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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "ToryDiary"

And then they shall see Robin Boardman-Pattison coming in a cloud with power and great glory

For supporters of the Government, it is worth going on about it all, until you are blue, sorry, green in the face: the faster drop in carbon emissions here than in other G7 countries; the relatively small proportion of those emissions that the UK emits; what the consequences of zero emissions now – or dramatically lower emissions in the medium-term – would be here on the NHS, schools, housing, jobs, bills, prices, even mortality rates (or to put it more plainly, whether people live or die).  As ever, the rich would be better placed to protect themselves from these consequences than the poor.

On second thoughts, never mind Government supporters or Conservative activists.  Members of all the main parties, once you strip away tactics and politiking, essentially take the same view.  Ditto most voters.  They do not see the sense in de-industrialising Britain – let alone when doing so wouldn’t make much difference to the global sum of emissions anyway.

As we say, one must keep trying to make the case for the practicable reduction of emissions (even climate change sceptics believe in greater energy security, or should do), research into new technologies, adaptation as well as mitigation, and the progress that has been made.  Being miserabilist instead will achieve nothing – as we pointed out over the Government’s response to the Youth Strike 4 Climate.

At the same time, it is only realistic to acknowledge that there are limits to what engagement can achieve.  In the case of the Extinction Rebellion zealots, gains are likely to be zero.  The reason is simple: their outlook is not so much scientific, or even open to argument back-and-forth, as religious – or, to be more accurate, cultist.  To say so isn’t necessarily to criticise religion: after all, all forms of belief are built on foundations than are ultimately non-rational – which isn’t to say irrational or unreasonable.  But it is to get to the heart of what is going on with the fanatics who are clogging up the centre of London.  On which point, it’s worth remembering that the vast majority of people, inside and outside the capital, are not being affected by the disruption.  This is very much a London story.

None the less, it has a wider point to it.  What we are seeing on our TV screens or Twitter feeds is a form of endtime-ism – the belief that human affairs are reaching a climax.  Christianity, Judaism, Islam: all have variants of it, as do other religions.  The end time instinct seems to be embedded in the human hard drive, like the capacity to appreciate music or art.

It often comes with the belief that only a chosen few can read the signs of the times..  “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring,” says St Luke’s Gospel.  And then they shall see Robin Boardman-Pattison coming in a cloud with power and great glory!

There is too much class war in British politics, and being middle-class, or a member of any class at all, is no cause for shame.  But it is striking that the green end-timers don’t seem to be what Theresa May, in the days when Nick Timothy wrote her speeches, used to call “ordinary working class people”.  As is often the case with these millenarian movements, the leaders are literally educated out of their wits.  So engage with the cultists, if it’s part of your work as a politician, or simply because you fancy it.  But the gain from doing so, both for you and for them, is likely to be limited.   Cults evolve into great religions when they turn from apocalypse to the here-and-now, provide frameworks for the humdrum business of day-to-day living, come to terms with the society around them.  Christianity managed it, after the Easter event, over scores of decades.  If you’re waiting for anything useful from the Extinction Rebellion, get ready to wait for longer.

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

Potemkin legislation

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-04-17-at-07.25.35 Potemkin legislation Work Women and equality Women wages Treasury ToryDiary Stella Creasy MP sport Sam Coates (The Times) Sajid Javid MP rent Public Sector Northern Ireland NHS Local government and local elections Local Elections (general) Liz Truss MP Julian Assange jobs James Brokenshire MP immigration housing Home and family Highlights healthcare Health football Family and relationships exports employment Elizabeth Truss MP Economy DUP divorce disability Diane Abbott MP David Gauke MP David Blanchflower Conservatives Abortion

The ten most recent subjects covered by the Conservative Party’s Twitter feed are as follows: record employment, the provision of free sanitary products in primary schools, Conservative councils recycling more than Labour ones, more statistics about work and wages, record women’s employment, workers’ rights, an exports increase, more disabled people in employment, an end to no fault evictions, Conservative councils fixing more potholes than Labour ones, banning upskirting, funding more toilets at motorway service areas to help people living with complex disabilities, Sajid Javid criticising Diane Abbott over Julian Assange, kicking out racism in football, and a new law to protect service animals.

One might pick out three main themes, local election campaigning aside.

The first is the vibrancy of Britain’s jobs market and the country’s robust recent record on employment.  The aftermath of the Crash and the Coalition’s slowing of public spending growth, a.k.aa “austerity”, didn’t bring the five million unemployed that David Blanchflower believed possible.  The Government has to keep shouting about our employment rates because people have got used to them.  A generation is growing up that cannot remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

Then there are a battery of announcements aimed disproportionately at younger women voters, who were more likely to switch to Labour at the last election.  Those of a certain disposition will argue that some of these are trivial, and that women and men both want government to get on with addressing big issues: Brexit, health, the economy, immigration, education and so on.  But part of the point of banning upskirting, say, or providing more free sanitary products is gaining “permission to be heard”, in order to make some voters, in this case younger female ones, more receptive to what Conservatives are doing more broadly and widely.

Which takes us, third, to law-making – not admitttedly the only means, or even necessarily the main one, by which government can act, but indispensable none the less.  Under which category we find a new law to protect service animals and the proposed end to no fault evictions, about which James Brokenshire wrote on this site recently.  The two may seem to have nothing in common but, on closer inspection, tell part of the same story.

Namely that, as Sam Coates keeps pointing out, the Government can’t get any plan which is remotely contentious through the Commons.  Only the most uncontested ideas, such as providing police and other service dogs with more protections, can make it through the House. And this new service animals measure isn’t even Government leglislation.  It came about through a Private Members Bill tabled by Oliver Heald and then backed by Ministers.

Meanwhile, the proposal to end no fault evictions isn’t contained in a Bill at all.  The headline on gov.uk about the plan refers to an “end to unfair evictions” and “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”.  But the text of the announcement refers to “plans to consult on new legislation” and refers to an earlier consultation, on Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, to which it has now published a response.

As with housing, so with divorce.  On ConservativeHome today, Frank Young makes the point, in his article on the Government’s plans to ensure that no fault divorce can take place more frequently, that “it remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through”.  For David Gauke has unfurled not a new Bill, but a White Paper.

Ditto Liz Truss’s announcment on a £95,000 cap on exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs. “Six-figure taxpayer-funded public sector exit payments to end,” gov.uk’s headline declares.  The sub-heading is more candid than the one beneath the housing headline.  “A consultation has been launched outlining how the government will introduce a £95,000 cap to stop huge exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs,” it says.  The Treasury confirms that legislation will be required.

Now think on.  As Sam goes on to say, Theresa May’s successor may take against these ideas or indeed all of them.  In which case, they will doubtless be quietly put to sleep.  And that successor may be in place soon.  (Regretfully, we have to add: as soon as possible after European Parliament elections, assuming these happen, please.)

Conservative MPs don’t want a general election.  Nor do we.  But the more one ponders the state of this Parliament, the more one sees why one is the natural solution to this impasse – and would be knocking on the door, were it not for the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  These recent announcements are Potemkin Legislation.  They cannot be put to the Commons without risk of them being amended out of their original intention.

Nor can the Government legislate easily elsewhere.  Consider any proposals affecting women – to take us back to near where we started.  Up would pop Stella Creasy, looking for a means of changing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.  Which would further strain the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP, such as it is.  Prepare, when Brexit isn’t before the Commons, for many more Opposition Days.

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

Frank Young: New divorce laws. The Government should produce new plans to help marriages – not just to end them

Frank Young is Head of Family Policy at the Centre for Social Justice

Despite commentators telling us that marriage is going out of fashion, reforms to the institution of marriage seem to produce some of our most heated political arguments. And so it was last week, as the Government announced more reform to marriage, focusing political attention on an institution that we are told is no longer particularly relevant.

None the less, the Government will this year spend over £1 billion on the Marriage Allowance – not a small amount for an institution that is seemingly old hat in political circles. When we ask the public for their view, three in five (60 per cent) adults agree that ‘divorce is too easy’. The idea that even uttering the word “marriage” is taboo isn’t reflected in what people (the ones who live and work far away from the Westminster bubble) actually think. Over two thirds (67 per cent) of adults agree that ‘marriage tends to be the most stable environment in which to raise children’ and even more (approaching three quarters – 71 per cent) think ‘marriage is important and the Government should support couples who get married. Even a majority of young people (aged 18-24) agree that marriage is important.

The Government has now formally announced plans to bring forward a White Paper to legislate for no-fault divorce, following a consultation last year. This after a long campaign by family lawyers stretching as far back as the mid-1990s and the passing of the 1996 Family Law Act which introduced the concept of no-fault divorce. The provision lay dormant for years until the The Times picked up the campaign and pushed government into making this their flagship family policy.

It remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through. The legal process of divorce law may excite family lawyers, but surely the solution to the problems of divorce lie in practical support, rather than trying to get legislation through a belligerent Parliament that is in no mood to agree on anything at all.

The CSJ wrote to the department during this consultation to express concerns that ‘no fault’ divorce really means unilateral divorce (whereby one partner can divorce the other against their wishes) and asked the Government to review the likely impact of this. The framing of debates really matters, and when we talk about no fault divorce it certainly sounds harmless enough.

We also questioned the department to look carefully at how many people would be caught out by these proposals who would otherwise want to remain married, but would none the less end up being divorced against their will and face the costs of separation. In a recent survey of a thousand divorcing couples, approaching half of those surveyed who had been identified as being at fault by their spouse disagreed with the reasons cited for the marriage breakdown.

And we expressed concerns that the ability for one party to divorce the other party within a marriage with no notice or ability to contest is likely to harm individuals when circumstances change suddenly for the worse. Reasons could be related to unemployment or disability, where despite ‘in sickness and in health’ and ‘for better or for worse’, one partner is no longer the attractive proposition they once were (arguably just at the point at which they need the support of a partner). We asked the Government to commit to reviewing this, and being up front about the number of marriages in which one party is simply being divorced without any say in the matter.

We were, and remain, worried about the impact on one partner who has made a significant sacrifice within a relationship (most likely to be a woman who has given up work to raise children) based on that commitment and is then vulnerable to unilateral divorce.

The biggest concern, however, is how unbalanced these proposals are – overlooking the need to support couples and prevent marriage breakdown in the first place. Tinkering with the law is easier than putting together plans to support couples before a relationship becomes unsalvageable. Despite the Government’s ongoing support for marriage, there is no presumption that a relationship can be recovered with support. This makes assumptions that relationship breakdown is inevitable.

Evidence from surveys of couples who have divorced find that more than a fifth of divorcees regret their divorce and the relationship. The relationships charity, Relate, found that one in ten couples who have been through the process of divorce told them that, with the right support, they would have been able to save their relationship and stay together. That is one in ten who have seen their relationship deteriorate to the point of seeking divorce. Through simply looking at legal process (in a campaign led by lawyers) these proposals overlook effective policy interventions to support couples.

Setting out his proposals, David Gauke announced that the government will “always uphold the institution of marriage”. As things stand, we spend about £30 on relationship support for each married couple in England and Wales. The 1996 Family Law Act actually contained an overlooked provision for marriage support services. Section 22 of the Act directed the Government to commit to conducting research into how we could prevent separation (long before the phrase “what works” was invented) and to fund services to help couples in times of need.

When we responded to the consultation, we made it clear that any new legislation should update Section 22, and include proposals that do something to prevent family breakdown – a so-called ‘mend it, don’t end it’ clause.

There is very little point in intervening at the end of relationship, and trying to revive a relationship that has become toxic. The Government shouldn’t simply point to its £30 per couple and say “job done”. These wonky plans fiddle with legal frameworks, but do little to support married couples. To help Ministers searching behind the back of departmental sofas for extra cash we have identified over £150 million currently being spent on the little known “Married Couples Allowance” (different to the “Marriage Allowance”) which could be ring fenced for this support.

If these reforms are introduced, the Government should think carefully about how changes to the process of divorce is matched with support for married couples. We will be making this case again. The words of comfort from Ministers that they are as committed as ever to protecting marriage need to be backed up with deeds, and a ‘mend it, don’t end it’ clause is a good place to start.

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

Potemkin legislation

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-04-17-at-07.25.35 Potemkin legislation Work Women and equality Women wages Treasury ToryDiary Stella Creasy MP sport Sam Coates (The Times) Sajid Javid MP rent Public Sector Northern Ireland NHS Local government and local elections Local Elections (general) Liz Truss MP Julian Assange jobs James Brokenshire MP immigration housing Home and family Highlights healthcare Health football Family and relationships exports employment Elizabeth Truss MP Economy DUP divorce disability Diane Abbott MP David Gauke MP David Blanchflower Conservatives Abortion

The ten most recent subjects covered by the Conservative Party’s Twitter feed are as follows: record employment, the provision of free sanitary products in primary schools, Conservative councils recycling more than Labour ones, more statistics about work and wages, record women’s employment, workers’ rights, an exports increase, more disabled people in employment, an end to no fault evictions, Conservative councils fixing more potholes than Labour ones, banning upskirting, funding more toilets at motorway service areas to help people living with complex disabilities, Sajid Javid criticising Diane Abbott over Julian Assange, kicking out racism in football, and a new law to protect service animals.

One might pick out three main themes, local election campaigning aside.

The first is the vibrancy of Britain’s jobs market and the country’s robust recent record on employment.  The aftermath of the Crash and the Coalition’s slowing of public spending growth, a.k.aa “austerity”, didn’t bring the five million unemployed that David Blanchflower believed possible.  The Government has to keep shouting about our employment rates because people have got used to them.  A generation is growing up that cannot remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

Then there are a battery of announcements aimed disproportionately at younger women voters, who were more likely to switch to Labour at the last election.  Those of a certain disposition will argue that some of these are trivial, and that women and men both want government to get on with addressing big issues: Brexit, health, the economy, immigration, education and so on.  But part of the point of banning upskirting, say, or providing more free sanitary products is gaining “permission to be heard”, in order to make some voters, in this case younger female ones, more receptive to what Conservatives are doing more broadly and widely.

Which takes us, third, to law-making – not admitttedly the only means, or even necessarily the main one, by which government can act, but indispensable none the less.  Under which category we find a new law to protect service animals and the proposed end to no fault evictions, about which James Brokenshire wrote on this site recently.  The two may seem to have nothing in common but, on closer inspection, tell part of the same story.

Namely that, as Sam Coates keeps pointing out, the Government can’t get any plan which is remotely contentious through the Commons.  Only the most uncontested ideas, such as providing police and other service dogs with more protections, can make it through the House. And this new service animals measure isn’t even Government leglislation.  It came about through a Private Members Bill tabled by Oliver Heald and then backed by Ministers.

Meanwhile, the proposal to end no fault evictions isn’t contained in a Bill at all.  The headline on gov.uk about the plan refers to an “end to unfair evictions” and “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”.  But the text of the announcement refers to “plans to consult on new legislation” and refers to an earlier consultation, on Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, to which it has now published a response.

As with housing, so with divorce.  On ConservativeHome today, Frank Young makes the point, in his article on the Government’s plans to ensure that no fault divorce can take place more frequently, that “it remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through”.  For David Gauke has unfurled not a new Bill, but a White Paper.

Ditto Liz Truss’s announcment on a £95,000 cap on exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs. “Six-figure taxpayer-funded public sector exit payments to end,” gov.uk’s headline declares.  The sub-heading is more candid than the one beneath the housing headline.  “A consultation has been launched outlining how the government will introduce a £95,000 cap to stop huge exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs,” it says.  The Treasury confirms that legislation will be required.

Now think on.  As Sam goes on to say, Theresa May’s successor may take against these ideas or indeed all of them.  In which case, they will doubtless be quietly put to sleep.  And that successor may be in place soon.  (Regretfully, we have to add: as soon as possible after European Parliament elections, assuming these happen, please.)

Conservative MPs don’t want a general election.  Nor do we.  But the more one ponders the state of this Parliament, the more one sees why one is the natural solution to this impasse – and would be knocking on the door, were it not for the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  These recent announcements are Potemkin Legislation.  They cannot be put to the Commons without risk of them being amended out of their original intention.

Nor can the Government legislate easily elsewhere.  Consider any proposals affecting women – to take us back to near where we started.  Up would pop Stella Creasy, looking for a means of changing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.  Which would further strain the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP, such as it is.  Prepare, when Brexit isn’t before the Commons, for many more Opposition Days.

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

Nous sommes Notre Dame. Why cathedrals matter.

Function is everything.  If a building doesn’t have one, it is of no use.  It follows that its past is of no importance – at least, if the building serves no practical use now.  Or so one school of thinking would have it.

Over eight hundred years after the start of its construction, Notre Dame Cathedral still has a function for most of its vistors.  This, for the non-Christians who now make up the majority of them, is as a tourist attraction.

But it was conceived, of course, as a place of Christian worship, and has served as such ever since (for most of the time): as a church containing a cathedra, a bishop’s throne: in this case, that of the Bishop of Paris. As for function, a square building with a flat roof would have done just as well, if those who designed the cathedral had simplt wanted a building to accomodate lots of people.  Instead, they wished to create a space with a sense of the sacred, and that sense implies beauty.  And so to the Notre Dame that some of our readers will have visited, with its flying buttresses, Gothic columns, rose windows and rib vaults.

Others will never have been there.  Some may not have passed the doors of any cathedral, anywhere – like, at a rough guess, the majority of people in Britain.  That didn’t diminish the shock of the pictures that filled our media yesterday evening.  If nothing else, the dismay that followed was a kind of repudiation of functionality.  Like our own cathedrals, with their stained glass and tombs and old flags and carvings and whitewashed walls, Notre Dame has a value of its own.  It has it not by doing anything but by being something.

In his poem “Church Going”, Philip Larkin asks whether in future “we shall keep / A few cathedrals chronically on show” and later, stumbles upon an answer to his question, as he contemplates an English parish church.  “A serious house on serious earth it is / In whose blent air all our compulsions meet / Are recognised and robed as destinies / And that much never can be obsolete”.  If asked whether it is right to be moved by a blazing building in a world full of suffering people, Larkin’s poem offers the beginning of an answer.

Notre Dame and the fire that engulfed it – in the holiest week of the Christian calendar – is beyond politics, or should be.  But if cathedrals are sermons in stone, it is worth listening to what they are saying.  Those things include: the past isn’t just another country; heritage counts; function isn’t everything; beauty matters; something can be important even if you make no use of it; people, like buildings, have value.  That last conviction is part of the belief system that drove the creation of cathedrals in the first place – part of the stuff of which they are made, if you like.  They are exercises in conservation and, to conservatives, conservation ought to matter.

So it is not irrational to be moved by the desolating pictures from Paris – not unreasonable, anyway.  And important to praise the firemen who saved Notre Dame.  Now the work of reconstruction begins.

And we should count our blessings here at home.  In 2001, an arsonist set fire to a stack of chairs in Peterborough Cathedral.  The blaze could have taken out “the most ancient painted ceiling in Europe”.  Fortunately, it was extinguished, and the cathedral remains intact – tomb of Katherine of Aragon and all.  York Cathedral, too, was saved, after the roof of its south transcept was destroyed, in 1984.

Meanwhile, cathedral attendances here have been rising in recent years.  Perhaps the gain comes from a revival of their original function – though there’s more to them than that, as we’ve seen.  That may be a consolation on a smouldering morning for Paris and the world.

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

The four routes being explored to oust May

The Conservative Party is in a peculiar position when it comes to its leadership. Just about everybody agrees Theresa May ought to resign.

Indeed, even Theresa May agrees that Theresa May ought to resign, at least in principle. She just differs with the majority of her party over the timing.

And yet she is still there. The Prime Minister’s internal opponents misfired with the vote of no confidence in December, then refused to be tempted into voting for her deal by the carrot of her resignation. So we all find ourselves subject to the stick which is her continued leadership.

Under the current rules, there is no formal way for the Party leader to be ousted until 12 months have passed since the previous No Confidence ballot. But, with dire polls, deep activist discontent, a new threat in the form of the Brexit Party, and the prospect of a tough time in local and European elections very soon, few are very keen to wait so long.

Informal measures – a series of resignations, publicly breaching her most high profile promises, the open breakdown of discipline – have markedly failed to persuade May that her time is up. In the meantime, therefore, eyes have turned to the Conservative Party’s rulebook in a search for a solution.

I’m aware of four different ideas doing the rounds about what could be done.

A 1922 committee ‘indicative vote’ of no confidence

Given the innovation of indicative voting by Remainers in the Commons, some Brexiteers within the Parliamentary Conservative Party have pondered applying the same process internally. If they aren’t allowed a binding no confidence vote until December, they reason, then they could still have a non-binding vote to make the message clear. Some are reportedly already submitting letters to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee in the hope that he will communicate the scale of their dissent. The idea that this could translate into an early ‘indicative’ ballot founders not only on the quite important fact that Graham Brady has ruled it out, but also on the fact that the Prime Minister shows no sign of accepting mere advice from her critics, or even from some of her allies.

A petition of members to change the constitution

Buried within the Conservative Party’s constitution is Schedule 9, regulating the power to initiate amendments to the constitution. Such amendments can be kickstarted by the ’22 or the Party Board (both divided on the topic) or by the National Conservative Convention (which is not due to meet for months) or by a mass petition from Party members. Yes, there is at least a little bit of direct democracy in there: ‘A petition, delivered to the Chairman of the Board, signed by not less than 10,000 Party Members’ .

That is a not inconsiderable number. Even back in the late ’90s when the constitution was first composed, it was a lot – and as the Party has shrunk, that 10,000 becomes a large proportion of the membership. Nonetheless, it isn’t completely impossible, particularly in the digital age. A young Conservative activist named Soutiam Goodarzi has started a petition which has so far topped 1,000 signatures.

However, there are two issues. First, time. The rules say that if a petition is successful, it triggers a postal ballot of the Constitutional College (the Convention, plus MPs, MEPs and senior peers). But that would take place somewhere between 28 and 56 days after the petition was received. That would be too late for many people, and would still be reliant on passing a high turnout bar in the Constitutional College vote.

Second, the rule change itself. Goodarzi’s motion calls for the 12-month rule to be reduced to three months, which would effectively allow an immediate ballot. Oddly enough, the rule on confidence ballots by MPs is not in the constitution. I see no reason why Goodarzi’s petition couldn’t effectively add her version, as that would count as a change to the constitution. The rules on electing new leaders are in the constitution, so it wouldn’t be completely off-topic to make an addition. But the actual rule making repeat no confidence ballots annual – Rule Six – sits elsewhere: in the desk of the Secretary of the 1922 Committee.

Get the 1922 committee to change Rule Six

Yes, the no confidence rule is actually controlled by the ’22, and has been since the Hague-era ‘Fresh Future’ days in the late 1990s. As Archie Hamilton and Michael Spicer, both former Chairmen of the 1922 Committee, pointed out on Sunday:

‘…the 1922 Committee drew up the current rules concerning confidence votes and have thus have ownership of them… if MPs believe that this rule is an impediment to their proper function and responsibilities for the leadership of their Party it is quite within their right to change these provisions… Conservative MPs are responsible for their party. If they wish a change these rules there is nothing standing in their way.’

This sounds simpler than a 10,000 member petition, or passing a turnout bar in a ballot of the constitutional college. It is indeed simpler numerically, but not politically. The 1922 Committee executive hosts a range of opinions on the Prime Minister herself, but also reportedly last week “agreed that it was against natural justice” to change the rules as a measure to winkle May out of office.

Call an Extraordinary General Meeting of the National Convention to no confidence May (and/or change the constitution)

In Schedule 3 of the Party constitution, the Prime Minister’s critics have found their latest possible approach: ‘a petition signed by not less than sixty-five Constituency Association Chairmen’ compels there to be an Extraordinary General Meeting of the National Convention, the body officially representing the voluntary Party.

Efforts are, I’m told, underway to secure enough signatures in order to do so, so that the Convention can then vote no confidence in May. (Theoretically, such a meeting could also trigger a ballot on changing the constitution if it wished, but it would be even slower than a successful petition).

The timescales are not ideal: Convention members are guaranteed a minimum of 28 days’ notice of a meeting, in writing, and if the Party apparatus wanted to delay the event there are a myriad of ways in which they could try to do so.

Ultimately, if enough association chairmen’s signatures are gathered, and a Convention EGM is called, and that meeting votes no confidence, it’s worth wondering what would have changed. It would be another embarrassment for the Prime Minister, but she has ridden out many embarrassments before.

If rulebook warfare doesn’t work, might persuasion succeed?

Her unwillingness to take the hint is a common factor across several of the above approaches. The firmest sanctions – changing the rules to allow her to be forced out – take more time than is available, and/or run up against the unwillingness of some MPs to take part. Other approaches – submitting more letters to Brady, holding indicative votes of MPs, getting the Convention to no confidence May – might be more easily achieved, but are less forceful or binding.

Some, at least, hope that if they can heap up enough evidence of demand for her to resign – from the Party’s members, councillors, MPs, donors, institutions, voters – then the sheer weight of evidence might persuade her. That if enough people are all of one voice, she could no longer ignore the situation.

But this returns us to the fundamental stumbling block: the Prime Minister herself. Would warnings that the Convention and the ’22 were set to publicly express no confidence in her leadership carry enough weight, where so many Cabinet resignations and other brickbats have been shrugged off? Might tough election results illustrate the damage she is doing, as candidates and constituents lose out and the Opposition make gains? Or will she simply try to go on and on, regardless?

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

Anger

One grew up in Tottenham, but moved out of London to sing as a child chorister in Peterborough Cathedral.  The other was born in Kent, but moved into the capital to be educated at Dulwich College.  One studied at Harvard Law School, the other didn’t pursue higher education, and is hostile to “PPE bollocks”.  One sits for one of two big monopoly political parties; the other left the other one, and has all but created two parties himself.  One is inconsistent, at least in terms of character and worldview, having turned recently from a fairly conventional ex-Minister to a ranting wild man; the other is consistent in terms of outlook and disposition – having left the Conservatives in the early 1990s and not looked back since.

So it is with David Lammy and Nigel Farage.  Both are accused, as the week begins, of acting irresponsibly.  The latter spoke at the launch of the Brexit Party of putting “the fear of God” into MPs.   The former was more specific about people of whom he disapproves.  Earlier this month, he accused the European Research Group of being like apartheid governments in South Africa.  Not content with that, he went on to risk invoking Godwin’s Law, and compared them to nazis.  Not satisfied with that, either, he yesterday doubled down on this line of thinking – if what passes through Lammy’s mind can be dignified by that term – by saying that the comparison is “not strong enough”.

Now for politicians on the Left to compare those on the Right to nazis is nothing new.  During the 1970 general election campaign, Tony Benn said that “the flag of racialism which has been hoisted in Wolverhampton is beginning to look like the one that fluttered 25 years ago over Dachau and Belsen”.  The barb was aimed at Enoch Powell (who pointed out in reply that he has returned to Britain at the start of the Second World War to fight against Hitler’s Germany).

But the context has changed – as has that in which one can speak of putting the fear of God into MPs.  The to-and-fro between Benn and Powell took place almost 50 years ago.  There were no gates outside Downing Street.  Entering the Palace of Wesminster required less exacting ID.  Politicians might occasionally be egged, but they had a status unknown today.  Between then and now, they certainly risked murder, at least if they were fast for the Union.  Airey Neave, Robert Bradford, Anthony Berry, Ian Gow – all three were killed by Irish republican terrorists.  None the less, your ordinary common-and-garden MP was usually safe enough.

Thirty or so years on, the culture has changed.  Consider the women MPs who have taken themselves off Twitter – such as Victoria Atkins, a rising Government Minister.  Read Nadine Dorries’ account of death threats, abuse and stalking.  Mull Joy Morrisey’s tale, as a Conservative candidate at the last election, of being “insulted, spat at and intimidated in public”.  She was right to point out thuggery, abuse and intimidation is disproportionately targeted at Conservatives, writing of Labour that “the victims in their party are small in number and, almost without exception, high profile. The victims in the Conservative Party are vast in number and of high profile, low profile and no profile at all”.  Though a footnote is necessary: the only MP recently to have been murdered was a Labour one, Jo Cox.

Your instinct might well be, then, to muzzle Farage, Lammy or both – or try to.  If you speak of putting the fear of God into MPs, is not violence the most effective means of doing so?  If you compare ERG members to South African apartheid enforcers, isn’t that an invitation to race-based attacks on them?  And there is a wider context.  Britain has seen Islamist and fascist violence recently: the attack at London Bridge or on Finsbury Park mosque.  Some will try to take the politics out of one or the other or both, pointing to a record of drug taking, troubled upbringings or mental illness among the perpetrators.  But this won’t quite do.  People can’t commit terror acts without having evil ideas, however ill they may be.  The same applies to the Tree of Life murders in America or the mosque slaughter in Christchurch.

Amidst a culture this fragile, in which people are more likely to live in their own social media-inflated bubbles, there is a need to watch words that wasn’t present even 25 years ago.  But seeking to silence angry voices is likely to be counter-productive – as well as wrong in itself.  Anger is sometimes justified.  It is not even, on the old list of virtues and vices, one of the latter (necessarily).  The God of the Old Testament gets angry.  So sometimes does Jesus of Nazareth in the new one.

One should be angry at injustice – at, say, what the state can do to children in care; at the soft bigotry that condemns poorer ones to failing schools; at bureaucratic indifference to anti-social behaviour; at a jailbird MP from Peterborough voting on Brexit – or indeed on anything at all.  That detail might not mean all that much at Westminster.  We promise those who work there that, to those outside, no incident has conveyed more about Brexit, and how it has been bungled.  Never mind the backstop, the Customs Union, indicative votes, and all that.  What will have stuck with the public is Fiona Onasanya.

Come to think of it, what has Lammy got to complain about, if Brexit is the measure?  His side is winning.  That Boris Johnson is not “hanging out with Steve Bannon”; that Jacob Rees-Mogg doesn’t collaborate with the AfD; that Bernard Jenkin, say, is not a Grand Wizard (nor has compared himself to one); that Mark Francois doesn’t hide beneath a white hood – all this is obvious.  Perhaps Lammy is losing his grip on reality.  More likely, this once moderate candidate for Labour’s London mayoralty nomination, who failed in that ambition, now sees an opening to the Left amidst our polarising politics.

Either way, he is losing the plot, assuming that he had a grip on it in the first place. True, the ERG has helped to block Theresa May’s deal.  But it couldn’t do so on its own.  For that, it has needed the help of her new partner – Jeremy Corbyn.  Elsewhere, it is not succeeding.  It failed to depose the Prime Minister last December.  Its previous launch of a push to get rid of her collapsed.  It is now split altogether.  The politicians who set out to smother Brexit altogether have been more successful.  No wonder a mass of voters are angry with them – unremarkable, decent, run-of-the-mill voters, who wouldn’t consider violence even for a moment.

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Should Conservative MPs and members vote for the Party in the European elections (if they happen)?

The mass of Conservative polling crisis and leadership candidate stories in today’s papers raise three questions for Tory MPs and activists to ponder. Answers need to be provided by the time Parliament returns on April 23.

  • Is it possible to use, change or utilise Conservative leadership rules in order to ensure a swift challenge to Theresa May – soon after MPs return to Westminster?
  • Should Tory MPs and activists vote Conservative in the European Parliamentary elections, if these happen – and, if not, what should they do?  (We never thought it would come to having to raise this question.)
  • Should leadership election rules be changed to ensure that more than two candidates are put before members in the final stage of a contest?

Finding solutions that work for the country and the Party will not be easy, but one point is clear: the Prime Minister has to go, and the sooner the better. We will offer our own ideas over the coming Easter period.

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What proportion of Tory members will vote for the Brexit Party?

Yesterday’s launch of the Brexit Party has inevitably left many observers wondering if Nigel Farage can repeat the breakthrough he managed with UKIP.

That requires us to look at a bit of recent history.

What actually happened in the heyday of the ‘People’s Army’ is more complex than the popular shorthand. Yes, there were fully fledged recruits to the UKIP cause – including ex-Tories, former Labour voters, and not inconsiderable numbers of people who were previously non-voters – but that was only part of the picture.

In practice, a lot of people split their votes between parties at different types of election. This has always happened, and is particularly visible in some areas when different types of election happen on the same day.

UKIP and the European elections were uniquely well-suited to delivering such vote-splitting. They had other messages and policies, of varying quality, but leaving the EU was obviously their most famous, and most fundamental. The European elections offered the perfect chance to give Brussels and the other parties a blunt rebuke – crucially as a free hit, without it affecting your council tax or the composition of the Government.

So that’s what people did: when UKIP won the 2014 European elections, their vote share in the local election on the same day was almost ten percentage points lower.

Plenty of otherwise lifelong Conservative voters backed UKIP at European elections. So, for that matter, did quite a lot of Conservative Party members. (That was one reason why David Cameron’s ”fruitcakes” attack went down so badly – plenty in his party had ex-Tory who were now in UKIP, and/or had voted UKIP themselves at the Euros.) I wouldn’t be surprised if some Conservative MPs had strayed into the purple column at a European election in the privacy of the voting booth.

So Farage and his colleagues won’t only be out to find fully-signed-up recruits to the Brexit Party; they know from experience that they must try to mine a vein of vote-splitters, too.

I gather several Conservative associations have been surveying their members lately to gauge the level of dissatisfaction with the Brexit postponement. I’ve seen one set of findings, from a safe Conservative seat in the Home Counties, which do not make pretty reading for the Party leadership.

Asked how they intend to vote at the European election, fewer than a quarter answered Conservative. Almost half opted for the Brexit Party, making it the single most popular option among that group of Conservative Party members. A rump replied UKIP, but I suspect that just as in national polls that represents a lingering sympathy with Farage-era UKIP, which the man himself hopes to cannibalise by publicising his new organisation.

It’s just one association, and it’s therefore a small sample, but if it’s anywhere even slightly near representative then it underscores the severe problem facing the Conservatives even as this campaign begins. And the scale of the opportunity for Farage and co.

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Polls, Brexit postponed – and the slump of the Conservative vote

The most recent opinion poll results that we can find are as follows:

BMG research – April 11

Conservatives: 27 per cent (- 8).

Labour: 31 per cent (no change).

Liberal Democrats: 8 per cent (- 2).

UKIP: 7 per cent (+ 1).

Change UK: 8 per cent (+ 3).

Brexit Party: 6 per cent.

Other: 10 per cent (- 1).

Hanbury Strategy – April 10. For European Parliamentary elections.

Conservatives: 23 per cent

Labour: 38 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 8 per cent.

UKIP: 8 per cent.

Change UK: 4 per cent.

Brexit Party: 10 per cent.

Green Party: 4  per cent.

SNP: 4 per cent.

Deltapoll – March 31

Conservatives: 36 per cent.

Labour: 41 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 7 per cent.

UKIP: 7 per cent.

Green Party: 3 per cent.

SNP: 3 per cent.

Plaid Cymru: 1 per cent.

Other: 3 per cent

Now these results don’t compare like with like.  In the last case, we’ve been unable to find results showing changing share.  In the middle one, the polling refers to European Parliamentary elections.  And there are bound to be other national polls that we’ve missed.

None the less, we have three results with the Conservative share at under 40 per cent.

The period immediately before the earliest one saw the run-up to the last “meaningful vote”, including a round of indicative votes (on March 27) and Theresa May’s original letter requesting extension (March 20).

Evidently, a significant slice of the Tory vote is being taken by UKIP/the Brexit Party, and a smaller share perhaps by Change UK.

We seem to be heading back towards where British politics was between 2005 and 2015: in other words, towards more of a three or four or perhaps more party system, with its effects perhaps constrained by first past the post in Parliamentary elections.

Two factors related to Brexit are central.

The first is reaction against it, of which Change UK is a beneficiary, and the other is for it, and against the failure to deliver it.  The future prospects of UKIP and the new parties will be constrained by how many candidates they can find for elections.

That will be less of a factor in a European Parliamentary poll, if one at all, though it will count a bit in the local elections next month.

Since the October extension is neither long nor short, it is most likely to offer the status quo – namely, a drift towards control by the legislature of the Commons timetable, if May’s deal isn’t passed (and whether or not she is forced out).

A new Tory leader would doubtless come with a new Brexit plan, but wouldn’t have the numbers in the Commons for change.

He or she would thus be pushed towards an autumn election, while pro-second referendum MPs agitated in Parliament for another vote.  The timetable is very tight for either.  We face Brexit stasis.

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