A New Place Of Exile

Richard Hutton

Goodbye, Bonnie – AKA Confused Dog

 

Goodbye to my lovely and wonderful friend:

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Why won’t Jeremy Corbyn simply stop Brexit? It defies reason.

It really is a mystery why Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t simply give the word, and instantly reverse Brexit. It’s not as if the task could be any easier.

All he needs to do is moan about it a bit: tut now and then, while giving a roll of the eyes – say it’s a bad idea, and all that. Then everyone will live happily ever after.

For proof – look no further than the barnstorming success of the Liberal Democrats in this very venture; after they adopted a Remain or Die approach to electioneering – and promptly reaped the dividends.

In the General Election of 2015, the Lib Dems faltered to a measly 7.9% of the vote.

But in the contest of 2017, they romped home to an incredible 7.4% of the vote.

If only Corbyn firmed-up his plans in like manner, and stopped putting principle before power (or power before principle, I can’t remember which one applies now) then he might enjoy the same enviable record.

And let us not forget that this is all his doing in the first place.

True, the Conservative Party decided to conduct the referendum. While their ministers campaigned for Brexit; and virtually the entire press kept saying European migration was a terrible, uncontrollable menace – even though they knew it wasn’t true.

But if Corbyn had only rated the EU 7.6/10, instead of 7.5/10, then the United Kingdom would still be in the EU. Admittedly, it still is in the EU – but this is beside the point.

It may very well be the case that the Tories bought a Parliamentary majority – ensuring they would have more votes than all of their opponents combined; so any policies they pursue cannot be defeated by opposition MPs.

But that is a pretty basic impossibility to defy.

Yet does Corbyn make the effort to invert mathematics? I think we all know the answer there.

What’s more, he perversely refuses to support a second referendum – even after the first one went so well; meaning that a sequel would be more than welcome.

In sum: Jeremy Corbyn clearly owes us all a big apology.

For shame.

Brexit – a cursory overview: why it’s a debacle, and why the People’s Vote campaign is equally misconceived.

 

Why Brexit is a bad idea

Brexit is a futile exercise, at best; and an extremely bad idea, at worst. If it could be prevented democratically, with public consent, then I would agree that it should be.

If hard/no deal Brexit goes ahead, it will cause severe damage to UK manufacturing, and much of Britain’s agriculture; along with any other industries which rely upon trade with the EU.

It will also bork the City of London’s banks – which, rightly or wrongly, Britain’s economy depends upon to a high extent.

Don’t feel too sorry for the City, though – they shared many of the core aims pursued by Brexit-advocates; and funded a number of the think-tanks which went on to campaign for Vote Leave.

Unfortunately, the upshot of all this is that a large number of people are liable to suffer job-losses, or wage-reductions; and a stark decline in overall living standards will follow.

There’s no need to take my word for this, however. Instead, feel free to read the article published in The Sun by the Leave-campaigner, Patrick Minford. In which he was almost honest enough to acknowledge the reality.

The aim of people like Minford is to turn Britain into the equivalent of a 3rd World Country. Not in terms of its gross domestic product – but in respect of corporate profiteering, and low wages; along with minimal taxes and social protections [1].

 

Why it has become a debacle

The ambition of Brexit-campaigners now, is to withdraw Britain from the European Union – and turn it into a highly exploitative society.

What the foremost among them wanted before the referendum, however, was to transform the entire EU into this type of entity – which would allow US-UK corporations to destroy the Single Market’s integrity, and monopolise it.

This was tacitly acknowledged by the forerunner to Vote Leave, Business For Britain – in a thousand-page lobbying pamphlet.

You don’t need to read all of this, thankfully; because its authors helpfully summarised their case – and unwittingly demonstrated how false they were being in the process.

As they complained:

“Our current terms of EU membership are unacceptable and are holding Britain back. Renegotiation offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure meaningful Treaty changes that will exempt Britain from political union and return us to a trading relationship”.

However:

“Should we fail to secure such Treaty change, leaving an unreformed EU offers the prospect of greater influence and prosperity”.

Note the reference to an “unreformed EU”.

Nonetheless, if it was true that leaving the EU would reap so many benefits, then why not advocate it in the first place?

More to the point, if Brexit was set to be as wonderful as these people claim, why did the Conservative government not simply enact it – without conducting a referendum beforehand?

In reality, the aim of Business For Britain – and similar groups – was to use the referendum to manipulate Europe into providing the UK with a flexible trading arrangement; which would allow British businesses to curtail the EU’s financial, environmental, and employment regulations.

They also wanted the City of London’s financial sector to be deregulated – following the safeguards imposed upon it by the EU, in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis. The one which had been brought about by deregulation.

In addition, Brexit-advocates hoped that a new arrangement with the EU would see British banks and corporations receive the freedom to exploit overseas markets – particularly in poorer countries.

Moreover, a core aim was to eliminate what Business For Britain refer to throughout their report as “non-tariff barriers” to EU trade – such as food safety standards. Like prohibitions on chlorinated poultry, the use of growth hormones in cattle farming; and genetically-modified produce.

Had this agenda proceeded, it would have transformed the European Union into a deregulated free-trade zone – which is the objective that many of the groups engaged in this lobbying effort ultimately had in mind.

It is unlikely to happen now, however – because the referendum result rebounded on these people; and has left Britain in an extremely weak bargaining position.

That is presumably why the Conservative government’s recourse is hard Brexit – which limits the scope of these plans to Britain.

The General Election of 2017 was called in order to eliminate Parliamentary opposition to this objective – an outcome which was confidently predicted by many journalists.

Only it backfired on the Conservatives – and deprived them of a governing majority. As the self-same journalists then began to pretend they had expected with confidence, all along; while bemoaning a lack of self-criticism among others.

Accordingly, the Tories cannot now dictate the terms of Brexit to Parliament; let alone the European Union. Instead, they require consent from people whose aims are in conflict with their own. This is why the situation has turned into a fiasco.

 

Can Brexit be stopped by Parliament? 

The only way Brexit seems to be preventable is if Theresa May puts her plans to a vote in the House of Commons, and they are voted down.

May consequently leaves office, and the Tories implode. There is a general election – Labour take office: and call a halt to withdrawal. They negotiate a new trading arrangement between the UK-EU – and put it to the electorate, in the form of a ratification referendum.

It is then either ratified; or Britain remains in the EU/regains membership – depending on the date of a vote.

However, there are potential obstacles:

1) May’s defeat requires a rebellion from Tory MPs – the ones who never rebel.

You will perhaps know them as the people who cry about poverty being caused by Universal Credit; then vote against publishing Universal Credit impact papers.

2) May might accede to the EU’s demands – and prompt an actual rebellion from the Tory-Right; but gain support from the numerous crooked Labour MPs, whose sole concern is the profiteering of big business/city banks.

As noted, these material interests have been placed in jeopardy by Brexit – which is likely to be the reason why it garners so much opposition from MPs; whereas austerity didn’t. Because that only affects people who are poor.

By contrast, Brexit will cost some very wealthy people a lot of money: people who are used to getting their way, because British politics is appallingly corrupt.

I will come back to the issue of corruption later – with the help of a special guest; because it underscores all of this.

 

The People’s Vote is an astroturfing campaign – with a discouraging precedent

Outside of Parliament, attempts at preventing Brexit currently centre on The People’s Vote – which is part of an astroturfing campaign; currently pressing the case for a second in-out vote, under the guise of a ratification referendum.

Note the similar press releases from:

People’s Vote

Open Britain

Best for Britain

New European

See also an otherwise unedifying eulogy on these efforts from the Guardian; which made no effort to examine the interests these organisations actually serve.

The European Movement is probably the most indicative group among these. Its core concern would seem to be the City of London’s interests, as indicated in its written submission to Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee in 2012.

Its chair is Stephen Dorrell – a former Tory MP, implicated in private healthcare conflicts of interest.

The Chair of this network’s Grassroots Coordinating Group is Chuka Umunna MP – who has received donations from several business owners, and bankers; who wished to fund his various complaints about Brexit.

It is easy to see why people would pay him so much money for these efforts. Umunna had previously declared that Britain must leave the Single Market, or else disaster beckoned; before declaring that Britain must remain in the Single Market, or else disaster beckons. Covering both bases, there.

You may think this campaign is fair enough – or at least, that the end justifies the means. Fine.

But it is the same type of lobbying effort which led to the EU referendum of 2016, in the first place.

In fact, several of the key figures at its forefront had previously called for a referendum on EU membership. Due to a variety of reasons, their politics are ultimately what led to Brexit.

 

The discouraging precedent 

One of these is Peter Mandelson – who agitated for an EU referendum, back in 2012; using the Guardian’s pages to promote an opinion poll, conducted at his behest by Populus. Which turned out to be completely wrong.

Nonetheless, in March 2017, Mandelson complained that Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer supposedly wouldn’t oppose Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

Then in June 2017, he opined that Labour “moderates” should support Theresa May’s plans for Brexit.

And in 2018 – he began calling for another referendum.

Suffice to say, there is no integrity to his position. So what is his actual concern?

Mandelson believed that a referendum would help transform the EU into a more profitable (that is, exploitative) market for UK-US businesses and banks – which is exactly what the worst Brexiters thought; only it backfired on him, as it did on them.

So he’s now demanding a do-over – rather than resigning in disgrace, for the umpteenth time.

Caroline Lucas is not much different, unfortunately, despite her political sympathies contradicting those of Mandelson.

Lucas is currently supporting the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum. She was also involved with Stronger In.

Well before then, however, in 2011 – Lucas was calling for a referendum on EU membership.

She had supported the Peoples’ Pledge campaign – another astroturfing effort, lobbying specifically for a “binding” EU referendum, during this period.

In fact, its methodology bore a distinct resemblance to the People’s Vote campaign: namely, lobbying MPs – especially via media outlets and opinion polls.

Lucas repeated her call for a referendum, in 2013.

Voted enthusiastically for the EU referendum bill in 2015.

Deplored its outcome in November 2016.

Then demanded a second referendum, in a fairly snide fashion, during the general election of 2017.

It is notable that in September 2016, Lucas warned that:

“When we talk about a second referendum, it is important to be clear about whether we are talking about simply rerunning the old referendum, which I am sure no one is suggesting – that would absolutely undermine democracy – or about a referendum on the terms of any new deal”.

In March 2018, however, Lucas was openly calling for a second referendum to reverse the first one.

She is not alone. Peter Tatchell is another high-profile People’s Vote advocate, involved with the Green Party.

In 2018, he joined the protest march in London, demanding “a PEOPLE’s VOTE on final Brexit deal”.

Yet back in 2015, Tatchell had stated that “I support a referendum. The people should be able to have a democratic vote on staying in or coming out.”

Well, they did have this vote. As with Lucas, Tatchell seemingly believed that an in-out EU referendum would lead to a fundamental Green reform of the EU – somehow; and when the result was announced, he began demanding another vote.

Equally indicative, is Timothy Garton Ash – who is also currently pressing the case for a People’s Vote referendum. Having previously encouraged people to vote Conservative, on the basis that:

“If you want Britain to make up its collective mind about staying in the EU, rather than remaining Europe’s fence-sitting mugwump, vote Conservative”.

Voting Conservative in 2015 is what brought the initial EU referendum into being; and thereby led to Brexit.

 

Ineptitude 

Even if the current position of these individuals was not absurd, their campaigning against Brexit was evidently ineffectual during the first referendum.

I don’t see that their present efforts are any better. If anything, they’re worse.

The only Brexit-supporters who could plausibly have been won over since 2016 are left-wing Leavers; who dislike the EU for mostly valid reasons – but clearly have no reason to sympathize with Tory plans for Brexit.

Even if voting to leave the EU was ultimately as ill-thought through as can be, no substantive effort has been made by the foremost opponents of Brexit to convince them of this, properly.

Instead, they have done the opposite: pushing obnoxious and discredited personalities like Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, or Nick Clegg forward – and either whinging pompously, reeling off reams of snotty and divisive derision, or indulging in their stock trade of manipulative and empty rhetoric.

All of which seems destined to alienate the people whose support needs gaining.

An example here would be Gina Miller – an investment banker; who had been at the forefront of a campaign to ensure the government did not bypass Parliament, when enacting Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty: the initial formal stage of Brexit.

However, Miller recently denounced the political right and left at the Liberal Democrat conference. The Lib Dems being a party which languishes on c. 8% of the public vote.

Suffice to say, she – and they – would need to secure votes from right or left, to make any headway. Insulting both sets of people, while purposely ignoring one half of the electorate – all in the name of forging unity – does not seem a viable route to success.

John Stolliday is comparable. He was a member of Labour’s Compliance Unit, when it was leaking material to various right-wing media outlets – in order to damage Labour’s prospects during the local elections of 2016.

This was intended to be the pretext for the Labour right launching their ill-fated coup. Except that their campaign failed to work – which is not an encouraging precedent.

Stolliday flounced out of Labour in March 2018, to take a job with the People’s Vote group. Note his reference about having “strong links to UK political journalists”.

Stolliday’s valedictory leak to a UK political journalist complained that Labour are not opposing Brexit.

However, he also moaned that Labour Party members need to be ignored in favour of the wider public – the same wider public which mostly voted for Brexit; while the majority of Labour Party members opposed it.

This contrasts neatly with a fellow Labour Centrist’s equally incoherent rationale for demanding a People’s Vote.

Tom Watson made his case in favour of another referendum, on the basis that Labour must listen to its members on Brexit – but it must also ignore them, when it comes to selecting Parliamentary candidates.

Either the viewpoints of members matter, or they do not. It cannot reasonably be had both ways.

Moreover, suggesting that party members’ views have import on a complex issue of international consequence, but do not matter in the mundane confines of choosing who represents them in Parliament, is beyond silly.

It’s not just the fact that these interventions are counterproductive which has a bearing, however – the reasons why they continue to flounder are no less significant.

 

Corruption 

The arguments these people make against Brexit have no persuasive power, because they are as false and self-serving as the arguments their counterparts – and peers – make in favour of leaving the EU.

Neither set of people are willing to be honest about what they really care about here – namely, money. Presumably because they know few would sympathise with them on that score.

As noted, Alastair Campbell is currently calling for a second referendum, as part of the People’s Vote campaign. He also works as a lobbyist for Portland Communications.

Its lineage is not salubrious – the company’s work revolves almost entirely around the profiteering of international businesses; and since September 2016, British farming. Both of which are set to be damaged by Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Yet, while Campbell whinges about Brexit – other Portland affiliates helped to deliver it. Be it Wallace, or – not Gromit – but Gove.

Then there is Phillip Collins: another crony of Tony Blair’s – involved in a variety of lobbying outfits.

Collins moans about Brexit; which various peers of his helped create. He also complains that Labour are not opposing Tory plans for Brexit. Then bemoans Labour for resisting them.

Tony Blair is much the same. He objects to Brexit, and demands a second referendum – yet his missives on the subject are invariably big on bombast; and less than forthcoming about his actual concerns.

Perhaps this is because, amongst many other sources, Blair has taken money from banking firms such as JP Morgan; whose profits will be harmed by Britain’s departure from the EU.

I wonder what matters more to Blair – the symbolism of the Channel Tunnel; or his own material interests.

Another former Prime Minister, John Major, is no different – writing in the Guardian, he boasted about being a disinterested opponent of Brexit. As with Blair, however, Major has a vested interest in the financial industry.

 

Hypocrisy

This goes some way towards explaining why these peoples’ objections to Brexit have proven unconvincing – because they are unwilling to be upfront about their actual motives; which do not differ substantively from those of Brexiters involved in the financial sector.

However, it is noteworthy that Major suggests the public will not forgive being left poorer by the government, as a result of leaving the EU.

One refrain made by People’s Vote campaigners, such as Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, is that preventing Brexit will end austerity – which, of course, has increased poverty for many people.

Yet austerity is a consequence of the Conservative/Lib Dem government’s policies – ones which Cable was a party to, between 2010-15. In fact, he actively encouraged them.

Writing for the Reform think-tank, during 2009, Cable opined that:

“a plausible plan to eliminate the structural deficit is critical. The emphasis for fiscal consolidation must fall on controlling public spending, not higher taxes”.

This would mean a “painful and difficult” process, resulting in “real cuts” to many areas of public expenditure – such as “health, welfare, defence and education”. That is, austerity.

Tony Blair actively lobbied for them, as well; writing a particularly hypocritical piece for a fitting outlet. If you wish to evade the paywall, much of the content – such as it is – can be read on the Guardian’s site.

There is a broader significance to this facet, however – which illustrates why these particular opponents of Brexit have proven so ineffectual.

 

What led to the Brexit vote? 

Although the Brexit-supporting demographic is multifaceted, according to Ipsos Mori:

“the Leave vote was primarily driven by nativist (i.e. putting the native born population first) and anti-immigration views, such as believing that immigrants take away jobs from real Britons, and a feeling that one is a stranger in one’s own country”.

While these anxieties have no basis in reality, and clearly revolve around prejudice; anti-migrant sentiment was underscored by people believing – more justifiably – that Britain’s economic system disadvantages them.

Now, who might be responsible for creating that circumstance?

Moreover, why do many British people believe they are being unfairly treated in favour of migrant workers?

It is a mystery.

Immigration is what Blair, Major, David Cameron – and plenty of their ilk – have long blamed for the economic problems their governments generated; or which their politics failed to solve – such as job shortages, low wages, and housing costs.

So, for that matter, have numerous other politicians, currently bemoaning Brexit – and demanding a second referendum.

How have these people responded to the first one’s outcome? Did they say that members of the public are wrong to blame migrants and the EU for the declining living standards caused by UK governments?

Or have they continued as before? Namely, blaming immigration from the EU, for peoples’ problems in life.

What this amounts to is promoting the same notion that was exploited by Vote Leave campaigners during the referendum – which ultimately led to Brexit; while paradoxically demanding a continuation of EU membership.

 

Why is Labour’s position on Brexit so incoherent? 

Perhaps the most indicative figure of incompetence here is Tom Watson – another People’s Vote advocate.

Watson helped embed the idea that EU membership creates a problem of uncontrolled migration, during the referendum of 2016. He has continued in that vein, afterwards.

How does that sentiment do anything other than undermine his own case against Brexit?

It is also noteworthy that during the referendum campaign, the Guardian chose to describe the utterances of Watson – along with Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper – as “Labour leaders, in a sign of desperation on the issue, changed their policy on free movement”.

Suffice to say, the actual leader of the Labour Party – Jeremy Corbyn – had expressed his continued support for free movement. Notably, the BBC’s write-up of this was headlined “Jeremy Corbyn says EU free movement means no immigration limit”; despite it merely being a statement of fact.

While they cited no-one in support of Corbyn’s position – they took pains to quote a number of his detractors.

In fact, Corbyn was faulted for defending migrants by Peter Mandelson. Another People’s Vote advocate – Polly Toynbee – followed suit:

“What absence of mind to emphasise support for free migration on the eve of a poll where Labour was haemorrhaging support for precisely those metropolitan views”.

Needless to say, the case for remaining in the EU required support for “free migration”, as Toynbee put it.

More incoherent, still – Toynbee demanded a second referendum, in September 2018; having objected to a second referendum, in July 2017.

As it stands now, however, Labour are officially committed to ending freedom of movement – as indicated on page 28 of their 2017 manifesto. Except that they’re not, in reality; as it would betoken hard Brexit – which they have refused to countenance.

Something clearly has to give, at some point.

While it would be fair to say that Labour’s position on this issue, at present, is nonsensical and disingenuous; it is not difficult to work out why its ambiguity came into being.

On 26th June 2016 Labour Shadow Ministers resigned en masse, citing the Brexit vote as their pretext – except that it wasn’t really true.

They had announced their intentions to the Telegraph in advance, on 13th June; expecting the referendum to result in a vote for remaining in the EU – and that Corbyn would resign. Thereby demonstrating the full array of their prescience.

Moreover, in another announcement to the Telegraph – made the day before their resignations – Labour MPs attested that Corbyn’s commitment to free-movement was the reason for their coup.

It was not, of course. Their intentions were made plain during April 2016 – and in May, that same year. Peter Mandelson had intimated their aim, as early as Autumn 2015.

Regardless of which, following a second leadership contest, Corbyn was tasked with reassembling a shadow cabinet; only for several of the recently-appointed personnel to take umbrage at his continued defence of immigration.

It seems fair to conclude that the prospect of yet more damaging turmoil swayed Corbyn into a change of stance over the following months – particularly as he expected the Conservatives to call a “snap general election”, imminently.

The primary obstacle, therefore, to Labour having a coherent policy on Brexit is the refusal of its MPs to accept free movement.

Shadow Ministers such as Emily Thornberry, Angela Rayner, and Keir Starmer, are joined on that score by a number of backbench MPs – who complain about Brexit, as much as they object to EU migration.

Just to increase the confusion, in 2018 the Shadow Minister for Business, Rebecca Long-Bailey, had stated that ending freedom of movement was “non negotiable”. Yet in 2017, she suggested that Labour were willing to accept it.

So why has that attitude not been properly targeted by the People’s Vote – or any similar campaign – with a view to changing it?

At least one plausible reason might be the number of Labour-affiliated advocates of a People’s Vote, who have themselves called for an end to freedom of movement. Be it MPs like Owen Smith – demanding a second referendum, and calling for an end to free-movement.

Or GMB union – which wants an end to free movement, and a second referendum. And which also supported Owen Smith’s bid to become leader of the Labour Party – clearly impressed by the full 29 inches of electoral credibility, he had to offer.

Further to the left, but no less inchoate, the Labour-supporting journalist Paul Mason has likewise pressed the case for ending freedom of movement; and also for a second referendum.

Among Labour Party politicians to date, seemingly only five MPs and five Labour members of the European Parliament have pressed the case for their party to change its stance into supporting freedom of movement. Even then, one of them is David Lammy.

Lammy was previously involved with the campaign group, Blue Labour – which actively stoked anti-migrant sentiment, in the years leading up to the referendum. As did Lammy himself, when it suited; only to change his tune, now it no longer does [2].

 

Milking it

Independent experts are more convincing than journalists or politicians with their objections to Brexit – but their arguments have fallen equally flat.

It would seem they still believe that outlining the factual demerits of leaving the EU, in a dispassionate and tentative manner, will somehow win-over the people who ignored their warnings during the referendum.

What they’re saying is true – but they are up against tabloid newspapers, which have willfully mislead millions of people daily, for years.

In addition, the less scrupulous journalists frequently collude with equally scurrilous politicians. As do numerous think-tanks; lobbying on behalf of their donors’ discreet interests.

This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of misinformation, and corrupt practices; of which Brexit is merely one upshot. It cannot be countered simply by pointing to inconsistencies in anyone’s output.

Why? Why is such an obvious problem, seemingly so irresolvable?

Because this situation is the fundamental basis of UK politics. As ably explained by our special guest – People’s Vote campaigner, and Labour MP, Mike Gapes; using a carefully-crafted metaphor:

 

If “milk” is money, and “cows from the south” are the herd of independent minds known as political journalists – while “the factory” is Parliament – then “whisky” will be the free lunches which MPs like Gapes are treated to, by an array of lobbyists; in return for lucrative policies.

Perhaps an example will illustrate how, and why, actual expertise has proven ineffective when attempting to counter the self-serving falsehoods generated by lobbyists.

On 17th October 2018, the Guardian published a commentary by Anand Menon and Jonathan Portes; critiquing a report published by the think-tank, Open Europe.

Open Europe purport that no-deal Brexit would “not be ideal and would bring some material costs. However, it would be a relatively mild negative economic event”.

Portes and Menon, however, found fault with various aspects of Open Europe’s projections; not least of all the fact that they bear no relation to any scenario which is likely to materialise.

Yet the two authors conclude “we don’t blame Open Europe for not attempting to model the economic impacts”of no-deal Brexit.

They then gently suggest that “more care should have been taken” by Open Europe “in specifying what this report is about”; because hard Brexit will “be far, far more disruptive and damaging than the Open Europe report implies”.

Perhaps they should be more willing to blame Open Europe for publishing a misleading report.

Open Europe is not an impartial source of information. Instead, it is one of many right-wing lobbying outfits, peddling misinformation about the EU, in order to serve the material interests of its donors. Albeit without a great deal of competence.

Both Open Europe’s personnel, and its financial backers, often have direct links to a number of the very worst MPs.

Furthermore, Open Europe had cautioned against Brexit before the referendum – only to begin demanding the most extreme form of withdrawal from the EU, immediately afterwards.

In fact, the author of the latter article – Raoul Ruparel – was appointed as a special advisor to the former Brexit minister, David Davis; in October 2016. Presumably in order to help make this vision a reality – despite knowing full-well the economic damage it would cause.

If the aim of experts like Portes and Menon is to convince people not to place unquestioning trust in the prescriptions of Open Europe, would it not be salient to point all of this out?

As it is, a number of researchers continue to take Open Europe’s publications at face value – even when it serves to undermine public understanding of Brexit; which seems to be a fairly self-defeating practice, all told.

 

Failures 

One incident illustrates how all of this duplicity and feebleness functioned during the referendum campaign itself: Michael Gove’s famous dismissal of experts; on the grounds that the British people had simply had enough of them.

Gove had feigned concern for the well-being of people on low incomes; and was blaming the EU for a decline in UK living standards – which, in reality, had been a consequence of the 2008 Financial Crisis; and Conservative government policies since 2010.

Ones which Gove had been a party to.

During the interview, this was eventually pointed out to him by the journalist Faisal Islam – which left Gove in a weak position: and seemingly a bit lost for his pre-scripted words.

So why was that rebuttal not made by the foremost Stronger In campaigners, during the referendum campaign?

The issue of living standards had been central to their campaign, after all. Why then was the falsity of Gove’s position not refuted properly by Stronger In campaigners?

Perhaps because they were the people directly responsible for austerity.

The only person who could have obviated the false claims being made by Gove – or his peers – was David Cameron: through admitting that the privations suffered by people in recent years were a consequence of his government’s policies: not the EU, or migrants.

But he wouldn’t, of course. Instead he walked away from the fiasco he’d created; and left it for everybody else to resolve.

It could be suggested that Cameron’s personal authority – in so far as it ever existed – was undermined by rumours he once how’s-your-fathered a deceased pig; but I remain sceptical this had any real bearing on matters.

Not dissimilar is Stuart Rose [3], who was the Campaign Chair of Stronger In during the EU referendum. Rose had also backed Open Europe for many years; and in 2013, he supported Business for Britain.

As noted previously, Business for Britain was a front for the Taxpayers’ Alliance – and would become Vote Leave, during the EU referendum campaign.

Rose knew what these people were really intent upon, due to his personal involvement with them – yet he said nothing.

 

Warnings ignored 

It is equally notable that Michael Gove repeated his derision of experts after the referendum – specifically admonishing that “the economic profession failed to predict the 2008 financial crash”.

He was roundly criticised for his anti-intellectualism – as he had been on the previous instance; and before that, during 2013, when he was more overtly vulgar in his hostility towards those who disputed his claims, with expertise.

However, in the process Gove’s detractors failed to make a much more substantive point. What he had said about economists failing to predict the financial crisis was untrue – people did forewarn about it. They were ignored.

Gillian Tett is probably the best known – but there were a number of other economists who issued warnings; as far back as 2003, in the case of Ann Pettifor.

Experts had also cautioned people about a financial crisis looming, due to sub-prime mortgages; and they were ignored.

Even Liberal Democrat MPs raised concerns in Parliament, shortly before the financial crash unfolded – and it was dismissed as scaremongering, by the Labour MP, Angela Eagle. Note her use of the phrase “strong and stable”, incidentally – which has gained a certain resonance of late.

5 months later, in September 2008, the Lehman Brothers bank collapsed – and an international recession ensued.

In 2011, more dreaded experts forewarned the government about Universal Credit being badly flawed. By 2012, warnings were issued that austerity/welfare reforms would create serious problems, and lead to social crises. Both exhortations were ignored.

Home Office impact assessments made clear that the Immigration Act of 2014-15 would cause severe harm to people. You can probably guess what happened there.

A series of disasters has followed key decisions made by politicians – who undertook them either to serve their own personal advantage; or to enrich the people whose material interests they serve.

The EU referendum is merely one example of this tendency. It cannot plausibly be remedied by yet more underhand practices. What caused it surely needs to be addressed properly.

 

Upshot

Brexit happened because British politics is corrupt. It remains 100% the fault, and responsibility, of the Conservative Party.

But it arose as a consequence of greed and opportunism – both of which traits are evident among a number of the most high-profile opponents of Brexit; who could not prevent the outcome of the EU referendum, because their politics helped create it.

People who voted to leave the EU have been called stupid by a number of commentators who oppose Brexit. That is neither helpful, nor fair. Less still is it intelligent, in its own right.

The confusion surrounding Brexit is an upshot of politicians misleading people; and the media’s failure to print the truth – or else actively colluding in deception, at times.

It is also a consequence of the determined efforts made by countless professional lobbyists; who receive large sums of money to distort public opinion, on behalf of commercial interests. Not unlike the ones set to profit from Brexit.

Moreover, numerous MPs seemingly still do not grasp the full implications of the policies they espouse; or else say one thing, then say another.

Senior political figures continue to couch their views in soundbites and spin. This is no less true of many politicians who oppose Brexit, than it is of their counterparts.

Is it surprising, therefore, that many people are as unclear on the various nuances of Brexit now, as they were two years ago?

If bewilderment still reigns, how can the public be expected to vote differently in any future referendum?

If the root causes of Brexit remain unaddressed, why would anyone change their mind about EU membership?

 

 

Notes

[1] For a more in-depth / long overview of who lobbied for Brexit, and what purposes they intend it to serve, please see:

Brexit was the result of a corporate lobbying campaign, which backfired. What did the people behind it really want?

Very little investigative journalism has been conducted on this issue – Open Democracy are arguably the sole media outlet which has consistently taken it seriously.

This has not stopped them publishing misleading commentaries by those involved, however.

 

[2] There is an actual problem with free-movement: it contains a loophole, which UK employers have repeatedly exploited, in order to bring foreign agency workers into Britain – and pay them less than the British minimum wage.

This is an issue which People’s Vote campaigners seem to be ignoring. Notably, GMB Union has previously campaigned against it; yet makes no mention of this – despite the fact that it would strengthen their case against Theresa May’s plans for Brexit.

When Jeremy Corbyn raised it during July 2017, it was misrepresented by the New Statesman. Which helpfully fabricated a quote on Corbyn’s behalf.

There was also an article in the Guardian which quoted him accurately, but similarly faulted Corbyn – only to then make exactly the same point that he had originally done.

Unlike many current opponents of Brexit, however, Corbyn has attempted to secure continued and updated alignment with EU employment law – which is being adjusted in order to end the exploitation of agency employees.

Corbyn has not succeeded, because Theresa May bribed the DUP with £1 billion to grant her a coalition, and thereby deliver a Parliamentary majority.

 

[3] Obviously, I’m not suggesting that Stuart Rose has previously engaged in any form of sexual conduct with livestock. There is no evidence to that effect, at any rate.

 

Brexit – what happens now? A very serious analysis, and prediction, indeed.

 

My track-record of predictions has not proven the most prescient, of late; but what I expect to happen, from this point forward, is roughly as follows (give or take a small margin for error):

 

Theresa May announces her plans for Brexit.

Tory Rebels (the ones who never rebel), along with Labour Centrists, and Vince Cable (current leader of the Liberal Democrats – a political party) intimate their support for Theresa May’s Brexit plans; having spent the previous two years complaining that Jeremy Corbyn was – rather unforgivably – failing to oppose May’s very same plans for Brexit.

This is heralded by the media as “the grown-up politics of compromise” – and contrasted with Jeremy Corbyn’s unwillingness to support his political opponents; merely because he disagrees with their aims.

Meanwhile, May has appointed one of Britannia Unchained’s authors to oversee Brexit. An appointment which many Centrist opponents of Brexit consider encouraging.

Britannia Unchained outlined a blueprint for the type of society which Britain can only be transformed into via the most extreme and damaging form of Brexit.

May knows her Chequers proposals will be rejected by the EU. Thereby allowing her to blame Europe for the decision to put ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ into practice.

At which point Tory Rebels, Labour Centrists and Vince Cable (if you’ve forgotten already, see above) all revert back to blaming Corbyn for not opposing Theresa May, and preventing Hard Brexit.

The same day, a manifesto is published on the front page of the Guardian: heralding the launch of a new centrist party.

It is the first time, ever, that a manifesto consists entirely of hashtagged-slogans:

#FBPE
#PeoplesVote
#StopBrexitSaveBritainRindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetzForTheLads

Following input from a focus group, conducted in one of the most local places within Britain, the name of this new party is decided: Futile Endeavor.

Their flagship policy? A second EU referendum. Which is not – that is, not – a second in-out referendum; on the basis that time is cyclical, rather than linear.

Their platform? That Brexit is good and necessary; because of very real concerns about immigration. But Brexit is also terrible, and wrong. It must therefore be supported – and it must be opposed.

One Labour MP asks his wife for permission to lead Futile Endeavor – but she refuses to grant it. Several other MPs publicly announce that they intend to lead this new party; and also, that they have no intention of leading it.

Journalists applaud the announcement – praising its consistency and clarity.

Simultaneously, the Tory rebels complain loudly about May’s plans – and announce their intentions to think long and hard about withdrawing their support.

The media publish several articles, praising the Tory rebels for their integrity. For their patriotism. For their sheer Britishness, in putting the interests of crown and country above party politics – through a principled willingness to vote against Theresa May’s proposals, if need must.

‘A victory for the grown-up politics of compromise’ heralds the Observer.

A day later, the Tory rebels vote in support of May’s proposals.

Unfaltering, the media publish a full week’s worth of articles praising May’s tenacity. Her resolve. Her plucky determination.

Hard Brexit begins to rumble in the background. Shortly afterwards, due to the foresight, planning and combined talents of the British government, it erupts into a full-blown cataclysm.

May’s personal approval-rating tanks. By a striking coincidence, this begins the exact same moment her voters’ own material interests become jeopardized.

The media publish a full week’s worth of articles, denouncing May’s recklessness. Her lack of resolve. Her absence of determination.

Hard Brexit promptly turns into a debacle.

Theresa May resigns – a national unity government is formed: comprising the Conservative Party, and the hosts of BBC politics chatshows.

David Miliband is parachuted into the Tory safeseat of Question Time South; and appointed Leader of the national unity government.

The furore continues.

‘If only David Miliband was leading the Labour Party, right now, it would be 20 points ahead of David Miliband’s national unity party – the worst government in history’
blasts Politics Home.

A vote of no confidence follows, as David Miliband declares his lack of faith in the British public: ordering a new one to be formed.

This leads to a general election: the media are split in their support.

While most papers call it for the Conservative-BBC Chatshows Coalition, the Guardian comes out firmly in support of Futile Endeavor.

‘A new hope’ proclaims one editorial ‘for anyone who thinks Brexit is a good idea as well as a really bad one’.

A hard-fought electoral campaign ensues – of course, only one issue dominates the electioneering.

‘Say yes but no to Brexit’ demand Futile Endeavor.
‘Say no but yes to Brexit’ demand the Tory-led coalition.
‘Say yesnomaybe to Brexit’ demand the Lib Dems.

Jeremy Corbyn largely ignores Brexit – focusing instead on healthcare, education, social security, and employment rights; much to every journalist’s indifference.

Consequently, the New Statesman predicts electoral oblivion is imminent for the Labour Party.

Leaked memos reveal that senior staff at the magazine were embroiled in a heated discussion, for 3 hours, over the most appropriate headline: be it ‘end of the party’, or ‘death of a party’; before eventually settling on ‘run out of party’.

The Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Sun, Telegraph and Times predict a 100 seat majority for the Tories.

The results are announced: Labour win.

David Miliband loses his Tory safeseat to a joke candidate – dressed up as a giant can of refried beans. The Conservative-BBC Chatshow Coalition split.

In a surprise result, Futile Endeavor gain several seats on the BBC politics shows: taking Question Time North from Ukip; and turning Newsnight into a marginal for the Alliance of Thatcherite Think-Tanks.

According to the Electoral Commission, the Lib Dems finish just behind “void ballots” in the final results.

Newly elected Prime Minister, Jeremy Corbyn, decides not to go through with Brexit after all; on the grounds that it’s “a Tory cock-up”, and he “can’t be bothered with it, really”.

Tory Rebels, Labour Centrists and Vince Cable publish a joint statement condemning Corbyn for “betraying the will of the people on Brexit”.

David Miliband issues a public letter berating the impudence of voters; and begins to crowdsource a fund, for a statue to be built in his own honour – as Britain’s greatest ever peace-time Prime Minister.

In just under a year, almost 5% of the required funding is raised; before the appeal meets its expiry date, and closes.

The end.

 

That’s roughly how I see things panning out, at least – failing divine intervention. Which is often sadly lacking, these days. Or else, it simply arrives when no longer needed.

 

How to solve the Irish border conundrum in a sensible and timely manner: post-Brexit, post-haste.

Lot of hue and cry being made about a potential hardening of the Irish border. Respectable folk want to know what’s coming in and out, of course; but without any silly bother.

Bit of a sticking point, over how to square the circle (so to speak). How to make it all ship-shape – and keep it all cricket.

To a man of my experience however – of at least some few years and counting – it all seems rather frightfully straightforward.

Let us solve the Irish border conundrum, simply by applying the Cartesian equation y(a2 + x2) = abx; and thereby turning it into a sort of wavy, sort of looping sort of shape.

Thus:

 

 

Highly irregular, I know – but extraordinary times like ours call for a bit of creative thinking; and I say few will be disappointed with this.

And any shortfalls can be made good by using technology. Silicon chips, zeppelins, flags – things like that.

Need not restrict ourselves, however.

I’ve done a bit of research; and happened to chance upon several alternative proposals – which would undoubtedly serve the purpose no less adequately.

For example, the European Research Group’s preferred arrangement:

With which, I must own, I can find no particular fault.

Along with the British government’s own striking blueprint:

So, people really are making too much fuss.

Apart from those few, who are determined to find fault in everything, this array of options will undoubtedly prove much to everybody’s satisfaction. And you can’t say fairer than that.

The Right-Minded View: would replacing Jeremy Corbyn crush the Tories?

It is not difficult to surmise why a plethora of right-wing pundits might want Labour to supplant the left-wing leader, who recently led his party to 40% of the public vote.

Because the kind-hearted, approbative souls that they are simply want what is best for their political opponents, I would aver.

Now, I’d be the last to admit that I am no expert on such matters; but if I have learned anything about public opinion from the topical news publications, then I can say with assurance that our political landscape would be comprehensively transformed, by the simple adjunct of one or two minor tweaks.

Thus, I submit the following prediction of vote-share, in the event of any upcoming General Election:

  • Labour, led by someone like that Macron fellow: 75% of the popular vote.
  • Tories: a respectable 40-43%. Fair play, there.
  • Lib Dems: a solid 55% (don’t ask, don’t tell is advisable here).
  • A New Centrist Party, which supports and opposes Brexit: 76%.
  • Another New Centrist Party, which doesn’t: 14.5%.
  • Any further New Centrist Parties: ibid. [1]

That is how I see the electorate unfolding, at least; and I am very rarely wrong about these things [2].

Therefore the upshot is perfectly clear: Labour merely need to clone Emmanuel Macron, perhaps extracting his DNA from a superfluous follicle; and with sufficient time allowed for gestation, fully three halves of the electorate’s vote will be theirs.

I really cannot understand why they have not done this already.

I would add as a precautionary note, however, that the aim of this cloning gambit should be a Boys from Brazil-type scenario, rather than any Jurassic Park-esque flapdoodle.

But we need not be too particular.

 

[1] Total electorate: 278%

Sample: 12 people – who all seemed perfectly normal, so far as I could tell.

 

[2] For example, I predicted that Labour would be obliterated at the General Election of 2017; with Theresa May gaining a 100 seat majority – resulting in a lifetime of Tory government.

And, if you replace some of the words, with ones which have a different meaning, I stand vindicated.

The Right-Minded View: Frank Field’s resignation – the peril of too many principles?

 

Common decency itself stands imperiled? Then it must be defended, with all our might!

And there is only one fellow who can but fail to see us right on that score.

I refer, of course, to the unknighted Sir Frank Field – who remains without knighthood solely because he considers the honour beneath him; and would only ever accept a higher accolade.

Field has never fully deserved his reputation as a radical left-wing firebrand, in my view. Even his admirers have been compelled to describe him as “not without competence” – on more than one occasion.

In fact, I recall only too well the time he regaled a crowd of onlookers with the most moving story of a malfunctioning photocopier that I have ever had the privilege to hear with my own eyes. Displaying an astute ear for the rhythms and cadences of colloquial speech all the while.

These, and similar profundities, would shore up any traditional vote.

What’s more, during a Q and A session afterwards – when accosted by a saucy young activist – Field demonstrated his adept handling of even the most taxing conundrum.

While I did not quite hear the point of inquiry put to the truly great man, I can quote his answer verbatim:

“Neither you, nor I – nor the parlour maid – may rightfully demand an answer to the question ‘which vegetable?'”

And if Field can muster such sangfroid, in such circumstances, then I have every confidence in his ability to becalm even the most boisterous gallimaufry that fate and the continentals may conspire to unleash upon us, between them.

No easy task, in this day and age.

The Right-Minded View: now is the time for a Centrist movement.

There has never been a better moment for a new centrist movement, in my opinion, than now.

Admittedly, there are currently more centrist parties than centrist voters these days. Nonetheless, it’s time to re-draw the political map, by stir-frying some bold ideas into the strategy wok.

While those of a tribalist mien say: changing things, by keeping them the same, is impossible.

I say: moderate progress, within the bounds of the law – or else perfidy beckons.

And that is the key here – you can’t just go around bally well changing things. Not when it could impact upon even the most respectable members of society.

However, it is evidently of the utmost urgency that we deliver an invigorating dose of moral fibre to the nation’s political gullet.

So, what I propose therefore, is a healthy compromise.

Every day, two minutes can be set aside – as a matter of legal obligation – and a picture of Jeremy Corbyn with the word ‘Brexit’ superimposed onto his forehead, is beamed into every public place throughout the land.

Thereafter, people shall be given a full 120 seconds to vent the full array of their splenetic juices, for all they are worth.

Because of economies of scale and such, this timeframe could be extended in those parts of the country which are harder to penetrate; and reduced in locales where people are likely to reach boiling point, at what would – in other circumstances – be an alarming rate.

So this seems like the kind of thing that could work really well; and truly unite the country, once again.

Meanwhile, we can keep everything else the same – and go back to deploring the old foodbanks and wars (etc) as a matter of regrettable necessity. Just like we were doing before the dread day of June 23rd, 2016.

Significantly, politicians never misled anyone, or did anything really bad, before that juncture. Not so as you’d notice, at least. Though the trajectory has declined, ineluctably, ever since.

As for those people suggesting that the government of 1945 was considered revolutionary-left, and denounced as extreme by the Centrists of its day – I can only hope that someone is able to go back in time, and correct the historical record, for all our benefit.

The arrogance of fools – a political play, in one act

 

Characters: Lord Montgomery, Lord D’ancona; and a Valet.

The setting: 18th century England – a dank corridor, in the Houses of Parliament. The lords Montgomery and D’ancona stand together conversing; in their full pomp of powdered wigs, and high heeled shoes. Their faces are whitened with carcinogenic paste. A valet stands in attendance.

 

Act 1: Scene 1

(Montgomery) You have heard the unedifying news, I trust?

(D’ancona) Why yes, of course. Which news? It is all alike these days.

(Montgomery) About the machinations of this upstart in the ranks, Jérome Corbín. Making much commotion, of late.

(D’ancona) Oh, certainly. The fellow has ideas above his station.

(Montgomery) Rest assured, we will not be troubled by him. The arrogant fool will never become leader of the Plebeian Party – he simply lacks the breeding.

(D’ancona) Indubitably.

(Valet) Monsieur Corbín won his party’s leadership contest by a considerable margin, my good lords.

(Montgomery) Ah, he might very well have succeeded therein – but assuredly more by luck, than judgment.

(D’ancona) Yes, yes – indeed, my good Lord. Let us see how he flails, when challenged. The unobservant fool will not retain his station for long!

(Montgomery) Why, Lord D’ancona, your sagacity rivals even mine own.

(D’ancona) I would return the compliment, by declaring you my equal.

(Valet) Monsieur Corbín retained his office by an increased margin, following a leadership challenge, my good lords.

(Montgomery) Be that as it may, I confidently predict that Corbín will suffer a calamitous defeat, of historic proportions, during any vote generously bequeathed to the public.

(D’ancona) Indeed, he almost has my pity. I would offer him my advice; but I fear he would simply not understand it.

(Valet) Monsieur Corbín’s party fared remarkably well in the recent elections, my good lords.

(Montgomery) Impossible – he is but a fool!

(D’ancona) A complete fool! Only a personage of our wisdom could achieve such a feat.

(Valet) Historical precedents were set, my good lords.

(Montgomery) All well and good – but he will never become Prime Minister, unless he heeds our wisdom.

(D’ancona) No never.

(Montgomery) Never.

(D’ancona) Surely never.

The end.

Yes, we’re in the middle of a zombie epidemic – but that’s no excuse for being uncivil!


We are now well over a year into the zombie epidemic, which is currently sweeping the planet; and yet many people are still unable to comprehend the onward shuffle of undying hordes.

What has arguably left people even more confused, is the plague of cannibalism which swiftly emerged. Streets overrun – cities subsumed – household pets consumed: all due to the seemingly implacable escapades, of the partially-deceased.

Barely a day has passed, in fact, without news of our nation’s citizens being hunted down, overwhelmed – and devoured – making the frontpages of the papers.

But that is not the worst of it.

Less becoming still is the timbre of discourse surrounding this whole phenomenon.

While one side of the equation suggests that the prospect of being eaten by the undead is ‘unpalatable’; the other side say ‘brainsss….delishusss brainnnnsssss’.

In short, the debate has become polarised – and that is to be regretted.

While nobody relishes the uptick of being regurgitated by hordes of Zombies, surely we can meet in the middle, here; and find common ground.

Is there a need for so much intransigence, from both sides?

Is it asking too much of the living to surrender a superfluous limb, now and then; as a gesture of good faith? Surely everyone can make a small, personal sacrifice – in order to get along.

Who needs earlobes, for instance?

And in return, the alt-deceased can lay off the more vital organs. A sensible compromise: I am sure we can all agree.

In fact, I enjoin people to follow my example, here. When I look at shambling throngs, coming face to face with sentient people, I don’t see zombies versus humans – let alone divide them up, according to life-status.

I merely recognise different variations of functioning brain-activity. Each with their own intrinsic value.

So is it really fair for the living to call the recently-deceased names; look “corpse-wombles”, or “Necros”? Let me be the first to say no.

Calling zombies “brain dead”, just because their brains no longer register any activity, is bad manners; which will always lead to ill-feeling. Admittedly, they are insensate; but this is not the point.

It is wrong to tell people that they are wrong. We must listen to zombie arguments, if we want to understand why this phenomenon has gained ground of late.

While I am quite liking the emerging consensus that uncivil discourse should be well outside the realm of acceptability; I am also looking forward to lots of open and very frank discussions on the topic: bound by a sense of taste and decency.

We mustn’t fall into the trap of shutting-down debate, on difficult issues.

Let newspapers publish contrasting viewpoints, I say. Allow readers to decide for themselves whether there is any merit to society’s more insensate members, preying upon the unguarded; and desecrating their remains.

If that exhortation does not convince, then merely consider two quite different modes of dialogue.

While purely hypothetical – it is nonetheless salient to depict the following scene:

(Zombie) Mwerr! Brrrrains, delishusss brainsss!

(Sentient being) Go away.

Not very inclusive, I would venture.

Now, let us explore how this could be modified; to create an improving experience for both parties:

(Zombie) Mwerr! Brrrrains, delishusss brainsss!

(Sentient being) Sir, let me first congratulate you on your valuable input – which has already improved my quality of life. Your concerns are legitimate. Your positions are neither intrinsically wrong; nor inexplicable. And while I do not share your opinion, differences of viewpoint are a wonderful thing. They are a sure sign we live in a multifaceted society. Something to be celebrated, and enjoyed.

That is clearly much better – not only is it less liable to result in raised eyebrows; it is also far more likely to succeed, in the marketplace of ideas.

Zombies have the right to speak, after all; and, in their way, could even fulfill a useful purpose – by ridding society of its less productive elements.

The slow, the gullible, the lame. Anybody who is not strictly necessary; or particularly wanted. Survival of the fittest, and all that.

While nobody wishes to witness these encounters first-hand (innards spilling out of the more diseased elements, is undoubtedly enough to diminish anyone’s appetite of an evening) if they occur out of sight, and out of mind, then where is the cause for upset?

And if push comes to shove, then surely the more respectable neighbourhoods can simply install gates; and security fencing. Thereby allowing us to rest easy at night; no matter what fate may befall anyone else.