Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday 26 June 2016

Why I have just joined the Labour Party. And why you should too. Seriously.

I have just joined the Labour Party.

Before long term readers of this blog start thinking I've gone peculiar let me assure you that there is method in this.

Firstly, I will state for the record that I certainly consider myself to support Labour's "aims and values" which is what you have to be able to do to be a member. As I've mentioned before I consider this a fairly vague thing to have to adhere to but in so far as I want to see social justice in this country I certainly think I have at least as much in common with those goals as e.g. someone like Peter Mandelson. Or Tony Blair. Both of whom as far as I know are still Labour members.

OK, that's the admin out of the way (in case the Labour Party "Compliance Unit" (seriously that's a thing) are reading this).

To the method.

We have just had the most politically revolutionary event in this country since the second world war. All the pieces have been thrown up in the air and they will be falling down and settling over the next few months and years. The Tories are about start a contest to elect their new leader and hence Prime Minister. As I outlined earlier today that is very likely to lead in short order to a general election.

Let's face it, it's going to be Boris Johnson.

In the meantime as I am writing this 8 shadow cabinet ministers have either been sacked or have resigned in order to try and force a leadership contest to unseat Jeremy Corbyn as leader. I think Corbyn, although a very nice man is simply out of his depth as leader and hence would lead the party to a serious defeat at the coming election. If you thought it was bad for Ed Miliband (who actually didn't really have much of a track-record for the Tories to attack) just imagine what it is going to be like for a man with Corbyn's history and all the platforms he has shared with... Well, you've all seen the pictures. You know what I'm talking about and what will happen. He'll be thrashed.

It is costing me £3.92 per month to be a member of the Labour Party. That is a small price to pay if like me, you do not want to see a demagogic charlatan like Boris Johnson have such an easy run at hugely increasing his majority in a few months time. If you agree then you should also join so you have a say in choosing the next leader who after Johnson is likely to be the most significant politician in the country.

These are serious times and it simply cannot be left to the left wing activists who flocked to Labour last year to get to choose who this person should be. They had their chance last year and they have utterly failed. So please, if you can afford a few quid a month join Labour in order to make sure you have a vote in the contest to ensure there is a stronger opposition to one of the worst politicians I can imagine becoming Prime Minister.

You don't have to remain a member in the long term. I may do, I may not. That's not my concern right now. I'm simply looking at trying to make sure that Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition can do a proper job during the biggest political crisis of my lifetime.

Will you join me?

Why (and how) there will be a general election very soon

So as a country we've voted for Brexit.

I didn't of course, I voted for Remain. But we are where we are.

One thing that I have been certain of since the moment it started to become clear that Leave were likely to win on Thursday evening is that there will certainly be an early general election, likely very early. It was obvious Cameron would have to resign and therefore that there would be a new Prime Minister within a few months.

Boris Johnson is favourite to be that new PM but even if he isn't the new leader will face a number of pressures the inexorable logic of which will lead to them having to go to the country sooner rather than later.

Firstly there will be the fact that the manifesto that was voted on in 2015 and the mandate that Cameron had has been utterly eclipsed by this referendum result. It is simply not tenable for a new leader to piggy-back off Cameron's win and ride things out until 2020 when everything has changed so fundamentally.

Secondly, Boris's (or A. N. Other leader's) majority will be wafer thin. Given the incredibly difficult task the new PM will have navigating a course through negotiations with the EU trying to execute a tricky and trap-laden divorce settlement will frankly be impossible when a tiny back-bench rebellion on any one vote could bring the whole house of cards crashing down. They will need a decent working majority as a bare minimum.

Thirdly, more pragmatically the recent precedents are not good for leaders who take over and do not win an election of their own within fairly short order. Gordon Brown bottled it in 2007 and his Premiership was dogged by "The Election that never Was". Jim Callaghan also refused to go to the country in 1978 at a time that was likely much more propitious than waiting it out until a vote of no confidence sunk him less than a year later and issued in The Age of Thatcher. By contrast John Major who had the good fortune to be able to eke out the fag end of Thatcher's third term from the end of 1990 through to early 1992 while he was still relatively popular won a huge mandate of his own.

Fourthly, if it is Boris then it is preposterous to expect that someone who has been banging on for months and months about us being lorded over by "Unelected Brussels Bureaucrats" can expect to remain in office for long unelected. He'll need the mandate to have any real credibility given all his on the record statements on this subject.

But, but, but I hear you splutter. What about the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011? Doesn't that mean that we can't have another general election until 2020?

Well technically yes. Unless one of two things happen, both of which are quite possible.

One is that two thirds of the Commons votes for a dissolution of parliament. So effectively that would require both the Tories and Labour to vote for one. That is perhaps the most likely way it will happen. Because I simply cannot see politically how Labour refuses a general election no matter how frit they might be of the consequences (especially if Corbyn is still leader). Can you imagine the utter derision that will be poured on them if they deny the public the opportunity of a fresh election given how fundamentally the tectonic plates of UK politics have now shifted?

But if Labour make that dreadful miscalculation then all the new PM has to do is call a vote of no confidence in him or herself, bring down his/her own government and then wait two weeks. When no stable alternative government can be formed (which of course with the current parliamentary numbers would be impossible) then an election is triggered by default. A bit more messy but would get us to the same place. You could certainly imagine a politician with the sheer chutzpah of Boris Johnson delighting in the opportunity to use a mechanism like this. To bring down his own government in order to rise phoenix-like from the flames in an even more powerful position.

Finally if the new PM wants to short-circuit all of that they could simply invoke emergency legislation to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. That only requires a bare majority in the Commons and I doubt the Lords would do anything to stop it given the current circumstances. Then they would be free to call an election whenever they wanted, old-school style.

So three different ways to achieve the ends required. I would guess number one will happen but even if it has to be one of the other ways I am certain we will have an election within the next 12 months, quite possibly later this year.

In fact as Thursday evening bled into Friday morning and I became more and more convinced that Brexit was going to win I put some money on with the only remaining online bookies who were still taking bets on this market backing a general election in 2016 and covering one in 2017 too. About 30 minutes after I placed this bet the online site took the market down. I got odds of 10-1 for both bets.

I put my money where my mouth is. Mark my words, we'll be going to the polls again before very long.

Saturday 25 June 2016

An open letter to a Leave voter

Dear <**LEAVE_VOTER**>

So here we are. I voted Remain, you voted Leave. You won. It was narrow but clear. 52% to 48%.

I fear that a lot of what the Remain campaign said would happen will now come to pass. I hope I am wrong but I think it is very likely that there will be various negative short and long term consequences of the vote we've just had.

Members of Leave have already started to back-track on the pledges made during the campaign. Nigel Farage for example has said that the pledge emblazoned on the side of the Leave battle bus was "a mistake" and that there will not be £350 million extra per week for the NHS. Daniel Hannan said on Newsnight last night that migration will not be curbed to any significant degree.

I don't know if you voted Leave for either of those reasons but if you did I think you'd be justified in feeling pretty annoyed today.

But it is very difficult to hold the Leave campaign to account. They were made up of politicians of different parties and now the campaign is over they have scattered to the wind.

Except that some of the leading lights in that campaign are likely to be part of the next government of the (currently United) Kingdom. Michael Gove for example is quite likely to be a senior cabinet minister. And Boris Johnson (who is most readily identified with that battle bus with the £350 million emblazoned on the side) is odds on to be our next Prime Minister.

I suspect that if (when) Boris becomes Prime Minister he will feel duty bound to call a snap general election in order to give himself the mandate to move forward with his negotiation plans with the EU.

When this happens I urge you to think very carefully about what has just happened. How quickly the Leave campaign has backed away from its promises.

If you are suffering from "buyer's remorse" right now. If you are one of the growing band of Regrexiteers who feel they've been sold a pup don't think there isn't anything you can do about it.

We have a representative democracy in this country and the chances are good that you will be able to send another message via the ballot box quite soon.

Please do not waste this chance. You need to speak to the politicians who will be in a position to do something about it in a language they understand.

All the best