Tag: UK-Conservatives

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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Gavin Williamson, the Huawei deal, and the Penny that hasn’t dropped

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 6th May 2019

To determine the real culprit behind the Huawei security leak, consider who might actually have had most to gain from it

On the face of it, “Conservative” MP Gavin Williamson, peremptorily sacked as Defence Secretary by Treacherous, Toxic Theresa over the Huawei scandal, seemed such an unlikely candidate for the role of Martyred- By-May.

Williamson was May’s parliamentary campaign manager during her July 2016 leadership election-turned-coronation, and was appointed as Chief Whip by her in reward. Subsequently, he was the first person she consulted in November 2017 about a replacement for Michael Fallon at Defence, acquiescing immediately when he allegedly responded by suggesting himself.

He’s long been accused, not without justification, of being hubristic, of estimating his popularity, performance and political potential much higher than both colleagues’ and commentators’ estimation of all three, and of being unfortunately, almost childishly, gaffe-prone.

Yet on this occasion, he might just be like the stopped clock that’s right twice a day. 

In two articles for The Conservative Woman, here and here, Bruce Newsome, an expert on global security risks, international conflict and counter-terrorism, and lecturer in international relations at the University of California at Berkeley, set out the geo-strategic and security implications of what, to many, is the unfathomable decision to allow what is in effect a corporate arm of the Chinese Communist State to infiltrate our national communications system and have potential access to some of our most sensitive security infrastructure. 

Quite rightly, much of his two articles, along with that of Tim Bradshaw, also at The Conservative Woman, focus on Williamson, May and her eminence grise, Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill. Correct though this is, the position, and possibly even role, of some of the other players in the drama may be going by default.

On first reading Tim Shipman’s account of the leak inquiry in The Times of 28th April, two days before before Williamson’s theatrical sacking, I was initially surprised to find the comparatively-lowly International Development Secretary, then Penny Mordaunt, listed as a member of the National Security Council. Yes, the Home, Defence, and Foreign Secretaries you would anticipate, I thought, possibly even Health too, but International Development? Overseas Aid?

A few minutes’ cursory research, however, revealed the membership to be somewhat wider than you might expect for such a high-falutin’ and sensitive-sounding body. In fact, The Spectator‘s Political Editor James Forsyth describes it as “nothing more than a Cabinet committee with a fancy name”. The beauty of such a wide membership, of course, is that it makes the true source of a leak much harder to pinpoint. And easier to deny or conceal. Or even misrepresent. 

In addition to the justified concerns of our closest allies in the Five Eyes partnership, there’s a substantial EU dimension to all this.

Firstly, taking advantage of the USA’s understandable reluctance, and as Future Cities’ Andrew Williams explained at Spiked! on 2nd May, the EU is trying to insert itself into the position of being China’s non-US ally. It isn’t hard to see which way viscerally pro-EU, anti-Trump, Whitehall Officialdom would lean in that dispute. 

Secondly, the concerns about the implications of May’s (non)-“Withdrawal” Agreement for Defence and Security, and the extent to which Britain’s Remainer Establishment are pushing for greater EU control of both, even in the event of May’s strictly-cosmetic Brexit, are deepening as they become more apparent.

The former Head of MI6 has gone on record expressing his grave misgivings at the cession to the EU of UK autonomy, decision-making and control over what he rightly terms sovereign responsibilities, even in the event of our supposed exit from Brussels’ political and administrative structures. . . .

Dearlove EU has no business in UK national security realm

. . . while Veterans for Britain’s briefing document of 29th March leaves little room for doubt, either on the extent to which Whitehall Officialdom, seemingly with May’s full consent, has been augmenting the UK’s enmeshing within burgeoning EU Defence and Defence-related industrial integration, surreptitiously, even since the 2016 EU Referendum’s decision to leave.

The full extent was spelt out in chilling detail by Briefings For Brexit’s Professor Gwythian Prins in a speech to The Heritage Foundation. Despite its 55-minutes or so length, I’d urge you to watch it. It looks beyond dispute that Cabinet Office officials, presenting to EU diplomats with May’s imprimatur, confirmed a direct intention to keeep the UK under EU authority in defence, via the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.

Which brings us back to the fragrant Penny Mordaunt, and her unexpected promotion. She was previously a junior Defence minister: so, irrespective of her backing for May’s version of (non)-Brexit, might it not have been reasonable to expect her to have at least voiced some doubts to the National Security Council about the wisdom of embracing Huawei so eagerly, or about the subordination of much of our Defence capability to the EU? Yet in the reports emerging of the NSC’s deliberations, there has been no hint of that.

But – recall how, last Autumn, supposed “Cabinet Brexiteer” Mordaunt was trying to have her cake & eat it too, by making ritual resignation noises but also allegedly asking May to let her publicly oppose and vote against May’s deal in the House of Commons – presumably to impress her constituents – but still remain in Cabinet?

Needless to say, Mordaunt’s resignation “threat” turned out to be empty, and she now appears fully signed up to May’s abominable (non)-“Withdrawal” Agreement. As well, of course, as deploying stock Green hyperbole to parade her impeccably woke credentials. Was she giving a signal? Had she been given a signal?

2019.04.03 Mordaunt climate change

How much May, no doubt prompted by Sedwill, must regard her as a welcome, ideologically-sound, replacement for the increasingly sceptical Williamson, with the additional benefit that, having already once threatened to resign but climbed down, any further such threat, or even an objection, from her would totally lack credibility. She’s effectively, and possibly willingly, been neutralised.

She will be, I suspect, another compliant May stooge in the Karen Bradley mould. Moreover, as she retains her previous ministerial responsibilities for Women and Equalities, apparently the role of Defence Secretary now isn’t even a full-time job. But then again, perhaps it would no longer be one, if May has surreptitiously signed over so much control over our Defence capability to the EU below the radar.

rory stewart sky ridge sunday 5 may 2019May has gained in two ways. Not only does she remove one, albeit recently-converted and born-again Brexiteer opponent from Cabinet, but she replaces him with a rabid Remainer, Rory Stewart, the sycophant’s sycophant, who this past few days has been unctuously hawking his conscience and obsequiously parading his slavish loyalty around the media studios.

Stewart, as he told Robert Peston last week, believes that that a No-Deal Brexit would be “toxic and unacceptable”, so much so that he would accept any form of managed, agreed Brexit, no matter how diluted or cosmetic it was.

Or, evidently, no matter who it would have to be “agreed” with, either, given his Sunday 5th May pleadings to Corbyn to do a deal with May to pass her execrable (non)-“Withdrawal” Agreement through the Commons on Labour votes and against her own MPs, and his assertions that a split in the “Conservative” party would be an acceptable price to pay to achieve it.

How congenial that must have been to Theresa May, who only last week was treating Labour members of the Commons Liaison Committee with excessive deference and exaggerated courtesy, while treating its Conservative members with undisguised brusque contempt.

Because of the questions still unanswered, and the flat-out contradictions yet to be satisfactorily explained, neither the scandal, nor the story about it, is going to go away any time soon.

In The Sunday Times of 5th May, Tim Shipman posited a link between Williamson’s sacking and the exposure of Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill’s intention to lead a Whitehall mandarins’ mission to the Chinese government, without any Ministers. The glaring inappropriateness of such an action, so soon after the Huawei contract award, must have resonated, because the mission was rapidly scotched. 

Subsequently, it was claimed, again in The Sunday Times, that the real reason for Williamson’s dismissal was suggestions allegedly made by him to colleagues to the effect that May’s diabetes made her unfit to be Prime Minister on health grounds. That claim has been strenuously denied.             

Identifying where the blame truly lies in all such leak scandals, it often helps to ask: Cui Bono? Literally, “to whom is it a benefit?”. The principle that probable responsibility for an act or event often lies with the one having something to gain from it. So should it be with the Williamson/Huawei one. Truth will out.

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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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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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Theresa May gives the green light for Betrayal of the Brexit Vote

Theresa May has in effect signalled an intention to allow MPs to hijack our democracy by opening up a route for the EU Referendum result to be overridden and reversed 

Note: Amended, longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 17th January 2019

Only 36 hours after last Tuesday 15th January’s unprecedented, humiliating, crushing House of Commons defeat for Theresa May and her cynically-misnamed EU “Withdrawal” Agreement, which would lock the UK into a permanent Brussels vassalage even more oppressive than membership, her intended direction of travel in response was already evident. It was, and it, towards further concession, capitulation, and finally, surrender.

In her immediate post-defeat statement, and both during Wednesday 16th January’s Prime Minister’s Questions and again in her contribution to the subsequent debate on Labour’s unsuccessful Vote of No Confidence, May repeated the same automaton-like bromides which have characterised her conduct of the Brexit negotiations since inception. She had, she purported to assert, no intention of revoking Article 50: she has, she professed to insist, no plans for a second referendum.

But, as so often, her words come hedged about with caveats which make her pledges ring hollow to the point of being meaningless. She did rule out revoking Article 50, but she did not do the same when quizzed about the prospect of asking the EU for extra time to negotiate beyond 29th March: and then later talked about it being conditional on EU agreement, thus impliedly acknowledging the possibility of it.

tgraph headline 16-jan-2019 confidence vote

She ostensibly ruled out a second referendum, but committed herself to “establishing what would secure the consent of this House”. Given the overt support among the Commons’ anti-Brexit majority for the speciously named “People’s Vote”, that isn’t especially hard to divine.

May’s promissory notes are issued in devalued currency. She pledged not to call an unnecessary election, and then did. She declared after both her Lancaster House and Mansion House speeches that no deal was better than a bad deal, only to conclude now that any deal, however bad, is better than no deal.

She laid down numerous “non-negotiable” Red Lines for Brexit discussions, only to abandon and retreat from them. Her robotic insistence that her Remain-by-Stealth, Brexit-in-Name-Only, “Withdrawal” Agreement, “delivers on the Referendum result by bringing back control of our borders, our laws and our moneyhas been shown to be grossly mendacious so frequently and comprehensively that hearing it intoned yet again becomes almost embarrassing rather than irritating. Little she says can be believed.

The signals of upcoming surrender came fast. “Sturgeon is expecting a phone from Theresa May later this evening as she starts reaching out to other parties”, reported the BBC’s Scotland editor, Sarah Smith, not long after the Government defeat. The outcome of that isn’t hard to guess, either.

2019.01.15 sarah smith re may-sturgeon

“The Government is incapable of winning support in this House for her deal on its own”, observed Corbyn, (for once) accurately, and “must consider ideas that are negotiable and that have the sufficient support in this House”. In reaction, May has quickly committed herself to “listening to the views of the House so that we could ascertain what it is that would command its support”.

Well, we know what those are. They are, in order of preference, ruling out a no-deal WTO-Brexit, an ultra-soft Brexit, a Brexit-In-Name-Only, and ideally no Brexit at all.

One doesn’t need clairvoyant skills to see where May is going, particularly recalling that she has always been a Remainer in mind and spirit, a hesitant at best Brexiteer in office, and a Prime Minister unable even to say that she believes in the very policy which she sought the Seals of Office of First Lord of the Treasury to implement.

May in my view will almost certainly agree to take a no-deal WTO-Brexit off the table, then concede both an extension, if not outright revocation, of Article 50, and a second referendum. She will feign reluctance, but actually be delighted.

In conceding both, she will be considerably assisted by the procedural amendments to the way House of Commons business is arranged. I described the initial stages of that process, facilitated by apparent pre-arrangement, in secret, between the now stridently anti-Brexit arch-Remainer Dominic Grieve and a blatantly-biased Speaker Bercow, in the footnote update to my blogpost here of 3 or 4 days ago.

That, it turned out, was indeed merely the enabler. With subsequent developments it became clear that the Grieve-Bercow agreement of Wednesday 9th January to bring about the alteration to Parliament’s rules was not a one-off, but the precursor to, in effect, a constitutional coup d’état by anti-democracy Remainer MPs to reverse Brexit, ideally via a second referendum with the choice to all intents and purposes between Ultra-Remain and Remain-By-Another-Name.

To understand the full import of this, it’s worth reading this exposition of it by Number Ten Downing Street’s former Director of Legislative Affairs.

The effect of Grieve’s and his like-minded colleagues’ aims would be to make elections based on party manifestos meaningless, because backbenchers would be able, not merely to oppose but to legislate: and, via just a few rebels from the party in government combining with the Opposition, to enact laws directly contradictory to the mandate on which the Government in office was elected. A recipe in other words, for legislative mayhem, democratic deficit, and constitutional chaos.

By this means, in the specifically Brexit context, the caucus of about 20-30 resolutely anti-Brexit ‘Conservative’ MPs clustered around Grieve, Morgan and Soubry would be able, in conjunction with the Opposition parties, to legislate for a second referendum, the deferment or cancellation of Article 50, and even the postponement if not reversal of Brexit itself.

As Dominic Lawson stated in last weekend’s The Sunday Times, the claims by the anti-Brexit MPs to be “taking control of Brexit, just as Leave-ers voted” are knowingly specious, self-serving and anti-democratic, and Speaker Bercow has aided them in attempting a constitutional coup.  Lawson went on to say:  

“So the effort of many in parliament now to revoke article 50 is nothing less than the use (or rather abuse) of parliamentary sovereignty as a weapon against the people who elected it: MPs are to “take back control” from those who give parliament its sole claim to legitimacy, or indeed, moral authority.”

At the conclusion of Wednesday 16th January’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Grieve introduced into the Commons a Bill to give effect to these changes. First and Second Readings were both set for next Monday, 21st January. The Remainer coup is under way. The fix is in.

hoc order paper grieve bills to stop brexit

May ruling out a no-deal WTO-Brexit is now sadly a certainty, and her conceding on both Article 50 and a second referendum before then can’t, I suspect, be ruled out. She will not want to risk another humiliating defeat. Parliament will have wrested control from the people it asked for an instruction, in order to disregard and overturn it, because the people’s instruction was not to its liking.

Why are we in this mess? For two reasons, the first of which is Theresa May herself. She has misread the EU, misread her Party, and misread Parliament. She did so because, more important than all three, and yet the proximate cause of them, she misread the voters, mistakenly convinced that reducing immigration was the principal reason for the Brexit vote, when the main driver all along was regaining the sovereignty and democracy which her deal so signally fails to do. Misread is what she always does. And that, in turn, is because she relies on others to tell her what she believes.  

The second reason is our legislature itself. On best estimates, by parliamentary constituency, Britain voted to leave the European Union by 406 to 242. By voting area, it voted to leave the European Union by 263 to 119.  Conservative-held constituencies in 2016 voted to leave by 247 to 80. Labour-held constituencies in 2016 voted to leave by 148 to 84. In contrast, among 2016 MPs, Remain was the preferred option by 400 to 248.

In June 2015, MPs voted by 544 to 53 to hold the Referendum. In February 2017, MPs voted by 498 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 fully to implement the Referendum result. Yet despite this, a majority of MPs would clearly now wish either to dilute Brexit to meaninglessness, or reverse it altogether.

Do MPs really think they can neutralise and reverse Brexit without also doing huge, possibly terminal, collateral damage to Britain’s entire political settlement? Their message would be starkly simple: ‘Your vote counts only if you vote for something which we would agree with. If we don’t, then it doesn’t count for anything’.

Where whatever’s left of democracy would go after this is anyone’s guess. The fall-out would be profound. Why would anyone ever bother to vote again? Theresa May will have seized our democracy, and run away with it.

may the burglar makes off with british democracy 

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Just Very Auspicious Coincidences? Or Something More?

Note: Amended, longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 12th January 2019

Both the Cock-Up and the Coincidence theories of history – especially where the history, even the very recent one, of politics is concerned – are usually more persuasive than the Conspiracy theory of it. But you’d surely have to be very phlegmatic about it indeed not to wonder if the astonishing convenience, for the Remainer Establishment-Elite’s anti-Brexit cause, of this week’s events in and around Parliament can be put down entirely to coincidence.

First, the largely synthetic outrage at last Monday, 7th January’s, “far-right Brexiteer attack” on Anna Soubry. Now, she’s on record, while being interviewed by Sky News’ Kay Burley on an earlier occasion, as calling even mildly protesting Brexiteers outside Parliament “racists and fascists”. . . 

. . .but that, of course, was forgotten by Britain’s overwhelmingly anti-Brexit media in its orgy of confected indignation.

There were some very odd aspects about this “attack”. The perpetrators were in fact a minuscule bunch of merely obnoxious rather than menacing name-callers, naturally reviled by Remainers, but also disavowed by many Leavers as embarrassing to the overall Brexit cause: and from the videos I’ve watched, there’s precious little, if any, evidence to support in any way whatsoever Soubry’s implied allegations that she was physically assaulted, or even that she was impeded.

Yet if the demonstrators’’ action was spontaneous, as they claimed, isn’t it a quite remarkable coincidence that both EU shill and pro-Remain social-media darling Femi Olewole and hard-Left street-agitator cum occasional journalist Owen Jones just happened to be on hand to witness and report the proceedings?

Just who – or what – was the man in the black jacket appearing to take quite a prominent role, but also captured on smartphone video filming speakers and hecklers at Speaker’s Corner just a day or so earlier? And then filmed slipping something into the pocket of Soubry’s minder, who was just in front of Soubry, as he appeared to accost him but then drew back in what (at 00:48) looked like a classic Le Carré brush-pass?

No such questions of course troubled the media, which, with the BBC as usual in the vanguard, seized the opportunity provided by the incident to run an anti-Brexit slant at the top of virtually every news and current affairs programme for the next 24 hours. The tenor of it escalated rapidly to imply that every single one of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU was a dangerous and potentially violent street-thug, prevented from visiting physical harm upon our impeccably-democratic legislators only by distance, the public-spirited consciences of aforementioned Olweole and Jones, and the fearless vigilance of the impartial media like themselves.

Anti-Brexit MPs (and that’s most of them, remember) soon joined in. Dozens of MPs demanded better police protection – protection, that is, from people for whom hurling a few intemperate epithets at manifesto-overturning politicians is about the last option they still have left, now that their democratic vote, which, they were assured would be implemented, is being blatantly ignored and even overturned.

Unsurprisingly, most of the MPs condemning the protesters for yelling “Nazi” and “Liar!” at Soubry have themselves uttered hardly a word of condemnation as 17.4 million Leave voters have been called that and much more for 2½ years. Where were those dozens of MPs now demanding that the Police provide better protection for them when Jacob Rees-Mogg’s and his young family were similarly insulted, threatened and intimidated by thuggish hard-Left protesters?

They have found it quite acceptable for Brexit voters to be dismissed as racist, fascist and xenophobic by Remain-backing, left-‘liberal’ metropolitan middle-class journalists in elegantly-crafted columns in The Guardian: yet when uncomplimentary labels are aimed at them by gruff working-class types in rough-sounding speech, they deem that to be a threat to their own security. The hypocrisy and double-standards there were, and are, nauseating.how political class insulates itself from dissent

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UPDATE: After first publication of this blogpost at The Conservative Woman, the alleged leader of the anti-Soubry protest, James Goddard, was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence. Some aspects of this are disturbing.

Firstly, Soubry was clearly neither assaulted nor even impeded. Secondly, Goddard may not be either an elegant or eloquent orator, but if calling politicians liars, or the same things with which Soubry herself regularly damns her political opponents and her critics, are public order offences, then we are all at risk.

Thirdly, though possibly wrong, I was under the impression that an arrest under the Public Order Act must take place immediately a possible breach of the Act is apprehended: not 5 days later after political pressure has been exerted. And fourthly, as was pointed out by Spiked‘s Brendan O’Neill:

“What kind of country criminalises the insulting of politicians? An un-free one. Speech should never be a police matter. Including heated speech, angry speech, protesting speech. . . .however unpleasant it might have been”.  

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Fast forward now to Wednesday 9th January’s Parliamentary shenanigans, which revolved around the Business Of The House motion tabled by the Government covering the procedure for – not the substance of – the second stage of the Commons debate on Theresa May’s misnamed “Withdrawal” Agreement. Business Of The House motions are not amendable, although some MPs do try it on, and a significant body of Parliamentary precedent exists to support the convention.

Out of several attempted amendments to Wednesday’s Business Of The House motion, Speaker Bercow, quite properly therefore rejected three. He then chose, however, to accept one – that tabled by resolute anti-Brexiteer ‘Conservative’ Dominic Grieve, the effect of which was to require the Government, in the event of Theresa May’s “Withdrawal” Agreement being defeated – as it almost certainly will be  – when it comes to a vote in the House next Tuesday, 14th January, to table an alternative Brexit plan within just three Commons sitting days, and the intention of which was to eliminate any possibility of a No-Deal Brexit by the Government simply running down the clock until 29th March.

Bercow accepted the Grieve amendment against not only both Parliamentary precedent and the sound arguments put forward in numerous Points of Order, but also against the legal/constitutional advice of his own Parliamentary Clerks, whose expertise on this subject is acknowledged by all sides of the House.

It was as if Bercow, whose has scarcely bothered to conceal his contempt for the Brexit vote even when sitting in the supposedly-impartial Speaker’s Chair, had been waiting for his big chance to scupper any possibility of a WTO/No-Deal Brexit, and, courtesy of Grieve, seized it.

What another remarkable coincidence. One of the normally-rejected amendments to a Business Of The House motion just happens to be put forward by arch-Remainer Grieve, and subsequently just happens to be allowed and not rejected by Remainer Bercow.

Just three weeks previously, Bercow had summoned the Government to the House to demand that it make its highly-adverse legal advice on May’s BRINO-Deal public. On Wednesday he refused to make his own Clerks’ legal advice on procedure public, and moreover physically made off with it. Despite stiff competition in the current Parliament, it’s hard to imagine any greater, more blatant, hypocrisy than Bercow’s.

The Grieve amendment was passed with the help of 17 of the usual ‘Conservative’ Party suspects who persistently parade with pride their Continuity-Remain credentials, and who find no problem in voting against the manifesto on which they were content to stand for Parliament and get elected.

And who, in addition, eagerly participated in arguably the most nauseating spectacle of a nauseating week – the blatantly anti-democratic diehard Remainers on both sides of the Commons aisle gloating how, courtesy of Bercow and Grieve, they have taken back control of Brexit for Parliament from the Executive, and boasting disingenuously that, after all, they’re only doing what Leave-voters claim to want.

Which is arguably the foulest lie of the lot. We voted for Brexit in order to leave the EU and thereafter have our affairs decided by Parliament as a consequence of having left: not to give control to Parliament to let it override the Referendum decision and not leave at all.

What would be the statistical probability of a minor, almost artificial-looking, outside-Parliament scuffle and name-calling just happening to be witnessed by two prominent anti-Brexiteers with media access, allowing a 24-hour anti-Brexit media narrative just happening to be run for the specific 24 hours preceding an unconstitutional anti-Brexit Parliamentary amendment by an anti-Brexit MP just happening to be improperly accepted by an anti-Brexit Speaker, leading to an anti-Brexit measure being voted by an anti-Brexit Parliament?

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UPDATE: It emerged on Sunday 13th January that the remarkably-convenient coincidence, for the Continuity-Remainers’ anti-Brexit cause, of Speaker Bercow just happening to select Grieve’s No-Deal Brexit wrecking amendment as the one with which, against the professional advice of his Parliamentary Clerks, to break long-standing Commons precedent via procedural chicanery, was in fact no coincidence at all, but pre-arranged collusion. Grieve and Bercow, it was revealed, had met in secret just hours before the Speaker allowed his wrecking amendment.

Grieve also emerged as the instigator and ringleader of a Remainer backbenchers’ plot to seize control of the Brexit Parliamentary and legislative processes, via changing the Commons debating rules so that motions proposed by backbenchers would take precedence over government business. That would enable MPs to suspend article 50, put Brexit on hold, and could even lead to the referendum result being overturned. Once again a prior meeting between Bercow and Grieve figured in the revelations. 

If both stories are true – and there seems no reason to believe that they aren’t – then Bercow’s action, taken against the advice of his professional Parliamentary Clerks, in overthrowing Commons precedent to allow Grieve’s anti No-Deal Brexit wrecking amendment to the Government’s Business of the House motion, was merely just the enabler, the facilitator, the device by which the route to ensure the killing-off of Brexit by Remainer-majority backbenchers was prised open. Not so much a procedural innovation as a constitutional coup d’état.            

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Far from merely wondering whether this past week’s events were had been pre-scripted, to contemplate otherwise now looks impossible.

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The Six Podcasts of Christmas

Taken in aggregate, six podcasts transmitted between 16th November and 20th December 2018 reveal the sheer extent and baleful consequences of the Brexit Betrayal being pursued by Theresa May via her Brexit-In-Name-Only “Withdrawal” Agreement 

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 27th December 2018

Both leading up to, and during, the dog-days between Christmas and New Year, it’s more usual to find reading recommendations rather than listening recommendations on your preferred political websites. I’m hoping to add my own “What I’m reading over this Christmas” in the next few days: but as an interim measure, and maybe also to break the mould, here are six podcasts well worth, in my view catching up on.

Among the most compelling Brexit-related podcasts around in the past year have been those by Briefings For Brexitthe group of pro-Brexit academics set up specifically to make the robust analytical, intellectual and constitutional case that perhaps sometimes goes by the board in the frenzy of 24/7, immediate-response politics.

The last six, however, have been particularly good –

In 16th November’s, Professor Gwythian Prins gives arguably one the most comprehensive, but also one of the most clear and lucid, expositions I’ve yet heard of the enormity and scale of the deliberately-engineered surrender to Brussels involved in Theresa May’s “Withdrawal” Deal.

Additionally, the details of how the associated below-the-radar subordination of our Armed Forces to the incipient EU “Defence Union” both purposely undermines NATO and jeopardises the UK’s crucial Five Eyes security and intelligence partnership with our Anglosphere allies are quite horrifying.

In 29th November’s, long-time Eurosceptic Tory backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin not only backs up Professor Prins on May’s proposed “Withdrawal” Agreement, especially on the Northern Ireland backstop, but also demolishes the scaremongering forecasts put out by both the Treasury and the Bank of England, before warning of the political and economic dangers of being locked in to the EU’s Customs Union virtually in perpetuity.

In 7th December’s, Professor Robert Tombs outlines the already political, but potentially also constitutional, crisis in the way Britain is governed resulting from the Government’s handling of Brexit, and the dangers inherent in the growing demands for a second EU Referendum, aka “People’s Vote”, from an overwhelmingly-Remainer political, media, academic, cultural and business elite who refuse to accept the 2016 EU Referendum’s outcome.

In 11th December’s, another long-time Eurosceptic Tory backbencher, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, emphasises the further surrender of sovereignty implicit in May’s “Withdrawal” Agreement, and explains why May’s decision to cancel at short notice the Commons vote on it, because she was almost certain to be defeated, passed up the opportunity to send a strong signal to the EU that the Agreement is unacceptable.

On 14th December, a further long-time Eurosceptic Tory backbencher, David Jones, argues that May’s relatively narrow margin of victory – once the payroll vote is taken into consideration – in surviving the vote of no confidence in her leadership means that she must ditch her failed “Withdrawal” Agreement and begin negotiations with the EU for a CETA agreement similar to the one it recently signed with Canada.

Finally, in 20th December’s, Baroness Ruth Deech, lawyer and a Eurosceptic for at least 25 years, warns about the lack of a UK opt-out from the Northern Ireland backstop in May’s Agreement, and the continuing jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (contrary to May’s claims) over the Agreement and our future payments to the EU.

The six podcasts are easily stitched together into a single continuous playlist, especially if you use a podcast management app like Overcast or Podbean, both of which in my view are superior to Apple’s proprietary one. They add up to 2 hours 43 minutes duration. Not as long, in fact, as even two of those serially-regurgitated old films which lazy TV schedulers have decided to bombard you with over the festive period.

So, a suggestion: plug in the headphones and listen, either as an alternative to sitting in post-prandial torpor through the umpteenth replaying of Love Actually or Pirates of the Caribbean, or as a catch-up opportunity while driving home after gratefully bidding goodbye to Mother-in-Law for another year.

The cumulative effect of listening to the podcast interviews in succession, rather than spread, as they might normally be, over five weeks or so, is significant. It brings home starkly the enormity of the confidence trick which May and her acolytes are trying to play on us. When politics resumes on 2nd January 2019, we still have a massive fight on our hands to prevent the most egregious betrayal.

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