Tuesday, 12 March 2019

End of the Road

Congratulations to Theresa May for setting another record. Losing by 391 votes to 242, her Brexit deal enters the hall of dubious fame which, before she crashed and burned earlier this year, was exclusively occupied by Labour governments. With the fourth worst defeat for a government in British political history under the Tories' belt, was tonight an exercise in futility or were there any politics teaching moments contained therein?

The first, which is worth reiterating, is May continues to subordinate the national interest - which for convenience sake we'll define as what's best for British capitalism from the standpoint of jobs, inward investment, growth etc. - to the problematic of party management. Since her catastrophic failure back in January, she has pantomimed a negotiation process, making promises to hither and thither, found a concern for workers' rights, more (moar!) money for towns and cities ravaged by her government's cuts to local authorities, and all the rest of it. But her idea of Brexit is too hard for, well, anyone with an ounce of political sense and feel for economic realities, and too soft for those who would profit from a chaotic departure from the European Union.

The only Brexit that could potentially command a majority in the Commons is the customs union-based version long pushed by the Labour Party. If May was properly serious about "delivering on the referendum vote" then she would have compromised her red lines and gone with what was achievable when it became clear her preference was not a go-er. Politics is the art of the possible, a dastardly communist once said. But she hasn't because Brexit never really meant Brexit. For May, Brexit meant keeping the Tory party together as a going concern. With Labour lost to Corbynism, the Liberal Democrats down and out and centrist politics out of sorts, the only reliably bourgeois vehicle left are the Tories. Yes, the very same dysfunctional mob responsible for the mess in the first place. As far as May is concerned, she is serving the national interest by pursuing the class interest of keeping their shit together. Any other Brexit, especially Labour's Brexit, brings the possibility of a split into the equation. And we're talking a proper split, not a TInG-style farce.

This is her game, but how do we account for her ineptitude - as Richard Seymour asks? Well, we don't really need an explanation for it. May's personality traits are well known. She's particularly dogmatic and will stick with something. This may have made her appear strong-minded and someone not to be tested during her Home Office years in the mercurial coalition government, but when it required a deftness of touch, like the project of forging a new period of hegemonic dominance, which was within reach once, or an election campaign going off the rails, or managing the Brexit process her one-dimensional character and, yes, incompetence soon manifested. It's hard to comprehend how she thought her playing for time would be perceived as anything other than playing for time. Or that her tough talking at home for the benefit of the right wing press and the thinning party faithful wouldn't be picked up by Brussels negotiators, and likewise her emollient tones with the EU wouldn't set alarm bells ringing back at home. But then again, I guess neither you nor I are criminally incompetent. May's instinct is to protect her party and preserve it, but married to an inflexible politics and rigid approach to getting anything done she has proved the author of her agonies and humiliations. And, if anything, exacerbated the difficulties the Tory party faces.

Now what? Presuming no deal falls in the Commons this Wednesday, and the vote to extend Article 50 is carried, unless the EU intervene and insist the UK government comes back with something else May will trot off to Brussels with the same deal. She will claim it has undergone significant changes invisible to all save her, and here we will be in a month or two's time. The Prime Minister's deal definitively reached the end of the road in January, where it careened into the nearest brick wall. All she's done tonight is backed up her busted old banger and driven it pell-mell back into that very same wall. Unless someone takes the keys away and escorts her from the vehicle, she will try reversing again to give it another go. Please someone, do it. And render a kindness.

11 comments:

Giles Stogdon said...

I love this. Nicely done, especially "Politics is the art of the possible, a dastardly communist once said." and "All she's done tonight is backed up her busted old banger and driven it pell-mell back into that very same wall."

Can the frustrated proof reader in me suggest correcting the repetition in: ...she thought her her playing for time would be perceived..?

I'm really glad someone pointed me to this blog.

Giles

Boffy said...

The government is in tatters, and yet it is 10 points ahead of Labour in the polls, and the gap is widening! But, its not surprising, because Labour's leadership is useless.

May's deal as the ERG point out, amounts to Britain remaining in the Customs Union and Single Market indefinitely, unless it could find some magical means of squaring the circle of complying with the requirements of the GFA - which requires that there is no border, and so there are the same regulatory regimes on both sides of that border - and the only difference in Labour's proposal is that Britain remains in the Customs Union with a close alignment with the Single Market - which to comply with GFA would require accepting all single market regulations - on a permanent basis, but attaches to this the unicorn that the EU should, as Bojo et al also demand, that Britain be free to negotiate its own trade deals (not possible inside a Customs Union), that it has a seat at the table (not possible unless you are in the EU), and that it be able to pursue a reactionary policy of scrapping free movement (not possible if you accept single market regulations).

Labour proposes to fight an election on this untenable basis, and thereby to compete with the Tories for that share of the reactionary vote made up of Brexit supporters. In doing so, it means poking the 75% of its 2017 vote that opposes Brexit in the eye with a burnt stick!

Dowd appeared on TV this morning saying they were still going through the stages set by the Conference, and that they had not reached the call for a referendum stage yet. With 17 days to go before Britain crashes out that means Labour will be calling for a referendum on whether Britain should Leave, several months after it has already left! What greater duplicity and incompetence could you wish for?

I prefer to call for a GE, which is actually party policy, but where is even any real commitment for that? And, if you are going to call for such a GE, it has to be on the basis of stopping Brexit, not a vague promise of some other unachievable, and undesirable Brexit to that which the Tories are pushing.

It would be nice to think they just don't have clue 1 when it comes to political strategy, but its more likely that the reality is that the Stalinists driving that strategy, are really pushing things in the direction of a no deal Brexit, and the chaos that will follow it. In fact, they are making it easier for the Tories, and the Blair-rights, and destroying the future prospects of Labour and the Left within it.

Zubair Ahmad said...

Nice Info

Winston Link said...

Except for this poll?

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-election-win-brexit-tories-conservative-latest-poll-corbyn-may-a8251911.html

Phil said...

Afraid it's a year old ... Seen this bandied about on social media. Always check the date!

Pleb James said...

What about this poll: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/labours-lead-over-conservatives-surges-12165233
In any case, Labour has a built in election premium. General elections become about what kind of country you want to live in and what policies will take you there - this is Labour's territory and their policy hand is very strong.
The Tories want us to live in some horrible, judgemental, hostile, future / past dystopia that is actually deeply unpopular amongst the electorate.
Labour want us to live in a version of Scandinavia - which is what most people deep down know is the best a capitalist / mixed economy can do for its populace.
The election premium is upwards of 20 points, as evidenced by GE2017, so in actual fact, Labour should win by 10 even if it is currently behind by 10.

Phil said...

It's the same poll!

I disagree with Boffy's assessment, btw. Nor do I hold much store with any polling company except for Survation. Be that as it may, I am a stickler for accuracy and bandying about year old polls is not just wrong, it's weird.

Richard said...

"I am a stickler for accuracy and bandying about year old polls is not just wrong, it's weird" - you are Phil, and that's why I love your blog and why I'm not writing one. There is no way it would be as good.

Anonymous said...

You could still ask why Boffy is citing Kantar's poll and not the one from ComRes - taken at exactly the same time - that puts the Tory advantage at a rather more modest 2 points.

And of course, both were before this week's epic shitshow.

Boffy said...

Phil,

You are free, of course, to disagree with the assessment, but, I think its not very scientific to base yourself on Survation as the only poll that favours Labour. I based my statement on the sample of polls listed by UKPolling Report, as linked to in my blog post, each of which showed the Tories with a 7-8% lead over Labour. They all indicated that lead was rising. The polls were from end of February, but more recent polling seems to suggest that trend has continued.

Boffy said...

Phil,

You say,

"In any case, Labour has a built in election premium. General elections become about what kind of country you want to live in and what policies will take you there - this is Labour's territory and their policy hand is very strong.
The Tories want us to live in some horrible, judgemental, hostile, future / past dystopia that is actually deeply unpopular amongst the electorate."

I'm surprised you make that assessment. Its certainly not unpopular with the Tory core vote, is it? In fact, that core vote supports a No Deal Brexit by an 80% to 20% majority. Nor is it unpopular I suspect, with many of those alienated, lumpen elements that voted Brexit, because they certainly favour a horrible, judgemental hostile environment for immigrants, gays and others, including environmentalists and feminists, as every survey of their opinions has shown.

Many also have a disconnect with their own circumstances. That elderly Tories should think of the poor and people on benefits as scroungers, is not surprising, but there are plenty of those amongst that lumpen element that backed Brexit who have a similar opinion themselves. Just look at the examples interviewed up Hanley on Vox Pops who said that they would like to see Trump in charge of Britain!

And, the problem with your assessment is that Brexit has swallowed the oxygen of politics, so that Labour's (also confused) offering on economic and social policy is being drowned out. The majority of people now identify as Remain or Leave, rather than Labour or Tory so that the question MP's are being judged on is that.

But, Labour is not only pursuing a reactionary policy of Brexit, and thereby abandoning basic socialist principle, it is also stupidly, thereby competing for votes in the same pool of Leavers that the Tories more or less have a monopoly over, whilst in the process kick its own supporters, who back Remain by around 75%, in the teeth.

Sheer stupidity.