Surveillance Society

This is currently my only means of communication. After concluding that my phone could have been stolen (incomprehensibly while I was sleeping and with no other sign of intrusion) I took a half empty tram to the city and bought a $89 Telstra Slim Plus as the quickest way to keep in touch, try to find it if has mysteriously hidden itself and turned off regular alarm times and as spare phone for emergencies so I won’t have to deal with Telecos while sick even if it does turn up.

Convinced that Telstra would have a nightmarish registration system online I proceeded to the nearby Telstra shop cnr Bourke and Swanston with my phone and driver’s licence to have it activated while I wait and asked for the form. Told there was no problem but also no form and a “consultant” would assist. Some time later while reading the papers, at 13:39 I was told (without asking) “won’t be long now”. At 14:07 a “consultant” quickly and efficiently established that I simply wanted the phone activated without going online and went off with the phone and driver’s licence.

At 14:23 she returned and told me the phone was “activated” presenting me with the used SIM card container showing the mobile number and a message on the screen inviting me to send a text message. I returned to base to attempt catching my previous phone in hiding by tempting it to make a noise anywhere near me when I call or text it from the new phone. But first I entered a couple of phone numbers in the contact book to get back in touch. On calling each of them I got the message “this number cannot be reached at present from this service” or something equally uninformative.

So at 16:47 I gave up and texted “Hi” to my new number and duly received the message at the only number that CAN be reached with my “activated” phone. So I then had to go through exactly the procedure the “consultant” had spent 15″ pretending to do. But first I had to go online by turning on mobile data and clicking the link for “Activation”. That ensures that purchaser’s of new Telstra phones will set “mobile data” on so they can be billed for more than just making calls. Then I entered a 13 digit SIM card number from the cardboard container after carefully analysing the two different 13 digit barcodes and correctly identifying that the one with ON at the end must be the right one since the N is just to maximize confusion and is not a digit.

The purpose of this is presumably in the hope that I would have thrown away the cardboard SIM card number as completely useless since the SIM was already in the phone and registered to Telstra.

So much for Telstra. Now comes the government surveillance. I knew what to expect and had therefore taken my driver’s licence on the tram trip. Naturally everybody is required to continuously notify the three closest teleco antennas of where they are at all times when their phone battery has not been removed from the phone and this needs to be linked with other surveillance IDs such as driving licence. So I entered the name, address and date of birth shown on my driving licence.

This was completely unacceptable. I was further required to choose between “Mr”, “Miss”, “Mrs” or “Ms”, none of which is on my driver’s licence, compelled to retype the address omitting the “c/o” in front and compelled to provide an email address. Then had to choose between “Prepaid Max” and “Long Life”. There is a 47 page booklet “Telstra Pre-paid Welcome Guide” which I may consult later.

I knew I would have to provide a working email address since the online form would send a verification message and would not activate the phone without me answering it. This is a standard convenient way of handling the common problem of people needing to reset passwords etc after forgetting them and is particularly convenienent for correlating online activity with movement and phone calls as well as for Teleco spam. So I gave them my working gmail address and was told I would get a confirmation email in 4 hours. GOTCHA!

So a completely pointless 4 hour delay was imposed in which I could not search for my missing phone or make other calls. It isn’t even like the banks adding days of delay between accepting cash and adding it to an account because they keep the interest on the “float”. Nor does it serve any government surveillance purpose I can think of quickly (though perhaps others have given it more thought). Seems to just be Telecos being as irritating as possible. Perhaps as further punishment for using a pre-paid account instead of getting a “Customer ID” and linking in all financial transactions for surveillance.

Anyway, off I went to the park to finish reading the papers, honestly thinking that I would just be able to click on the email link without further hassles. OF COURSE NOT.

Google told me “Account Action Is Required” and then at 19:56 “Your password was changed 14 hours ago”. Same on both Tablet and Laptop. So either Google changed it or my phone WAS stolen. No problem, Google had kept insisting that I provide them with a phone number for verifying changed passwords, which is convenient both for solving that problem of verification when unable to access email and for ensuring that email addresses and phone numbers are tied together in both directions for surveillance. So I did.

AND NOW I AM REALLY STUCK. Since Google can only reset the password when verified from my old phone and the thief has the phone, Telstra won’t activate the new phone. I assume I will now have to call Telstra at some functioning number hidden towards the end of the 47 page booklet and then sort things out with Google later. First a good nights sleep.

Meanwhile, in case my access to this WordPress blog disappears I could start using another WordPress blog on the same account at: or else: which is now owned by Microsoft and also tied to my gmail account.

Naturally this is while dealing with covid-19 situation.

My phone has gone into hiding

Could anyone that sees this and has my phone number, please start repeatedly sending (tiny) text messages alternated with phone calls until it rings out to answering machine, while I hunt for it.

It is currently Friday 2020-03-20 at 12:30 pm and I am in the room where I expect to hear a very short whoosh from msg arrival (or less likely a nice long ring tone which it randomly chooses not to do).

First, please post a comment here so I know you are doing that and post another when you stop. (I will see these by email and delete or update this embarassing post when phone found or I give up and go out).

My phone was last seen in the company of another phone I carry only for listening to text to speech books. I am certain they have not escaped from the building and are hiding somewhere inside but I expected to hear a 12 noon alarm from the TTS phone in the room where I expect them to be hiding and I expected to hear it if it was in any other room. So I am very much hoping for a noise from the working phone. I remain certain they are somewhere in the building, for good reasons. Thanks.

covid-19 Over 70s must self isolate for 4 months. Scientists demand immediate “social distancing”


He said older people would be “shielded for their own protection” and that the plan would be announced, with further details, when the time was right.


Don’t wait for the government to get around to this “big ask” in a few weeks. The danger of infection is doubling every few days and the number of Intensive Care Units cannot do so.

Here’s the introduction to the first of two references attached to a statement signed by over 400 scientists demanding immediate “social distancing”.

With everything that’s happening about the Coronavirus, it might be very hard to make a decision of what to do today. Should you wait for more information? Do something today? What?

Here’s what I’m going to cover in this article, with lots of charts, data and models with plenty of sources:

  • How many cases of coronavirus will there be in your area?
  • What will happen when these cases materialize?
  • What should you do?
  • When?

When you’re done reading the article, this is what you’ll take away:

The coronavirus is coming to you.
It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly.
It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two.
When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed.
Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways.
Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die.
They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies.
The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today.
That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now.


The second link is a:

Warning from Italy

Covid_19: Open letter from Italy to the international scientific community

As you surely know, Italy is suffering a dramatic spreading of the coronavirus.

In just 3 weeks from the beginning of the outbreak, the virus has reached more than 10.000 infected people.

From our data, about 10% of patients require ICU (Intensive Care Unit) or sub ICU assistance and about 5% of patients die.

We are now in the tragic situation that the most efficient health system of the richest area of the country (Lombardy) is almost at its full capacity and will soon be difficult to assist more people with Covid-19.

This is the reason why an almost complete lockdown of the country has been ordered: to slow down and hopefully stop the contagion as soon as possible.

The virus is spreading at maximum speed, doubling the number of infected people in just 2,4 days[1].

As it emerges without a doubt from the data available, all the European countries are in fact experiencing the same rate of contagion speed and that they are just a few days behind on where it is Italy now [2].

The beginning of the outbreak had the exact same number of infections in China, Italy, and other countries. The difference is that China strongly and quickly locked down Wuhan and all of the Hubei region 8 days before Italy [3].

Just 8 days of delay for the Italy lockdown will result in an enormous increase in the number of total deaths in Italy with respect to China.

This exact same initial dynamic in the number of new cases can also be observed in every country outbreak.

It’s hard for non-specialists to intuitively grasp the way an exponential rate increase can get out of control.

So it’s very difficult to realize the tragic consequences that an exponential growth can have in a contagion like this one.

As a scientist, you surely do understand it. You do also understand that, as long as the rate of increase is exponential, no linear solution to contrast it will work (I.e. increasing x times the number of ICU machines, etc.)

Similarly, just imposing a limitation on people from staying together in large groups is not a sufficient solution.

This is an appeal to you, as a member of the scientific community, to urge your government to act now for actively stopping the virus!

In most EU countries you have enough time to make a lockdown similar to China or South Korea to quickly slow down and stop the contagion with much less effort and cost of what is now needed in Italy.

If Italy had strongly acted just 10 days ago, and that is more or less where you are now, there would have been much fewer deaths and economic tumble.

South Korea and China should be taken as the example to follow to stop this epidemic.

There is no other way.

So please, make your best effort to urge your government to act now! Time is our common enemy as the virus is very fast and really lethal.

Every minute is exceptionally important as it means saving lives. Don’t waste it!

Take care.


Here’s the statement from scientists:


Click to access UK_scientists_statement_on_coronavirus_measures.pdf

Linked from BBC report:


Here’s a sympathetic account of the UK government’s case for delay:

I’m not competent to comment on the optimal time for “social distancing”.

The scientists statement is clearly initiated from mathematicians expert at modelling. But the expertise required for these decisions is in epidemiology.

However it seems bloody obvious that whenever the peak should be, or will be, older people (and others with severe health problems) need to avoid infection until AFTER the peak, when there are again intensive care units available. That may be a lot longer than 4 months and many may not be able to do it. But the “time is right” to be told now.


covid-19 update Sunday 2020-03-15

Please note the article to pass on is the earliest of the three in this series all tagged covid-19. It highlights the collapse of intensive care in Italy that makes it essential to mobilize for social distancing immediately without waiting for government advice. The links provide authoritative information:

“covid-19 – Don’t Panic – Do Self Isolate”

Since that article a national information campaign HAS now begun in Australia:


Spain goes on lockdown; Italy tops 20,000 cases

Spain’s government today announced a lockdown for the whole country, which begins on Mar 16, affecting 46 million, El Pais reported today. The order, slated to last 15 days, allows people to leave their homes to buy food and medicine, to work, and to care for minors, the elderly, and other vulnerable people.

Behind Italy, which is also on lockdown, Spain has the second most cases in Europe and now has 6,391 cases and 195 deaths, according to RTVE, the country’s public broadcasting network. The country’s main hot spots are Madrid, Catalonia, the Basque country, and Andalusia.

Meanwhile, France, stopping short of a lockdown, announced sweeping new measures today, temporarily shuttering all public places except for food stores, pharmacies, and gas stations, and urging people to stay indoors as much as possible, France 24 reported. The country has now reported nearly 4,500 cases, 91 of them fatal.

Elsewhere, Italy’s health ministry today reported 3,497 more cases and 175 more deaths, raising its respective totals to 21,157 cases, 1,441 of them fatal. Germany now has 3,795 cases and 8 deaths, according to the latest numbers from the Robert Koch Institute.

In the United Kingdom, a group of 229 scientists wrote a letter to the government, urging it to take tougher measures to control the spread of the virus, the BBC reported, noting that UK officials were hesitant to take strong steps too early over worries about public frustrations. The scientists are pressing for more social distancing measures, but some government health officials have said the existing approach factors in some herd immunity benefits. Reuters reported today that the government will ban mass gatherings next week.

The second article in this series at c21st left “Interesting Advice” was just speculative and confuses incubation period with infectious period. Unfortunately people may not notice the main article as later articles are displayed first. Be sure to send direct link as above, not just a link to this blog.

BTW some support for my speculation can be found in this paper, which estimates that 48% or more of the infectious period is before symptoms occurred. However it is just a preliminary unreviewed technical report based on studies at two locations and I am not competent to judge its accuracy or to make speculative remarks based on it.

The proportion of pre-symptomatic transmission was 48% (95%CI 32-67%) for Singapore and 62% (95%CI 50-76%) for Tianjin, China. Estimates of the reproduction number based on the generation interval distribution were slightly higher than those based on the serial interval distribution. Conclusions: Estimating generation and serial interval distributions from outbreak data requires careful investigation of the underlying transmission network. Detailed contact tracing information is essential for correctly estimating these quantities.

Covid-19 Interesting Advice

It will be interesting to see whether this  advice is correct:

Mr Dutton remains in a Brisbane hospital on Saturday after announcing he had tested positive for the virus on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office said cabinet ministers who met with Mr Dutton on Tuesday would not be required to self-isolate.

“In advice provided to the Prime Minister this evening, the deputy Chief Medical Officer has reiterated that only people who had close contact with the minister in the preceding 24 hours before he became symptomatic need to self-isolate,” Mr Morrison’s office said.

“That does not include the Prime Minister or any other members of the cabinet.”

The NYT story linked in my previous post had an important link to a recent article in Lancet that suggests to me that it might not be:

BTW if you read my post by email, look at the original as the NYT link is not visible in the email.

The Lancet study estimates an infectious incubation period of 5 to 6 days before symptoms and a typical delay between symptoms and isolation of 2 to 7 days. (see appendices).

Dutton reported symptoms promptly and was isolated more quickly after only 1 day of symptoms. But that does not imply he must also have had an usually short incubation period. I don’t see why he could not have been infectious 6 days before. Tuesday to Friday is not 6 days.

It is interesting that a US cabinet member who had contact with  Dutton  a week earlier is not following similar advice:

US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and US Attorney General William Barr are working from home a week after meeting with Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who on Friday revealed he had tested positive for COVID-19.

The White House said that given Mr Dutton was not showing any symptoms during his US trip Ms Trump and Mr Barr did not need to self-quarantine, but they are working from home “out of an abundance of caution”.

“The Attorney General is feeling great and not showing any symptoms,” a US Department of Justice spokeswoman told Nine newspapers.

Perhaps the US government is more aware of how seriously the medical profession regards politicians as a biosecurity hazard that need to be prevented from interfering with management of pandemic emergencies by any means necessary. The more cabinet Ministers unable to work, the safer the rest of us will be.

Covid-19 – Don’t Panic – Do Self Isolate

It is reasonably certain that Australian governments will take measures for “social distancing” fairly soon.

It is difficult to determine the optimum time as such measures are extremely disruptive and cannot be maintained for very long. The aim is not to contain the outbreak but to spread out the peak to reduce the number of people who die because intensive care such as mechanical ventilators are unavailable during the peak case load.

Italy moved too late according to this article for GPs from their main professional organization, dated 11 March:

6.2% case fatality rate

Italy is now one of the worst-affected nations, with a high elderly population where the virus spread undetected for several weeks.

The entire nation has now been placed into quarantine in an effort to get on top of the virus. All public gatherings are banned, restaurants and bars have restricted hours, and cinemas, theatres, libraries and museums have been ordered to close. Schools, daycare and universities have also been closed.

The national quarantine may be effective, as it was in China, but it will take time to have an effect.

In the interim, large numbers of serious or critical cases have swamped hospitals, leading to top Italian health official Professor Giacomo Grasselli to dub the virus ‘worse than a bomb’.

Dr Daniele Macchini, an intensivist in Lombardy, has described the impact of the virus as an ‘epidemiological disaster’ and a ‘tsunami’ that is threatening the ability of the hospital to offer care.

‘Suddenly the E.R. is collapsing … Every ventilator becomes like gold: those in operating theatres that have now suspended their non-urgent activity become intensive care places that did not exist before,’ he wrote on a Facebook post that has been translated.

The concerning account is echoed by another anonymous Lombardy intensivist, whose comments were posted by UK doctor Jason Van Schoor on Twitter.

The intensivist said that despite Lombardy’s wealth and excellent healthcare system, the virus has overwhelmed hospitals.

‘The current situation is difficult to imagine and numbers do not explain things at all. Our hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID-19, they are running 200% capacity,’ the intensivist wrote.

‘There are hundreds of [patients] with severe [respiratory] failure and many of them do not have access to anything above a reservoir mask.’

Due to the shortage of ventilators – which are essential to keeping critical patients alive through the severe pneumonia – China has now offered to send Italy 1000 ventilators, as well as large supplies of personal protective equipment and testing kits.

The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.

Going too early might perhaps be as bad as going too late if it merely delays the peak rather than widening it. But the idea of Australian governments moving too rapidly seems implausible.

Here’s a simple journalistic explanation about “flattening the curve”, same date:

China sending ventilators to Italy confirms that social distancing in China has been successful. This is confirmed in a detailed statistical analysis published in British medical journal, The Lancet on the same date:

Other medical information can easily be accessed via the links at that site’s resource center, including links to many other resource centers:

The absurd delay resulting in the Grand Prix being cancelled only at the last minute suggests that Australian governments will not act too early.

That means the public needs to be mobilized to shut down social contacts and self isolate before official announcements and publicity campaigns.

In particular the more older people self isolate now the more that will surive the shortage of intensive care for severe cases at the peak.

Inevitably triage for access to Intensive Care Units must allocate them to severe cases among younger people more likely to survive than among older people less likely to survive a severe case.

Pretty well everybody will eventually get the flu when it becomes endemic. There is no chance of vaccines being developed quickly enough to prevent this and little likelihood of effective anti-viral drugs being available to help soon. What matters is whether the small minority of mainly older people who get a severe case needing intensive treatment such as mechanical ventilators, need such treatment during the peak or more slowly after the main peak has subsided.

Detailed advice on hygiene, social distancing, self isolation etc has been available from US and EU Centers for Disease Control for some time, although that availability of advice has not been matched by implementation. The Australian equivalent has not yet fully caught up even on advice:

Notes on Trump 47 and liberals lessons from Brexit

My last post in this series:

was number 46 on 2019-04-19:

I got absorbed in following Brexit around then and have not followed US news on Trump in any detail since. I am not planning to resume following Trump again now.

This note is mainly to suggest a possible solution to the puzzle of why Pelosi agreed to an absurd impeachment of Trump after successfully resisting the Democrat clamour for so long.

Given the alternatives of a conspiracy or a stuff up its usually safe to bet on a stuff up. But this one seems unusually absurd.

The official Republican theory is that the Democrats are trying to reverse the results of losing the last elections. That is obviously absurd. Not even the most deranged Democrat could possibly imagine that the result would be a two-third majority of a Republican dominated Senate to replace Trump, even if they would actually prefer to hand Trup that ammunition for re-election, just to enjoy a year or so under Commander in Chief Pence.

Here’s Biden’s theory, answering the following question:

Q. “Isn’t the President going to be stronger and harder to beat if (!) he survives this?”
A. “Yes, probably. But congress has no choice.”

That absurdity is also the official Democrat position. Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanours so threaten the Constitution that they had no choice but to help make him stronger and harder to beat.

Given the extremes to which Democrats appear to be willing to go to help Trump win, perhaps such grotesque stupidity really is the explanation.

But here’s another one (purely speculative) suggested by the emergence of Bloomberg as a potential candidate to replace Biden as the candidate of Pelosi’s wing of the Democrats. What if Pelosi’s target is Biden, just as Trump’s target was Biden?

As far as I can make out the Democrat tactics have set things up for Biden to be called as a witness by the Republican majority in the Senate. That could be just more Democrat blundering. Impeaching Trump for obstructing them for trying to impeach him is what they were rather more than merely itching to do over “the Russia thing”. That desperate obsession still needs scratching. But they didn’t even try to issue an arrest warrant, or persuade a Court to do so, for the witnesses that Trump prevented from testifying by claiming the usual Executive privilege.

Here’s the official argument for demanding that the Senate call witnesses from Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer:

“this is not a fair trial … because there are no witnesses and documents”

One might expect that argument from the defence rather than the prosecution, if there was some dispute about the facts. Only an idiot could regard the prosecution’s lack of witnesses or documents as a point to be highlighted by the prosecutor.

Is Chuck Schumer really that stupid? Quite possibly. But it does set things up for Republicans to allow witnesses on both sides, with Democrats neither surprising nor impressing anybody by indignantly demanding that the only witnesses called be hostile Republican witnesses called by Democrats and no hostile Democrat witnesses called by Republicans since that would be even more unfair than acquitting Trump in the absence of witnesses or documentary evidence.

Even succeeding in preventing Biden being cross examined damages Biden as a candidate by helping Trump hammer home that he got impeached for trying to get Biden’s corruption investigated. Failing to prevent Biden’s cross examination won’t shed any light on his or his son’s corruption or corruption in the Ukraine or on Trump, but it will spotlight Biden’s inability to defeat Trump.

Biden does badly in debates, let alone under cross examination. That could be the point.

Warren is already playing the loser’s card by pretending Sanders had told her privately that “no woman can win”. That echoes exactly what the Clinton camp did say publicly about the impossibility of a black candidate winning in 2016. It backfired because Obama’s threat that blacks would stop turning out to vote Democrat was very real and serious from a real and serious contender. Warren has no such stature and had to pitch her lack of credibility against Sanders who is now well ahead. Once she drops out there is a very real chance Sanders could beat Biden in the primaries.

Bloomberg could be the only realistic hope for Pelosi’s wing of the Democrats. Openly buying a primary does not strike me as a very promising hope. But I still prefer speculating about possible rational motives rather than simply accepting they are all utterly clueless.

The end of last year seemed an appropriate time to summarize a couple of conclusions after a very quick glance. I gave up, but here are the notes I made then.

  1. Trump is still polling very well at nearly 50% among those believed likely to vote:

The bias towards smaller states in the US electoral college means Trump needs far less than that to win another 4 years. The campaign has not yet started and the Democrats have not yet picked a candidate and anything could happen with the economy, but I see no reason not to expect another four years of Trump.

  1. In particular I see no sign that liberals/Democrats have learnt anything. In number 46 I thought Pelosi had successfully avoided the impeachment trap after the Mueller report spectacularly demonstrated the bankruptcy of their “Russia” conspiracy theories. Impeaching Trump for trying to get Ukraine to investigate Biden may be the best she could do to get the obsession dealt with as soon as possible rather than dragging on into the election. It could also be the result of tactical maneuvers either to rally the party around Biden as the one Trump wanted to stop, or highlighting his vulnerability to Trump’s accusations of corruption (or, perhaps, since both wings of the party have united on the current idiocy, each wing supports it for the opposite idiotic reason). I wouldn’t know and could not even guess. (But have now speculated above).
  2. What everybody does know is that the Democrats are reduced to purely symbolic gesturing against Trump, knowing full well that they are only uniting the Republican party around him and that the Senate trial will not help them win any votes. The idea that is it is an impeachable “high crime” for the President to conduct foreign policy with a view to maximizing his chance of re-election appeals only to the US foreign policy establishment which is no more popular in the US than elsewhere. The US constitution explicitly puts foreign policy under the direction of an elected President, precisely so that it will be conducted that way, and it always has been.

4When I say “everybody knows”, I do not mean the liberal media. Here’s a quick sample of today’s (December) Google news items on “Trump”.

  1. Here’s CNN comforting its readers with the thought that the absolutely certain outcome of a resounding acquittal by the Senate is bothering Trump:

“(CNN)President Donald Trump is showing signs of increasing frustration with the uncertainty surrounding his Senate trial …”

  1. WAPO actually has some serious analysis:

Explaining that Trump has basically reversed traditional GOP economic poliy to win voters away from Democrats.

On trade protectionism and isolationism Trump still cannot outdo the Democratsin bad populist policies except that he actually does what they only posture about. But on anything to create a temporary economic climate suitable for winning the 2020 election he has surpassed Democrat demands (which they chalk up as victories for their policies).

  1. Bret Stephens also has an opinion piece at the NYT with some insight:

“In a contest between the unapologetic jerk in the White House and the self-styled saints seeking to unseat him, the jerk might just win….

… Too much of today’s left is too busy pointing out the ugliness of the Trumpian right to notice its own ugliness: its censoriousness, nastiness and complacent self-righteousness. But millions of ordinary Americans see it, and they won’t vote for a candidate who emboldens and empowers woke culture.”

But of course the bizarre antidote proposed is a return to the old Democrat establishment with a candidate like Bloomberg or Biden – exactly what Trump demolished last time.

  1. Here’s a psychiatrist explaining that Peolosi should get rid of Trump by compulsory psychiatric examination:

” In this context, almost anyone who actively takes the side of the president is likely to have some degree of the “shared psychosis.” If you were unaffected, you would be repelled. And this is why we often see a clear split, much like the binary division in our country.”

8. If a third party candidate was going to emerge from the GOP that could cost Trump victory I think there would have been some sign of it by now. There is likewise no sign of a split on the Democrat side. The electoral college is unlikely to be deadlocked. But if it was, the House would resolve the deadlock voting by state delegations and that would also be likely to favour Trump due to the concentration of Democrats in larger States.

9. I take comfort that in the US as in Britain the collapse is in illusions about “progressives”. Voters are staying home rather than backing them against the other side. It isn’t a right-wing resurgence so much as a collapse of the fake left. That still has bad consequences as the fake left merely postured against globalism while their opponents actually have the capacity to raise barriers against developing global solidarity. Nevertheless “the future is bright, the road is tortuous”.

Here’s a series of items from just one issue of The Guardian confirming that the complete inability of liberals to learn anything is not confined to the USA.

“The Guardian Weekly” v201 n2 2019-12-20

(p3) Introduces “The big story page 10” on UK general election:

“Two months ago Boris Johnson was penned in … and didn’t even have the numbers to call an election. Then, after three attempts, Johnson won out – with Labour and the Liberal Democrats confident they could do the PM more damage. Instead Johnson won the Tories their biggest majority since the Thatcher era…”

Simon Tisdall’s year in review has part 1 “Reasons to be fearful” (chaos everywhere, situation dreadful) and part 2 “Reasons to be cheerful”. (Greta Thunberg, Denmark did not sell Greenland, surge to far-right in Europe did not happen, Finland elected a 34 year old PM). By p25 we had a sub-head “America resists Trump” with this gem:

“…. the most serious damage was inflicted in Washington. First came the highly critical, albeit inconclusive, report by Robert Mueller into an alleged Trump campaign conspiracy with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. Mueller refused to exonerate Trump and later testified the president had told untruths to his investigation.

“Then came the impeachment inquiry … suggested Trump tried to induce a foreign state, Ukraine, to help smear Biden, a potential re-election rival. House Democrats advanced articles of impeachment alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. With the public divided and the Senate unlikely to convict, it remains unclear how badly Trump has been hurt.

“The year was encouraging for what did not happen as well as what did… (No US war with Iran, John Bolton sacked for opposing Trump’s “irresponsible” Afghanistan peace deal (!). No war with North Korea. No war between India and Pakistan.)

p9 “Reach ‘peak meat’ by 2030 to tackle crisis, say scientists”

“The world’s scientists agree… Production of meat, milk and eggs has increased from 758m tonnes in 1990 to 1,247, tonnes in 2017, research shows.”

This is so obviously a VERY BAD THING THAT MUST BE STOPPED that there is no need to even provide a citation to the “scientists” who have “warned” about it.

p10-19 cover the election

p32 “Less than an hour after she accused Trump of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours’, Pelosi said that congressional negotiators had reached a trade agreement with the administration, a top campaign promise for the President…..’If [Trump] has collateral benefits, so be it’.

Privately, she crowed to her caucus ; ‘We ate their lunch'”.

p33 “The climate crisis is the most urgent threat of our time”. “Planting and protecting trees is a positive way that we can help…..give generously and help protect the planet we share.”

p58 An opinion piece from columnist Aditya Chakrabotty:

what “made me almost sure Labour was going to lose, … and in precise those areas … called its heartlands”. Briefly trends streched back decades, inherited not not created by Corbyn. Working class in heartlands marginalised politically and destroyed economically while patronised into apathy by careerist bureaucrats. “Meanwhile the big gap in the electoral market that opened up was for a party offering a welfare state with reactionary social policy. That was Nigel Farage; now it’s Boris Johnson. Some in Labour might well think they can win back seats by beating up on immigrants and tacking to the right: Johnson’s party can do both with far more gusto.”

“Corbynism … started as an anti-austerity movement… is now a melange of ideas, most of which look and sound utterly absurd on a doorstep on a rainy morning… Corbyn offered yet more direction from Westminster, with utilities run from the centre and hundreds of billions disbursed from remove state institutions…”

But solution offered is the classic Labourism that failed and died many decades ago:

“… providing advice to those whose benefits are being slashed, legal support to tenants under the cosh from their landlords. haggling with the utilities to provide better deals. Add to that: teaching political and economic literacy to voters, not just activists, and asking constituents what issues Labour should be battling on…. Labout needs to renew its contract with its base. The big question is whether it wants to.”

A more typical columnist is Rebecca Solnit from the US on “The young will save us”:

“We must expand our imaginations and act on that bigger understanding of our place in the world and our impact on the future. That means making radical changes like [wait for it!]

our homes and transit being powered by renewables, our governments not plotting more extractivism. It means leaving fossil fuels in the ground. We need to remind ourselves why these changes are necessary: that the earth is finite ;;;

“We must make sweeping changes by the end of the coming decade, (by all bowing down before the very Reverand Parson Malthus and joining in prayer to the almighty).

Ok I made up the last bit. The youth will indeed eventual rise up against this reactionary bilge but at present it is driving them into the arms of conservatives less virulently hostile to all human progress, such as Trump.

p60-1 Andrew Rawnsley considers what Johnson will do in power and wisely decides not to even hazard a guess.

p61 “The existential crisis that confronts Labour has no simple solution” (no byline).

“The coalition between middle-class professionals, often working in the public sector, and the traditional working-class communities fell apart last Thursday. Without it, the party has no route to power.”

“A rush to premature conclusions should be avoided at all costs.”

Conclusion (rushed and randomly inserted in the last para):

“A more subtle politics of place, in which the revival of local democracy is championed, will help Labour begin to reconnect in the years to come… This was once Labour’s natural terrain. It can be so again.”

Not sure what that means. Best guess is running for local councils since nothing to say about national, let alone global politics.

10. So much for the Guardian weekly. Back to other random items.

11. Cartoon John Spooner, The Australian 2019-12-24 p11 “Unimpeachable” shows Speaker Pelosi having tea with another Democrat politician in a suit:

“We funded a fake dossier so that we could fool the FISA court so that we could spy on Americans so that we could…”

Pelosi “Uphold our values…”


With families coming together at the end of one of the most divisive years in recent memory, President Donald Trump‘s campaign has created what is intended to be a gift for supporters who might talk politics with a “snowflake” relative this Christmas.

Trump’s reelection campaign launched a new website Christmas Eve designed to help the president’s backers “win an argument” with liberal friends and family members.

“Nothing says Merry Christmas like hurling insults at relatives,” responded former DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee.

A 2018 Pew Research Center study found that more than half — 53 percent — of Americans thought it was “stressful and frustrating” to discuss politics with people they don’t agree with. That number was up from 46 percent in 2016.


“The change in opinions has come largely among Democrats: 57% now say that talking about politics with people they disagree with is stressful and frustrating, up from 45% two years ago.

By contrast, Republicans’ feelings about political conversations with people they disagree have changed very little. About half (49%) continue to find such conversations stressful and frustrating.”

The more liberal you are, the more stressful and frustrating it is to converse with people you disagree with.

“Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 63% of liberals say such conversations are stressful and frustrating, compared with 51% of conservatives and moderates.”

“As was the case in late 2016, Trump is a more frequent topic of conversation for liberal Democrats than for other Democrats or among Republicans. Currently, 42% of liberal Democrats say Trump’s presidency comes up in conversations very often; that is double the share of conservatives and moderates who say this.

Among Republicans, Trump comes up more in conversation among conservatives (23% very often) than among GOP moderates and liberals (15%). The share of conservative Republicans who say Trump comes up very often in conversation has slipped since 2016, from 30% then to 23% now.”

More Now Say It’s ‘Stressful’ to Discuss Politics With People They Disagree With

13. China signing a trade deal now rather than after November might indicate they don’t hope for Trump to lose. More likely they don’t expect anybody else to be any less protectionist. They could be wrong either way if Bloomberg can buy the Democrat nomination. But I suspect that would drive large numbers of Democrat voters to stay home.

In short last year defies caricature, let alone summary or analysis.

It is Right to Rebel – a book to remind of the time when there was a genuine left

cover Right to Rebel

Monash University was Australia’s hot-bed of radical student politics in the 1960s and early 1970s, notable for its communist leadership and effective mobilization of very large numbers. The struggle there was a model in many ways, and an inspiration to others.

Here’s the book, edited by Mike Hyde and published in 1972, about that struggle.

It is Right to Rebel (1972 book)





Brexit – born again

On October 18 I argued that Bojo’s “deal” had effectively ended Brexit since it had no chance of success. That was proved spectacularly wrong as I had not correctly taken into account the narrow calculations of Scottish Nationalists and the blind treachery of Liberal Democrats.

Bojo has won a comfortable majority so the Brexit saga certainly does have quite a long way to run. The majority may well be large enough for the public not to be greatly involved in any drama about agreeing to an extension of the transition period by July and failing to negotiate a Free Trade agreement before 2021. There won’t be a sudden “cliff edge” and the fight over trade policy while the UK declines (and possibly disintegrates) may well be confined to battles within the establishment.

The fact that a majority are now opposed to Brexit and actively opposed to the party now firmly in power for the next five years, will certainly have long term consequences, especially as that majority includes most of the next generation. But I gave up attempting to follow the details as soon as the election was called as the short term is depressingly predictable and uninteresting.

If the Libdems and Nationalists were not what they are, things could have gone as I expected:

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

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

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

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

Without the SNP and Libdems the only prospect for Baldrick’s cunning plans was a steady decline in support for Brexit while Bojo was left floundering with nothing at all he could do about it until it suited his opponents to put an end to his misery with either a referendum or a general election.

That prospect did not suit either the Libdems or the SNP.

As I mentioned on 11 August:

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

Likewise the Labour, Tory and Brexit parties all had opposite tactical and strategic interests from their core policies on Brexit.

So did the SNP although I did not pay much attention to it.

I assumed the Libdems could not get away with treacherously helping Bojo achieve Brexit when the whole basis of their greatly increased support had been outflanking Labour as opponents of Brexit. So I assumed they would not do it. All they needed to do was wait while the Tory peak subsided and their own vote grew. But of course once Brexit was defeated in a referendum they would no longer have anything at all to attract anybody with, while they could at least hope to prolong their relevance by producing another hung Parliament in which their (increased) numbers would decide who governs. If that was their calculation it was a gamble that has not worked out. They have become irrelevant much earlier than if they had waited.

What they did get away with was not being instantly recognized as treacherous idiots. Labour had no option but to agree to the election that would happen whether Labour agreed or not so there wasn’t even much discussion or awareness of what the Libdems did. In that sense the Libdems did not have to “admit it” and so they did get away with it.

Of course the Libdems have not really got away with it. They will be even more irrelevant than before as the party that saved Brexit by stupidity and whose MPs cannot swing the outcome of any vote.

Anyway, I should have known not to underestimate either the mendacity or the stupidity of liberals.

I was aware that there was also a risk from the SNP because:

1. Five years of Tory goverment imposing Brexit against a solid majority of Scots supporting Remain could highlight the contempt for Scots among English nationalists and drive more Scots into the arms of Scotch nationalists. Failing that, another hung Parliament would still leave the SNP in a strong position and could enable an early independence referendum from a minority Labour government.

2. I am told by somebody who knows a lot more about these issues than I do that EU hostility to separatism is very real, even when consented to by the EU member being seceded from. So the SNP would find it much easier for an independent Scotland to join the EU if the UK had (temporarily) left and it would still be in the interests of both sides to avoid unwanted barriers between Scotland and Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I find it difficult to believe that the EU could object if the UK had agreed to Scottish independence, but events are consistent with the SNP having a different view on the likelihood of that (or of UK agreement to Scottish independence).

3. The former leader of the SNP goes on trial for sexual offenses in January. That is the only factor mentioned much in the UK press although I doubt that it was decisive.

But again I did not think the SNP could admit it or get away with it.

Anyway they did it and unlike the Libdems they did spectacularly well in getting away with it and have not had to admit doing it.

Again, I should have known not to underestimate the mendacity and narrowmindedness of nationalists.

Although the bankruptcy of the UK two-party system has been highlighted again and this will have long term repercussions, there is no short term prospect of a live issue for reform within the current Parliament that could affect similar issues in Australia and the US, so I don’t expect to be paying close attention to UK Parliamentary politics (and especially UK Tory politics) for quite a while. Extinction of the Tory party and consequent support for PR looked possible at the time of the EU elections but they dodged that bullet some time ago and have done rather more than merely dodge it now.

Brexit – Baldrick Cummings Cunning Plans

On 11 August I wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018

55 Single United Kingdom customs territory

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

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

That definition is in Article XXIV item 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Supreme Court decided:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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