by Martin Odoni

The mechanical rejoinder currently fashionable online among Tory supporters is, “Now is not the time for political point-scoring!” or “Stop manipulating a crisis for political gain!” whenever they see anybody giving the Government a well-earned kicking.

As I have already made clear before, ‘point-scoring’ is not what critics of the Government are doing when they point out the British mishandling of the CoVid-19 Coronavirus. The cross-analysis of Government conduct is desperately needed at a time of crisis, as every mis-step the Government can take in this climate will cost lives. The eleven-day mis-step of not imposing a lockdown is responsible, by some calculations, for around two-thirds of the Coronavirus deaths the UK has suffered to date. And it was only because of growing public anger at Government stupidity and complacency that Boris Johnson relented and changed policy.

So cross-analysis is important, not least because it generally works.

But for the sake of argument, let us assume for the moment that the real incentive for criticism really is point-scoring. One question I must ask in these circumstances: So what if it is?

Who, after all, are the Conservatives, of all parties, to cry ‘foul!’ over politicising a disaster? When the Credit Crunch bit and started the Global Financial Crisis twelve-to-thirteen years ago, did David Cameron, the then-Tory-leader, just sit back and make soft, supportive noises as Gordon Brown desperately bailed water from the UK economy?

Far from it. Not only were the Tories unsympathetic during that crisis, they took the most deceitful and malicious advantage of it imaginable. They told the absolutely flagrant lie that the disaster was caused by ‘reckless Government spending’, when in truth the public sector had not crashed at all, while the crisis had begun in the US Derivatives Market, not anywhere under British jurisdiction at all.

Tory emotional blackmail rebuttal

If “now is not the time to criticise the Government,” when will be? And how would it be any different to the way they behaved when in Opposition?

This utterly malicious smear of the last Labour Government – a Government I have little sympathy for in most respects and I seldom feel much wish to defend – continues to the present day, with the right wing media often leaping on the bandwagon. It was used as the entire rationalisation for years of completely harmful and unhelpful Austerity, imposed entirely for ideological reasons.

More even than that, however, who has been playing politics with the pandemic more than the Tories? Certainly not Keir Starmer, who by and large has been much too gentle with the Government since taking over as Labour leader. Whether point-scoring or not, Opposition parties are in any event not lying about what is happening.

No, the Tories are the ones who have consistently spun and lied, who have released death statistics heavily-distorted by exclusion of all who died outside of hospital. The Tories are the ones who keep boasting about how much PPE they are providing, rather than openly comparing what they have with the amount NHS frontline staff actually need, and while ignoring native sources of PPE in favour of preferred ‘Big Business’ firms from overseas who are taking far longer to deliver – all an attempt to cast a needless shortfall as a mighty logistical triumph. The Tories keep claiming they have delivered resources that have not really arrived and have only just been placed on order. The Tories continue mobilising armies of bots on social media to give the false impression that their policies are more popular than they really are, and even misuse Department of Health resources in order to deploy them. The Tories keep making insinuating noises that shift blame onto others for how weak the pandemic response has been, and for the shortness of supplies.

The Tories, in short, are not interested in doing the job of handling the pandemic efficiently, or in saving lives. They are only interested in controlling the public narrative of the crisis, and evading accountability for mishandling it.

That is pretty much the definition of politicising a tragedy.

by Martin Odoni

Normally, I would bitterly oppose any Government ‘Commandment-from-on-high‘ confining ordinary citizens to their homes, as though the country is just a primitive version of the West Europ Dome City from Blake’s 7.

Not in West Europ City dome - yet

Today’s lockdown has disturbing implications that should not be ignored, but dealing with the Coronavirus does come first. We have centuries to stave off the birth of the Terran Federation.

But these are about the only circumstances where I have to agree with it. The country does have to go into ‘lockdown’, as the threat of the Coronavirus CoVid-19 has not been slowed at all under the previous status quo. So, yes I will say it, Boris Johnson was correct to order the lockdown this evening. Along with the few other correct actions he has taken in this crisis, it was all a bit late in the day, and he only did it after an initial mixture of blunders and dithering. But we got there in the end.

I do have long-term concerns about this, and I hope no one gets me wrong about that. Curfews, whatever name you wish to give them, do give disturbing amounts of power to authorities, and I doubt it will be long before police officers, overstretched by short-staffing, start getting a little too comfortable with the idea of misusing them. The lockdown will rightly be subject to regular Parliamentary review, once every three weeks, and it is the duty of all of us, not just Opposition MPs, to make sure that that review is carried out every time, on time, no exceptions. The big danger with any ‘state-of-emergency’ is that a leader who calls one is often allowed to decide how the emergency is defined, and therefore when it is over. Or more insidiously, when it is not. It can carry on indefinitely, if they wish. I would not for one minute put it past Johnson to take advantage if he thought he could get away with it, simply by subtly changing the definition of the current crisis. His attempt last year to bypass scrutiny came within inches of destroying the constitution, if anyone needed reminding. So we had better all keep an eye on him over the next few months, eh?

In the shorter term though, I only have one problem, and to be fair, it would have been there even if Johnson had ordered the lockdown earlier. A population of 65+ million needs to stay at home. That is not exactly a law, and there are certain limited exceptions e.g. exercise, short journeys to buy essentials etc. But that is what the police are going to be expected to enforce.

The problem?

Er, how exactly does Johnson expect it to be enforced?

Unenforceable instructions

I am not terribly impressed with Johnson’s overdue call for a lockdown. Partly because it should have included an apology for his previous inertia, but primarily because the police do not have the numbers to enforce it.

This is yet another aspect of Austerity coming back to bite the Tories on the backsides. They have made it impossible for either themselves or the country more widely to deal with a crisis because they de-funded the state’s built-in protections against emergencies – in this case, the police force. Remember Theresa May as Home Secretary, with the patronising confidence of any rich, privileged person who has never had to do a real day’s work in her life, demanding the police learn to “do more with less”? A net loss of over twenty-one thousand police since 2010 has made it quite impossible for the forces up and down the country to maintain previous levels of law-and-order. And now, just one hundred and twenty thousand officers are being instructed to make sure the entire population of the United Kingdom stay at home, twenty-four-seven-three-six-five?

I suppose this really is not Johnson’s fault particularly, certainly not as much as it is Theresa May’s and David Cameron’s. Johnson really does have to give the lockdown order now – should have done at least a week earlier in fact – and it takes a long time to train up a dedicated police officer after you have thrown out twenty thousand experienced ‘bobbies’. But it does rather suggest a certain futility to what Johnson is trying to accomplish this evening; a command well-barked, but backed by no particular bite.

Yet again we see what a stupid, pointless, toxic, no-upside program Austerity always was.

_____

MORE HERE.

by Martin Odoni

Delusions on both sides

I have written a considerable amount over the last couple of years criticising Brexiteers for their disregard for reality, and rightly so. It is one of the most painful patterns of modern political discourse trying to convince a Leave-supporter, either of the right or of the left, to take the plain facts into account when analysing how Brexit is going i.e. very, very badly, perhaps to the point of unworkable.

But I have to concede, the Remain camp has its share of pie-in-the-sky dreamers too. From those who talk in flowery, detail-free soundbites about the ‘beauty’ of European unity, which bears almost no resemblance to the neoliberal reality of the European Union, to those who confuse globalisation with internationalism and therefore fail to recognise that the EU stands far more for market power than it does for battling against inequality. Remainers tend to be less deluded on average, but “less deluded than a Brexiteer” is a little like saying, “less badly-written than a Terminator sequel”.

Deluded Remainers have drifted towards the LibDems

One problem with Remainers that is particular to the last fifteen months is the way they have been drawn in considerable numbers to the Liberal Democrats. Many Remainers, especially since Labour adopted a position in support of a ‘Soft’-Brexit-if-possible at the 2018 Party Conference, began to drift away, and the LibDems found their support growing, due to their stance of wishing to cancel Brexit summarily. This was understandable, although partly based on a misunderstanding of Labour policy i.e. Labour policy was to attempt to force a General Election, and, if elected, try to get a good deal for Brexit, and failing to get one or both of them, they would support a Referendum to resolve the likely deadlock. (Contrary to media reports, Labour have actually been consistent on this, and have stuck quite firmly to the policy. It is only because the policy has different, conditional stages that people have been getting the idea that it is ‘confused’.)

Labour’s position has now completed its switchover to supporting a second Referendum, complete with a ‘Remain’ option on the ballot, making it a perfectly valid hope for Remainers. The LibDems have continued to claim that Labour are a ‘pro-Brexit’ party, which is true in a sense, but deliberately misleading as it over-simplifies the policy.

In truth, if the LibDems were really the steadfast ‘party of Remain’ they paint themselves as, they would be trying to get as close to the Labour Party as possible, instead of vilifying them. A Labour victory in the General Election next month is the only realistic path to a potential revocation of Article-50. Labour will attempt to get an improved deal and will put that deal to the people in a confirmatory referendum with remain as the alternative. That is the only path to remaining in the EU that looks a realistic prospect.

The Tories show a rabid pro-Brexit fanaticism

Compare that stance to the policy of the Tories, which is to “get Brexit done” come-what-may, with their leader looking so eager for a No-Deal form of Brexit that he imperilled the Constitution of the United Kingdom a couple of months ago to try and force it to happen.

In the face of these options, it should be glaringly obvious even to the sightless that Labour’s position is vastly closer to the LibDems’ than the Tories. So what does Jo Swinson, the LibDems’ recently-elected leader, have to say about it?

Well of course, she repeatedly and summarily rules out forming a coalition or alliance with Jeremy Corbyn, while she unfailingly lies about what Corbyn’s policy is. At the same time, she never entirely seems to rule out a coalition or alliance with the Tories. I must emphasise that Swinson frequently speaks of Johnson in coruscating terms, but the nearest she comes to saying she will not ally with him is that she “will not support him”. This strongly implies no dirty deals, but is not quite the same as ruling one out. Certainly, Swinson does not condemn Johnson, or rule out working with him, nearly as often or as unambiguously as she does Corbyn. The anti-Brexiteer shows more sympathy for the No-Deal-Brexiteer than for the man adopting the more moderate position.

Jo Two-Face

What Jo Swinson says is always contradicted by other things she says.

The Tim Walker saga

This flip-flopping posture was made even worse this week by what happened to Tim Walker. Walker is a former Telegraph ‘journalist’ (how generous am I, using a term like that for someone who worked for that pompous rag?) who used to work closely with Johnson. However, due to his opposition to Brexit, Walker chose to stand as a LibDem candidate against the Tories in Canterbury, the former Conservative stronghold that shockingly fell to Labour in 2017. Rosie Duffield’s majority was under 200.

Walker’s candidacy was a pretty weird move by the LibDems from a pro-Remain perspective. As Duffield and Walker are both Remainers, it was clear his arrival on the Canterbury hustings could only split the Remain vote and let the Tories take the seat back, advancing the prospect of No-Deal. In fairness to Walker, this week he decided to stand down and let Duffield fight one-on-one (more or less) against Tory Anna Firth.

“Ah!” cry the LibDems’ defenders. “See? The LibDems taking a principled position, putting opposition to Brexit ahead of their own narrow interests.”

In Walker’s case, that is true, and one can applaud his decision to put himself second. But the problem is that, on learning that he had stepped down, Swinson responded by announcing that the party would find another candidate to contest the seat!

This not only defeated the object of Walker’s self-sacrifice, but it also ran completely contrary to the principle of pro-Remain – the very principle Walker had stood down under, and the principle that the LibDems are promoting as their main ‘selling-point’. For the “party of Remain” to do this should be anathema to them.

LibDem history does nothing to improve confidence

Any benefit-of-the-doubt Swinson has had up until now must therefore go. It is easy, and probably safe, to conclude that Swinson is adopting the positions she does simply because it gives the LibDems something to distinguish themselves from the Tories, (from whom they have gained a number of defectors who have ugly attitudes on other issues such as gay rights, which again raises doubts about how firmly the party holds its principles) and that she is not as fussed about preventing Brexit as she wants to appear. Yes, she is pro-Remain, but she will not risk any deduction in her party’s position in the House of Commons in order to stop Brexit.

If they gain enough support, the LibDems might, just might, win enough seats to hold the balance of power again, as happened in 1974 and 2010. But both times that they had that advantage, little good was sifted from it. In 1974, Jeremy Thorpe failed to secure an alliance from Ted Heath, and after a few months of a Labour minority Government, there had to be another Election. In 2010, Nick Clegg secured a coalition with David Cameron, and then enabled Austerity, allowing a massive hike in tuition fees that Clegg was expressly committed to opposing, among other backstabs.

So Liberal/LibDem records in attempted coalition are not pretty, and the clear worry is that, should they get into such a position again under Swinson, they will simply concede Brexit as the price of getting seats in the Cabinet once more. After all, if trebled tuition fees were not an excessive price for them when most of their support came from students nine years ago, well, what would be?

LibDem witnesses

#NickCleggsWitnesses – never let them into your House (of Commons). And on a somewhat less humorous note, have you ever seen two such obviously-false, ingratiating grins?

Jo Swinson simply is not what she wants Remainers to think she is

Therefore, it is the turn of Remainers around the country to face reality, the reality being that Jo Swinson is not the ‘Wonder Woman‘ saviour figure she wants them to believe she is. Many Remainers thought the LibDems were their only hope of stopping the undoubted misery of Brexit. In truth, there was little enough chance of a party with a smaller presence in the Commons than the Scottish National Party being able to win enough extra seats to end the madness anyway. But it is now clear that the LibDems are not nearly as passionate or steadfast on the issue as they like to sound. They are already showing various signs of compromising their “Stop-Brexit-at-the-cost-of-all-else” posture, in order to carry on leeching voters from Labour.

This, Remainers, is the reality; there is no reason, especially with their track record from nine years ago, to assume that the LibDems will not concede more, should that be the price of power.

by Martin Odoni

Tuesday’s historic ruling by the Supreme Court that prorogation of Parliament was unlawful was one of the biggest moment’s in British constitutional history. That is no exaggeration. 24th September 2019 is as huge a moment as the passage of the Bill of Rights of 1689, and for reasons that go far beyond Brexit.

UK sovereignty is with Parliament

The 24th September should be commemorated annually, as it is the date British democracy was brought back from the brink.

I am quite serious when I say that even Brexiteers should be relieved that the judges on the Supreme Court did not take the easy way out and just say, “Well, this is not a matter for the courts, it’s a matter for MPs!” like the High Court had done a couple of weeks earlier.

Supreme Court ruling

The historic ruling of the Supreme Court is that Prorogation of Parliament is unlawful, and that the courts do have jurisdiction over the constitution.

Such a decision being upheld would have had terrifying implications for the future, and Brexiteers need to remove their blinkers and acknowledge that there are other matters in the world beyond their obsessive hatred of the European Union. For this was not really about Brexit as such, no matter how much Boris Johnson, the lamest of Prime Ministerial ducks, and his allies try to claim otherwise, in all their characteristic hypocrisy.

Boris_Johnson_-_prorogation_is_not_about_Brexit_and_it_is[1]

“I’m not saying it was about Brexit, but it was about Brexit.” It’s not about Brexit when it’s going his way, but it’s all about Brexit when it’s going against him.

In truth, it was the other way around. Initially, when Johnson called a prorogation, it was about Brexit. It was simply a cynical way of making sure Parliament could not stop Johnson from handling Brexit in as unilateral a manner as he wished. But the longer-term implications of such a move were not just unilateral but downright totalitarian, and had repercussions that could affect any number of issues in the future. For if Johnson were allowed to establish that he could simply suspend Parliament whenever it suited him, even at a time of severe constitutional disruption, then he could do it in any situation, and so could any subsequent Prime Minister. Prorogation would simply become the tool-of-choice for any Prime Minister who did not like the inconvenience of opposition getting a say, or was just feeling accountability-shy.  So it ceased to be about Brexit specifically, and became about matters of democratic structures, sovereignty and constitutional integrity.

Brexiteers and their tunnel vision

Most Brexiteers, sadly, do not seem to realise this, and in fact they remain unshakeably convinced that it was the opposite, and that the Supreme Court’s decision was about preventing democracy, as it made it almost impossible for Johnson to force through a No Deal Brexit. In truth, the Court’s decision did nothing to delay or advance Brexit, so that assumption is untrue, but even so, the likely third delay to leaving the EU could still be seen as anti-democratic, for the simple reason that it delays delivery of the 2016 Referendum result.

But is it that simple? Well, no.

Firstly, democracy is being interpreted in a very extreme way there. It is assuming that “If it is popular, it must be law.” But that is less ‘democracy’ and more ‘mob-rule’, and it can rapidly look a lot less appealing when applied to other scenarios. Just for instance, if there were a popular vote in favour of the extermination of everyone who voted to Leave, how in favour of ‘democracy’ would Leavers become then?

(And no, I am certainly not arguing for such a vote, I am simply pointing out that a line has to be drawn somewhere, and it is clearly somewhere a long way short of ‘vote-to-kill’.)

Referenda are not legally-binding

“All right,” answer Brexiteers, “so we shouldn’t have votes to break the law, but still, Brexit isn’t against the law!”

Well, that is questionable, given that Brexit’s contradiction of the Good Friday Agreement arguably is illegal under International Law. But equally, it has to be said that ignoring a Referendum result is also not against the law.

No, seriously. Referenda are not defined in British law, and so their results are non-binding. This was even made clear in briefing papers for the Brexit Referendum.

Brexit Briefing paper June 2015

Addressing the urban myth that the 2016 Referendum result has to be binding.

Yes, I know David Cameron claimed that the result would be respected and implemented, but hey, why should we start believing a chancer like him just on this issue? He also swore he would carry the task out personally, but instead he resigned the day after the vote. When was he ever honest about any policy? How often did he keep a promise? So why do we look to his words for the unvarnished truth now?

Now let me be clear; none of this is meant to imply that I am actually calling for Brexit to be reversed completely. It would certainly be the sanest option, given the constitutional quagmire into which it has tipped the country, but I ruefully accept the decision of the British public.

However, this is a response to those who keep claiming that the 2016 Referendum is some kind of unanswerable edict laid down by powers greater than the Gods, and that it somehow even supersedes the rule of law. It does not. There is no legal precedent for a Referendum as binding. It is certainly not as set-in-stone as the UK constitution, which, though uncodified, is not ‘unwritten’ (despite what is so often claimed of it).

Breaking the law does not help enforce it

There is an old saying that “One cannot enforce the law by breaking it, even if it helps catch a criminal.” A similar saying could be coined for democracy. “One cannot uphold democracy by destroying the structures that protect it, just to implement one democratically-reached decision.”

This means that the implementation of the 2016 Referendum result cannot be allowed to happen in any way that actually violates the law or endangers the UK Constitution. If that were allowed, democracy would be far more threatened than it could ever be by the overturning of a single Referendum. The Constitution is what gives us the power to vote, and to have representation in Government, and Parliament is where that representation sits. Sometimes one part of the state can seem to get in the way of other parts. That is just the nature of checks-and-balances though, and it will therefore often require patience on the part of the public before they will see the fruits of legislation. Impatience, such as the impatience displayed by Johnson when trying to prorogue Parliament, will have unintended side-effects. Brexiteers are often among the loudest to accuse politicians of corruption and dirty trickery, and they are seldom wrong on that score, but they need to recognise that the aforementioned checks-and-balances are there precisely to guard against such sleaze. Now they scream out against a critical check on the Prime Minister’s power? They want that check removed. They do not want the Prime Minister to be accountable to even the highest court in the land on constitutional matters. They want the High Court’s pusillanimous cop-out that this is a matter only for Parliament itself to be permanently accepted.

But how can it be, when Parliament was being prorogued without ever agreeing to it or even being consulted on it? The Prime Minister was acting unilaterally, and the High Court was saying, “Nothing to do with us. This is a matter for MPs.” But the MPs were not given any options to do anything about it one way or the other.

Government by prorogation

As mentioned above, if a Prime Minister has absolute control over prorogation, and can suspend Parliament for obviously excessive lengths of time, then he can use it simply to silence formal opposition. Opposition is an integral part of the way the British Constitution and democratic processes work. No Prime Minister can be allowed unchecked control of prorogation, when that gives him the power to limit legitimate opposition, accountability, and debate. Allowing the Prime Minister to be the safeguard of this part of the Constitution is rather like getting the metaphorical wolf to guard the henhouse; the individual with most motivation to attack it is the one expected to defend it. Abuse of such an instrument would be too easy for a psychopath like Johnson, who sees nothing as more valuable than his own narrowest interests, and the more he abuses prorogation, the more he would endanger the Constitution and its credibility.

Endanger the Constitution and you endanger democracy, you do not protect it. You should not retreat into claims of, “Oh, he was only going to do it this once.” You do not know that, and there would have been nothing to stop him doing it again in future if the Supreme Court had not reined him in. Enforcing one badly-under-cooked policy at the cost of our democratic structures is like sacrificing an army of thousands in order to free a hundred soldier-prisoners.

Try and remember in all your short-tempered self-righteousness that Brexit has not been revoked. It is taking far longer to implement than its advocates were hoping, but given the immense difficulties that the very intricate process is creating, it is hardly unreasonable that some delays prove necessary. Any delay in enforcing Brexit is neither illegal nor unconstitutional. A delay that establishes once and for all that Downing Street is not above the law and that the Constitution of the United Kingdom is protected by the Courts is something to celebrate. Had the Supreme Court chosen to say, “Nothing to do with us,” British democracy would have been mortally-wounded.

As it is, it is back from the dead.

by Martin Odoni

Whether you think the UK leaving the European Union is a good idea or a bad idea, whether you think it is short-term pain for long-term gain, or it is an impending disaster that no amount of compensation down-the-line can completely diminish, there is no escaping one irony about it. It is an irony that can only give pleasure to those on the left, while inducing despair for those of more centrist or right-leaning persuasions. But it is there, whether you like it or not; –

Brexit has probably kept Jeremy Corbyn in charge of the Labour Party.

Now, Corbyn’s distaste for the EU is hardly a secret, and his position since the Referendum has been noticeably ambivalent – although not, as some have complained, actually ambiguous. So for him to derive benefit from the Brexit process should hardly be a cause of surprise. But the suspicion is that, were it not for the chaos that Brexit has caused for the Conservative Party, especially since mid-2017, Corbyn would probably have lost the leadership by now. The Tory havoc, sometimes frightening, frequently hilarious, always incompetent, has presented the embattled Labour leader with countless opportunities to injure the Government, and more people need to give him his due; he has handled most of them both skilfully and effectively.

Don’t sneer, the facts are on Corbyn’s side

Anyone who wishes to sneer at that should consider that Jeremy Corbyn has now inflicted more defeats – forty-one – on sitting Governments than any other Leader of the Opposition in history, which is not bad for four years’ work as a supposed ‘failure’. The previous record, held until this week by Margaret Thatcher at the expense of the Jim Callaghan Government of the 1970s, took ninety days longer to achieve.

Corbyn - winningest LOTO of all time

Corbyn has a remarkable success record as Leader of the Opposition for one who is so often derided about it.

Of course, how much these defeats for the Tories are specifically down to Corbyn, and how effective he would be had Theresa May and Boris Johnson not been trapped in a Minority Government, are up for debate. (Although how much the Tory successes in the 1970s were down to Thatcher could be debated too.) But Corbyn can only play the hand he has been dealt, and on objective analysis, he has made far, far fewer mistakes than his detractors insist. He also played a huge role in forcing a Hung Parliament in the first place, so if a Minority Government is good luck for him, it is good luck he has made for himself.

Even if we therefore assume that Corbyn is in a position where it is difficult to fail, he has still made good use of that advantage, where previous Opposition leaders have not always been able to do so. Given how dreadfully malicious, cynical and unpopular the Tories were in the 2015 General Election, for instance, it still remains a source of profound bewilderment that Ed Miliband somehow still found a way of losing to them, and even of ending up with fewer seats than he had beforehand. Equally with Neil Kinnock; how in blazes did he not just lose the 1992 General Election to the uninspiring John Major, but actually allowed the Tories the largest popular vote count of any party since the Second World War, if all Kinnock’s reforms to the Labour Party over the previous nine years were really as ‘sensible’ as he forever claims, and given the Tories’ general exhaustion and division over the previous couple of years?

Hilarious Tory chaos

So it is quite unfair to dismiss Corbyn’s performance. But at the same time, it cannot be denied that the quietly-hilarious chaos of the current Tory Party is a real gift to Corbyn, and the cause of it, beyond any doubt, is Brexit. Since the Maastricht Treaty was debated in the early-1990s, converting the European Community into the European Union, relations with Europe have always been the Conservative Party’s greatest weakness. A fracture to be attacked and exploited by Opposition parties at will. Now that the ‘big move’ has been made, and the country has started the process of ending those relations, meltdown has finally begun. But what if it had not happened? Say David Cameron had scored a larger majority at the 2015 Election, and so had not needed to placate the fanatics in his party by calling a Referendum on EU membership. Or say the Referendum had ended in a Remain vote as expected, what then? Where would we be now?

The first point that has to be made in answering that is that what appeared to be a catastrophe for Corbyn – Brexit itself – was in fact a moment of saving grace for him. The ‘Chicken Coup’ by the Labour Right against Corbyn’s leadership in 2016 was attempted on the doubtful pretext that he had ‘failed to campaign effectively’ in that same Referendum. (That myth continues to feed the popular perception today that Corbyn has refused to commit to one policy on the EU or the other. In fact, he has been about as consistent on Brexit as the circumstances have allowed him to be; he has attempted with fair adherence to carry out a policy agreed upon by the Labour Party membership at Conference in 2017, which was to force and win a General Election, in order to carry out a ‘Soft Lexit’, so to speak, and when all options for making that happen were exhausted, to try and force a new Referendum vote. This has been broadly the course Corbyn has followed.)

Therefore, the 2016 coup appeared at first to indicate that Brexit was as much a curse for the Labour Left as it was for Cameron. While Corbyn clearly knew that something was about to happen even before Hilary Benn started rabble-rousing – hence he was able to build a new Shadow Cabinet within just two days of the previous den-of-thieves all resigning – there is also no doubt that at one point (subscr.) he was wavering under the bullying pressure Tom Watson and his henchmen were applying.

Brexit – the gift that keeps on giving

But since surviving the Chicken Coup, and with rather more ease than anybody expected, Brexit has been the gift to Corbyn that has kept on giving. The desperation to keep anti-EU hardliners placated led Theresa May to activate Article 50 at least a year earlier than she really needed to. Then, wanting to avoid the eternal problem of needing support from MPs with mutually-exclusive aims, May called a snap General Election three years early, over-confident that a Tory landslide would follow by default. This immediately took all the pressure off of Corbyn, as the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party had to stop undermining him and get on-side, for fear of losing their seats in the Commons if they continued rebelling.

There were two upshots of this move, and both were bad for May. Firstly, no longer having to watch over his own shoulder for a couple of months, Corbyn was clearly very much in his element during the 2017 General Election, working at the head of the liveliest, most positive, and most invigorating political campaign the country had seen in twenty years. The other was that crude Tory and media attempts to attack Corbyn during the campaign were uniformly futile, demonstrating that they had not been doing the Labour leader any real harm at all over the previous eighteen months. All the damage to Corbyn’s position and reputation had in fact been inflicted by his own side, and now they had stopped doing it, he flourished. In fact, he was visibly loving every minute of the campaign. The result of that is now well-recorded.

Over the two years and more that have followed, the relentless dithering and blundering of the Government’s negotiators, the gridlock between the blind Brexit fanatics who want No Deal and the reluctant supporters of a ‘Soft Brexit’, the stubborn stupidity of May as she imposed unnecessary ‘red lines’ during the talks over a Withdrawal Agreement, the lukewarm deal she agreed with the EU that effectively undermined British sovereignty more than it restored, and the relentless logjam in Parliament, have all presented Corbyn with more ammunition than one leader can use, and what he has used, he has used well. Not only did he see off David Cameron, even as Cameron theatrically told him, “For heaven’s sake, man! Go!” Corbyn then saw off Theresa May this past summer. And he has now played a solid role in neutralising Boris Johnson’s leadership before it could begin, culminating this week in the effective self-castration of Johnson’s own position in trying to force through a No Deal Brexit. And Corbyn manages all this while still being routinely undermined by his own side.

Corbyn winning by default sometimes, but winning nonetheless

In a lot of circumstances, Corbyn has not had to do all that much, never more than just stand his ground and make valid points about how appallingly the Tories have handled Brexit since the day the Referendum was announced. It could be argued therefore that Corbyn’s performance has not been all that impressive, and the Tories are destroying themselves and each other. But this underlines the point; Brexit has proven an absolute God-send for the Labour Left.

Had it not been for the Referendum, had it not been for the vote to Leave, it is highly likely that Corbyn, fairly or otherwise, would have been hounded from the leadership by now. He would probably have had very little in the way of victories in Parliament to point to, there would have been no General Election in 2017 to give him a new lease-of-life, and the rebellions against him would probably have continued without a pause, and with rather more credibility than they have had over the last two years, in which the attackers from within the party, or from those who have broken away from the party, have largely looked thoroughly shambolic, if not completely disconnected from reality. People are twigging on to a particularly large elephant in the room; if the main argument for getting rid of Corbyn is that he is a ‘fool’, then there is no argument at all to be made, as the blundering of his opponents within the party has demonstrated that there are only fools on-hand to succeed him.

Corbyn has anti-EU fanatics to thank

In all likelihood, without Brexit – especially without the uncompromising desire of a small-but-vocal minority of foaming-mouthed fanatics for a total severance from the EU – Corbyn would have had to step down eventually due to the sheer exhaustion of being constantly ‘dogpiled’ by his fellow Labour MPs. Even though he would have retained mass support from members outside the PLP, there is only so much one man can take. As it is, the confidence he got from forcing a Hung Parliament in 2017 has allowed him subsequently to shrug off most of the predictable renewed backstabbing with an air of cool aplomb.

Meanwhile, given how much they seem to hate Corbyn, most Brexiteers really should pause and reflect that their own blinkered, tunnel-visioned fanaticism for No Deal is the main instrument that has kept him in the job for the last two-and-a-half years.

To these fanatics, a quick message; –

Jeremy Corbyn - thank you to Brexit

Were it not for Brexit, there is every likelihood that Corbyn would be gone by now.

by Martin Odoni

As I wrote over the weekend, Boris Johnson, already the worst Prime Minister the UK has ever had after being in office barely six weeks, has managed to push the country into a Constitutional crisis with his first significant action in the role. Sounds about right for such a psychopath really. He accomplished this by pressuring the Queen into suspending (“proroguing”) Parliament for a crucial period of over a month, from mid-September to mid-to-late-October. This would mean the House of Commons would have insufficient time to put together a Bill to prevent a No Deal Brexit happening on 31st October; certainly it would be easy for any MPs in favour of No Deal to ‘bog down’ any debate by filibustering and raising constant pedantic objections to waste time.

Now, the pretext Johnson has given for this completely anti-democratic and unconstitutional move is that he supposedly has a ‘major new program’ of domestic policies that he wishes to implement, and needs time and space to arrange a new Queen’s Speech to open Parliament.

Lying makes BoJob feel kewl

Boris Johnson saw Theresa May telling lies on that same doorstep for years, and now says, “Hold my beer…”

Please, people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, do not be fooled. There is no way that this pathological liar would ‘just happen’ to be telling the truth on this one occasion, especially when the ‘incidental’ benefit to him is so clear.

One doubt that needs raising is that if you study the (somewhat vague) policies Johnson claims to have in the pipeline, they appear to be mere reversals of public services cuts implemented by the Governments of David Cameron and Theresa May over the last nine years. The extra twenty thousand police he keeps mentioning, for instance, just barely offsets the reduction in officers due to the ignorant and toxic Austerity program started by George Osborne. So while the restoration of funding to a number of key services is welcome in itself, it is nowhere near as impressive or as exciting a pledge as Johnson is trying to make us believe.

Second reason for doubts is that Johnson announcing such a program seems to be a quiet admission that the aforementioned Austerity program started in 2010 was unnecessary and even harmful. This is a point some of us have been making for years. It is nice to see that the Tories have finally come around to this way of thinking, but it would be even nicer if Johnson could admit that he and his colleagues were wrong at the outset, and apologise for all the terrible and needless harm they caused.

Third reason is that Parliament has only just got back from its summer recess, which started on the 25th of July. Johnson could have arranged a Queen’s Speech with no great difficulty for this week, avoiding any need to suspend Parliament at all.

But the biggest reason of all is a simple matter of very obvious numbers. As Brexit has repeatedly demonstrated, there simply is not the right lay-out of MPs in the House of Commons to get a majority for, well, anything really. That is not just a problem for Johnson, it will be a problem for anyone trying to form a Government at the moment.

Johnson cannot even get one Bill through Parliament at present, given his majority-of-one, which only exists because of a shaky alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party. The Brexit deal agreed with the European Union fell at the first hurdle three times under May, the first time in particular being the heaviest defeat ever suffered by a sitting Government, and Johnson’s majority is significantly smaller than May’s was. The slightest rebellion, even just an absence or abstention or two from any Tory or DUP MP, and any Bill the Government tries to advance dies on its backside.

So when Johnson cannot get any one Bill to pass the Lower House, he wants to convince us that he thinks he can get an entire program of spending increases through? Given how rabidly pro-Austerity many of his remaining troops in the Parliamentary Party are, they are as likely to vote against such a program as anyone. Johnson may even be counting on that as a way of getting himself off-the-hook, in the unlikely event that a majority of MPs side with him in tomorrow’s Withdrawal Bill vote, and allow him not to fulfill the spending commitments.

You would have to be an absolute fool to believe this ‘big spending program’ pretext.

So don’t.

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.