Sunday 27 October 2019

Election Hokey-Cokey

Politics is on a knife's edge, to that we can all agree. But there are moments when high stakes make way for high farce. And one of those moments concerns the timing of the next general election and, specifically, everything surrounding the joint wheeze of the Liberal Democrats and SNP. They plan to table a motion pencilling a poll in for 9th December. According to Jo Swinson on this morning's Andrew Marr, this ensures an election happens as soon as possible once the EU agree to the length of the coming Article 50 extension. If, as is widely expected, it's another three months and the new departure date is 31st January then the passing of this bill means Boris Johnson can't proceed with his deal. Therefore, if you happen to look at politics from the side of your eye and don't follow the ins and outs, you're likely to note all the parties are committed to a general election. The Tories want one, as does Labour, the LibDems, SNP, and even the DUP. How farcical it must appear then that one is not forthcoming.

Also on Marr, Tory party chairman, the chronically misnamed James Cleverly, said the Tories are opposed to this bill. Yes, that's right. The splashes in this Sunday's comics reveal Johnson's latest genius move is to call for a general election every day, and bringing votes under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act as many times as he can. That he hasn't seized upon the LibDem/SNP bill (yet, at least) must be brain scrambling for casual watchers. Cleverly's argument boiled down to, erm, it taking no deal off the table. Despite our departure from the EU not being nigh. Some might be tempted to think their opposition is precisely because Johnson and Cummings are preparing a master-stroke to ram the deal through, vindicating the LibDem/SNP reasoning. The truth is more banal. The Tories want an election now because the polls are in their favour, and the whole strategy is premised on being in a hurry to get Brexit done. Johnson has to be seen stretching every sinew to wriggle out from under the weight of parliament. He also knows the longer the impasse carries on, his pathetic threat of a government strike notwithstanding, the more the situation become unfavourable for him. And so he has to be seen leading the calls for the election and he must be the one who, in the public mind, initiates it. If the opposition do this instead then his strategy loses a key prop. All of a sudden, the opposition aren't looking like the ones being dragged kicking and screaming to the polls.

And so the Tories want an election, but won't vote for this. Labour wants an election, but won't vote with the Tories under the FTPA (with a number of backbenchers pursuing counter-productive strategies sure to cost them their seats, this is no surprise). And the SNP nor LibDems are about to do the same either. To the ordinary punter this must look like pure madness.

Yet why are the SNP and LibDems super keen? It was only last week SNP Commons leader Ian Blackford called the idea of a December election "absurd". What's changed? Let's just say Johnson isn't the only one feeling the cosh of the clock. For the SNP, they want an election out of the way before Alex Salmond's trial, which is due early in the new year. Given the circumstances around the investigation and the suggestion the SNP leadership did not act entirely properly with regards to it, whatever the eventual verdict the potential for severe political damage and splits are there. Readers recalling the acrimonious disintegration of the Scottish Socialist Party should have an idea of what could happen, albeit on a much bigger scale. As for the LibDems, Jo Swinson is in a hurry because of the seeming momentum behind the party - a gaggle of defections, excellent local by-election polling, a strong showing in the YouGovs of this world, record fundraising (thanks in part to the desertion of the Tories by EU-friendly capital), and major (single) issue salience. This is not going to persist forever so strike while the iron is hot, as the old saying goes.

Perhaps Johnson will relent. For him, the idea of giving Labour a good kicking while the opposition are divided and the Brexit Party seemingly quiet/neutralised must be as irresitable to him as it proved for his predecessor. It is conceivable the SNP/LibDem move might receive his blessing in the end. Though, of course, like May Johnson could live to rue the day he underestimated his opponents. After all, many of the conditions of June 2017 are still present. While it might, in my view, suit Labour to have more of a lead in to an election the party is prepared and ready to go. Either way, to have a Brexit logjam replaced by a general election logjam is untenable. It will resolve - and soon.

Image Credit


Alexb said...

I've been very frustrated by Labour's approach to brexit, which has appeared to be unprincipled triangulation. However ironically it does now leave open an electoral appeal which is both simple and powerful: "Vote Labour to heal this country".

The advantage of such a message is that it provides an emotionally valid reason for both Labour's brexit policy, and a reason to focus on Labour's other policies without ignoring brexit: The country needs healing from both the divisions of brexit, and the punishment-capitalism of the tories.

It positions Labour as the only party willing to listen to both sides of the brexit debate. That would need to be backed by some non-woolly initiative to actually listen and help whichever side comes out losing the final decision.

The irony of brexit is that comfortable tory voters can now see the country as in need of some healing. Labour must capitalise on this. But it must be both careful and principled in order to do so: currently its brexit position comes across as wanting to get the votes of both sides while listening as little as possible to either.

Boffy said...

"The country needs healing from both the divisions of brexit, and the punishment-capitalism of the tories."

This is like telling Man Utd and Liverpool fans to "heal their differences" by supporting Stoke instead! Its not a question of healing differences, but of recognising that the differences area reflection that society is divided into two great class camps, one representing modernism, comprising the interests and forces of the organised working-class, together with the interests of the shareholders in large companies, the other representing reaction comprising the interests and forces of the 5 million small capitalists and their families that want to take Britain back to the conditions that existed more than 200 years ago, when that kind of small private capital characterised the economy of the time.

Labour's attempt to "heal differences" between these two irreconcilable class interests is itself utopian and reactionary. It ends up actually in supporting and impossible Brexit, as some kind of compromise.

The truth is Labour does not want an election, because it knows it will lose as things currently stand. It will lose, precisely because of this triangulating and reactionary, pro-Brexit stance, which has been both unprincipled and disastrous. What is more, now frightened of an election it knows it would lose, it then lies about the reason it does not want an election, which makes it look untrustworthy. The idea that it does not want an election because Johnson might push through a No Deal Brexit is nonsense. Johnson no more than May can push through a Crash Out, precisely because everyone knows it would be catastrophic. What kind of an idiot would postpone an election to a week or two after such a catastrophic crash out, which would ensure that you lost that election by a huge margin, that your party and Brexit were destroyed. Certainly not Johnson and Cummings.

The answer is simple. Labour needs to change its policy. A special election conference. Labour should say, Make It End, Revoke Article 50, General Election Now. It should make clear that labour will take Britain back into the EU if Johnson takes us out, and should campaign on the basis of a fight for a Workers Europe.

Tasker Dunham said...

Alexb - It is a great message, but would Labour be able to get it across without being drowned out by the usual right-wing lies and twaddle.

BCFG said...

"It should make clear that labour will take Britain back into the EU if Johnson takes us out, and should campaign on the basis of a fight for a Workers Europe."

And of course the Tories will campaign on a promise to then take us out if Labour take us back in. I am not sure how the voters of the EU will look upon this state of affairs!

And of course the question that Boffy never addresses, Britain being in the EU will actually be the biggest single block on any further integration of the bourgeois structure that is the EU. With Britain inside the tent any attempts at mild integration will be met with howls of derision. So by arguing for Britain remaining in the EU you actually fight against further EU integration.

The idea that you have to be in the EU to fight for a 'workers Europe' is nonsense on stilts and the argument that being in the EU brings us closer to a workers Europe is utter claptrap, without any foundation. I reckon Tinder is more more likely to bring about a 'workers europe' than the EU! Or about a united Africa or Middle East, why wouldn't that bring us closer to a workers Europe? It is primary school level, surface thin logic to say EU = Workers Europe.

The idea that society is split between the 'organised working class' and shareholders in large companies (something like 1% of shareholders own 75% of shares incidentally) on one side and 5 million small capitalists and their families on the other is at best a speculation, at worst the ramblings of lunatic and at the mean the garbled claptrap of someone possibly in the early stages of madness.

I mean the camps themselves are lunacy, but if you add up these 2 'great' camps you still ignore over half the population! For a start the disorganised working class, the Middle classes and the underclasses! What are they, just spectators?

So Labour will not want a general election because they will lose, so much for the primacy of parliament! Which is meant to represent the people is it not, that is what they tell us at least.

I don't know why we don't just get rid of the political class and have the technocracy rule over us (which is pretty much what the EU is). That way we can concentrate on the really important things, no not building a workers Europe, but working and consuming! Albeit in the EU some will have better rights and better consumer protection!