Archive for the 'Coalition' Category

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Why are the Eurosceptics not kicking up more of a fuss?

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

May looks set for an easier ride

The Conservative whips are doing their job well. Evening after evening, the government records consistent majorities in the teens or twenties as it protects its Brexit Bill unamended through the Commons. More innovatively, we saw this morning a flurry of tweets and statements from Tory MPs and ministers lauding Theresa May for her tough diplomacy in delivering a good interim Brexit deal. That helped set the news agenda.

To some extent, there was merit in that praise. The circle on Northern Ireland seems to have been squared (though the extent to which this hasn’t just been achieved by squinting and believing remains to be seen), the Brexit divorce settlement, while large, isn’t as high as some had predicted, and the deal on ex-pat rights seems fair. All negotiating teams have signed off and most seem content, if not happy.

Well, almost all the teams. The DUP still isn’t entirely satisfied and has warned that there’s “more work to be done”. More intriguingly, the Conservative Eurosceptics have been surprisingly quiet. This was the fourth plate the government needed to keep spinning (alongside the EU, Dublin and the DUP), and the assumption was that they’d vehemently object to any agreement that didn’t deliver on the Leave objectives of being out of the EU in fact as well as in law: no longer subject to EU law or EU courts and able to freely determine policy, regulations and trade deals – objectives essentially inconsistent with what the EU and the Irish government would accept.

In the end, that divide couldn’t be bridged and Davis and May have signed up to Brussels’ demand for regulatory alignment. The crucial paragraph is number 49 and it deserves quoting in full:

The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements. The United Kingdom’s intention is to achieve these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship. Should this not be possible, the United Kingdom will propose specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland. In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.

Two points need drawing out here. The first is the word ‘guarantee’ in the opening sentence. This alone ensures that the final deal as respects Ireland will involve continued regulatory alignment and that EU rules will have to be adopted in N Ireland and, by extension, across the rest of the UK given the commitment that there’ll be no border on the Irish Sea. Ironically, while there’s a provision for the N Ireland Assembly to diverge from those regulations, there’s no equivalent provision for Westminster to do so, other than in following Stormont’s lead.

The second point is that the fallback position of “full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union” gives the EU enormous bargaining power. Why would it agree in Phase 2 to anything other than that fallback state, when it gives it everything it could ask for? Whatever words are found to determine a final Article 50 deal, the substance is set in that paragraph.

It is true that a narrow interpretation of the provision would mean that only a few areas would be affected by the need for alignment. The history of the EU suggests that a narrow interpretation will not be their favoured one. Just about anything could be considered to “support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement”. I strongly suspect that across large sectors of the economy and beyond, the UK will continue to be a rule-taker from the EU.

This, however, is not the Brexiteer line. Boris Johnson (who is, admittedly, tied to the government line), tweeted that “Theresa May [is] totally determined that ‘full alignment’ means compatibility with taking back control of our money, laws and borders”. This is glaringly inconsistent. How on earth can you simultaneously maintain alignment with someone else’s laws and have control of your own? It’s about as much use as a steering wheel on a train.

So, what’s going on? Why the silence? (It’s not in fact wholly silent from the Leave camp: Nigel Farage and others of a UKIP persuasion have been ranting merrily but for the moment, UKIP is off-stage; it’s the Tory MPs who count on this score for now). One answer is that my interpretation is wrong: that the repercussions of the concessions aren’t so wide-reaching but even if that’s true, others – The Telegraph and the aforementioned UKIPpers, for example – have reached the same conclusions so that wouldn’t explain why the MPs wouldn’t too.

Nor, I think, is it that they are keeping their powder dry until October next year when the final agreement is due to be reached (though I suspect it will go well beyond then and through to at least February 2019, plus another two to two-and-a-half years’ transition), for two reasons. Firstly, the earlier an intervention is, the easier it is to change the direction of Brexit; and secondly, despite Friday’s Report including the classic EU line that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, paragraphs 49 and 50 imply a unilateral commitment from Britain, irrespective of the final settlement.

The only answer that really makes sense to me is that the supposed hard-liners are not, in fact, going to push their demands and that in the end, they’ve accepted that just about any Brexit deal – and specifically, this Brexit-light deal – is better than no deal. Put more favourably, they’ve accepted that this is about as good a deal as they’re going to get without pressing the nuclear option and that in reality, the nuclear option is not on: the pain and the blame would be too great.

If that assumption is right then that means that May’s position is a good deal stronger than it was at the start of the week, it means that she will probably serve through to the final Brexit talks at least, it means the shape of Brexit is already defined, and it means that 2018 is not going to see huge splits on the government benches over Europe. There will no doubt be spats over details but it won’t be a re-run of either the referendum or the Maastricht debates.

It also means that we should be looking to 2019-21 as the period when the Tories change their leader, with the summer of either 2019 or 2020 being most likely. That gives all the more reason to follow the golden rule of Tory leadership contests (particularly with the current market as it is): lay the favourite(s).

One other feature of continued regulatory alignment ought to be mentioned: it will make rejoining a lot easier.

David Herdson



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CON loses another seat to LDs in latest Local By-Elections

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Newport on North Devon (Con defence)
Result: Con 373 (37% -3% on last time), Lab 83 (8%, no candidate last time) Lib Dem 390 (39% +7% on last time), Green 159 (16% -12% on last time)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 17 (2%) on a swing of 5% from Con to Lib Dem

Highway on Enfield (Lab defence)
Result: Con 620 (27% +8% on last time), Lab 1,619 (70% +23% on last time), Green 79 (3% -6% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -18%, No BNP candidate this time -7%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 999 (43%) on a swing of 7.5% from Con to Lab

This is the last London by-election before the local elections next May and so over the weekend I will be tallying all those London by-elections and producing an initial forecast for the London borough elections based on them (which I should point out was very accurate in forecasting the problems that Labour had in the Welsh local elections this year



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Local By-Election Review : November 17th 2017

Friday, November 17th, 2017

Kirkley on Waveney (Lab defence)
Result: Con 217 (28% +7% on last time), Lab 374 (48% +12% on last time), Lib Dem 84 (11% no candidate last time), UKIP 78 (10% -10% on last time), Green 30 (4% -5% on last time) (No Independent candidate this time -15%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 157 (20%) on a swing of 2.5% from Con to Lab

St. Margaret’s on Waveney (Lab defence)
Result: Con 487 (42% +12% on last time), Lab 410 (35% -1% on last time), Lib Dem 88 (8% no candidate last time), UKIP 119 (10% -16% on last time), Green 65 (6% -2% on last time)
Conservative GAIN from Labour with a majority of 77 (7%) on a swing of 6.5% from Lab to Con

Penn and Coleshill on Chiltern (Con defence)
Result: Con 697 (81%), Lib Dem 168 (19%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 529 (62%). No swing calculation due to unopposed return last time.

Sudbrooke on West Lindsey (Con defence)
Result: Con 391 (70% +1% on last time), Lab 171 (30% +10% on last time) (No Liberal Democrat candidate this time (-11%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 220 (40%) on a swing of 4.5% from Con to Lab

Whaplode and Holbeach St. John’s on South Holland (Con defence)
Result: Con 541 (78% +21% on last time), Lab 153 (22% no candidate last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -43%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 388 (56%) on a notional swing of 0.5% from Con to Lab (Actual swing: 32% from UKIP to Con)

Staining and Weeton on Flyde (Con defence)
Result: Con 401 (73% +8% on last time, Lab 111 (20% -15% on last time), Lib Dem 37 (7% no candidate last time)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 290 (53%) on a swing of 11.5% from Lab to Con

Penrith North on Eden (Lib Dem defence)
Result: Con 291 (31% -1% on last time), Lab 155 (17% -8% on last time), Lib Dem 422 (45% +2% on last time), Green 65 (7% no candidate last time)
Liberal Democrat HOLD with a majority of 131 (14%) on a swing of 1.5% from Con to Lib Dem

Mowden on Darlington (Con defence)
Result: Con 652 (61% +15% on last time), Lab 285 (27% -5% on last time), Lib Dem 111 (10% no candidate last time), Green 26 (2% -5% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -15%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 367 (34%) on a swing of 11% from Lab to Con

Red Hall and Lingfield on Darlington (Lab defence)
Result: Con 230 (41% +12% on last time), Lab 249 (45% -2% on last time), Lib Dem 11 (2% -10% on last time), Green 20 (4% -8% on last time), Ind 46 (8% no candidate last time)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 19 (4%) on a swing of 7% from Lab to Con

Victoria on Hartlepool (Lab defence)
Result: Con 98 (11% -1% on last time), Lab 479 (53% +12% on last time), UKIP 325 (36% (+13% on last time) (No Green candidate this time -7%, No Hartlepool First candidate this time -15%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 154 (17%) on a swing of 0.5% from Lab to UKIP



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Fallon quits as defence secretary

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017



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Brexit – the Guilty Men?

Saturday, October 21st, 2017

Cyclefree sticks her neck out and gives her choices

Scepticism (Euroscepticism, certainly) has a bad press these days. But being sceptical of received wisdom, of grand plans and theories, of the assumption that because matters have always been this way, this is how they should remain, is a good thing. At its best, it’s the courage to ask “Why?”and “Why not?” We could have done with more of it when Mrs May came out with her alliterative but empty “Brexit means Brexit” line last year. And it is possible to be a Eurosceptic – ie sceptical of how the EU behaves, its destination and whether it is adopting the right policies – while still thinking that, on balance, it makes more sense for Britain to remain part of it than not. But that kind of Euroscepticism has fallen out of fashion or, perhaps, been forced into silence by a much more toxic form which seems to see no good in the EU at all, which knows what it is against but not what it is for, which sees conspiracies and bad faith everywhere and which sounds increasingly strident and angry to anyone who is, well, sceptical of this. How did this come about?

Well, here is my list of some of the men who helped, some of them unintentionally, toxify a debate in a way which is doing no credit to anyone involved. (And one, perhaps surprising, omission.)

1. Jacques Delors

Delors wanted to have a social aspect to the EU and, as part of it, famously sold that vision to the TUC Congress. Nothing wrong with such a vision, of course, and pursuing it at an EU/ governmental level. But inserting himself in UK domestic politics in an attempt to sell one of the EU’s benefits to a hostile/sceptical Left had disastrous long-term unintended consequences for the EU debate in Britain. It looked as if the EU was seeking to undermine the results of British elections, of seeking to impose policies which had been rejected by British voters. It made the EU look as if it opposed the Tories and helped trigger or accelerate a a feeling within some Tories that the EU was the enemy. And for others it highlighted concerns about the EU’s approach to democracy and the electoral process within member states, about whether its default instincts were quite as liberal and democratic as it claimed, about how far it might go if voters did not like what it was doing.

2. Major / the “Bastards”

Unfair to group them together? Maybe. The Redwood’s/IDS’s/Cash’s/Gorman’s obsession with Maastricht, with undermining their own leader, with fighting arcane Parliamentary battles bears much of the blame for making those worried about EU developments seem unhinged. Few people will listen to arguments, however reasonable, from the sort of person you wouldn’t want to sit next to on a long bus journey with no stops. But what it also meant was that the consequences of Maastricht were never properly explained – let alone sold – to the public, particularly in relation to what has now become, unfairly perhaps, the totemic EU issue: Freedom of Movement. Major failed to do so or, more likely, was too exhausted or fed up to do so. The purists, shielded by their monomania, failed to realise that others would take the debate beyond high-minded discussions of Parliamentary sovereignty into Faragiste “Too many foreigners on the train” territory.

3. Tony Blair

FoM would never have become as toxic as it has if the arrival of Eastern Europeans had not been preceded by an increase in immigration in the preceding 8 years, the abandonment of previous attempts to control it and the almost total failure to implement effectively those controls which did exist, coupled with a snobbish refusal to understand why people might want to know about – let alone – control who is or is not allowed into their country. Did Blair really think it sensible for his

Home Secretary to say that there was “no obvious limit” to the number of immigrants allowed in? Blair’s biggest mistake was not the lack of transitional controls in 2004. Britain’s approach to Eastern Europe was open, generous and the right thing to do (and rather more communautaire than that of the Pharisaical Germans). Rather, it was his total failure to engage properly with immigration in the years beforehand. The Poles were, unfairly, seen as the final straw. And as a result, a country which has generally had a good record of openness and welcome, which has not indulged in blood and soil notions of race and nationalism has acquired a reputation for small-minded xenophobia which will likely – and shamefully – endure long after any agreement on rights for EU citizens already here.

And one omission

Wot – no Thatcher? Well, no. On balance. Ever the pragmatic politician, she fought for Britain within the EU and, on the whole, did so rather more effectively than her successors. Being the grit in the EU oyster suited Britain quite well and was of more use to some EU states than they might publicly admit. She relished argument rather than simple assertion of apparently self-evident truths or insults, a point Cameron might have done well to ponder, especially after Clegg’s poor showing in his debate with Farage. Would she have favoured Brexit or a referendum on it? Who can say? But she’d have been a damn sight better prepared for it. And the resulting negotiations.

The irony is that her one main European achievement, the Single Market, one part of the EU which has indisputably been a benefit to Britain and which is treasured by the rest of the EU (as May and Davis are painfully learning) will likely be lost to it, at least in its current form, as a result of the actions of those who claim her as their inspiration. Guilty men indeed.

CycleFree



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Local By-Election Results : October 12th 2017

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Inverurie and District on Aberdeenshire (Con defence)
Result of first preference votes: Conservative 1,672 (49% +13% on last time), Scottish National Party 1,146 (33% +5% on last time), Liberal Democrat 295 (9% -3% on last time), Labour 276 (8% +4% on last time), Green Party 56 (2%, no candidate last time) (No Independent candidate this time -20%)
Conservative lead of 526 (16%) on a swing of 4% from SNP to Con
Conservative HOLD elected on the fourth count

Rossal on Wyre (Lab defence)
Result: Labour 610 (50% +11% on last time), Conservative 427 (35% +5% on last time), Independent 180 (15% +7% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -24%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 183 (15%) on a swing of 3% from Con to Lab

Chapelford and Old Hall on Warrington (Lab defence)
Result: Labour 957 (55% +10% on last time), Conservative 353 (20% +2% on last time), Liberal Democrat 312 (18% -3% on last time), UKIP 86 (5% -5% on last time), Green Party 43 (2% -4% on last time)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 604 (35%) on a swing of 4% from Con to Lab

Stanley and Outwood East on Wakefield (Lab defence)
Result: Labour 1,353 (51% +2% on last time), Conservative 847 (32% +7% on last time), Liberal Democrat 165 (6% +2% on last time), Yorkshire Party 153 (6% +5% on last time), UKIP 136 (5% -17% on last time)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 506 (19%) on a swing of 2.5% from Lab to Con

Beigton on Sheffield (Lab defence)
Result: Labour 1,640 (49% +6% on last time), Liberal Democrat 899 (27% +21% on last time), Conservative 552 (16% -1% on last time), UKIP 212 (6% -19% on last time), Green Party 74 (2% -3% on last time) (No Others candidate this time -3%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 741 (22%) on a swing of 7.5% from Lab to Lib Dem

Hucknall North on Ashfield (Con defence)
Result: Ahfield Independents 1,329 (51% +38% on last time), Labour 629 (24% -7% on last time), Conservative 532 (20% -11% on last time), UKIP 66 (3% -15% on last time), Liberal Democrat 46 (2%, no candidate last time) (No Green Party candidate this time -7%)
Ashfield Independent GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 700 (27%) on a swing of 22.5% from Lab to Ashfield Independents (24.5% from Con to Ashfield Independents)

Bolehall on Tamworth (Lab defence)
Result: Labour 643 (53% +14% on last time), Conservative 561 (47% +12% on last time) (No UKIP candiate this time -21%, No Green Party candidate this time -5%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 82 (6%) on a swing of 1% from Con to Lab

Oxhey Hall and Hayling on Three Rivers (Con defence)
Result: Liberal Democrat 672 (41% +13% on last time), Conservative 461 (28% +2% on last time), Labour 428 (26% +3% on last time), UKIP 35 (2% -21% on last time), Green Party 31 (2%, no candidate last time)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 211 (13%) on a swing of 5.5% from Con to Lib Dem

Party Conference Index Scores
Liberal Democrats (+9.59%),
Labour (+8.52%),
Scottish National Party (+4.28%)
Green Party (+3.41%),
Conservative (+3.39%),
United Kingdom Independence Party (-13.12%),

Plaid Cymru (conference yet to be held)



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September 2017 and Third Quarter Local By-Election Summary

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

September 2017 Monthly Summary
Labour 18,824 votes (36.73% +8.66% on last time) winning 13 seats (+2 seats on last time)
Conservatives 14,074 votes (27.46% -4.34% on last time) winning 10 seats (-7 seats on last time)
Liberal Democrats 5,041 votes (9.84% +1.53% on last time) winning 3 seats (+1 seat on last time)
Green Party 4,420 votes (8.62% +0.31% on last time) winning 2 seats (+2 seats on last time)
Scottish National Party 3,345 votes (6.53% +3.23% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Independent candidates 3,132 votes (6.11% +0.39% on last time) winning 3 seats (+2 seats on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 1,156 votes (2.26% -10.75% on last time) winning 0 seats (-1 on last time)
Other Party candidates 983 votes (1.92% +0.44% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Local Independent candidates 278 votes (0.54% +0.54% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Labour lead of 4,750 votes (9.27%) on a swing of 6.5% from Con to Lab

Conference Index
Liberal Democrats (September 21st 2017): +9.59% on last time
Labour (September 28th 2017): +8.52% on last time

Third Quarter Summary (June 22nd – September 28th 2017)
Labour 40,820 votes (37.86% +9.70% on last time) winning 31 seats (+8 on last time) from 67 candidates (+5 on last time)
Conservatives 31,144 votes (28.88% -1.88% on last time) winning 27 seats (-6 on last time) from 69 candidates (unchanged on last time)
Liberal Democrats 12,557 votes (11.65% +1.35% on last time) winning 6 seats (-1 on last time) from 56 candidates (+17 on last time)
Green Party 8,223 votes (7.63% +0.35% on last time) winning 2 seats (+2 on last time) from 37 candidates (+1 on last time)
Independent candidates 6,443 votes (5.98% +0.64% on last time) winning 5 seats (unchanged on last time) from a minimum of 20 candidates
Scottish National Party 4,240 votes (3.93% +2.15% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time) from 4 candidates (unchanged on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 1,931 votes (1.79% -11.01% from last time) winning 0 seats (-3 on last time) from 24 candidates (-22 on last time)
Local Independent candidates 1,302 votes (1.21% -1.43% on last time) winning 1 seat (unchanged on last time) from a minimum of 9 candidates
Plaid Cymru 101 votes (0.09% +0.09% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time) from 1 candidate (+1 on last time)
Other Party candidates 1,065 votes (0.99% +0.10% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time) from a minimum of 6 candidates
Labour lead of 9,676 votes (8.98%) on a swing of 5.79% from Con to Lab

Estimated House of Commons (UNS Forecast):
Lab 333, Con 254, SNP 25, Lib Dems 15, Plaid 3, Green 1, Speaker 1, NI Parties 18 (Lab majority of 16)



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Not quite the Thursday newspaper headlines that Team TMay had planned

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

This is now all about her survival

Once the prime minister had decided to try to battle on during the weekend after the election the speech at the end of the Conservative conference four months on was always going to be the biggest challenge.

Alas events conspired to make it something of a disaster as the headlines in today’s papers reflect. The question now is whether she is going to continue to struggle on or will she decide to call it a day?

She is very much in the hands of the party’s MPs and what the mood is amongst them when they return to Westminster next week.

You can get about 3/1 her going this year which I think is about right. The price hasn’t moved that much since the speech.

The next few weeks are going to be crucial.

My view is that that it won’t get as far as a confidence motion. If she decides to go she will want to do it on her own terms.

Maybe she and Phillip ought to spend the weekend walking in Snowdonia?

Mike Smithson