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Drug-Addled Tories.

There’s a Tory leadership contest going on. Some of the candidates have admitted drug use. Yes, even Andrea Leadsom, perhaps believing doing so makes her more normal and interesting. Michael Gove admitted to taking cocaine on a few occasions. Bon-Viveur Boris, on the other hand claims to have “once been offered” cocaine, “but sneezed”. He “Didn’t Inhale”. I don’t believe him. Do you? The exception is Mark Harper (me neither) who said “I don’t get invited to those sort of parties”. Is that really the man you want leading the country? How did we get on last time, with someone who doesn’t get invited to parties, and whose naughtiest memory is running through a field of wheat?

No. Leaders need to understand the country, and I think someone who’s managed to avoid all drugs into their late 40s simply doesn’t know enough about the country and the people in it, to lead it. Nevertheless, right on cue, the authoritarians who are really proud of resisting a temptation they regard as close to original sin, are lining up to suggest that Drug use, any drug use, renders someone unfit for public office.

Being a cabinet minister isn’t everyone’s idea of a successful life, but the fact that most of the candidates standing to lead the Conservative and Unionist party have admitted to prior drug use is a standing retort to the idea that a line of cocaine is the first step on a slippery slope to being a smack-addled self-arguer in an underpass.

I like to start with the facts. Let’s put Heroin aside for a moment and talk about the most widely-taken recreational drugs, Cannabis and Cocaine. Neither’s good for you, but unlike alcohol, or heroin (or indeed, water) there is no lethal dose for either. That is you cannot smoke yourself to death on Weed, nor can you kill yourself by attempting the Bolivian nose pole-vault. It’s true these substances are psychotropic and habit-forming. Both seem to interact with mental health problems, and both do long-term harm with constant use, but the consensus of the literature seems to be the coincidence of psychosis with drug use is mostly one of self-medication, not a causal relationship. People with mental health problems are strongly drawn to chemicals that make them feel much better, very quickly. The idea that “Skunk” is causing an epidemic of psychosis is not, however supported by the data.

I’ve never understood quite why a culture like the UK’s that so celebrates getting pissed, pretends to regard “drug” use as a unique moral evil. “But it’s the hypocrisy” you say? And it’s true, Boris banned boozing on the Bakerloo line, after penning a screed celebrating the joys of getting trollied; and Michael Gove took Cocaine, but subsequently presided over a department of Education edict banning anyone convicted of possession or supply from ever teaching.

Which is absurd. But as almost no-one gets done for possession for personal use, it really doesn’t matter. Legalising drugs just isn’t a priority for any politician because there’s no votes in it. Just risk.

While the arguments for legalising cannabis are finally starting to bear fruit, few are arguing for Heroin’ s legalisation. But even here, the same logic holds. Heroin only became a social problem after the misuse of Drugs act. Prior to that, most heroin addicts came by their addiction via the medical profession. In the nineteenth century, it was known as “the soldier’s disease” as it affected mainly those who’d picked up a habit in a field hospital. The real problem comes when poor users become dealers to fund their supply, creating a highly effective pyramid marketing scheme, and instead of medical grade diamorphine and clean, sterile equipment, you have a dirty spoon and mucky brown. Even heroin’s problems are largely down to an illegal supply chain.

There is simply no basis for the classification of Cannabis a class B substance and Cocaine as A; if the emetic, poisonous, violence facilitating disinhibitor, alcohol is legal. The policy is objectively mad.

I’m with Professor David Nutt, formerly Tony Blair’s Drugs Czar and professor of psycopharmacology at Imperial College London, who puts all these chemicals on a spectrum of harm, and puts our old friend alcohol just behind heroin. And he’s right. My guess is that a properly regulated legal recreational pharmacopia will see less booze and heroin use, more cocaine and cannabis. And as a result of this substitution, we will all be better off.

Drugs ruin lives. Sure. But they also enrich and enliven them. People take drugs, including alcohol, because we derive utility from their effects. We’re all different. It’s easy to imagine someone shy who might prefer cocaine to champagne at parties. It’s easy to imagine an intense and charismatic individual who’s less hard work when he’s toked on a nice fat spliff, and we all find conversation flows easier when we’ve had a few drinks, which is why we lubricate parties with alcohol. But if you’re taking your poison in the morning, whether it’s vodka on your cornflakes or a “bump” to get you going in the morning, then you’ve a problem.

As the world we live in gets more diverse, so too do the ways we all get our jollies. And everything that’s nice is probably bad for you. We’ve known this since Methuselah was a lad. It’s not the government’s job to control what people do with their bodies and their social lives. The vast majority of us can manage that ourselves. There are social and legal constraints on Alcohol. Lets have similar social and legal constraints on all the others too.

Legalise, regulate and tax narcotics. End the hypocrisy.

The Last Few Days Of May

79 years ago, almost to the day, through the last few days of May and into June, a British Expeditionary Force, what was left of it anyway, were trapped on the French coast at Dunkirk, facing bombardment, capture or death. It looked like the end of “our Island story” as Germans closed in on our trapped and defeated armies. Then the Panzers stopped. They’d outrun their supply-lines, so the Luftwaffe took over. But sand dunes are pretty good defence against aerial bombardment. Thanks to the miracle of Dunkirk, the Army, broken and without its kit, was saved. The Battle of France was over, the battle of Britain was about to begin.

Dunkirk is, of course Nigel Farage’s favourite film because he thinks it’s about plucky little Britain standing alone against all those grotty foreigners on the continent. But he misses details. In the opening sequence, the British soldier running through the suburbs of the town, encounters French forces. What were they doing? Fighting the heroic, forlorn and hopeless rearguard action which allowed the British (and a lot of others) to escape. Those french boys fought bravely so that our boys could get home. The film is about the most catastrophic defeat the British Army has experienced in its entire history. “The Miracle of Dunkirk” was a captivating lie. A brilliant piece of propaganda. But because the defeat of the Army, and of the country wasn’t total, we fought on. Although many brexiters are keen students of military history, they often learn the wrong lessons because they pay attention to the people doing the shouting and killing, and not to those doing the planning and logistics.

Those of us who don’t want to leave the EU fought on after the catastrophic, humiliating defeat of 2016. Which brings us to dogged, diligent, dull Theresa May. She has the heroism of Hugh Dowding, who refused to sacrifice any more planes to the defence of France. Which was controversial at the time but with hindsight, probably saved Britain. He too was shuffled off after his victory, in his case to the Ministry of Aircraft Production after the Battle of Britain, and was bitter about it for the rest of his life.

It’s hard to see what Theresa May can realistically achieve by sticking around. Her majority, like her authority is non-existent. Her legacy lies in tatters. But equally, it’s hard to see what replacing her with another Tory, especially one of the Faragist tendency, will achieve. The problems besetting the government will still be there for the next Prime Minister. There will not be a parliamentary majority for any way forward on Brexit, or indeed on anything else. The way to resolve this is through a general election. However thanks to the Fixed term parliament act (a big part of this current malaise, thanks Liberal Democrats…), that requires a vote of no confidence, and that requires that Labour vote for it. Which many of them won’t, not while they’re led by Jeremy Corbyn whom many Labour MPs regard as unfit for office.

There’s a chance this hopeless parliament drags on and on having the same old arguments about Brexit as the rest of the country, with the EU wearily extending and extending until 5th May 2022.

Theresa May will limp on for a while longer yet. But whatever Mrs May’s personal merits, she has run out of road to kick the can down and the Tory party is restless. For those of us who’ve thought that politics today couldn’t get any more farcical, the 1922 Committee has already voted on whether the rules should change to allow Conservative MPs another vote of confidence in their leader, but kept the votes sealed. Sad to say, but I think Gordon Brown Day, when Theresa May takes over from the “clunking fist” as the 35th longest serving prime minister, is the likely target for the Tory machine. Even if they can’t agree on the way forward, Tories can agree to let a powerless prime minister limp on up her own via Dolarosa, in order to spite a former Labour prime minister. By such trivialities are we now being governed.

Clearly someone will have to act as caretaker Prime Minister during the Tory leadership squabble. That could be Mrs May, or it could be someone like Philip Hammond, which would be great because I have him as Next Prime Minister at 50-1. I think Boris will struggle to get to the final two. He’s just not trusted enough by the parliamentary party so I think laying the favourite is a good bet. (Stop sniggering at the back). But if he did get the top job, defections would likely take his majority to below zero. So I think someone from the broad mass of the Tory party – someone who voted remain, but supported the Government loyally will be the final choice. Sajid Javid has long had my money on him, as has Rory Stewart, who also has the advantage of not actually running yet. Tory leadership elections are famously hard to predict.

So what of Mrs May on the eve of her departure from the stage?

I think history will be kinder to her than was the news. Much kinder. When she was selected as Tory leader, I thought she, compared to the alternatives, represented the best hope for liberalism. And she was. She held the line against the onslaught of populist forces. She tried to deliver a Brexit, consistent with the sour, bigoted and miserable mood of the campaign, but failed because of the inherent contradictions within any possible route to leaving the EU. I think Brexit is now nearly over. May was too decent, too reasonable and too diligent to take us out without a deal. Perhaps another Tory leader will waste another couple of years trying to smash an agreement through. Perhaps he or she will be denied a deal, and try to crash the UK out without a deal. But parliament, this one anyway, will not let them.

Mrs May defeat in trying to deliver a reasonable brexit was an honest one, and right now, at the moment of her defeat, she’s probably won. Diligent planning and international co-operation win wars, not bigoted rhetoric and beery farts. That is why we’re still in the EU. Mrs May’s plan was a plan to actually leave the EU and seek our fortune outside, and if we do leave her deal, or something very like it will be the result. But that’s not what Brexiters wanted. Not really. They wanted the war, but without any of the logistics and planning. They wanted revolution. Brexiters gave the order, but without the resources to carry it out. It is the remainers who correctly judged the lesson of Dunkirk. You haven’t lost until the enemy has won.

I can’t see how we actually can leave now. The momentum has gone. Brexiters have no plan and no ideas beyond shouting “democracy” at people who disagree, as if one close, flawed poll three years ago somehow outweighs the fact the Brexiters failed completely and the country can’t really be bothered any more. There simply isn’t the appetite for “Blood, sweat, toil and tears” necessary to leave the EU because, and I really get bored of pointing this out to Brexiters, the EU isn’t Nazi Germany.

A Second Referendum is the Front Runner in a Close Race

Whatever the Brexiters say, we aren’t leaving the EU on the 29th March. There will be an extension of Article 50. The question is whether this is a short technical delay to pass necessary legislation, or a longer one that takes us beyond the European Parliament elections on 23rd May.

You may have thought Theresa May’s deal is dead. I did. But a hand has just burst through the sod by the headstone, so it still needs a stake through the heart. Or maybe a cricket bat to the brain-stem, depending on whether you think the deal is a vampire, zombie, or a monster assembled from corpses. The Prime Minister may yet get the bloody thing passed, in which case, fair play to the old girl. I’ve long admired her resilience. There are a number of ways she might achieve what would be an astonishing feat of necromancy.

Theresa May’s plan ‘A’ relies on the European Research Group of 60-120 MPs, the core of the foaming-at-the-mouth hard brexit nut-baggery to vote for her deal, a deal they previously described as “vasselage”. They aren’t going to get a time-limit on the backstop, and the best they can hope for is some form of intent written into an appendix that the “backstop” isn’t meant to be permanent. A climb-down by them on such a feeble codicil will be utterly humiliating, and I suspect many will abstain rather than abase themselves. Many of this group will follow what the Democratic Unionist Party do. Even if these loonies do vote for it, May’s Majority is, following defections, just one. There will need to be Labour rebels to push the deal in its current or slightly amended form over the line, even if all the Tory brexiters fall into line. Are there enough Labour rebels to counteract the Tory ones? No-one knows, but possibly.

Labour’s wishlist of the softest-of-soft Brexits will not be seriously entertained, so they are effectively on their final fall back position: backing May’s deal, subject to a referendum: Deal, or Remain. Jeremy Corbyn is too busy burning synagogues and glad-handing terrorists to pay much attention to Brexit, but he’s finally been dragged kicking and screaming to back a “people’s vote”. Nevertheless, there is Theresa May’s plan ‘B’. There could very easily be a parliamentary majority for the deal subject to a second referendum. The Independent Group of MPs (TIGgers) will mostly vote for this option. Labour MPs would mostly vote for it, but there are a significant number who don’t want a referendum, who may abstain or vote against. The SNP want a second vote (and not just on Brexit…), as do Greens, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats (remember them?). Sinn Fein will abstain. Jared O’Mara will stop masturbating, pause his game of Fortnite and get his mum to drive him to S̶c̶h̶o̶o̶l̶ Parliament to vote for the referendum.

What the majority of Tory Party MPs will do I don’t know. Many will vote for the deal, subject to a people’s vote, and it’s even possible this Deal or No Brexit referendum becomes the Government position. Between squeaking over the line and offering the refererndum, this deal passing, somehow, is the most likely outcome.

The idea a second, legally binding referendum is “undemocratic” is just absurd, but that won’t stop the Brexiters grunting this nonsense ’till they’re blue in the face. It asks the people, who now know what a dreadful shit-show brexit is, whether they still want to go ahead with it. It looks like it’ll be 52:48 for remain, for the lolz. Many Brexiters will boycott the vote. I don’t think they really want to win any more.

The current score in EU referendums is 1:1 with ‘leave’ ahead on the away goals rule. I’m quite looking forward to the decider.

Here’s what I think the current probabilities are:

  • Leaving with May’s deal before the European elections: 30%
  • Referendum & leaving with May’s deal 25%
  • Referendum & remain 35%
  • No deal 10%

One way or another, Brexit in some form is the most likely outcome. And we’re more likely than not to have a referendum at this stage. Feel free to argue about these probabilities. What have I missed?

What are the Brexiters up to?

There are some British politicians who’re comfortable with the UK leaving the EU without a deal. This is an outcome that most people who know about international trade suggest would cause quite considerable disruption, but according to the UK government, we would have “sufficient calories” to survive. So that’s OK then. It’s not going to cause a famine. The international trade secretary, Dr. Liam Fox goes further suggesting a no deal Brexit would not be “Dunkirk”. So not as bad as the complete destruction of the British and allied French armies as a fighting force for the next two years. Again, I can’t wait. Brexit has an image problem. Even its cheerleaders are no longer talking about the “opportunities” leading to “sunlit uplands”, and everyone’s talking about the looming catastrophe with the resigned fatalism of a Londoner sitting in the tube during the Blitz.

May’s deal, painstakingly negotiated over the last 2 years delivers a UK out of the political structures of the EU eventually, but without a catastrophic break in the country’s trading relationships with its nearest and most important trading partners. Nor, crucially does it expect anyone, now or in the future, to have to man a customs post on the border in South Armagh.

May’s is not a perfect deal, and I imagine a politician with more charm, who didn’t put an end to “free movement” front and centre of her strategy could have got a better deal from Brussels. But I doubt even then, it would look all that much different. This is what brexit looks like, and it stinks as much as everyone who can spell said it would.

Now, were I minded to deliver Brexit, I would take what’s on offer, because outside the EU, parliament can subsequently move the UK into the EU structures where necessary; on Science or Security co-operation, at the same time cutting our sails differently on, for example trade. May’s deal does ultimately deliver the “freedom” the Brexiters crave from the diktats of the EU commission. We can, in time, deliver the regulatory divergence that is apparently so crucial (and yet, so vaguely so) to the Brexiters. And what has also become clear in the last few months is that the alternative to May’s careful compromise isn’t a glorious “clean break” Brexiters claim to want, but remaining in the EU.

Parliamentary brexiters, the people who’ve banged on about nothing else for 30 years, are tomorrow going to vote against the only chance they will ever have to leave the EU.

But I don’t think a reasonable Brexit is what the parliamentary Brexiters are, or ever were after. They wanted chaos, because it fits their self-image as revolutionaries. It’s like someone turning up at a war, expecting bayonet charges, but discovering what it mostly involves is weary trudging hither and thither with an enormous rucksack, while under constant artillery fire. More mud, more fear, more fatigue, much less (if any) glory. Brexiters in parliament never wanted to win, because then they would then have to deliver, a task from which they have habitually fled. But because no man is “Sir Robin” in his own story, they will construct a self-image of a glorious last charge. We are watching a film directed by Daniel Hannan’s ego starring Jacob Rees-Mogg, as the leader of a band of aging but doughty freedom fighters in their final campaign against the mighty forces of the evil EUSSR. The parliamentary Brexit cause is the last charge of stupid old gits who’ve watched Wild Geese too many times.

“Whatever happens”, they reason, “at least we tried”.

But they didn’t. Not really.

These old fools will try to sell you a ‘stab in the back‘ myth next. I’ve seen this film before too, and I don’t like the ending.

All Over Bar The Shouting?

Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked by parliament. Ironic that a European court can make the British Parliament sovereign again.

Here’s what I think will happen. May’s deal has about as much chance of passing as Elvis’s last dump. Five days of debate will not change the fact that over 100 Tory MPs, who’ve mostly thought about nothing other than leaving the EU for 30 years, have said they will vote against this “vassalage”. The DUP will likewise vote against, citing the ‘border in the Irish sea’ backstop. Labour, barring a few rebels,  will vote against. Labour will then seize the opportunity to call for a vote of confidence, which Theresa May will win, mainly because no-one wants her Job. There may or may not be an interim step of looking at the “Norway/Iceland” EEA solution, but this too will fall on the question of the Irish Border. May will then offer a second referendum. She is getting some early campaigning around the country now, rather than wasting time in Parliament. The Question: Her Deal or Remain. Brexiters will cry foul, and consider boycotting the poll to make the poll illegitimate. The videos of Both Nigel Farage and Jacob Reece-Mogg calling for a 2nd referendum will circulate. The poll will go ahead. Without Russian money, and enervated by 2 years of thinking they’d won, selling a deal they’d already rejected once will be tough. Brexiters’ only argument is “see it through” and shouting “Britain” or “Democracy” at people very loudly.

On the other side, Brexit created a strong, energetic and highly motivated pro EU movement in the UK, something that was utterly absent last time. This time, the remain camp will have more-or-less anyone with any talent in the UK, who will this time be prepared to put their heads above the parapet. Leave will, at best, have Geoffrey Boycott, Ginger Spice, and a daytime TV estate agent standing alongside Nigel Farage. The rest of UKIP will be goose-stepping around Kent with Tommy Robinson, shouting RAUS! at immigrants, which isn’t a good look.

Remain will win at a canter. (And I said that last time, I know). And if it doesn’t, then ‘the deal’ or better yet, the EEA will be fine, because the Brexiters get nothing out of it. ‘The deal’ is Brexit in Name Only (BRINO). Nothing will change. We will rejoin the club after a decent interval, as no influence over laws we’ll have to accept will be intolerable. The Brexiters have already lost.

Brexiters failed to persuade anyone who didn’t already hate the EU, that leaving presented worthwhile opportunities to be grasped. They failed to articulate a vision of what leaving the EU would achieve, and their promises of “control” to be “taken back” were absolutely rubbished by reality. Every single Brexiter, when tasked with delivering their project, about which they that had dreamed for 30 years, ended up resigning in a huff. The German car industry did not ride to the rescue. The Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, friendly and decent that they are, were not falling over themselves to do a “trade deal” with their former colonial power, seeing greater opportunities to be close to the EU’s much bigger market. Indeed some of these took issue with our schedule of tariffs and commitments on the UK regaining its seat at the WTO!

Brexiters failed to understand Britain’s place in the world was not intrinsic to itself; our power and influence lay in being at the centre of Western, liberal, democratic and free countries, and occupying leadership positions in the UN Security Council, the G7, NATO, 5-eyes and the EU. We are the glue that binds the USA and the 5-eyes to Europe, and the hinge on which the Western Alliance turns. There is no value to the expensive “independence” snake oil that the leave campaign was selling.

We weren’t “alone” in 1940, there’s no need to be alone now.

International trade deals, of which the EU is a deep, comprehensive and unusually democratic example, always involves a “surrender of sovereignty”, but I prefer to think of it as a pooled sovereignty in return for British influence. Brexiters failed to understand the reality of trade: that geography matters and the UK needs a close relationship with the EU. Brexiters failed to see that the UK accepting the EU’s rules was inevitable, their weight sees to that, and yet denied the UK had any influence at all while we in the EU, ignoring the opt-outs, and the policies driven through by the UK. The single market, for example is a creation of Margaret Thatcher. One brief look at the US rule book (the other option on the table should we leave, Chlorinated chicken etc…), and the Brexiters quietly shut up about that particular “opportunity” soon after the election of Trump. We can write “our own rules”? No. We can’t, not if we want to trade successfully. The UK is not really big enough.

The Brexiters saw the EU as an Empire. It isn’t. It’s something different. Where NATO won the cold war, it was the EU which won the peace, successfully integrating the former soviet satellites into a liberal, western looking, democratic and peaceful free trade block.  They are not going back.  The EU doesn’t “need us more than we need them”. The EU, rather than fighting to keep a wayward province in line, shrugged and said “here are your options, pick one, and good luck”, and trusted in their rules and respect for other countries’ sovereignty. That will be noted by formerly subject peoples, both in the EU, and to the east.

The British parliament remained sovereign throughout our membership of the European Union; We can leave, any time Parliament decides. It’s just none of the options for leaving are any good, and all of them costly, exactly as predicted by the Remain campaign. We are surrendering influence over rules that will affect us. There are no benefits to leaving, no opportunities. There’s not even extra sovereignty out there.

Ultimately the Brexiters misunderstood the country, the European Union, and the world.

Brexiters failed to understand “democracy” too. Winning the vote was the start, not the end of the process, but few if any Brexiters had given a moment’s thought to what happens on the 24th June 2016. Referendums are blunt tools. A decision can either be irreversible or democratic; it cannot be both. Democracy is a process, and not an event. A referendum is most emphatically not an enabling law for twats. Ultimately, even if individuals haven’t, the electorate has indeed changed its mind since 2016. Two cohorts of younger, pro-EU voters coming in, and a couple of years of older leave voters dying will see to that. In failing to compromise at all with the EU, or remain Britain, Brexiters may well have sealed their movement’s fate. By failing to offer the reasonable options, Norway, Iceland, on which they had campaigned, preferring to go for the hardest, most headbanging Brexit they could conceive, they have betrayed their infantile dream of leaving the EU.

Once, this was the world’s most dangerous border

The Iron Curtain is now a cycle path. Tell me the world hasn’t got better thanks to the EU. What can the Brexiters credibly promise this time?

Brexit: What Next?

With at least 100 Tory rebels, the DUP, the SNP, collected others and most of Labour planning to reject ‘The Deal‘, it’s hard to see it getting through parliament on the 10th December.

What happens then?

Anyone who might know is keeping their options open. Bim Afolami, My local MP, held a town hall meeting last night to explain why he’s voting for it. Basically, he’s in favour of discharging the instruction of the people from the referendum, reinforced by manifesto commitments voted for in the last General Election by 87% of the vote, with as little damage to the UK and its economy as possible. This is a reasonable line to take, and I was impressed with his delivery. “The options are” he said “the deal, or no deal”. Put like that it’s hard to argue. If the deal passes, I will be satisfied Brexit can be delivered at acceptable cost. However, he’s wrong about the options. “No deal” is opposed by most of the Tory party, an overwhelming majority of the Labour party and most of the other opposition groups, it’s not realistically on the table, unless Parliament agrees nothing else, and behaves recklessly. Remaining in the EU, on the other hand, is back on the table, though few have admitted it publicly yet.

Brexiters make much of the need to strike “Free trade deals”, but these are worthless next to the single market. Why? The EU/EEA single market is the largest economy on earth, and it’s also the nearest to us, and we share our only land borders with it. To imagine that a deal, even with all of the USA, China, India, Australia and New Zealand could match the benefits of the single market is just delusional, as the Treasury and Bank of England made clear. Equally clear is the extent to which Brexiters deny that there are any costs at all to leaving. Any discussion at all of the myriad downsides is dismissed as “project fear”. The level of analysis, from the parliamentary European Research Group, to the local pub bore is the same: Brexiters have persuaded themselves, despite every expert on international trade, and more or less everyone who can spell in the UK telling them otherwise, there are no costs and vast opportunities on leaving the EU. Their only reasoning boils down hate of the EU, appeals to patriotism, confirmation-seeking and total dismissal of the entire subject of economics. No? Patrick Minford, the only “economist for brexit” assumes, for example, distance doesn’t matter in trade. One side of the debate is simply not amenable to reason.

Brexiters petty spite and cruelty is obvious to anyone who looks. Half a dozen people in the meeting spoke up about real, practical costs of Brexit – EU citizens who lose reciprocal rights, farmers who lose vital markets, businesses who will face higher costs throughout their supply chains, students who have lost opportunities for life-enriching travel and study. Lives are being disrupted and attenuated, and the old man sitting next to me simply shrugged. He actually laughed at the disabled woman and the Asian man who mentioned the climate of increased hate crime. The hurt they are causing is the point. By hurting those whom the brexiters blame for their deep personal inadequacy, immigrants, foreigners, people who paid attention in school, they feel better about themselves. That is where brexit is coming from. It’s a mood, not a policy.

‘No deal’ is overwhelmingly supported by people whose pensions will not be affected by the decision, but will be paid for by people whose incomes will be, for life.

So what is likely to happen when the deal is rejected by parliament? Afolami said he was working with Nick Boles on the EFTA/EEA plan as the next option, and I suspect that is what the Government will try to offer next. This will require an extension of Article 50 to draft an agreement. The problem is, I can’t see many problems solved by EEA/EFTA that isn’t solved by “the deal”, and I suspect it will fail for exactly the same reasons he laid out in his opening remarks about May’s deal: it’s neither fart nor shit, satisfying neither the atavistic hate of the people who wish to leave, nor the fears of most of the people who wish to remain in the EU. Indeed thanks to the Irish border, the EEA option would include the Customs union, leaving the UK closer to the EU than Norway. The only thing we’d have done is removed ourselves from the decision-making body, to literally no benefit to anyone except the French. And we’d still have Brexiters whining about being in the EEA, for life. Nevertheless, this option, rubbish though it is, is the Brexit that is most acceptable to me.

Predictably, the People’s vote people were there in force. And like lefties at every public meeting, at any point in history, their sanctimony and verbosity didn’t help their case. Nevertheless, this is, of the likely scenarios, my preferred outcome, as there is some hope of reversing the initial referendum result. (But what question do you ask… and what if ‘leave’ wins again?) But what I really want is parliament, the overwhelming majority of whose members back remaining in the EU, to observe there is no way to leave the EU that doesn’t catastrophically wreck hundreds of thousands of lives and careers, and no way to minimise the disruption in a way that satisfies the inchoate loathing of the EU. You can vote yourself a unicorn that shits gumdrops, it doesn’t mean the Government can deliver.

Nigel Farage trying to get a refund on the Norwegian Blue Option

The referendum was advisory, the country is bitterly divided whether or not we leave or remain. Worse, it appears likely the leave campaign conspired with a hostile foreign power, breaking British electoral law by pumping dank memes and dark money, using stolen data, to win their wafer-thin mandate, and they did so with a grotesque smirk on its face. So why is the “mandate” taken so seriously? So let’s be divided, nothing but the relentless march of time can change that, but be a bit richer and remain in the EU. Eventually the mood will pass. And I expect, if the outcome is ‘no brexit’ the vast majority of Brexiters will sink into a sullen silence rather than kick off. Many I suspect will breathe a sigh of relief, in private, that they no longer have to own this feeble shit-show. They may protest, but they will be shouted down, derided, ignored and ridiculed, much like the Tory party was after 1997, and deservedly so. The Tory party will split, of course, as it should have done when “the Bastards”, Lilley, Portillo, Redwood and Howard, crippled John Major’s administration, and undermined every leader since. However, purged of the Brexiters, the Tory party will find itself electable again much quicker without the baggage of failure (does anyone seriously expect Brexit to stink of anything else?). Fear of blood on the streets, openly expressed by Brexiters, yet dismissed when raised by remainers,  is no reason to do as the quitlings demand. What did Thatcher do when confronted by people who believed political power lay at the point of production, or in the barrel of an armalite? We have defeated nativist hate and threats of violence before in the 1930s and 1980s. Brexiters are utterly unappeasable, and want nothing that can be delivered at reasonable cost. So meet them head on.

As Afolami pointed out, Parliament is sovereign, we live in a representative democracy, an MP is a representative charged with doing what is best for the country, not a delegate charged with delivering on constituents’ moods. It’s leadership the people need. Simply reject Brexit. It’s a stupid policy, utterly without upside, and vast potential costs. Parliament, and the people who kill this insanity, will be thanked, in time.

Cleverly isn’t clever. “No Deal” isn’t an Option.

Braintree’s local Conservative association appears in the dictionary of nominative determinism under “counterexample”. Their last MP was Brooks “underpants” Newmark, and their current one is James Cleverly. Maybe they thought they could live up to their Brainy name by choosing a candidate with ‘Clever’ in his…

Alas….

Brexit negotiations aren’t like buying a house, where the status quo is ‘everyone stays in their current house and keeps looking for another house’, it’s more like divorce where the ‘no deal scenario’ is arriving home to find your key not working, your clothes in a pile in the yard; your former partner getting the kids, the house and the record collection. And you’re paying maintenance. And none of your joint friends will speak to you again, so you have to go have dinner with that guy from the pub who for some reason isn’t allowed near the school.

But they seem to believe this ‘no-deal’ sophistry, the brexiters. It’s fallacious on so many levels. And it says more about the Brexiters than about Brexit.

WTO rules aren’t a default trading arrangement. They’re what exists between countries who trade only infrequently. There are some 759 treaties governing trade that will need to be rewritten. “Easy” say the Brexiters “Just carry on as before”. Would were it that simple: most of these involve the European Court of Justice as arbiter…. I assume that will be ok?

“Well never mind” say the Brexiters, “we’ll just declare unilateral free trade”. Apart from being a childish fantasy like most simplistic utopian wibble, it isn’t remotely going to happen. The mood of Brexit, far from being in an open and buccaneering spirit, is rather sour and protectionist; more Mary Whitehouse than Sir Francis Drake. Do you think popular pressure will be to raise or lower tariffs on foreign goods? The free trade for brexit argument is what happens when you look for evidence as a drunk looks for a lamp-post. More for support than illumination.

The welfare benefits of the unilateral free trade option exist in theory, but not in fact. Much like Patrick Minford‘s credibility.

Ultimately, Cleverly’s tweet is evidence of the Brexiters’ habit of policy-based evidence-making. There is no trade advantage to “our own trade deals” except that it’s something we’ll have to do when we’ve left the EU. When you spend your life really believing the EU is a plot to subvert the UK and blame Brussels for the British weather, then the ends justify the means. “Our own trade deals” sounds like sense to people in the pub who don’t know very much, much like “take back control”. Of what? Because the most likely scenario is we’ve lost influence over rules we’ll have to abide by anyway. What about “Freedom”? For whom, to do what? Because I can think of dozens of real freedoms I’m losing. Of course even Immigration was press-ganged into service of Brexit – the immigrants the bigots really care about don’t come from the EU, do they?

One wonders who or what Brexiters will blame when they no longer have the Brussels boogeyman. “Remoaners” probably. It’s all rather pathetic. Brexit: Still a catastrophe. Still waiting for any positives at all to come from it.

Why the Blue Passport Matters.

People have spent the day on Twitter saying “why does the colour of a passport matter”? While the Daily Express is cheering the return of the Blue Passport to the rafters. For most people capable of abstract thought, this is a mystifying detail, the importance of which to their opponents is utterly baffling. Of course, I am a remain “ultra”. But I did swim in the same intellectual Milieu as the Brexity-Trumpkins for decades and know many serious Brexiters personally. Having spend decades rationalising the EU-obsessed madness of the Tory right as a harmless eccentricity that they don’t really mean, I do have, with hindsight, some understanding what these creatures think.

Why does the passport matter?

For the Tory Brexiter, the underlying issue is Sovereignty. They object violently, strenuously and on principle to ANYTHING that comes “above” the Crown in Parliament. The jurisdiction of the ECJ is for them, an insult to the courts and other institutions of the UK. The idea is offensive that any law-making organisation, especially one that Jacques Delors told the trades unions is basically for stopping the Tories Torying, could be “supreme” over parliament.

Of course the ECJ mainly deals in trade disputes and represents an international court to settle international issues and ensure consistent interpretation of EU law. It isn’t “making the law of the land” and nor is it a “supreme” court in a meaningful way as far as the average citizen is concerned because it doesn’t deal with those issues. If you’re up in front of the Magistrate for punching a rotter, you’re not going to be able to appeal all the way to the ECJ. Criminal law stops with the nation. Appeals of bad people going up to the European court of Human Rights on seemingly spurious grounds get funnelled into this narrative (shhh, I know), so the impression is obtained that “Crazy Euro-Judges” are “over-ruling parliament”, and demanding prisoners can vote or should be allowed hacksaws to avoid trampling on “Human Rights” or whatever the tabloid outrage du jour may be. This then reinforces the narrative that the EU is “anti-democratic” and “makes all our laws”. And once you have this narrative, flawed as it is, it’s jolly easy to amass an awful lot of corroborating “evidence” because the Tabloids spent 30 years deliberately feeding it.

Sovereignty vs Influence; there is a trade-off. The UK, broadly, wrote the Financial services legislation for the entire continent. In return, the Continent got access to the only truly global city in Europe. The French did this for farming and got the CAP, while the Germans got the Eurozone’s interest rates and got to destroy Southern Europe. The EU which contains (rather like the UK and trade negotiators) no-one who CAN write decent financial services legislation legislation, because most of those people are British. Thanks to Brexit, the quality of the legislation on financial services will go down, both in the UK which will be compelled to have regulatory equivalence to keep banks’ access to the single market and the EU. The UK will have become a rule-taker rather than a rule maker. I fail to see how this reclaims “Sovereignty”. The organisational source of the legislation will remain unchanged, but we loose any ability to influence, let alone write it. Multiply this catastrophe across an economy and you see why the “sovereignty” argument against EU law is, on any rational basis, stupid.

The parliament, the very existence of which takes on the aspect of a supranational government in waiting, rather than a simple means to have democratic oversight of an organisation which employs fewer people than Manchester city council, distributes about 1% of GDP and writes trade law. This unwarranted grandiosity once again suits both the Brussels apparatchiks, and the simian oiks of UKIP whom the British public sent to Brussels as a mark of the National contempt for the institution. The parliament is, to my mind is a risible little potempkin affair, barely worth considering,

So there’s the error. Back to the passport.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation sets the dimensions, so the writing was on the wall for the old British hardback passport, fabulous though it was, it didn’t really fit in the back pocket of your trousers.  However once you believe that the EU tentacles are slowly creeping into institutions to turn you into a province of the “EUSSR”, then you start to see this everywhere. The EU is foolish to seek the trappings of a national Government before they had built a demos, and absent any desire for it from the people. Symbols matter. The UK doesn’t have an ID card. So when Brits talk about nationality they might say “Australian passport-holder” rather than “Australian citizen”. I am not sure if any other nationalities use this formulation. The passport is slightly more than a document. No? Try losing one abroad.

The EU resolution on Passports is here. For anyone who thinks the EU “made” the UK have a Maroon passport, here’s EU Croatia’s. .

The EU suggested the Colour be harmonised and the words “European Union” be put First. At the top. Above the crown, First. Symbolising, perhaps inadvertently that the EU was more important than the nations. And there you have it. And no-one working on it thought to object. Changing the colour of the passport was a key symbolic gesture that irritated many people, and reinforced an utterly false narrative, to no end or benefit to anyone. There is simply no need for European Union passports to be uniformly coloured. It merely satisfies the bureaucrats’ desire for order. And it is my belief that it is this symbolic bureaucratic exercise in territory marking by the EU that revealed, and still reveals, a fundamental disconnect between the Brussels Panjandrums, the people of the EU and the British in particular. The Eurocrats want a Federal Europe with the EU as a Government. The Nations, broadly supported by their governments don’t, and have resisted any attempt.

The EU hasn’t made Britain less “sovereign”. All EU law, necessary to trade with as little friction as possible, is of the type that by whom it is written doesn’t matter. With trading standards does it really matter WHAT they are, just that they’re as universal and consistently applied? I don’t need to tell you that it was never illegal to display prices of potatoes in Lbs and Oz, just that you HAD to display the price in KG and g too, in case any Frenchmen walking through the market didn’t know how many Lbs are in a KG. I don’t care who writes the regulations for the import of Duck eggs, just that it’s done.

But there it is. The Brexiters shooting with the accuracy of a semi-trained recruit who’s just dropped LSD at every figment of their fevered imagination, egged on by equally deluded fantasists who still think they’re creating a Federal United States of Europe. These two groups of lunatics needed each other. And so, the passport, with ‘European Union’ at the top was barely noticed on the continent, but seemed to some Brits as evidence the EU was after their democracy, their identity and their Freedom. However stupid this belief is, a Blue passport could’ve been delivered cheaply as a quick Tabloid-Friendly win for Cameron and such was the narrow margin, it would have probably been enough.

On Class, Culture and the New Politics

The two tribes of politics, broadly the Tory and Labour parties divided over the 20th Century principally on the matter of economics. Simplifying: Tories preferred market solutions to state planning, and preferred lower taxes and less generous state spending.
The Labour party, which when it abandoned clause IV, surrendered on the economic question, not coincidentally a few years after the Berlin wall came down.
As a result, the great battles since then have been essentially cultural. Gay rights, racial integration etc. The confusion stems from there being no consensus within the Tory or Labour tribes on these issues. Plenty of Tories are happily socially liberal, many of the Labour tribe are socially conservative, especially when you look at voters rather than representatives.
Which brings us to the tribal division of Britain: class. The middle class: liberal, internationalist, universalists; vs a working class: authoritarian, insular and particular world view. The former is comfortable with diversity and immigration. The latter isn’t. The former’s kids live a long way from home, and move for work, the latters kids live in the same town and expect the work to come to them. The former don’t speak to their neighbours, the latter care what their neighbours do and think. These labels are correlated roughly with, but independent of, economic status. It’s possible to be middle class, in a local-authority home living on benefits, and working class, earning seven figures and living in a manor house. (Though it’s likely these people’s kids will change tribes)
There are elements of these cultures in all major parties in the UK, but the rest of us rarely communicate with people from the other tribe. The people you have round for dinner will most probably be from your tribe. Half the country holds its knife like a pen, yet none have sat round my table. When the two tribes meet, it’s awkward. Those difficult bottom-sniffing conversations seeking common ground are easy to conclude when two members of the same tribe meet, and difficult when you meet the other half.
There have always been working class Tories, because much of the working class is as comfortable with the certainties of heirarchy as a shire Tory, and doesn’t much care for this freedom and opportunity nonsense, preferring a better boss instead. And it’s interesting to watch the Tories dangle the protectionism and insularity the working class has long demanded. Middle class labour fabians and the working class methodists have always sat uncomfortably together. Brexit has shattered that coalition, the labour party has been handed to the idiot socialists and will die, unless somehow moderates can oust corbyn before 2020.
Which brings us to the Tory coalition. The high-Tory have promised the old certainties back to the white working class. Meanwhile, middle-class liberals who make up most of the parliamentary party are distinctly uncomfortable with much of what is being done in Brexit’s name, but will stick with the Tories, because they offer the promise of power, and however dreadful Brexit is, Jeremy Corbyn is worse. A new coalition is being forged between the Tory squirearchy, and the Working class based on nationalism, social conservatism and heirarchy, directly taking Labour’s core vote. This is why UKIP, a working class movement that thinks it *is* the conservative party, apes the style of a country gent. The working class have always got on well with the Gentry, sharing sociailly conservative values. Both despise the middle class.
Brexit split the country down a line more on class values, split the country and handed it to the socially authoritarian party. Whether this is the new politics, with the Tories moving from being the middle-class party to the working class party, as the Republicans did after the war in the USA, or whether the middle-class will wrest back control over both parties in time waits to be seen.
I suspect unless May softens her tone, and thows some bones to the liberals, her coalition will only survive until there’s a credible opposition. A more appropriate division of politics would be a ConservaKIP’ish alliance of WWC and high-tory squires, vs LibLabCon middle-class liberals. Therea May seems to be actively seeking it.
Over the Channel, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen exemplify this split. The candidates of the parties of left, Socialists; and right, RPR are likely to be eliminated in the first round. Macron is likely to win comfortably. His movement ‘En Marche!’ was only formed a year ago. There’s a lesson for British liberals there.

Tories have profoundly damaged the UK. You Should Join the Tories.

2016 happened because decent people don’t join political parties, leaving the business of Government to socially inadequate, physically repellent gits with an axe to grind*. In normal circumstances, this makes politics easier for genuinely impressive people to progress through the flotsam of monomaniacs. To be a Grown-up in the Tory Party 1997-2010 was to be able to consider an issue beyond the EU. For Labour it’s all about not dreaming of Strike Action by “the workers”. Thus the Liberal Centre consolidated a hold on the country, but became complacent to the poison seeping into parties even as the Smug centrist consensus made everyone fat and rich.
There has been a steady, and persistent hollowing out of the political parties. Labour used to be allied to a Trades Union movement that delivered services – health insurance, education and so forth to its members. The Trades Unions of Pre-War Britain where an overwhelming force for good. Atlee’s welfare state nationalised all the good the Trades Unions used to do, and so corrupted both the principle of welfare (now far, far from Beveridge’s original vision of low, universal payments like Child benefit, topped up with contributory elements) and the Trades unions which became a mere tub-thumper for more state spending. This left the Labour party with the sole purpose of defending a welfare settlement that is not under threat, and a Trades Union movement whose purpose had been nationalised so simply became resistant to all and any reform which might make the system as is function better; unions a mere vested interest of public-sector workers. This isn’t a place where people capable of holding more than one idea at a time feel comfortable, and so the Labour party was colonised by people who think not shaving is a political act.
This malodorous and poorly groomed cancer has destroyed the Labour party. It’s over, there’s no point being in Labour unless you’re a Identity politics obsessed Corbynite who laments the end of the Soviet Union. 
Labour, 2010-Present
The Tories at least had the sense to try to vomit the most toxic of their nutters into a bucket marked UKIP, a bucket the dog is unfortunately returning to. The Conservative party my Grandfather joined (from CPGB, as it happens, Labour even back then were cliquey dick-heads) used to be a forum for the upper middle class (and anyone who aspired to join them) to meet, mate and do business. But the horrible young Tories of the ’80s, and the Euro-nutters of the ’90s meant that by 1997, the Tories were only really suitable for people who were prepared to discuss “Europe” endlessly in ever-more foaming tones, persuading themselves that the EU is a historic enemy like Napoleon, the Kaisar, Hitler or the USSR. To their credit, the Tory Leadership has long known what to do. All David Cameron ever asked of his party was to “stop banging on about Europe”. They couldn’t stop picking at the scab, and the result is a catastrophe that has already crashed the Pound, weakened the UK (perhaps fatally) and may yet cause a political crisis in Europe and embolden Putin to start rebuilding the USSR.
Tories, 1997-2010
The more say over policy and leadership given to the membership, the more the membership has dwindled (unless, like Labour, the membership criteria are designed to invite entryism for the purposes of choosing a leader – by people who’ve been quietly loyal to the Bennite project for decades). Giving members a say in who leads the party is absurd. Who the prime minister is, should be a matter for MPs, and MPs alone. It is they who must give the Prime Minister a majority and internal party democracy risks, well, exactly what has happened to Labour. 
However, that Rubicon has been crossed. Party members now expect a vote on the Leader. The question is what to do about this, and the answer is to choose to be a member of a party at all times, hold your nose if necessary. Do NOT identify with the party, but consider which is best placed to advance your objectives. At the moment, the foul bigots, monomaniacs and morons of UKIP are being re-absorbed from a position where they can do little harm beyond foaming at the mouth and masturbating to Daily Express editorials, to one where they can choose the next prime minister, and Mrs May isn’t a healthy specimen. The ex-‘KIPpers chance may come to choose their PM sooner than expected.
I’m often asked “How come you’re still a Tory?”  
Were the Liberal Democrats stronger, I’d be considering them, but I don’t trust them on electoral reform (about which they’re as silly as Tories are about Europe). But as the Lib-Dems are so far from power, I don’t see the tactical benefit of leaving the Tories in a huff, and I broadly agree with the Tories on everything except Brexit. What I’m worried about is the ‘KIPpers who’re returning to the fold. Unless you want a foul, divisive and ignorant Brexit headbanger to replace May in 2023 or so (Gove for example), Join the Tories, because thanks to Labour’s meltdown, Tories and Tories alone will choose the next PM. All not joining a party does is strengthen those (*we) weirdos who still do. Labour moderates, disgusted by Corbyn should cross the floor to the Tories or Liberal democrats, instead of flouncing off to the V&A and opening the way for UKIPish Brexit-o-twats to fight and win a by-elections under Tory colours. Were Tristram hunt now a Tory, not only we could soften this brexit idiocy but also signal just how broad a church the Tories are. 40% of Tory members voted Remain. The tribe that needs to understand the value of a bit of entryism is the liberal centre, who need to abandon any loyalty to their Parties and go to where the power is. The Liberal Centre is complacent because they have for so long occupied the ground sought by all parties, they’ve not really had to compromise. 
At the moment the business of Government is, and will be for the foreseeable future, a Tory-only affair. That need not look like Nigel Farage, but it will, if Remainers abandon the Tories entirely.