this no longer applies in Britain is Theresa May’s most baleful legacy of all, and one for which her reputation deserves to sink even lower as the years roll by.

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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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