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Internal Party Democracy is Undemocratic.

The Labour left have had a peculiar mental tic since at least the days of Tony Benn (Man of the people and 2nd Viscount Stansgate, 1925-2014). They do not see Members of Parliament as representatives, who use their own judgement when legislating. They see the MP as a delegate of a party, to be selected or deselected according to the whims of the local party and beholden to vote according to their instructions. The problem is that the electorate, people who mostly pay little attention to politics, only get a say once every four years or so, and they aren’t keeping an eye on the local party’s committees. And the hard left LOVE committees. They’re worse than golfers. Other bits of the Labour party mostly can’t be bothered to attend, and so the hard left are able to pack committees, and then attempt to deselect MPs who disagree with them. This is justified by “democratic votes” of party members, which are far easier to gerrymander than an election. This means, in safe seats, the Party committees become more important than the electorate in deciding who’s in Parliament. (Proportional representation is little better – who controls where people are on the Party Lists…?)

A painting of an evil old man.

Neil Kinnock’s triumph was seeing off this threat, then called ‘Militant’. Tony Blair was alive to this, and resisted change to Labour’s rules, as was Brown. But Ed Miliband, soft and useless that he was, was either a Bennite himself, or was naive when he changed the leadership voting rules, removing time rules for new members, and allowing people to join and immediately vote for £2. All these things sound nice and kind and “democratic”, widening the mandate, and letting anyone vote. And no doubt, Miliband was swayed by siren voices from the hard left mouthing just this sort of guff. What harm could ‘more democracy’ do? However, ordinary people didn’t get excited about Andy Burnham or Liz Kendall. The hard left and not a few ‘Tories for Corbyn’, on the other hand, flooded into the Labour party at the first opportunity to vote for whichever obstinate madman of the ‘Campaign group‘ whose turn it was to stand. Corbyn, whose turn it was to “widen the debate” this time, won the election on the backs of this wave of new members, and almost immediately the calls for deselection of “red Tories” (ie anyone who wasn’t on the extreme left) began.

The Tories are not immune, UKIP is haemorrhaging members, some of whom are joining the Tory party with similar aims Labour’s hard left – to pack the party and select their leader, Mogg or Johnson, to deliver the “real brexit” they crave. The difference is the Tory right and UKIP have obsessed about EU, not the internal mechanisms of the Tory party, and frankly, they’re mostly a bit dim and lazy. Also, the Tories rules preclude an equivalent outcome, for now. Labour’s extremists have been thinking about “the Bennite project” for longer than the Tory nutters have been thinking about Europe. The hard left knows exactly what it is doing. The Brexiters don’t.

By packing committees in local labour parties, they aim to control their MPs. The party, not the MP’s consience, then becomes the sole arbiter, and the only route to power is through the party’s structures. Independent-minded MPs are not wanted. The party becomes the key to everything. Once, having thoroughly infected the party, they wait. Eventually the wheels of democracy turn, and the Tories lose power. The left will then have 5 years to do what they want, with pliant MPs doing their bidding. Democracy, the voices of people who didn’t vote for the party in power, or dissenting voices within it, are silenced.

There is a model for this. Comrade Stalin wasn’t Premier of the Soviet Union, Lenin’s old job, until 1941. He was General Secretary of the Communist party. He understood that if you controlled the party machine, you controlled the state. Thus when Lenin died in 1924, he was replaced by Alexi Rykov (me neither), but it was Stalin who held all the power. Obviously this is a simplification of an enormously long and complicated process. And equally obviously, the British constitution retains a multi-party democracy, so there’s a limit to how much damage a party thus packed can do, because if they do enough damage, the other lot will get in. But with both main parties engaged in a battle for their souls with nutty extremists within, there is a risk. Imagine if Blair or Thatcher with their landslides, had seen fit to attempt control of their parties in this way.

This is how democracy ends. With the spurious legitimacy conferred by a Potemkin election of Party members.

Brexit is based on a mood, not a policy. From this emptiness flows the chaos.

If you’re not following it closely, it’s easy to ask, as an American correspondent did recently, “why doesn’t the United Kingdom just leave the European Union, and get on with it?”. Well, it’s more complicated than that. The referendum vote mandated the government to get out of the EU. I don’t think the people who voted for it voted for a complete disruption of the European trading system and in doing so, make themselves much poorer. “But that’s just project fear, isn’t it?” Well, yes and no. At the time of writing, 25 months after the vote, and 16 months after the UK invoked article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, to set a 2-year withdrawal clock ticking, the British Government has finally worked out its opening negotiating position to put to the EU. The “Chequers agreement” as it is known wasn’t “the deal”, it was a deal between members of the UK government on their opening negotiating position, and which almost everyone thinks unworkable, not least the two senior Brexiters who resigned from the Government over it. Why has getting to this stage taken so long? Let’s face it, Brexit is not a policy, it’s a fantasy. It’s a mood, not something we need to do, it’s an attitude. Most people who voted for it, did so because they believed slogans deliberately constructed to allow people to project their own fantasies and frustrations onto the project to leave the European Union. From these slogans, no actual policies fall. From this emptiness, flows the chaos that is currently engulfing British politics.

 

“Take back control”? by whom, of what? Still not clear.

“Freedom”? For whom, to do what? Still not clear.

“Sovereignty”? Over what? This is meaningless when it’s at the expense of influence over trade rules we’ll end up obeying anyway.   The Jurisdiction of the European court of Justice mainly covers competition law, state aid to companies, agriculture and trade marks which is hardly something a bloke in a pub would normally care about. It is not supreme in the way the UK’s supreme court is. It is confused in the public mind with the European court of Human Rights, which isn’t an EU institution, but is what prevents the UK being beastly to terrorists, much to the chagrin of the British tabloids. We are not leaving the Council of Europe, and so the UK will remain bound by the European court of Human Rights. All the UK has done, by leaving the EU is storm out of the room in which the decisions are being made.

“Democracy”? It’s hard to see how being a member of a club of democracies, which itself is overseen by a parliament is anti-democratic. It’s true, I won’t miss voting in the European parliament elections, because I’ve always seen it as a risible little potempkin talking shop, but the idea “democracy” was improved by voting Leave, is risible. Just as no parliament can bind its successors, no electorate can either. If you think holding a second referendum on the deal “an attempt to overturn democracy”, then you don’t understand democracy, which isn’t “one man, one vote, once.” Indeed the referendum has poisoned British democracy by introducing a set of mutually exclusive demands, that cannot be met at reasonable cost for which millions will think they have voted.

“Our own trade deals”? Again, it’s hard to see any benefit of leaving the most comprehensive trade deal on earth, with the earth’s largest market, which is also the nearest to the UK, plus deals with dozens of other countries farther afield, in order to secure a trade deal with Australia. At best this is wishful thinking, but most of it is just Imperial nostalgia. The choice the UK faces between”Europe and the Deep Blue Sea” is, with respect to Churchill, a false dichotomy. Far from being “shackled to a corpse”, the EU facilitated trade with China and the Pacific rim and made the UK an attractive place to do business, a Gateway to Europe for the world. Imagining the EU is in some way “holding us back” because mature, stable economies are growing slower than vast, poor ones, is another category error.

Immigration? The largest body of immigrants to the UK come from the Indian subcontinent, none of whose countries is a member of the EU. There is no “deal” with the EU that would stop an EU citizen coming to the UK, and let’s face it, it’s not the Polish plumbers who bother the anti-immigrant crowd, is it?

All of this, I have been arguing for years. Because the arguments for Brexit are based in moods, not facts, they raise as many questions as they answer, and such is the dislocation the referendum has caused in UK politics, The Netherlands has more comprehensive planning for a no-deal Brexit than does the UK. I suspect in practice, this means leaving the EU without a deal is mostly off the table. However Brexiters are trying to cut the Gordian knot, by going full-on for the hardest, most catastrophic break they can engineer. This explains the ‘red lines’ Theresa May offered the brexiters straight after the referendum when she took over from David Cameron. Out of the Single Market, out of the Customs Union, no Jurisdiction of the EU courts, no free movement, no payments to the EU budget, no border in the Irish sea. These red lines effectively make doing a deal with the EU, which regards the four freedoms of the single market indivisible, impossible. They are also mutually exclusive. You see, Brexit is a fantasy, and in chasing it, Brexiters have insisted on wrecking clauses in legislation designed to tie the Governments hands to positions the EU will find unacceptable.

This ‘No-Deal’ plan at least settles it, Brexiters argue. We must leave, and we can deal with the consequences when they arrive. However leaving the EU is a policy which should require decades of carefully unpicking the legal and constitutional ties built up over half a century. Brexit, however has already caused a sharp slowdown in investment. A no-deal scenario would see the UK wave goodbye to much of its automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical and high tech industries. The social and economic consequences could be severe. It isn’t hyperbole to suggest a hard, no-deal brexit will lead to shortages of food and medicines as a result of severe disruption to modern ‘just in time’ supply chains: Great Britain hasn’t been able to feed its population since the 17th century, and is dependent upon trade to feed the nation, every day. Hence the recent headlines about stockpiling food and medicines, and hence the public mood, perhaps, barely perceptibly, beginning to change.

So the Government has to do a deal of some sort.

It is the Irish border which remains the biggest obstacle to a deal. Brexit cuts across a number of previous agreements the UK made with the Republic of Ireland, an EU state that many brexiters are surprised hasn’t been thrown under the bus by the EU yet. The problem is that if the UK leaves the Customs union, in order to forge its own deals elsewhere, then it must check goods on its borders. However, part of the settlement to ‘The Troubles’, decades of violence not quite reaching the level of a civil war over the status of the province as Irish or British, was that there should be no obvious border infrastructure between the two bits of Ireland. The all citizens of the island of Ireland can choose more or less at will, which passport they use. The border barely exists on the ground. It can be crossed, and the only sign that you’ve moved from one sovereign country to another is that Ireland displays speed limits in kilometers per hour, not miles. That would change if the UK leaves the Customs union, as border posts or fences would be needed on the 208 crossing places on the border to check goods and people. Farmers would need to maintain two flocks of sheep, and other nonsenses as a result of the border being reimposed. There are solutions that would avoid a hard border in Ireland. You could leave Northern Ireland in the Customs union,  but that would require a ‘border in the Irish sea’ effectively splitting the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Many Brexiters don’t care, they’re effectively English nationalists, and aren’t bothered by the question of Scottish independence either. If I’m losing American readers with the intricacies of the United Kingdom’s constitutional settlement, I apologise, but the EU was until 2016 part of the glue that held the four nations of the UK together. Brexit threatens not just Northern Ireland’s status, but that of Scotland too. That is a question for another post, but Theresa May’s government is dependent upon the Democratic Unionist party for her majority in parliament. The DUP is a kind of Orange Ulster Tea Party which is, to put it lightly, not in favour of a United Ireland. A ‘Border in the Irish sea’ between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would be an anathema to most of the Conservative Party, as well as the DUP. There are other solutions being suggested from complex tariff collection arrangements, to turning a blind eye, but they’re all nonsense too.

You can’t just rip up a constitutional settlement,break up a great country and risk restarting a war to satisfy a grumpy national mood.

Ultimately, the problem stems from the paucity of research. There was no workable plan, despite the Tory Brexiters having obsessed over the EU for 30 years. They never considered what happens the day after the Referendum, as most of the Tory brexiters are frankly a bit dim. The obvious solution, as most Brexiters who thought at all about it in any detail agree, is “the Norway option” or similar. This means rejoining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which is supposed to be a halfway house to joining the EU, but in which Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein have resided for decades. This solves all the short term problems of Brexit, but leaves the UK a rule-taker without much influence. It doesn’t offer any of the “upsides” (which are mainly fantasy, but that’s by-the-by…) of leaving the EU, and simply removes the UK’s voice in the councils of European Union. The UK, unable to influence the laws it will have to obey, will probably suffer in the long run. So too will the EU, freed from the UK’s generally sane brake on the European Union’s wilder flights of integrationist fancy. Brexiters hate the Norway option describing it as vassalage, as do Remainers to whom it’s a distant second best to full membership. It cannot therefore be a sustainable solution, but for the fact Norway which faces exactly the same arguments, seems quite happy there.

Brexiters will cry “Betrayal”, but I can’t help thinking the EFTA or something very close to it will suddenly become a serious organisation rather than a mere EU antechamber, once the UK, the fifth  largest economy on earth, joins it. It is towards this option Theresa May is moving the Brexiters, away from ‘no deal’, slice by slice, abandoned red line by abandoned red line, as the clock ticks away. How far can the Tory party be walked down this road? Far enough and quick enough for a deal to satisfy the Irish Border question? The ‘Norway option’ means Brexit will continue to be the defining question of British politics for a decade and solves nothing from the point of view of politicians, even as the public whose lives will not be disrupted, will be fine with it. I’ve been clear, this is an outcome I’ve been drawn to all along (from 2015) but now isn’t the time.

The final option is to delay (perhaps permanently somehow) the whole Brexit process, but this would probably cause the collapse of the Government, leading to elections and/or a second referendum. The EU has indicated that were the UK to seek such a constitutional solution, an extension to Article 50 would be granted. I’ve tried to sum this up in a paragraph or two, but the complexity of this outcome would render any attempt gobbledegook. This is full-on constitutional crisis territory, and it’s getting more likely by the day. How could this happen? Well, all it takes is for 326 members of parliament to say so, and the overwhelming majority of the 650 MPs know remaining in the EU to be the best outcome for the country. However, most feel for now they must discharge the instructions of the people and leave the EU somehow. I do not know what these people will do if and when public opinion changes, and anyone who claims to is lying.

So what’s going to happen?

I put the chances of a catastrophic ‘no deal’ at 10%. There are only 60 or so MPs in the so-called European research group (they didn’t actually do any research…) who favour this insane outcome. But it could happen by accident, as the law as it currently stands, if nothing else is agreed, leads to no-deal by the natural action of Law. Theresa May’s deal, whatever it eventually is, will probably be a dispiriting fudge, BINO (Brexit in Name Only). However a deal of just this miserable sort remains the most likely outcome, probably around 55%. Which leaves the liklihood of a collapse of the Government, an extension to article 50, and a second referendum, an outcome now firmly in the overton window, at about 35%. All of this is a long winded way to say “I don’t know what’s going to happen”. But I have several ideas as to what might, and the most likely scenario is that Theresa May secures a deal very similar to Norway’s with some fig-leaf measures and linguistic fudges. I just can’t see the point, to be honest. I still don’t understand how this is supposed to improve anyone’s life. Which is why we shouldn’t do it at all. That 1/3rd chance of remain is rising as the idiocy of leaving the EU becomes apparent.

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.

Montgomery Brewster’s ‘None of the Above’ would walk this election.

It’s actually quite liberating to follow politics without a team to shout for. I remain a Conservative by inclination. I like free markets, economic liberalism and so forth even if the Conservative manifesto doesn’t seem to all that much, Tories, if not their leadership, are mainly for these things. I am also a social liberal, I remain committed to an open and tolerant society. However the Liberal Democrats risk becoming the Church of England does Politics, being stuffed with the kind of dry, shabby inadequate who can’t quite get over his (self) loathing of homosexuality. I dislike May. I think she’s a narrow-minded provincial bigot who’s been promoted way, way above her level of competence. She is however the best of the two candidates for Prime Minister.

Let’s not pretend Corbyn was doing other than palling around with the IRA in the 1980s because the glamour of “anti-imperialist” terrorists excited him. He has always supported whoever was fighting the UK at the time, and doesn’t deserve to be an MP, let alone to reverse those letters. Labour’s clown-car economics is only marginally less risible than the Tories offer, this time round. The difference is Labour actually believe their silliness, and they’re led by a traitor.
If you live in Scotland, this election is about independence. If you live in NI, then this election is about the tribal headcount. If you live elsewhere this election is whether you want an incompetent nanny-state provincial Tory or an antediluvian Socialist to deliver Brexit. It’s a shabby, and dispiriting affair. If you can’t work out how to vote, you can always vote for Montgomery Brewster. None of the above is appealing. But if you feel you MUST vote, then I have prepared a handy flow-chart to help you.
If you despise politicians, you get despicable politicians.
This shabby parade of also-rans from which we have to choose on today (without any actual choice on the main, nay only, issue of the day) is the logic of calling decent, capable people like Blair, Cameron and Major “war criminals” and “Traitors”, for decades. It pollutes the language for when you actually get some of these things on the offer.
No worthwhile people will put up with the scrutiny and abuse heaped daily on politicians. So you get the kind of bore for whom the scrutiny isn’t an issue. They’ve never done anything interesting in the their lives. At least David Cameron dropped some E and went to a rave or two as a youth. What does Theresa May, who spent her twenties complaining about the promotion of lesbianism in schools, know of fun? As for Corbyn, he looks like the kind of man for whom a perfect saturday night is treatise on Marx (so long as it contains nothing he doesn’t already know and agree with) with some lovely mineral water. He is the Labour man Orwell warned you about.
I’ll be voting Tory. Why? My local headbanging Leadsomite hard-brexiter has stood down after his colossal act of vandalism, to be replaced by a man with whom I seem to agree.
My expectations are of a  Tory majority around 75, on a low turnout, and they will have half a dozen seats in Scotland.  The Liberal Democrats will take Vauxhall and Twickenham, losing in Sheffield Hallam (the “were you up for…?” moment as Clegg loses his seat), but holding Orkney and Shetland against the SNP, remaining about where they are now overall. Or that’s where my betting is at the moment.
What do I want to see happen? I’d like to see May remain PM but in a hung parliament, reliant on Northern Irish politicians for her majority because let’s face it, she deserves nothing better.
A rubbish show all round but at least I can enjoy it, whoever loses.

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.

The Mary Whitehouse Experience

The “Bastards” who see the British membership of the European Union as the central question of politics are not only petty-minded nationalists. They are also mostly small-minded, authoritarian christian bigots. They aren’t just coming for free movement, they’re against gay marriage too. They’re against most of the modern world. It’s true, I do agree with them on the economic questions of the 20th century, but that no longer matters, the economic liberals’ victory is pretty comprehensive.

Leadsom represents the conservatism of Mary Whitehouse, not Margaret Thatcher. This is why Leadsom has such enthusiastic support from UKIP. She is the culture war, as well as the brexit candidate. This isn’t about Europe. It’s not about economics. It’s not left and right. It’s open vs closed society. 
They don’t just want to reverse the European Union, but roll back the “permissive society” of the 1960s. These are the purse-lipped miserablists who write into local papers complaining about “filth” on TV or “hooligans” in the street, who in reality are just boys playing football. This is the racist aunt, who now feels confident to say she doesn’t like Mrs Patel in no.34 because she smells funny. This is the Daily Mail (Paper, not website) made flesh, obsessed by what other people do in the bedroom, and absolutely terrified someone, somewhere might be having fun.
This is where we are, when Theresa May is the standard bearer for the liberal cause. What a time to be alive.

Labour and Tory are Electoral Coalitions Which Have Been Broken

The referendum last week as a fundamental break in British politics. While article 50 remains uninvoked, I remain hopeful it won’t be. There is now a pro-European backlash representing nearly half the country. Maybe more, given the buyer’s remorse from leave voters who didn’t expect to win and now realise the consequences are potentially vast.
Whatever, the die is cast. There were 2 leave campaigns. One, an open-society, free-trade vision with which I have some sympathy. Already, the USA, Canada, Australia and Ghana have reached out for free trade with us. New Zealand, those dear, distant friends (except during the 80 minutes of a Rugby match) have gone further and offered their trade negotiators to boost the UK’s corps of 12.
This is welcome, and it’s a start. But it won’t go close to replacing the benefits of the single market. Not least because many of the benefits of free trade with these Nations we effectively enjoyed or will have enjoyed anyway one day within the EU.
This free trade vision of post-brexit Britain was not the loudest voice, and the main effect of the brexit referendum was to draw the battle lines between those who desire and open Society, and those who desire a closed Society.
If the Tory Labour split was mainly about economics, taxation and redistribution, a battle the free market privatising Tories comprehensively won. the new culture war is about what sort of society we want to be. Imagine this split looking something like spectrum between the Liberal Democrats, and UKIP. The current electoral coalition is no longer fit for purpose.
It looks like the party that has brought this catastrophe upon us, will end up being the chief beneficiary in electoral terms, at least in the short term. If the Tories manage a coronation of Theresa May and not go to the party in the country with a final shortlist of two, they will have achieved a vision of competence that perhaps they no longer deserve.
Assuming no major disaster beyond that expected, labour being in complete disarray will be unable to capitalise on the chaos of the brexit negotiations. Furthermore labour have been abandoned by large swathes of the electorate in the Heartlands of the North, adding to their wipeout in Scotland.
John Major’s “Bastards” however, are working hard. Having won the first battle in the culture War they are looking to press home their advantage and install one of their social conservative candidates as prime minister. UKIP candidates already rejoining the Conservative Party.
However it is premature to write off the Conservative Party to the morlocks just yet. UKIP will become an electoral Force across large swathes of England. Corbyn will have achieved his function and destroyed the Labour Party reducing it to a few hold out in a few cities.
If UKIP does indeed become electrically successful, expect to see the right of the Conservative Party move that way. This leaves a space within the Conservative Party for the sensible elements of the Labour Party who have come to terms with the twentieth century’s economic settlement to make common cause with their fellow open Society advocates across the floor of the commons.
Just as the Labour leadership election going on at present is about the ownership of the Labour brand, (does it belong to hard left socialist, or the social Democrats of the centre?) so is the Tories’. If Leadsom wins the leadership election, then the Tories will move right and absorb UKIP. May, supported almost exclusively by the Tory MPs who favoured remain, Leads the liberals, but whichever way The Tory Party will dominate politics for the foreseeable future (about 3 days at present…)
The Be.Leavers may think this choice of Prime Minister is about Europe, but actually it’s about an open vs a closed society.
The European Union was a hard institution to love. I was certainly a harsh critic of it. It’s hubris in assuming the trappings of a state, are a large cause of the resentment. Unbecoming arrogance from the panjandrums of Brussels didn’t help.They revelled in the myths of their omnipotent Power, myths which fed the Paranoid delusions of the people who want to leave.
However I never felt compelled to make destroying it my life’s purpose. I suspect the EU is an institution who’s value only becomes apparent when it’s gone. It seems that the Scots viewed Europe as something of a counterweight to the hegemon to their South. As such the European Union had become one of the ties that bound the Union together. The the European Union was Central to the Anglo Irish settlement.
Above all above all the European Union was a crucial part of the Post cold war security architecture of Europe. It seems likely that Russia under Putin will get a much easier ride from a European Union that does not contain the United Kingdom. We are weakened. And Putin is emboldened. As are the idiot populists of the democratic world, who seek to thow up borders, pull up the drawbridge and sulk at the modern world.
I’ve seen this flick before, and it doesn’t have a happy ending.
This also comes down to identity. We have seen a rise of English and Scottish identity, and a fall of British identity. Britain is the loser. British is an identity into which it is much easier to assimilate  new  citizens. And as for me, I am not English. I am British. I am not European, I am a man of the West. Brexit has divided Britain. It’s risks dividing to West. And it almost certainly will makeus  poorer weaker, and less able to confront the new threats of the world. It is, for most people who voted for it, a vision of little England, not caring about the Scots, or the Irish, or our friends and allies accross the continent. This isn’t the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland I have served most of my adult life.
I Lament the loss of the world European Union was trying imperfectly to create: one of trade openness and political stability. A Unified West Staring Down our enemies and keeping the world free. If there is one lesson of history it is that revolutions eat their children, and nothing good comes from smashing functioning institutions.
Pour your bile into the comments. I have chosen my side. It’s whoever stands for an open Society, free trade, low taxes, constitutional conservatism and economic competence. That half of the Conservative Party still exists.
Just.
My Great Britain still exists.
Just.

The Upsides of Brexit

For weeks I have been asking for an upside to Brexit, some benefit to me that justifies the destruction of the UK and a significant fall in our prosperity.

We’re all agreed the “it will have little effect” argument was nonsense? Good.

First up “Democracy“. Well the EU was a club of democracies that tried hard to be democratic itself. Power rested with the council of ministers who were elected by the people of the countries concerned. The commission was akin to a civil service, advised. Such bodies are never elected anywhere in the world. Then there was the parliament, who chose the president. Above all, the EU basically dealt with issues concerning trade. So we have democratic control over issues we’re going to have to accept what the EU says anyway. Good one. We are no more “democratic” now than on Thursday.

Freedom“? For whom? To do what? I can think of several freedoms I’ve lost.

Trade deals” If you think a trade deal with even the US (which won’t cover services) even remotely compensates for the single market, then I’ve a bridge to sell you.

Immigration?” Well it will only fall if there’s a big recession resulting in mass unemployment. Besides the official campaign won, not the hateful UKIP bigotry, and the Government will probably keep us in the single market with (basically) free movement. The bigots will be betrayed.

The upside to Brexit is, for the people who supported it, the satisfaction of smashing something someone you hate holds dear. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.

I welcome comments suggesting other upsides, but any comment that boils down to one of the answers above, will be deleted.

A Former UKIP Branch Chairman Backs REMAIN

Cards on the table. Many moons ago I was a member of Young Independence and established the

Bolton Branch of UKIP. I was a member when UKIP was in favour of a flat tax, slashing the size and

scope of government and was at least pretending to be libertarian. I left when I saw the writing on the

wall; that UKIP was turning in a 1960’s Labour tribute band of social conservatism and big

government paternalism (my two least favourite things).

I was and still am anti EU. I think it’s officious, bureaucratic, inefficient, meddlesome, nannying,

bloated and expensive. But guess what – so are all governments. Long before the EU we were bribed

and coerced by unelected faceless British civil servants, so I don’t buy the argument that Brexit would

result in some miraculous purging of pedantic officialdom.

But that’s not my main reason for opting

for Remain, rather history, the economy, and British values seem to point that way.

Brexit advocates seem to want to fight the tide of history. The story of humanity’s political entities has

been one, dare I say it, of ever closer union – groups of gathers came together to form small tribes,

which came together to form communities, which in turn grouped together to become towns, which

became cities, which united to become small kingdoms, which in finally came together to form the

nation states we know today. Europe is now trying to forge the next step – that of bringing nation

states into something larger. Being the first attempt it seems new and scary, just as there would have

been those in the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex who resisted this new-fangled ‘England’, with its

distant rulers and burdensome taxes and laws. It’s going to happen, so we can try and influence that

as it’s evolves, or we can re-join in a few decades time as a junior member on much worse terms than

we have now.

By far my biggest concern is that of the economy. Markets can deal with democracies and dictators,

they can handle with Tories or Labour, but what they don’t like is instability and uncertainty, and Brexit

negotiations are uncertainty incarnate. Nobody knows how long negotiations will take. Nobody has

any idea as to what sort of deal we’ll get. Nobody knows what EU rules we’ll have to abide by and

which we’ll be able to ignore. Nobody knows if we’ll repeal existing EU legislation and if so how much.

All this is an anathema to business deciding where to sink investment. The best and brightest of the

world flock to Britain because their skills and talents have an unrivalled platform and outlets through

our links to Europe, the Commonwealth and North America. Brexit and the subsequent reservations

about visas and free movement would throw this into doubt.

“But it’s in the EU’s interests to give Britain a good deal, we do too much trade for them to jeopardise

it”. This message has been the crux of the Leave camps economic case, but it’s tragically naive for it

rests on the assumption that EU leaders act rationally. They don’t. The history of the EU is one of

making political decisions that go against economic sense. The Euro, the madness of monetary union

without fiscal union, was a political project, not economic. The CAP is a political settlement that runs

against all but the most projectionist economic rationale.

If Britain opted to leave left the EU Brussels

would have to make an example of us. Negotiations would be tortuous, dragged out for years with

every line of the settlement debated and revised and amended purely out of spite. Just look at

Greece. Every sensible economist pleaded for some form of debt write-off, but no. Greece had to be

made an example of, especially after the defiance of the anti-austerity referendum. The vanity and

pride of those behind ‘The Project’ cannot be over stated, and EU chiefs really will go out of their way

to cause an independent Britain as much trauma as possible if it meant deterring other would be

separatists.

This is partly why the EU needs Britain. An EU without Britain would mean all the worst aspects of the

bureaucracy would be let loose, with little or no restraint. Those members who tend to side with us,

like the Nordic nations, would find themselves without a large ally, and would be cowed and bullied

into meek compliance. A Britain-less EU would also be a more insular, inward looking beast.

During

the 1990s it was Britain that led to the push to see the ten Eastern European states of the former

Warsaw Pact brought into the EU, much to the annoyance of the French who argued attention should

be focused on deepening integration among the existing members. But Britain triumphed, correctly

insisting that without EU membership anchoring these new democracies to the West, they’d succumb

to a gradual economic, then political slide back into the Russian orbit. And this is the rule rather than

the exception – for Britain gets its way a lot in Europe, especially on the big issues. The very fact the

EU is a free trade area is largely down to us. The European Court of Human Rights, though not part

of the EU, was created almost at the British behest. That we don’t have an EU Army is down to Britain

thwarting the idea every time it rears its head.

 And it’s not just our friends and allies in Europe that want us to stay. The Commonwealth nations, to

whom Brexiteers point as an alternative trading bloc to the EU, want us to remain. Our closest ally,

the United States, wants us to stay. Both recognise that our membership of the EU is the unique

bridge that binds the Anglosphere and the continent of Europe together. Our place in the EU reminds

Brussels that there’s a world outside Fortress Europe and that globalisation is an opportunity, not a

threat.

It’s no coincidence that the only world leader who supports Brexit is Vladmir Putin, a man

itching to divide and weaken a united West that’s hemmed in and punished his geopolitical trolling.

I get the frustration with the EU, I really do. I too hear the siren song of Brexit, the temptation to stick

two fingers up at Brussels and reclaim sovereignty. But every year nation states get less and less

relevant. True sovereignty hasn’t existed for any state since the Second World War. If we took the

Norwegian option we’d still have to follow EU rules, but we’d have no say in how they’re made.

Leaving would be to ignore the pleads of our oldest friends. Brexit would be an economic roll of the

dice that really don’t need. Much like the Scottish Nationalists, the economic case for Brexit rests on

hopeful scenarios and keeping our fingers crossed – I’m sorry but the world’s sixth largest economy is

too important to gamble on a wing and a prayer.

The perfect is the enemy of the good. The EU machine is infuriating, but Britain, the West, and the

world is a better place through our membership.

A guest contribution by Lee T Jenkins