web analytics
a

Facebook

Twitter

Copyright 2015 Libero Themes.
All Rights Reserved.

8:30 - 6:00

Our Office Hours Mon. - Fri.

703-406-7616

Call For Free 15/M Consultation

Facebook

Twitter

Search
Menu
Westlake Legal Group > Jeremy Corbyn MP

Daniel Hannan: Brexit. Vote Conservative in the European elections to help us deliver it – and finish the job.

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

The latest two opinion polls show the Conservatives at 16 and 15 per cent in advance of the European elections, a huge decline over the past month. Those figures are bad enough, but the actual result could be even worse.

At this point in the cycle, surveys tend to overstate support for the traditional parties. Why? Because, although the pollsters’ question is “How will you vote in the European election?” many respondents hear it as “Which is your favourite party?” Polls therefore flatter Labour and the Conservatives and underestimate single-issue parties. At this stage last time – April 2014 – opinion polls had us at 27 per cent. On polling day, we secured 23.

That, though, is just the start of it. At the last three European elections, the date of the local elections was moved to coincide with the Euro-poll (a tiny example of how our domestic traditions are forever being rearranged for the EU’s convenience). This time, because the European election was unforeseen – and, even now, might theoretically not happen – it will stand alone. The lift that Conservative Euro-candidates get from their councillors will be removed. Many of our supporters won’t vote, whereas single-issue pro- and anti-Brexit parties will have no difficulty motivating their voters.

It gets worse. Until now, the Conservatives have had resources – human and financial – to fight campaigns. This time, we have no budget and many of our activists are on strike. And that’s before we get to the central problem, namely the anger that people feel over the delay in Brexit.

We could sink into single figures next month. Keen to give us a bit of a slap, voters might knock us into a hole too deep for any future leader to clamber out of. I know that we are supposed, before an election, to talk up our party’s prospects. But, on this occasion, it would be silly to ignore the gravity of our predicament. The European election could mark the moment when, after 190 years (350 if we count the Tory prelude) the Conservative Party ceases to be viable.

That is why, though I hate the fact that this poll is happening, I felt I had to stand again. I couldn’t walk away and watch as Jeremy Corbyn, buoyed up by victory, snatched at the levers of power.

I know some ConHome readers are sceptical. I know it because they keep telling me. It’s only a European election, they say. We want to register our annoyance at the failure to deliver Brexit, they say. We don’t want to endorse Theresa May, they say. We want to send a message on Brexit, they say.

Folks, that message was sent on 23 June 2016, when more Brits voted to leave the EU than have ever voted for anything. The Conservative Party got the message. What it didn’t get was the numbers needed to implement it.

This point cannot be stressed too strongly. The reason that Brexit hasn’t yet happened is not that Tory MPs are secretly trying to keep us in the EU. It is that all the other parties (except the DUP) are openly trying to do so. If you want to break the deadlock, give us the numbers. Give us the votes.

It’s true, obviously, that a European election isn’t a general election. But what do you think will happen if one of the two main parties is wiped out at a national poll? Such a party doesn’t just get up and start winning again. Look at the Canadian Tories after they were obliterated in 1993. True, a reconfigured Centre-Right eventually came back. But whereas Canada was governed in the intervening 13 years by a relatively moderate Liberal Party, we face Jezza.

I want an agreed and amicable Brexit, one that does not involve handing the EU permanent control of our trade policy, but that keeps a close and friendly relationship. If we are going to get such a deal, we need at least some MEPs to support it.

Think of it another way. Whom would you rather have in charge of the Brexit talks – Jezza or whoever takes over as Tory leader? No, I don’t know who it will be either, but I do know that, whoever it is, he or she will be more competent than an old Trot who manages to be simultaneously in favour of and against Brexit, and whose main beef with the EU is that its competition laws would prevent him from completing a Castro-style seizure of our economy.

The Prime Minister has already said she is resigning. The only question is over timing. She might be gone before 22 May, or at least be in the process of going. A leadership contest tends to give any party a poll boost, as broadcasters and other media focus on it, and as voters keep hearing its putative leaders setting out their optimistic visions.

But if you, dear ConHome reader, decide to back someone else or to boycott the poll, there may be nothing for those putative leaders to inherit.

I have spent 30 years working to restore our national independence. I’m not prepared to drop out now, not when we are so close to success. Please – give us the support we need to get the job finished.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Henry Newman: By now we could have been out of the EU, controlling our own borders, fisheries and trade deals

Henry Newman is Director of Open Europe.

A counterfactual thought experiment: on 29th March, the Conservative Party almost all voted together for the Prime Minister’s deal. Despite their heart-felt concerns, the remaining members of the ERG were persuaded by Jacob Rees-Mogg to back the Government. On the other end of the Brexit divide, Conservative critics on the Remain side accepted that the indicative votes had shown no majority for a second referendum, and agreed to allow the country to move on. With a few additional Labour rebels, the Withdrawal Agreement just scraped a Commons majority.

Speaking in Downing Street on Friday evening, the Prime Minister set out a timetable for her departure. She reassured MPs that there was no need to hold European elections, to the delight of Daniel Hannan. The weekend’s papers showed a poll bounce towards the Conservatives, putting them in a good position to hold council seats in forthcoming local elections.

At the European Council last week, the EU agreed a short technical extension to complete ratification of the Withdrawal Bill. Brexit day was set for Friday 24th May, with an extra bank holiday on Tuesday. All European Ambassadors were invited to a service in Westminster Abbey to mark the end of 46 years of British membership. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, are guests of honour at a gala dinner.

With Brexit secured, the People’s Vote campaign collapsed. Formal negotiations with the EU will resume after the summer, following the formation of a new European Commission and with a new British Prime Minister in place. The Labour Party has continued to press for a softer Brexit deal, but has yet to clarify its policy. Meanwhile, Heidi Allen’s Change UK advocates British re-accession to the European Union, and a new referendum. Several new defectors have joined the party from the Liberal Democrats, who had not yet committed to re-joining the EU.

The ‘Alternative Arrangements’ UK-EU Irish border working group has set out an ambitious timetable of fortnightly meetings, with an expanded cast list of relevant experts. Meanwhile, an anonymous philanthropist has donated a £100,000 prize for the most creative approach to resolving the border question. Several Californian tech companies are also hard at work on possible solutions.

Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, has published his proposed post-Brexit immigration system. With Free Movement ending by 2021, the new policy will prioritise those coming to work in education, universities or the health service, and those likely to contribute the most to our economy or society. A fast-track work visa scheme will help ensure British companies access to necessary foreign labour, but those companies doing so will need to pay a levy to support UK skills training.

The Fisheries Bill is due back in the Commons shortly. The Environment Secretary has already announced that from 2021 the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone, extending across around a third of a million square miles of sea, will be under British control. Michael Gove has invited fishing ministers from European coastal states to a new annual fishing summit, to be held on Tyneside in early 2020. The French are threatening to boycott the summit in protest at the British refusal to grant them continued access to our fishing waters on the same basis as before.

Liam Fox spent Easter week jetting across the Pacific. Australia and New Zealand have launched working groups to develop a series of trade deals with the UK which they hope to fast-track over coming months. At a joint press conference, ministers announced they will prioritise a services trade deal, which provides unprecedented access for financial services, including retail banking and insurance, as well as new agreements on investor protection. This is designed to come into effect in 2021, whether or not the UK enters the backstop, but can be upgraded to a fuller comprehensive trade deal.

Also on the plane was Matt Hancock. The Health Secretary is pressing for a new mutual recognition of qualifications deal. The proposal is to allow Australian and New Zealand doctors and nurses to work in Britain, without having to re-qualify. At present, only doctors qualifying in the European Economic Area – from Latvia to Lichtenstein – have that automatic right.

The DUP were concerned by the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement, which they had voted against. However, they have agreed to work with the Government to implement a Stormont Lock which will come into effect if the UK enters the backstop. The Prime Minister has confirmed that the existing goods rules will be maintained in Great Britain, as well as in the Northern Ireland, for the foreseeable future. As a result, the Business Secretary has confirmed that there will be no regulatory checks required on industrial or manufactured goods moving across the Irish Sea. The Brexit Secretary has also informed Michel Barnier that, if the UK enters the backstop, the UK will by default veto all new goods regulations, only accepting those new rules it determines are in its core national interest. There was some significant protest at this decision, but the Commission’s legal team reluctantly admitted that this was the UK’s right under the Treaty.

***

Unfortunately this happy picture is a fantasy. What actually happened (of course) is that, although around 90 per cent of Tory MPs voted for the Withdrawal Agreement, about three dozen Conservatives refused to do so. As a result Brexit is profoundly at risk, and the Conservatives are taking an acute hammering in the opinion polls.

Some of the Prime Minister’s critics continue to believe they can reach their No Deal nirvana. But the last few months have shown how elusive that mirage can be. The plan seems to entail forcing the Prime Minister out, and then securing a new Conservative Leader committed to scrapping the backstop.

Advocates of this path tend to argue that Theresa May has never really tried to scrap the backstop, and if somehow [insert name of a potential Brexity party leader] just went to Brussels and told them we would not have the backstop, the EU would agree to take it out. Sadly, this is as fantastical as my thought experiment above.

Anyone promising to scrap the backstop might as well promise to take the country to No Deal. With this Parliament certain to try to block No Deal, a new leader would need to win a General Election. But even assuming that the Conservatives could secure a narrow majority – which seems a stretch at present – it’s not clear that No Deal would then be plausible. At least a couple of dozen Conservative MPs, and possibly considerably more, would resist No Deal at almost any cost.

Unless a path through can be found for the Withdrawal Agreement in the coming weeks and months, the chances of Brexit being lost entirely will only rise. So the best option, barring a rethink from the Prime Minister’s backbench critics, seems to be to broker some agreement with Labour, however unpalatable that is for many Conservatives.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Andrew Goodfellow: Conservative leadership candidates should not be compiling attack dossiers on their rivals

Andrew Goodfellow is Vice President of UK Policy Group, a research and political intelligence consultancy. He was the Conservative Party’s Director of Policy and Research from 2015 to 2017.

At the weekend, the Telegraph reported with barely concealed relish that the expected Conservative Party leadership contest would be ‘the dirtiest for a generation’. Christopher Hope’s impeccably sourced piece claimed:

‘And given the wide open nature of the field, it is hardly a surprise the teams are drawing up “war books” about one another according to one adviser, shining a light on controversial historic articles, details of alleged sexual peccadilloes and unsavoury claims about their partners.

One adviser said that “without a doubt” the campaigning in the upcoming Tory leadership campaign will be the dirtiest for decades. “The biggest feature in Westminster is people looking for dirt on other people. They are all at it [war books]. Everyone is going on about the war books, who has got what. It is already quite a nasty campaign.”’

Now, I love a good opposition research book more than anyone. A well-constructed dossier of votes, quotes, dodgy connections, questionable decisions and all the rest is, if done well, a thing of beauty.

I’ve been working in this field in one capacity or another for over six years, and opposition research is one of the most maligned and least appreciated elements of politics.

But I think any prospective Conservative leadership candidate commissioning this sort of work on their rivals is being badly advised, and making a tactical error.

Here are five reasons why:

You need to know your own weaknesses better than those of your opponents.

The last Conservative leadership contest ended with Andrea Leadsom giving an ill-advised interview, but even before that she was dogged by questions about inconsistencies on her CV. If her campaign had conducted proper due diligence and self-vetting work, they would have been prepared for the inevitable challenges that appeared in the press.

The level of scrutiny potential leaders or Prime Ministers face is huge – from the press and from political opponents. Concentrate your limited time and resources on ensuring that you are prepared to respond to anticipated attacks and shut them down comprehensively.

Avoid rows about process and tactics.

If your team get caught briefing against rivals, pitching opposition research stories to journalists, or starting whispering campaigns in the tea room, it will get out. There’s only a limited amount of space available to get your message out there- don’t let your campaign get embroiled in a row about who-said-what-about-whom.

Party management. These are your future Cabinet colleagues.

British political history is littered with examples of internal rows in the government sabotaging Prime Ministers. As a point of good politics, why would you deliberately antagonise your rival leadership candidates, when it’s highly likely that you’ll be sitting across the Cabinet table from them if you win?

Conservative MPs and members are crying out for some positivity.

The last three years of British politics have been thoroughly miserable. Doom, gloom, dire warnings, online abuse and fury, from all sides of politics.

Regardless of where they stand on Brexit, Conservative members want to know what a potential leader has to say about how they’ll bring the country together, and give us a vision of some sunlit uplands.

At the next General Election – whenever it comes – Labour will present an expensive package of spending pledges, cash handouts, and carefully targeted taxes.

The next Conservative leader would be wise to pitch to MPs and members with a set of policy proposals that will prove more appealing to the country than the Labour alternative.

Focus on the real enemy, don’t do Labour’s work for them.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party – now there’s a group of people who know a thing or two about internal disputes. They’re not going to sit on their hands and watch a Conservative leadership election unfold without making the most of the opportunity to inflict further damage.

Bright researchers at Labour HQ will be paging through microfilm of student newspapers, scouring YouTube for barely watched videos of obscure think-tank events, and assembling comprehensive documents of embarrassing quotes and controversial donations.

If you’re a Conservative, why on earth would you want to assist this process? Adding more opposition research into the political bloodstream will only give Labour and their allies more ammunition to aim at our party.

In his early days as leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron urged members to “let sunshine win the day’” as he called for “optimism to beat pessimism”. The Grand National sized field of prospective Conservative leaders could do well to revisit that speech from the 2006 Party conference.

They need to make the most compelling possible pitch for why they are the best person to lead the party, not simply the ‘least worst’ option.

So rather than building opposition research dossiers on opponents, candidates should spend that time getting to know their own vulnerabilities, and mitigating against them.

Then they should put together the positive case for why they should lead our party and our country.

At the end of the day, the only winner from a messy Conservative leadership election would be Jeremy Corbyn.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: If the PM is so lifeless in the House, how can she carry conviction in Brussels?

Craig Tracey, since 2015 Conservative MP for North Warwickshire, used the first question of the day to urge the Prime Minister to grasp an “opportunity” and “make a success of it”. Here is his question in full, delivered in a mild, almost apologetic tone of voice:

“I fully agree with the Prime Minister when she’s repeatedly said that we need to both honour the result of the referendum and our manifesto commitments, which mean leaving the customs union and single market, so does my Right Honourable Friend agree with me that if the best way to do that, rather than deliver a diluted deal which is unrecognisable to many of us who voted to leave, is to go under WTO rules, we should grasp that opportunity and believe in the ability of the British people and a Conservative Government to make a success of it.”

Theresa May responded: “I believe that a Conservative Government will make a success of whatever the situation is in relation to Brexit.”

Oh dear. The Prime Minister who has been dealing with the matter since July 2016 cannot tell us what the situation is in relation to Brexit. She added that she still believes it is best to leave in an orderly way with a deal.

A more underwhelming performance, lifeless, stilted, tired, impervious to the feelings of her listeners and unable to raise anyone’s spirits, would be hard to imagine. And this is the person who is travelling to Brussels to negotiate on our behalf.

If she cannot speak with conviction in the Commons, how can one imagine she will do so when she meets European leaders?

No wonder a considerable number of MPs on both sides of the House declined to attend PMQs. There was nothing to learn here, and it was painful to listen to this dutiful, uncommunicative, humiliated Prime Minister.

No Tory backbencher had a go at her in the way that half a dozen of them did last week. They will not kick her when she is just off to Brussels.

But the glum faces of her colleagues on the front bench reinforced the feeling that it is time to let someone else have a go at negotiating Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn complained that child poverty is worse in Swindon and Stoke-on-Trent than it is in Surrey. He is getting ready for a general election.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Robert Halfon: Labour, Corbyn – Kim Jong-un, for that matter. I’d talk to anyone, anywhere to ensure that Brexit takes place.

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Let me get one thing clear: as someone from a Jewish background, the anti-Semitism infecting Labour fills me with dread, and I have experienced it locally in Harlow. Her Majesty’s Opposition is socialist rather than social democratic – and all Conservatives have a duty to oppose it. So I understand the anguish about Theresa May dealing with Jeremy Corbyn.

Like most Tories, I would rather we had a bold centre-right agenda, making the case for fairer capitalism, enveloping blue collar conservatives, white van conservatives, with DNA Conservatism of lower taxes and the free market.

  However, when it comes to voting on the EU, we can choose either to vote idealistically or for the least worst option, given the current political realities. Politics must be the art of the possible.

Idealism only works if there is a majority in Parliament to get those ideas through. So when I plan to vote on the fourth Meaningful Vote on Parliament I will take the below – irrefutable facts – into consideration.

  1. We have to accept that much of Parliament is for staying in the EU, a long delay or a second referendum – all of which I am opposed to. Everything that has happened since the Second Meaningful Vote failed to pass the Commons has been moves towards a ‘People’s Vote’, delay or revocation.
  2. It does not matter who is Party Leader, whether it be Mother Teresa or Theresa May – the arithmetic of Parliament does not change. Only Tory plurality in the Commons and an arch-Remainer House of Lords. Even were a charismatic leader elected, who managed to unite most of the Conservative Party, this does not change the lack of a majority in the Commons, or the Conservative minority in the Upper Chamber.
  3. Corbyn is literally a thread away from Downing Street, thanks to the disastrous 2017 election, which wiped out the gains from 2015. 

We are also unpopular in many parts of the country, because of the painful effects of austerity and the rising cost of living. The Brexit shenanigans have made it worse. We have no majority in Parliament, made worse because of four Tory defections. Three of these defectors have no love of any kind for their old party.
  4. Whilst difficult to happen, an early general election is not impossible. It is true that MPs have to vote for it, but a few renegade Parliamentarians upset about the handling of Brexit make a General Election less unthinkable than it might seem. DUP support for the Conservatives is no longer guaranteed.

Given the current opinion polls and the anger from the public against the political class, I don’t think that even the most Pollyannish type Conservative would think that an general election would bring anything less than a wipeout at worst, another hung parliament at best.

So when I choose how to vote on the EU deal, my whole purpose will be to avoid these four scenarios, particularly 1 and 2 above – avoiding either a long extension, a second referendum, or not leaving at all, with the possibility of a Corbyn Government.

For these reasons, I don’t care who Theresa May talks to about a deal – whether it is Corbyn or Kim Jong-un. When we next vote on the above, the least worst option may be the only one that avoids 1, 2, 3 and 4. That means getting some for Brexit over the line so that we legally leave the EU.

May met with Corbyn a few weeks ago after the First Meaningful Vote. No one appeared to see it as such a problem then. Indeed, the Labour leader was criticised for initially refusing to talk to the Prime Minister. Rather than get worked up about the talks with Labour, we should be reflecting what the current political realities are – whether we like it or not.

It may be when all this is over (if it ever is) there is a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to decide what went wrong; who the guilty men and women are; why the negotiations with the EU have gone the way they have, how the 2017 election was ever allowed to happen – et al. But all that is for another day. The priority now must, must, must be to unify the country, keep the Conservative Party together, stop Jeremy Corbyn entering Downing Street and to retrench, re-inforce and regroup ready for the mighty battle ahead – hopefully in 2022.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Cabinet must tell May to go

In Theresa May’s perfect world, the Withdrawal Agreement would have been carried through Parliament by Conservative votes.  It has failed to pass the Commons three times.  So she has turned to Jeremy Corbyn.

In her next best place to this ideal world, the Agreement would somehow be supported by the bulk of both the main parties.  Labour would settle for a customs union which isn’t called a customs union but really is a customs union – in addition to the customs union already written into the Withdrawal Agreement, at least as far as any future Unionist government is concened.

Meanwhile, Corbyn would stop pushing for what he can’t have – namely, guarantees that Labour-style future employment and environmental policies will be proofed against a fundamental of our unwritten constitution: that no Parliament can bind its successors.  Instead, the Prime Minister would offer vague assurances.  Meanwhile, Corbyn would block his party’s push for a second referendum.

May would thus be able to wangle a short extension from the EU at this week’s emergency summit – having persuaded Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron that she and Corbyn would shortly combine to drive the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons.  This would then happen.  A Bill based on the Agreement would pass swiftly.  Plans for British participation in the European Parliamentary elections would be scrapped.  Britain would leave the EU before May 23.

Her Party would then forgive her for preparing for those elections; for whatever losses emerge from the local elections on May 5, and for all the trials, U-turns, humiliations, defeats and tribulations of the Brexit negotiation process.  She would thus have room to execute a swift reshuffle in which her most likely successors would be moved sideways, marooned or sacked.  There would be talk of bringing on a new generation of leadership candidates – to reinvent the Party for the future, along the lines which Onward and others are floating.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister would move on from the Withdrawal Agreement to the Political Declaration.  She would kick off the Brexit talks, Part Two, by reviving parts of her Chequers plan.  She would enjoy a last hurrah at the Conservative Party Conference, before December arrived with its prospect of a confidence ballot.  But by then she would have so befuddled her critics and confounded expectations that the ballot might not take place at all.  She would be able to stay on for just a little longer…

But it takes only a moment’s though to perceive all this as the fantasy that it is.

May will surely not be granted a short extension.  If the EU does not somehow plump for No Deal – which is improbable – she will be given a long one, with terms approved by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.  British participation in the European Parliamentary elections will loom.  Corbyn is unlikely to come to her rescue.  If he does, the logic of her turning her back on her own Party, and approaching Labour instead, will work its way to completion.  Most Labour MPs would vote for the Withdrawal Agreement.  Many Conservative MPs would not.

Whether it passes or fails, the Parliamentary stage would be set for further seizures of power by the Letwin/Cooper axis, aided and abetted by John Bercow.  The natural drift of the Commons would then be towards a second referendum.  There is an outside chance that some form of Norway Plus scheme may revive.  We would be on course for a softer Brexit, or else for No Brexit at all – unless the voters seem ready to put two fingers up to Britain’s pro-EU ascendancy.  In which case, expect talk of revocation to grow louder.

This takes us to the crunch.  Ten Conservative MPs voted in favour of cancelling Brexit at the start of this monthEight backed a second referendumA hundred and eighty-seven opposed an extension in March: that number represented two-thirds of the Parliamentary Party, and included six Cabinet Ministers.  In these circumstances, confronted by revocation or a second referendum or even Norway Plus, the Tory Party could split altogether.  It is not impossible to imagine Corbyn winning a no confidence vote and the election that followed.

There is an alternative, but it is neither pleasant, easy, nor guaranteed to work.  In a nutshell, it is to use any long extension to remove Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party, and hold a leadership contest that would conclude after those wretched European elections.  (Since were that new leader in place for them, he or she would get off to the worst possible start.)

In the event of the Withdrawal Agreement having failed to pass, this new leader would want to begin all over again.  He would propose a policy based on that set out in the Brady amendment – the only Brexit policy option for which the Commons has recently voted – and built on in the Malthouse Agreement by Nicky Morgan, Steve Baker, Damian Green, Simon Hart and others.

Whether the Agreement had passed or not, he would back a lower alignment rather than a higher alignment policy for the second stage of the Brexit talks.  In the event of it not having done so, it would make sense for the backstop to be put in place for a limited period while “alternative arrangements” are thrashed out.  This is more or less what the recent legal elaborations agreed with the EU imply.

If the EU rejected this approach, there would be No Deal.  You will point out that there is no clear majority in the Commons for it.  This is correct.  Which is why this new leader would have to prepare for a general election later this year in any event.

Yes, such an approach risks some Tory MPs peeling off to the Independent Group – though, as we say, an approach based on the Brady amendment makes sense, since the whole Parliamentary Party, pretty much, was able to unite behind it.

But the alternative risks a bigger split, both in the Commons and among the grassroots, in any event.  Expect soon to hear a new form of that old talk about a Conservative-UKIP alliance – this time round, of a Tory-Brexit Party pact.

Furthermore, there is even more at stake than the future of the world’s most venerable political party: namely, whether the referendum verdict of 2016, carried by the largest vote in this county’s political history, is to be upheld or dishonoured.

You will have spotted the fly in this unpalatable ointment.  Namely, that the Prime Minister is unwilling to go.  The 1922 Committee Executive has presented her with the obligatory glass of whisky and pistol.  She has refused to pick them up.

Furthermore, there is no formal means of expressing no confidence in her leadership until December.  The habit of suggesting indicative votes in catching on.  But the 1992 executive is doubtful that these could produce a resolution.

That leaves the Cabinet.  Its members are divided on policy, dogged by personal ambition, and daunted by the scale of the challenge before them.

To ask this dispirited band to come together, tell the Prime Minister to step down as Party leader, and stay in Downing Street until the ensuing leadership election is concluded – particularly when the options are so grisly – is a very big ask indeed.

But the driver of the car is taking it towards the edge of the cliff.  True, it may crash if the Cabinet attempts to wrest control from her.  But if they don’t, it is set to career into the void, in any event.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Cabinet must tell May to go

In Theresa May’s perfect world, the Withdrawal Agreement would have been carried through Parliament by Conservative votes.  It has failed to pass the Commons three times.  So she has turned to Jeremy Corbyn.

In her next best place to this ideal world, the Agreement would somehow be supported by the bulk of both the main parties.  Labour would settle for a customs union which isn’t called a customs union but really is a customs union – in addition to the customs union already written into the Withdrawal Agreement, at least as far as any future Unionist government is concened.

Meanwhile, Corbyn would stop pushing for what he can’t have – namely, guarantees that Labour-style future employment and environmental policies will be proofed against a fundamental of our unwritten constitution: that no Parliament can bind its successors.  Instead, the Prime Minister would offer vague assurances.  Meanwhile, Corbyn would block his party’s push for a second referendum.

May would thus be able to wangle a short extension from the EU at this week’s emergency summit – having persuaded Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron that she and Corbyn would shortly combine to drive the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons.  This would then happen.  A Bill based on the Agreement would pass swiftly.  Plans for British participation in the European Parliamentary elections would be scrapped.  Britain would leave the EU before May 23.

Her Party would then forgive her for preparing for those elections; for whatever losses emerge from the local elections on May 5, and for all the trials, U-turns, humiliations, defeats and tribulations of the Brexit negotiation process.  She would thus have room to execute a swift reshuffle in which her most likely successors would be moved sideways, marooned or sacked.  There would be talk of bringing on a new generation of leadership candidates – to reinvent the Party for the future, along the lines which Onward and others are floating.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister would move on from the Withdrawal Agreement to the Political Declaration.  She would kick off the Brexit talks, Part Two, by reviving parts of her Chequers plan.  She would enjoy a last hurrah at the Conservative Party Conference, before December arrived with its prospect of a confidence ballot.  But by then she would have so befuddled her critics and confounded expectations that the ballot might not take place at all.  She would be able to stay on for just a little longer…

But it takes only a moment’s though to perceive all this as the fantasy that it is.

May will surely not be granted a short extension.  If the EU does not somehow plump for No Deal – which is improbable – she will be given a long one, with terms approved by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.  British participation in the European Parliamentary elections will loom.  Corbyn is unlikely to come to her rescue.  If he does, the logic of her turning her back on her own Party, and approaching Labour instead, will work its way to completion.  Most Labour MPs would vote for the Withdrawal Agreement.  Many Conservative MPs would not.

Whether it passes or fails, the Parliamentary stage would be set for further seizures of power by the Letwin/Cooper axis, aided and abetted by John Bercow.  The natural drift of the Commons would then be towards a second referendum.  There is an outside chance that some form of Norway Plus scheme may revive.  We would be on course for a softer Brexit, or else for No Brexit at all – unless the voters seem ready to put two fingers up to Britain’s pro-EU ascendancy.  In which case, expect talk of revocation to grow louder.

This takes us to the crunch.  Ten Conservative MPs voted in favour of cancelling Brexit at the start of this monthEight backed a second referendumA hundred and eighty-seven opposed an extension in March: that number represented two-thirds of the Parliamentary Party, and included six Cabinet Ministers.  In these circumstances, confronted by revocation or a second referendum or even Norway Plus, the Tory Party could split altogether.  It is not impossible to imagine Corbyn winning a no confidence vote and the election that followed.

There is an alternative, but it is neither pleasant, easy, nor guaranteed to work.  In a nutshell, it is to use any long extension to remove Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party, and hold a leadership contest that would conclude after those wretched European elections.  (Since were that new leader in place for them, he or she would get off to the worst possible start.)

In the event of the Withdrawal Agreement having failed to pass, this new leader would want to begin all over again.  He would propose a policy based on that set out in the Brady amendment – the only Brexit policy option for which the Commons has recently voted – and built on in the Malthouse Agreement by Nicky Morgan, Steve Baker, Damian Green, Simon Hart and others.

Whether the Agreement had passed or not, he would back a lower alignment rather than a higher alignment policy for the second stage of the Brexit talks.  In the event of it not having done so, it would make sense for the backstop to be put in place for a limited period while “alternative arrangements” are thrashed out.  This is more or less what the recent legal elaborations agreed with the EU imply.

If the EU rejected this approach, there would be No Deal.  You will point out that there is no clear majority in the Commons for it.  This is correct.  Which is why this new leader would have to prepare for a general election later this year in any event.

Yes, such an approach risks some Tory MPs peeling off to the Independent Group – though, as we say, an approach based on the Brady amendment makes sense, since the whole Parliamentary Party, pretty much, was able to unite behind it.

But the alternative risks a bigger split, both in the Commons and among the grassroots, in any event.  Expect soon to hear a new form of that old talk about a Conservative-UKIP alliance – this time round, of a Tory-Brexit Party pact.

Furthermore, there is even more at stake than the future of the world’s most venerable political party: namely, whether the referendum verdict of 2016, carried by the largest vote in this county’s political history, is to be upheld or dishonoured.

You will have spotted the fly in this unpalatable ointment.  Namely, that the Prime Minister is unwilling to go.  The 1922 Committee Executive has presented her with the obligatory glass of whisky and pistol.  She has refused to pick them up.

Furthermore, there is no formal means of expressing no confidence in her leadership until December.  The habit of suggesting indicative votes in catching on.  But the 1992 executive is doubtful that these could produce a resolution.

That leaves the Cabinet.  Its members are divided on policy, dogged by personal ambition, and daunted by the scale of the challenge before them.

To ask this dispirited band to come together, tell the Prime Minister to step down as Party leader, and stay in Downing Street until the ensuing leadership election is concluded – particularly when the options are so grisly – is a very big ask indeed.

But the driver of the car is taking it towards the edge of the cliff.  True, it may crash if the Cabinet attempts to wrest control from her.  But if they don’t, it is set to career into the void, in any event.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

James Frayne: Cross-party co-operation over Brexit is initially popular, but it will swiftly sour in practice

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

The public love the idea of politicians from different parties working together to fix difficult policy problems. In any focus group that deals with Westminster politics you’ll hear people ask “why can’t they all just work together?”; or “why do they always oppose each other for its own sake?” They usually have a point, and it’s strange more British politicians don’t make an effort to reach across party lines on issues. And this is why the Prime Minister’s decision to engage with the Labour Party on Brexit will likely be immediately superficially popular with the public as a whole.

I haven’t been able to track down the full tables, but according to the Sunday Times a “snap” Labour poll is said to show significant topline support for their engagement with the Government on this. Why then would such a move only be superficially popular and not generally wildly popular? There are a series of problems with this decision, which can be put into short-term and long-term categories.

Let’s consider the short-term first. The most obvious problem is that, while people like the idea of political cooperation between parties, it’s ultimately not the process that they like but the potential outcome. On most issues, but on Brexit above all, people like the idea of the parties cooperating to deliver what they personally want to see: cooperation to leave more quickly; or cooperation to hold a second referendum, or to remain. The sheer exhaustion amongst voters will also make cooperation more immediately popular. But this will not ultimately be more powerful than their desire either to clearly Leave or clearly Remain. What they will not say is: “I didn’t agree with the outcome, but the Prime Minister gets my vote because she listened to her opponents”. One side at least will be disappointed by the process and immediate sympathy is likely to lead to short-term irritation.

Now let’s look at the longer-term – and here the decision was fraught with extreme political danger. Others have pointed out that meeting Corbyn in this way – effectively “as an equal” – has made him look Prime Ministerial; this is true, and this is a problem, but there are other problems too. Corbyn not only looks moderate by engaging in such talks, but he also looks like he’s working in the national interest – which completely undermines the Conservatives’ messaging over the last few years. Furthermore, and most concerning of all, it sends the message out that the Conservatives are willing to publicly negotiate with someone that they have spent the last year saying is trying to frustrate the Brexit process.

At just the time when the public were finally starting to hear that it wasn’t just opposition parties whose MPs were trying to undermine Brexit, but in fact many such opponents came from within Conservative ranks, and at just the time when the public started to question the Prime Minister’s seriousness in seeing Brexit through because of the announced delay, the Government announces talks with an apparent enemy of the entire process of leaving. The decision therefore cannot but have sent the message to many voters (not all, but a growing number) that this Government is no longer serious about delivering Brexit.

The whole decision was therefore potentially a giant electoral mistake. The polls are already showing the Conservatives dropping to the low 30s – and they surely have further to drop.

This Prime Minister is not a politician with a clear political or electoral philosophy; she doesn’t seek to change things rapidly on her terms; she prefers to wait to make decisions until she actually has little choice. In other words, she prefers not to make decisions at all. This no doubt explains the negotiating debacle. Her next “decision”, as ever, will likely be calculated on a belief that she has little to no wriggle room in the Cabinet, in Parliament, or indeed in negotiations with the EU. However, for the future electoral viability of the Conservative Party, she must also accept that she has no wriggle room with voters either. So what are the electoral fundamentals she must accept?

There are three. One: as I wrote last week, Conservative ratings have been held up in the high 30s mainly because of Brexit; they’ve had practically no other policies of note in the public domain in the last year, so what else can it have been? Two: the Party’s vote share was so high last time because they attracted new supporters from the Labour Party that defined themselves by Brexit; and these voters will disappear as quickly as they appeared. Three: while UKIP are a disgraceful outfit these days, most people will not have clocked that they’ve gone all Tommy Robinson and therefore there’ll be little barrier to a massive UKIP surge; and the Brexit Party will take more discerning/informed voters anyway.

Together, these fundamentals mean that her decisions to delay and water down Brexit – in cooperation with Labour – are electorally crazy. Luckily, no one has seriously yet raised the prospect of watering down the commitment to ending free movement; were such a proposal to be made, the Party’s ratings would be heading into the 20s.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Inviting Labour into Downing Street has proved costly, and benefited only Corbyn

It’s the end of the first week of Theresa May’s talks with Jeremy Corbyn and the comrades. How is it going?

Not well, according to Labour, who – unsurprisingly – don’t appear that keen on giving their opponent what she wants, when they could instead play willing and deepen the crisis engulfing the Prime Minister.

Keir Starmer is telling all and sundry that the Government is not willing to change its position, or even the wording of the deal, suggesting all that is on offer are reassurances. Perhaps that’s spin, or perhaps it’s true.

It would, of course, be very unwise for the Prime Minister to start promising Starmer any of the many bad ideas which he would love to secure from her (not that unwisdom makes something impossible in this Downing Street).

But that does rather raise the question of why she opened the door to Labour in the first place. As this site expected, doing so has incurred a sizeable cost – infuriating many of her MPs, party members and voters, and running directly contrary to the entirely reasonable message that Corbyn must never be allowed near the levers of power. Nigel Adams cited her decision to work “with a Marxist who has never once in his political life put British interests first” in his resignation letter, and plenty of others either share his distaste or view the decision as a strategic blunder (or both).

Paying the political price of this decision, only to find that there appear to be no actual benefits to it – because Labour are unlikely to want to be helpful, and because their idea of helpful is neither acceptable nor desirable in the Government’s eyes – is the worst of both worlds.

The only person who has gained so far is Corbyn, who accrues a little more legitimacy, and walks a little taller, when a Tory Prime Minister comes begging for his help. And that’s bad news all round.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com