by Martin Odoni

So, Theresa May, a war criminal, is stepping down as the Prime Minister of Her Majesty’s United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland. Not because she is a war criminal, but because it is clearly the only way out of the Brexit gridlock she has done so much to create. She will depart 10 Downing Street on the 7th of June.

May was in tears when she made the announcement this morning. But as is so often the case with politicians – especially right wing politicians – the tears will not win any sympathy from my direction. She failed miserably as Prime Minister. She was unceasingly dishonest, evasive, cowardly, and mean-spirited, for reasons well-catalogued elsewhere in this blog. Her relentless boasting that only she could deliver Brexit, and her sneers that Jeremy Corbyn would lead a ‘coalition of chaos’ if he ever got into power, have both had a sorry outcome.

May fails and resigns

The Prime Minister resigns, having failed to see out three years in office, and having never truly established a firm mandate to govern.

But I have to comment on May’s speech announcing her departure, which was as littered with the same bare-faced deceit and hypocrisy that marked her entire stewardship. For her to resort to that even now, when she no longer has a job to cling to only serves to make clear that her dishonesty was no matter of desperation in difficult times. It was, and remains, simply a fundamental feature of her personality. She is leaving her post as Prime Minister anyway, there is no practical purpose left in her continuing to tell blatant untruths. But she did it anyway, because it comes as naturally to her as breathing.

May’s lecturing of others on the importance of ‘compromise’ was vomitous. She was the one who repeatedly refused to speak with Opposition parties throughout the Autumn, and when she finally opened talks with Labour this year, she persistently refused to give any ground at all, insisting that Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer had to surrender to her every demand. Hence why, when May kept going back to Parliament to try and force through her Brexit deal that had already been rejected, it never contained any significant difference in its content. It had simply been reworded to mean the same thing each time. That stubborn refusal to give an inch is the very definition of failure to compromise, while her pretence that the Bill had really changed when it had not was the definition of dishonesty. For her now to lecture the rest of the House of Commons on the virtue of compromise means she deserves a milkshake over her head.

But even more deceitful still was May’s attempt to talk up her administration as a success. None of her claims, be they about job security, housing, environmental policies, mental health care, Grenfell Tower etc stands up to scrutiny. But a most particular reversal of the plain facts was her claim that her Government had delivered “a falling National Debt”.

Beyond absurd. The Office of National Statistics’ last two published totals for the National Debt were published in September last year, and April this year, for March 2018 and December 2018 respectively.  What do they reveal?

The National Debt in March last year was £1,763.8 billion. The figure announced for the end of 2018 was £1,837.5 billion. In other words, the later figure was higher than the earlier figure, therefore the amount has continued to go up. And May says that, “the National Debt is falling”?

Now, as I have pointed out many times in the past, the size of the National Debt – while not unimportant – does not matter nearly as much as the Tories like to make out. But irrespective of that, what May said is still yet another a total reversal of the truth delivered with a mechanical bare face. It is possible to argue that the Debt, as a share of Gross Domestic Product, has fallen. But the problem with that is that the Tories are once again switching measurements whenever it suits them, and without telling anyone.

May resignation speech lie

Theresa May lives in a world of blackwhite, where a rising National Debt means the National Debt is falling.

If, as they should have been, public discussions of the Debt had been conducted in terms of the share of GDP from the time David Cameron became Prime Minister nine years ago, everyone would have known how completely pointless and toxic the Austerity program since then has been.

I would like to think May’s tears as she spoke came from the burden on her conscience that she had scarcely passed a day at Number 10 without deceiving someone, but I reckon it was more just a general haplessness on her part, having to acknowledge her failure to deliver the Brexit, or the “strong-and-stable leadership”, she had guaranteed. She cuts the most crumpled figure of a Prime Minister I have ever seen, and although the only candidates to succeed her from within her party are likely to be even worse, that does not constitute a defence of her. Her resignation may be the only truly right thing she has done as Prime Minister.

So May resigns as she served; by being deceitful, hypocritical, dysfunctional, high-handed, and unable to accept that anything that went wrong was her fault. Amazing how a Prime Minister can be so powerless.

As for the aforementioned Corbyn, that’s two Prime Ministers he has seen off as Leader of the Opposition. Not bad for the guy who was theatrically told after less than a year in the job by David Cameron, “For heaven’s sake, man, go!”

It is the Tory leaders who keep going at the moment, David.

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by Martin Odoni

Yesterday‘s events in the House of Commons were an unspoken acknowledgement of what has been fairly blatant for several years; Brexit just is not going to work out. Oh, I am fairly sure the UK will still be leaving the European Union by one arrangement or another, but it will go poorly, will cause more harm than good, and will not be arrived at by any course the Prime Minister has chosen.

More meaningfully, yesterday was also an unspoken acknowledgement of another reality that will upset few, but worry many by the implications of it; Theresa May is now a PriMINOPrime Minister In Name Only.

Theresa May - PriMINO

Now she has lost all control over Brexit, the last vestiges of Prime Ministerial power have deserted Theresa May.

May’s alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party has essentially been reduced to a bad joke, as the DUP ruled out once and for all supporting her Brexit deal. She lost three more Ministers from her rotting Cabinet – albeit junior Ministers – as they turned rebel to vote against the Government. She faces potentially as many as twenty more Cabinet resignations, and is under pressure from the 1922 Committee to schedule her departure from Downing Street for the near future. But most of all, the House of Commons voted to seize control of the Brexit process from her, a move carried by a decisive rebellion by thirty Tory MPs; the motion was carried by a margin of twenty-seven votes.

Ever since her calamitous performance in the unnecessary General Election she called in 2017, May has been badly hamstrung by the Hung Parliament she blundered into being. There are all sorts of policy areas over which she has had minimal control ever since, and she has experienced some astonishingly bad defeats for a sitting Government. In short, she has barely been a Prime Minister for the last twenty-two months. The one area where she did have a position of dominance, no matter how clumsily and cluelessly she handled that power, was withdrawal from the EU. Given the enormity of that issue, it was sufficient to maintain a convincing illusion that she really is the leader of the nation. Now, at least for a few days, she lacks even that.

Theresa May is therefore only a Prime Minister in name; a sort of ‘Shadow Constitutional Monarch’. She is something that malformed rules make it almost impossible for the ordinary people to get rid of, but that is also so neutered by those same rules that her mandatory presence loses much of its sting. I suggested in December that May had ridden her luck for too long, and it was sure to run out soon. Foolishly running down the Brexit clock as a ‘game-of-chicken’ with Parliament is what has drained that luck away.

Not for the first time, I can almost find it in my heart to feel a little sorry for her, given the hapless, slightly-shrivelled presence to which she has been reduced. But she has to go. For all our sakes, she has to go, and her unstable, log-jammed blancmange of a Government must be dissolved and replaced with one that has function. In times as critical as these, the country cannot afford not to have a Government. It has not really had one for several years. Of course, in many circumstances, that is not necessarily a problem. But with the country on the threshold of leaving the EU, with all the troubles even a ‘Soft Brexit’ (if we are lucky) would cause, these are no such circumstances.

Still, with the Tories clearly now in total despair at May’s loss of control, and at her idiotic, patronising, blame-shifting speech last week, which turned many of them against her, whispers are getting louder about a General Election being imminent.

Gardiner says Election in about five weeks

The Government has pretty much tied itself in knots. An Election is the only real answer.

Everything that has happened, including the near-enough collapse of the Government, was predictable nearly two years ago. Arriving at another Election, as the only way out of the quagmire, has been predictable for at least as long.

by Martin Odoni

Quick post following up on The Skwawkbox‘s earlier observations of a poor turnout at a pro-Remain meeting at the Quaker Meeting House in Liverpool on Saturday evening. As Skwawk noted, the attendance does look suspiciously lower than the figures that Remain Labour are suggesting. I myself was in that same auditorium back in September, attending a fringe democratisation event at the Labour Party Conference, and the attendance for that meeting was so huge that more people were standing than sitting. Comparing the pictures from this week to what I saw then, I am somewhat confident that Remain Labour have inflated the numbers. But if they insist otherwise, well, I shall not dwell on that.

Instead, what I wish to discuss is that, oho, a familiar figure was addressing the crowd. Wavertree’s beloved local MP, Luciana Berger, was ‘at the lectern’.

Luciana Berger at Remain Labour meeting in Liverpool

Luciana Berger, ‘too pregnant’ to answer for undermining her party, but ‘not too pregnant’ to carry on undermining her party

Now, it is quite ironic enough that an MP who is publicly suggesting she might leave the party is working with a group called Remain Labour, even if it has a different meaning in this context. But what is rather needling about this is that, we are told by Blairites and other assorted Labour right wingers, Berger’s pregnancy, now understood to be at eight months, means she is in too vulnerable a state to face the No-Confidence Motions her local constituency party had tabled in her.

harman berger hypocrisy

Harriet Harman pleading the “rights of the mother”, when the mother is behaving in a very destructive manner.

So, Berger is supposedly ‘too-heavily pregnant’ to be made to answer to her CLP for undermining her leader and her party. But at the same time, she is not too-heavily pregnant to take part in a meeting whose express purpose is to advance a policy that explicitly contradicts the strategy the Labour Party agreed upon in Conference – thus undermining her leader and her party again.

Berger and her cynical allies cannot expect to have it both ways. If she is ‘too pregnant’ to be held to account for her actions and she should be left alone, okay, fine. But she has to stop rocking the boat. As long as she keeps taking part in rebellious activities like these, she is showing that she is well enough for politics, and therefore she is well enough to be held to account for said-activities. If she cannot deal with being held to account, then she must stop what she is doing, she cannot expect a one-way ceasefire.

This is not bullying, it is a simple demand for ordinary accountability. If Berger feels she is above that, it only underlines why many Labour members think she is so unsuitable to be an MP at all.

by Martin Odoni

Tonight’s Motion of No Confidence in the Government, as expected, was defeated by 325 votes to 306. Not exactly a huge chasm, but reasonably decisive. It is noteworthy though that if the ten Democratic Unionists had voted against the Government, the motion would have passed by 1. Ironically, if Theresa May’s Brexit deal had passed the Commons last night, the DUP would have supported tonight’s motion and the Government would have fallen.

The atmosphere in the House of Commons tonight was as childish and yobbish as I have ever heard it, and never worse than during the Tories’ closing statement, delivered by the obnoxious Michael Gove. The bleating, the drunk-sounding chants and the juvenile bellowing were more reminiscent of brawling rugby players than intelligent, considered debate. I have written more than once of my suspicion that the alienation of so many of the public from politics in modern Britain is partly a result of the horrendous ‘lager-lout’-style of behaviour in the Commons. Tonight will probably have made that even worse.

However, I mainly wish to offer observations on Gove’s speech itself. While it was, as one might expect, a disgraceful tissue of distortions that he would not dare repeat outside the House, where he would be subject to the law of the land, more noticeable was the theme of it. It was largely about Jeremy Corbyn.

Michael Gove

Gove’s speech in ‘defence’ of his Prime Minister was largely just an uncivilised hatchet job on the Opposition leader instead.

Interestingly, early in the speech he mocked Tom Watson’s closing speech on behalf of the Opposition on the grounds that Watson did not mention Corbyn at all. Why Gove imagines that Watson should have to do so is quite inexplicable; the debate was a Motion of No Confidence in the Government, not in Corbyn, and to an extent, it really had nothing to do with Corbyn, at least directly.

But having mocked Watson for not mentioning his leader, Gove made a similar mistake; he scarcely mentioned Theresa May throughout the speech, even though the Motion was about her and her Government. Instead, Gove just spent minutes on end ranting out a malicious hatchet job on Corbyn, regurgitating various tired and debunked myths from the last couple of years about ‘anti-Semitism’ and his supposed lack of credentials for defending the country .

Whether you agreed with all of this, or any of this, or none of this, there is a fundamental flaw in the speech. Hardly any of it had anything to do with whether the present administration is fit to govern. And yet it made up a good three-quarters of what Gove had to say. (My brother has described it as “the Parliamentary equivalent of Kryten’s legal defence of Rimmer” from Red Dwarf.)

Is it just that no one had actually explained to Gove beforehand what the subject of the debate was?

Or was Gove keeping his praise for May to an absolute minimum because he plans to make a new bid for the leadership at her expense in the near future?

Or is it just – and this I suspect is the likeliest answer – that the performance of Theresa May and her administration since 2016 has been so shambolic, so destructive, and so mired in inertia and non-achievement that Gove simply ran out of good things to say in its defence after the first couple of minutes?

These are the only explanations I can think of, and all of them are bad.

230 – wow.

January 15, 2019

by Martin Odoni

Not exactly a shock that Theresa May’s Brexit deal was voted down in the House of Commons tonight, but good grief, did anyone picture such an annihilation? Just 202 MPs voted in favour – and May can count herself lucky that three Labour MPs rebelled to support the deal and get the ‘Ayes’ past 200 – and 432 voted against.

brexit vote in parliament - breakdown

The way they voted, 15th January 2019

This is unprecedented. The size of the Government’s support was comfortably less than half its total opponents. With 118 on the Government benches rebelling, the total number of Tories favouring May’s deal was substantially less than two-thirds. Every Liberal Democrat, every Scottish National Party member, every Plaid Cymru member, every Democratic Unionist, and the sole Green MP, all voted against the deal.

Most of us have known since the details were published that May’s deal was dead in the water – many of us suspected it back in June 2017 come to that – but surely none of us thought that it would be beaten this decisively? My personal projection was that May would lose by about 80 votes, which would still have been a powerful blow, and I thought anything near 200 was on the barest fringe of the possible. But two hundred-and-thirty? That is absolutely extraordinary, and the biggest defeat in the Commons for an incumbent Government ever.

Since the catastrophic Conservative backfire of the 2017 General Election, this administration has been a zombie Government. Now it is not even that. It is no Government at all, it is just a giant hole in the air of Westminster and Whitehall. It has no right to exist, and no function left except to keep itself in office. Having suffered the humiliation of the biggest defeat any Prime Minister has ever conceded, Theresa May, if she truly had any honour at all, would accept that she has to resign. But of course she does not, and so of course, she will not.

This is yet another victory for Jeremy Corbyn of course – he scores a surprisingly large number of them for a supposedly ‘useless’ Leader of the Opposition – and a victory that, had it been achieved by Tony Blair in the 1990s, would have been hailed as one of the greatest in the history of Opposition Leaders. Which of course it is, but as usual, Corbyn is being damned with faint praise at best in the media. He has at last tabled the expected motion-of-no-confidence in the Government, judging rightly that now is the likeliest time for it to succeed – certainly likelier than it was before Christmas. The odds are still against it, especially as Tory rebels and DUP MPs have reaffirmed that they will continue to oppose it. But if nothing else, this move keeps the Government on the defensive at a time when it is reeling.

As for Brexit, where can we go from here? I think the UK now has to apply for an extension to Article-50. We are basically back at the metaphorical ‘drawing board’ in terms of a withdrawal agreement, and that means we need a lot more time than the two-and-a-half months that are left before we have departed the European Union. But even then, the EU are less-than-sympathetic about the idea of renegotiating, after the enormous amount of time May has wasted, and they are now pushing for the UK to abandon Brexit once and for all.

I am as pro-democracy as they come, and I have done my best to accept the outcome of the 2016 referendum. But still, it is getting more and more difficult to argue with the idea of calling the whole wretched business off, is it not?

Oh well. “Coalition of chaos”, and all that.

12th doctor 1st doctor and strong & stable may

More of a joke than ever, isn’t it?

by Martin Odoni

The Tories are clearly gearing up for a General Election. Theresa May probably sees it, however reluctantly, as the likeliest way out of the unending Brexit logjam at Westminster, as others have been warning since the last Election that it would be. I will not waste time going into the reasons why an Election is so necessary, as I imagine anyone who has not spent the last three years in seclusion on the moons of Neptune will have a more-than-passing familiarity with why. However, I wish to point out that the Tories are engaged in a form of Election cheating once again.

The indicators that a snap Election is imminent are three-fold.

Firstly, returning officers up and down the country have been put on standby.

Secondly, the Conservative Party has released a (very disingenuous) Party Political Broadcast (PPB).

Thirdly, Tory campaigners have started leafleting their constituencies.

Tory leafleting

Even in safe seats, the Tories are campaigning, a clear sign that a General Election is in the offing.

It is possible that if, by some miracle, May’s Brexit deal is not voted down next week (presumably while Tim Henman comes out of retirement to win Wimbledon later this year…), the dissolution of Parliament will not be called. But for the moment, these are the obvious clues that the Tories are ‘gearing up’.

But they are also clues that the Tories are trying to get around Election Expenses laws, which they have of course been in trouble for transgressing before. By campaigning before the Election is even announced, the leafleting and the PPB will not, they hope, be counted against the amount they officially invest as a party in the Election, allowing them to invest more than other parties while staying under the spending ‘cap’. The money counting only starts from the moment the Election is called.

This is yet another example therefore of the Tories using dirty tricks to get an unfair advantage on rival parties. Even though it is not, to the best of my knowledge, against the letter of electoral laws in this country, it is undoubtedly against the spirit of them.

The degree to which the Conservative Party resorts to these kinds of behaviours is amazing. Sure, other parties are guilty of dirty trickery from time-to-time as well. But the Tories do it so routinely and so instinctively that it belongs in a different world. It even gives the impression that the Tories are powerless to grasp that such conduct is wrong. They imagine that, so long as it helps them succeed and they do not get caught, cheating is justified.

They really should be called the Psychopaths’ Party.

by Martin Odoni

So, did Jeremy Corbyn really say it? Did he call Theresa May, “Stupid woman” at Prime Minister’s Questions today?

Well, judging by slow motion replays of the moment of Corbyn’s irritated muttering, the answer appears to be No. It looks fairly clear to me that the word Corbyn uses begins with the letter P, and probably the first letter of the second syllable too, suggesting that, as his spokespeople claim, he was saying, “people”. He was referring to the childish hooting and catcalling from the Tory backbenchers.

But it amazes me the barefaced effrontery of so many anti-leftists that this is causing such a furore. Say Corbyn did call May a stupid woman; so what? This was PMQs, for Pete’s sake! It was the House of Commons! Of all the childish abuse, personal insults and schoolchild moments-of-mockery that happen in that most juvenile of debating forums day-in-day-out, Stupid woman is the one that everyone is getting their underwear in knots over? Seriously? All right, so the utter pig’s breakfast May has made of Brexit kind of indicates that she is indeed a stupid woman, but whether it is a fair description or otherwise, is this really causing so much fury?

Well of course not. No one really cares, it is of course being used as a distraction from the shambles of Brexit and the serious threat to the Prime Minister’s position, even from her own party. And given the Tories were saying only on Monday night that they would not indulge a Vote of No Confidence debate in the Prime Minister, apparently due to regarding it as some kind of a waste of time, it is pathetic how much time they are instead happy to waste on this. Apparently a man muttering under his breath is a more urgent issue than the Prime Minister carrying the whole country over a Brexit cliff. What a country we live in.

But let us for a moment indulge the theatrical whining from the Conservatives. This means they are getting self-righteous about ‘misogyny’.

The Conservatives?

The Conservatives, only a little over a week ago restored the whip to two MPs who had been suspended for acts of sexual depravity against women, and were still under investigation. One of them is an alleged rapist.

Tory MPs restored to Parliament while under investigation for sexual depravity

Charlie Elphicke and Andrew Griffiths have not been cleared yet of serious sexual misconduct.

The Tories are also the party who gave us one-time (and one-dimensional) Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who has merrily talked about having Theresa May “chopped up in bags in my freezer”.

And then of course, there is the small matter of Boris Johnson, with his charming history of patronising female colleagues while he was Mayor of London.

(EDIT TO ADD: And then there is this little gem from ‘Spreadsheet-Phil’ Hammond to Andrea Jenkyns. And this hot little number from David Mundell to Yvette Cooper. Or this delightfully not-very-female-friendly policy from no less a figure than the Prime Minister herself.)

This is the party lecturing the Labour leader on misogyny? For real?

Among Corbyn’s treacherous troops, I expect Jess Phillips to jump on the Tory bandwagon for about the one hundred-thousand-million-billionth time. (Why on Earth is she even in the Labour Party?) Given her own tendency to joke about “knifing” Jeremy Corbyn, even symbolically – doubly tasteless in light of the assassination of Jo Cox – it would probably be advisable that she kept her foul gob shut instead. But when did she ever listen to sensible advice?

All of this outrage though, from the right. And the further right they are, the more outraged their reaction. The half of the spectrum that always bemoans ‘political-correctness-gone-mad’ is once again blowing its top about being ‘offended’. They never seem to notice the irony.

In other words, the Tory sneers at political correctness, as ever, translate as, “It’s only wrong to be offensive when you’re offending us.”

So careful now, Jez, and careful, everyone else. We have no wish to hurt the Tories’ feelings while they send homeless people to their deaths, do we?

Stupid woman - everyone loses their minds

The Joker making more sense than anyone in the real world, as usual.