Brexit Hope?

A very small hope. Brexit—take back control by the improbably-named Jolyon Maugham, suggests that a court ruling could be achieved which would ensure that we can back out of Brexit at the last moment:

The effects of an Article 50 notification are not fully understood—and not only because May is still peddling a blind bargain, a Brexit pig-in-a-poke. We do know that, should we ask and the other 27 member states agree, we could remain. But it is brave to assume that two years of exposure to the negotiating skills of Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis will not generate even one hold-out. […] The preponderance of legal opinion is that we could, after all, decide to remain. That we could, having notified, withdraw that notification. But, given the magnitude of the issue, our parliament must know more than what the answer probably is. It must know what it actually is.
[…] only the court to which we all subscribe can give an answer: the European Court in Luxembourg.

He/she (I’m guessing “he,” from the writing style) says:

But a case which—along with Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, Steven Agnew, a Green member of the Northern Irish Assembly and Keith Taylor, a Green MEP—I am bringing in the Dublin High Court seeks to give us the power to travel back if we need it.

And he explains that:

We access it via a national court. And it can’t be one of ours. One of the complaints in the Dublin case is that the other 27 have breached the Treaty by excluding us from Council meetings before we’ve notified under Article 50. And that complaint can only be made by a court in one of those 27. The Irish court is the natural choice

Which all seems fair. The idea seems to be that the European Court of Justice could rule definitively that we could revoke our triggering of Article 50 at the end of the two-year negotiating period. And if the deal is bad, or especially if there isn’t one, parliament is likely to call another referendum in those circumstances, wherein we’ll know exactly what we’re voting for, and get it right this time.

A small hope, like I say. And it doesn’t protect us from the damage that’s being inflicted in the meantime.

But a small hope is better than none at all.

Link

Beginning of the End

A total of 47 Labour MPs voted against the Brexit bill, joining 50 SNP MPs and seven Liberal Democrats. Just one Conservative MP, Ken Clarke, joined them in the division lobbies, to applause from Labour rebels.

A fifth of Labour MPs defy three line whip to vote against article 50 bill | Politics | The Guardian

Well done to all the rebels. But really, Tories: only one? Only Ken Clarke? Is that really you doing your duty, acting in the best interests of the country?

We’re living through the death of representative democracy.

Link

Which is Worse?

I’ve been saying for a while now that Brexit is worse than Trump, because Trump is only for four years1 — less if he gets impeached or twenty-fived, which is almost certain; but Brexit is foreever.

But Trump is moving so fast, following through so fiercely on his campaign promises, that even if he doesn’t last, he’s going to do incredible damage to the USA, and to the world.

And then there’s pieces like “Trial Balloon for a Coup?,” which, along with the stories it links to, is terrifying. If the things suggested there were to come true, Trump and his successors could be forever, too.

And even if they manage to get rid of him, that means Pence takes over, which would be its own class of awful. He at least knows something about government and the Constitution, though. I guess?

So I don’t know. Brexit, if we can’t stop it, is going to be bad for the economy, jobs, and society; but despite the hard-right support for it, I don’t think it means the country is being turned into a fascist state. On the other hand, after a Tory-led hard Brexit they could make the UK into what they’ve always wanted: a tax-haven for the rich and sweatshop for the poor, with permanent austerity policies.

And there’s no opposition to speak of.

But Trump…

But Brexit…


  1. OK, it could go to eight, but who really expects that? []
Which is Worse?

Democracy, Representation, and the Will of the People

Further to my letter to Diane Abbot, I saw her last night on Question Time. Disappointingly she was trotting out the line that, irrespective of what they believe, MPs are now tied down by the “democratic will of the people.”

That is utter nonsense.

Did the Referendum Give a Democratic Mandate?

The referendum, as I have said before, did not provide a sufficient
majority to change the country’s constitution. In fact, it did not provide a majority at all: thirty-seven percent of the electorate voted to leave. That is under no circumstances a democratic mandate.

Do MPs Have to Abide by the Referendum’s Result?

The referendum was advisory, not binding. That was very clear in the act of parliament that enabled it, though it wasn’t mentioned at all in the discussions running up to the event itself. The MPs were asleep at the wheel when the bill went through parliament: if they had given it the thought it deserved, they would have made its advisory nature explicit in the wording of the question; and more importantly, they would have set a proper threshold for it to take effect. A two-thirds majority is common in cases like this.1

MPs make up the house of commons, half of parliament, the sovereign body in the UK. Their role is to scrutinise legislation and to vote on it in accordance with what they understand to be the best interests of the country.

No-one can say that Brexit would be in the best interests of the country. (Well, OK, they can say it; but they are demonstrably wrong.) MPs not only can vote against the triggering of Article 50: doing so is their duty.

Why Have Most MPs Switched to Being in Favour of Brexit?

Or at least that’s the way it seems.

I honestly don’t know. I have my theory, though. They are running scared of the tabloid newspapers. And maybe, as one of my friends suggested on Facebook the other day, literally scared for their lives if they were to resist the Brexit onslaught. Remembering the tragedy of Jo Cox, of course.

If the latter is really why they are doing it, then the terrorists have won. And even if it’s only fear of the tabloids, then the tabloid terrorists have won. If I were inclined that way I would call the Daily Mail and Sun traitors to their country for trying to ruin the British economy and damage British society, by forcing us out of the EU and assaulting the European Convention on Human Rights (which, if it needs to be said again and again, was written by Britons and is nothing to do with the EU).

What’s to be done?

Buggered if I know. If our democratically elected representatives won’t do what they’re elected for and act in the best interests of the country, then I can only conclude that we’re fucked.


  1. And to be fair, we, the public, and the media, were equally inattentive to what the bill actually said. []
Democracy, Representation, and the Will of the People

Obama in Your Ears

I listen to a fair number of podcasts, but I only recently learned that David Axelrod has one now. Axelrod was Barack Obama’s chief strategist and then Senior Advisor.

On a recent episode of his podcast, The Axe Files, he interviewed Barack Obama, during his last few days as president.

They’re friends, so it’s not what you’d call hard-hitting. But it is interesting. Obama as always comes across as personable, thoughtful, and very, very smart.

Which only makes the current occupant of his erstwhile office seem even worse.

But I highly recommend giving the episode a listen.

Obama in Your Ears

Trump, Nixon, and Subjectivity

John Gruber reminds us of Hunter S Thompson’s obituary of Richard Nixon, saying it “[f]eels appropriate today” (this was yesterday, of course).

I hadn’t read it in a while, but there are some glorious lines in it:

If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president.

He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.

They were a crooked bunch, though, the Republicans back then. This on Spiro Agnew:

He was a flat-out, knee-crawling thug with the morals of a weasel on speed. But he was Nixon’s vice president for five years, and he only resigned when he was caught red-handed taking cash bribes across his desk in the White House.

Which is not exactly accurate according to the Wikipedia article, but it’s not too far off.

The quote Gruber draws our attention to is this:

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

Which reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Which is that I don’t think I want journalism to be objective. At least not in the area of political commentary. News is different, of course. But to me the best journalistic writing comes about when the writer’s personality comes through. When their unique voice can be heard in every paragraph. HST was of course the exemplar of that, but you don’t have to be as extreme as him to write things that have some heart and soul about them, that do more than just recite the facts.

Indeed, that journalistic objectivity is part of the problem. The whole he said/she said reporting of science in particular — just think of the way climate change is discussed1; or the MMR fake controversy of a few years back. Journalists need to be able say, “This person says x but they’re wrong because of y and z.”

And that isn’t necessarily even being subjective. It’s just being willing to not treat both sides of a debate as equal when they’re not.

Back to HST on Nixon, and the crookedness of the Republicans:

Two years after he quit, he told a TV journalist that “if the president does it, it can’t be illegal.”

which is something that Trump has quoted, I believe. Or if not, it’s clear that it’s what he believes.


  1. In reality there’s no “debate.” []
Trump, Nixon, and Subjectivity

Trumpeting

Not a lot to say about today. Trump is president. World War III hasn’t started yet, but presumably he’s got the nuclear codes now.

Actually it’s entirely possible that whoever is responsible for briefing the new president on such matters (and come to think of it, who is it who has that responsibility?) didn’t actually give him the real codes, or the real nuclear football. After all, they’ve probably taken an oath to defend the republic (I’m now assuming it’s somebody military) against enemies domestic and foreign, and one could safely argue that Trump is an enemy of the republic.

Indeed, an enemy of all decent people. But we’re just going to have to live with him now.

At least until they impeach him. Or invoke the 25th Amendment1 to declare him unfit. Sooner or later one of those must happen.2

Although that will leave us with President Pence, so I don’t know…


  1. I read up on it after the West Wing episode “25.” []
  2. Please! []
Trumpeting

Poetry and Politics

It’s hard to believe that this is for real: a poem about Trump written by an American, riffing on the orange one’s Scottish heritage (which, I’m sure it’s fair to say, embarrasses our entire nation).

Indeed, something in the headline gives me pause: why would The Scotsman describe it as “created” rather then “written”? I wonder whether it has been generated algorithmically by a program.

It must be a fawning, sycophantic, arse-kissing algorithm of the worst sort, if so. And if not — and if it’s not some particularly subtle satire — then the guy behind it is… unbelievable, assuming he’s writing from the heart. And has one.

But if you’ve gone and read that, then you should wash your mind out with Hal Duncan’s response, which is not only better poetry, it’s written in modern Scots, and contains lines like this:

Ah’ll spit a rhyme for ye: Ye cannae write.

Best of McLeod? Don’t make me fuckin laugh.
Yer tangerine nazi rapeclown’s fuckin loathed
by Scots who mind when rebels wurnae naff
gold-shittered gobshite Emperors unclothed.

But don’t wait here. Go and read the whole thing.

Poetry and Politics

The Only Good Brexit is No Brexit

38 Degrees is consulting the public on a “DIY Brexit,” wherein the public can give their opinions on what Brexit should look like, and supposedly the results will be looked at by a group of think-tanks who are being consulted on the matter.

The things people have come up with so far all seem pretty good and sound, at a first glance (kind of hard to read, the way it’s presented with big fixed header and footer).

But. But what we want is not the best Brexit we can get. What we want is no Brexit at all.

And I think I can safely say I speak for the majority when I say that. But Theresa May and her crazy government don’t look like they’re willing to listen to anyone about it.

You know how all recent prime ministers get “isms” named after them? Ever since Thatcherism, at least? Well this one gets an alternative suffix: Not Mayism. Mayday!1


  1. And not the good one. That’s May Day. []
The Only Good Brexit is No Brexit