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:

https://c21stleft.com/category/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)

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/8i9x45cenq/TheTimes_190806_VI_Trackers_w.pdf

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.

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/speaker-cant-guarantee-mps-can-stop-no-deal-brexit

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

https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Endangering-Constitutional-Government.pdf

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.

http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN06941/SN06941.pdf

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.

https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/current-state-of-the-parties/

https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2019/august/the-uk-s-flexible-constitution

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”.

https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/edms/

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.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/07/could-the-queen-sack-boris-johnson-the-experts-are-divided

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:

https://c21stleft.com/category/brexit/

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

https://c21stleft.com/2019/06/01/brexit-has-greg-sheridan-actually-noticed/

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.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_next_United_Kingdom_general_election

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

https://www.peoples-vote.uk/new_report_-_a_people_s_vote_is_the_only_viable_and_democratic_route_to_end_the_brexit_crisis

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”: http://bit.ly/2Y87LtG

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.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Johnson

The Ham of Fate

http://gen.lib.rus.ec/fiction/?q=Seventy+Two+Virgins%2C

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.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/07/21/tory-leadership-result-date-conservative-contest-race-tuesday/

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:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/19/johnson-likely-avoid-immediate-confidence-vote-if-pm

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”.

https://doi.org/10.1017/9781107297845.004

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”.

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubadm/1813/1813.pdf

See also related news report:

https://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/evening-standard-comment-may-s-last-decision-could-be-her-most-important-a4174446.html

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.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cabinet-manual

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:

https://news.sky.com/story/why-next-tory-leader-may-not-become-pm-on-wednesday-and-could-face-early-general-election-11768040

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:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7271621/Tony-Blair-warns-Boris-no-deal-Brexit-catastrophic-demands-second-referendum.html

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.

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2017-2019/0425/amend/ni_execform_pro_ccla_0718.1-2.html

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.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen%27s_Consent

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:

https://doi.org/10.5964/jspp.v7i1.981

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”:

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”.