Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Labour meltdown

In my last post I put an optimistic spin on what Labour might be able to do in response to Brexit, and I still wasn't desperately positive. But there's a compelling case that it could be much, much worse.

I started my Labour analysis by assuming that the coup to remove Corbyn would be successful. That in itself throws up all sorts of problems, but it's indescribably worse if the coup is unsuccessful. Here's a version of what might happen next:

The motion of no confidence (or whatever the technical term is for the vote today) is passed easily. Corbyn refuses to resign. The PLP get 50 or more MP/MEPs to nominate a single challenger (presumably Watson or Eagle) and Corbyn announces that he will contest the election, and that NEC rules mean he is automatically on the ballot.

The PLP don't agree with that, but the NEC (which is marginally pro-Corbynish) uphold Corbyn's view in the face of massive protests by the membership. Corbyn wins the vote by a reduced margin and is returned as leader.

What the actual fuck do Labour do next? Answers on a postcard please.

Some predictions

Having deliberately not written about the Referendum before it happened, because I found almost all the commentary and discourse around it so damn depressing, I am going to stick my neck out about what's going to happen next.


I think it's hard to see an outcome where Boris does not get onto the members' ballot. So far the only other declared Leaver running is Liam Fox (the Disgraced Liam Fox, as he's formally known), and I can't see him being the final choice for members. If Boris does make it, he'll almost certainly be elected. I'm conflicted about this. I've always liked Boris, and he is (I thought) on exactly the open, liberal, non-ideological wing of the Tories that hits my buttons. Against that, of course, he is a manipulative, treacherous, lying weasel. So, conflicted.

Anyway, whether it's Boris or Theresa May I think the Tory strategy is pretty much the same. Campaign for leader on a 'compromise' approach whereby details of access to the single market vs. free movement will be negotiated, but the ultimate endpoint is some form of Euro-fudge. Call a General Election for, say, 13 October and set out negotiating details (such as they are) in the manifesto. Win the election and then hope for the best.


Hoo boy. I'm a lot less clear about what Labour will do next, because I'm not even sure there will be any such thing in a month or so. Let's be optimistic first of all. Let's assume the coup against Corbyn works, he is removed and either Tom Watson or Angela Eagle take over without an election. The PLP should not then be  a problem, but there will be a big disconnect with the members. Assuming that can be overcome, Labour then need to come up with a policy on Europe.

But Labour are in more of a bind than the Tories here. They really can't argue for the full withdrawal/pull up the drawbridge option, because none of them agree with it. But if they don't they expose their northern seats to an obvious attack from UKIP that Labour won't listen to their own voters and members (as already shown by dethroning the High Sparrow). That's such a potent attack line that I can see Labour struggling to defend it. So maybe they have to argue for a more extreme vision. But then, that puts them into conflict with their urban professional vote (that, again, will have been enraged by deCorbynisation). Not a pretty picture.


Easy peasy. "Betrayal! Treachery! You, the ordinary decent people of Britain, voted to leave. And what do these Quisling politicians do? They try and weasel in by the back door. Vote UKIP for a proper leave." Nasty, but it's going to be bloody effective.

Liberal Democrats

The first good news for the Lib Dems since 2010. Offer a platform of a second referendum, with a view to remaining in the EU. Impractical and highly unlikely ever to be achieved, but that's what Liberal Democrat political positions have always been. Throw in a couple of contentious bar charts and we're back in business lads! Particularly effective if Labour opt to shore up the north and abandon the cities.


Good for the SNP too, but they have to be careful not to overplay their hand. The temptation will be (as Sturgeon showed immediately) to say that Brexit is a material change in circumstances and warrants a second referendum. But (despite the instant opinion polls) I'm not sure that this is a slam dunk. In 2014, Scotland voted to remain when independence was sold as being virtually zero-impact (same currency, same head of state, both members of the EU etc) and when oil was US$100pb. Independence now would mean joining the Euro and setting up a customs barrier at Berwick when oil is US$45pb. If the SNP lose a second referendum that really is it for a generation.

And there we are. It's Labour's future that looks bleakest, but there;s plenty of scope for bleakness all round.

Brexit blues

Anything happen while I was away?

For what it's worth, I was a Remainer. This was because although I've never been a particular fan of the EU, and would probably not vote to join it if we were not already members, I thought whatever benfits might result were not worth the economic, political and diplomatic pain and trauma of unraveling a 40 year relationship. Still, we are where we are now and there's little point in rehashing all that. The question is, where are we?

One of the biggest deficiencies of the Leave campaign was a persistent failure to spell out exactly what "Leave" meant. Albanian models, Canadian models, Norwegian models, Serbian models - all of them were raised, but none of them were defended in any depth. So despite the apparent clarity of the question, the answer doesn't actually get us very far.

By (very sensibly) declining to invoke Article 50 on the morning of the result, David Cameron has ensured that we now have a bit more time to thrash out what answer we are looking for. This really is something you would have expected the Leave campaign to be on top of but there we are.

There is, in fact, a perfectly good reason the Leave campaign ran on vagueness. The Leave vote was, effectively, won on the back of votes from people who feel left behind by globalisation and want much less immigration. The UKIP campaign deliberately sought these votes out. Many if not most of the Tory leavers, by contrast, stand for an open economy, open borders, and a sort of turbo-charged liberalism. Hey, me too but if this had been the tenor of the Leave campaign they'd have been lucky to get 15-20%. So what they did was hold their nose and pander to the anti-immigration ticket while presumably secretly planning to ignore it if they won. I don't think this shows Boris, Gove et al in a particularly good light.

What should we do? Fucked if I know, frankly. But the people have spoken, and now it's up to our politicians to try and parse their answer into an outcome that is as un-disastrous as possible. That's going to have pretty serious implications for all the main parties - without even considering the fact that at least two of them are going to be having leadership elections.