Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Besmirching Labour's Name

"When she speaks out about antisemitism, people should listen and act rather than condemn her." So says Luciana Berger of Margaret Hodge who, you will recall, called Jeremy Corbyn's face a "fucking anti-semite and a racist" in the Commons last night. She was careful to say these words in the chamber and does not have the guts to repeat them outside of it. Because she knows they are not true and are, in fact, defamatory. Rightly action is due to be taken against Hodge under PLP rules and there are grounds for a complaint of bringing the party into disrepute as well. I am also of the view this was a stunt, a put up job to drive anti-semitism up the news agenda while the media are, for the moment, more interested in Tory divisions. If any of this has to do with the resumption of Labour lead in the polls is something for readers to judge.

At the centre of the dispute is the Labour Party's definition of anti-semitism and its refusal to adopt wholesale the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition. And the party is right not to do so for two very good reasons. It counts "Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor" as an example of anti-semitic behaviour, as well as "Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation." While the definition notes that "overall context" matters, having seen how cheerleaders of successive Israeli governments have worked to characterise and discredit opposition to its actions, such would no doubt be used to try and close down legitimate and justified criticism.

For example, thanks to conquest and colonisation Israeli Jews are a fact of life, and like any other national grouping are entitled to the right of self-determination. However, that does not for one single moment hide the fact that Israel was founded as and remains a colonial project defined explicitly in ethno-nationalist terms (a self-designation almost uniquely shared with Japan). Israel discriminates against its minority Arab citizens, illegally annexes occupied land, steals water resources and, under the guise of self-defence, pursues military incursions against its neighbours, up to and including massacres of unarmed protesters. It is a racist state because it is formally racist, and its actions are racist. The exercise of national self-determination does not give any nation carte blanche to ride roughshod over the rights of others, be it Israel, the US, China or whoever. Claiming that your nation possesses such a right because your neighbours are inferior and barbarous is the very epitome of racist politics.

Neither is there any question of holding Israel to a higher standard than other liberal democracies. The United States is regularly berated, and rightfully so, for its "police actions", extra-judicial killings and meddling in other countries' affairs. French secularism and its particular model of republican citizenship is also criticised and attacked for the exclusion and marginalisation of migrants of North African descent, providing politicians scapegoats aplenty. And then there is the UK, which once faced an insurgency that came very near to wiping out the Thatcher government in the 1984 Brighton bombing. This last example is an instructive one because for all the brutalities and injustices of the low intensity war in Ireland, the British state did not flatten the Bogside with bombing runs and heavy artillery, it did not bulldoze houses belonging to the families of IRA volunteers, systematically assassinate leading figures in the provisionals and Sinn Fein, deploy white phosphorous, nor launch shock-and-awe punitive expeditions over the border. Criticising Israel for its incessant attacks on Gaza is not holding them to a higher standard, but a matter of taking it to task for violating the standards expected from a democratic country as a matter of course.

These are not anti-semitic arguments. Nowhere can the whiff of anti-Jewish racism be found. But what the IHRA definition does is discourage critical investigation along these lines for fear of getting tarred with the anti-semitism brush, and/or attracting the attentions of self-styled custodians of Israel in Labour Party circles. And you know who agrees with this? Chuka Umunna, who this week branded Labour "institutionally racist", Keir Starmer went on Andrew Marr a couple of weeks ago and said the IHRA definition should be adopted in full, and Anna Turley, today amplifying and cheering on Hodge. I pick these three because they sat on the Home Affairs Committee reporting on anti-semitism in the UK. This cross-party group concluded that it "broadly accepts" the IHRA definition but with "additional caveats". What might these be? The report notes it's not anti-semitic, in and of itself, to criticise Israel, to hold it to the same standards expected of liberal democracies, nor to take a particular interest in its activities. As Labour's position is similarly caveated, are our "comrades" saying their report with their name on it is racist and therefore is an example of institutional anti-semitism? As they haven't explained themselves we are forced to conclude it's factional hypocrisy guiding their words instead of principled anti-racism.

Like most of you, I'm sick of this. The party is not without its problems, but I'm sick of the endless stream of dishonesty, of the purposeful besmirching of Labour's name, part and parcel of scorched earth shenanigans as the right are democratically ejected from their positions of influence. This is not about Israel. It's not even really about Jews and anti-semitism. It is about stopping Corbyn, of taking the party back to where it trod water before 2015, of making it once again a timid and loyal opposition to the Tories but one where, at least, they ruled the roost.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Appeasing the Brexiteers

Astonishing scenes. Last night the government scraped a victory by three votes on its customs bill. It was able to do so because thanks to the votes of our friends the Labour-in-name-onlys - Frank Field, Kate Hoey, and Graham Stringer - and the absence from Parliament of Uncle Vince Cable and Tim Farron. Clearly they had priorities more pressing than derailing Theresa May's ridiculous and incoherent Brexit plan.

Well, thanks to May's acceptance of Jacob Rees-Mogg's four wrecking amendments to her customs plan, she has - at least at first glance - made her own negotiating position even more uncertain and tied herself in knots by accepting the Brexiteers' views into law. It's madness. Madness. What on earth was she thinking?

There are two points that can help explain the seemingly inexplicable. What we are seeing is short-term Tory party management in extremis. Plenty of people have commented about how the Prime Minister is living from day-to-day, and here we are. By accepting the Mogglodytes' amendments she was able to get the 60-or so votes they hold behind the government's position. As we have seen, Tory remainers could only muster 11 votes in opposition so from that point of view, the government's overall position lived to fight another day. Had Mogg and co. set their face against the remainers would not have been enough and it might have proved curtains for May.

The second point is that voting the Brexiteers' amendments into law doesn't actually matter. Nothing has changed, to coin a phrase. When Dominic Raab is packed off to negotiations with Brussels and May's plans dissolve in first contact with the European Union's position, whatever is eventually arrived at - and it's looking like Britain is heading more to a Norway-style destination - this will mean more government legislation, and therefore anything put down to placate the Brexiteers now will necessarily get repealed later. One assumes the European Research Group have the wit to realise this too, and so their mobilisations are all about showing May what headaches they can cause her down the line.

And here we are. A Brexit position evolving not from speaking to the EU but from arguments amongst the Tory party, and a set of incompatible and contradictory negotiating lines that will be rejected out-of-hand. Unfortunately, the longer this shilly-shallying goes on the more likely the UK will crash out of the EU, a crash that will hit our people the hardest.

Monday, 16 July 2018

808 State - Pacific State

Theresa May undertakes a wrecking operation are her Brexit position, making it even less likely to fly with the EU. She then announces government plans to close Parliament early to prevent any more political embarrassment. And then our mate Donald Trump says he believes Vladimir Putin over the FBI on matters relating to Russian influence on the US election. What a day.

Unfortunately, I'm cream crackered and not in position to write anything tonight. Bah. Still, for occasions such as these there are top tunes aplenty to serenade you with. Here's one.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

No Labour Exit from Brexit

If you have recently woke during the night to the sound of piercing screams and pleas for mercy, you just might have caught the final agonies of Tory hopes on winning the next general election. As their vote is coming unstuck thanks to their incoherent mess of a Brexit, which at first glance appears to be a soft one, does it mean anything as far as Labour's support is concerned?

As you will have seen in the polls, the marginal Tory lead has vanished. Two points, four points, five points, it's very difficult to see how they could possibly win these voters back with Theresa May still at the helm. And there's room for further movement. Nigel Farage is still doing the Smashie and Nicey on LBC, but should his threat to return to front line politics be made good, Farage's dubious charisma could be relied on to chip off a few more percentage points. To be sure, the Brexit mess is of the Tories' doing and they're being made to own it, but might their fall out impact Labour's own coalition of voters?

It would be marginal at best, because the dynamics of Brexit, its meaning and attachments play out differently among Conservative and Labour supporters. As I've written more times than I can remember, the Tory coalition up until last week was an agglomeration of constituencies in decline. Retirees, Scottish unionists, the know-it-all petit bourgeois Facebook bore, older workers in dying jobs. They are also disproportionately male and white, Are Labour sceptical at best, with many who've never voted Labour and have become habitually anti-Labour, and there are refugees from UKIP's implosion - what centrist politicians used to euphemistically call "real concerns" and "strong and sincerely-held views". This constituency is breaking down because it is literally expiring. Thanks to the realities of working class life of the rising generations, they tend toward social liberalism and are therefore at odds with the callous conservatism of May and her minions, and the conservatising effects of ageing have broken down. Being conditions consciousness, so if you can't accumulate property, you're much less likely to start thinking like a Tory voter. Nevertheless, for those who have invested themselves in May's Tories Brexit is an ideological glue that keeps the coalition together. If you have large numbers of people who feel like strangers in a strange land, they will grasp for symbols and totems of stability, like beloved institutions and national identity. Brexit here is an act of national self-assertion, of taking Britain back to a time when immigrants were few and far between, you could get a job from the school gate, there was no touchy-feely namby-pamby nonsense and, crucially, Britain was fully independent and could make its own way.

The flipside of Brexit, remain, just doesn't work this way in Labour's coalition even though approximately two-thirds of its support did vote to stay in the EU. While it is true, as a number of polls have shown, that a majority of supporters (and members) would either like to remain or at the very least have a referendum on the final deal, it is not a deal breaker. Over the last couple of years the party has been consistent in its view, sensibly in my opinion, that the referendum outcome has to be observed. And despite the best efforts of the Liberal Democrats, a paddling of Jolyons, and His Blairness those voters have kept with Labour while the LibDems remain stuck in the polls. This is because Labour voters are attracted to the party thanks to its policy platform. Forget the idiocies about the cult of personality, Jeremy Corbyn is an attractor. His politics speak to people. It's not rocket science. If you're going to talk about poverty, frustrated aspirations, social justice, investment not cuts, and so on when these were out of bounds as far as official politics were concerned you have the tinder of an insurgency. The point is for Labour remain supporters, on the whole the party and its policies come before their attachment to remain.

It works slightly differently with Labour leave voters, the majority of whom tend to be older workers and retirees. Because Labour has accepted the referendum result, they were open to hearing what the party had to say because they in turn had been listened to. They might be quite sceptical of Corbyn and not be fully on board with the social liberalism of the younger generations, but they can see that the new left Labour Party has reoccupied the sort of political ground familiar to them. Had Labour abandoned Brexit, as some strategic geniuses have suggested it should, the result would not have been an influx of millions of enthusiastic remain voters (where from?) and double-digit point leads over the Tories. It would have been read as dumping on the wishes of Labour leave voters, and our enemies would cast themselves as the custodians of Brexit. In other words, I'd be writing and you'd be reading about the disintegration of the Labour vote instead of chewing popcorn and happily watching the Tories gut themselves.

This isn't to say Labour should carry on as if it's all in the bag. Complacency is counter-revolutionary. We should actively reach out to the relatively small but progressive-minded remain constituency, keep our people on board by hammering the Tories on living standards and public services, and pitch toward disgruntled Tory voters by criticising the messy and unworkable position May has come up with, and opposing it with our emphasis on rebuilding the country after a wasted decade. It's triangulation, but not as Blair knew it.

Let's be clear again, and this point cannot be underlined enough, we are in this position, of Labour having the advantage over the Tories because they've spent the last two years coming up with a pig's ear of a position while we have kept up the pressure and respected the referendum result. It wouldn't have been possible had we, to borrow the hackneyed phrase, opted to exit from Brexit.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

On Saboteurs and Sabotage

Ever got in a fight with one hand tied behind your back? Well, that was the situation Labour faced during last year's general election, if The Times is to be believed. To hype a bit of interest in what otherwise sounds like a snoring boring slice of Blairist nostalgia, ex-spinner Tom Baldwin made this observation by way of "Shippers":
Corbyn's aides sometimes demanded big spending on Facebook advertising for pet projects that southsiders [Labour HQ staff} regarded as a waste of money," Baldwin writes.

He quotes an official explaining: "They wanted us to spend a fortune on some schemes like the one they had to encourage voter registration, but we only had to spend about £5,000 to make sure Jeremy's people, some journalists and bloggers saw it was there on Facebook.

And if it was there for them, they thought it must be there for everyone. It wasn't. That's how targeted ads can work."

The Sunday Times has verified the existence of the deception operation with two Labour sources familiar with the Facebook adverts.
Is it true? Well, Let's examine the context. During the campaign, national ran a dreary, steady-as-she-goes campaign. It saw resources directed into safe seats at the expense of marginals, of favours done for candidates approved by Labour officialdom, of Southside changing the locks to prevent Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell from entering the building, of leaking information, like electoral projections to Labour Uncut during the campaign and, it also turns out, to Barack Obama as well. It's worth noting that in a fit of liberal heroics he duly passed the leaks on to the Tories. Seeing allegations of social media shenanigans in the context of the apparat's behaviour since Jeremy Corbyn was elected, it shames the Labour Party that the story cannot simply be dismissed a book puff fodder.

I've met plenty of so-called insiders who fancy themselves as witchfinder generals, of folks who like to think they know where all the bodies are buried, and not a few for whom shifting political realities is an occasion to indulge their John Golding cosplay perversions, as opposed to getting a radical Labour government elected. Spending campaign monies to get one over on the Leader's office, and later chuckling about it with Progress and Labour First neophytes over drinks at conference is entirely believable. I can easily imagine the people who did it, as would anyone who's had more than a passing acquaintance with luminaries of the ancien regime. As Labour is now committed to straight talking, these people are no better than scabs. And in the spirit of honest politics, they should be permanently excluded from the party.

Remember, this culture doesn't exist because of a few bad apples. You find it rife in any organisation in which bureaucratic sinecure is zealously guarded, where power is hoarded, and accountability is from the top down and not the bottom up. Since Blairism eviscerated the party, the apparat grew more remote from the membership. The abuses of power and the dirt tricks used to maintain it are much more egregious than even the trade union lash ups that used to get done to run the party before Blair's time. It's a systemic problem, and when you have these issues you must address root causes.

Thankfully there is a way of digging out this choking, chummy culture: and that is more democracy. Mandatory reselection, more of a say over Labour leadership nominations, and local ballots on Labour council group leaders cannot be separated out from a thorough democratisation of the party. Abuse of delegate places to CLPs and Local Campaign Forums, where a delegate-based system still operates, has to be sorted out. There is also a strong case for more member scrutiny of decisions made by officials, and the strict subordination of regional directors to regional boards (and not the other way round, which was the case in the West Midlands for many years) are a couple of measures that immediately spring to mind. But why not the election of some officials, too? If it's good enough for the trade union movement ...

More democracy, however, is not an optional extra, it is necessary. If our political programme is about fundamental social change, our project cannot rely on the election of enlightened MPs. Mass democracy can only come about through the democratic organisation of ourselves, of the overwhelming mass of people, around our political objectives. The shenanigans culture, the saboteurs and backroom braggarts, they need sweeping away not just because they're unpleasant, but because they present a blockage to the transformation of Labour into an instrument that can help our class take power. They should either get with us, or get out.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Donald Trump Protests: What's the Point?

Is there a point? Among those for whom Donald Trump is a pretty repulsive figure, then the answer is obvious. Simultaneously for the minority who don't think antagonising Trump, a man with a notoriously fragile ego along with a dainty set of hands, is a good idea then no, there shouldn't be any protesting. If you don't respect the man then at least respect the office, so goes the argument. And then there are the somewheres-in-the-middle who greet his "working" visit to the UK with indifference, or can't see any point in taking to the streets. Well, the protesters are right and the naysayers, whether they instinctively recoil from extra-parliamentary politics or go by the world-weary cynicism of the sofa, are wrong.

Protesting against Donald Trump sends a message. One of the predicted consequences of Trump's presidency is the attempt to normalise the abnormal. All capitalist societies (and all class societies, for that matter) are based on conflict. This means at any one time, tensions are in friction, classes and fractions of classes face off, and pathologies of violence, physical and symbolic, tear at, rip up, rework, and reweave the social fabric. Trump's presidency is an attractor and condenser of backward and declining forces who were/are attracted to him because he offers a simple analysis that makes sense of their own predicament, and whose political obscenities mark him out as someone and something different to what went before. If he refuses to abide by the etiquette of polite liberal society, if that makes him an outcast and a renegade then perhaps he will follow through with all the other outrageous, anti-globalist, anti-immigrant postures he's taken up.

A cynical strategy for Trump and those who hitched a ride on his bandwagon, but the consequences have been appalling. Every single racist arsehole in the US has been empowered by the example set by the bigot-in-chief. Racist attacks are up. Racist police violence continues virtually unchecked, despite the hard, necessary work done by Black Lives Matter. We've had children separated from their parents at the border and thrown into cages. Misogyny festers, making celebrities out of non-entities like Jordan Peterson, and spawning truly pathetic movements of entitled and embittered masculinity, like the incels, and worryingly giving fascism a leg-up. Protesting against Trump in the UK says to those back home that none of this is normal and should not be accepted. It shows people who are really in the thick of it, be it organising against the cops Trump champions, fighting the sexual violence Trump treats as a joke, and working to build unions in the firms Trump and his billionaire cronies own that they're not alone, that along with the comrades they have there that large masses of people overseas agree with them, refuse to accept the normalisation of racism and misogyny, and will take to the streets to make their opposition heard. They don't call them demonstrations for nothing.

Second, marches can be fun, but people as a rule don't go on them because they're a good larf. They attend to demonstrate their strength of feeling about an issue, but they also have an extremely important secondary effect: they help pull a movement together. Thousands of people are due to take to the streets and, in the shadow of the Trump balloon sailing above, make new connections, come into contact with new ideas, deepen their political understanding of the world and forge new friendships, while feeling a sense of solidarity with like-minded others. For not a few who get involved and for whom this is their first demonstration, it can be a life-changing experience. The march may only wind from A to B and hear the same roster of speakers who normally adorn leftwing demos in London (assuming the Met unban the mobile stage), but all this does not do justice to what cannot be seen: the spadework of movement building.

But why protest against Trump when worse people, like Erdogan, sundry Saudi princes, and Xi Jinping tend not to be greeted in the same way? So ask the self-appointed protest police, like Piers Morgan, whenever a leftist demonstration is organised. Let me put the case to them as patronisingly as possible. You see, when you have a movement and a politics that is somewhat marginalised in society in terms of numbers, media coverage, and general awareness of what it stands for, it has to use what meagre resources it has to make as big a splash as possible. That way it can win over new people and push the political envelope more towards the left. Trump, for example, is almost universally known in the UK as the American president. How many people have heard of Erdogan or Xi by way of comparison? Just because all the stops aren't pulled out for them and others does not mean the left are okay with them. Let's just repeat that, it does not mean the left is okay with them. It's only by building movements off the opportunities afforded us can we ensure that people worse than Trump can get a testy reception in the future, hopefully to the point where turnouts are so large they are deterred from visiting again. There endeth the lesson.

Why protest against Donald Trump? There's every bloody point.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Tories in Crisis

England lost. Ho hum. Why not console yourself with my talking incoherently about Boris Johnson, Brexit, and the long-term decline of the Tory party - among other things? Brought to you courtesy of the PoliticsTheoryOther podcast. Follow it on Twitter, check out their Patreon page and don't forget to give them a like on the old Facebook page.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

It's Coming Home!

What a summer 1996 was. It had the tunes, it had the footy. Well, you know what, this summer's going to be even better. No time for a proper post tonight for tomorrow we make history!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Boris Johnson: A Depreciation

In characteristic style, Boris Johnson made the Brexit crisis engulfing the Conservative Party all about him. From ostentatiously gesticulating at Chequers and dubbing the plan a "turd", to stumping for Theresa May in a speech backing the cabinet's deal with itself, and then plunging the knife into his boss's back half hour before she addressed Parliament on the government's position, he showed himself to be the cowardly, treacherous self-centred chump he always was.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Emily Thornberry said Johnson was the worst foreign secretary ever to have taken office. That's a fair assessment. In the last two years, he's rubbed EU politicians up the wrong way. You know, the sort of people the government should be charming to get a half-decent Brexit deal. He's embarrassed the country by constantly winging it, which in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe condemned her to more years in an Iranian jail. And he destroyed what little credibility he had by scuttling off to a tete tete in Afghanistan to avoid the Heathrow vote. Readers will recall Johnson had previously pledged to lie down in front of the bulldozers to prevent it. In short, he's not just the worst foreign secretary we've had in recent times (no doubt Jeremy Hunt will give him a run for his money), he is quite possibly the worst Parliamentarian this century. The man is a poltroon, a deeply deceitful and dishonest chancer, a cynic who grasped at every network, every connection made at Eton and Oxford, and managed to bulldoze himself into plum spots at The Times, The Telegraph, and The Spectator before being given a Tory seat and various stints on BBC programming. There are many millions with more guts, more nous, commitment, and seriousness than Boris Johnson but because they weren't born with his connections or afforded the same advantages, we instead have to suffer lazy mediocrities like him.

If Johnson was a one off, you could put him down to being the one that wriggled through the net, a freak of circumstance that someone with such low ability could climb so high. However, he is not an isolated character. In his temperament, aversion to work, and political outlook there isn't a great deal separating him from his great rival. In fact, look around the Tory cabinet. If this is the best and the brightest the Conservative Party have to offer, one must shudder at the state of the back benches. Idiocy, spitefulness, bigotry, arrogance, cluelessness, these are words that jump to mind when considering the least worst Tory members.

None of this is an accident. It's an entirely understandable consequence of the crisis the Tory party are in. When Thatcherism tore through the political landscape of the 1980s, it wasn't just working class communities and trade unions she laid waste to. The small businesses and manufacturing capital that served and were tied up with the old class relationships got rent asunder. Her right to buy policies, the privatisation of the most profitable parts of the nationalised economy, cheap credit and tax breaks designed to create new constituencies of Tory voters were enough to secure her a majority in 1987, and John Major one in 1992, but it did not bed down a lasting affiliation. These constituencies were, like good Thatcherites, mercenary and when Blair offered them a better deal in 1997 that's where many of them ended up.

Where was their gratitude? Thatcher did not and could not reassert the role the Tories played throughout the earlier part of the century. Just as Labour and the unions socialised millions of people into politics, the Tories did the same. In the late 19th and early 20th century, in large parts of the country their party organised communities, particularly in rural Britain, around village fetes, country fairs, as well as doing the bread and butter stuff. In many more well to do areas the party was the lynchpin of what you might call associational life. A vehicle for paternal do-goodery towards the below stairs classes with charity work, philanthropy, and so on. Such, in want for a better phrase, Tory collectivism was taken to the knackers' yard by Thatcher. Out went a condescending responsibility for the poor, and in came the the bootstraps fetish. Associational life, whereby a Tory activist would combine party activities with charitable commitments became rarer and rarer. It's almost like the membership retreated from the rest of the society, and as they diminished so did the party infrastructure. The Tory Association bars shut down, with a few exceptions, charity work and Toryism were increasing antipodes, not twins, and the party shrank, its political footprint entirely reliant on megabucks donors and their press wing.

New blood doesn't course through the Tory veins in sufficient numbers. What exists are a dwindling band of ageing MPs and councillors, with a small smattering of careerists, and a wing now in the process of decamping from the party over what they see as the betrayal of Brexit. This situation is nothing new, it's been the reality of Tory party life for well over a quarter of a century. Without the refresh it's the well-connected dross who elbow their way to the front. Their underwhelming presence and inability to move with political realities is a symptom, a consequence of earlier Tory success. To win her third term, to defeat the labour movement Thatcher had to set in motion the slow burn destruction of her party. Johnson, Dave and the rest are all creatures of this decomposing party, their political sense impaired and skewed by necrosis. The good news is the Tories are not about to and cannot throw up another Churchill, Disraeli or, for that matter, Thatcher, but the repulsive striplings we see before us are damaging enough. The career of Johnson reminds us of this, he typifies all that is useless, fatuous and decadent. Do right thinking people everywhere need any more encouragement to put the Tory party down for good?

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Is the Tory Vote Melting Down?

One of the more comedic aspects to have come from the Tory government's negotiations with itself was the statement Theresa May released shortly after her soft Brexit was revealed. It's really worth quoting in full:
During the EU referendum campaign collective responsibility on EU policy was temporarily suspended. As we developed our policy on Brexit I have allowed cabinet colleagues to express their individual views. Agreement on this proposal marks the point where that is no longer the case and collective responsibility is now fully restored.
You see everything that has happened since last June, all the secret briefings and not so subtle leadership positioning wasn't a symptom of crisis, it was our very strong and very stable leader allowing a thousand flowers to bloom. And, you know what, two days on and the line appears to be holding. Yes, Boris Johnson couldn't resist an "anonymous" leak to the press, dubbing May's plan "a turd". Still, it's a turd he's going to have to polish, which is something we can all look forward to. Bearing this in mind it was interesting to see his sometime confederate Michael Gove assume the mantle of the new loyalism on Andrew Marr. A remarkable about turn to be sure, his assumption of soft Brexit newspeak wasn't without some uncharacteristic testiness. Marr was accused of asking a "fake question", and he implied his leaver friends and comrades were not being realistic if they failed to back the plan. That's sure to win people around. And later on James Cleverly, one of the most misnamed men in politics, put a loyal, if workmanlike spin on the plan on The Sunday Politics.

The upper echelons are all sorted, but as for the rest of the party and the leave-supporting Tory voters? That's an entirely different kettle of fish. Hardly scientific, a snap poll on Conservative Home finds three-in-five party members disagree with May's deal, half as many support it and some ten per cent are in the don't know category. Like I said, hardly scientific. A slightly more robust poll, from before the deal was announced, by Arron Banks's Westmonster found 52% of leave voters think it's a sell out with, again, half as many in support. How about more anecdotal evidence? Check out the comments on the always-ridiculous Conservative Woman blog, the howls of despair on this Andrea Leadsom thread, the palpable disappointment with Gove and, last but not least, reports of no confidence letters going in to the 1922 Committee. Deary me.

This obviously spells difficulty as far as the maintenance of Theresa May's coalition of voters goes. Remember May's achievement - and it was an achievement - she was able to appeal to 42% of the voting public, some 13.6m people, a total in recent times bettered only by Margaret Thatcher in 1987 and John Major in 1992. She came unstuck because Labour managed 13m votes and, had the election taken place a week later, would have polled even higher than the Tories. May's coalition was based on appealing to the old and retired, corralling them with some traditional fear-mongering, and positioning as the custodian of a hard Brexit. In its own terms, it was successful and her party managed to maximise their vote. The pretty solid eight, nine, ten per cent UKIP were polling between the referendum in 2016 and the defeat in the Stoke Central by-election upped sticks and disproportionately flocked to the Tories. These, if you like, are your hardcore leavers, folks who identify with Brexit and anti-EU stuff for all kinds of reasons. The problem May has got is while she can wave her piece of paper in the knowledge most people aren't closely following the negotiations, this core are. Whether they'll flood back to the dessicated husk UKIP has become, vent on the internet and abstain or something else remains to be seen but a good chunk of these people are lost to the Tories.

We will have to see what happens in the Commons this week and how long the "restored" cabinet responsibility lasts. The first problem Tory Brexiteers have got is their no-confidence vote. There is probably enough of them to trigger a ballot, but May would win it easily. Everyone knows it would inflict serious damage on the party at a time it's supposed to be wrestling with a national crisis. And none of the would-be leadership factions have the strength to consolidate after her defenestration, so they will stay out - except perhaps the stupid boy. If they get their vote but can't shift the party's stance, Jacob Rees-Mogg and his vile clique are up the proverbial without so much as a Latinate witticism. If the polling movement away from the Tories proves to be large, Farage finds it irresistible to return and UKIP rises from its pauper's grave the fragile unity of the parliamentary party could be put into question.

In many ways, as far as the Tory party are concerned we're back to square one, a position in which the last three years effectively didn't happen. How ironic that winning the kippers over was Dave's raison d'etre for calling a referendum, and because of said referendum the Tories are losing them again. It's almost as if the whole thing is a farce.