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Sarah Ingham: The proper place to call the government to account is not the courts, but the ballot box

Dr Sarah Ingham is a member of Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham Conservative Association.

“We’re not at court to ask the court to jail Boris Johnson.”

Another day, another legal action by Joanna Cherry – this time to require the Prime Minister to comply with the so-called Benn Act and seek an extension to avoid leaving the EU without a deal.  Despite her denial, the prospect of the Downing Street One being banged up is probably the only part of the process that most of the electorate can relate to.

‘Justiciable.’ Less than a month ago many voters are likely to have googled or reached for the dictionary to check the exact definition. Thanks to Cherry and more than 70 other MPs dragging judges into the toxic swamp that is politics today, the electorate is now aware it means ‘subject to trial in a court of law’.

In the past few weeks, voters have been subjected to an unexpected crash-course in legalese and constitutional law, as they panted to keep up with a dizzying tour through the UK’s various courts. Judges from Scotland’s Court of Session (both Inner House and Outer House) and England’s High Court all had their say on whether they should have a say on the prorogation.

Finally, the Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled the suspension of Parliament unlawful, to the delight all those involved in the legal challenge to the Government’s decision.

Deservedly triumphant was Cherry, who in late July got the process underway in the Scottish courts. It can be assumed that recourse to the law is the default option for a senior member of the legal profession. And as MP for Edinburgh South West and the SNP’s Justice and Home Affairs spokesman, Cherry’s decision to seek legal remedy north of the border is understandable. It’s her home turf.

By September 4th, however, another 78 people had jumped on the Prorogation legal bandwagon that Joanna Cherry had set in motion, including some 70 MPs. Despite being described by Lady Hale as a ‘cross party group’, none was a Conservative or a member of the DUP. Most were Labour – but few, if any, seem to represent one of its estimated 148 Leave-supporting constituencies.

With Jo Swinson and Plaid’s Liz Saville Roberts on board, the First Cherry Case gathered together many who back the Remain Alliance. In addition to Ms Cherry, 10 were from the SNP’s cohort of 35 MPs, while almost 20 of the Labour MPs represent London seats.

Among the capital’s MPs who sought legal remedy north of the border were Andrew Slaughter and Emma Dent-Coad. As MPs for Hammersmith and for Kensington, both a Number 9 bus ride away from England’s High Court, they bring to mind those soon-to-be ex-wives from overseas who jet into London, the world’s divorce capital for the world’s wealthiest. Why are MPs elected to English constituencies not making their case in English courts?

If the first Cherry Case had truly just been about unraveling a knotty constitutional conundrum rather than trying to stymie the Prime Minister’s Leave strategy, it would have helped the legitimacy optics if it had been genuinely cross party, like Parliamentary Select Committees. It might not have got underway back in July within days of Boris Johnson’s barnstorming inaugural performance as Prime Minister.

It will be instructive to see which other MPs, if any, join the Second Cherry Case. If our elected representatives really want the public to keep faith in a politically neutral judiciary, they have no business involving judges in Brexit, the most contentious of all political issues.

As litigious MPs have sought remedy in the courts in the past month, voters have been reduced to being mere viewers of the latest soap on daytime TV: the Prorogation was Crown Court for political anoraks, or Judge Judy with Lady Hale.

Experts in constitutional law will be kept busy working out the implications of recent judicial meddling, which has torn apart the ancient fabric of Britain’s constitutional arrangements. Meanwhile, when it comes to Parliament and stymying, prorogation isn’t quite in the forefront of the minds of some 17.4 million voters. The prospect of Johnson in Belmarsh is about the only bit of light relief for the electorate, growing increasingly fed up as democracy is denied.

Elected MPs should be the most jealous guardians of that democracy, ever ready to assert the rights of Parliament over the Executive. But they should not be outsourcing the voters’ job to judges. The proper place to call the government to account is not the courts, but the ballot box.

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

Henry Hill: Johnson’s compromise risks laying another time-bomb under the Union

This morning’s papers are full of stories about whether or not the Prime Minister can cobble together a Commons majority for his latest proposals.

But despite reports that both a number of the ‘Whipless 21’ and a significant number of Labour MPs, might be prepared to walk through the lobby with Johnson and his Democratic Unionist allies, it is not yet at all clear that the EU will accept the plan.

Or, indeed, that they’re even meant to. It is not implausible to suggest that Boris Johnson’s plan, which involves both establishing a customs border on the island of Ireland and giving unionists a veto on breaking from alignment with the mainland, is intended more as a bid to make the Government appear the reasonable party in the event of a no-deal exit – although Tom McTague suggests this is not the case:

Even if they’re sincere, the path to a deal is fraught. As Greg Hands hinted at in ConservativeHome’s conference fringe on his Alternative Arrangements Commission, London and Dublin are not really trying to find different technical solutions to the same end-point. There is a political misalignment between what each side considers an acceptable level of post-Brexit continuity, and absent the threat of a no-deal exit the Irish Government has little motivation to, as McTague puts it, “step down from perfection.

Which is not to say that these proposals would not, if accepted, represent a serious concession – perhaps even the first of many – even if Ulster would theoretically re-align with Great Britain in 2026. One commentator has suggested that Britain becomes “more federal”, but that isn’t really accurate when he admits it likely involves an “enhanced” role for Ireland in the governance of British territory.

Owen Polley, who used to work for the Northern Irish Conservatives, sets out the problem in CapX:

“If Northern Ireland is under the political and economic control of the EU until 2026, while the rest of Britain forges an independent trade policy, that situation will become the status quo. It will have practical consequences that weaken the Union and the eventual political convulsion required to reassert British interests in Ulster will be more traumatic.”

Concluding, he adds:

“Even if the Government’s ‘final offer’ is designed to provoke Brussels into issuing a rejection and bringing about ‘no deal’, as Boris Johnson’s critics allege, it compromises the important principle that Northern Ireland should have the same relationship with the EU as the rest of the UK, after Brexit.”

This last is particularly important because, although it seems to have been at least temporarily forgotten by all involved, there was once another reason why unionists were opposed to the backstop. Notwithstanding the specific case of Northern Ireland, they worried that it might set a precedent which would allow other separatist parties, most obviously the SNP, to demand special treatment in turn.

Readers may remember that this ended in a badly-justified u-turn by Ruth Davidson and David Mundell, with Adam Tomkins sent out to try to explain why differential treatment for Ulster had suddenly ceased to be a threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom.

It is worth remembering, if three years of wrangling over the Belfast Agreement wasn’t reminder enough, that there is a huge, qualitative difference between any level of devolution delivered inside the UK’s internal constitutional settlement and baking divergence into an international treaty. Much like Theresa May’s lamentable capitulation over “post-Brexit devolved powers”, Johnson risks escaping a tactical difficulty only by conceding and setting in law principles which undermine the integrity and even legitimacy of the United Kingdom as a nation-state.

Both have accepted, intentionally or not, a position which posits that the UK is less entitled to institutional integrity and coherence than the European Union – Johnson in the manner set out by Polley, and May by legitimising the idea that market-coordination powers may be legitimately pooled in Brussels but not in London.

So far the SNP using the backstop to demand a similar deal for Scotland has been the dog which hasn’t barked. But even if it doesn’t, the Prime Minister must be more careful about laying time-bombs beneath the foundations of the Union. He will already have to devote considerable energy post-Brexit to defusing those bequeathed by his predecessor.

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

Boris Johnson: “Let’s get Brexit done. Let’s bring our country together.” Full text of his conference speech.

It’s great to be here in Manchester at the best attended conference for years and I know that some of you may have been mildly peppered with abuse on the way in but are you abashed? Are you downcast?

Of course not. We are conservatives and we get on with serving the people and speaking of service I should begin by paying tribute to my predecessor Theresa, I know the whole of conference remains full of gratitude to you, and to Philip May, for your patience and your forbearance, and yes, we will continue with the work of tackling domestic violence and modern slavery and building on your legacy I have been prime minister for only seventy days but  I have seen so many things that give cause for hope hospitals that are finally getting the investment to match the devotion of the staff schools where standards of reading are rising through the use of synthetic phonics police colleges where idealistic young men and women are enrolling in large numbers to fight crime across the country shipyards in Scotland that are building superb modern type 26 frigates for sale around the world – and every one of those high wage high skill jobs in shipbuilding is a testament to the benefits of belonging to the United Kingdom  the most successful political partnership in history which we will protect and we will defend against those who would wantonly destroy it and I say to Ruth Davidson as well  thank you for everything you did for the cause of Conservatism and unionism in Scotland and Ruth, we will honour your legacy too and I am proud of the role this government is playing in every one of those investments and they are only possible because it was this Conservative government that tackled the debt and the deficit left by the last Labour government.

It was because we cleared up the wreckage they left behind that we now have record employment wages rising the fastest for 10 years and we have record Foreign Direct Investment of £1.3 trillion and so many reasons to be confident about our country and its direction and yet we are like a world class athlete with a pebble in our shoe there is one part of the British system that seems to be on the blink.

If parliament were a laptop, then the screen would be showing the pizza wheel of doom.

If parliament were a school, Ofsted would be shutting it down.

If parliament were a reality TV show the whole lot of us would have been voted out of the jungle by now. But at least we could have watched the speaker being forced to eat a kangaroo testicle.

And the sad truth is that voters have more say over I’m a celebrity than they do over this House of Commons.

Which refuses to deliver Brexit, refuses to do anything constructive and refuses to have an election just at the moment when voters are desperate for us to focus on their priorities we are continuing to chew the supermasticated subject of Brexit when..

What people want…

What leavers want…

What remainers want…

What the whole world wants – is to be calmly and sensibly done with the subject, and to move on and that is why we are coming out of the EU on October 31, come what may Conference:

Let’s get Brexit done.

We can we must and we will even though things have not been made easier by the surrender bill we will work for a deal with our EU friends; but whatever happens we must come out by the end of October let’s get this thing done – and then let’s get ready to make our case to the country against the fratricidal anti-semitic Marxists who were in Brighton last week.

Last week Jeremy Corbyn had a number of damaging and retrograde ideas in his speech he wants a 4 day week – which would slash the wages of people on low incomes.

He wants to ban private schools and expropriate their property. Even though it would cost the taxpayer seven billion to educate the kids.

He wants to stamp out excellence in schools by banning Ofsted the inspectors who ensure that schools are safe for our children.

But he had one good idea. He had a whole paragraph repeating what he has said every week for the last three years. He wants an election now – or that is what he was going to say, poor fellow  the only trouble is that the paragraph was censored by John McDonnell or possibly Keir Starmer so we have the astonishing spectacle of the leader of the opposition being prevented by his colleagues from engaging in his constitutional function which is to try to remove me from office and in this age of creative litigation I am surprised that no one has yet sued him for breach of contract though it now appears that the SNP may yet try to bundle him towards the throne like some Konstantin Chernenko figure. Reluctantly propelled to office in a Kremlin coup so that they get on with their programme for total national discord turning the whole of 2020 – which should be a great year for this country – into the chaos and cacophony of two more referendums:

A second referendum on Scottish independence, even though the people of Scotland were promised that the 2014 vote would be a once in a generation decision and a second referendum on the EU? Can you imagine? QAnother 3 years of this?

But that is the Corbyn agenda – stay in the EU beyond October 31, and paying a billion pounds a month for the privilege, followed by years of uncertainty for business and everyone else.

As for the Lib Dems, their idea of serving the national interest was to write to Jean-Claude Juncker urging him NOT to give this country a better deal.

While the leader has called for a second referendum.

While pledging to campaign against the result.

It’s time to respect the trades descriptions act. And take the word democrat out of the liberal democrats.

My friends I am afraid that after three and a half years people are beginning to feel that they are being taken for foolsThey are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want brexit delivered at all and if they turn out to be right in that suspicion then I believe there will be grave consequences for trust in democracy.

Let’s get Brexit done on October 31.

Let’s get it done because of the opportunities that Brexit will bring not just to take back control of our money and our borders and our laws.

To regulate differently and better, and to take our place as a proud and independent global campaigner for free trade.

Let’s get it done because delay is so pointless and expensive.

Let’s get it done because we need to build our positive new partnership with the EU because it cannot be stressed too much that this is not an anti-European party and it is not an anti-European country.

We love Europe.

We are European. But after 45 years of really dramatic constitutional change we must have a new relationship with the EU a positive and confident partnership- and we can do it.

Today in Brussels we are tabling what I believe are constructive and reasonable proposals which provide a compromise for both sides.

We will under no circumstances have checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland.

We will respect the peace process and the Good Friday agreement.

And by a process of renewable democratic consent by the executive and assembly of Northern Ireland we will go further and protect the existing regulatory arrangements for farmers and other businesses on both sides of the border.

And at the same time we will allow the UK – whole and entire – to withdraw from the EU, with control of our own trade policy from the start.

And to protect the union.

And yes this is a compromise by the UK.

And I hope very much that our friends understand that and compromise in their turn.

Because if we fail to get an agreement because of what is essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks.

When that technology is improving the whole time.

Then let us be in no doubt that the alternative is no deal.

That is not an outcome we want.

It is not an outcome we seek at all.

But let me tell you this conference it is an outcome for which we are ready.

Are we ready?

Are we determined to resolve this?

Let’s get Brexit done on October 31 because we must get on and deliver on all the priorities of the people to answer the cry of those 17.4 m who voted for Brexit because it is only by delivering Brexit that we can address that feeling in so many parts of the country  that they were being left behind, ignored and that their towns were not only suffering from a lack of love and investment but their views had somehow become unfashionable or unmentionable.

And let’s get Brexit done for those millions who may have voted remain but are first and foremost democrats. And accept the result of the referendum and when I say that I want us to work together, now, to bring this country together you are entitled to ask yourselves about my core principles and the ideals that drive me and are going to drive me as your prime minister.

I am going to follow the example of my friend Saj.

I am going to quote that supreme authority in my family – my mother (and by the way for keen students of the divisions in my family you might know that I have kept the ace up my sleeve – my mother voted leave) and my mother taught me to believe strongly in the equal importance, the equal dignity, the equal worth of every human being on the planet and that may sound banal but it is not and there is one institution that sums up that idea

The NHS is holy to the people of this country because of the simple beauty of its principle that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from but when you are sick the whole country figuratively gathers at your bedside and does everything it can to make you well again and everybody pays to ensure that you have the best doctors and the best nurses and the most effective treatments known to medical science and after 70 years the results are – on the whole –amazing when I was a kid the word cancer was a death knell and heart attack was a terrifying thought well, we are slowly defeating the legions of disease.

This country has seen the fastest falls in breast cancer in Europe but we have so much more to do.

On Monday I went to the north Manchester general hospital and I saw the incredible work they are doing with reconstructive maxillo-facial surgery on people who only a decade ago would have been permanently disfigured by their traumas and for whom hope and confidence is so important I talked to the patients and every one of them was bursting with praise for the staff and their energy and devotion but conference that fantastic hospital was built in 1876 to serve the workhouse and we were walking down long narrow nightingale wards that were designed by the pioneer of nursing and as one of the managers told me that asking those professionals to work in that environment is like asking a premiership footballer to play on a ploughed field.

And so I was proud to tell them under this government we will totally rebuild that hospital. 

So that we are not only recruiting more doctors and nurses, and training them but in the next 10 years we will build 40 new hospitals in the biggest investment in hospital infrastructure for a generation because after 70 years of the existence of the NHS – 44 of them under a Conservative government – it is time for us to say loud and clear:

We are the party of the NHS and I claim that title because it is our one nation conservatism that has delivered and will deliver the economic growth that makes those investments possible.

And it is we Conservatives who will solve the problem of social care and end the injustice that means people have to sell their home to pay for their old age.

And if you ask me how we are going to do it how we are going to grow the UK economy.

I will tell you that it is by raising the productivity of the whole of the UK not with socialism not with deranged and ruinous plans borrowed from the playbook of Bolivarian revolutionary Venezuela but by creating the economic platform for dynamic free market capitalism.

Yes, you heard it right capitalism – and when did you last hear a Tory leader talk about capitalism.

We are the party of the NHS precisely because we are the party of capitalism not because we shun it, or despise it and we understand the vital symmetry at the heart of the modern British economy between a dynamic enterprise culture and great public services and I have seen this formula in actio.

Now, who comes from London?

Who lives there?

No disgrace in that – I used to be mayor there and it is one of the many astonishing things about our nation’s capital that it is the most productive region in the whole of Europe because in 1863 this country led the world in putting trains in tunnels, among other breakthroughs and yet there are many other regions of the country that are far less productive and that represents not just an injustice but a massive opportunity.

I believe that talent and genius and initiative and chutzpah are evenly distributed across the whole UK but it is also clear that opportunity is not evenly distributed and it is the job of this one nation Conservative Government – to unlock talent in every corner of the UK because that is the right thing to do in itself and because that is the way to release the economic potential of the whole country and the first thing we must do in spreading opportunity is to insist on the equal safety of the public wherever you live to make your streets safer.

And that is why we are recruiting 20,000 new police officers.

And that is why we are committing now to rolling up the evil county lines drugs gangs that predate on young kids and send them to die in the streets to feed the cocaine habits of the bourgeoisie and we will succeed and yes we will be tough on crime we will make sure that the police have the legal powers and the political backing to use stop and search because it may be controversial but believe me that when a young man is going equipped with a bladed weapon there is nothing kinder or more loving or more life-saving you can do than ask him to turn out his pockets.

And yes, when people are found guilty of serious sexual or violent offences, we will make sure that they serve the sentence they should – if only for the protection of the public but we will also do everything we can to stop people becoming criminals with rehabilitation education in prisons so that they are not just academies for crime and we are investing in youth clubs and better FE training to give young people the best possible antidote to the criminal instinct the prospect of a good job and indeed the best way to level up and to expand opportunity is to give every kid in the country a superb education.

So that is why we are levelling up education funding across the country.

So that every child has the chance to express their talents and that’s why we are investing in transport from Northern Powerhouse rail to a huge new agenda of road improvements.

And yes I admit I am a bit of a bus nut. I confess that I like to make and paint inexact models of buses. With happy passengers inside.

But it is not just because i am a bus nut that we want to expand bus transport.

With clean, green buses and contactless payment by card or phone a good bus service can make all the difference to your job. To your life. To your ability to get to the doctor. To the liveability of your town or your village.

And to your ability to stay there and have a family there and start a business there.

And it is for exactly the same reason.

To increase connectivity and liveability that we are putting in gigabit broadband spreading across the country like tendrils of superinformative vermicelli because that is the way to unite the country to spread opportunity to bring the country together and there is another vital effect with the right infrastructure and education and technology you increase the productivity of the whole UK economy.

If the streets are safe, and if the transport links are there, and if there are good broadband connections you enable new housing to go ahead on brownfield sites that were never considered viable before we enable young people to get a foot on the housing ladder and we enable people to live near the good jobs and above all – with safe streets and affordable housing and fantastic wifi – we give business the confidence to invest and to grow that is the virtuous circle that is the balance and the symmetry at the heart of our one nation project and there are so many ways in which we are pulling ahead.

London has overtaken New York as the number one city for investment in fintech firms and that is before we have even delivered Crossrail which was on time and on budget when I left.

And isn’t it time we had a Mayor who is focused on the job – which is why i am backing Shaun Bailey here in Manchester we are seeing an extraordinary growth in genomics, with a flood of inward investment from banking and insurance to IT and that is before we have delivered northern powerhouse rail in the west midlands we are seeing a 21st century industrial revolution in battery technology one in five of the electric cars sold in Europe is now made in the UK and that is before we have begun Andy Street’s vision of a West Midlands Metro.

With infrastructure education and technology we will drive up the productivity of this country and bring it together.

I do not for one moment doubt the patriotism of people on all sides of this Brexit argument but I am fed up with being told that our country can’t do something when I believe passionately that it can thanks to British technology there is a place in Oxfordshire that could soon be the hottest place in the solar system. t

The tokamak fusion reactor in Culham.

And if you go there you will learn that this country has a global lead in fusion research.

And that they are on the verge of creating commercially viable miniature fusion reactors for sale around the world delivering virtually unlimited zero-carbon power.

Now I know they have been on the verge for some time. It is a pretty spacious kind of verge. But remember it was only a few years ago when people were saying that solar power would never work in cloudy old Britain and that wind turbines would not pull the skin off a rice pudding.

Well there are some days when wind and solar are delivering more than half our energy needs.

We can do it.

We can beat the sceptics.

We are already using gene therapy to cure blindness.

This country leads the way in satellite technology and we are building two space ports, one in Sutherland and one in Newquay soon we will be sending missions to the heavens geostationary satellites conference can you think of anyone who could trial the next mission.

Can you think which Communist cosmonaut to coax into the cockpit?

And let’s get Brexit done on October 31st.

Not just because we have such an immense agenda to take this country forward but because Brexit is an opportunity in itself.

We will take back control of our fisheries and the extraordinary marine wealth of Scotland and it is one of the many bizarre features of the SNP that in spite of being called names like Salmond and Sturgeon they are committed to handing back those fish to the control of the EU we want to turbo-charge the Scottish fishing sector; they would allow Brussels to charge for our turbot.

We will be able to allow UK businesses to have bigger tax breaks for investment in capital.

We can do free ports and enterprize zones.

We can ban the shipment of live animals.

And yes, we will have those free trade deals.

We already have some astonishing exports.

Just in the last few months I have seen an Isle of Wight ship-builder that exports vast leisure catamarans to Mexico.

We export Jason Donovan CDs to North Korea.

We exported Nigel Farage to America – though he seems to have come back.

And across the world there are countries that are yearning to engage with us.

Where we have old friendships and burgeoning new partnerships.

And that is the vision for Britain.

A country that is open, outward-looking, global in mindset and insisting on free trade.

A high wage, low tax, high skill, high productivity economy – with incomes rising fastest for those who are lowest paid.

A country where we level up and unify the entire United Kingdom through better education, better infrastructure and technology.

Acountry where provided you obey the law and do no harm to others you can live your life and love whomsoever you choose.

A country that leads the world with clean green technology and in reducing greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

A country that is happy and confident about its future.

That is the vision for the country we love.

And when the opposition finally screw their courage to the sticking point and agree to have an election.

When the chlorinated chickens waddle from the hencoop where they are hiding.

That is the vision of the country that we will put to the people.

And the choice is clear.

We put up wages – with the biggest expansion of the living wage for a generation; Corbyn would put up taxes for everyone.

We back our superb armed forces around the world; Corbyn has said he wants them disbanded.

We want an Australian-style points based system for immigration; Corbyn says he doesn’t even believe in immigration controls.

If Jeremy Corbyn were allowed into Downing Street, he would whack up your taxes, he would foul up the economy, he would rip up the alliance between Britain and the USA, and he would break up the UK.

We cannot allow it to happen.

But it is worse than that.

It has become absolutely clear that he is determined now to frustrate Brexit.

What do we want and need? Do we want more dither and delay.

Do we want to spend another billion pounds a month that could be going on the NHS?

Let’s get Brexit done and let’s finally believe in ourselves and what we can do.

This country has long been a pioneer.

We inaugurated the steam age, the atomic age, the age of the genome.

We led the way in parliamentary democracy, in female emancipation and when the whole world had succumbed to a different fashion, this country and this party pioneered ideas of free markets and privatisation that spread across the planet.

Every one of them was controversial, every one of them was difficult.

But we have always had the courage to be original, to do things differently, and now we are about to take another giant step.

To do something no one thought we could do.

To reboot our politics.

To relaunch ourselves into the world and to dedicate ourselves again to that simple proposition that we are here to serve the democratic will of the British people and if we do that with optimism and confidence then I tell you we will not go wrong.

Let’s get on with sensible moderate one nation but tax-cutting Tory government and figuratively if not literally let us send Jeremy Corbyn into orbit where he belongs.

Let’s get Brexit done.

Let’s bring our country together.

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

Henry Hill: Scottish Tories force SNP to publish papers on impact of independence push

Leaked documents show SNP sacrificing domestic agenda for independence

This morning’s papers report that previously secret documents have been leaked which show that the Scottish Government are pushing ahead with their bid for a second independence referendum despite it undermining their domestic policies.

In a note from Leslie Evans, Scotland’s most senior official, to Nicola Sturgeon and two other senior ministers, she said that putting the constitution front-and-centre would involve the “deprioritisation of activity” in other areas.

According to the Times, publication of this document was forced by the Scottish Information Commissioner following a campaign by the Scottish Conservatives which lasted more than a year.

This follows a string of domestic setbacks for the Scottish Nationalists, most recently the final abandonment of their controversial ‘Named Person’ plan. This would have appointed a named, non-related individual to monitor the welfare of every individual resident of Scotland, and had been branded by opponents and an extraordinary incursion by the state into family life.

Corbyn savaged for backing judge-murdering IRA during Commons row

The Democratic Unionist Party have attacked Jeremy Corbyn for his historic support for the IRA, undercutting the Labour leader’s efforts to criticise Boris Johnson’s response to Tuesday’s Supreme Court judgment against his prorogation.

During last night’s heated debate in the House of Commons Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s deputy leader and leader of its Westminster cohort, said:

“There will be many people, not least the families of senior judges who were murdered in Northern Ireland, many of them, including the Lord Justice of Appeal, who will wish that the Leader of the Opposition when he supported a terrorist organisation that murdered judges, had really put those words into action much, much ­earlier in his career. We talk about respect for the rule of law, it should have been respect for the rule of law through the decades of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.”

Corbyn took part in a ceremony honouring IRA terrorists who had been killed by the SAS only weeks after a roadside bomb planted by the group killed Lord Justice Gibson and his wife in 1987.

Fresh warnings the threat of republican – and loyalist – violence

Lady Sylvia Hermon, the Independent Unionist MP for North Down, has warned again that a No Deal Brexit risks a violent backlash from republican groups in Northern Ireland, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

However, in a sign that the need for consent from both communities is finally starting to be understood, she also warned the House of Commons that an anti-EU backlash by pro-UK loyalists was also a serious concern.

This follows a very interesting article by Naomi O’Leary for Politico in which she spoke to loyalists and explored the possibility of paramilitaries restarting their own armed campaign. The site has an honourable record of offering the Dublin/Brussels line on Northern Ireland more sceptical treatment than it usually receives – former staffer Tom McTague continues to do so from his new berth at the Atlantic.

In another development which will do nothing to cool tensions, Unionist politicians have demanded that Dublin apologise for refusing to extradite another IRA terrorist. The News Letter reports that “Fr Patrick Ryan appeared in a BBC Spotlight discussing how he travelled around the world raising money for the IRA and procuring munitions.”

The paper adds the important fact that Dublin refused no less than 93 per cent of extradition requests from Britain between 1973 and 1997. This was a source of immense ill-feeling on the part of the British, who had expected more support in getting their hands on republican terror suspects as part of the settlement around the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

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

Henry Hill: Scottish Tories force SNP to publish papers on impact of independence push

Leaked documents show SNP sacrificing domestic agenda for independence

This morning’s papers report that previously secret documents have been leaked which show that the Scottish Government are pushing ahead with their bid for a second independence referendum despite it undermining their domestic policies.

In a note from Leslie Evans, Scotland’s most senior official, to Nicola Sturgeon and two other senior ministers, she said that putting the constitution front-and-centre would involve the “deprioritisation of activity” in other areas.

According to the Times, publication of this document was forced by the Scottish Information Commissioner following a campaign by the Scottish Conservatives which lasted more than a year.

This follows a string of domestic setbacks for the Scottish Nationalists, most recently the final abandonment of their controversial ‘Named Person’ plan. This would have appointed a named, non-related individual to monitor the welfare of every individual resident of Scotland, and had been branded by opponents and an extraordinary incursion by the state into family life.

Corbyn savaged for backing judge-murdering IRA during Commons row

The Democratic Unionist Party have attacked Jeremy Corbyn for his historic support for the IRA, undercutting the Labour leader’s efforts to criticise Boris Johnson’s response to Tuesday’s Supreme Court judgment against his prorogation.

During last night’s heated debate in the House of Commons Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s deputy leader and leader of its Westminster cohort, said:

“There will be many people, not least the families of senior judges who were murdered in Northern Ireland, many of them, including the Lord Justice of Appeal, who will wish that the Leader of the Opposition when he supported a terrorist organisation that murdered judges, had really put those words into action much, much ­earlier in his career. We talk about respect for the rule of law, it should have been respect for the rule of law through the decades of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.”

Corbyn took part in a ceremony honouring IRA terrorists who had been killed by the SAS only weeks after a roadside bomb planted by the group killed Lord Justice Gibson and his wife in 1987.

Fresh warnings the threat of republican – and loyalist – violence

Lady Sylvia Hermon, the Independent Unionist MP for North Down, has warned again that a No Deal Brexit risks a violent backlash from republican groups in Northern Ireland, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

However, in a sign that the need for consent from both communities is finally starting to be understood, she also warned the House of Commons that an anti-EU backlash by pro-UK loyalists was also a serious concern.

This follows a very interesting article by Naomi O’Leary for Politico in which she spoke to loyalists and explored the possibility of paramilitaries restarting their own armed campaign. The site has an honourable record of offering the Dublin/Brussels line on Northern Ireland more sceptical treatment than it usually receives – former staffer Tom McTague continues to do so from his new berth at the Atlantic.

In another development which will do nothing to cool tensions, Unionist politicians have demanded that Dublin apologise for refusing to extradite another IRA terrorist. The News Letter reports that “Fr Patrick Ryan appeared in a BBC Spotlight discussing how he travelled around the world raising money for the IRA and procuring munitions.”

The paper adds the important fact that Dublin refused no less than 93 per cent of extradition requests from Britain between 1973 and 1997. This was a source of immense ill-feeling on the part of the British, who had expected more support in getting their hands on republican terror suspects as part of the settlement around the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

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Neil O’Brien: How to rebalance Britain’s unbalanced economy – by levelling up, not levelling down

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

Even Brexit, it turns out, is about location, location, location. Ben Ansell, an Oxford professor, has found that in wealthier areas, where the price of a house averages £500,000, 70 per cent voted to remain. Poorer areas, where the average house price was £100,000, were an exact mirror image, with 70 per cent voting to leave.

Like a disclosing tablet, the EU referendum highlighted the different economic experiences of different places over recent decades: booming London and the most prosperous home counties voted to Remain, as did Scotland, the next richest part of the country. The reviving cores of our large cities did likewise. But smaller towns and cities, the countryside and coastal places voted overwhelmingly to Leave, as did Wales.

In response, Boris Johnson recently set out his ambition to “level up” poorer areas in a fantastic speech in Manchester. It’s the right thing to do – and it makes political sense too. The 2017 election saw us losing ground in wealthier-but-Remainy areas, and gaining former Labour seats in the midlands (and north) which we’d never gained before. We have huge potential to win in seats where people have felt taken for granted and left behind for many decades.

The economic case for levelling up is clear too. There are no G20 countries which have a more regionally imbalanced economy than the UK and are also richer than the UK. Conversely, all large countries that are richer per head than the UK have a more balanced economy.

In other words, a more balanced economy is a stronger one. In a highly unbalanced economy, resources like land and infrastructure end up overloaded in some parts of the country, and under-used in others, which is costly and wasteful. Given that workers (particularly lower skilled people) don’t simply move away from their families in the face of local economic problems, having greater distances between unemployed workers and job opportunities may well compound problems matching people to job opportunities. There might even be compounding mechanisms: if some areas have high unemployment that can lock in patterns of worklessness.

But to bring about a more balanced economy, there are two big lessons that the Prime Minister must draw from previous successes and failures.

First, the crucial thing is to attract private sector employment – particularly jobs that are knowledge and investment-intensive. The work of academics like Enrico Moretti and think tanks like the Centre for Cities shows how gaining “brain jobs” in the private sector has a much bigger multiplier effect than just moving public sector jobs to an area.

Tax breaks for inward investment can be very effective in attracting in new investment, which is why most other countries offer them. Within the UK, probably our most successful ever regional intervention was Margaret Thatcher luring Nissan to Sunderland with a mix of investment tax breaks, lobbying and the offer of cheap land (an old airfield). It’s now one of the most successful plants in the world.

When people think about regeneration, they often start with plans for a new tram or shiny cultural facility, which tend to be popular, and can indeed help growth in areas that are already motoring along. But such investments aren’t going to do much for areas where the economic engine has rusted up and needs restarting. Detroit famously built a fancy monorail intended to fight its economic decline: but in a city where every factory was gone it remained largely unused, drifting through a city that looked like it had been bombed flat. Without private sector investment, there’s no demand for it or anything much else.

Second, different things work in different places and a different set of policies are needed for our towns than our city centres. During the 1970s and 1980s the “inner cities” were a byword for decline. But in recent decades capital cities and the centres of other larger cities have outperformed other areas, right across the world. The shift from a manufacturing to a professional services economy (plus the growth of universities) revived the centres of our cities.

There are still many problems to solve in our cities, but the places that have struggled the most in recent decades have been rural areas, smaller towns and cities, and the outer parts of large cities (even outer London). Places on the coast and places without a university have suffered particularly badly from a brain drain. Labour have tried to capitalise on their discontent with glossy ads like their film “our town”.

What to do for towns is even trickier than helping big cities grow. Though there are trendy small towns from Hebden Bridge to Hay-on-Wye, simply copying ideas from big cities, like “culture-led regeneration”, is often a recipe for failure in small towns.

Improving connections between city centres and towns might help – Tom Forth has highlighted just how bad we are at this in Britain. The Prime Minister’s new fund to help regenerate town centres is a good move and will make them more attractive. We should do things like re-examine funding historic funding formulas for government spending on science, transport and housing, which are still heavily geared towards supporting London and other areas that are already growing fast. And we should offer devolved economic powers to counties, not just big cities.
The more we can use free market mechanisms to help poorer towns, the more likely we are to succeed.

Looking at Britain as a whole, chronically low investment rates are a big part of our long-term productivity problem. We should cut taxes on business investment across the whole country, and make the UK’s capital allowances among the most generous in the world (at present they’re among the least).

But to level up poorer areas we should go further, and have even more generous tax breaks for investment there, where the problem of low investment and low productivity is most severe. We should also empower the Department for International Trade to take part in the same aggressive tax competition for inward investment that countries in Asia, the US, and our neighbours in Ireland do so successfully. And we should use those tools to encourage inward investment into poorer places.

More generous capital allowances would help lagging regions anyway, even if introduced across the board. While manufacturing accounted for around a quarter of productivity growth nationally since 1997, it provided 40–50 per cent of productivity growth in poorer regions like Wales, the West Midlands and North West. Manufacturing requires roughly twice as much capital investment as the rest of the economy, so an investment-hostile tax system hits poorer places harder.

Ever since the referendum, there’s rightly been renewed focus on how to help poorer places. Helpfully there is decades of evidence about what does and doesn’t work. If we can join up an energetic new Prime Minister with the bit between his teeth, plus a new agenda for left-behind places, then we can really get things moving.

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John Baron: Johnson must keep calm, carry on – and reject the Withdrawal Agreement

John Baron is MP for Basildon and Billericay,

‘May you live in interesting times’, goes the old saying. For those that lived through it, the saying might closely be applied to the long 2017-2019 session of Parliament, which has easily been the most extraordinary in our lifetimes. This session saw the aftermath of a bungled general election, the drama of the Article 50 court case and its triggering, the largest Government defeat in history, a change of Prime Minister, the announcement of a change of Speaker, topped off by a charged prorogation. It has been quite a ride.

The period has confirmed that this is a Remain Parliament which has not reconciled itself to leaving the EU. The triggering of Article 50 by an overwhelming majority in 2017 which clearly endorsed the UK’s departure with or without a deal by March 29th 2019 has long been forgotten – Remain MPs have now extended the deadline twice, and have legislated for a third delay. This hinders Brexit for the time being, but it also offers the Prime Minister an opportunity.

If he can hold his nerve and maintain possession of the narrative and truth that the Conservatives are working to implement the result of the 2016 referendum, in opposition to this Remain Parliament, then the Tories can win through at the forthcoming election. However, a core of Conservative backbench MPs, not necessarily members of the ERG, see any excessive compromise in an effort to secure a deal costing the Party dear.

Seen through this lens, the increasingly shrill anti-Brexit moves by Continuity Remain Parliamentarians is grist to the Conservatives’ mill. These tactics have become ever more desperate: just before prorogation they succeeded in re-jigging how emergency debates have always been understood to operate in order to pass the so-called ‘Surrender Act’, which will deprive the British Government of its ability to walk away from the Brexit negotiations if no good deal is on offer.

Quite apart from shifting the balance to the EU’s advantage, this Act apparently compels the Prime Minister to accept the EU’s chosen extension date – which could be a century or a millennium from now – unless the Government can win a vote to reject it. This the current Parliament would clearly never do.

Equally egregiously, Remainers used the same emergency debate ruse to pass a motion compelling gGovernment officials to surrender their personal devices and data, and also compelling the Government to publish confidential internal documents regarding preparations for a No Deal Brexit, should it occur. This represents an enormous breach of privacy – presumably Parliament could also vote to compel me to divulge my personal e-mails, or you to divulge yours – from those usually quick to associate themselves with standing up for civil liberties and human rights.

Moreover, by depriving ministers and officials of a ‘safe space’ in which the pros and cons of policies can be freely and frankly debated, Remainers have adversely affected policymaking and indeed the public record of ministerial decision-making. Officials and ministers will simply stop writing things down, which will help no-one. They may also put commercially sensitive information into the public domain, making No Deal planning more difficult than it would have been otherwise.

Opposition parties are also at sixes and sevens. As its own party conference opens, the endless quandary of Labour’s Brexit position continues. At present, its Labour’s ridiculous position, as elucidated by Emily Thornberry recently on the BBC’s Question Time, is that it would renegotiate a Brexit deal with the EU, which they would then bring back to the electorate in a second referendum during which they would campaign for Remain against the deal that they themselves had negotiated.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, have been campaigning hard for a second referendum, in which they would campaign to remain. However, a second referendum would be very likely to return a second Leave vote, probably even larger than the 2016 outcome. As the Liberal Democrats have refused to accept the outcome of the first referendum, there is little chance they would accept the outcome of a second referendum which went the ‘wrong’ way. At their own party conference last week, they have even voted to endorse an out-and-out policy of revoking Article 50 should they win the election.

Not to be outdone, the Scottish National Party is campaigning for two second referendums – one on EU membership, and one on Scottish independence. Yet all their criticisms of Brexit read over to their central policy of breaking up the UK – the Irish/Scottish customs border, which they claim will inevitably lead to a hard border, and the fact that undoing a 47-year old union is too difficult, despite their desire to unpick a vastly deeper union of over three centuries’ standing. Scotland’s largest export market – by far – is the rest of the United Kingdom.

Opposition parties are so out of touch that, despite calling for an early general election almost every day since the last one, they have this week either abstained or even actively voted against Government attempts to call an early poll. These same people have urged their supporters to take to the streets to ‘stop the coup’, yet it is an unusual coup when the Government wants to consult the people but the opposition blocks this from happening.

There is little evidence of a significant shift of 2016 leave voters, and so the Government’s policy of reminding the electorate that it is they who are keeping faith with the largest democratic exercise in our country’s political history is correct. It may be that Parliament, via the Surrender Act, compels the Prime Minister to seek yet another extension of our exit date, in which case the Government should take each and every opportunity to point the finger at the Remain-supporting MPs who voted through this legislation.

If the Prime Minister sticks to his guns, the Conservatives will do well at the general election – whenever it comes. However, all of his advantages will be squandered if he, as some suggest, brings back to Parliament a re-heated version of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement – with the backstop intact – for ‘MV4’ sometime in October. He must put on his tin hat, keep calm and carry on.

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Henry Hill: Belief that DUP are softening their position raise hopes of Brexit deal

Are the DUP preparing to fold on the backstop – provided it’s called something else?

The Irish Government have confirmed that they are engaged in “secret Brexit talks” with London, today’s Daily Mail reports, amidst mounting speculation that a deal might yet be struck.

Simon Coveney, the Irish deputy prime minister, put this on the record as other EU leaders, led by Finland, revived the prospect of a no-deal exit at the end of next month by threatening to veto a further extension of the negotiations.

At the same time, the Democratic Unionists have fuelled fresh speculation that they are softening their opposition to Northern Ireland-only solutions to the challenges posed by the Irish border. Having previously insisted that the Province must depart on exactly the same terms as the mainland, Arlene Foster is now saying that the DUP will merely oppose anything which challenges Ulster’s ‘constitutional status’ inside the UK.

Such vague language could cover all manner of sins. Whilst it is almost certain that any deal reached won’t be called the backstop – the EU would need to make any retreat by Foster or Johnson look like a victory so they could sell it – we may yet see the Government fold on what has been the biggest sticking point to passing the Withdrawal Agreement.

Meanwhile Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, has urged Brussels to “take risks” and abandon its “rigid” approach to the border issue in a speech today.

Yet it hasn’t all been good news for Irish nationalism this week. A new study by two “top Irish economists” has concluded that any annexation of Northern Ireland by the Republic could be economically catastrophic. The Sun reports that: “a 32 county Ireland would cause a complete collapse of the Northern Ireland economy and hammer the standard of living in the Republic.”

This fits with earlier analysis by Irish legislators which suggested ‘unification’ would only be economically viable if the UK continued to pay its full present-day subsidy to Northern Ireland to the Republic for three decades after the event. As one self-aware Irish commentator put it at the time: “This could be a hard one to sell to the British.”

Meanwhile the Prime Minister continues to be enthusiastic about building a road and rail bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland – a suitably Johnsonian grand projet which would make a big statement on the Union, deepen the Province’s physical link to the mainland, and could reportedly be done for much less than the cost of HS2’s London to Birmingham section.

Poll suggests SNP still have a mountain to climb

Nor has Scottish nationalism had a great week. After a flurry of priors-finally-confirmed excitement in recent weeks about a couple of polls showing support for independence at near-level pegging with opposition, this week saw the publication of a new poll showing that six-in-ten Scots back staying in the UK.

Even worse for Nicola Sturgeon, fewer than one in three support her policy of staging a re-run of the 2014 referendum within the next 18 months. More remarkably still:

“More than a third (36 per cent) of Yes voters in the 2014 vote now want to stay in the UK, the poll said, with protecting public services, Brexit and Ms Sturgeon’s performance as First Minister cited as the most important reasons behind their change of heart.”

This ought to serve as a welcome antidote to unionism’s omnipresent fatalism, a feature of which is the tendency to assume that a voter lost once is lost forever.

One feature highlighted by the poll is the importance of the question – a lesson well-learned by Brexiteers in 2016. Whilst in 2014 David Cameron’s policy was to make maximal concessions to the Nationalists in the hope of giving them no space to wriggle out of defeat (a policy he entirely undercut with ‘The Vow’), this time the pro-UK side appear completely alive to the importance of this particular battle.

It is therefore significant that the Electoral Commission have this week publicly slapped down Mike Russell, the SNP’s constitution secretary, for suggesting that the Scottish Government has the right to unilaterally decide what question gets put to the electorate in any second vote.

The SNP are understandably keen to lock in 2014’s question, which allowed them to run a campaign based on a naturally positive ‘Yes’ frame. ‘Yes’ has since become part of the separatist identity, and it’s loss in favour of a fairer question would be a palpable blow.

(Unionists ought also to ensure that the question references both what Scotland stands to lose as well as again, so ‘..leave the United Kingdom and become an independent country’ rather than merely ‘…become an independent country’, and so on.)

Meanwhile David Cameron has revealed in his new memoir that he asked the Queen to make her famous intervention in the closing stretch of the 2014 referendum. The former Prime Minister says he asked if Her Majesty could “raise an eyebrow” at the prospect of independence.

Commentary

A few pieces of relevant comment which stood out for me this week:

  • I contributed to Bright Blue’s new series on Johnson’s next steps to set out what the new ‘Minister for the Union’ needs to do to make good on his title.
  • Lord Trimble wrote on this very site about why the backstop breaches the terms of the Belfast Agreement. He ought to know, as he won the Nobel Prize for negotiating the latter.
  • Stephen Daisley has a great piece at the Spectator about taking a tough new line to curb Scottish nationalism. Attracted a vicious, vacuous, and now-deleted response from Alex Massie.

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The limits of the LibDems

The main electoral impact of the Liberal Democrats in modern times has been to help deny the Conservatives a working Commons majority.  They have done so regardless of whether the latter have been in government or opposition.

In 1974, the Conservatives were in government, the Liberal vote surged, Edward Heath failed to win a majority and Jeremy Thorpe refused to enter a coalition with him.  In 2010, the Tories were in opposition, the LibDem vote rose slightly, David Cameron failed to gain a majority – and Nick Clegg took his party into coalition.

It is significant that sweeping LibDem gains haven’t tended to harm Labour.  In 1997, the party gained 25 seats, taking its total to 34.  In the same election, Tony Blair won a landslide.  He and Paddy Ashdown had crushed the Conservatives in a pincer movement.

The tumultuous effects of Brexit have resuscitated the LibDems and are reviving their prospects.  Coalition nearly killed them, at least at Westminster.  But the EU referendum has given them a new lease of life.  Once again, it is most evident in areas which otherwise return Conservative MPs or councils.

Out of their 14 MPs in England and Wales, all those elected as Liberal Democrats in 2017 had the Tories in second place.  In the local elections last spring, all their councils gained were in yellow/blue areas.  Their revival tends to be concentrated in areas in which they flourished between roughly the late Thatcher and late Cameron eras.

This is the context in which to viewed their latest shift on Brexit, the opportunities it is bringing them, and the defections it is gaining them.  The shift to revocation takes place in the context of their competiton with Labour.  The more red votes the party can squeeze in blue/yellow marginals, the more seats it is likely to win.

So as Labour gradually commits itself more explicitly to Remain, to be delivered through the medium of a second referendum, the more the LibDems must try to outflank it.  Junking the referendum and going straight for revocation is the obvious means of doing so.

The ploy carries risks for Jo Swinson’s party.  Revocation may play well in South-West London or university-type seats.  But it is hard to see how it will be a plus in Brexity South West of England.  Swinson seems to be going for broke in the Remain heartlands of 2016: the capital itself and what might loosely be called the greater South East.  Plus Scotland.

In her perfect world, the Liberal Democrats will sweep up London seats in which they have not been previously competitive.  Hence Chuka Umanna’s flight from Streatham towards the Cities of London and Westminster.  She may also be hoping to have a crack at Labour in some of its north London constituencies.  The prospect is agitating pro-EU Labour MPs such as Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry to push harder for Remain.

It is tempting to write off the Revocation policy.  After all, Swinson can only implement it herself with the Commons majority that she won’t win.  That clip of a prosperous-looking LibDem audience whooping it up for Guy Verhofstadt’s imperalist ravings won’t impress Revocation-sceptic centrist voters.

But the shift will have an effect on the conversation at Westminster.  Were Swinson to win that mythical majority, Revocation would be one thing: she would have won the right to implement it, fair and square.  But the policy will be quite another if Brexit doesn’t take place on October 31, and MPs begin to drift in its direction without a mandate.

That would be to flick a V-sign not only at 17 million Leave voters but the entire EU referendum result – with consequences for the stability of our already shaken politics that are potentially shattering.  Revocation in that context would be the real extremism, not No Deal, for which at least there is a mandate if necessary.

Swinson’s gambit may blow up.  It could just be that LiDem support in blue/red marginals collapses, handing the Conservatives new seats in the Midlands and North, and that these outnumber LibDem gains in the blue/yellow marginals.  Or that the Luciana Berger and Angela Smith defections to the party are the start of something bigger

Four-way politics in England and Wales complicates all these calculations, as does its equivalent north of the border: Swinson herself could lose her seat to the SNP, which took it from her 2015, before she won it back two years later.  Which reminds us that there will be more to any forthcoming general election than Brexit.

This should lead us to look at the LibDems in the round, as their conference continues today.  Coalition sobered them up, at least for a while, and provided some good Ministers: Steve Webb’s work with Iain Duncan Smith at Work and Pensions stands out.

But most of the stars of that era have either left the Commons or are leaving: Clegg, Webb, David Laws, Vince Cable.  Their successors look less impressive.  And the Tory defectors, Phillip Lee and Sam Gyimah, may not be in the Commons for much longer (and nor may the Labour ones, come to think of it.)

The LibDems have a core problem that they cannot shake off.  In local government, they may well revive further.  In the European elections, they can build on their second place won this year. In Scotland, they could conceivably govern as part of some rainbow coalition.  That is also possible in Wales, where they are currently weak.  Westminster is a different proposition.

For a lesson of the Cameron years is that first past the post sets the party up for punishment if it goes into coalition.  Doing so tends to have the effect of depressing smaller parties in any event, as Paddy Ashdown used to point out, regardless of the electoral system in question. But first past the post intensifies the effect.

Were the LibDems to go into coalition with the Conservatives again, their lefter-leaning voters would desert them.  The reverse would be true were they to go into coalition with Labour.  (The Lib/Lab pact scarcely helped the Liberals in 1979.)  In any event, a lot of LibDem support comes from protest voters.  In 2015, many of these decamped to UKIP, in defiance of any ideological consistency.

This suggests that the most durable option for the LibDems in any future hung Parliament would be confidence and supply.  It is almost impossible to imagine Swinson going into coalition with Jerermy Corbyn or Boris Johnson in any case.

No Ministerial cars; no red boxes.  No more posts as Deputy Prime Minister, or LibDem Ministers shaping government policy.  It is a grim fate for any ambitious politician to accept, but the LibDem mentality is different to that of Labour, as well as us Conservatives.  They are used to marginality, being squeezed – and the joys of irresponsible opposition. Brexit has changed much for them, but less than one might think.

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