Brexit – Baldrick Cummings Cunning Plans

On 11 August I wrote:

Rebel Tory MPs did acquiesce in Bojo becoming PM so there is now a loose canon in 10 Downing Street.

But the Brexit saga will still be effectively over before October 17. See my previous articles in this series on Brexit:

I said “before” October 17 expecting that any attempt would have to completed at least a week or so before the European Council (EUCO) summit of 17-18 October.

Actually the serious attempt to end Brexit only began a week ago and and continued with an all night negotiating session so the saga ended only on the morning of the first EUCO session on October 17. Result is that people won’t understand that Brexit has effectively been prevented for quite a while as there will still be lots of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

But here’s my view of the most likely sequence towards the finish (which can still have many variations) now that the final result is inevitable – No Brexit. Sorry for the incoherent rambling. I don’t have time to write a shorter article about what is likely to happen in the next few days.

It is quite complicated because the tactics followed by Bojo’s advisor, Dominic Cummings are unusually complicated, also known as Baldrick’s cunning plans:
1. “Bojo bounce” may continue rising in the polls to reach almost the abysmal level achieved by PM May at the 2017 general election. But this will be because of former Tory voters returning from both Brexit party and Libdems as a response to this “triumph”. Bojo has already got most of them back so it will soon peak.

Latest YouGov poll for October 14-15 for GB (excluding NI) is even higher “peak Bojo” (compared with less than a week ago).

Cons 37% up 1 from Libdems 18% and up 1 from Brexit 11%. Greens 5% down 1 to Libdems. Unchanged Labour 22%, SNP 4%, Plaid Cymru 1% and Other 1% (up UKIP down Change UK). Total 99% (rounded). Weighted by likelihood to vote.

As a result Tory Brexiteers are quite convinced they are winning the battle in the UK and their fight is with the EU on behalf of the British people who are being held captive in the EU with the assistance of the UK Parliament, Courts and establishment. In fact most people actually don’t want Brexit and it is that opposition, not the EU has imposed the three year delay since a narrow majority voted for Brexit in 2016.
2. The EU Parliament might ratify the new Withdrawal Agreement (WA) at same accelerated pace as the draft text was approved by negotiators in the last week. This would deliver Brexit before the current deadline of October 31 just as Bojo promised “do or die”, “deal or no deal”. European Commission (EC) has already agreed that EU will not be responsible for any delay. EC President Juncker has confirmed that and EUCO President Tusk has not disputed it.

This has nothing to do with whether EUCO will agree to an extension request from UK. UK media think “Parliament” means Westminster and that the EU imposes delays so they have reported EC President Juncker as warning that there will be no extension of the deadline so the UK would crash out with no transitional arrangements unless it agrees to Bojo’s deal. For Juncker “Parliament” sits in Strasburg and has not imposed delays and will not impose delays.

The eagerness with which Brexiteers are clutching at straws is highlighted by this article explaining that Juncker has done Bojo an enormous favour by “ruling out” an extension. He was actually ruling out the EU Parliament delaying ratification (even though the Brexit party will oppose ratification and is the largest block of UK members of the European Parliament). Juncker specifically said he is not in charge of Westminster (despite Brexiteer claims that the EU dominates the UK).

Actually neither Juncker nor Tusk can decide how quickly the European Parliament might work. Its Brexit coordinator is a Libdem and has said it “will only start its work from the moment that we are 100% sure that the British Parliament will adopt this deal”.

Translation into 23 official languages can be done very rapidly and legal experts can quickly decide whether they agree with the Republic of Ireland that Bojo has essentially accepted the original terms offered by the EU with Northern Ireland (NI) inside the single market and a customs border between NI and GB. Minor corrections to the legal texts can be made easily in that time.

Tusk confirms that what made the deal possible was Bojo suddenly agreeing to what both Bojo and May said no UK PM could agree to – a customs border between GB and NI so as to avoid a customs border between the two parts of Ireland. Instead of the WA accepted by May which had a temporary fallback backstop to preserve an open border between NI and the Republic, Bojo has agreed to the same arrangement being permanent for as long as NI wants to remain in the single european market and customs union while GB diverges in a very hard Brexit on the other side of a customs border from NI (or perhaps just England and Wales if Scotland decides to leave the UK as a result). Essentially the backstop gets easily renewed by a simple majority vote in the NI legislature every four years until there is a majority to actually rejoin the EU as part of a united Ireland (possibly an autonomous part).

3. Until the deal was published on 17 October, only four Cabinet Minister’s had seen it – Javid, Raab, Gove, Barclay and Cox. So we can be fairly sure the UK Parliament will not adopt a deal that was kept secret from it two days later in time to avoid an extension and enable the European Parliament to start work before its next session on 13 November. Bojo has 10 less DUP MPs and a couple of dozen less Tory MPs than May did.

Previous iterations of Baldrick’s cunning plans openly threatened to crash out with No Deal by pretending the Tory hard Brexiteer faction, European Research Group (ERG) had agreed on a new WA in order to avoid an extension and then failing to actually ratify before the unextended deadline. The threat was empty but highly effective in raising the level of hostility and distrust as intended. If both sides have ratified before the end of the extension they can agree on an earlier exit date just as with previous extensions. There is no reason for UK Parliament to be in same rush as EU as they are not seeking to avoid “blame” for delay. Nor is there any good reason for MPs to immediately agree on a referendum rather than simply insisting on an extension to consider the terms properly. Labour will try to defeat Bojo’s deal outright and can switch to a referendum on it at any later stage if the legislation would otherwise go through to accept it.

4. There will be little or no damage to Bojo from the three months extension requested despite his “do or die” proclamations. Even Brexit party leader Nigel Farage has said it would be better to continue negotiations than rush anything through, so the sarcasm about it will just be background noise.

5. Having had its negotiators stay up all night to cooperate with Bojo’s last minute claim he can get a deal through UK Parliament where May failed, and can do it by 31 October, EU will carefully consider Bojo’s request two days later, by end of this Saturday 19 October, for a three months n extension to 31 January, that will be required by UK law unless the House endorses an unfinalized text that was kept secret from it on the same day.

6. EU’s attention will have been drawn (though not for the first time) to the fact that what Bojo had agreed to and is now requesting an extension to achieve, was explicitly prohibited by UK law:

Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018

55 Single United Kingdom customs territory

(1)It shall be unlawful for Her Majesty’s Government to enter into arrangements under which Northern Ireland forms part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain.

(2)For the purposes of this section “customs territory” shall have the same meaning as in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1947 as amended.

That definition is in Article XXIV item 2:

“2.For the purposes of this Agreement a customs territory shall be
understood to mean any territory with respect to which separate tariffs or
other regulations of commerce are maintained for a substantial part of the
trade of such territory with other territories.”

The main point of Bojo’s deal is to achieve that unlawful purpose by imposing separate customs tariffs and other regulations of commerce on a substantial part of the trade of the territory of GB with the territory of NI.

NI buys six times more goods from GB than it buys from southern Ireland.

Any legislation to repeal this could easily be amended to require confirmation by a referendum in NI. Voters in NI voted for the UK to remain in EU, as did Scotland. NI voters certainly won’t vote for a customs border with either the south or GB.

7. EU will also be aware that the reason Bojo has been unable to persuade the UK Parliament is that he himself supported this barrier to any such agreement at a conference of the NI Democratic Unionist Party:

“…we would be damaging the fabric of the Union with
regulatory checks and even customs controls between GB
and NI – on top of those extra regulatory checks down the
Irish Sea that are already envisaged in the Withdrawal

No British Conservative government could or should sign up
to anything of the kind…”

8. Hopefully EU will conclude that the UK needs at least a year to get its act together before wasting their time on Brexit again. At any rate they won’t believe it could possibly be sorted out by the end of January and will offer an extension until at least June, which is sufficient for both a referendum and a general election in the hope of a government with a serious policy emerging. It wasn’t the EU that imposed yet another delay.

9. Unless a majority of the House of Commons wants a No Deal Brexit, the House will not decide to refuse the longer extension within two days of it being offered. The law then requires that Bojo accept the extension. At this point, before the end of this month, people should start becoming aware that Brexit is not going to happen and the Bojo bounce should begin its long descent, which will become a plummet. Bojo won’t resign as leader of the Tory party or PM of the Tory government as none of this will be a surprise.

10. If Bojo refuses to comply a Court will simply order somebody else to agree on behalf of the PM. The inner Court of Sessions has already scheduled a sitting for October 21 to save paperwork in case it happens by then.

11. If Bojo remains PM he will be a complete lame duck and will end up wishing he had stuck to “do or die”. What he has achieved is a major step towards ending Brexit by eliminating both May’s WA and No Deal, leaving only a pointless soft Brexit In Name Only (BRINO) or No Brexit at all. All that remains is to eliminate his own variation that made May’s WA much worse and unacceptable to DUP as well as to Tories that did not want such a hard Brexit for GB.

12. If Bojo resigns on behalf of the government the palace will have to commission the leader of the opposition to form a government. Nobody else could plausibly form a government with both the Labour and Tory parties in opposition.

13. Bojo could then plausibly hope to get an early general election by defeating Corbyn in a Vote of No Confidence (VoNC) under the Fixed-term Parliament Act (FtPA). But even if that succeeded it would only result in a general election if there was no Vote of Confidence (VoC) within 14 days. The House can replace the government at any time and could agree on another PM to head a temporary minority Labour government within the 14 days. There is also another reason for Bojo not to resign, which I will come to later.

14. Whatever happens, whether Bojo becomes a lame duck or is replaced by Corbyn or by some other PM, whoever is in government will have no working majority, no way to deliver Brexit and no way to escape. There is only one other way to get a general election since the power of the Crown to dissolve Parliament was removed by the FtPA. That is by agreement from both the Labour and Tory parties for a 2/3 majority. The Bojo bounce will either continue a slow descent or start to plummet, since Bojo and the Tory party obviously cannot deliver anything promised.

15. The House will proceed to legislate for a Final Say referendum to be followed promptly by a general election before the new Brexit deadline. If necessary it could force the necessary funding by tying it to other Supply. Since the EU has actually agreed to Bojo’s variation, a simple binary self-executing choice can easily be agreed on: Yes automatically ratifies the deal. No automatically prohibits it. The Libdems might try to insist on Remain as an option, but that would only help get Brexit party voters to support Bojo’s variation of Leave.

16. Bojo will lead the Leave campaign whether he is PM or leader of the opposition. He will sideline the Brexit party even more if his posturing as champion of the people against the establishment, big business, Courts and Parliament is not undermined by remaining PM as well being a Tory toff from Eton and Oxford. But Leave cannot win against both Remain supporters and Brexit party voters.

17. The best Bojo can do is to lead that campaign to glorious defeat since there never was a majority for a viable hard Brexit, let alone for one that breaks up the UK. That is still a plausible Tory plan since it would save some seats at the subsequent general election by sidelining the Brexit party.

18. Hopefully the Tory rebels will hold out for another referendum for Proportional Representation (PR) to be held at the same time. They could win that by simply keeping any government that allows legislation for PR in office by opposing any VoNC against it while blocking anything else happening. Eventually other Tories might also realise that they will save more seats from the Brexit debacle under PR than under the present unviable electoral system that resulted in their appeasement of the Brexit party. So far there is no sign of that, but I am still hopeful of more interest in PR as the true extent of the debacle sinks in and the Tory vote plummets.

19. Either way, it seems likely the two party system will not fully recover in one general election and the result will be another minority government. Most likely Labour supported by SNP and Libdems.

20. A Labour government could still drag out Brexit a little longer by keeping its manifesto promise to negotiate a soft Brexit within 3 months and put it to the people in another referendum with Remain as the other option. Again that could be self-executing. Even in unlikely even of Brexit party supporting Leave rather than denouncing Bojo’s deal as a BRINO, Remain would probably win. But it doesn’t matter much since staying in the EEA and Customs Union is indeed a BRINO that does no real damage and allows the EU to accelerate “ever deeper union” with the UK still part of the same single European market but no longer able to obstruct until it wants voting rights again.

Obviously many variations are possible but fundamentally Brexit was finished off by the EU agreeing to a deal that can easily be defeated at a referendum.

My assumption is that Bojo’s aim is to avoid Tory party extinction and what has been done to achieve that probably works better than other options. Their previous strategy was headed for extinction. Also I assume that threats of leaving with No Deal were never serious while others have been impressed by the energy put into those threats compared with the half-hearted bleating that “No Deal is better than a bad deal” from the previous government.

Others never took the danger of extinction seriously and have been mesmerized by what appears to be a strategy for gaining a Tory landslide majority that almost worked. But no serious party tries to win by completely absurd policies that it knows it cannot deliver in the hope that the opposition will agree to an election while it is ahead because the absurdities have not yet imploded.

Although I do believe many Tory supporters really are that stupid I don’t believe that was Baldrick’s cunning plan.

But curiously Downing Street does seem to have got carried away at one point and actually hoped they could trick the opposition into voting for a general election at a time when the promises had not imploded.

Bojo made two attempts to get a 2/3 majority for an election just before prorogation. Corbyn had been demanding a general election but refused (by abstaining) on the grounds that Bojo had threatened to set the date in November and leave with No Deal on 31 October. Nevertheless, Corbyn still blustered that he would move a VoNC as soon as the Libdems and Tory rebels agreed to support it (which they didn’t). The second attempt was after letting the Bill that ultimately forced the extension that will end Brexit through the House of Lords and Royal Assent, so as to end Corbyn’s excuse. Setting a date in November would not have worked since the law now required that the UK apply for an extension rather than exit with No Deal on 31 October as Bojo threatened. Corbyn and the House majority simply replied that they would wait until the extension was actually implemented, since they did not trust Bojo to even comply with the law as he had said he would rather “die in a ditch” than do so.

Baldrick’s cunning plan was to whip the Tory party in support of a VoNC against their own government and prorogue immediately after winning that vote so that no replacement government could win a VoC within 14 days.

If the opposition had not been prepared and disciplined that could have worked. Unless nearly everybody who had no confidence in the government actually voted to support the government, the VoNC would be carried by a simple majority consisting mainly of people who supported the government pretending to have no confidence in it in order to frustrate the purposes of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.

Having been defeated by a Tory VoNC Bojo would be able to recommend a Tory MP as replacement PM most likely to command the confidence of the House. The palace is desperate to avoid exercising its independent political discretion since Charles III will eventually be King. It would follow the Cabinet manual and accept the recommendation. After all the issue would ultimately be resolved by the people at a general election, which used to be the only real reserve power the Crown had, until it was removed by the FtPA.

The new Tory PM would not cancel the prorogation and so the 14 days would expire and a general election would be held on whatever date Bojo wanted. It would be interesting to know whether this booby-trap was intentionally placed in the FtPA when the Cameron government agreed to it as part of its coalition with the Libdems.

A date in November would make Bojo’s threats of No Deal look credible. Especially if this had been done before the Royal assent to the extension legislation.

Exactly the same agreement that the EU rushed through in a week could have been reached then and it really would have looked as though Bojo had triumphed by threatening No Deal. He could have won the general election.

But the opposition was prepared and disciplined. That was shown by the first attempt to get 2/3. There was no way to get a simple majority even if the Libdems had supported a Tory whip for a VoNC to get a GE at a time good for them even though it “accidentally” would have also helped Bojo deliver Brexit. The second attempt was just point scoring so that Bojo could call Corbyn a chlorinated chicken big girl’s blouse coward for refusing an election. There was no longer any hope of the plan succeeding so no point refusing assent or wasting a weekend trying to prevent the extension legislation going through the Lords instead of just scoring a point. There is more to tell about that but I’ll leave it for later.

Interestingly this whole episode has not been discussed publicly although the opposition must have been aware of it. They have not yet followed up on demands for all documents related to what amounts to an attempted coup d’etat. Perhaps things have just been moving too fast to explain the complexities. My most recent article in this series was on September 3, and I hoped then that there would be a break from Brexit for six weeks until the House resumed sitting in mid-October. But “events, dear boy, events” intervened and I certainly haven’t had time to write about it while keeping up with events.

Among the events were the three court cases arising from prorogation. Nothing was said about what it was really about in any of the three judgments. But the final judgment from the Supreme Court was quite extraordinary and suggests that all 11 were unanimously quite spooked by what they presumably had understood was going on.

The English High Court made a rather routine ruling that prorogation was not justiciable. That follows precedent but no longer corresponds to the actual modern situation with the evolution of judicial review and the withering of the Crowned republic. They even claimed that the seventeenth century reliance on the Crown’s need for Supply and annual renewal of the legislation maintaining disciplined armed forces was still sufficient protection from abuse of prorogation. They were simply leaving it up to the Supreme Court to pronounce on the modern view. But they clearly were not alarmed by the Pantomine outrage.

The Scottish Inner Court of Sessions reached the astonishing conclusion that prorogation is unlawful if its purpose is to stymie Parliament. The factual conclusion as to the obvious uncontroversial. By then they may have also known what was really going on.

But the legal analysis was absurd. Prorogation is almost a synonym for “stymie Parliament” – that was the historical point of it – to avoid Executive accountability to Parliament during an emergency. A long prorogation was last used for that purpose at the outbreak of the Great Depression when the Labour government split. Its replacement did not have the confidence of the House and there was fear of holding an immediate general election. The Crown considered that an adequate reason for prorogation.

In addition the Scottish judgment decided that since the advice to prorogue was unlawful the prorogation itself was null and of no effect. It could have simply said the prorogation was ended forthwith. But that would not have been a foundation for undoing any side effects of prorogation as would have been necessary if for example Baldrick’s cunning plan had worked and as a side effect a general election date had been set after the expiry of 14 days from a VoNC.

The Supreme Court decided:

1. Prorogation, like pretty well any other prerogative power these days, is justiciable. That is uncontroversial.

2. “For present purposes, the relevant limit on the power to prorogue is this: that a decision to prorogue (or advise the monarch to prorogue) will be unlawful if the prorogation has the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive. In judging any justification which might be put forward, the court must of course be sensitive to the responsibilities and experience of the Prime Minister and proceed with appropriate caution.”

That sounds uncontroversial but it effectively means the Supreme Court has appointed itself Regent to decide on behalf of an incapacitated monarchy on how to exercise its few remaining reserve powers in which it is not bound by Advice from the Ministry. This makes sense because the palace is in fact no longer capable of taking a discretionary political decision as to whether a request from the government has “reasonable justification”. The palace just does what it is told. Somebody has to take such decisions or the PM of the UK has the powers of an absolute monarch, unlike the Chief Minister’s in any other country that has inherited the Westminster system or any democratic republic with an elected head of state.

3. “The third question, therefore, is whether this prorogation did have the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”

In fact Parliament had explicitly legislated, in the “Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019” to specify the precise dates on which it could not be prorogued so that it could legislate regarding Brexit or replace the government. It explicitly left a gap for the summer recess and the government prorogued during precisely that gap.

The outrage about the government proroging then was purely Pantomine. I explained details of that on August 29:

The Parliament adequately demonstrated that it was not frustrated or prevented from carrying out its constitutional functions by actually legislating to ensure an extension of the Brexit date during the first of the five day intervals it had specified. Then it did nothing at all when it was dragged back from its conference recess by the Supreme Court decision.

The Supreme Court simply ignored the facts presented in open court. I assume it knew of the other facts about an attempt to seize power by frustrating the FtPA.

4. “The next and final question, therefore, is what the legal effect of that finding is and therefore what remedies the Court should grant…. The prorogation was also void and of no effect. Parliament has not been prorogued.”

So if anybody tries it again and there are side effects those side effects can easily be nullified.

This judgment has had a possible effect on the outcome despite the sheer irrelevance of the sittings of the Schrodinger’s Parliament “that has not been prorogued” in which it merely continued to reject anything proposed by the government while not replacing the government nor agreeing to a general election.

Prior to that judgment it would be reasonably safe to expect that Bojo would resign as the optimum response in item 13 above. But now, what is widely assumed to be a judgment taking away the government’s power to prorogue actually makes it less likely that Bojo could risk resigning because it is now more likely that prorogation could be used for the explicit purpose of temporarily avoiding Executive accountability to Parliament.

What if Corbyn was not a chlorinated chicken big girl’s blouse? As soon as he was appointed PM he could immediately prorogue briefly to prepare a Ministry and a Queen’s speech to outline his legislative program as usual. While Parliament was prorogued the Privy Council could seek a declaration from the Supreme Court as to whether a longer prorogation of a couple of months would be lawful with the following “reasonable justification”.

1. There is real doubt whether the new PM commissioned by the palace on the recommendation of the former PM will be able to command the confidence of the House.

2. The UK faces a major national crisis over Brexit which could destroy the Union and has dragged on for three years.

3. The majority in the House is agreed on a policy of resolving that crisis by giving the people a Final Say on Brexit at a referendum followed promptly by a general election.

4. But the majority of the House is not agreed on anything else much and no government has been able to pass significant legislation for a long time. Disputes over who should head the government could result in a general election being forced contrary to the purpose of the FtPA.

5. The crisis will be resolved faster if the government is able to prepare the legislation for a referendum during the period of prorogation and then put it to Parliament and then hold an early general election approved by a 2/3 majority as intended by the FtPA.

6. Otherwise there is a danger of a general election being held contrary to the purpose of the FtPA in ordeer to prevent Brexit being resolved by the people and likely to produce another Parliament that will remain deadlocked and unable to resolve it.

I wonder what brooch the Chief Justice would be wearing when giving judgment on that. Last time it was a spider reminding people of the saying:

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”.

Brexit – And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards November to be aborted

For background, see previous articles in this series:

David Gauke, one of the leaders of the Tory MPs opposing a No Deal Brexit has written an article at “Conservative Home” explaining why “Parliament must stop a No Deal Brexit this week”. My response is below:

David Gauke: Why I believe that Parliament must stop a No Deal Brexit this week

Fine, Parliament steps in. On Tuesday 3 September it takes control of the agenda. By Monday 9 September legislation to make leaving only with a deal the default will have passed both Houses, with much sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Then what? There are still several days before prorogation by Thursday 12 September. Those days could be far more interesting. If Bojo is really determined on a “People v Parliament” election, assent will be refused. That would be more difficult if he had already been made a caretaker PM by an ordinary Vote of No Confidence (VoNC) not under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FtPA). The legislation is a matter of confidence, whether declared to be or not. The proper response of the government would be to propose an election. Since Bojo has openly threatened to pre-empt any decision by the people by setting the date in November and refusing to apply for an exension he won’t get the 2/3 majority of all MPs.

But a VoNC could still be moved under the FtPA, perhaps by Bojo himself. The Libdems have the same interest in a general election with Brexit still unresolved and could support it. It could succeed. No problem. It is still not too late to replace the PM.

But prorogation can occur at any time in those four days, for example immediately after a VoNC and before any Humble Address to HM to dismiss Bojo and appoint some named MP as PM. So the election proceeds.

If the House majority is serious it needs to replace Bojo as PM first. That is how the Constitution is supposed to work. The House replaces governments it has no confidence in. It does not legislate to block their core policies.”

Here’s a confusing and incomplete list of possible outcomes, also at “ConservativeHome”:

What will happen in the Commons this week? Here are 15 possibilites. They are not exhaustive…

This week the UK Parliament should actually be interesting instead of the usual rituals in which a government majority routinely proceeds with business while an opposition minority remonstrates ineffectually. A minority government faces a split opposition majority determined to block core government policy. A likely result is legislation that changes the default from leaving the EU without a deal on October 31 unless there is a deal to not leaving unless there is a deal. That reverses everything about Brexit and inevitably leads to either No Brexit or a BRINO. The legislation may or may not be accompanied by replacement of the PM, a date for a general election before or after October 31 and various court orders, none of which matters as much as the fact that No Deal will be blocked. The rest can be dealt with later.

The Tory whip has declared such legislation a matter of confidence and threatens expulsion of any Tory MPs that fail to support the government. But there are enough retiring anyway to defeat the government and others could become extremely unwell and unable to attend the House. The threat implies that Bojo is actively demanding to be replaced as PM. Other measures to that end have included:

1. threatening to respond to a VoNC by pre-empting a subsequent general election on Brexit by setting the date after a No Deal Brexit has already happened on October 31

2. inciting hysterics about proroging the House

It is plain that Bojo knows he never had the confidence of the House and will be blocked by it. But why is he so desperate to be replaced as PM? Well, given that he cannot actually deliver Brexit and he was chosen to sideline the Brexit party he desperately needs credibility as heroic leader of nearly all Brexiteers fighting to the end, so that Farage has less success in splitting the Tory vote at the eventual general election. Tnat should save some Tory seats from the debacle.

Corbyn has offered to support the 2/3 majority needed for a general election under the FtPA, but since Bojo sets the date and said he would pre-empt the decision on Brexit by holding the election afterwards, that would presumably depend on the legislation blocking a No Deal Brexit having been assented to. I cannot think of any reason why the government would actually want to face a general election having failed to resolve Brexit and still stuck with no plan. Only the Libdems and the Brexit party benefit from that. What both government and opposition really want is for Brexit to be resolved by a “Final Say” referendum before any general election, but they cannot admit it.

My guess is that the week will end with Bojo still left roasting in that special place in Hell for Brexiteers without a plan, despite his best efforts. Corbyn and Hammond are both a lot less tactically inept than Blair assumes.

The middle of October could be more dramatic, but that’s a whole six weeks away so I’ll write about it after this week is over.

The process will be far more interesting than usual because with the Tory party split there are more than two parties and a non-deterministic outcome. There are many possible variations and the sound and fury could include expelling disruptive government MPs and contemptuous Ministers from the session with background noise from the Courts. Unfortunately it seems unlikely that anyone will be locked up in the Tower pending trial and the crowds outside will probably not engage in unlawful drilling in the use of arms to defend democracy.

The last time such parliamentary politics was not entirely pre-determined in Australia was when there were three factions at the convention called to propose a model for a Republican constitution. The Monarchists, who wanted an Australian “Head of State” to confer dignity on the local poliltical class were out maneuvered by the Traditionalists who preferred to keep such symbols entirely out of politics, safely on the opposite side of the globe, and the Republicans who wanted some relevant change rather than pretense.

Actual political conflicts debated through public institutions could be normal in both the UK and Australia as well as the U.S.A. and others stuck with a two party system inherited from medieval England if they managed to overcome resistance from the two parties that benefit and establish a fair electoral system with Proportional Representation (PR). That could even lead to serious public debate over actual policies between a full spectrum of viewpoints if mainstream politics was not completely bankrupt. But even in the current state of mainstream politics it would slightly open up opportunities for other views to get a hearing, as in most of Europe where PR is the norm.

In the current political crisis over Brexit there could be real public debate about sovereignty, national identity, globalization and ever deeper union, free trade, looming trade wars, stagnation and economic crisis etc.

Instead the entire time available will be spent on not discussing Brexit at all, but devoted to procedural sound and fury signifying nothing. But this too is worth analysing as it reflects a profound shift towards populist mobilization to resolve splits in the establishment under constitutional mechanisms that were supposed to ensure a conservative and a reformist party would rotate in government, each delivering their supporters to accept compromise policies in order to win over the voters in the middle and thus win a majority of single member seats to be able to govern, That arrangement has facilitated periods of relatively rapid change led by reformists, followed by consolidation and digestion of the changes so that they become the status quo defended by conservatives. Its breakdown opens up potential involvement of much wider layers than the “political class”.

Usually reformists focus on Parliament rather than street protests. Now that Parliament is briefly interesting, of course they are doing the opposite. If there was an organized left, it would be using the street protests to mobilize the participants to actually reach out to others and canvas every home and workplace in every region to win over those still not convinced. Instead they are talking to themselves, or rather shouting to themselves, rather hysterically, and just sneering at the large numbers still taken by Brexiteer fantasies. The pseudo-left populism united with “the establishment” and “our Parliament” is no more progressive than the right wing nationalist populism united against “the establishment” and “their Parliament. Both are led by different factions of the establishment and being set against each other to divide potential mobilization that could actually challenge the establishment.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;” but neither can the rough Beast be born.

Still, things are happening, which enables more people to start thinking for themselves.

Brexit – Pantomime Outrage

Just a quick update on the latest news about prorogation.

For background see recent articles in this series:

Tory Remainers insist on attempting to legislate against a No Deal Brexit and only replace PM Bojo as a very last resort.

Meanwhile Bojo is stuck roasting in that “special place in Hell” for Brexiteers without a plan. He has even been pretending that the EU are about to cave in to his “threats” of damage to the UK, but the obstruction from Parliament might be holding that up.

It is getting quite ridiculous so he is trying to get the House of Commons to hurry up and sack him by proroging Parliament – and telling them in advance so they know they need to sack him now.

HM has duly obliged by proroging Parliament so that it only sits on four less days than the dates it was scheduled to sit anyway. This has outraged the House majority but it is unclear whether they will sack Bojo immediately next week or wait until the Queen’s speech in mid-October after their recess for party conferences, as they still have not agreed on a replacement PM. Not replacing Bojo would result in him setting the election date for November pre-empted by a No Deal Brexit on 31 October.

The “outrage” is entirely synthetic. It is completely proper to require the House to replace the government with a government it has confidence in rather than continue the farce of legislating against the policies of a government it has no confidence in.

This pantomime has been going on since the 2017 elections when the government lost its majority. The government knows it has lost control of the House and is correctly demanding that the House replace it.

The House majority already legislated to ensure that it would be able to meet despite any prorogation except around exactly the window that was provided for the prorogation just announced with great fanfare by Bojo and greeted with mock surprise and outrage by his opponents.

Whether or not prorogued the house meets within 5 days of September 4 and fortnightly from October 9 till next year.

The list of sponsors of the amendment ensuring that are the same as the leaders of the majority:

That legislation was given the Royal Assent on the same day that Bojo was commissioned as PM (and at the same hour).

The House majority can replace the PM at any time it chooses. If it chooses not to, it will rightly be held jointly responsible for the consequences.

The pantomime outrage is purely for the benefit of the Tory Remainers who need to be able to say they had no alternative when they do finally pull the plug on this zombie government with its undead Brexit.

Brexit – four parties dancing and falling to bits

Rebel Tory MPs did acquiesce in Bojo becoming PM so there is now a loose canon in 10 Downing Street.

But the Brexit saga will still be effectively over before October 17. See my previous articles in this series on Brexit:

Bojo has done rather well in achieving a bounce in the polls, by adopting the No Deal policies of the Brexit party, while Labour and Libdems remained fairly static with a resulting net shift to:

Con 31%, Lab 21%, Libdem 19%, Brexit 14%, Green 7%, SNP 4% (Scottish Nationalist Party)

That is still 45% voting for parties committed to Brexit even with No Deal, and 55% for parties opposed.

But Bojo cannot deliver Brexit because he does not have a majority in the House. So a high proportion of Tory votes will return to the Brexit party after Bojo’s promises to deliver on October 31 implode. For example if 8% gave up on a Tory Brexit the result would be Con 23%, Brexit 22% – more like the situation at the start of July, before the Bojo bounce.

Labour also wants to get voters back from Libdems by opposing No Deal while not losing them to Brexit party by actually becoming a Remain party. It is likely to get a substantial swing back from the Libdems because Bojo is fully committed to “No Deal” and Labour can now wholeheartedly oppose that without alienating its Leave supporters. For example an 8% swing back would produce Lab 29%, Libdem 11% – more like the end of April, before the EU elections.

In addition, the extremism of Bojo’s adoption of the Brexit party’s “No Deal” could move some Tory voters out of the pro-Brexit camp entirely, either to not voting or to the Libdems. With the Libdems no longer competitive, a Tory swing to Libdems would lose Tory seats to Labour rather than to Libdems.

The combined net result could still be near extinction of the Tory party as looked plausible at the time of the EU elections. Only a detailed regional and seat by seat analysis of polls after actual campaign launches could hope to provide a reasonable prediction but things look much worse for Tories than for Labour if Labour successfully blocks a “damaging Tory No Deal Brexit”. Things certainly look a lot better for Tories than before Bojo, but they could look a lot worse again after his bluster implodes.

The media on both sides are convinced that Bojo is determined to jump off the “No Deal” cliff edge on October 31 expecting to win an election around the same date. That is absurd, but it has nearly all the journos quite mesmerized. The election will be held after Brexit has been “resolved” by a “Final Say” referendum. How long after would depend on the opposing inclinations of an unstable agreement among rebel Tories, Libdems, Labour and SNP.

Bojo’s tactics can be understood as aiming to keep as many Brexit party voters as possible to save as many seats as possible by defying the majority in the House and getting sacked. It’s an unusual strategy for a conservative PM but these are strange times. The point is that only by getting sacked can Bojo heroically lead most of the Brexiteers to glorious defeat in the inevitable “Final Say” referendum. Otherwise Farage could still be leading too many of them for the Tory party to survive. If nobody else will do it he will move to sack himself.

Labour now wants to avoid an early general election but cannot admit it.

Tories need to be stopped from carrying out their promises by being sacked, but cannot admit it.

Libdems now have more need for an early election than for stopping Brexit but cannot admit it.

Brexit party needs Bojo to stay as PM and sell out Brexit, but cannot admit it.

There is a huge churn of both the Labour and Tory parties gaining and losing either Remain or Leave voters to both the Brexit party and Libdems, depending on which way they lurch and which way the others lurch.

In this complicated dance of totally unprincipled opportunists in four parties, the UK political system is falling to bits. It was designed for two parties each delivering their supporters to accept compromise to win elections from their opponents.

Bojo desperately needs a “Final Say” referendum to be “forced” on him. May had to resign after admitting a second Brexit referendum was inevitable so Bojo is putting up a quite convincing show that he would rather jump off the cliff-edge of “No Deal” unless restrained. Furthermore he has threatened to pre-empt using a general election to stop him. If defeated in a Vote of No Confidence (VoNC) he would supposedly refuse to resign and instead schedule any general election for AFTER a “No Deal” Brexit had already happened by default on October 31.

Thus the most practical way to restrain Bojo is to replace him as PM with a temporary minority government holding a “Final Say” referendum before a general election. That is what he wants. But he is having to practically demand it as his opponents are such limp jellyfish.

The UK press is getting hysterical about a “Constitutional Crisis”, joined by some constitutional lawyers:

Can Boris Johnson ignore parliament and force a no deal Brexit?

It is unclear whether the majority against Brexit in the House will continue to “exhaust every other alternative” before finally doing the Constitutional thing.

But in the end the House has to simply replace the government with one it has confidence in. The problem is that hardly anybody in the UK has confidence in any of the parties, including their MPs.

Is it too late to stop a no deal Brexit?

This government has already lost the confidence of the House of Commons: the response should be to replace the government, not to neuter parliament

Apart from any such “exhausting”, the most likely sequence of events seems to me as follows (with many possible variations, all of which lead to a “Final Say” and no Brexit):

1. Corbyn could move an ordinary no confidence motion in early September. This does not trigger a 14 day deadline leading to a general election. It simply removes the authority to govern from Bojo who becomes a caretaker PM with a duty NOT to resign until the palace is able to determine who is most likely to command the confidence of the House.

The government has an official working majority of 0, with quite a few Tory MPs likely to support this first step even if they do not want to go further. (Perhaps between 40 and 100). Naturally this possibility is not even mentioned in the media, which is talking only in terms of a VoNC under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FtPA) that triggers an early general election. Alternatively Corbyn could do as the media expects and still get a (smaller) majority with a tighter deadline. Either way negotiations for a replacement government would need to happen in advance. Those negotiations are proceeding right now.

2. The current state of the parties means the palace would have to wait until the House tells it who has its confidence to commission as PM. The Libdems will try to bring on an early election by refusing to support a temporary minority Labour government on the grounds that they cannot accept Corbyn as PM. But ultimately their members cannot allow a No Deal Brexit so they will have to agree on a replacement government. Tory MPs opposed to Bojo’s No Deal might also try to get a cross-party government formed under some other PM. I think the likely outcome is the natural one for the Leader of the Opposition to become Prime Minister. This does matter for the coherence of any party system but does not really matter for the outcome on Brexit.

Can Boris Johnson ignore parliament and force a no deal Brexit?

3. One mechanism for telling the palace who to commission would be for MPs to sign competing “Early Day Motions” nominating different candidates for PM. Theoretically the palace could pick the motion with the largest support and that might not be Corbyn. But it is far more likely for the palace to wait for an actual majority vote expressing the choice by the House, perhaps in a “Humble Address” to HM the Queen. Either way this could drag on for quite a while, with Bojo still roasting in that “special place in Hell” for Brexiteers without a plan, and with business getting increasingly panic stricken about “uncertainty”.

4. Bojo could and probably would pose as the people’s champion against a recalcitrant Parliament by moving for an early election under the FtPA. This would need a 2/3 majority of all 650 seats. But Labour has more than 1/3 and Bojo has already given Labour the perfect excuse to refuse on the grounds that Bojo cannot be trusted not to pre-empt the outcome by setting an election date after the Brexit deadline of 31 October and not applying to the EU for an extension.

5. Bojo could then move a VoNC under the FtPA against his own government. That only requires a majority to trigger a 14 day deadline and might well succeed in speeding things up, with much drama. In any case the House would need to agree on a replacement PM and tell the palace before about October 17 or Brexit would go ahead with the MPs who refuse to agree on a replacement sharing joint responsibility with Bojo for “No Deal”.

6. Optionally Bojo could choose to be dismissed by the palace rather than resign, for added effect.

The Guardian, like the Daily Express, is quite excited about this possibility because it would just be silly and they are both rather silly.

7. If there is a VoNC under the FtPA the House would be dissolved for a general election after 14 days unless a replacement government won a VoC. Most likely the Libdems and Tory rebels would end their posturing, perhaps by simply abstaining. Labour plus the SNP has 282 MPs which would outnumber the 321 Tory + DUP MPs if 40 Tories abstained (ignoring all Libdems, Independents and the Green). It would be possible for a different replacement temporary PM to be chosen depending on unknowable negotiations among the factions. But that would only add to the atmosphere of “establishment stitch-up”.

8. Whoever is PM would be heading a very temporary minority government that could collapse immediately after obtaining an extension from the EU. Far more likely it would last long enough to legislate for a “Final Say” referendum. Assuming it is led by Corbyn it could theoretically attempt to reopen negotiations with the EU by ditching the previous UK “red lines”. But it would make far more sense to leave that to election promises for an incoming Labour government than to get stuck attempting it with no majority in the House. Either way the Brexit saga would be effectively ended by the decision before October 17 to hold a “Final Say” referendum.

9. The referendum timetable could take several months but the result would certainly be a rejection of “No Deal”.

10. Any general election held after that would not primarily be about Brexit although the Tory party would still be confronted by an angry Brexit party for having failed to deliver and would lose heavily. The Labour party would recover some, but not all the votes it lost to the Libdems by equivocating about Brexit. Quite likely there would be a minority Labour government dependent on support from SNP and/or Libdems. There could still be four parties competing in a two party electoral system. Proportional Representation will be very much on the agenda although it would be much easier to achieve if the Tory party woke up to its situation while it was still the largest party in Parliament but already in opposition to a minority Labour government supported by Libdems who would still support PR.

11. No predictions beyond this point are worthwhile. But any subsequent “Brexit” would most likely only be a pointless BRINO that would still be subject to a confirmatory referendum which should be rejected by Leave voters as a BRINO and by Remain voters as pointless.

Brexit – stumbling towards a “Final Say”

Apologies for the long delay in updating this series of posts on Brexit:

Essentially the situation has not changed since my last post on 1 June:

It is still clear that Brexit cannot run much past October 31 and either a general election or a second referendum must be scheduled by then to end it.

A “Final Say” referendum will end Brexit either before or soon after a general election. Delaying until after a general election would be welcomed by two of the four major parties now contesting UK politics, the Brexit party and the Liberal Democrats – both of which would gain a lot of seats from both the Tories and Labour. As the latter are the largest two parties in Parliament they are both trying to avoid a general election until after a second referendum so that Brexit has been resolved by the people first. The Labour leadership has been endlessly denounced as inept but so far they have skillfully avoided interrupting the Tory party as it tears itself apart and have not offered it any easy way out from the Dead-Ends it faces.

The failure of Parliament to resolve Brexit is the main basis for the rise of the two parties that lead the polarised debate between Leave and Remain – the Brexit party and Libdems.

A roadmap spelling out this reality was launched jointly last Tuesday by Tory and Labour MPs supporting Remain in a “Final Say” referendum:

Here is the full text, worth studying closely as the media prefers to focus on dramatic posturing about a “No Deal” or “Cliff-Edge” Brexit that has in fact already been blocked.

“Six Dead-Ends, One-Cliff Edge, Only One Way Out”:

Labour will have to eventually allow the “Only One Way Out” – a “Final Say” referendum. But they have successfully prolonged the agony and can still to do so while the Tories continue to be disrupted by arguments between Major Tactical Blunder and General Confusion.

Neither of the two largest parties in the House of Commons admits the current reality yet. Labour’s current leader still hopes to be able to force a general election in September under more favourable conditions. The Tories are totally paralysed and incoherent and still pretending to believe in various wildly implausible fantasies concerning the magical powers and Brexiteer intentions of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, aka Bojo who is about to be elected leader of their party.

Unfortunately I still see no sign of the Tory party waking up to the fact that it is still the largest party in the House of Commons and could introduce a referendum for Proportional Representation at the same time as the “Final Say” on Brexit. That would save them a lot of seats at the eventual general election and avoid the likelihood of becoming “extinct” as the Canadian Tories did after comparably disastrous blunders reduced them from a governing party to just 2 seats. More importantly it would open up UK politics a bit. But they are either astonishingly thick or very clear about the dangers of the public actually becoming engaged in discussing policy issues.

Bojo’s self-confessed lack of self control and death wish makes him ideally suited to the role of Tory party leader presiding over its extinction, but completely unsuitable as a Prime Minister.

The Ham of Fate

This means a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing can be expected over the next few weeks. I still would not rule out the possibility of Proportional Representation being taken up. The UK Parliament has now been paralysed by Brexit, with no working majority in the House of Commons for two years since the 2017 general election. That ought to be terminal for the famous “stability” and “decisiveness” provided by a two party electoral system.

Bojo received 114 votes of Tory MPs in the first ballot on 13 June. The top two candidates selected by MPs, Bojo and Jeremy Hunt are currently being voted on by about 160,000 party members. Surveys show that most of them would prefer Nigel Farage, founder of the UK Independence Party, but he is now CEO and majority shareholder of its successor, the Brexit Party Limited, trading as the Brexit Party.

Their second choice will be Bojo. The result has been almost certain since 13 June. For Bojo not to be one of the top two candidates the other two would have needed 115 votes each for a total of 344 Tory MPs but there are not that many.

According to the newspaper Bojo writes for:

“The winner, and new Prime Minister, is expected to be announced on (Tuesday) July 23. The following day, (Wednesday) July 24, Theresa May will speak at her final Prime Minister’s Questions before heading to Buckingham Palace to resign as Prime Minister to the Queen.”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministers will resign to Theresa May on Wednesday before she resigns.

It is widely expected that Labour would then move a Vote of No Confidence (VoNC) against HM Government led by PM Bojo on Thursday July 24. That is not only the first but effectively the last opportunity until September due to a Parliamentary recess.

However there are some good reasons to not expect that, as explained here:

Another reason it might not happen, not mentioned by the Guardian, is that it might not be possible if Bojo has not in fact become PM despite pretty well everyone assuming that is a foregone conclusion since he will be leader of the government party.

Two events that ought to occur might not occur, in which case Bojo does automatically become PM as the media currently assumes.

1. Not even two of the many Tory MPs intending to save their seats by joining the Libdems may announce their resignations from the Tory party before Bojo becomes commissioned as PM. If they did resign, the Tory party leader would cease to have even the pretense of a majority in the House and replacement of its leader should not automatically result in the new leader becoming PM.

2. The palace might not perform its constitutional function as outlined in Chapter 3 of Anne Twomey, “The Veiled Sceptre”.

See also a more recent study by constitutional experts specifically addressing the current situation:

Six constitutional questions raised by the election of the new Conservative leader

See also the consequences of the “Fixed Term Parliaments Act”.

See also related news report:

It is widely known that Bojo does not command the confidence of the House, although not yet known whether anybody else does or whether he might still be the person most likely to do so as leader of a minority government composed of competing delusional fantasists and backed by a “Confidence and Supply” agreement from the Ulster Protestant “Democratic Unionist Party” (DUP)..

Despite being a Crowned Republic rather than a Constitutinal Monarchy, the palace does have to exercise its own discretionary powers to commission as PM the person most likely to command the confidence of the House.

In current practice, the UK Cabinet Manual suggests that the outgoing PM should advise who that person is and their resignation should not be accepted until the palace is able to choose a successor. But that is merely recommended because the idea of the staff of an antiquated hereditary Monarchy exercising a political discretion is uncomfortable.

This proposal to eventually become a constitutional convention was drawn up by the Cameron government, which also undermined the foundations of the Westminster system of government by introducing Fixed Term Parliaments alongside Prime Minister’s not supported by the MPs of their party in Parliament and plebiscites such as the spectacular disaster for Brexit.

The Constitutional position in the UK is still that it is the independent and discretionary duty of the palace to decide who is most likely to command the confidence of the House. The discretionary exercise of this function by the local representative of the Crown has frequently been necessary in modern times in many countries as a result of no single party with a clear leader having a clear majority in the local legislature.

The point is that the government must be funded by supply from Parliament and a PM who is not most likely to secure that should not be commissioned. In the UK and most legislatures inheriting the Westminster traditions only the confidence of the lower House is needed for supply. In Australia and some States the upper house can also block supply and the Crown prerogative has also been exercised to commission governments that do not have the confidence of the lower house in order to maintain supply during a dissolution for elections. That is not relevant in the UK where the upper house has no say in supply and the Crown has no discretionary power to dissolve Parliament for general elections.

If Therese May continues to perform her duty as a Privy Councillor she would have to advise that she does not know whether Bojo can command the confidence of the House. Independently the palace should have reached that conclusion already.

One option would be to offer Bojo a conditional commission to test whether he has the confidence of the House.

That possibility is suggested by a constitutional expert in this news report:

A better approach, suggested by other constitutional experts, would be for the outgoing Tory party leader and caretaker PM to move a “Humble Address” for the House to advise that Bojo has its confidence and should be commissioned as PM.

If either or those options is adopted it is still possible that Bojo would become PM. Sufficient Labour MPs desperate to avoid a general election.could abstain to counter the lack of support for Bojo from many Tory MPs.

Former Labour PM Tony Blair has just published an appeal for them to do so in the Times. Its behind a paywall so I have only looked at this description:

Ostensibly Tony Blair is urging Bojo to agree to a “Final Say” referendum between “No Deal” and “Remain. But his argument that the alternative of a general election would be taking advantage of Labour’s weakness is obviously aimed at a different audience.

Anyway, if a vote does not confirm that Bojo has the confidence of the House, no replacement for the current caretaker PM could be commissioned until the House does indicate to the palace who is most likely to have its confidence. There would be no 14 day time limit for negotiations as there was no VoNC.

There is now full coordination on blocking Bojo between Tory, Labour, Libdem, SNP and Independent MPs as shown by the list of sponsors of the amendment to block prorogation adopted with a 41 vote majority.

This remarkable nullification of the Executive’s power to prorogue Parliament was carried out by a complex ping pong process between the caretaker Government, the Speaker of the House, the Commons and the Lords. It indicates a very high degree of coordination, perhaps sufficient to be preparing for a cross party government. Certainly adequate for taking control of the legislative agenda whenever desired.

The amendments touch on the Royal prerogative and technically require a more specific “Queen’s consent” which was not actually announced to the House and might not be announced to the Lords before the Bill finally passes through on Monday 21 July.

But when the routine Royal assent is promptly rushed through before Bojo becomes leader of the Tory party that will both complete the amended Bill becoming law and confirm that the caretaker government and the palace are fully coordinating measures preparing to deal with a loose canon at 10 Downing Street.

So there could be quite a bit of drama very shortly unless either rebel Tory MPs or the palace acquiesce.

If they do acquiesce there is likely to be even more drama for months, perhaps with billions wasted on preparations for “No Deal” and weird contortions as the parties dance around their mutual fear of a general election. But unless both parties actually do want to face the people with Brexit unresolved the only way they can avoid it is by a “Final Say” referendum. It would be up to Bojo whether he accepts being “forced” into that as PM or gets replaced by a cross party coalition government to do it. Potential PMs could be Hammond from the Tories or Keir Starmer from Labour.

If unexpectadly “Remain” loses again the UK would Leave the EU but I expect it would still end up having to remain in the EEA bound by the same rules and with no more say in making those rules than Norway or Iceland.

But any further drama full of sound and fury will still signify nothing.

Far more important is the long term effect. On the one hand the right wing nationalist forces in Europe have already given up on breaking up the EU because of the Brexit debacle and the UK now has a significant mass movement in support of ever deeper union, unlike any other country in Europe. On the other hand tribal divisions and bitterness have been intensified in the UK in a way that ultimately helps the ruling class avoid confrontation with a unified working class despite the hostility towards the establishment. There is quite a bit of research being done about that – eg:

It is too early to see how this plays out in the coming global storm. But I have found watching the British right-wing damage themselves with Brexit much more cheering than watching the US right embed itself as the liberals continue talking to themselves.

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”:

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.

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.

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.

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.

Details with regional breakdown:

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”.