Brexit – could it result in Proportional Representation?

More than a month ago, 11 April, I predicted the present situation (which had basically “already happened”).

Brexit party led by Farage will do well and Tory party will be severely damaged. Both pro and anti-Brexit wings of Labour will have to run on a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum. There will be a big turnout of Remain voters and clear majority for Remain.

Yesterday I wrote:

Update is that Tories are closer to being “wiped out” than just “severely damaged” and Brexit party is doing even better than I expected, well ahead of Labour and Tories combined, not just ahead of Tories.

A poll on May 13 had Tories in fifth place!

1. Brexit 34%

2. Labour 16%

3. Liberal Democrats 15%

4. Greens 11%

5. Tories 10%

That is because the pro-Brexit wing of Labour, led by Corbyn, has so far NOT run a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum.

So as well as losing 12% of all Labour voters to the Brexit party, Corbyn is also losing another 57% of Labour “Remain” voters to other “Remain” parties (Liberal Democrats et al) leaving it with only 40% of the “Remain” voters it had at the last general election.

Actually the Labour party is following these tactics in the correct belief that humiliation by the Brexit party and minor “Remain” parties in the EU elections based on proportional representation is a small price to pay for the damage done to the Tories at the next general election under the current electoral system. I am surprised that they have been able to stick to this stand for so long, but if they are able to sustain it they are more likely to form a government after the next general election than if they do not.

Today’s news is that Labour has not been able to stick to this stand and have now broken of negotiations with the Tories the same day as they dropped to third place behind the LibDems. So they still have a week in which to campaign for a “Final Say” referendum and recover some of the votes lost to the LibDems.

Whether Labour succeeds in the EU elections or not it looks like the Tories have no hope of preventing a Labour led government in the next general election. The best they can do is hope it will be a minority government, which Labour is now trying to avoid by clawing back some of its supporters.

Either way, under the present electoral system the Tory party is in real danger of being replaced by the Brexit party. But the Labour party is in no real danger of being displaced by the LibDems and  others as Brexit will be over by the next general election and Labour will have delivered a “Final Say” without losing as many of its “Leave” supporters as the Tories have lost.

But will the present electoral system survive the collapse of mainstream politics?

The two party system is the inevitable result of anachronistic single member electorates that remained for centuries after national parties had developed because the UK Parliament was formed centuries before democracy was established, when politics was still a matter of representating local rather than national “constituencies”. Other english speaking countries like Australia have inherited the same anachronism. Throughout Europe national elections, as well as those for the European Parliament, are held on a system of representing national parties proportionately that was established together with democracy.

The current mess creates a real opportunity. It is always hard to get rid of an electoral system because the politicians elected under it consider it delivers a satisfactory outcome while those excluded cannot just vote to change it.

Right now in the UK we have a major national decision about to be resolved decisively by the fact that the supporters of Brexit will get less than 40% of the vote in a proportional system. The failed attempt at Brexit has now produced the only significant mass movement in support of the EU in Europe!

At the same time more than half the members of the current Parliament have a direct stake in getting rid of the anachronistic two party system. The Tory party currently has nearly half the seats and faces being replaced by the Brexit party and becoming just another minor rump party under the present electoral system.

No matter how inept they are they will have plenty of time to contemplate their predicament between the EU elections this month and the next British general election. Nothing concentrates the mind so much as imminent non-existance!

The minor parties naturally already support PR. Together with the Brexit party they now represent not only far more voters than the old “two parties” combined, but also a large absolute majority. (Today’s YouGov poll, Labour 15%, Tories 9% total 24% others THREE TIMES their total!).

Only the Labour party has a direct interest in retaining the present system. As well as having only a minority of MPs they are in fact badly split and would have real difficulty uniting against PR.

Even if the minor parties are all total wimps there should be little need to even get insurrectionary about it. Just huffing and puffing should be enough for a 75% majority to bring the two party system down in the UK.

There has to be either a referendum or a general election decided on before the next EU deadline of October 31.

In other recent news, Prime Minister May won’t discuss a timetable for electing a replacement Tory leader until after vote on Withdrawal Agreement Bill in early June. But that is presumably when an amendment will be proposed to call a referendum which should aim for a decision before the end of October. So there would be little time for a membership vote to elect a replacement leader for that campaign so it might just be necessary for Tory MPs to take the decision entirely themselves.

Then there is the problem of a possible switch to Proportional Representation. This could also come up when discussing whether a general election could resolve a parliamentary deadlock. If that occurs it ought to be followed by an immediate general election, even more urgently requiring a replacement leader.

If there is an orderly timetable for a membership vote, the charlatan Boris Johnson would be likely to win whereas Tory MPs would reject him. So my guess is that May is not likely to facilitate an orderly timetable and more likely to resign for a snap election after establishing at least a referendum and/or PR.

Things will drag on for a bit longer in Australia but the voters are already treating tomorrow’s national elections with an equanimity bordering on contempt.

It’s way past time for another campaign to vote for “Neither”.

 

 

 

 

Brexit – Remain still winning, as is Labour

A few weeks ago I said:

UKIP now led by far right thugs will be largely wiped out. Brexit party led by Farage will do well and Tory party will be severely damaged. Both pro and anti-Brexit wings of Labour will have to run on a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum. There will be a big turnout of Remain voters and clear majority for Remain.

Update is that Tories are closer to being “wiped out” than just “severely damaged” and Brexit party is doing even better than I expected, well ahead of Labour and Tories combined, not just ahead of Tories.

A poll on May 13 had Tories in fifth place!

1. Brexit 34%

2. Labour 16%

3. Liberal Democrats 15%

4. Greens 11%

5. Tories 10%

https://www.reuters.com/article/britain-eu/british-pm-mays-conservatives-slump-to-fifth-place-ahead-of-eu-election-yougov-poll-idUSL9N227004

That is because the pro-Brexit wing of Labour, led by Corbyn, has so far NOT run on a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum.

So as well as losing 12% of all Labour voters to the Brexit party, Corbyn is also losing another 57% of Labour “Remain” voters to other “Remain” parties (Liberal Democrats et al) leaving it with only 40% of the “Remain” voters it had at the last general election.

These figures are reported by the Guardian as:

The polls are clear – Labour’s Brexit tactics are failing spectacularly

The party is haemorrhaging votes in the mistaken belief that the leave tendency is driven by its working-class base

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/16/labour-brexit-remain-voters-european-elections

Actually the Labour party is following these tactics in the correct belief that humiliation by the Brexit party and minor “Remain” parties in the EU elections based on proportional representation is a small price to pay for the damage done to the Tories at the next general election under the current electoral system. I am surprised that they have been able to stick to this stand for so long, but if they are able to sustain it they are more likely to form a government after the next general election than if they do not.

The reason is simple, with single member electorates, as in Australia, there will be far less Labour seats lost to minor “Remain” parties than Tory seats lost to the Brexit party and to Labour. It will still end up a basically two party system. Even if Labour can only govern in coalition with minor remain parties there will be very little chance of anybody else being able to form a government. Although LibDems and others have benefited spectacularly from Labour’s tactics, once the Brexit issue is over many of those voters punishing Labour for its ambiguity will return to it and those who don’t will still not be represented in proportion to their numbers as long as Labour is larger than the others.

However the damage being done to the Tories is so great that they might decide to introduce proportional representation to avoid becoming just another irrelevant minor party displaced by the Brexit party. No sign of this yet, except that Farage is aiming for that result and there is plenty of time for the Tories to focus their minds on the reality of their predicament between the EU elections and the next general election.

It would be a positive step towards breakup of the two party system despite the fact that the immediate effect will be more long term representation for right wingers like Farage.

As for the effect on Brexit, displacement of the Tories by the Brexit party will not change the overall impact of a large swing towards Remain parties in the EU elections (with the Brexiteers accurately portraying both Tories and Labour as Remain parties despite their pretences). Being the largest party will not make the Brexit party a majority on its issue – Brexit. The figures above are essentially 34% for a “No Deal” Brexit with the rest against (and a more overwhelming majority, including the Brexit party, against the only deal available – the Withdrawal Agreement).

All other developments remain on track as predicted – there are no alternatives emerging that avoid the stark choice between “No Deal” and “No Brexit” and the only decision that can result will be to put it to a referendum, where the Withdrawal Agreement would be defeated, as would “No Deal”. Dragging out negotiations for a “customs union” is upsetting party supporters on both sides but mainly damaging the Tories in their existential battle with the Brexit party.

Here’s another comment from the Guardian just not getting it:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/16/labour-brexit-party-european-elections-nigel-farage

Celebrating Darce Cassidy

Notes for my contribution to memorial meeting on May 14, following Darce’s death on 2019-04-29

I’m not a historian and cannot do justice to the story of Darce Cassidy.

But I do know that he played a critically important part as a leader of the sixties rebellion in Australia and it would be well worthwhile for some historian to write up that story.

Most people who knew either Darce Cassidy or Jon Cassidy would know him as a progressive and radical who worked in the mainstream as an ABC journalist, staff organizer and manager and who was able to get on with all kinds of people helping others to organize themselves in a progressive direction that caused problems for the powers that be. He would be known by many for his contributions to Community and Multicultural radio and opposition to internet censorship and surveillance as director of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation. He did all of that and more, and it was central to his life.

But I knew him as a revolutionary as well as a friend, and specifically as a revolutionary communist leader, and I know that was also central to his life and should not be forgotten so I will focus on that. That description may come as a surprise to many who got to know him after the sixties wave had subsided when there was no radical left to help organize and lead. He was able to adapt because he always followed the “mass line” of taking progressive political ideas from the masses, concentrating and developing them and taking them back to the masses.

In the late 1960s Darce played a significant leadership role in the largest and best known radical student and youth organizations in Australia – the Maoist led Monash University Labour Club and Worker Student Alliance. Like other open supporters of the Vietnamese armed struggle against US occupation and advocates of militant protest tactics in Australia he was regularly slandered. Bob Santamaria’s far right wing Newsweekly had a major campaign to oust him from his “subversive” influence at the ABC, claiming that he was a terrorist. More common were the slanders from the “Communist” CPA, the “Labor” ALP “left” and some Trotskyists who portrayed revolutionary rebels like Darce as sectarians.

In response to Santamaria’s campaign, the ABC duly obtained a report on comrade Cassidy from ASIO. This confirmed that actually he was a revolutionary, not a terrorist, and that his employment in charge of book reviews for the ABC was not a matter of immediate concern to ASIO in the current situation and while he was not in charge of news or current affairs. But Darce was no sectarian either and helped ABC news and current affairs staff to rebel in ways that right-wingers are still upset about.

For anyone interested in sources to find out more about Darce’s revolutionary activities, in preparing notes I was helped by two references easily found online by a google search for “Monash Labor Club”. They are listed at the end.

ASIO’s records have been released and would provide a lot more detail.

Darce was not a theoretician, nor a public spokesperson for revolutionary politics. But he was a leader, with a major role in strategy, tactics and organization. His revolutionary work as a journalist and organiser was central to the radicalization of the youth and student movement in the sixties because he taught others how to do radical journalism, how to get organised and how to maneuver against our enemies without getting isolated. He was particularly good at teaching people how to think before writing, so as to produce short punchy items with real impact, through careful attention to catchy headlines and humorous slogans that adapted tactics to strategy.

Darce arrived in Melbourne and enrolled at Monash University shortly before things got moving in 1967. He immediately helped launch our regular news sheet called “Print”. Unlike most of the sixties activists in Australia he had several years experience of radical politics at Sydney University before the movement took off and had edited a weekly newsheet there called “Wednesday Commentary”. He advocated a neutral name to focus attention on the content not proclamation. But he originally proposed the name “Gladys” as he thought “Gladys says” would catch on. Fortunately we were able to persuade him that “I saw it in Print” would also work.

The sixties Vietnam movement in the US grew more directly out of the civil rights movement than in Australia (especially with black conscripts as the most important force). But a lot of the sixties Australian indigenous rights movement was also inspired by the US example. An obvious direct import was the rural NSW Freedom Ride that Darce helped organize in March 1965 following on from solidarity protests in support of the fights against racism in the U.S. and South Africa. The Vietnam movement also had a natural continuity from solidarity with US as well as South African struggles. (My own earliest political activity was as secretary of “Youth Against Apartheid” around the same time.)

It is ironic that we were presented as “anti-American”. As with the Freedom ride, even more so for Vietnam, a lot of the inspiration for the sixties movement came from following the examples set by radical Americans.

We did not have the internet back in the sixties. But we did have typewriters, wax stencils and duplicating machines called “Gestetners”. One of Darce’s slogans was “All power grows out of the barrel of a Gestetner”. Darce was more than anyone responsible for launching an irreverant and uncensorable underground journalism tradition of “the sixties” that Australian university and later high school authorities could not cope with.

Another of Darce’s slogans was “If there is to be a revolution there must be a revolutionary party – Friday night at Jasmine Street”.

Jasmine street was the home of several Monash Labor Club activists including Darce from the summer break1966-7.

The revolutionary parties at Jasmine Street every Friday were pretty wild, some would say they were drunken orgies. But the revolutionary music organized by Darce was not just background noise. Radical songs are always a necessary part of any radical culture and tradition. Jasmine Street was also the off campus HQ where people developed their ideas on HOW to rebel in continuous political discussion. Later a similar role was played by “Shirley Grove” and then “The Bakery” which became the headquarters of a non-student organization, the “Revolutionary Socialists”. Darce was central to organizing all three HQs, fostering an atmosphere in which ideas could develop. Later he proposed disbanding the Rev Socs to form a more explicitly Maoist led youth organization, WSA, the “Worker Student Alliance”, in January 1970.

These irreverant takeoffs from Mao’s slogans “All power grows out of the barrel of a gun” and “If there is to be a revolution, there must be a revolutionary party” were typical of the thoroughly irrevererant and politically incorrect sixties rebellion that Darce helped organize.

As Darce confirmed in an interview half a century later:

“By late 1966 early 1967 I grew to see ALP politics as futile and the Maoist stance offered a clear anti-Parliamentary line. Other than this fact it was the sheer rebelliousness of the Maoist ideas like ‘It is right to rebel’ that became attractive
to a lot us around that time.” (2005-09-03)

Soon after Darce’s arrival we had a major breakthrough in 1967. After some initial toughening up in response to attempts to censor “Print” from the University administration we were able to withstand a real “baptism by fire”. This came when we organized collections of aid for solidarity with the “National Liberation Front” who were fighting and defeating U.S. and Australian invaders in south Vietnam. The concentrated attacks from press, TV, government and University authorities as well as the peace movement “establishment” were a major turning point, not just for the student movement but for the wider anti-war movement. As intended the whole climate shifted left. The “moderates” were now able to distance themselves from us while also moving towards a position that the war could only be ended by defeat of the U.S. rather than by respectably influencing its government to be less aggressive. The left became a major force in the organized anti-war movement with Darce often representing us at private meetings where he helped out maneuver the old guard “peace movement” without them ever quite understanding how they got done over.

Darce’s detailed organizational proposal for moving from a weekly “Print” to a daily were written under the name Len Esdaile in the third issue of the internal bulletin of the Young Communist League, Sunday February 15 1969. Eventually the Monash radical student movement had many weeklies, including those from groups in most Faculties such as “Spanner and Sickle” in Engineering, as well as the daily “Print”. Many high schools also had their own regular newsheets based on the same rebellious and offensive “underground” style. These had to be distributed anonymously as the editors would be expelled from school. Being cheeky, rebellious and highly offensive to all right thinking people was easy. Learning to do it skillfully required lessons from a professional revolutionary journalist – Darce Cassidy, also known as “Tony Brooks”.

Darce’s commitment, like that of other sixties radicals, was not virtue signalling and hence was of interest to ASIO without them pretending that he was a eiither a terrorist or about to launch an armed struggle. Like the rest of us he was totally in favour of offending people to make them think (while rejecting the “being offended” that helps people avoid thinking). He was of course hostile to the censorious “political correctness” that now dominates the pseudo-left that imploded into the vacuum left by the subsiding radical wave half a century ago. It was the radical left, not the right that invented that term “politically incorrect”, and its Australian equivalent “ideologically unsound” to mock the pretensions of the pseudoleft.

Darce was a thorougly mainstream and thoroughly political incorrect revolutionary. That style of politics was fun. Darce will be remembered for it.

REFERENCES

1. Robins, Daniel (2005) Melbourne’s Maoists : the rise of the Monash University Labor Club, 1965-1967. Honours thesis, Victoria University.

http://vuir.vu.edu.au/30211/

2. From http://www.reasoninrevolt.net.au/biogs/E000612b.htm links from page on “Monash Labor Club”