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. 
Unhelpful Thoughts On Brexit

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

Link

“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.

Link

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

I realised after yesterday’s post about Corbyn and Brexit that I’ve said similar things before. So today I’ve put talk into action. I’ve cancelled my direct debit for my party membership, and written to my constituency party secretary tendering my resignation.

I also did this:

IMG 2319

Perhaps most significantly, at least symbolically: look up there. ⬆️ This blog has been called “A Labourer At the Bitface” more or less since it started, partly as a reference to my political stance, as I explained in this post.1 It’s now called “Tales From The Bitface,” which was the name of my Livejournal version. That’s still there, but it, along with the whole site, pretty much, is moribund.

I still support the principles of the Labour party, and I’m sure I’ll vote for them again. But not until they sort themselves out about Brexit.


  1. Even then, I note, I was “consider[ing] my future in said party.” 
Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Some Labour MPs are thinking along similar lines to me.

Wes Streeting:

“Labour cannot sit by and allow the choice to be between the economic ruin of a hard Brexit or the loss of sovereignty under Theresa May’s deal, with Britain subjected to EU rules but with no say over them,” he said. “As with any fork in the road, there is always the option of turning back home.

“We know this is a mess made by the Tories, but the Labour party can’t just sit back and watch. It’s time for all of us in the Labour party to make the full-throated case for a people’s vote with the option of remaining in the European Union.

“That leadership must now come from the top, or our party may never be forgiven for the consequences that follow.”

Chris Leslie:

“With even Tory ministers recognising Brexit threatens the poorest in society, our public services and Britain’s place in the world, to have a Labour leader just shrug about it, then go awol, is nothing short of a dereliction of duty.”

OK, they’re maybe not planning to leave the party, but still.

Link

Ex-Corbyn Fan

You know what? I’m done with Jeremy Corbyn. This interview in Der Spiegel, in which he says “Brexit can’t be stopped,” is the clincher.

As always, literally everything else he says is on the good side of politics — the side I tend to agree with, to be less judgmental. But he refuses to resist — even, really, to engage with1 — the thing that is the most important political issue and biggest political mistake of our lifetime (setting aside for the moment climate change, which is not just a political issue, and is global in scope, not just European). Look at this:

DER SPIEGEL: Not just Labour, but the whole country is extremely divided at the moment — not least because of Brexit. If you could stop Brexit, would you?

Corbyn: We can’t stop it. The referendum took place. Article 50 has been triggered. What we can do is recognize the reasons why people voted Leave.

This is that “will of the people” nonsense, the idea that it would be undemocratic to ask again. The will of the people can change, and almost certainly has. And you don’t agree to a deal with going back and checking that it’s still OK. Having a confirmatory referendum would be considerably more democratic than not having one.2 And we can stop it. Parliament, which is, and always was, sovereign, could revoke Article 50.

Back to the interview:

I’ve been critical of the competitions policy in Europe and the move towards free market, and obviously critical in the past of their treatment of Greece, although that was mostly the eurozone that did that. My idea is of a social Europe with inclusive societies that work for everyone and not just for a few.

You don’t build a “social Europe with inclusive societies that work for everyone and not just for a few” by leaving the EU! You build it by staying in, and working to build that society! God, it’s infuriating.

I voted for him as leader, I respect and believe in most of his policies, but he needs to go. Labour won three general elections under Tony Blair, and was able to do a lot of good. They could have done more, they could have been better, and Blair destroyed his legacy by throwing his lot in with George W Bush and the Iraq War. But those were times when things were improving in the country and we looked to the future with positivity. It can be like that again.

But it won’t — for decades at least — if we destroy our economy, hobble worker’s rights, and undercut food-safety regulations, by leaving the EU.


  1. Note, for example, his complete absence from the country on the day of the People’s Vote march
  2. “Measure twice, cut once,” as the old saying goes. Or in this case, better not to cut at all. But at least measure twice so you’re sure a cut is what’s wanted. 
Ex-Corbyn Fan

March in October

Numbers

After the Trump thing earlier in the year, another walk through London on Saturday just past. This time with over half a million people — 770,000, by some estimates. That’s a hugely impressive number, and a measure of the strength of feeling in the country against Brexit. Or at least against the idea of the government pushing it through without us having another say on the matter.

You’d imagine it might be enough to make them at least consider enquiring as to the will of the people. But I highly doubt it.

The March

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Arriving at Green Park Station
Arriving at Green Park Station

A group of us from Hackney joined at Green Park. There’s an exit from Green Park station that comes out in the park itself, which I don’t think I knew before.Then it took us an age to get out of the park, because of the crush a t the gate. Quite a lot of people were trying to get in at the same time, which didn’t help.

We milled around on Piccadilly for a while. The main march started on Park Lane, so we were ahead of it, and it wasn’t clear to us whether the head of it had already passed us, or if not, then when it actually reached us. It looked like nothing was moving ahead of us. My assumption was that they hadn’t yet closed all the roads between us and Parliament Square, but there was no way to know for sure. Eventually we started moving.

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These noisy bastards were around all day

The mood was universally peaceful and cheerful. There were hardly any police to be seen.

I tried to post a couple of photos, but inevitably the network was swamped and nothing would work. I guess even if people weren’t trying to post, just that many phones trying to register with a cell tower would slow things down dramatically.

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An idea of the numbers

The Rally

By the time we got to Whitehall Parliament Square was full, and we couldn’t get in. The organisers had set up some big screen-and-speaker systems, so we could hear the speeches (at least when the hovering helicopters weren’t too close).

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Wee Nicola on screen

Conclusion

There isn’t one, really. Like I say, the Mayhemic leadership of the country won’t pay any attention. But if nothing else it helps to keep our spirits up in these dark days.

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Trafalgar Square in the aftermath
Trafalgar Square in the aftermath
March in October

The Syllogism of Betrayal

Earlier today I added a short microblog post in which I called Nigel Farage a traitor. Its a strong word, and maybe one that I shouldn’t throw around so casually.

I don’t really go in for patriotism, nationalism, and all that kind of thing. But I do want Britain — the country I live in, was born in, and am a citizen of — to be the best country it can be. On the assumption that most citizens would have a similar desire, it seems reasonable to me to think that a citizen who acts against that desire — against the country’s best interests — is betraying the country.

Nigel Farage has made it his life’s work to get Britain to leave the European Union, and has been successful in making (or at least starting)1 that happen.

Leaving the EU is not in the best interests of the country.

Therefore Nigel Farage has been working against the best interests of the country. Therefore he is a traitor.

It’s a simple syllogism.

Of course, he’s far from alone in this. I count Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and, of course, Theresa May in the same group. And many more.

Indeed, you could argue that anyone who voted to leave the EU is similarly guilty, but that seems unfair. Many knew exactly what they were doing, of course. But many also (possibly many more) were duped.

It doesn’t mean much if I name these people as traitors, but it’s worth recording what my thinking was behind using that term.


  1. Brexit can still be stopped, and must be. []
The Syllogism of Betrayal

Scattered Thoughts on the General Election

An Election Unlike Any Other

This election is going to be completely unique in our lifetime, probably ever. Because people will be torn between voting on the normal things they care about: health, security, homes, welfare, the economy… — and the big thing of our time: Brexit.

There were close to half the electorate who voted to stay in the EU (close to half the turnout, anyway). There’s no reason to suppose that any of those have changed their minds, even if many now talk in terms of acceptance. There are plenty who voted the other way who wish things had gone differently. And the non-voters are an unknown.

If a party — or a coalition — were to clearly stand on a platform of stopping Brexit, or even of promising a second referendum, they would be in a position unlike any party ever. Or so it seems to me.

Unfortunately only the Liberal Democrats seem to be even close to that position.

I Can’t Vote Labour

I can’t in conscience vote for a Labour party that won’t clearly place itself against Brexit. I just can’t. This means I have to leave the party, I guess. Corbyn called today for “A Brexit that works for all.” No, no, no.

I imagine this means I’ll be voting Lib Dem. Possibly Green. I’m not sure where they stand yet. In one sense, of course, it doesn’t matter, as I live in one of the safest Labour seats, but that’s not really the point. I’ll be writing to Diane Abbot to explain my position, but I don’t imagine it will change hers, which is to support Corbyn, even though her constituency is one of the most pro-remain in the country.

I voted for Corbyn as leader twice, but he’s very disappointing now. Though I have to say that his policies on literally everything else would be dramatically better than the Tories.

Why, and Why Now?

Why has Mayhem changed her mind on a snap election, and why now? The obvious thing is the Tory lead in the polls, and to take advantage of Labour chaos. Nothing to with Brexit at all, not directly.

But something I was seeing on Facebook tonight was the idea that they were about to lose their majority, when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) brings charges for electoral fraud against up to 30 Tory MPs. The prosecutions will still happen, but they won’t affect the position of MPs who get elected this time round (well, unless they get convicted, of course, but I’m guessing the Tories will quietly deselect the ones who are likely to go down).

Effect of Fixed-Term Parliaments Act

My first reaction was, “They can’t: what about the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act?” Turns out that contains a clause that lets the sitting parliament ignore it, as long as they get a two-thirds majority. The irony of that figure was not lost on me, as possibly my most-retweeted tweet shows:

Without Labour voting with the government they wouldn’t get that two-thirds. Corbyn has cheerfully agreed to go along, missing an open goal. First, the opposition should oppose the government, as a general principle. Unless the government is doing the right thing, which is not the case here. More amusingly, if they didn’t get the two-thirds, they would have to go for a vote of no confidence. That is, a Tory MP would have to stand up in the House of Commons and move that “This house has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.” Even if they could come back from that, Corbyn should have forced it just for the lulz.

Polls Can’t Be Trusted

All is doom and gloom, because the polls look so bleak. Except… if there’s one thing the last few years have taught us, it’s that we can no longer rely on polls.1

On Newsnight tonight Paul Mason says he thinks Labour will win. Gotta admire his confidence, at least.


  1. Or the bookies, and don’t get me back onto that argument about how bookies’ odds can be mapped to percentages of expected voting. []
Scattered Thoughts on the General Election