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%

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brexit – could it result in Proportional Representation?

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

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

Yesterday I wrote:

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

A poll on May 13 had Tories in fifth place!

1. Brexit 34%

2. Labour 16%

3. Liberal Democrats 15%

4. Greens 11%

5. Tories 10%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Brexit – Remain still winning, as is Labour

A few weeks ago I said:

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

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

A poll on May 13 had Tories in fifth place!

1. Brexit 34%

2. Labour 16%

3. Liberal Democrats 15%

4. Greens 11%

5. Tories 10%

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

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

These figures are reported by the Guardian as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brexit – “Remain has won”

Comment by Tory MP on hearing this news: “Remain has won”.

Brexit extension to October 31 with UK participating in European elections. Details here

Click to access 10-euco-art50-decision-en.pdf

1. UK will participate in European elections at end of next month, immediately after the celebrations for the birthday of St Rita, patron saint of impossible causes.

2. UK Independence Party previously led by Nigel Farage was largest UK party in European parliament followed by smaller Labour and Tory parties in elections based on proportional representation within regions similar to Australian Senate. Very low turnout that was mainly of people annoyed with EU since others didn’t care. UKIP now led by far right thugs will be largely wiped out. Brexit party led by Farage will do well and Tory party will be severely damaged. Both pro and anti-Brexit wings of Labour will have to run on a campaign which commits to a “Final Say” referendum. There will be a big turnout of Remain voters and clear majority for Remain.

3. Customs Union supported by Corbyn won’t be accepted by May. Even if went through Parliament cannot change Withdrawal Agreement.

4. Only remaining option is the Withdrawal Agreement being subjected to a “Final Say” confirmatory referendum. New October 31 deadline allows adequate time for referendum and inadequate time for anything else to emerge.

5. No chance of referendum accepting withdrawal agreement opposed by both “Leave” and “Remain”. Lots of Leave* voters will not turn up.

6. Further details murky but Remain has won.

Some earlier discussions among Tories are rather interesting.

That last item has important information on likelihood of new parties emerging. There is a real possibility of the proportional representation being introduced by the Tories before the next general election as they face near extinction under the present system.

Naturally the precise timing and details of the twists and turns between now and the already known end result cannot be predicted with any certainty.

I am using an unusual grammatical tense that descriibes an inevitable future as though it is already present – as with Marx’s:

Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.

Or the road runner “runs of the cliff and crashes to the ground” as caption to a long scene in which legs are spinning in mid air at the same height as the top of the cliff with no downwards movement and no crash – yet.

Or “the US Democrats and liberal media focus on exposing the Trump as a Kremlin asset and when that doesn’t work out well for them go for changing the climate by printing money and lose bigly”.

Does anyone know the name of this grammatical tense? Perhaps “future present”?

PS Trump’s 51% approval to 47% disapproval does not seem to be an outlier. Same for three of the last four days Rasmussen polls of likely voters. For 9 April it was 53% to 45%.

PPS (sigh) * Fixed typo “Lots of Remain voters won’t turn up”.

Note: added 2019-04-12

There is a significant difference between the texts of the widely reported EU27 meeting’s “conclusion” linked above and the final text agreed by the EU28 including the UK concerning participation of the European Parliament elections:

EU28 decision European Council decision taken in agreement with the United Kingdom, extending the period under Article 50(3)TEU

(10) …In the event that those elections do not take place in the United Kingdom, the extension should cease on 31 May 2019.

EU27 conclusion:

(3) If the United Kingdom fails to live up to this obligation, the withdrawal will take place on 1 June 2019.

Presumably the change to a milder tone was requested by the UK Government to emphasize that the UK does not need to be threatended to comply with its legal obligations and participation in the European election was forced on them by a recalcitrant Parliament rather than by the EU.

Theoretically it opens up the possibility of Brexiteers further demonstrating their intransigence by trying to prevent acceptance of any statutory instruments needed to hold the elections under UK law rather than under an order to comply with European Union law from the European Court of Justice.

Of course the actual result of doing so would not be a “no deal” exit on 1 June, but another demonstration of their isolation and impotence.

Still, they are not known for tactical brilliance and it is interesting that, so far as I know, there has been no attention paid to the milder decision, than the widespread assumption from the conclusion that a hard Brexit on 1 June would be fully automatic if the UK did not comply with its legal obligations.

Brexit – from blustering and blithering to outright gibbering

Greg Sheridan seemed to have shut up for a few days after another specacular failure to get anything at all right about Brexit.

Previously he thought a “no deal” Brexit and “no Brexit” were equally likely. Then he just said only one thing was certain, Brexit “has a long way to run”.

Yesterday (Wednesday 2019-04-03) he returned to the fray. Now he thinks “there is a real prospect of a general election”.

She (the Prime Minister) hopes these threats (of a general election) will get her thrice -rejected deal over the line, on the fourth or fifth try.

He got that out just in time to be proved wrong the very next day.

In the same issue of The Australian, Janet Albrechtsen at least had the sense to not make stupid predictions. She doesn’t mention that her side has lost, but does tacitly indicate awareness of the real situation by fantasizing about the past instead of the present or future:

May’s other infernal error was not preparing the ground from the start for a no-deal Brexit. Given almost three-quarters of MPs voted to remain, May should have anticipated mayhem in Westminster. By banking on a no-deal Brexit she could better have forced agreement from remoaners….

May offered no explanations … of how a no-deal Brexit can, in the longer term, deliver a thriving UK, untethered from European bureaucracy and rules, trading independently like a Singapore of the north.

Albrechtsen is vastly more intelligent and perceptive than Greg Sheridan (to damn her with faint praise). But even if she believes that “untethered” stuff herself, she ought to understand that May, like most of the British establishment, does not share her views. Why does she imagine that the UK Prime Minister, who was one of the three-quarters of MPs who voted to remain, would try a “forced agreement” from three-quarters against the view she shares with them rather than carefully and systematically isolating the one-quarter whose policy she opposed (who unfortunately comprise about half of her own party)?

Nearly two years ago, after the last UK general election I wrote the first article in this series:

Even the Economist is blithering that May’s campaign for a hard Brexit has been rejected but there are no grounds to reverse the referendum result.

My recollection is that May opposed Brexit and was given the job of recovering from Cameron’s blunder. She was forced to abandon the pretence that Britain could become the only member of the single market that did not comply with free movement of labor. There never was an option for “soft Brexit” nor any preparations for a “hard Brexit”.

So I assume there will now have to be a second referendum to cancel Brexit. The only reason I think this might be worth mentioning is that none of the articles I have read agree.

I documented subsequent twists and turns heading inexorably towards this outcome in detail under the same category heading here:

Nearly two years later, some journalists have started to notice what has certainly been blindingly obvious for weeks and months, if not for more than a year.

Even CNN now mentions:

Senior figures in both main parties raised the prospect of a second referendum to obtain the British public’s backing for any deal — and to offer the choice of remaining in the EU.

In fact this item basically gets it right:

“The Brexit dream might be fading”

I had “Brexit Danger Fading” last year:

Different perspective and less certain, but CNN is now reaching roughly the same conclusion nearly 6 months later.

But of course another item at CNN just blithers:

Accusations of incompetence are levied at her by the hour.
However, it is just about possible to see that the prime minister may finally get her own way on Brexit — with a few tweaks. Ironically, this could be happening in the same manner she won the contest to become prime minister nearly three years ago — due to all other contenders falling by the wayside.

Firstly, lawmakers fighting for a soft Brexit deal lost a crucial vote yesterday. The motion to allow a third opportunity to hold indicative votes on alternatives to May’s Brexit deal was defeated by just one vote.
The original vote was a tie, and as a result the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, had the casting vote and went with the government. Lawmakers had already had two chances to back alternative options and could not reach a majority on anything. That route is now closed off, making May’s deal more likely.

[Actually it had become pointless since May had agreed to present options to Parliament and abide by the outcome.]

Secondly, the prime minister has embarked on a new strategy of seeking consensus with the opposition Labour party, through talks with its leader Jeremy Corbyn, which could lead to her normally rebellious Brexiteer MPs (members of Parliament) coming round to her deal….
From May’s point of view, she can use these talks to pursue a double-game: Show soft Brexit and remain-supporting lawmakers that she wants to build a more moderate consensus, but also scare Brexiteers into backing her original deal out of fear of something “worse.” Those two ministerial resignations were triggered by that Brexiteer anger.

[Ignores the fact that lots of Tory Remainers who voted for the deal when they could rely on Brexiteers to block it would join them and Labour to vote against their party whip if that became necessary. A dozen did so recently on the vote that was almost tied even though it wasn’t necessary. The Brexiteer anger is about knowing that they have lost.]

Thirdly, a no deal is becoming increasingly unlikely — meaning, again, May’s deal emerges as a stronger possibility.

[She already convinced Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson that they would never get “no deal”. That still left 58 votes short despite them humiliating themselves. Only some journalists have actually believed “no deal” was still possible since then (though others may still pretend).]

Mentions referendum only as something opposed by both May and Corbyn. Doesn’t mention that May has no other options left and that Corbyn would lose his seat as well as his leadership if he allowed a Brexit agreeement without a referendum since his party and constituency are overwhelmingly for a “Final Say” vote.

Some useful background on Corbyn’s position is in this New Statesmen article although expressed as congratulations to him for his wise choice in accepting having been defeated by Labour Remain supporters.

The Guardian, is also hopeful that there is now a “slim chance” for a referendum. (Presumably their campaign for it was in the same spirit of utter hopelessness as with climate change or “Not In Our Name” rather than intending to win).

The BBC maintains its more traditional “wobbly lower lip” focus on “sticking points” blithering about various reasons why an agreement would be unlikely with no mention of a referendum:

The latest developments include the government and opposition agreeing to work for an extension that will require UK participation in EU elections and passage of a (basically pointless) Bill requiring the government to seek that extension from the EU.

That makes it pretty hard to just keep on blustering and blithering about any other possibility than a referendum on the “deal”. So now we get outright gibbering.

Here’s WAPO’s gibbering:

It leaves the country in an extremely perilous situation. The government’s latest wheeze, expressed in a statement from May on Tuesday night, is to extend Article 50 again and try to bring opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn on board to see if they can find a deal that works for both Labour and the Conservatives.

But even this attempt, which shows an openness the prime minister has not exhibited before, faces the same problems: If the plan does not include a People’s Vote, Corbyn loses a chunk of his supporters, inside and outside Parliament. If it includes a soft Brexit, those People’s Vote types still won’t support it, and May loses most of her own party in the bargain. Whichever way you look at it, political puritanism makes the mathematics of a Brexit majority hard to imagine.

The country is stuck, frozen in indecision. Parliament is reenacting the end of “Reservoir Dogs.” And still the clock ticks mercilessly down. Puritanism has provided no answers whatsoever, except pain and failure. Unless MPs quickly rediscover Britain’s tradition of pragmatism, things are about to get very ugly indeed.

That spells out very precisely the mathematics of a Brexit majority, which have been obvious for a very long time. Instead of the last paragraph one would expect a simple conclusion following the second paragraph:

“Therefore the most likely outcome is a “Final Say” People’s Vote on the Withdrawal Agreement already negotiated with the EU”.

At the very least one would expect an analyst who disagrees with that rather natural conclusion to explain why not. Instead they just gibber.

Here’s The Economist with more measured gibbering, but likewise spelling out the positions that point to the obvious compromise but resolutely ignoring the implied most likely outcome without any attempt to explain why.

Here’s Nick Miller gibbering in today’s The Age, under headline ‘Unity’ Brexit bid reeks of failure:

No mention at all of the most likely outcome, even to explain why he thinks it is not worth mentioning. Instead:

Apart from anything else, the UK still has the power to unilaterally revoke Brexit if, at the last, that is seen as a better option than plunging off the cliff of a “no-deal” Brexit.

And this all may have been a cunning plan by May to focus Brexiteer minds on the alternatives, swinging them behind her original deal.

If not, all May’s announcement on Tuesday may have achieved is spreading the blame for a no-deal disaster on April 12.

Its hard to understand what is going on, but somehow the politicians who kept insisting that they must avoid participating in the European elections (next month) because it would spell out the end of Brexit bullshit, have still not admitted that is precisely what will now happen.

Officially, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are negotiating how to achieve a short extension until the birthday of St Rita, patron saint of impossible causes, which is May 22, the day before European elections so that the UK won’t have to take part. The political parties and the electoral commission are officially only making “contingency” preparations for actually holding the elections because current law says the UK will not be in the EU then as the current exit date of April 12 has not yet been changed.

But the EU already specified and has repeatedly reminded everyone that any extension beyond April 12 will require participation in the elections.

So everyone actually following the Brexit saga does know. Here’s the details:

But that doesn’t stop them from simply not mentioning it and pretending they are working towards an exit before May 22.

It ought to stop anybody else from believing the pretence. But it certainly hasn’t stopped them from gibbering.

Details of the drama requiring the Prime Minister to seek an extension she has already admitted to needing are here:

If in fact the Government wished to defy both overwhelming votes and basic survival instincts by not requesting an extension the Bill would have no effect. It would simply be refused assent or more politely, not presented for assent in time. It is reasonable to assume the House of Lords will be able to adopt it in time, even if they have to stay up all night, as they are about two to one in favour of doing so. But cabinet ought to refuse assent anyway, just to remind people that responsible and accountable government requires a Parliament to confer confidence only on Ministries that it supports rather than issuing daily instructions on precisely what motions a Ministry it has no confidence in must propose in Parliament. That would also add some drama right up to the last moment this Wednesday, which is hardly sustainable by merely spouting gibberish.

The only point of the Bill is that it has provided a convenient way to avoid more embarassing displays of Parliamentary impotence with “indicative votes” instead of no confidence and a general election.

Theoretically it could also have had the effect of getting journalists to stop gibbering about the consequences of “no deal”. Its too soon to tell but I doubt they can stop. For example, instead of just explaining that the Bill is a distraction, we get expert gibberish arguing that it is also “dangerous” as it could add to the (imaginary) danger of “no deal”.

Here’s a collection of philosophers gibbering learnedly about the democratic solution to Brexit:

Only the last of them has a clue:

Silete theologi in munere alieno!” (Trans: “Silence, theologian, where you do not belong!) -Gentili (Italian humanist lawyer telling the Papists just where they get off, 1588 AD).

Of course nothing can ever be certain.

Especially when The Economist manages to make even their call for a referendum indecipherable by tacking it on at the end of some stream of consciousness gibberish:

This may be the result of alarm about the collapse of mainstream politics into a far right nationalist populist Tory party against a pseudo-left populist Labour party. A plausible description of that is here:

But it seems safe to say that when the PM and Opposition Leader agree on the obvious this will appear to the gullible as miraculous as pulling a rabbit out of a hat after first having put it there while misdirecting the audience to look the other way.

Here’s the Director of an “Institute for the Public Understanding of Politics” using exactly that expression about rabbits and hats to express his confidently and expertly helping the public understand that he does not have a clue:

Its interesting that he has essentially the same incomprehension of May’s successful tactics as Janet Albrechtson. But being on the opposite side he blames Theresa May for having gone “too hard” instead of “not hard enough”.

It takes real skill to convince all one’s opponents that they are much smarter than you are while defeating them.

Brexit blustering and blithering

I had better post this now. Cabinet meetings are now being livestreamed to a Financial Times journalist who just tweeted at 2200 Melbourne time:

Political cabinet is discussing how to try and get the Brexit deal through the Commons. One option to be discussed is whether it could get through with Labour votes if a confirmatory referendum was tacked on. Surprisingly little hope of getting of the DUP back on board.

Here’s what I drafted before seeing above.

It isn’t just Australian journalists demonstrating complete incomprehension about Brexit.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative at Brexit negotiations just announced that a no-deal Brexit is “nearly inevitable”. This is a substantial escalation from the usual vaguely menacing talk of “increasingly likely with each day”, which accurately describes a slow increase from 0 over the 10 days till latest revised deadline.

The other deadline for an orderly exit on 22 May, birthday of St Rita, the patron saint of impossible causes, has already gone. So the likelihood does indeed increase daily from near 0 now to 100% on April 12 if there has been no decision to participate in the European elections by April 12. But it remains close to zero since the UK Government has made it absolutely clear it will do whatever it takes to avoid crashing out without a deal, as endorsed by an overwhelmingly majority of the House of Commons. It only jumps suddenly to 100% if that last day arrives without a decision to participate in the European elections and request for a postponement.

Ireland has made no preparations for a no deal Brexit because they have a good understanding of British politics. Angela Merkel is dropping by to urge them to at least join in the pretence of being worried. But why should they?

It is natural for EU as well as UK politicians to be striking dramatic poses for the journalists and equally natural for journalists to be joining in the dramatization.

But surely there would be some British journalists with analysis pointing out the obvious. Even though Australian journalists are fully clueless, why wouldn’t some British journalist want the kudos of having got it right?

It is pretty hard to maintain the drama under a headline that reminds everyone that a long postponement is available instead of a “no deal” crash by simply calling a general election or a referendum and explains that the EU would be even happier with ANY of the softer BRINOs considered in Parliament than it is with the deal already agreed:

Since “no deal”, a general election and ANY of the softer BRINOs under consideratin would be immensely damaging to the governing party the remaining option of a referendum on their version of BRINO is a foregone conclusion. But as far as I am aware NOBODY ELSE IS SAYING SO.

Here’s The Guardian’s inimitable Simon Jenkins fantasizing:

The “Leave”campaign is too busy being outraged to actually explain that they have lost.

The “People’s Vote” campaign is too busy whipping up fear of “no deal” to explain that they have won.

This news item is relatively sane:

It accurately reports facts about aspects of the referendum “compromise” that is being prepared. But it doesn’t actually analyse by explaining that the idea of cabinet accepting a referendum on customs union is sheer fantasy and the whole point of the exercise is that cabinet will inevitably have to agree that the only way for the deal they want to be even considered is via a referendum.

Here’s a roundup of the blustering and blithering from The Independent:

Here’s the BBC blithering:

Here’s The Guardian’s roundup of European incomprehension:

Finally, here’s the Guardian’s live stream including above tweet:

Brexit – exhausting the alternatives

Greg Sheridan seems to have shut up, but fear not, Fairfax’s Nick Miller provides equally incompetent “analysis”.

“So now we come to Brexit Plan B”, The Age, Sunday 2019-03-31 p26. Online at:

“The best-case Brexit scenario could still happen. It probably won’t.”

Includes final sentences omitted from The Age after “Quite the pickle”:

… As one anonymous Labour MP told The Times:

“When the result was announced and the government motion was rejected, I didn’t remotely feel like cheering. This isn’t a game and there are no winners. We come back on Monday.”

Also on p26 from Nick Miller:

“Three-time loser May plans fresh showdown”.

This quotes an unnamed cabinet minister, asked why May had brought on a vote she knew she would lose: “F— knows, I am past caring, it’s like the living dead in here.”

Actually it is quite obvious why. Not only have charlatans like Boris Johnson humiliated themselves by voting for a deal they correctly said was worse than remaining in the EU, but they are also now stuck with nothing to campaign about in claiming “leadership”. Everybody now knows that “no deal” won’t happen and within the next 10 days the UK will have to decide on participating in the European elections and request a long extension. That unambiguously settles the final outcome – no Brexit.

By “everybody” I do not of course include journalists, as demonstrated by the above article continuing in Greg Sheridan’s tradition of invicincible incomprehension.

Goldman Sachs should also be exempted. They still only estimate a 40% chance of no Brexit, 45% chance of a modified deal being approved even after a long extension with participation in the European elections and 15% chance of a crash out with “no deal”.

Unusually, The Guardian has a relatively sane list of 5 possibilities despite concluding “there is no plan” in the face of a well executed plan to exhaust all other options and reach “No Brexit”:

Each of the 5 scenarios considered as a “way out of chaos” is described as having “pitfalls”.

It is of course hard to work out precisely what route will be followed to the conclusion that necessarily follows from the large majorities in both major parties who agree with overwhelming majorities in minor parties and a smaller majority of the public now in favour of Remain. This is difficult to follow in detail because apart from the minor parties most of the politicians are publicly committed to pretending that they are trying to implement the referendum  to Leave. So everything they actually do has to be presented as just “chaos”.

But its worth going through the list of scenarios and “pitfalls” to understand why things have developed exactly as I said they would and are likely to continue in the same direction. I won’t repeat many of the less important pitfalls mentioned in the article.

1) Parliament tries to force May’s hand by agreeing an alternative Brexit plan

Pitfall: (Not mentioned) even if there was a clear majority for the most widely supported alternative (Customs Union) there is simply no way cabinet could be forced to hand this victory to Jeremy Corbyn when they have the easy alternative of accepting the offer that has already been made by Labour to put their deal to a “confirmatory” referendum (where it will be rejected). Brexit to a Customs Union would be far worse for the Tories than simply being defeated at the referendum.

2) May brings her deal back

This could theoretically be successful against worse alternatives such as a customs union (especially if combined with an irrevocable threat of immediate snap election).

“If May wins it is game over. The UK would leave on 22 May.”

Pitfall: (Not mentioned) But it would not be “game over”. Masses of legislation would be required and at some point an “accidental” victory would be reversed by tacking on “subject to confirmation by referendum”. A point to watch for is whether the government introduces the statutory instrument for participation in the European elections before any such further attempt. That needs to be done before April 10.

3) MPs vote for a second referendum

Pitfalls “There is limited Tory support for a second referendum, and considerable opposition to it on the Labour benches. Many MPs fear that it will cause a public backlash and a loss of faith in British democracy. There are also fears it would deliver another close result which would leave the country as divided as it is now.”

Above is the reason for “exhausting all other alternatives” first. But having done so there is nothing so easily punctured as an outraged backlash against being allowed to take a vote. The embarassment is purely because the leaders of both parties spouted this nonsense.

There is little fear of a close result when the choice is between Remain and a BRINO exposed as significantly worse than Remain by its own advocates. The Remain voters will turn up but many of the Brexit voters will just stay home, “outraged”.

4) No deal. Parliament fails to agree and we crash out

Pitfalls (As correctly stated by the article). “In reality, the EU will do everything it can to avoid no deal and the vast majority of MPs will too. Even if May has no plan to put forward on 10 April, the EU will still probably give the UK more time.”

5) May tries to call an election

That could well happen, especially as it could enable the Tory MPs to choose a leader quickly to fight the election rather than risk Boris Johnson being chosen by  the general membership.

Pitfalls. Tories would suffer greatly (as the article states).

Items 3 and 5 both guarantee an extension with a fork in the road away from Brexit by participating in the European elections. A general election now severely damages the Tories and prolongs the agony while still having to end up with a referendum eventually. Agreeing to the referendum before 10 April will be much easier for the government to “reluctantly accept as a compromise as the only way to get the deal through despite parliamentary obstruction” and is what they have in fact been working towards.





Brexit – straws in the wind for UK election

I have ignored the possibility of a UK election because it requires a large number of Tories to vote for losing their seats.

But as it is the only thing not being bloviated about at the moment it is worth further consideration.

There are some recent reports of government discussions about possibly calling an election and recent statements by May opposing everything else that might happen on the grounds that she is obliged to support the manifesto she was elected on. She didn’t hint at any possibility of calling an election and all the bloviating has been about her untenable position with demands to resign immediately with no particular replacement or plan in mind.

Now that cabinet has lost control of Parliament the traditional procedure under the Westminster system would be to either replace the government or replace the parliament.

Parliamentary politics has become so ritualistic under the two party system enforced by single member electorates that they have fogotton the basis for their rituals. Recent changes from the Westminster system have produced a “fixed term” Prime Minister until December and a “fixed term” Parliament until 2022. This absurdity is now confronted with deadlocked decisions that must be resolved within 3 weeks.

One way or another, the UK will request an extension beyond April 12, which requires participation in the EU elections in May. That is a major fork in the road away from Brexit which will split the Tory party and outrage a lot of blowhards.

I still think the most likely way, after exhausting all other options, will be to accept the proposed Withdrawal Agreement deal, subject to confirmation by a referendum.

But another possible way is for the Government to propose an early election and whip sufficient Tories into supporting it for there to be the two thirds majority required. Getting two thirds against a government whip would be impossible. With government support it would be easy.

The EU would of course grant an extension on that basis.

Some of May’s more “inexplicable” behaviour could be explained, as could the defeat of a vote to force a recall of Parliament if no deal within 7 days of deadline.

May’s speech blaming Parliament for the mess helped defuse the efforts to blame the EU at her own expense from the viewpoint of MPs. But it also sets the stage for having been forced by Parliament to hold elections for Members of the European Parliament despite a referendum to withdraw and insisting that the UK Parliament must itself also face elections.

Either way, I don’t see any long delay between the next (long) extension and a final decision for No Brexit after holding European Elections.

Brexit – successful confusion

That was quick. The EU has avoided any need for another meeting this month by spelling out the full timetable:

1. When current “deal” is not accepted next week, automatic extension till 12 April which provides only a couple of weeks for actual preparations to minimize damage from automatic “no deal” Brexit on that date.

This is calculated to maximize panic at prospects of crashing out unprepared and thus reduce numbers of Labour MPs from “Leave” constituencies who might have voted for May’s deal.

If the Tory Brexiteers were as stupid as people think it would influence them in the opposite direction by lifting their hopes for “no deal”.

However they already know that “no deal” won’t happen and many are still likely to humiliate themselves by voting for BRINO.

More importantly, it sidelines Corbyn’s waffle about alternative forms of BRINO and ensures rapid agreement on a long delay with participation in the EU elections. Anybody voting against that will be voting to crash out with no preparations so the vote will be overwhelming. This will end up with Brexit supporters in both major parties outvoted at elections centered on the issue of Brexit and will pave the way to referendum even if referendum is not adopted immediately.

2. When UK changes course to put forward new proposals (eg referendum) and decides to participate in European elections before 12 April the EU will offer a long extension.

3. In the highly unlikely event that the UK Parliament accepts the only deal available next week there will be an automatic further extension for actual exit on May 22 to finalize necessary legislation (or run around in panic reversing the decision). European Parliament will then be elected without continuing British obstruction.

Of course above is NOT the way they expressed it. Here is the actual text.

Here is the CNN report of that text:

Here is the Financial Times doing its bit to maintain belief in the absurd idea that May might intend to crash out with no deal.

Here’s the Guardian insisting that she was just incompetently drifting rather than “exhausting every alternative” to staying in the EU:

The only thing unclear is whether there will even be time wasted on a third vote to reject the deal, and preliminary vote to allow considering it yet again, given the urgency with which they will have to decide what to do next. My  guess is there will, just to humiliate the maximum number of Tory Brexiteers.


Notes on Trump 43, Nazis and Brexit both sides losing

1   Brexit dramatization is still being scripted despite outcome having been done and dusted during the Ides of March. Current scheduling seems to be a pointless request for a delay till end of June on the basis of hypothetical successful third attempt at getting deal through Parliament that didn’t happen today. That seems to be intended to be postponed by the EU until an emergency meeting around the day before deadline expiry so as to maximize the number of Tory Brexiteers who might humiliate themselves by voting for BRINO in fear of the obvious alternative. That alternative seems to have been scheduled for April Fools day when  the UK gets offered a choice between spending the next two months actually preparing for “no deal” or agreeing to a referendum.

The EU will have been maximally cooperative with the UK Government seeking to get the deal approved. Only the usual suspects will keep claiming failure of Brexit is their fault rather than a British decision. May will have kept her promise to fight till the bitter end and will be able to blame the hard Brexiteers for forcing the long delay followed by no Brexit. Corbyn will have fought against a “Tory Brexit” still valiantly holding open some hypothetical unspecified alternative and only reluctantly accepted the referendum for no Brexit. But there will, as has been obvious for a long time, be no Brexit.

Here is quite a good analysis on the eventual referendum:

Key point is that the parliamentary maneuvering does not include a positive campaign to convince people in favour of European Union.

Opponents have been out-maneuvered but Corbyn would not fight in the first referendum and won’t fight now. It is tactically smart party politicking for him to let things drag out while the Tories discredit themselves without alienating Labour supporters that voted to leave or the large majority of Labour members who want to remain. Likewise Therese May is being denounced as hopelessly incompetent by the people she has been very competently isolating in the Tory party. But both sides are unprincipled. Resentment could still do long term damage even when Remain gets a large majority as a result of their opponents not bothering to vote for BRINO.

2. CNN has acknowledged that Trump’s tactics on the wall have worked out for him:

Also they have started paying attention to voters rather than polls counting everyone.

Their polling confirms Trump lost no support and is back to 43% approval among voters (42% including non-voters).

The preference for Democrats among non-voters is actually much more than the 1% they have noticed.

Rasmussen polls voters daily and is still running closer to 50% (today’s 47% approval, 52% disapproval)

3. This is also a good analysis on Democrat tactics against Trump from a right-winger helpfully explaininng Trump voters to CNN:

Fascinating that they are so far gone Trumpists feel no hesitation about telling them how to do better.

They are still rabbiting on about Trump’s imminent doom from the Mueller inquiry but my morbid fascination that led me to read past the headlines of “explosive” new revelations has faded.

4. This book has some useful background on neo-Nazi fringe lunatics in Australia and how they repeatedly promoted and encouraged terrorist acts with exactly the same mealy mouthed denials of doing it and the same liberal defence of their “free speech” right to keep doing it as we are seeing now. (58MB pdf book)

After a series of violent attacks on Vietnam and anti-apartheid protestors, and Communist bookshops – actively encouraged by the Special Branch of the police, and attacks on Jewish businesses permitted for recreation, they were forcibly shutdown in Melbourne in the early 1970s by joint action of the Worker Student Alliance and Jewish ex-servicemen. Their HQ was destroyed and subscription lists captured. Their sponsors were visited personally and advised that “we know where you live”. They left town.

The account in the book above is very garbled, and omits most of the facts about them being shut down. But it accurately quotes the denunciations in favour of “Free Speech” from “The Age” and hostility to the protests from Zionist dominated Jewish Board of Deputies.

Does not mention that the police started committal proceedings for riot. Eventually abandoned when they realized a jury would be unlikely to convict.

The terrorist violence nearly half a century ago did not extend to mass murder. It would have if they had been tolerated and “censured” as similar elements are being tolerated and “censured” today.