Monday 21 October 2019

Another Day, Another Brexit Delay

It's pretty certain we won't be leaving the European Union at Hallowe'en now. John Bercow's knocking back of the government's second attempt to get the Johnson deal through the Commons could be seen coming a mile off, so you have to wonder why the Tories even bothered to try. With the passing of Oliver Letwin's amendment on so-called super Saturday, parliamentary approval (or otherwise) of the Brexit plan has been delayed until the requisite legislation is in place. Only then can the deal can be passed into law. This was animated by rumours put about last week that ERG headbangers were prepared to swallow the meaningful vote and then rebel so its implementation falls, causing the UK to tumble into a no deal Brexit on the 31st. In truth, in Johnson's premiership the ERG have pretty much got all they've wanted but in these bonkers times, one can never be too sure.

Why then is Johnson still in a massive hurry? It's pretty certain we're not leaving on the 31st. And it's more or less foregone that the EU will accept an extension to Article 50. After all, one thing the Brexiteers were right about was how German manufacturers have an interest in coming to a sensible arrangement with the UK. With jitters about the world economy's outlook, on the EU side they're not about to plunge willingly into a no deal scenario that could catalyse capital's next global heart attack. Plus there's the politics to consider. They might be weary of the Tories, but they know, one day, the UK is very likely to want back in. Nothing would damage the EU's standing more here if it's seen to egregiously screw over the country. And right now, we have the largest pro-EU movement of any EU member state - it's more in the interest of the EU to cultivate this as a means of fostering and stabilising the UK as a good neighbour and a future constructive full member. And if they don't, well, the UK can be much more of a nuisance as a no deal tax haven 21 miles off its shores.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Sadly, there's no dying in a ditch to be had from any Conservative politician, let alone the Prime Minister. Johnson's epistolary antics received very favourable write-ups in the Tory press over the weekend, and chances are all but the most Faragist of the Brexit-minded won't hold him responsible for complying with a law forced on him by the remoaner parliament. Which is way the theatrics were staged in the first place. But why is he still acting as if he's in a hurry? We're not leaving any time soon. You know it, he knows it. I'm afraid Dominic Cummings's clever, clever tactics are in play again.

Since the earliest days of the otherwise boring leadership contest, Johnson's shtick has been the populist people vs parliament gambit. The sheer recklessness of his pronouncements and inevitable chaotic defeats have been set up with this in mind. With a supine press plugged directly into the unhinged base, and a broadcast media that thinks regurgitating "Downing Street sources" counts as reportage, Johnson knows his messaging will resonate among his people. And so while everything was imploding and the new government teetered on the brink, chaos trickster Cummings could affect his 'everything's going to plan' zen because, in his scheme, it was. Johnson tries to get parliament off his back, and is set back by the Benn Act. He goes for a general election and he is denied. He comes back to the Commons having negotiated a Theresa May re-spray with the EU, and the Brexit express is derailed by MPs and the Speaker. And now at the mercy of amendments galore, the successful attachment of a second referendum (unlikely) or a UK-wide customs union-based Brexit (somewhat more likely) amendment means Johnson pulls the whole thing and goes for a general election again. Setting himself up to be thwarted is the game.

As noted at the time, the Tory result at the last election was built in a polarised fashion around getting Brexit done, and scaremongering about Jeremy Corbyn's plans to collectivise Wetherspoon's. Johnson's election strategy is exactly the same, hoping being seen to be zealous and getting frustrated at every turn will provoke a backlash and turn out his otherwise declining electorate in greater numbers than anyone else. But the hurry is not entirely affected. The longer Johnson has to wait for an election, the greater the chance the split in the opposition will either soften, or become more tactical come polling day. And the second is the more Johnson's deal is exposed to public scrutiny, the more the awfulness of this class war document comes out into the open and his opponents can develop their critique. We saw in 2017 how vulnerable the Tories were to a class-based critique and how Labour connected to those interests hitherto excluded from mainstream politics. With the excluded growing by the day and Johnson's base shrinking, time is a ticking for a strategy based on radicalised pensioners.

Such is the risk of the Cummings strategy. On the face of it delay plays into the Tories' hands, but the longer it goes on the more matters could unravel and the likelihood of a famous Tory defeat goes up. There is nothing to be gained from being hasty in this instance.

Image Credit


Anonymous said...

The thing that Cummings must surely have foreseen is that the Prime Minister is his own campaign's biggest liability. He can't speak in public for more than 30 seconds without telling at least one lie; his reflexive obfuscation is exactly the sort of thing that--when broadcast--makes voters instinctively suspicioust; and, worst of all, he is easily rattled and loses his nerve if confronted with public mockery or (gasp!) hostility in public.

Theresa May had similar weaknesses. Her campaign solution was to handle media interviews in a way that makes the term "control freakery" look inadequate. Remember all those weird TV interviews where it was just her and a lone journo, isolated in the middle of (eg) a huge empty barn?

She looked like she was a fugitive, darting around the country from one bolt-hole to another. In a very obvious way - she was. No-one has ever analysed the role this played in her 2017 drubbing, but it surely must have been a very significant factor.

Johnson has the choice of derailing his own campaign due to his unrestrained personal incompetence, or (like May) undermining his own campaign precisely by trying to avoid derailing it.

Things in Britain have come to a pretty pass when John Major braving the bloodthirsty hordes of Luton from atop his trusty soapboax starts to seem like a shining example of political authenticity.

Against the Kurdish thiefdom said...

I was at my girlfriends mums house and My Corbyn was talking at the dispatch box, and my girlfriends mum was spitting bile with fury at his every word.

I don’t think this is an exception. The Brexiters detest him, I suspect not only for his stance on brexit but more so for just being a decent human being.

There are a lot of people whose brains have been totally polluted by the rotten media culture in Britain, in fact let us just say the rotten culture in Britain. These cultural aspects, which for my money the left have been too quick to pander, are coming home to roost.

It isn’t the global elite that are the problem or the bankers, it is the servile lapdogs that laughably are called the working class. They are not a class, they are miserable, cruel and hard hearted wretches. Forget ISIS these people are the most dangerous human beings in history!

No offence to my girlfriends mum or anything!

Speedy said...

I'm not sure what WTF's really on about, but the British working class has always been culturally, if not politically, conservative. Goes back to Orwell's observation about the "working man" after WW1 who spent four years in France, never developed a taste for wine, returned loathing the French but with a grudging respect for the Germans.

People who romanticise the working class have never been working class themselves. Perhaps that's the problem with Corbyn, Milne et al.

In any case, things are getting interesting. It seems an election is inevitable. Boris will campaign on his deal, which Farrage has already denounced. I am not convinced this will lead to a split vote however, as I think the Brexit Party truly existed on "getting Brexit done", so even if it runs on No Deal its impact will be minimal - as over-stated as the ERG's support for Unionism.

What this entails is the requirement - in the absence of any political maturity on behalf of Labour and the Lib Dems - for the most effective non-partisan tactical voting campaign ever. I hope someone is working on an app...

asquith said...

Ruth Smeeth & Snelly G rebel against Corbyn

Boffy said...

All the Brexiteer scab Labour MP's should be dumped and branded with infamy, in the manner of our ostracising others like MacDonald and Mosely.

To "Make It End", Labour needs to adopt a clear militant position of Revoking Article 50, Committing To Taking Britain Back Into the EU if Johnson takes us out, and for a General Election Now.