Tag: UK-Constitution

Brexit-Watch: Saturday 07 March 2020

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier today, Saturday 07 March 2020

A weekend update on some recent key Brexit-relevant story headlines, choosing four which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.  (NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall.)

 

Brexit row erupts after Barnier accuses UK of planning to ditch human rights commitmentPolitics Home

In a typically disingenuous combination of red herring and attempt to assert EU extra-territorial jurisdiction over the post-Brexit UK, Barnier has accused the UK of ‘refusing to continue to apply’ the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) after full-Brexit. This is arrant nonsense.

The ECHR is the creation of the immediate post-WW2 Council of Europe, is enforced by the Council’s European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, and is separate and distinct from the EU.  The latter is not even a signatory to the Convention, merely requiring new member-states to be signatories, and the EU has no jurisdiction over it.

It’s conceivable however that, once freed of the obligation to be a signatory to the ECHR by virtue of its EU membership, the UK could decide after Brexit to enact its own Bill of Rights (possibly linked to a written Constitution) and, as part of that, withdraw from either the ECHR in full or merely from the jurisdiction of its ECtHR.

As Lawyers for Britain‘s Martin Howe QC explains, there’s a compelling case for such a move.  The Strasbourg human rights court has come to mirror some unsatisfactory features found also in the EU’s own European Court of Justice, principally a tendency to judicial activism rather than interpretation, introduction into European human rights law of concepts not present in the original text, and the predominance of the Continental Codified, rather than English Common Law, legal tradition.

Barnier in effect wants the EU to have the power to direct the democratically elected government of an independent sovereign nation-state on which international treaties and conventions it should or should not sign up to. That is an outrageous demand that deserves to be dismissed out of hand.

 

Paris versus London: the clash of the financial centresJohn Keiger, Briefings for Britain

Having failed, in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 EU Referendum, to persuade many, if any, City-based European banks to move their London operations to Frankfurt or Paris, the French are now coming back, but cloaked in the EU flag, for another attempt.  The possibility that this is sabre-rattling as part of French domestic politics’ general background noise to the upcoming French municipal elections this month, where Macron looks likely to be embarrassed at least, can’t be ruled out.

Despite the European Banking Authority having made the move, London’s sheer size, global reach, expertise, power and capacity for innovation as an international financial centre compared to Paris suggests this will be a futile quest.  Even if this were not a factor, the far more onerous and restrictive, and significantly slower-deciding and less flexible, regulatory regimes covering both financial services and labour markets would surely be a disincentive.

The threat to withhold passporting rights from UK banks doing business in France looks similarly unlikely to succeed.  The French may have introduced this whole issue into the negotiating mix as a giveaway to be traded off in return for getting something else.

 

Negotiating deals with both the EU and the US will be tricky for Britain: but it does have a trump card Shanker Singham, Telegraph (£)

The overriding difference between the two sets of negotiations is this: that while both parties in the UK-US negotiation will focus on economics and trade, both parties in the UK-EU negotiation will not.  For the EU, this deal isn’t about economics and trade, but about politics, in particular, Brussels’ semi-existential political need to try and limit the competitiveness of an ex-member on its north-western doorstep, even at the price of harming its own member-states’ economies. That is bound to maintain, if not incrase, its tendency to intransigence.

Britain taking up its seat at the WTO this week, for the first time as an independent member in nearly 50 years, has sent what ought to be a powerful signal to Brussels that, if it continues to try to insist on setting both our regulatory environment and legal order after Brexit, then we are quite prepared to walk away and go WTO.

 

We must not allow the EU to bind our hands in trade negotiations with other partners Stephen Booth, Conservative Home

In what’s been appropriately described as a ‘multi-dimensional game of chess’, and despite the demands likely to be made on our trade negotiating resources and expertise, for Britain to conclude, or at least substantially conclude, as many overseas trade deals as possible during 2020, in parallel to the trade-talks with the EU, must be an imperative.

In macro terms,  one vital fact should not be overlooked. Time is not on the EU’s side. The Eurozone economy is suffering its slowest growth in 7 years. Internally, its rate of GDP growth continues to decline, while externally, it accounts for an ever-diminishing share of global GDP growth.

EU quarterly real gdp growth 2016-19

EU declining share global GDP growth

Seeing the UK reach trade deals with the parts of the world which are growing, not stagnating, is essential towards disincentivising the EU from continuing to insist on its absolutist level-playing-field on, e.g.,  state aid, environmental and labour standards, an approach which is intended, not so much as to facilitate trade, as to protect its own heavily regulated economies from competition.

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Brexit-Watch: Saturday 29 February 2020

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier today, Saturday 29 February 2020

A weekend update on some recent key Brexit-relevant story headlines, choosing four which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant a paragraph or two of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.  (NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall.)

 

Dealing with the French: Frost versus Barnier, Bacon versus DescartesRobert Tombs at Briefings for Britain

Few are better qualified than Professor Tombs to expound on the historically different approaches to philosophy and law which govern the respective attitudes of the French and English towards the negotiating of treaties.  The former view the opening text as sacred, to be departed from only minimally, if at all: for the latter, it is merely a starting point from which give-and-take bartering can proceed towards, eventually, a mutually acceptable outcome.

Personally, I find it a curious paradox how, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of trade negotiations, it’s the British who are pragmatic and transactional, while the Brussels Eurocrats are institutional and inflexible: but that, when it comes to the philosophical question of EU membership per se, it’s the Eurocrats who are transactional, emphasising alleged economic advantage, while the British are constitutional, prioritising the principles of sovereignty, democracy and self-government over the risk of temporary economic disruption.

Anyway, to the schism identified by Professor Tombs must be added current domestic politics among the main EU protagonists. In Germany, Merkel’s originally anointed successor as CDU party leader and Chancellor having withdrawn, the contest has now degenerated into an unedifying struggle between two fairly unimpressive male apparatchiks.  In France, an already unpopular Macron faces municipal elections in late March from which he is likely to emerge weakened.

The two diametrically different approaches, coupled with more volatile both French and German domestic politics, could well turn the Brexit trade-talks into a dialogue of the deaf.  In which case, the likelihood of Britain deciding that further negotiation is pointless, and walking away to WTO terms, will become even greater.

 

EU’s uneven playing field revealed – Germans, Belgians, Italians, French are the worst offendersFacts4EU

This is about the EU’s restrictions on the power of member-states’ national legislatures on state-aid and competition. Yet despite the insistence by Barnier on ‘red lines’ for a ‘level playing field’ regarding his demand for continuing UK-EU ‘regulatory alignment’ after Brexit, the EU is, as ever, the greatest breaker of the rules it purports to impose on others.

Germany, France, Belgium and Italy all receive favourable state-aid dispensations at between three and four times the rate Britain does. Some ‘level playing field’. . . .  Moreover, identifying where responsibility lies for administering the rules is typically shrouded in bureaucratic obfuscation. It would be futile focusing on this area to the detriment of others in negotiation.

Once again, it’s possible to envisage this issue causing Labour some trouble domestically, especially if the party, though nominally united, has ongoing tensions between the soft-Left faction of presumed winner Starmer and the defeated hard-Left camp grouped around Long-Bailey.  Remember, Corbyn repeatedly appeared torn between his desire as a Remainer to stay within the EU’s ambit and his desire as a socialist to use taxpayers’ money to prop up failing businesses.

 

UK-EU: a question of trustFinancial Times (£)

Briefly, for those unable to breach the paywall, the article references the spat between Britain and the EU on the former’s accusation that the EU resiled from its offer of a Canada-style Free Trade Agreement, and the latter’s accusation that Britain is resiling from a previous agreement not to re-open aspects of Theresa May’s Political declaration. It goes on to regret the end result of the document supposed to guide the negotiations being at the centre of a feud.

It’s hard not to see a combination of naïveté and anti-Brexit EU-philia at work here.  These negotiations were always going to be conducted in an atmosphere of bad faith on the EU’s side.  The reason isn’t hard to discern.  Going back to Professor Tombs’ article, for Britain, these negotiations are transactional: for the EU, on the other hand, they are near-existential.

As the Bruges Group remarked this week. . .   

Indeed.  But that’s also slightly to miss the point.  The EU is conceptually incapable of treating us like any other country.  Alone among other countries who joined it, we have chosen to repudiate and quit their to them noble but to us neo-imperial Project.  For that, in their world-view, we are heretics who must not only be punished for our apostasy but be seen to be punished for it.  If that sounds quasi-religious, it’s because it is.  These negotiations were pre-destined to be acrimonious.

 

The UK and EU Negotiating Mandates ComparedGlobal Vision

It’s clear from this comprehensive, up-to-date summary, including all the developments of the past week, that behind the spin disseminated via the headline/soundbite-wanting media lie some potentially insoluble points of contention.

Fishing is the obvious and arguably also the most difficult one since, despite its relative insignificance economically, it is hugely important politically and even almost symbolically, given its public profile: one can easily see it being the bellwether by which the whole deal is judged.  The UK has rejected both keeping current levels of access for other EU member-states, and sequencing.  It could be the difference between an agreement and WTO.

The so-called level playing field and rules of origin issue, and I think we can expect EU obduracy on financial services, torn as it is between mercantilist envy of the City’s dominance and knowledge of EU firms’ dependence on it. Generally, if the EU refuses to budge on demanding its own legal order be supervening, the UK has made it clear there will be no agreement.  Don’t delete your online WTO guide just yet.

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Brexit-Watch: 22nd February 2020

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier today, Saturday 22 February 2020

A weekend update on some recent key Brexit-relevant story headlines, choosing four which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant a paragraph or two of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.  (NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall.)

 

The EU’s absurd and ever-changing position reminds us why Britain voted to leaveTelegraph (£)

Global Vision’s Shanker Singham on how, having originally offered Britain a Canada-style free trade deal with add-ons, the EU has backtracked to the extent of demanding a provision which it doesn’t insist on even in its FTAs with China and the USA: namely a guarantee that whenever the EU changed its laws, the UK would follow suit, in perpetuity.  This would in effect subordinate our own trade’s legal architecture to EU state aid rules and ECJ oversight.

Brussels also demands what it calls ‘dynamic regulatory alignment’; meaning in effect that, to secure a FTA, the UK would need to become a rule-taker from Brussels with no say in how those rules were set.  Both moves are perfect examples of the intransigence which caused us to vote to leave in the first place.  But Johnson will need to be watched to ensure there is no backsliding or dilution of our refusal to capitulate to this.

 

The EU isn’t interested in free trade with the UK, just political domination –  Briefings for Britain (formerly Brexit)

An argument whose first premise has been amply borne out this week by Brussels’ attempt to move the goalposts, firstly, by trying to hedge a Canada-style deal about with onerous conditions, in what looks like a naked attempt to hobble Britain’s ability to compete against an over-regulated, sclerotic EU.

Secondly, by Barnier’s ill-tempered refusal of a Canada-style trade deal on transparently spurious grounds of geographical proximity.  And thirdly, by even demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece as part of any trade deal. 

With the growing presence of nation-state populists in both member-state and European parliaments, making Brussels desperate to make life outside the bloc as difficult as possible for Britain, the argument’s second premise is no less valid.

 

Post-Brexit funding row breaks out in BrusselsTimes (£)

Very much at the forefront of Eurocrats’ minds, in the sense of trying to show the remaining 27 member-states, by its treatment of Britain, just how difficult it will make life outside the bloc for any other country which decided to emulate Britain and leave, taking its contributions with it.  Brexit leaves a €75 billion-sized hole in the next 7-year budget.

The implications for member-states’ internal politics are significant.  Germany’s extra payments are 6 times France’s, and Merkel’s CDU is under electoral pressure from the Eurosceptic AfD.  France’s low-level Gilets Jaunes insurrection each weekend shows no sign of abating, and the Marion Maréchal (Le Pen) led Rassemblement Nationale expects to make big gains in this year’s French municipal elections.  Just to make life more difficult for Macron, the Dutch, with an economy only one-third the size of France’s, are objecting to paying EU contributions 70 per cent higher than France’s.

 

What Keir Starmer would mean for BritainFT (£)

To which headline must of course first be added the caveat: if he becomes Labour leader.  Admittedly, it looks unlikely that he won’t, but Rebecca Long-Bailey has the endorsement of Len McClusky’s Unite Union and, as far as I can establish, no candidate has ever won the Labour leadership without it.

In the short term, Starmer as leader will impact more on Labour’s internal politics than on the course of Britain’s exit.  Johnson has a compliant Parliamentary party with an unassailable majority, so Starmer won’t be forcing any change of policy.  He will however be far more soft-Brexity and even Rejoin-inclined than Corbyn, so could arouse some disquiet among Labour MPs in Brexit-voting seats who narrowly survived December’s massacre and could be the next bricks in Labour’s Red Wall to tumble.

What he will bring to the table, however, is a lawyer’s far greater ability than Corbyn possessed to absorb the fine detail of any agreements, and then subject Johnson to forensic questioning on them.  Boris is a big-picture blusterer, not a details man, so he could well under-perform when put under this kind of pressure.  Coupled with growing resentment at his eco-policies, this could well cause his popularity and approval ratings to dip.  So Starmer could impact internal Tory politics as well.

 

What these four articles taken together show is that the EU is visibly in big trouble on several fronts.  Not mentioned in any of the four above is the mountain of bank debt on the books of the ECB, which potentially limits it from engaging in any further quantitative easing to try and boost currently slowing growth in the sclerotic Eurozone. 

If only our own negotiators would recognise it, and leverage it to drive a harder and more advantageous deal for Britain.  Though if the evident intransigence of the EU is a guide, it surely increases the chance of our eventual exit on WTO terms.

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The interests of the British monarchy demanded an even harder Megxit

The residual styles and titles of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex should have been relinquished or removed, to protect the institution of the monarchy itself from any risk of future damage by their abuse

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 23 January 2020 

After Buckingham Palace released its statement last Saturday evening on the terms of the Sussexes’ withdrawal from full-time working membership of the Royal Family, the immediate verdicts were mostly unequivocal.

This was the hardest possible Megxit, cutting them off from public funds as well as from membership of The Firm, insisted Camilla Tominey in the Daily Telegraph. It might just work, but it’s definitely a hard Megxit, declared the Spectator’s Fraser Nelson. There’s a vast chasm between what the Sussexes wanted and what they got, averred Victoria Ward, also in the Daily Telegraph.

Yet ‘hard Megxit’ seemed to be a slightly hyperbolic label to attach to a settlement in which the Woke-Harkles –

  1. retained their HRH handles, merely ‘agreeing not to use them’;
  2. safeguarded their Duke and Duchess of Sussex titles;
  3. appeared to give up only the 5 per cent of their income which comes from the Sovereign Grant Fund;
  4. consented to reimburse the taxpayer for the work on Frogmore Cottage, but courtesy of a gift from the Duchy of Cornwall in the near-equivalent amount,

but could still walk away from most if not all of their obligations. It was perhaps fitting that it fell to the Sun’s Dan Wootton, who about 10 days before had originally broken the story that they were about to up sticks and bail out, to give us a clue about this seeming conundrum. 

The difference of course lies in the fact that all three articles cited above are based on their authors’ assessments of what both Harry and Meghan apparently wanted, whereas Dan Wooton’s tweet focuses solely on Meghan’s presumed aims. From that perspective, he has a point, hasn’t he?

So to assess the effect of the “titles” aspects of the couple’s departure settlement on their planned future, we need to recall what that future is likely to be. The Daily Telegraph’s Madeleine Grant probably came as close to summarising it as accurately as anyone has when on BBC Question Time she described it thus:

A strange hybrid, a woke celebrity Gwyneth-Paltrow-meets-Greta-Thunberg with a bit of Kardashian thrown in for good measure       

In other words, Hollywood-sleb self-promotion, rampant brand-monetisation, and virtue-signalling Woke Green-Left politics.

'Wokes Populi' coat-of-arms

The route to the money, whether billions, or even mere millions, is already mapped out. For a glimpse of the principal courtiers to the Court of the aspiring Global Queen of Woke, it’s necessary to look, not at expert-but-discreet advisers, but at the out-there-and-in-your-face lifestyle gurus, fashion stylists and Instagram-influencers. Plus of course the cohort of media and PR types who can be relied on to provide unfailingly fawning coverage, to seldom ask awkward questions, and above all, never, ever, to criticise. The Oprah sofa is already lined up for the tearful tell-all interview. It’s just a question of whether the book launch makes it first.

Now take the words Harry that used in his sorrowful but also self-pitying farewell quasi-abdication speech:

“I also know that you’ve come to know me well enough over all these years to trust that the woman that I chose as my wife upholds the same values as I do. And she does. And she’s the same woman I fell in love with.”

Is it just me, or does this subliminally channel some of the phraseology used in another, genuine, abdication speech just over 83 years ago?

“I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.”

The omens are not good. Across the years, some notable points of similarity exist between the two sets of protagonists, as several biographies and histories of the 1936 abdication show.

A royal prince, still immature and selfish in early middle age, so utterly mesmerised by a social-climbing American divorcée as to petulantly reject all warnings and advice. A ruthlessly ambitious adventuress evidently capable of inducing him to alienate and then in effect abandon his family, friends, duties, obligations and public to throw in his lot with her; yet who went on to treat his besotted and abjectly self-demeaning devotion to her with withering contempt, even to the extent of pursuing other liaisons.    

Within a year of the Duke’s abdication, the Windsors had made an ill-advised and politically-embarrassing visit to Nazi Germany, handing Hitler a propaganda coup even as Britain was re-arming for the war by then looking increasingly likely. In the light of Markle’s reported inclinations towards political office with Michelle Obama as her lodestar, a similarly embarrassing political foray – possibly even to the EU in the final stages of trade negotiations, given her evident hostility to the UK and its people – couldn’t perhaps be ruled out.  No wonder Jonathan Haslam described Megxit in the Spectator as a “diplomatic nightmare”.

In the chapter of his entertaining but revealing “50 People Who Buggered Up Britain” entitled “Diana”, journalist and satirist Quentin Letts writes of Prince Harry’s mother:

“Diana was a danger to the stability of our kingdom. She mixed in circles that were disreputable and, in some cases, neurotically anti-British.”

In the interval between the couple’s hubristic original announcement of their relinquishment of royal duties so as to “work to become financially independent” and the relative parsimony with public funds reflected in the Palace’s recent settlement statement, fears were expressed that their real aim was even to set up what would in effect be a rival, overseas, politically left-wing branch of the UK Royal Family, with its attendant Court consisting mainly of Meghan-groupies. Their retention of their royal styles and titles would obviously be crucial to that, and thus another reason to withdraw them.

In view of Markle’s unabashed eagerness to leverage the pair’s royal status, both commercially and in promoting her favoured Woke-Left political causes, the decision to allow them formally to retain their “HRH” styles but merely “agree not to use them” also looks insufficiently robust, and to a risky degree.

Granted, the provisions of the settlement were stated to come into force only “from the spring of 2020” – incidentally, why not with immediate effect when the Prince-turned-Frog has already decamped? –  but the HRH styles were still being used on the Sussex-Royal website a day or so ago. What sanctions does the Crown have if they’re flagrantly abused, a possibility of which I’d suggest can’t be discounted?

Sussex-Royal statement still using HRH

I would have preferred to see the “Sussex” titles either relinquished or withdrawn as well, given the circumstances of their departure and their future intentions. Obviously, the point gets made that the Duke of Windsor was granted his title on abdication, and the Duchess of York wasn’t required to surrender hers, even on divorce from Prince Andrew – though in the light of recent events, she may wish she’d surrendered it voluntarily.

But the Windsors sought just to live a socially-exclusive life of luxurious banality, while Fergie merely tried to flog children’s books off the back of her title. Neither planned, nor attempted, to launch a multi-million dollar commercial empire via monetising their status, with a crossover into Hollywood-‘liberal’ Woke-celebrity politics.

However, removing or revoking a dukedom, isn’t easy. As far as I can see, it requires Letters Patent to be issued by the Crown and possibly, when a dukedom conferred on a member of the Royal Family is involved, approval of both houses of Parliament as well, so one can understand the reluctance of the Palace to go down that route.

But it’s perhaps a shame that an existing dukedom couldn’t be altered to be made morganatic. If (or rather, when) Markle decides that the Prince-turned-Frog has outlived his usefulness, the sight of a double-divorcée minor American actress using her “Duchess” handle either hustling in Hollywood for a big new movie role to re-start her relatively undistinguished acting career, or even running for political office on a left-wing platform , will, I reckon, stick in quite a few craws.

The concession to allow the use of “Royal” in the “Sussex Royal” brand, including both website and Instagram feed, is already beginning to be challenged as incompatible with the Woke-Harkles’ “agreement” not to use their “HRH” styles in consideration of withdrawing from royal duties, although they could apparently end up being allowed to use it in connection with charitable purposes only.

It isn’t difficult to see that compromise running into trouble. If its allowed “use for charitable purposes” extends to the “charitable foundation which [they] are expected to launch shortly”, then given that Markle’s planned charitable foundation on a typical US-celebrity model is arguably far more likely to also function as vehicle for her pet political obsessions, the likelihood is that that itself will endorse or promote über-woke left-wing political causes and could well still taint the Royal Family by association. Better, perhaps, if it was to be withdrawn totally at the outset.

The purpose of questioning the lack of more rigorous restrictions on the couple’s continuing use of any royal handles isn’t vindictive, though I’ve no doubt their woke groupies would disagree, and shrilly. Actually, it’s to put the greatest possible distance between them and the monarchy, so as to minimise the risk of the institution being tainted by either or both of them, if their promotion of themselves, their brand, their causes and, let’s face it, Markle’s profile, becomes politically embarrassing or descends into gaudy commercialism.

Despite the setbacks of the past few months, support in Britain for the monarchy as an institution remains strong, according to polling.

These results look encouraging, given the events of the past two weeks. It seems that Brits not only understand, but appreciate, the distinction between the monarchy as an institution and the personality flaws of some of its current, hopefully temporary, members; and that they recognise that, for all its faults, it’s still preferable to having some tainted, divisive, political has-been, or some washed-up grubby ex-“celebrity”, as an ‘elected’ Head of State.

It’s for that reason that the maximum separation needs to exist between the monarchy on the one hand, and the self-centred and aggressively acquisitive – both financially and emotionally – future that the Woke-Harkles have chosen for themselves, on the other. And it’s to fulfil that need that a harder Megxit should have been insisted on as far as titles were concerned.

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What Boris Johnson owes Nigel Farage

Rather than with a devalued and discredited knighthood or peerage, the best way for Boris Johnson to repay his indebtedness to Nigel Farage for enabling both his premiership and his election victory would be to implement the Tory manifesto’s promises of reforming and re-democratising our politics.

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 18 December 2019

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind. Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude”  (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII)

You might think that an overall majority of 80, a number at or even beyond the most optimistic predictions before last Thursday night’s exit poll, and the largest overall majority in Parliament for the Conservative Party since 1987, would have been satisfaction enough.

Apparently not, though, for those elements of the Conservative Party who, after briefly celebrating, reverted to berating Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party for either standing at all, or allegedly depriving them of victory in several other seats retained by Labour, by standing its own candidates there.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me reiterate that I still believe, as I did and argued in mid-November when this dispute came to a head, that both parties were at fault, driven on one side by egotism overriding tactical nous, and driven on the other by a cynical party-advantage aim of desiring a Tory majority in Parliament, even one partly comprising reluctant or soft Brexiteers, rather than a Brexit majority.

I thought Farage’s initial intention to contest up to 600 seats totally unrealistic, and his subsequent decision to stand aside in all 317 Tory seats – even those held by May-loyalist unreconciled Continuity-Remainers, like Greg Clark in Tunbridge Wells – misguided, because it effectively disenfranchised Tory Leave-voters there.

But I also condemned Farage’s decision to stand against Remain-voting but Brexit-supporting Labour MPs – I genuinely regret that Caroline Flint won’t be in the Commons to help a sensible Labour Party rid itself of the cancer of Corbynism – and I criticised the Tories’ refusal to withdraw their candidates from the long-time Labour seats where the psephology suggested they had the least chance of unseating Labour.

Well, as we now know and should admit, some of those psephological assumptions were wrong. And yes, an even lower seat total for Labour than its 203, its smallest since 1935, would have been most welcome: the greater the scale of the shellacking visited upon Labour by the voters, the greater the chances of Corbyn and his hard-Left cult being consigned to the extremist wilderness where they belong.

But what appears to be the widespread conclusion, that in most if not all cases where a winning Labour vote was less than the combined Tory and Brexit Party vote, it was the latter’s candidacy which was solely to blame, looks unduly simplistic, not to say more than a little self-serving.

That widespread conclusion itself appears based on an assumption that every Brexit Party vote, absent a Brexit Party candidate, would have gone to the Tories. Really? Is it not at least possible that, in several instances, voters prepared to break, for the first time, a generations-long family, workplace and community tradition of voting Labour might have been prepared to plump for the Brexit Party, but voting Tory would have been a step too far?

That’s certainly a feasible interpretation of the result in Barnsley Central, where the Brexit Party candidate came 2nd, getting fully 40 per cent more votes than did her Conservative Party opponent, only 42 per cent of whose votes going to the Brexit Party instead would have deposed the sitting Labour MP.

In neighbouring Barnsley East, where the Brexit Party candidate also came 2nd, a mere 31 per cent of the Tory vote going to the Brexit Party instead would have captured the seat and defenestrated yet another Labour MP.  Arguably, in those two Barnsley constituencies, it’s the Tories who should have stood aside. 

In Sunderland Central, the respective changes in vote share probably tell a more nuanced story than the actual result. It looks very like Labour’s 13.4 per cent drop in vote share mostly went to the Brexit Party, whose vote share went up by 11.6 per cent, compared to the Tories’ uplift of a mere 2.0 per cent.

Elsewhere, local factors may have prevailed. Consider the two constituencies serving Newport, South Wales, of which I do have some personal knowledge, despite it being a long way away from my South Coast lair. It’s a microcosm, but potentially very illustrative.

Newport East and West results comp

In both Newport East and Newport West, the combined Tory and Brexit Party vote exceeded the winning Labour vote.  Going along with the desired narrative, it would be tempting, even easy, to draw the obvious conclusion: that the Brexit Party stopped the Tories capturing both seats. But it might also be wrong, because there are important local factors at play.

In Newport West, the Tory candidate Matthew Evans was the very popular former Mayor of Newport, while the Labour MP was new and thus relatively unknown, the seat having for years been the personal fiefdom of that irascible old Labour dinosaur Paul Flynn, who died as recently as February this year. In Newport East, however, the Labour incumbent since 2005, Jessica Morden, is apparently regarded there as being good constituency MP.

Had there been a local tactical alliance, the Brexit Party could have stood down in Newport West to give Evans a clear run, while the Tories could have stood down in Newport East to let the Brexit Party, which obtained a higher vote-share there than it did in Newport West, to have a crack at unseating Morden.  The likely result would have been two pro-Brexit MPs in the new House of Commons, one Tory and one Brexit Party, and two more seats added to the scale of Labour’s defeat. Instead, Newport still has two Labour MPs. 

The Conservative Woman‘s Editor Kathy Gyngell was entirely correct to argue, as she did on Monday 16th December, that Johnson owes Farage more gratitude for the latter’s tactical mis-steps than the curmudgeonly recrimination proffered so far. On the other side of the political aisle, even The Guardian agreed that Johnson owes a debt to Farage for his own triumph

Only within sections of the Conservative Party does this appear to go unrecognised. It could be merely the arrogance and sense of entitlement to which elements of the party appear prone: but on the other hand, it could be yet another manifestation of the Tory Party’s default “party before country” survival instinct, which makes it so simultaneously hostile to, yet fearful of, potential competitors.         

So let’s have no knighthood or peerage for Farage in faux-recompense, please: there’s something else which would be a far more deserving, and widely-beneficial, expression of appreciation.

In the latter part of my plea on the morning of Election Day, I wrote that the Brexit vote was more than just a demand to leave the European Union: that voting for that specific policy was also a proxy for a strident demand for a different way of doing politics, vesting more power in the people at the expense of a managerial, technocratic elite.

The “Protect our Democracy” section (pp 47-48) of the Tory manifesto does pledge a start on this, with the absolute minimum, but there’s more to do. For Boris to parallel Brexit with a comprehensive re-democratisation of British politics would be a discharge of his indebtedness to Farage far beyond any mere gong, bauble or ermine-trimmed gown.

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Boris’ Interim Report: Must Try Harder

PM Boris Johnson’s performance against the eight benchmarks set him on appointment has been mediocre at best  

Note: Longer version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 04 December 2019

At the end of last July, just after Boris Johnson had been elected leader of the Conservative Party and appointed Prime Minister, I tried to speculate on the general direction of travel which his government would follow, not only on Brexit, but on other key policy issues.

Would he follow the robustly anti-leftist, pro civil liberties, free-trade, free-market, tax-cutting rhetoric of his leadership campaign? Or would he actually turn out to be more in the ‘Wet’ One-Nation tradition of ‘liberal’-‘progressive’ Conservatism? To serve as a benchmark, I suggested eight key tests by which we might judge whether he would delight or disappoint us.

Now, some might say it remains too early to judge: that the 5 months he has been in office have been overwhelmingly occupied by Brexit to the exclusion of virtually everything else, and that only after a period of government when it was no longer the dominant, almost only, issue would it be possible to make a more accurate assessment.

Well, maybe. But on the other hand, we do now have the two documents which will define the Johnson premiership in its entirety: firstly, his revised Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration and secondly, the Conservative Party’s election manifesto. So with these plus the experience of the past five months as a reference, how has he measured up against each those eight tests?

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

This article isn’t the place for a detailed dissection of the pros and cons of Johnson’s revised Brexit deal. For me, the most persuasive summary of it is the one which acknowledges that, while it is far from ideal, it nonetheless is a distinct improvement on its predecessor and so probably just about good enough to make it supportable. But although the answer to the test question is clearly “No, because we have still not left the EU“, a reasonable case can be made that this was not for want of trying. 

On the legislative side, right up until the moment it was dissolved in early November, Johnson was faced with a majority-Remainer House of Commons, including members of his own party, which was not only determined to thwart it and to leave no avenue of Parliamentary procedure unexploited – however arcane and devious, and however potentially constitutionally illegitimate – in pursuance of that aim, but was also resolved to deny the electorate a chance to vote it out and elect a fresh Commons.

On the judicial side, he was faced with a blatantly politicised and judicially-activist legal Establishment which, by ruling the Prorogation of Parliament unlawful was prepared in effect to re-write the Constitution by arrogating to itself the power to amend it by inserting its own opinion into the political process.

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?

There seems to be little evidence of it. Despite the misgivings surrounding Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill’s role, as May’ national security adviser, in the sacking of Gavin Williamson as Defence Secretary and informed speculation during the Tory leadership campaign that he would not long survive a Johnson premiership, he remains in place.

Although the Svengali figure of Olly Robbins who was May’s chief Brexit negotiator has left Whitehall, and the Brexit negotiating team was slimmed down, Johnson’s current Europe adviser is something of a former Brussels insider. While it’s obviously very useful to have someone familiar with the backrooms of Brussels, against that must always be the fear that he may have been institutionally captured.

Will he abrogate Britain’s accession to the UN Migration Compact, cynically signed by May largely under the radar in December 2018?

As far as I can see, he has not even mentioned it. In fact, the indicators appear to be pointing towards a significant dilution of his leadership campaign promises on reducing the scale and raising the quality of inward migration, despite the manifesto pledges about an Australian-style points system. Indeed, he has arguably retreated further.

In the Daily Telegraph of 14th November, the Editor of The Spectator, Fraser Nelson floated the idea of a Government amnesty for illegal immigrants. Given the close links between the magazine and Number Ten, I suspect it’s unlikely that the latter was wholly unaware of the proposal before publication. It could have been designed to test the waters of public opinion, or perhaps even to engineer an adverse reaction, so as to justify a harder policy line with which to chase ex-Labour voters in the Midlands and North.

The two main problems with such an amnesty are that, firstly, it rewards illegality – what signal does it send to the law-abiding migrants who have taken the trouble to establish themselves here legally? – and that, secondly, it acts as an incentive to anyone currently contemplating migration into Britain, illegal or otherwise, to do it before more robust controls are implemented.

In addition, and as Migration Watch’s Alp Mehmet explained at The Conservative Woman on 27th November, in a commentary of all four main parties’ manifestos, it is perhaps the Conservative Party’s, deferring to the financial strength of big-business on the one hand and the powerful Woke pro-immigration lobby on the other, which especially represents a betrayal of its Leader’s previous promises.

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?

Here the picture, albeit still mixed, is slightly better, although May’s deal was so egregious in this area that it never constituted a particularly high bar to clear.

As Briefings for Brexit’s and Veterans for Britain’s Professor Gwyn Prins’ comprehensive analysis shows, closer integration with the nascent EU Defence Union, even under Johnson’s modified proposals, still carries significant risks for future co-operation and intelligence-sharing with our non-EU Five Eyes Alliance partners, and although we do have an opt-out mechanism, this is exercisable only on a case-by-case basis.

Professor Prins makes a persuasive argument, however, that the overall geo-strategic objection to UK participation in the accelerating EU Defence and Security integration remains: that the project’s fundamental raison d’être is ultra-federalist and anti-Anglosphere in concept and purpose, being designed to detach the EU from the NATO and wider Atlantic Alliance. Remember, France’s Macron has declared NATO “brain-dead”, and implied that the EU sees the USA as among its own likely future enemies.

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?

In a word: No. Once again he has gone almost in the opposite direction. In arguably one of the most abjectly cowardly reversals of a decade-long policy seen in many years, Johnson has resolved to ban fracking, ostensibly in deference to what is a cynical misrepresentation and exaggeration of the “earthquake” risk, but actually because the Tories lack the political courage to oppose the well-funded Green eco-propaganda campaign against cheap, reliable energy.

As if this was not bad enough, the Tories have signed up to the same net-zero emissions target as all the Green virtue-signalling main parties, just at a slightly slower rate, with a dearth of consideration of the long-term opportunity cost of spending upwards of £1 trillion on attempting to retard, by a few months, whatever would almost certainly happen regardless.

Will he commit to rolling back substantial parts of Theresa May’s politically-correct, divisive left-‘liberal’ SJW agenda, like mandatory gender pay gap reporting, ethnicity pay disparity audits, and gender-change via box-ticking self-declaration? 

Johnson has been conspicuously silent on this since his accession to Number Ten, and the 64-page Tory Manifesto – long on worthy aspirations and anodyne platitudes but short on specific policy pledges which could be remotely controversial – which has been variously criticised as “defensive” and “safety-first” contains no references to these issues whatsoever. Given that this was the focus of a substantial part of the condemnation heaped on his predecessor, we have to assume that silence in this case equals acquiescence.

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, and Leftist objections to making ID at the polling booth mandatory?   

Johnson pledged via the most recent Queen’s Speech to introduce mandatory voter ID to help combat electoral fraud – to a predictable chorus of specious objections from the politicians of parties which currently appear to benefit most from it, and their media cum quango-state backers – and this has been included in the Tory Manifesto, along with as yet unspecified measures aimed at “stopping postal vote harvesting”. This is at least a start, although much more needs to be done.

Will he address urgent constitutional reform, in particular the position of the unelected, anti-democratic House of Lords, the corrupt and cronyism-ridden Honours system, and funding from tax the current political activities of former Prime Ministers who, despite being rejected by voters, still want to remain active in public life? 

Not much, if anything, has actually been done in this area, though in fairness, little would have been possible with a gridlocked majority-Remainer, anti-Tory Parliament. The Tory Manifesto is more promising: it does at least pledge to repeal the disastrous Fixed Term Parliaments Act (FTPA). But both the role of the House of Lords and the relationship between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary are to be referred to a new Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission, which looks suspiciously like kicking the issue into the long grass.

It would have been much better to have adopted Lawyers for Britain’s Martin Howe QC’s proposal for a Restoration of the Constitution Bill to replace the current judicially-activist Supreme Court and repeal the egregious Benn Surrender Act usurping for Parliament the proper executive role of government, as well as repealing the FTPA.

On reforming the Honours System and curbing funding for the ongoing political activities of former prime Ministers, there has been neither mention nor action. 

Overall, then, Johnson’s is an underwhelming performance so far, notwithstanding the hype surrounding his “great new deal” and the constant “get Brexit done” soundbite. Those of us of a conservative – but not necessarily Conservative – disposition are, I think, entitled to start asking some serious questions about precisely where the Johnson-led Tories are going, not only on Brexit but on much else besides.

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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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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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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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