Monday 27 June 2016

An Election or a National Government?

Taking time off from the crisis in the Labour Party, let's turn our attention to the Tories and their position after Thursday's referendum. Emerging from his bolthole this morning, George Osborne tried to strike an assured, calming note in front of the world's TV cameras. The currency markets shortly after didn't find that performance all too convincing. Nevertheless, as we head into a summer period of more blue-on-blue do not at all be surprised if Osborne uses his office to become the de facto Prime Minister. By making decisions and being seen to be making decisions, he can offer himself to a Conservative Party as a stable pair of hands who steadied the ship as mainstream politics dissolved into system-wide crisis.

Then again, Osborne could be too damaged for the Tories. Johnson has to be the favourite, but there are some in the parliamentary Tory party who wouldn't go near him in lead overalls. And I'm not entirely convinced he'll do the business. There's mileage in the bizarre Stephen Crabb/Sajid Javid ticket, there's Theresa May, of course, whose now-you-see-me-now-you-don't intervention on the side of Remain would hardly have harmed her, and I'd throw in a wild card like Anna Soubry too. Though as someone who'd like to see the Tories dashed on the rocks at the bottom of a deep abyss, I'll be rooting for Osborne or, even better, the disgraced former minister Liam Fox. If MPs selected this hapless pair as the choice before the membership, it might cheer me up a bit.

However, there is an assumption doing the rounds that whoever becomes the new Tory leader will call a general election. Dave observed that this should be the case at the beginning of his long farewell to the House this afternoon. I'm not entirely convinced as there is a perfectly viable and Machiavellian alternative: a national government. There are three advantages accruing to a Tory PM going down this path rather than taking a risk while politics is in such a febrile state:

1. It allows them to pose as a unifying figure concerned with healing the nation. As we saw with the Coalition, and every joint operation the Tories have ever been in (with the notable exception of the war time government) they are rarely damaged from buddying up with other parties. By inviting the others into government, they can make the claim that all corners of the UK would have a presence at the Brexit negotiating table. There are no special interests, no backroom manoeuvres cutting deals for the City, the property speculators, and whatnot at the expense of the fisherman, road hauliers, and other constituencies that don't reap the benefit of the single market. It's also much easier to sell than the Tory/LibDem Coalition because there is an actual crisis now - the previous one having been cleaned up by the time they got a whiff of power.

2. The markets are already craving stability. Businesses want to know that a Britain on its way out of the EU is a safe place to do business and park cash. A national government, assuming its MPs command a very large majority in the Commons would absolutely signal that the period of political crisis is over. Or at least give that appearance. A calm politics and a steady state economy would serve the new Tory PM well as s/he leads the exit negotiations, and set them up a nice, fondly remembered legacy too.

3. It could destroy the opposition though, to be accurate, Labour are having a good go at that themselves right now. Nevertheless a national government would serve the Tories well. The question of who the Tories would form a national government wit h would be, well, bits of the Labour Party. Supposing, as is likely, that Jeremy survives, braves another leadership contest and is still in situ just as the new PM rocks up at Number 10. The offer of a national government would be too good for some Labour MPs to resist. From their point of view, Jeremy cannot win an election, they're screwed anyway, so why not take a chance on ministerial office? It would be better than sitting on the backbenches and chumming with the lobby hacks at the Portcullis House coffee shop. The party splits, but as far as they're concerned Labour's now a toxic label, so why not? There would be a rump PLP left in the House, and it would be unlikely they could seriously threaten the new Tory leader for a good time, suiting them down to the ground.

Is this likely? I can't see any reason why it's beyond the realms of possibility.


asquith said...

We (remain) need to accept defeat and move into opposition, of which there'll be a lot. no one with any sense would want to be in government now, given the inevitable consequences, so I'd rather be holding the government to account and pointing out the lies and broken promises of the Leave horror show.

As such, I wonder if some people will abstain from running. May is unpleasant but I'd think enough of a chess player to not want the unpopularity that whoever has to deal with this faces, so don't be surprised if she runs a threadbare campaign or none at all, or more likely marshalls her forces behind someone who can be the public face and get the blame. Bozza might try, but would end up being lynched a couple of years into his premiershio, only I can't think he's thought that far ahead and shameless opportunism might be the order of the day. Or maybe soneone we've never heard of.

Dave might by a principle-free zone and incapable of thinking anything through, but you can tell he winged all his exams at the last minute and somehow excelled without doing any work. Resigning was a stroke of genius, especially after saying he wouldn't, if only he behaved that cleverly all the time he might have actually done something noticeable during his tenure, but thinking long term was never his style and now we've probably got someone who makes him look like Gandhi. now all the big mouths are going to have to deliver, which is why I have to admit I relish my oppositional role pointing out that they're liars.

Boffy said...

There are many similarities between someone like Hillary Benn, and the MP's lined up behind him, and Ramsey McDonald in 1931. They split from the mass membership of the Labour Party, because they wanted to continue to support the policies of austerity at the time, and so formed a National Government with the Tories.

Its clear that a large number of MP's in the current PLP are really Tories, or are at least closer to the Tories than the Labour Party, and so should do the decent thing and leave the Labour Party. It would make sense for them to simply cross the floor to their natural home, alongside the left-wing of the Tory Party, against the Tory-right.

In fact, given the current coup against Corbyn at a time when the Tory Party is itself in meltdown, I am beginning to wonder how many of the Blair-right plotters are, and have been actual paid agents of the Tories. There seems little other logical reason why they would launch their attack on Corbyn at the present time.

After all in the 1980's it was shown in various documentaries the extent to which Special Branch and the Secret Services had around 200 right-wing trade union leaders, and Labour politicians on their payroll, and we have seen the extent to which the secret state used undercover agents in the environmental movement, CND, the Stephen Lawrence campaign and so on.

There is the old saying "Follow The Money", or Quo Bono, who benefits. The only obvious beneficiary of the chaos caused by the plotters is the Tory Party. It would be interesting to "open the books" on the private finances of all the plotters to see exactly who their paymasters are. There again no doubt money paid by "brown paper bags" wouldn't show up, and the Tories, as we know have many available off shore tax havens, and such channels to pay their lackeys.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Phil's post on possibly covert PLP and Tory plans to meld some anti-Corbyn Labour MPs with the Tories in some form of National government.

However the one fronted by MacDonald in 1931 lasted just a few months before an election was called and then MacDonald ended up with just 13 Labour MPs backing him whilst Henderson also had a huge loss of seats and led a rump PLP thereafter. That should give the PLP rebels pause for thought.

davidjc said...

McTiernan is calling for just this thing and Owen Jones as well, more or less, probably others I've missed. The delaying and obstructionist tactics favoured by the likes of Hunt fit the story, too.

BCFG said...

This is my logic:

Those traitorous Blairite plotters believe there will be a general election. they think the Tories will stand on a Brexit, albeit one that breaks every promise made to the bigoted idiots (this won't matter as bigoted idiots soon forgive and forget that they have been shat upon).

These traitorous Blairite plotters know Corbyn will win another leadership contest, given that the members are behind him and most members blame the Blairite plotters for the leave vote because they have been pandering to bigots and the unfree media for decades and have engaged in one imperialist adventure after another. All this has contributed in the rise of bigotry. The decents support for Islamophobia and wars of 'civilising' the natives have had the affect of retarding the british masses.

So, if they believe there will be a general election and know Corbyn will win a new labour leadership election the only conclusion you can reach is that the Blairite plotters want to damage Labour general election bid because they would prefer Boris Johnson and Co to Jeremy Corbyn and co. This does not surprise me as the centre left are much closer to the hard right than they are to Corbyn's modest social demcoracy.

Here is the rub, Boris Johnson, it has been reported, has no intention of calling a general election. So if he wins and isn't forced into a general election then we will have a small cliche of Brexiters desperately pleading to the EU to allow us all the benefits of the EU with none of the costs. I wish the national unity government Good luck with that. Lol!

Boffy said...


Do you know if there are any big Momentum demos planned in Stoke to support Corbyn?

MikeB said...

Once the initial shock has died down, I think most MPs will be back to business as usual. They aren't bothered about "the country" or the people in it, most are career opportunists who will take a consultancy or a non-executive directorship if this MP lark doesn't pan out. So the Tories will re-organise, simply adding awkward anti-Brexiteers to their usual excuses for austerity and sell-offs. The Blairites will just see another opportunity to dump Corbyn.

PS Boffy - I think you meant "cui bono?" Quo Bono were a late 80s supergroup who split after releasing just one single, "The Matchstick Tree"

Phil said...

I don't, Boffy. I recommend joining the Momentum North Staffs group on the Facebook. That's where you'll find that kind of info.

The Best Revenge is Pie-Based said...

The OT sounds like the speculation last year over a Labour-Conservative coalition, which was silly on the face of it. I don't know why it's suddenly not silly now, even having read the article. Point no. 1 cancels out no. 3 anyhow.

Meanwhile, I post this piece on Corbyn, which more or less sums things up.

Phil said...

Re: Labour/Tory coalition, I was one of the first to bring it up and dismiss it. Knock yourself out.