Saturday, 5 October 2019

More Political Chaff

The punditerrati, and parliamentary cretins, have again been chasing their tails over the latest piece of political chaff.  They have got themselves all worked up over a document submitted by the government's lawyers to the Scottish courts.  The document says that, in the event of there being no Brexit Deal agreed ,between the UK and EU, by 19th October, the Prime Minister would comply with the law, as set out by the so called Benn Act,  and write to the EU, requesting an extension of Article 50.

On the basis of this statement, the TV and press have worked themselves into a lather, frothing at the prospect that, once again, Boris has been caught out, and that it means he's trapped, and will have to eat his words about dying in a ditch, and so on.  It has again reignited all of the pointless chatter about how he might reconcile that with his commitment that Britain would leave the EU on 31st October, and so on.  All completely pointless, other than for providing employment for the usual talking heads, brought in to discuss the inhabitants of assorted points of needles.

What they all seem to have missed, in their eagerness to believe that Boris is well and truly stuck on the horns of a dilemma, is that the document submitted to the court says that the Prime Minister will send such a letter.  It does not say that Boris Johnson will send any such letter.  It is, in fact, yet another indication that, come October 19th., Boris Johnson will not send any such letter, because on that date, Boris will make a stirring speech resigning the government, having spent several weeks trying to present the narrative that he has been trying to be reasonable and present a workable deal to the EU, only to be frustrated in that endeavour by a combination of the EU, working in cahoots with a Remainer dominated parliament, who have "colluded" to prevent Brexit from happening.

He will set out that, not only has parliament frustrated Brexit via the "Surrender Act",  but opposition MP's have been too "frit" to even allow him to call a General Election (a charge that is itself entirely true).   He will say that he has done all he can to keep his covenant with the electorate to "Get Brexit Done", and that, having been frustrated in that endeavour, the only way to resolve the situation is via a General Election, and that until such happens, he will continue to fight for Brexit from a position of opposition.

In fact, he knows that such a position of opposition will not last long.  Having established this narrative, Johnson, on resigning, will go to the Palace and advise the Queen that she must call on Jeremy Corbyn, as Leader of the Opposition to form a government.  In doing so, Johnson knows that he will unleash an orgy of factional warfare amongst his opponents.

The Queen must constitutionally invite Corbyn to form a government.  He is the Leader of the Opposition with 246 Labour MP's behind him.  That is not a majority, even with the 35 SNP MP's, who have said they will back Corbyn as Prime Minister, it is not a majority.  However, it is multiple times more MP's than the number that can be mustered by any of the other opposition parties.  The Liberals have 18, the Greens 1, Plaid 1, and the rag bag of Independents, and former Tory rebels do not even get to claim the right to be called parties.

The Queen will have no alternative but to call on Corbyn to form a government.  Then the fun begins.  The obnoxious Jo Swinson, heading a Liberal Party that has been allowed to rise from the grave by Corbyn's disastrous and reactionary pro-Brexit agenda, has already said that the Liberals will not support Corbyn as PM.  Most of the expelled Tory rebels will also probably not support Corbyn.  Undoubtedly, therefore, on Day 1 of a Corbyn premiership, Johnson will submit a vote of no confidence in Corbyn's government.  He will thereby challenge the Liberals and Tory rebels to stick to their word and not support Corbyn, or else for it to be them that again reneges on their promises, just as they did over tuition fees in 2010, in order to secure ministerial positions in Cameron and Clegg's coalition government.

It is a win-win situation for Johnson either way.  Either the Liberals are again shown to be blowhards and fantasists, or else they will have to support a Corbyn government.  In the first case, Johnson will use it to associate the Liberals both with frustrating Brexit and with supporting the "Marxist" Corbyn.  The latter charge will be used to draw back some of the Remainer Tories into the fold, rather than risk voting Liberal and putting Corbyn permanently into Downing Street.  If the Liberals vote down Corbyn as Prime Minister, Johnson will use it as evidence of his claim that a Remainer parliament is only able to vote for what it is against, but totally unable to vote for anything positive.  It will totally reinforce his claim that the existing parliament is dead, and needs to be replaced via a General Election.

If the Liberals et al, back Corbyn, or if Corbyn, in the few hours before any confidence vote occurs, is able to send the letter to the EU requesting an extension, that again reinforces Johnson's narrative.  He will be able to claim that he had fulfilled his promise of never requesting an extension of Article 50.  He will now be able to place that responsibility on the head of Corbyn.  Given the extent to which Corbyn has destroyed any principled Labour position, by trying to pursue his own reactionary pro-Brexit stance, and trying (pointlessly) to mobilise a handful of Labour Leave voters behind it, Johnson will be able to use that to ensure that any such Labour Leave voters stay away from Corbyn, and give their votes instead to either the Tories or Brexit Party.  Johnson will be able to simply leave it to Labour's own thoroughly confused pro-Brexit stance to ensure that its large majority of Remain voters, continue to desert it in droves for the Liberals, SNP, and Plaid.

If Labour, backed by these opposition parties, does get an extension that will suit Johnson down to the ground.  He needs time to win a working majority in a General Election, before he is forced to have to implement Brexit.  He is not stupid.  He knows that a No Deal Brexit would be disastrous, and that if he implemented it, shortly before an election, it would be the end of his government, and probably of the Tories for the foreseeable future.  The best thing for Johnson would be if a Corbyn government secured an extension of around a year.  That would give Johnson plenty of time to build his oppositional narrative of betrayal, and to kill off the Brexit Party.

Moreover, it is inconceivable that a Corbyn government could last for even six months.  On Labour's current nonsensical position, it would begin negotiations to obtain its own fantasy Brexit, before then calling a referendum on its negotiated deal as against Remain.  Labour's current line is that it would argue for Remain in that referendum, but no one can believe that that is actually what Corbyn would do.  He has said he would take a neutral position in the same way that Harold Wilson did in 1975.  But, the truth is that everyone knew that Wilson was not really neutral in 1975.  He made it clear that he supported staying in the EEC.  Corbyn could simply do the same from the opposite direction, if not openly coming out for a vote for his deal.  After all, what a waste of time it would be to spend months negotiating a deal, only to tell voters not to vote for it!  And, Corbyn has lots of pro-Brexit supporters in his Shadow Cabinet like Richard Burgon, and Rebecca Long-Bailey, Angela Rayner and so on, who could make that case.  Any Labour Remain voters cannot at all be confident in what such a government would do.

And, it will take around nine months to organise a referendum, after any such deal has been negotiated.  In reality, Labour's fantasy Brexit deal is no more negotiable than is the Tories'.  Labour spokespeople frequently say that the EU representatives have already said that Labour's proposals are workable.  That is not true.  What the EU has said is that Labour's proposals for Britain remaining in the Customs Union and Single Market are workable.  But, what the EU also say, and has to say, because otherwise it would destroy it, is that you can do so only on proviso that, as a non-EU member, you have no seat at the table in formulating the rules and regulations, and that you have no ability to negotiate separate trade deals, and that as a member of the single market you must accept the continuation of free movement, and the jurisdiction of the ECJ.  But, it is precisely on the need to not be bound by all of these provisos that makes Labour's proposals a fantasy, as much as those of the Tories.  If the EU could simply abandon all these provisos, they could, two years ago, have struck a deal with May's government.  But, they can't, because to do so would destroy the Single Market and the Customs Union, and the EU along with it.

So, having spent months trying to negotiate such a fantasy deal, Labour would be left, as was May, coming back either with a deal that is the worst of all worlds requiring Britain to accept all of these provisos, and so having all of the costs and obligations of EU membership, but without the rights of being able to have a seat at the table, and so on, or else coming back and saying that no such deal was possible, and so the only alternative is a No Deal.  That of course, would suit Corbyn's Stalinist backers, for whom such a Brexit is their objective.

To undertake such negotiations, and then call a referendum, would require an extension of at least a year.  But, even within months, any government will have to undertake the normal requirements of government, including passing a Budget.  Even if the Liberals and rebel Tories voted to keep Corbyn in government, to stop a No Deal Brexit, its inconceivable that they are going to vote for the kinds of progressive social-democratic policies that Corbyn and McDonnell want to introduce.  It would mean that these first few months would see a further intensification of the factional infighting that has already been seen on the opposition benches.

The proposal from Swinson and from people like Paul Mason, that some other figure could be put up as Prime Minister is a non-starter.  If there is no majority for a Labour Leader heading a party of 246 MP's, and with the support of 35 SNP MP's, there is certainly no majority for anyone else.  Why would any Labour MP vote for Ken Clarke as Prime Minister, for example.  And, it is totally ludicrous to suggest that 18 Liberal MP's should get to dictate to a Labour Party of half a million members, and 246 MP's who their Leader should be!  If either Harman or Beckett agreed to take on that role, then the NEC ought to be flooded with motions from branches demanding that the whip be withdrawn from them, and that they be immediately suspended for having undertaken an effective coup against the democratically elected Leader of the party.  Moreover, any principled Labour MP ought to vote against any such candidate, and given that it would require only around 20 Labour MP's to do so, their chances of getting a majority are slim to non-existent.

The only possibility of such an arrangement obtaining a majority would be via the formation of a National Government.  But, that would require that the Tory Party and the Labour Party split.  Either these breakaway groupings would form themselves into a National Tory and a National Labour Party, who would then form a coalition government with the Liberals, or else these breakaways would quickly dissolve themselves into the Liberal Party itself, as the Chukas and some of the rebel Tories have already done.  Such a rotten bloc, itself, would be unlikely to hang together for long, when they come to have to carry through policies in government.  This is not the 1930's, nor the Second World War.

The reality is that, in all these scenarios, Johnson is able to paint his betrayal narrative and keep his nose clean.  Sooner or later, after more or less fractional infighting amongst the opposition, there would be a General Election, and with an even more divided Remain opposition, Johnson, having united all of the Leave vote behind him, would be in a position to win a clear parliamentary majority.

Labour is operating on the basis that what motivates Johnson is a desire to push through a No Deal Brexit.  It isn't.  In fact, I'm not even convinced that Johnson, himself, wants any kind of Brexit, because he famously wrote those two Telegraph articles, and, prior to that, his position had always been that a powerful Leave campaign's most important function would be to enable Britain to negotiate additional concessions from the EU, whilst staying in.  No, Brexit has been a useful hook upon which Johnson was able to hang his campaign to take over the Tory leadership and become Prime Minister.  What his objective is now, is to obtain a clear working majority, and to do that he must continue to utilise a hard Brexit stance.

As I argued long ago, Labour should not be hung-up on the requirement to stop Brexit, particularly a No Deal Brexit.  The Benn Act, actually let Johnson off the hook.  Had it not existed, and given that Johnson could not have negotiated a deal any better than May's deal, he would have been put in the position of having to either concede and demand an extension, or he would have had to go through with No Deal.  He was no more likely to do the latter than was May.  He knows the consequences would be disastrous causing his government to fall, and destroying the Tory Party in the process.  It would mean that the incoming government would simply enter into emergency talks with the EU to have an emergency Bre-entry, and would pass retrospective legislation revoking Article 50.  That is what Labour should be pointing out whilst mobilising the Remain vote behind it, arguing clearly that Brexit is reactionary, that it will cancel it if elected to government, and that it would reverse it if it had been implemented, whilst working with other progressive social-democrats and socialists across Europe to transform Europe and build a Workers' Europe.

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