Brexit – has Greg Sheridan actually noticed?

I first drew attention to the fact that a second referendum was now inevitable when the Tory party lost its majority by holding a snap election in June 2017 – TWO YEARS AGO. I explained that I was only mentioning such an obvious point because none of the media reports seemed to be aware of it.

In subsequent updates on the saga I have consistently held that view, while Greg Sheridan has consistently blithered.

Last December 18 I wrote:

This article comes to much the same conclusions, confirming my point 8 that it will soon be “reasonably obvious”:

https://www.politico.eu/article/sherlock-holmes-and-the-brexit-mystery-theresa-may-no-deal-second-referendum-eu/

Meanwhile it is clear that several cabinet members as well as Downing street staff working directly with the Prime Minister, including her Chief of staff are actively making arrangements with other parties for Parliament to go through the motions of voting on all other options (which will demonstrate the total isolation of those advocating “no deal”) and then adopt the only one remaining – another referendum. That process could drag on for weeks or even months after April Fool’s Day, in order to guarantee a vote to remain, but not for years.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-news-theresa-may-vote-deal-greg-clark-parliament-commons-liam-fox-hinds-second-referendum-a8686491.html

Here’s a report “denying” other reports of preparations in case a second referendum becomes inevitable (ie “in case” Parliament rejects both “no deal” and the only deal available, as is now pretty certain). The denial takes the form of insisting that the deniers do not “want” a second referendum, which is not quite the same as denying preparations for that becoming inevitable.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/16/no-10-denies-making-plans-for-second-brexit-referendum

It will be interesting to see how long it takes Greg Sheridan to catch on. One would think even he would understand that the screams of treachery he is echoing from the Brexiteers are based on their reasonable assessment that they have been deliberately maneuvered into isolation.

https://c21stleft.com/2018/12/14/brexit-april-fools-day-joke-could-be-nearly-over/#comment-1530

You would think Sheridan might have got it when Prime Minister May actually announced it recently and cabinet objected that it must not actually be moved by the Tory party in a Bill but only forced on them by an amendment.

The answer to “how long it takes Greg Sheridan to catch on” is that he seems to have finally noticed TODAY, Saturday 2019-06-01.

Here is the second last paragraph of a long and tedious article “It’s up to Boris now that so much has been left to so few” on p12 of “The Weekend Australian”

Although Conservatives hate the idea of a second referendum, there are two reasons they might implement it. One, they could stay in government while it was held. And two, they could ensure a fair question was put, between a no-deal Brexit and staying in the EU (as opposed to a May-like deal or staying in the EU, a question the British establishment could use to thwart Brexit). This may be the only way to gain legitimacy for the tough decision ahead. Both sides have convinced themselves the opposing view is illegitimate and the prospect of this polarisation going on and on and on is real.

There is of course another reason – that they never had any other realistic option and have now exhausted all other alternatives in order to convince their most stupid supporters of this obvious fact.

As one of their most stupid supporters Sheridan appears to have finally got the message after proclaiming for month after month that the opposing view was illegitimate by joining in the bizarre chorus that holding a second referendum would be an outrage against democracy.

Nevertheless Sheridan now agrees with what I have been saying for THREE YEARS. Since he is so reliably wrong I do have to wonder whether I might be making a mistake.

Anyway I still cannot see the mistake, despite Sheridan agreeing. Perhaps the US State Department has recovered enough to resume regular briefings so that experts like Sheridan can spout expert analysis more plausibly than they have been since Trump was elected.

Sheridan’s final paragraph is:

Johnson is the only contender who is a certified Big Beast, whose campaigning and personality could possibly change the situation. It would be absurd to equate Johnson at this stage with Churchill. However, like Churchill before he became prime minister, he has enormous and obvious faults. But he still may be the best chance Britain has in a time of unique national peril.

I agree that it would be absurd to equate Johnson with Churchill at this or any other stage, which of course is precisely what Sheridan is doing.

I disagree that “Britain is in a time of unique national peril” – that actually manages to top the “Operation Fear” projections of the amount of damage that would have been done by the policies Sheridan has been advocating and is now reluctantly abandoning.

Nor do I agree that Bojo is the only contender who could possibly reverse himself to do exactly what he has been opposing.

But I do agree that as a shameless charlatan Bojo is quite well suited for the role as he appeals to idiots like Sheridan which are very plentiful among Conservatives. They can more easily reconcile themselves to completely reversing themselves and “conservatively” supporting entirely opposite views with a charlatan like Bojo, just as Sheridan did with Trump.

As for changing “the situation”, I won’t accuse even Sheridan of actually hoping that Bojo could succeed in convincing a majority to vote for a “No Deal” Brexit or win a general election for the party that created this mess. As a fellow charlatan he is fully aware that his outrage about such a violation of democracy as asking people to vote on the actual situation rather than the lies Bojo and Sheridan promoted was entirely synthetic and based on knowing that those lies had been exposed so there was little chance of winning another vote.

So I assume “the situation” Sheridan is referring to is the danger of the complete collapse of the party he supports following what Sheridan claimed two days ago was a great victory for the Eurosceptic policies he supports at the EU elections.

I doubt that the Tory party can recover from that “famous victory” and the breathtaking stupidity of the policy and tactics Bojo and Sheridan supported. But who knows? Bojo is not actually stupid like Sheridan, so while unable to recover quickly, he might well be the one who introduces PR to avoid obliteration, which could mean survival and eventual recovery since the other mainstream parties don’t have much to offer either.

On the other hand it seems implausible that a party facing imminent non-existance would be willing to put their fate in the hands of such a charlatan. There is a solid majority of Tory MPs who despise him and it should not be impossible for them to find two other nomineers for their party members to choose between.

Brexit – if UK retains two party system it could be LibDems vs Brexit

The first YouGov poll for the next general election gives the following for % party support, weighted for likelihood of voting (and excluding Northern Ireland where the Unionist parties allied with the Tories are likely to lose some seats to the Alliance party allied with the LibDems):

LibDem 25 (including Change UK 1), Brexit 23 (including UKIP 1), Lab 19, Tory 19, Green 8, Nats (Scots and Welsh together) 6.

The Scotch and Welsh Nationalists are both regional parties that will win seats in their regions. The Greens are not and won’t.

I think it is reasonably safe to assume that Change UK voters will switch to LibDem and UKIP to Brexit but that Green voters will vote to save the planet and Scotch and Welsh Nationalists will not influence seats outside the regions they dominate. So I am counting only the top four groups as above, plus either the Scotch or Welsh nationalists in their regions in detailed regional analysis below.

https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/05/30/lib-dems-lead-polls-they-start-become-party-48

Details with regional breakdown:

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/k5jkiheowo/TheTimes_190529_VI_Trackers_w.pdf

These poll results are a better reflection of likely votes at a general election than the EU election results and are, as expected, less catastrophic for the two previous “mainstream” parties of the two party system. But they are still catastrophic and at face value show both facing obliteration with a new pair comprising the future “two party” system with LibDems as the government and Brexit as the opposition. More careful study shows it is far worse for the Tories than for Labour, despite identical % votes at a national level because the regional differences matter a lot in a system of single member electorates.

This is immediately after the EU election and with 65% picking “Britain Leaving the EU” as among the 3 most important issues out of more than a dozen. If Brexit is resolved before a general election the collapse of the old parties may be less extreme. If it isn’t it may be more extreme. If ,as is most likely, a second referendum is held which results in Remain, the Tories are likely to be worse affected than Labour by their “failure”.

Detailed polling of individual seats towards the end of an election campaign will give a far better indication. But party support in the UK varies greatly by regions and the regional breakdown of this very early poll is of considerable interest.

The four main groups are in in the following order in each region. That order should be reflected in greatly amplified proportions of seats for the largest groups. If each region was completely homogenous the first group listed would win ALL the seats of that region in the absurd system of single member electorates:

London (LD 35, Lab 24, Brexit 18, Tory 14). That would be a VERY big swing to LD from both Lab and Tory, without much going to Brexit.

Rest of South (LD 33, Brexit 23, Tory 21, Lab 14). VERY big swing mainly to LD with some to Brexit mainly from Tories (with few Labor seats to lose and very few Tory seats left either).

London and especially the Rest of the South were strongly Remain so the Tories as well as Labour lost votes to the LibDems and the Brexit party gains least. Coming first in these two regions is sufficient to make LD one of the two “mainstream” parties of a two party system. Coming third and fourth does not necessarily give the Brexit party or the Tories any seats at all in London and coming third and fourth does not necessarily give the Tories and Labour any seats at all in the rest of the South.

North (Lab 29, Brexit 27, Tory 17, LibDem 16). Big swing from Labour to Brexit in a Labour stronghold. This would still leave Labour as the slightly larger party in that region and therefore as a surviving major party while not leaving many seats for Tories or LibDems.

Midlands/Wales (Brexit 29, Tory 21, Lab 19, LibDem 18, PCY 6). Big swing to Brexit at expense of both Tories and Labour. Coming first in this one region is sufficient to ensure the Brexit party becomes a major party.

Scotland (SNP 44, Tory 19, LibDem 12, Lab 12, Brexit 8). Even more of an SNP stronghold with very few seats left for others.

So Tories would not be a major party in ANY region. LD likely to be strongest and form coalition government with Labour and SNP. Brexit party likely to be the main opposition, with more seats than Labour. Any Tories would only be a minor party and not the official opposition.

Even Labour might think it would now be better off with Proportional Representation! The Tories certainly would. This is the best opportunity yet for an end to the two party system as majority of current MPs now stand to lose from it.

Labour’s tactics of remaining ambiguous about Brexit have given it a good chance of surviving as one of three major parties following a general election while getting rid of the Tories. It could even lead a coalition government with LibDems as junior partner although it currently looks more likely to be the junior partner initially along with Scotch and Welsh nationalists. This is because it is still marginally the largest party in the North, as a result of retaining most of its Leave supporters, at the cost of alienating Labour Remain supporters defecting to LibDems and Greens in London and the south (which were previously Tory strongholds and are now currently LibDem strongholds). The Brexit party would dominate Wales and the midlands as well as picking up other seats from the Tories in London and the South while the Tories would not be the largest party in ANY region and therefore unlikely to remain relevant as either part of a government coalition or as a major opposition party.

This poll is quite consistent with a detailed survey earlier this year that concluded there was space for two new major parties to emerge with policies similar to those of the LibDems and Brexit party. It is worth studying the detailed links at the end of the report below. Looks to me like those two parties have very carefully positioned themselves accordingly:

The space for a new party isn’t just in the centre of politics

My expectation was that as well as surviving, unlike the Tories, Labour would remain more important than the LibDems because the surge towards LibDems was a specific response to Labour’s ambiguity at the EU elections. It is early days but so far it looks like the LibDems could become more important than Labour and the Brexit party at least comparable to it.

Greg Sheridan had shut up about Brexit for a while but is now back in The Australian Thursday 2015-05-30, p12. He is no longer explicitly saying that both “No Brexit” and a “No Deal Brexit” are equally likely but manages to convey the impression that the results of the EU election were a great victory for his own views:

“But the plain fact is that Eurosceptic parties fiercely critical of the EU won the EU parliament elections in Britain, France and Italy”.

As far as I know the right wing nationalist party in France dropped its policy to leave the EU and never had such a policy in Italy. As for the UK, here’s the actual swing in seats out of 73 in the two recent elections for UK MEPs:

Eurosceptic parties (Tory, Brexit, UKIP, DUP, UUP):

2014: 19, 0, 24, 1, 1 total 45

2019: 4, 29, 0, 1, 0 total 34

That is a major swing against them.

Big swing to Brexit party increased by 5 over previous incarnation as UKIP was dwarfed by collapse of Tory party from 19 to 4.

It is so blindingly obvious that there is no possibility of “No Deal” now that Greg Sheridan merely claims:

“The British electorate has understood in a way May never has, that the only coherent choice now is a no-deal Brexit or staying in the EU after all”.

Actually that is precisely what May said was the necessary result of the inevitable rejection of the ridiculous proposals for BRINO as a vassal state of the EU whereas Sheridan was saying “nobody knows”.

Two months ago Sheridan said:

Only one prediction is certain: the Brexit mess, which has already exhausted the patience of the British public, has a long way to run.

Now he says:

“The next weeks, with the election of a new Conservative leader and therefore prime minister, will be crucial in British history”.

Ending the two party system by introducing PR would indeed be a significant development, but he certainly hasn’t got that possibility in mind or he would have mentioned it.

I cannot guess what he thinks might change about the UK Parliament’s adamant rejection of “No Deal” as a result of the temporary appointment as Prime Minister of the leader of a party that has collapsed to 19% of the vote and that lost control of the House months ago.

Neither can he, or he would have blithered about it.

But if the “next weeks” will be crucial he must at least no longer be “certain” that the Brexit mess “has a long way to run”.

Brexit – EU election results

UK results are slightly better than the final poll:

https://www.bbc.com/news/topics/crjeqkdevwvt/the-uks-european-elections-2019

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_European_Parliament_election_in_the_United_Kingdom

The “two parties” were defeated with Tories wiped out in 5th place and only 4 MEPs elected out of 73 total.

A similar result for Tories in General Election under First Past the Post voting would give them 0 MPs.

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R for Remain, L for Leave, M for Mainstream (“Two Parties” blithering)

1L. Brexit 31.6%. Major success but mainly at expense of Tories and a bit less than the final poll.

2R. LibDem 20.3%. Substantial increase mainly at expense of Labour

3M. Lab 14.1% disasterous collapse but not wipeout since likely to still be ahead of LibDems in a general election to win far more seats

4R. Green 12.09% substantial increase as part of general EU and worldwide revival of pagan faith

5M. Tory 9.09% wipeout

6R. Scottish National Party 3.6% (Scotland regional)

7R. Change UK 3.4% wipeout (0 seats, will merge with LibDems)

8R. Plaid Cymru 1.0% (Wales regional)

9L. UKIP 3.0% wipeout (0 seats)

NORTHERN IRELAND has preferential system (Single Transferable Vote like Australian Senate).

First preference numbers for each of the three candidates elected shown instead of party %.

Quota for election was 143,122. Turnout higher at 45.14%

R Sinn Fein, 126,951

M Democratic Unionist Party 124,991 (effectively prefers Remain to the only deal available but would have liked to Leave)

R Alliance 105,928

UK Turnout: 17,199,701 Percentage: 36.9% Change:

This is a smaller increase in turnout than expected (and lower than rest of EU).

Presumably a lot of Labour and Tory voters just stayed home rather than vote against their parties. If so, they would turn up again in a general election. The difference is that the Tories are likely to be outnumbered by Brexit party in most Tory seats while Labour would only be outnumbered by LibDems or Greens in some of their seats.

I haven’t seen any data on that kind of analysis.

Summary

Wikipedia summarizes (using different terms and slightly different numbers from above) as:

R Remain 41.02%

L Leave with no deal 34.2%

M Pretend to Leave with the available Withdrawal Agreement 9.9% (ie Tories but includes DUP despite it being effectively Remain)

M Pretend to be willing to Leave with a (mythical) Withdrawal Agreement or referendum 13.65% (Labour)

Both Remain and Leave each outnumber the two party “Mainstream”, with Remain larger than Leave an overwhelming majority against pretending to Leave and a large 65% majority against leaving with “No Deal”.

The 2016 Brexit referendum had a much larger turnout 33,577,342 votes, 72%.

So the EU election results are not a clear indication of how a second referendum would go.

But the Parliamentary situation that was previously just obvious is now blindingly obvious.

It is no longer possible to seriously pretend that there are options available other than Remain or Leave with No Deal.

No matter who the Tory leader is they are stuffed and so is Brexit.

Any attempt at “No Deal” will result in majority support for a “No Confidence” vote supported by senior Tory cabinet Ministers that will either result in a minority Government or a general election that will wipe out the Tory party under the current voting system.

The only other option is a referendum, which Labour will have to support even if it is in government.

The only deal possible would be rejected at a referendum.

Things may drag on for greater certainty about the outcome of a referendum, but if the Tories had any sense they would establish a Proportional Representation voting system and accept a general election while they still have a chance of continuing to exist.

So far there is no sign that they do have any sense. But I still don’t rule out a sudden concentration of their minds on the prospect of imminent non-existance resulting in some sense.

As far as I can make out there has been a less dramatic increase in strength for the far right in most of EU (with regional exceptions).

But that still leaves a two-thirds centrist majority overall (in a legislature with very little say compared with the representatives of national governments). Still, there is developing a certain level of “union” political party alignments rather than merely “federal” and there is now a major mass movement in support of the Union in the UK.

UK position is actually less clearly towards far right as Brexit party campaigned on implementing referendum rather than against immigrants as they did in previous incarnation as UKIP.

As a curiosity, Spiked went all out with the rest of the Murdoch press in support of the Brexit party.

Here’s their hilarious explanation that people who don’t think the Brexit party wiping out the Tories changes the fact that more voters supported “Remain” than “Leave” are “delusional”.

https://www.spiked-online.com/2019/05/27/this-is-not-a-victory-for-the-brexit-party/

Spiked quite correctly adds the UKIP to the Brexit party votes as “Leave”.

But then adds Tory votes as well! If the Tory party wanted to Leave they would have left.

Why not add in Labour too? They also said they wanted to implement the referendum decision to leave.

The whole point of Spiked’s campaign was (quite accurately) that both Tories and Labour were not going to implement the referendum decision to Leave (because it was based on bullshit, but that is a different issue). Now, to prove that Brexit won and anybody who thinks otherwise is delusional they count votes for the party that failed to deliver the imaginary Brexit as votes in favour of a real Brexit that was never supported at the referendum and was rejected by most voters at the EU elections. I guess it is easy to convince oneself of this stuff after being outraged at the very idea of another referendum as a “betrayal of democracy”.

What the Brexit party has done is cut through the bullshit and made it clear both that the choice is between “Remain” and “No Deal” and that the two party system is completely disfunctional. Spiked could take credit for that instead of coming up with delusional bullshit that a choice was made for “No Deal” either at the referendum when Leave supporters pretended a deal retaining all the benefits of EU membership would be easy or now when they have abandoned that pretence and their more honest position has been rejected by a large majority.

Brexit – near end game

Final YouGov poll before EU elections this week, weighted by declared intention to actually vote:

Brexit party + UKIP 40%

“The mainstream” 20% (Lab 13%, Tory 7%)

Remain parties (LibDem, Greens, Change, Scots, Welsh) 39%

https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/05/21/european-parliament-voting-intention-brex-37-lab-1

This will be seen as a major victory for Brexit party but still leaves a clear 60% opposed to a “No Deal” Brexit as well as an overwhelming majority, including the Brexit party and the “mainstream” as well as the Remain parties against the only available deal.

That isn’t yet a comfortable majority for a referendum to end Brexit so it could still drag on. But it certainly isn’t a majority for Brexit.

My impression is that May’s latest “10 point” proposal is pretty close to the end.

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-speech-on-new-brexit-deal-21-may-2019

The reports I’ve seen focus on its general rejection by various MPs as meaningless and yet another sign she is hopeless.

But it strikes me as a further major step towards a referendum. Up to now a second referendum or “Final Say” has only been advocated by minor parties and Labour MPs with Corbyn remaining ambiguous and May resolutely opposed. By offering a “binding vote” on whether to hold a referendum (while not making it part of the Bill) May has signalled that it is now inevitable. The reports mention that Cabinet refused to make it part of the Bill as they cannot countenance the Tory party having surrendered on what it undertook to prevent by actually proposing a second referendum themselves. But all that means is it will eventually be moved as an amendment, which most Tory MPs can vote against, but will still be carried “against their will”.

When, remains unclear. But I honestly don’t understand why it is being reported as though much else about the situation remains unclear.

The remaining interesting twists in the end game are whether a threat of a general election will be used to get this done, or whether an actual snap general election will be held to avoid Boris Johnson becoming Tory leader and whether Proportional Representation will be introduced.

The speech is clearly aimed at openly threatening rejection of her proposal will inevitably result in either a general election or a referendum and squarely blaming May’s opponents in the Tory party for the consequences. There is nothing either implausible or “meaningless” about that. Boris Johnson should at this point be aware that he has been defeated. There is no way that I am aware of that a majority of the Tory party or of cabinet could prevent a general election two weeks after a no confidence motion. There would be no possibility of changing Tory party rules to remove May or to hold a membership vote for Boris Johnson as the next Tory leader in such an “emergency”. All May’s supporters need to do is not turn up when a Remain supporter moves no confidence and Labour whips for it. That option means obliteration for the Tory party but has been openly threatened by its current leader. The other easier option would be a referendum so I still expect that and am still hopeful about PR.

But the pretence Brexit is still a live possibility should now be ended by May’s signal of accepting a second referendum.

The pretence ought to have ended months ago. Although even Greg Sheridan has shut up lately, I won’t attempt to guess how long after the EU elections they will continue bleating about the Brexit party’s (quite real) success before grasping that they just don’t have a majority for any form of Brexit.

With only 7% of the vote for the Tory party against 37% for Brexit party the Tory party really does face extinction at the next general election. So I still expect PR to become a live issue, though there is no sign of it yet.

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”