Broken Glass

I’ve been feeling kind of sorry for Jo Swinson today. Also for myself, and the whole country, especially underprivileged people, people with disabilities, the young, the old, minorities, the marginalised… Anyone who’s going to suffer under the new regime.

But Swinson lost her seat by just 149 votes, which must be especially heartbreaking. She always impressed me as someone who knew what she was talking about and was on top of things. She was part of the Cameron/Clegg coalition, which is problematic, but let’s let that go.

She’s quoted as saying:

One of the realities of smashing glass ceilings is that a lot of broken glass comes down on your head.

which is great, and sad.

People criticised her for making the Liberal Democrat campaign too presidential, too much about her, and that probably was a mistake. Though would they have criticised a male leader in the same way?

And there’s the business of promising to revoke Article 50. Which I was and am completely in favour of, even if it can seem undemocratic.1 The problem was not the promise, but the messaging. The story should have been, “Elect us to government and you’ll give us a mandate to revoke. Give us less power and we’ll work for a second referendum.” That was the story: she just seemed to have some difficulty expressing it in clear, simple terms, at least in the debates I saw.

All that said, I’m still baffled as to what has happened to the country.


  1. it wouldn’t be if handled properly, but it’s too late to go into that now. 

Election Blues

I don’t fully understand the rationale of the Lib Dems and SNP pushing for an election at this point. No-deal is still firmly on the table, it seems to me, and if the Tories get a big majority — or even just an actual majority — then we remainers are done for.

Yet Ian Dunt at politics.co.uk describes it at as “one last chance” for remainers. He makes a compelling case. If he hadn’t gone for the election, Johnson could likely have got the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) through parliament. This way, at least there’s a chance. A hung parliament, a coalition that gives us a second referendum.

A new Remain campaign that is successful.

That’s a lot of “ifs,” and we lose everything if any one of them goes the wrong way.

And Carole Cadwalladr reminds us that the illegality and foreign money in the referendum have never been addressed.

Another “if”: if Johnson could have got the deal through parliament, why did he back down and go for the election? Maybe it’s just be that he expects to get a majority, and thereby make it easier to get the WAB through in a new parliament. But I can’t help thinking that he’s up to something. That he and Dominic Cummings have some plan that will get around parliament somehow.

Hard to see what that could be, but how far would you trust those proven liars and crooks?

EU Citizens

It’s sad when even pro-European organisations get things wrong about us.

Last week I signed up for, and tweeted about, a programme designed to encourage people to vote in the EU parliamentary elections:

Today I got an email from “This Time I’m Voting,” containing the following text:

If you are one of the 3.5 million EU nationals still living here in the UK

Therefore, whether you are British or an EU citizen

Last time I looked there are around 67 million EU nationals living in the UK. At least until next week, and hopefully for a long time after that. I mean, that’s kind of the point of this whole struggle we’re having, isn’t it?

The fact that (some) people in the UK fail to identify as EU citizens is partly what has got us into this mess.

OK/Cancel

The other day I was explaining to my daughter why I thought a second referendum would be right and democratic. I reached for an analogy, and came up with the idea that you don’t (usually) do something as serious as deleting a file without getting a confirmation dialogue to confirm that you really mean to go ahead.

So now I’m planning on making a banner with some version of the image below for the “Put it to the People” march on Saturday. Just trying to perfect the wording. All suggestions gratefully considered.

Text saying 'All we want is a confirmation dialogue' above a dialogue box with leave and remain options

Not shown: my Unix-based joke alternative, which would be something like:

# Leavers be all like:
rm -rf britains-special-place-in-the-eu/

Though maybe “Abort, Retry, Fail” would be more in keeping with the times.

Unhelpful Thoughts On Brexit

You could spend a lot of time wondering what makes Theresa May tick.

She says she supported remain and voted to stay in the European Union. So her increasing fervour for Brexit has been one of the most confusing factors in British politics over the last two and a half years.

Taking over the Tory leadership after David Cameron resigned was always going to be a poisoned chalice. No-one would have had a good time in that position, except maybe a genuine hard quitter like Jacob Rees-Mogg. That’s probably why Gove and Johnson pulled out.

If she truly believed that staying in was best, though, she would not have rushed into triggering Article 50 (nor would she have gone to court to fight for her wish to do so by diktat; luckily National Hero Gina Miller had the nation’s back on that one).

If she had used more care, collaboration, and consideration, she might have had an easier time when Article 50 finally was triggered and the negotiations started. In fact if she had been more thoughtful in the first place she might even have said something like, “The vote was close; the country is clearly divided. We will discuss the possible ways forward in parliament and with the rest of the EU, and come back to you, the people, for confirmation when we better understand what Brexit means.” 1

But no: “Brexit means Brexit”: she knew up front what it meant, and never deviated. Even if the majority of the country had no idea what it would mean.

She then proceeded as follows:

  • ignore any idea of cross-party talks and so involving parliament (the UK’s sovereign body) in the negotiations;
  • trigger Article 50 as soon as she could;
  • negotiate with the EU27 almost in secret;
  • have inflexible “red lines” to appease the hard quitters, leaving herself no room for compromise in the negotiations.

It’s a truism, even a cliche, to say that she puts the Tory party before the country. But the only way I can explain such a dramatic change of heart is that her love for the Tory party overruled her knowledge that being in the EU was, is, and will be the best situation for the UK. And that she somehow convinced herself that she could heal her fatally-divided party.

In fact, the very thing that Cameron was trying to do by calling he referendum in the first place.

“Tory eurosceptics” used to be a common enough phrase, but it denoted a tiny fringe of the party: a few loons like John Redwood. But in trying to appease them, two Tory leaders and prime ministers have turned them mainstream and brought us to where we are today, on the brink of leaving the EU without any kind of agreement for our future relationship.

And their party is as divided as ever.


  1. That’s fanciful, of course. But it’s what a sane, thoughtful person, who cared about what might happen to the country would have done. 

The Compulsive Pursuit of a Product That Does Us Only Harm

Rafel Behr analyses our national condition:

It looks like British social awkwardness elevated to the scale of a constitutional meltdown. It is the stiff upper lip chewing itself to pieces rather than name the cause of our suffering: not the deal, not the backstop, not the timetable, not Brussels, but Brexit. The poison in our system is Brexit. We need a path to recovery, not May’s frantic hunt for a stronger, purer dose.

At The Guardian

“Why’s it taking so long? We should just leave!” | The Reinvigorated Programmer

Good analogy:

Suppose your family lives in a flat that’s rented from a housing association. And you have come to feel (rightly or wrongly) that it’s not a very nice flat, and that the association interferes too much. So you discuss it as a family, and you think about all the lovely houses out there that you could live in, and eventually you decide to leave. So far, so good.