Saturday, 5 October 2019

The Genius of Dominic Cummings

No sooner had Boris Johnson presented his Brexit proposals to the world, the EU kindly handed them back and asked for more detail and some revisions. More significantly, on Friday at our old friend the Court of Session in Scotland, the latest round of legal challenges to Johnson's approach - this time exploring what happens should he refuse to extend Article 50 in line with the law - the government produced documents that say the Prime Minister will in fact apply for an extension if a deal isn't done at the upcoming EU summit. Do or die, eh? One is reminded of the time Johnson said he would lie in front of the bulldozers to prevent the expansion of Heathrow from going ahead.

And so, the government have rumbled themselves. The documents even state the Tories would be saying one thing to the British public, i.e. we're leaving come what may on the 31st, while telling the EU we are prepared to go for an extension. Black and white, bang to rights, the PM's duplicity is stated boldly and starkly. Nevertheless, despite showing their hand Johnson and friends are carrying on as if nothing has happened. "The government will comply with the Benn Act", so goes a Number 10 "source". There is a "narrow duty" concerning a letter of delay, they carry on, but the government aren't prevented from doing "other things". Eh? "People will have to wait to see how this is reconciled." What? So the government's response is an application for an extension shall go ahead if no deal is coming, but at the same time it will try its damnedest to make sure we leave on Hallowe'en, such as moving mysteriously outside the provisions of the law. And to top it all off Johnson is quoted as saying "new deal or no deal - but no delay." Having had their real position exposed they're doubling down on the deception and insisting we're still leaving. Incredible. Future historians simply won't believe it.

What might the government have up its sleeves? One presumes they're carrying on with the Brexit advertising campaign hitting the ad breaks, newspapers, and electronic hoardings up to the last minute. Others, however, are scenting a scurrilous move of leaning on the Hungarian government (one bunch of anti-semites the Tories never get prissy about) to veto the extension. NB. Even Nigel Farage thinks this is most unlikely.

This is where the genius, if it can be called that, of Dominic Cummings comes into play. Following his successful stint heading up Vote Leave, and penchant for writing 10,000 word blog screeds, he entered Number 10 with an aura of invincibility, mystery, and diabolism about him. At least as far as establishment hackery were concerned. His legend has circulated around the village for years as the irascible side kick to Michael Gove when he was at Education, and then providing the strategic nous to wrong foot the remain campaign and get leave its unexpected win. Because of his track record, his blunt style and position as the power behind the Johnson throne, time and again we see commentators and politics Twitterati assume everything that happens is part of the Cummings master plan. As if the utter failures and sharpening of the Conservatives' long-term crisis since the end of the summer are jives, twists, and lurches in a merry dance, the purpose of which is only going to become clear when it's too late. Cummings isn't losing. He's merely playing us.

If you're one of the people who think this way, stop. Cummings is not Malcolm Tucker, let alone the Mekon. And neither is he particularly good at what he does. There is a tendency in politics to mistake inflexibility for leadership, low cunning for tactical mastery, and dogmatism for strategic wizardry. Qualities Cummings has in spades. Consider matters objectively. The first Prime Minister in history to lose their first seven votes in a row, the first to have been found in court to unlawfully prorogue parliament and lying to the Queen, the first to have forced the largest split in the Tory party since the 1840s and cancelling his majority, and now the first to have got caught lying brazenly about his plans ... and continues to lie about them! These are on Cummings. In his blinkered, unidirectional way he simply assumed he could bounce anti-no-deal Tories into backing Johnson, and the opposition into a general election on the ground of his choosing. Not once did it occur that Labour and the rest might have other ideas, and sidestep the clumsy traps Cummings thoughtfully signposted for them.

It's poetic how the worst possible Prime Minister is served by the worst possible chief strategist. The only talent Cummings possesses is the destruction of Boris Johnson, their shared position, and the medium to long-term viability of the Tory party. The only genius he has demonstrated is an ability to convince others he is a genius. In other words relax, grab some popcorn, sit yourself down, and enjoy watching this agent of chaos go about his work.

Image Credit


Speedy said...

"In other words relax, grab some popcorn, sit yourself down, and enjoy watching this agent of chaos go about his work."

As a Labour Party activist, this is a sad inditement of Corbynite complacency on the day the Tories were revealed to be 15 per cent ahead in the polls with a Conservative election victory near guaranteed, and along with it a Hard Brexit, before Christmas.

Oh but you were careful to say 'medium-to-long term'. Well, to paraphrase Keynes, in the medium to long term we are all fucked, as the UK will be left with a reinvented far-right Tory Party, fractured Labour, and post-Brexit neo-liberal disaster-capitalist Irish civil war wasteland.

Progress? Hold on! Maybe the strategy is... oh that's all the Tories fault now they're bound to vote Labour?

Think again, genius. Like that has worked so well up till now. This is precisely how the Left, historically, has been crushed by the right, upon the corpses of the very people it was created to defend, needless to say.

How about looking at things 'objectively' for a change?

theOnlySanePersonOnPlanetEarth said...

Yep, Labour have a perfectly sensible, rational position re Brexit which the media present as a confused mess.

The Tories say one thing to the brainwashed and frankly moronic masses while having a completely different policy in reality and the media present this has having clarity of position! Bit like Brexit really, the brainwashed and frankly moronic masses voted leave because of immigrants, while the people who actually orchestrated Brexit want tax havens and an end to consumer and environmental protection (or red tape as they call it). Those that voted remain simply want to protect their white supremacy.

Incidentally Gadaffi's major project before he was murdered by EU imperialists, who the likes of Boffy (Jo Swinsons political soulmate) and Denham (John Boltons political soulmate) will call a Stalinoid, was to campaign to create an African union. In other words Gaddafi wanted nations to come together in a grand economic block. Once again showing that it is Boffy and Denham who are the Stalinoids! The EU and its supporters do everything for European unity while doing everything to sow division everywhere else! White supremacists indeed!

But anyway, we have been told all along that the Tories are for Brexit, the lib dems are absolutely opposed and Labour are a confused middle!

A bit like when we were told May was strong and stable and turns out she couldn't make a piece of toast without assistance for her advisers. Incidentally advisers we were never told about until the Tories did badly in the election.

Yet we know all about Cummings right from the start!

Dipper said...

I think you are getting this wrong.

It may not be that there is a route out of this for Cummings/Johnson in the short term. It might be that they lose this battle. But what we are seeing is the exposure of the pro-EU position, the strength it has, how it operates.

For instance, he could not have foreseen the Supreme Court ruling, as just about nobody did. But that Supreme Court ruling is another piece of evidence that there is no middle ground, that there is no compromise, that the pro-EU establishment is forcing a binary choice: No Deal, or Remain.

Cummings is not a particularly hard-line Leaver. He would like a deal, but it is clear the EU believes that with the co-operation of the pro-EU forces in the UK they can inflict a punishment deal that will eventually result in a beaten and cowed UK returning to the EU where we will be over-ruled on any serious issue.

The key is how many voters agree with the view of the state of negotiations as outlined above, and so far the poll results are variable but it seems quite a lot, possibly enough to get a No Deal majority at the next GE.

In any case, a pro-EU victory now is likely to be a pyrrhic one. The price that is being extracted to win this victory in terms of conventions torn up, promises broken, threats made, deals being made, concessions to Ireland, is going to leave a very bad taste for many voters that isn't going to disappear for a generation, so Cummings is forcing a situation which leaves pro-EU forces in a very tricky situation.

Boffy said...

"Article 50 in line with the law - the government produced documents that say the Prime Minister will in fact apply for an extension if a deal isn't done at the upcoming EU summit. Do or die, eh?"

It says the Prime Minister will do so, not that Boris Johnson will do so. In other words, it reinforces the likelihood that come October 19th. Johnson will indeed metaphorically "do or die" by resigning and claiming that he did his best but the EU and a Remainer Parliament frustrated him by their "collusion".

He will then ask the Queen to invite Corbyn to become PM as leader of the Opposition. He can then sit back and watch the rabble alliance fight like rats in a sack as Swinson refuses to back Corbyn, and Labour refuses to back anyone else.

That means that Johnson can put a NCV in Corbyn causing that government to collapse, and a GE 14 days later. If Corbyn manages to send the letter, its another tool in Johnson's kit. He can leave it to Labour's crazy policy to lose votes and seats to the Liberals and let the Tories in in marginals like Stoke. He can point to the chaos as evidence of the reason he wanted to take a firm line, and he will point Tory Remainers in the direction of the way the Liberals let the "Marxist" Corbyn get into Downing Street.

Its all pointing to a clear Tory majority, where in stead we should have been looking forward to a thumping labour majority for a progressive labour government pursuing radical policies in Britain and across Europe.

Phil (not BC) said...

Today's Sunday Telegraph has some classic examples of Cummings's "inflexibility [mistaken] for leadership, low cunning for tactical mastery, and dogmatism for strategic wizardry". Apparently, if there's a VONC that goes against Johnson, he'll ignore it and challenge the Queen to sack him - and if there's a finding that he's broken the law, he'll ignore that too until the point where uniformed coppers turn up at the door of Number 10.

The longer this goes on, the less it looks like a visionary tactical genius and the more it looks like a toddler lying on the floor and saying "I won't do it, I won't, I won't, I won't!".

Boffy said...

"Cummings is not a particularly hard-line Leaver."

Nor is Johnson. Remember those two Telegraph articles arguing opposite cases. Johnson's original stance, believing Brexit had no chance of winning, was that a strong Brexit vote would let Britain negotiate further concessions to stay in the EU. he even argued that a vote to leave could be used to obtain such concessions prior to a second vote to then stay in.

This is why the premise of labour and the Liberals argument that they couldn't have a GE before an extension was false, because it based on the fallacy that Johnson's priority is a No Deal brexit, whereas his priority is getting a majority Tory government. Johnson knows a No Deal would create chaos, which is why he would never have implemented it Benn Act or not, prior to a GE, because that would mean he would have no chance of winning that GE.

He made his name writing Eurosceptic stories for the DT about bent bananas and other crap he knew was rubbish, but fitted the DT readerships biases. He's doing the same now to coral the Tory membership and voter base.

Once he's won the election that Labour is gifting to him, he may well drop the No Deal stuff if he has a sufficient majority, and shift to a different tack. By nature, he's more of an interventionist Bonapartist of the kind of a Bismark or a Louis Bonaparte, as his spending plans are suggesting. That would be more fitting for current conditions, but would require that he has a Knight of the Long Knives for the Moggies, who seek to carry out a political counter-revolution to take things back to the 18th century liberal regime.

Blissex said...

«the government produced documents that say the Prime Minister will in fact apply for an extension if a deal isn't done at the upcoming EU summit.»

As "Boffy" keeps telling us, that is entirely consistent with Boris Johnson resigning and advising HM to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as his successor. PM Jeremy Corbyn will send that letter. After that (or even before that) Boris Johnson moves no confidence in Jeremey Corbyn, and obviously wins, and then elections follow with the Conservatives appealing to all Leavers, and to all those Remainers who have been disappointed by the "it's not cricket" behaviour of the remainiacs in the House.

Blissex said...

«Corbynite complacency on the day the Tories were revealed to be 15 per cent ahead in the polls with a Conservative election victory near guaranteed,»

That's because of the usual tactics by the Mandelsonian Tendency infiltrates: push the Labour party to tell its 35% of "Leave voters" to go vote for someone else, whip up hostility to the party in the press and the other media, and then complain that polls show the party is doing poorly.

That was the situtation before the june 2017 too, and yet in the month of campaign, in which the media have to be impartial and voters are more engaged, there was actually a large surge of votes for Labour, not a big loss.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I agree with Speedy, for once. With the Tories so far ahead in the polls, it seems extremely unlikely that anything but a hard-Right Tory government, with a substantial majority, will emerge from all this. I'm sure Cummings will be happy with that. I agree that the long-term position for the Tories looks very difficult, but this is a party that has re-invented itself time and time again, and will almost certainly do so again. In the meantime, five years of Johnson and the ERG will do a great deal of damage. And the speculation must be on who succeeds Corbyn when, as seems likely, he resigns after Labour gets a record low vote in a General Election (since the 1930s, anyway).

I hope I'm wrong, but I can't see any other outcome. And where will that leave the parliamentary Left?

Anonymous said...

Ah, more concern trolling from our "anonymous" concern troll.

BCFG said...

I don't agree with speedy and don't for a nanosecond believe he is or ever has been a Labour party activist.

Boffy: if it walks like Jo Swinson, if it talks like Jo Swinson, we can assume Boffy is Jo Swinson.

A general election will be great, because in this crucible real politics should come to the surface. If a genuine leftist like Corbyn can get 20% of the vote then given all the crap thrown his way from Boffy to the Daily Mail and the Sun through to the BBC and Sky then that would be a fantastic result and would be a hugely positive step forward.

And to think right wingers like speedy would have you believe the left have no support whatsoever.

At last politics finally means something, thanks to Mr Corbyn

Boffy said...

"That was the situtation before the june 2017 too, and yet in the month of campaign, in which the media have to be impartial and voters are more engaged, there was actually a large surge of votes for Labour, not a big loss."

The difference is this. In 2017, large numbers of, particularly young, voters who were shocked by the Brexit vote, and who were desperate to stop a hard Tory Brexit, flooded to Labour as the best hope of preventing it. Most of them took Labour's "constructive ambiguity" on the issue to really mean that they were opposed to Brexit, and when push came to shove would stop it. On the same basis, millions of Liberal and Green voters voted Labour.

That was the real basis of the Labour surge in 2017, not some overnight conversion of voters to Marxism, or even Corbynite, traditional social-democracy. As soon as Corbyn emphasised his own pro-Brexit stance, and used it to determine Labour policy so as to time after time use that "constructive ambiguity" to actually mean support for Brexit, all of those Remain voters that came to Labour in 2017 as part of that surge disappeared. Only 40% of Labour's 2017 voters now say they will vote Labour. The other 60% have gone over to the Liberals, Greens, Plaid and SNP who now appear to be the only ones offering a genuine anti-Brexit position. It shows just how little of the 2017 surge was a result of Corbyn and radical social-democratic policies. In fact, it just illustrated what has been seen since 2016, that the electorate has divided not on party line but on the lines of Remain or Leave.

Labour by continually arguing that it will pursue its own fantasy Brexit objectives, has mostly put itself in the same Leave camp as the Tories, where it has no chance of capturing votes.

But, its vague commitment to another referendum simply acts to retain some Labour Remain voters acting out of faith rather than conviction, and so split the Remain vote, which overall is larger than the Leave vote, as indicated in the EU elections. But, by splitting this vote Labour ensures that the on the basis of FPTP, the Tories will win a clear majority.

There is only two ways to prevent that. Either Labour drops its reactionary pro-Brexit stance, and becomes more hardline Remain than the Liberals (unlikely to be believable while Corbyn is Leader), or else Labour's vote completely collapses and goes over to the Liberals so that the Liberals get a majority or prevent the Tories getting a majority (unlikely given the sectarian stance of Swinson) and traditional Labour loyalties.

So, with Johnson 15% ahead in the polls, and the opposition divided. It looks like a Tory majority, which is no doubt the strategy that Cummings and Johnson had from the beginning. Indeed, if they had read my blog post from last Christmas, it is precisely what I thought May would have done as far back as February, and should have done had she been a more astute politician.

Anonymous said...

' Tories so far in the polls'...and some LP MPs always slagging off the democratically elected leadership of the party- could you imagine if you did that at work. Why don't they just get on with their jobs. I am sick of hearing it especially when like so many others I am out there campaigning for the party. It almost seems like some of them have wanted us to lose for quite a while now... and it would also, at least seem that some of them are very determined. Its not his genius. I really do hope I am wrong.

Speedy said...

WTF, I was speaking about Phil, although I have been a Labour Party activist on numerous occasions, most of them probably before you were born (I mean, pre-2000).

Yeah, I can see them popping the corks already - 'we've lost' but it's 'a fantastic result and a hugely positive step forward'.

Dominic Cummings will probably join you at the party. 'Useful idiot' doesn't come close.

Anonymous said...

You are not wrong you either build the capacity a party or you don't as an MP. It would be useful if these Labour Party MPs did not send out a negative script about their party. Useful in helping the Labour Party win that is. Agree the Cons are in a mess highlight that instead.

Bill Posters said...

Hard to see Boris Johnson resigning as PM under any circumstances. Incumbency is a big advantage.

The worst Johnson/Cummings can expect is for nothing to happen on 1st November and the UK to still be in the EU. Even so, spun efficiently as heroic failure they could have done enough to quell the Brexit Party.

To really kill the Brexit party the Tories should have some form of limited electoral pact. Stand aside in say ten seats for the Brexit party and put Farage in the House of Lords. This is beyond the pale for Johnson/Cummings so Tories far from unassailable in a General Election.

All to play for in the General Election. Labour have a good chance despite current polling.

Braingrass said...

I have no idea why after 2017 people still go on about polls, as though they were a killer fact of their argument. Even the polling companies don't take them seriously. They are all marketing companies and their money is made elsewhere. There seems to be about 15 polling companies (I've just made that number up, but you know what they mean), each putting a poll out a week, each with different numbers. That might make you all reflect on the methodology of polling. If they were scientific and objective, how come they all come out with different results. 2 =2 =4, it doesn't equal 6 or 7 or 15 if you are YouGov. Speedy and others like quoting polls that put Labour in the worst light. There polls are by YouGov and Opinium. Both are the favourite of the right wing press and the Observer. Even if you took polls seriously, these are both ridiculous outliers. As far as I am concerned, as soon as someone starts talking about polls as a killer argument, then I just think they are using them not as evidence, but as confirmation bias.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you would be writing that if the polls suggested a Labour lead of 15%? I agree that polls, favourable or not, can be weaponised by the Right, but they do provide some indication of support. I wish the most recent ones indicated a huge surge in support for the Left, but they do not. The only poll that really matters is the one at the next General Election, but polls do provide some suggestions as to what that actual vote might be. At the moment, it just doesn't look good. Maybe it will change in the next two months, as almost certainly there will be a General Election before the end of the year.