Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


If there was a CON leadership contest tomorrow my money would go on Javid and Hunt

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Theresa’s travails on Brexit over the past week have made it that bit less possible that she’ll survive as leader and PM to Brexit and beyond. I thought John Rentoul summed this up right in the Indy:

Until this week, I assumed May would be the prime minister who took us out of the EU in March. Her strategy of delay, procrastination and attrition isn’t pretty, and risks cutting the Brexit deadline fine, but it seemed to be working. This week, it didn’t. ..

Rentoul is talking up the prospects of the new HomeSec, Sajid Javid:

“..This week Javid lifted the cap on immigration for NHS doctors and nurses, and .. he helped to change government policy to allow a boy in Northern Ireland to import cannabis oil to treat a life-threatening condition. May’s distraction by Brexit means he can make popular policy changes and take the credit for them.

He has only been at the Home Office for six weeks and already he has ended the “hostile environment” policy on illegal immigration that gave us the Windrush scandal, made his peace with the Police Federation, the toughest trade union after the British Medical Association, and promised to deliver a law against upskirting after a maverick Tory MP blocked it.”

Michael Gove is the current betting favourite, see the chart above, and, of course, there is still Rees-Mogg who has fallen out of favour with punters of late. I think that the former long-term favourite, Johnson, is now out of it and he no longer appears to be the Tory who can reach groups of voters that other leading figures couldn’t. His tenure at the Foreign Office hasn’t helped.

Then there is the HealthSec, Hunt, who has been in the cabinet without break right from the formation of the coalition in May 2010. He’s a survivor and could be the safe pair of hands that the party turns to.

Of course everything in CON contests depends on first being able to make one of the top two places in the voting amongst party MPs for it only their names that go forward to the membership.

Mike Smithson


Britain’s brittle stalemate

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Lewisham East reveals the essential weakness of all three national parties

Interpreting by-election results is very much in the eye of the beholder. Some, it’s true, are unambiguous in their outcome for one party or another. Lewisham East is not one such.

Labour can happily chalk up that they got the job done without fuss. They won the seat and no clear challenger arose. However, it was nothing like a ringing endorsement. The turnout was dire (only the 16th occasion since WW2 that the turnout in a by-election was less than half the previous general election, as Matt Singh notes in his excellent summary of the by-election). That alone is good evidence that there was no great enthusiasm for any of the competing parties (nor of any great desire to punish any of them either). With Labour’s vote share slumping by more than 15%, this was no great result to write home about. Much has been written about the gains by the Lib Dems but it should also be noted that the Greens and WEP took about 6% between them. Corbyn’s Labour should not be shipping votes to those sort of parties.

Not that the Tories can celebrate. There was the potential to do reasonably well in Lewisham, where the Party’s vote has been solid over the years. A low turnout combined with a 35% Leave share to go at while Labour and the Lib Dems fought on strongly Remain platforms should have formed the basis for holding more share than they did and for making a better fist of fighting for second place. As it happened, Labour’s troubles meant that there was a nominal Lab-to-Con swing of more than 4% but that’s small comfort (that said, Rod Crosby, once of this parish, would have said that fact pointed to a Con majority next election; I remain of the view that such methodology is overly deterministic). The best that can be said of the Tory performance is that there was no embarrassment, which is a low bar.

And the Lib Dems? Surely they had an outstanding result? Well, it depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, yes, they gained a swing of nearly 20% – the largest for 35 years against a Labour defence while Labour was in opposition – and they quintupled their vote share. However, on the other, these achievements were a consequence of not quite reversing the disasters of 2015 and 2017. Despite throwing the kitchen sink at the campaign, the Lib Dem vote share failed to match their general election share in the seat in 2010. A resurgence, yes, but expensively bought and not one that holds many lessons for broader elections.

The simple truth is that all the parties have serious weaknesses; something which shows up equally well in the opinion polls. There’s surely little doubt that were Labour led by a Blair, not only would the Conservatives not be polling in the forties but they wouldn’t even be in the thirties. Likewise, against a government easily comparable to John Major’s beleaguered administration, Labour doesn’t even have a lead and the Lib Dems are in single figures.

Digging below the voting intention questions gives even better evidence for the general lack of enthusiasm in the options on offer. In the most recent YouGov poll (11-12 June; Con lead +3), some 66% responded that they thought the government’s Brexit negotiations were going badly, including 40% of Tory voters; the net score of -45 for the well/badly balance was the worst yet recorded. Despite that, the Conservatives still had a lead of 10% over Labour as to which party would handle Brexit best.

On the face of it, the impression is of two immutable blocks of voters stuck in mutual hostility: the voting intention figures have barely shifted since the 2017 general election (there was a small swing to Labour immediately after it, which gave Labour a small lead, but that has now dissipated). However, to the extent that that’s true, it’s surely only so because of the number who are locked in because of fear of the other. Were that fear to lessen, not only would some be attracted directly but others, who felt the need to back the Tories out of fear of Corbyn, or Labour out of fear of the Tories and Brexit – for example – could explore other parties or abstaining. The stalemate is hard but brittle.

David Herdson



Lewisham East: Five take aways

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Voters tend to avoid avoidable by-elections

The most striking statistic from the overnight result was the turnout which dropped from 69% at the general election just over a year ago to 33% yesterday. This is one of the biggest falls compared with the previous General Election on record and simply underlines what has been observed before. If a vacancy is avoidable, the incumbent MP has not died or become incapacitated, then voters tend to be less keen to participate and also punish the incumbent party. This effect was exacerbated here because the former LAB MP went less than a year after the general election.

The Tory vote is hard to squeeze
The LDs put a lot of effort into trying to persuade Tory voters to vote for them as the party most likely to beat Labour. Although the blue team saw a decline it was nothing like on the scale LAB in Richmond Park in December 2016 when the total Labour vote was fewer than the number of members in the constituency.

The LD canvas projection yet again proved to be remarkably predictive

When the party first issued one of these, before the Richmond by-election, I thought it would undermine their credibility if the result proved it to be wrong. Well Lewisham East has given further credence to this means of working out how the by-election will go. I put this down to the sheer size of the party’s voter contact effort and their skill at processing it.

Getting 50%+ is not too bad for Corbyn

All the talk beforehand was that Labour voters might wish to punish the leadership for having a broadly different view on Brexit to what most of them feel. Well Corbyn’s party vote went down a fair bit but nothing on the scale of that which was predicted and maybe we are overstating the impact on brexit on party allegiances.

The LDs have got their by-election mojo back
Being 65 percentage points behind Labour at the June 2017 election meant that the task facing the party was pretty massive and the chances of a shock victory were really very remote. But they did well pulling up 21 points on GE2017 most of it at the expense of LAB. The campaign A-team was running this election and this will give them a lot of encouragement.

Mike Smithson


Soon there might not be a single Tory MP not p*ssed off at Theresa May’s duplicity (and or incompetence)

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

At least Mrs May can say she’s united the Tory Party on Brexit



Despite an overwhelming majority of voters thinking Brexit is going badly, a similar overwhelming majority still expect Britain to leave the EU

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

On Saturday I alerted PBers to the fact that 70% of voters thought Brexit was going badly, a near identical amount, 73%, expect the Britain to leave the European Union.

For those hoping the original polling might be a precursor to Brexit being stopped are set to be disappointed. It should give great comfort to Leavers that no matter what voters expect the referendum result to be enacted.

Some Remainers may wish to paraphrase a Cambridge educated classicist ‘Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting a decision that the nation thinks is going badly.’



Peace in our time but not for long as Mrs May will soon run out of road to kick the can

Monday, June 11th, 2018

No deal looks more and more likely as the UK is running out of time to get a deal sorted



The July plot to oust Mrs May

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

It appears the patience of the Brexiteers with Mrs May has expired.

Whilst the story involving the Russians is rightly dominating the front page of The Sunday Times, the other major story in the paper is the one which shows how close Mrs May came close to losing over 10 ministers this week, including several cabinet ministers and the majority of the ministers in the DExEU, and her job.

Mrs May’s approach to dealing with the backstop and David Davis has consequences, The Sunday Times report

Four sources said this weekend that there was a plot to unseat May after the withdrawal bill received royal assent, expected in the second week of July, the moment at which the referendum result becomes legally binding.

One source claimed that there were already 42 MPs prepared to trigger a vote of no confidence in May, six short of the number required. One MP said: “We will keep our heads down and then get rid of her. No one trusts her any more.” Another Brexiteer said: “Once the bill goes through there is going to be an almighty reckoning.”

Rees-Mogg texted MPs on Friday to urge caution until the bill is passed but allies say he will lift these restrictions once it has become law.

Another plan under discussion by the plotters is to boycott a Commons vote on an unimportant piece of legislation so May suffers a defeat in order to demonstrate their strength. “We’ll just fail to turn up one day,” one rebel said.

MPs close to Davis say the end could be nigh: “Last week was a dress rehearsal,” one said. Another source close to Davis said: “She thinks she won. She’s f***** anyway. She’s toast.”

Whilst delivering the Brexit Leave promised seems a near impossible job Theresa May has dealt a poor hand very badly. Nearly two years after the referendum she and her government have yet to sort out their positions on Brexit.  That she triggered Article 50 without sorting out the position has the potential to turn out to be the country’s biggest foreign policy blunder since Iraq.

But her other failing is the way she conducts herself, secretive and only sharing her plans with a small band of advisers leads to people feeling they are being ignored and bounced into decisions.

It appears the Brexiteers in the Tory Party have concluded ‘No Theresa is better than a bad Theresa’ but by ousting Mrs May they have increased the chances of Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.


PS – If the plotters oust Theresa May on July 20th then I’m expecting a lot of Godwin’s Law that day.


What would Labour really do about Brexit?

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

A few things are obvious to all but the most partisan:

  1. The Government is not conducting the negotiations well, because there is no clear majority within either Parliament or the country at large for any objectives.
  2. The EU might try to accommodate Britain if we did have clear objectives, but in their absence they default to something as close to fudge and little change as possible.
  3. The Opposition has no clear policy either. We don’t especially need to, though the effect is almost zero media coverage, since we have little to say about the issue of the moment except that the Government is making a hash of it.

Perhaps this will all be resolved by 2022 and the election will be fought on other issues. But what if the Government collapses and Labour forms a government before Brexit is set in stone? It’s by no means impossible – suppose Parliament votes down a Brexit fudge, there’s a Tory leadership election and they tear themselves apart? Suppose a few by-elections go horribly wrong (for legal reasons I won’t discuss one possible one in the near future). Suppose a new Tory leader calls a snap election and loses? What would Labour actually do?

Labour has several fault lines that make it hard. The majority of the PLP and members are very pro-EU and don’t much care about immigration. Many MPs are aware that lots of their supporters do care about it. Corbynites generally don’t care much either about EU membership or about immigration. And the underlying resentments of party division are still there. Europhiles are irritated with Corbyn partly because he’s not a Europhile, but also because he’s Corbyn. Corbynites are irritated with super-Europhiles partly because they see them as unhelpful to the exciting remodelled party.

But if Labour has formed a Government these tensions will recede for a while – hell, everyone will say, we’ve actually bloody won, this is not the moment to squabble. And some aspects of dealing with Brussels will be easier for us. Virtually nobody in Labour dislikes or fears the EU: we divide on whether we think it’s wonderful or whether we merely think it’s not too bad but needs improvement. And while we need to cover our flank on immigration, the fact that we basically think it’s no big deal means the heat goes out of it.

Nor are we dependent on the DUP, and if a solution drifts towards a united Ireland, we so do not have a problem with that (and nor do most of our voters, however much they voted Leave). Nor are we fanatical about establishing our own regulations on everything, or even having a major say in details – who cares what the rules are on the size of milk cartons, so long as we have some common rules? Certainly not industry – they want a well-defined consistent environment, not difference for the sake of it.

So Brussels will be dealing with people who like them and don’t have hang-ups about some current key issues. The mood music will be much better, and Brussels will want to make the sudden rush of rational friendliness work.

But there are still objective problems. We can’t sign up to unlimited free movement or a chunk of our voters will walk away. We don’t want to sign up to any deal that prevents us nationalising rail and utilities and we’re wary of anything that might force us into hands-off government with the private sector free to do what it likes.

So what might a Corbyn government sign up to? Something like this, I suggest.

  1. A customs union
  2. A deal on movement that makes it easy for qualified people to move in and out, but allows limits both ways.
  3. Willingness to abide by standards and regulations, with disputes arbitrated by the ECJ.
  4. Ulster remaining inside the single market.

Ulster Unionists will hate it, but so what. More practically, there will be problems for firms trading with Ulster unless they effectively accept single market rules as well. In effect the single market will exert influence into Great Britain as well, but without dictating the overall political structure. We don’t get a trade deal with the US, but an acceptable deal with Trump is likely to be elusive anyway.

Overall, we get to be a bit different in areas that matter to Labour, but we stay largely in the EU orbit where geography naturally places us. Leavers will get some immigration limits and the formal exit. Remainers will see us still close to the EU and perhaps able to rejoin one day. Industry will have consistent rules. Is it an ideal outcome? No, but it’s a reasonably civilised way out of where we are now, and it preserves broad national interest, party unity and amiable relations with the Continent. There are much worse places to be.

Nick Palmer

Nick Palmer was the Labour MP for Broxtowe from 1997 to 2010 and a longstanding contributor on PB