Thursday 5 September 2019

Jo-Jo a Go-Go

Boris Johnson's position is very bad. But last night, as the Prime Minister nursed his pounding head after four defeats and the collapse of his position perhaps there was a crumb of consolation reflecting on how it couldn't possibly get worse. Dear reader, it got worse.

Does anything say "you're finished" more than your own brother resigning from your government and announcing his retirement from politics when the next election arrives because he can't stomach your policies? We certainly have Johnson the younger to thank for giving Labour a handy slogan for the constituency campaign in Uxbridge and South Ruslip. But when you consider the manner of the resignation, it's got to sting. Yes, sure, there was no way it could be spun positively for the PM, but it could have been handled better. JJ might have hung on until the election and announced then he was leaving politics, but instead by immediately giving up on he has inflicted even more damage on him. It's almost as if he didn't wish the no deal Brexit project nonsense well.

Speaking personally, I should be grateful for JJ's tenure as Universities Minister. His enthusiastic championing of the market in Higher Education has ensured universities redirect resources from teaching and research to chase targets according to arbitrary and suspect metrics that supposedly measure institutional performance. His particular baby, the extension of the Teaching Excellence Framework on a subject-by-subject basis means more managers (hello!), more form filling and spread sheet scrying, and less time supporting students. When he first stepped down last year in protest against Theresa May's handling of Brexit, it seemed likely this scheme would fade away like a bad idea, only for it to come roaring back once re-appointed when big bro entered Downing Street. And now will it go again? If it is scrapped, it's too late for universities who, collectively, have squandered tens of millions responding to the pilot of this exercise.

Apart from my personal interest, will Johnson's resignation resonate out there in realworldland? Possibly. Between 2010 and 2015, it was not uncommon to come across people on the doorstep for whom the Miliband brothers' psychodrama had cut through. Perhaps these punters were never going to vote Labour, but among voters of the blue rinsed type it did seem to bother them unduly. Therefore some are bound to suffer discombobulation, which could matter in a close fought election likely to be more of a turnout game than even 2017.

Apart from losing a brother, the day didn't get much better for Johnson. His disastrous press conference and walkabout in Wakefield, a spectacle the normally supine Norman Smith described as "A very uncertain and rambling performance" was far from his finest hour. And the government have given up (some might say surrendered) their attempt to filibuster the Benn Bill in the Lords, with a view to having a second crack at getting an election through the Commons on Monday. As nothing has really changed since Johnson gambled on the opposition saving his bacon, they should continue to say no. No deal should be off the table and an extension of Article 50 secured before the vote to dissolve parliament goes through. And rather than letting it through via the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, it would be much better if the government are forced to go down the route of a motion that can be amended with all sorts of goodies attached. Like, perhaps, votes for 16 and 17 year olds.

The only real quiver Johnson has in his bow, and one we're already tired of hearing, is the claim his opponents want to prolong the Brexit process indefinitely. He knows from his focus groups that most of the public want Brexit done and dusted (news flash to the hoodwinked, it certainly won't be if we crash out without a deal), and that impression of movement, dynamism, coiffured optimism compared to the sclerosis of others will be an electoral draw for the Tory/Brexit Party/right-leaning Leave base.

This means Labour cannot be seen to be mucking about either. As per party policy, we head into the general election pledging to hold a second referendum as a means of ending Brexit uncertainty once and for all. And those options should be remain versus May's deal. Yes, her deal is bad. And yes, Labour would have negotiated a far better one, but it can at least be avoided by a comprehensive trade agreement seeking to preserve as much as we have now as possible versus the fever dream fantasies of the ERG, the disaster capitalists, and the tax dodging industry. And there you have it, a referendum of what could become a soft Brexit vs no Brexit. Yes, it would rumble on afterwards for years as the hard right will scream betrayal, but with the main issue finally sorted for most voters we can move onto political ground in which the big challenges start getting tackled, challenges and problems the Tories have prevented us from dealing with thanks to the crisis in their party.

The departure of Jo Johnson underlines how precarious the Johnson leadership is, how damaged it is by recent shenanigans, and how Labour now possesses a greater say over events than the Prime Minister. Patience and sensible strategy can utterly wreck the Tories and deliver us a left-led Labour government. We'd better not fuck it up.


Chris said...

I'm hearing on Newsnight that he may try the wheeze of not appointing a Commissioner to the EU which apparently means we get automatically excluded from the EU. Seem possible? Preventable?

Boffy said...

But, Johnson's position is not very bad. He is exactly where he planned to be. Unlike Labour, he and Cummings have ditched a large chunk of dissident MP's, firming up his control of the Tory parliamentary party, and bringing it into line with the 80% of Tory members and voters.

He has simultaneously made himself into the principled opposition, even whilst technically still forming the government. He needs to be seen as leading the principled opposition, because his aim is to rally all of the Brexit voters around the Tories come the election. So long as the opposition remains divided, he will then win a stonking majority, and that now looks likely.

His die in a ditch speech gives the clue of where this is going. He won't pull the not sending a Commissioner stunt because that would appear to be ducking a fight, and something he is pinning on the opposition. He will, as I said last week, simply resign rather than ask for an extension. At that point the opposition rabble falls apart.

They have to choose an alternative PM. Yesterday, on Politics Live, Swinson again disgracefully, but predictably said they would not support Corbyn for that position. Labour rightly won't support anyone but Corbyn, or if back bench Blair-rights put up Harman, or support Clark, its the end of the PLP, and the start of a LP Civil War.

Either way, Johnson/Cumings will show the opposition up to be a disorganised fractious rabble, unable to agree anything. That will collapse after two weeks during which they cannot agree on a PM. October 31 will come and go, or if the opposition do manage to overcome their divisions and appoint Corbyn as PM, he will have to take responsibility for asking for the extension, which is precisely what Johnson wants!

The Tories will go into the election as principled Brexiters, and Labour will go into it as unprincipled chancers, with no clear position backed by a disorganised rabble.

Shai Masot said...

All good fun but we can't allow ourselves to be distracted from the far more important matter of trigger ballots. Let's get on with the deselections!

Speedy said...

Well, one thing's for sure, by December we will know the outcome and who will have been proved right:

Phil? (although he tends to cover his bases)
WTF (although regardless of the outcome he will claim to have been proved right)?
Speedy? (you can guess who my money is on)

Dipper said...

all those one-nation Tories don't seem to have understood that after the Euro elections, the only way they can continue to be one-nation tories both electorally and politically is outside the EU. Remain and they will be arguing about nothing as all the decisions will be handed down to us form Brussels. When Brussels announces in European Commission report after report that your population is going to increase by between 20% and 25% and you have to build a medium sized European nation in a generation at your own cost, and not because we need it but because the EU do, then you either leave or you get your orders and do your best. There is nothing for these one-nation Tories to debate.

BCFG said...

Dip said,

“When Brussels announces in European Commission report after report that your population is going to increase by between 20% and 25%”

You do know that these types of reports aren’t instructions but forecasts don’t you? The national statistics office publishes similar data with similar results. The EU is not telling us to increase our population; it is, based on the available evidence, informing us on something that is really really useful to know. We should thank them for devoting time and effort to helping us out in this way!

To label the point, when the EU provide a report saying our economy will grow they aren’t instructing business to go out and produce more, they are simply providing economic forecasts!

Incidentally being in or out of the EU doesn’t radically change the population predictions but does change the economic ones – which is a bit of a puzzle I admit!

Boffy’s position is ridiculous; he vents his anger at Swinson while actually fully supporting her position, and that of Clarke and Harmon. He says Swinson should fall in line with Corbyn, whose position Boffy totally disagrees with!

Boffy is also wrong on the fractious nature of the opposition, save Corbyn they actually all agree with each other, which is why Swinson wants him cast aside so a Tory remainer or a Blairite can take charge. This is because there literally is no political difference between Tory remainers, Liberal democrats and Blairites. The problem for the opposition is that they are split along three political parties!

But if there are enough remain supporters in the population then the remain parties will win a majority at the next election and Boffy will have lost the battle for democracy.

Boffy has said in the past Marxists should go out and try to win the battle for democracy and then if they lose they do everything they can to support whatever reactionary claptrap that wins the day. Of course everything Boffy says can be taken with a pinch of salt, this guy makes his own rules and creates his own history, that way how could he ever be wrong?

But if we take this charlatan at his word, then Boffy should be going hell for leather to make this whole Brexit thing work out for the best!

Dipper said...

@ BCFG "You do know that these types of reports aren’t instructions but forecasts don’t you?"

so firstly, you don't think forecasts are things we should take notice of? All those economic forecasts about how bad Brexit will be we can just ignore?

What do you suggest we should do about this? Cameron's government ended up thinking the only thing we can do is make the UK a worse place to live (no need to fill in the obvious joke).

FOM means we cannot do anything about it, or at least not within the right and proper constraints of being a decent country.

All this lone-nation tories resigning over the EU ... they have no solutions to this. just talking.

BCFG said...

Those forecasts, increasing population, are usually a positive sign, which you have turned into a negative.

It like if the EU forecasts strong economic growth and you moaned that this would mean we had to build more waitrose stores!

So according to dipstick a big drop in the population would mean we all have more to go around and happy days? I think this guy needs to go back to school!

But my problem is what does any of that have to do with brexit. Brexit or not we would still be facing the same issue. brexit is irrelevant to the point.

George Carty said...

BCFG, I often wonder how much Brexit is explained by the fact that Britain was by far the most successful European power at settler colonialism. While most major powers in Europe built colonial empires to acquire resources, Britain was different in that it also acquired lands where the native population was small enough and/or vulnerable enough to European diseases that white settlers were able to become the majority population.

The only non-Anglophone countries that were somewhat analogous to the settler nations of Australia, New Zealand and Canada (and to some extent the United States) were the Southern Cone countries of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. And those countries probably don't have the same attraction for Spaniards that the overseas Anglosphere does for the British, because they were historically misgoverned: economies dominated by a single product (copper in Chile, beef in the others), plus Peronism in Argentina.

Perhaps Leave voters who wail about how overpopulated Britain is, are yearning for the way of life found in what used to be Britain's overseas Lebensraum?

BCFG said...


I hadn't really thought of it in that way but I think you are probably onto something.

There are those who don't really know what the way of life was in Britain's overseas Lebensraum but I suspect even a good number of them yearn for not only more space but more space away from specifically darker skinned people. I think brexit can be reduced to this Hitlerist monstrosity! Which is the best reason I can think of to be against it.

But that said, remaining won't change the desire.

I think Brexit was caused by other related issues, I mean the alarm bells were ringing with me with the increasingly militarised society on the back of the imperialist crimes in Iraq, Libya, Syria etc, any leftist worth their salt would have had the alarm bells raised at the sight of the repugnant military wives choir(the dday darlings literally make me want to vomit)

I was arguing well before the Brexit vote about all this and the chauvinist pro war pro imperialist John Bolton leftists, like Boffy and Jim Denham were playing all this down, as they were in the service of imperial interest.

It is quite annoying that these same arseholes now act like chief antagonists of something they helped bring about! And they attack those of us on the left who saw all this coming because we don't act like idiot cheerleaders for the EU.

Remember, unity of the oppressed not the imperialist core!

Dipper said...

The only thing I'm yearning for is a suspension of FOM so I can move round my area at greater than walking speed as the massive house-building boom is creating gridlock. It is absolute carnage and I just want it to stop.

George Carty said...


Yes, racism did have a role too – the heavy Leave votes in Kent and Essex are almost certainly a result of "white flight" (think of White Van Dan: a West Ham supporter now living in Gillingham territory).

Boffy and Jim Denham aren't "chauvinist, pro-war pro-imperialist": they're just not Third-Worldist like you seem to be. Of course Third-Worldists don't really have a problem with the imperialism of anti-Western powers (with Russia being the main contemporary example).

Dipper's comment backs up my view that a yearning for more space (independent of racism) was a key factor in support for Brexit: he also reveals (from his comments about "move round my area at greater than walking speed" and "gridlock") that car culture has a huge part in fuelling this yearning. Perhaps big cities tended to be more Remainy because people there are less dependent on their cars (and non-drivers will also not be exposed to the gutter press headlines on prominent display at many petrol stations)?

Almost nowhere in the UK is overcrowded as far as people are concerned: you'd need to get to Mumbai or Hong Kong densities for that, and note that Barcelona (which isn't a dense as those Asian cities, but still denser than almost anything in the UK) is a very popular tourist destination. However, private cars are an extremely spatially inefficient mode of transport, and almost all our built-up areas are overcrowded as far as cars are concerned.

Even our New Towns (pretty much our least dense built-up areas: conceived for a future where the car was expected to be king) have roughly the same density as Los Angeles (~ 8000 people per square mile), which is notorious for its traffic congestion. The cities of red-state USA are typically much lower in density: more like 2000 people per square mile (only twice the density of the entire country of England!)

I suspect the best way to reduce this inordinate yearning for more space would be introduce land value taxation, as this would wipe out the land speculation which prices a lot of people out of urban cores.

Dipper said...

@ George Carty

It is not just about space and overcrowding. Deciding to increase your population by 25% largely through immigration is quite a step. It carries with it risks as well as opportunities. And when you've done it, you can't undo it.

My observations are:
- we cannot do it. I see no evidence that we are capable of building another Sweden in a generation.
- it is not fulfilling a need the UK has. It is more filling a need europe has to find somewhere to send its surplus population that they themselves cannot create jobs for.
- it is not generating the revenue people claim. Tax revenues as a percentage of GDP are the highest since Wilson in the mid 1970's. That's under a Conservative government. Labour will come in and significantly increase tax further. That's not free money. Removing incentives from companies and individuals to earn money will have significant consequences.

Dipper said...

@ George Carty

People who jump on any mention of immigration to show off their superior humanity really ...

1. Do you believe in unlimited immigration?
2. Do you believe all immigrants should automatically be allowed full benefits from the welfare state?

BCFG said...


Denham had on his website just after the invasion of Iraq a picture of a young girl standing next to a piano with the caption, in the new Iraq girls can learn to play the piano!

Please don't tell me these characters are not servile pro imperialist lackeys.

And don't get me started on their views of the racist settler colonial state that is Israel.

It is a complete straw man to say we therefore support Russia because we don't support the US and it lackeys, I mean are you a paid up member of Fox news or something?

Yes, personally I agreed with Russia's position re their near neighbour Ukraine, after all the elected President of Ukraine was ousted in a coup only a few years after the previous Russia friendly elected President was ousted by a coup! Not unsurprisingly the people of East Ukraine who voted for these people could see they effectively had no universal suffrage in ukraine, so what did they do? What any right minded citizen would do, they revolted and what did the unelected Ukraine Junta do? They aerially bombarded the shit out of them. And what did Russia do, hardly anything actually! Other than free the people of Crimea from the Junta's tyranny.

To compare the actions of countries like Russia to those of the US empire and its lackeys, with military bases literally everywhere is quite frankly pathetic.

And I do have problems with Russia's position in Syria, for a start why the fuck haven't they blasted RAF jets out of the sky? I will tell you why because they are not lunatics like the rulers in the West, who will literally let the world burn if it furthers their short term, short sighted interests.

And Syria, Ukraine, yes that just about is the extent of Russia's so called imperialism, and to be fair those nations are quite close by. The US and its lackeys on the other hand, they have a grubby hand on every single corner of the globe, achieved through threats, violence, bribery and other gangsterist methods.