DON’T PATRONISE US BORIS.

 

JOHNSON’S BLUSTER NO GOOD FOR BUSINESS.

I’m sure most Remainers will be heartily irritated by the patronising tone of the Foreign Secretary this week. It was billed as an attempt to bridge the great divide in our nation over Brexit. It failed for a number of reasons.

We don’t need to be told by Boris Johnson that our support for the UK’s membership is based on “noble sentiments” which presumably we are now invited to discard. It is not sentiment that motivates us but a concern for the economic future of this country and our determination to face the future not hanker after a global imperial past.

I use the word imperial because Johnson would be better fitted to be a colonial administrator (along with his mate Jacob Rees Mogg) when he reassures us that we will still be able to “go on cheapo flights to stag parties” and “struggle amiably to learn the European languages whose decline has been a paradoxical feature of EU membership.” This trivial sneering attitude to our European friends is not worthy of a British Foreign Secretary who continues to demine his office. It looked like a V sign from the cliffs of Dover to me.

He claimed that Brexit had eclipsed the far right in Britain. In fact, the small fascist parties were all delighted with Brexit and more broadly and seriously the vote has made some people feel they have permission to express racist sentiments.

He says a second referendum would create a year of turmoil and feuding. Few people want a referendum on the same lines as 2016. We want a referendum on the final deal with a rejection of it meaning we stay in the EU. We had a referendum in 1975 which was overturned in 2016. We have regular General Elections which overturn previous results.

Boris and his friends call us Remoaners. Be in no doubt if the referendum had been narrowly lost by Leave, they would have been battling now to overturn it.

I’m giving Johnson the benefit of the doubt that this speech was intended to reach out to us Remainers. Perhaps I am being too generous. When asked if he could resign if Mrs May stays too close to the EU he said, “we’re all very lucky to serve”. The threat still hangs over Mrs May from Boris and the Brexit ultras in the cabinet. So perhaps his speech was directed at the Prime Minister whilst giving a nod and a wink to those that want him to be Prime Minister.

For businesses, particularly in the North, crying out for some certainty, the speech contained nothing. It is pathetic that nearly two years after the referendum, the party that prides itself on being born to rule, cannot resolve its internal squabbling and tell our European colleagues what relationship it wants going into the future.

I must acknowledge that the polls have not moved substantially in a Remain direction. That is partly because Britain is benefitting form the growth in the world economy. However, while we have grown by 1.8%, the much derided Eurozone has grown by 2.5%.

The Brexiteers will plough on for now riding the tide of economic growth but our message must be that Britain remains completely divided on the issue and we Remainers will not give in.

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CARILLION BOOST FOR CORBYN.

 

IS EUROPE JEREMY’S ACHILLES HEAL ?

 

The political tide should be running strongly for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. In the week when he has tightened his grip on the party’s organisation, the collapse of construction giant Carillion gives powerful weight to his arguments against privatising public services. The NHS is always a strong Labour card and the continuing crisis in our hospitals also plays well for him. There’s nothing much left for Labour to win in the North this year but a bad result for the Tories in the London borough elections is widely forecast.

 

That may happen. But at the moment Labour has the slenderest of leads in the opinion polls despite this blundering government. So I went to the capital last weekend to try and find out why. The Fabian conference is the first big political gathering of the New Year. The Fabians are one of the oldest groupings within the Labour Party with a position on the left, but not Corbyn left.

The speech of the impressive Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was delayed by a bunch called the White Pendragons who wandered around filming their demonstration and brandishing anti EU slogans and an American flag. The previous day their hero Donald Trump had made disgraceful remarks about people from Haiti. But the President’s supporters regard that as evidence that he is one of them, something to think about as the “very stable genius” marks his first year in office.

But I digress, the underlying issue that rumbled through the day was Brexit. Wes Streeting, a rising star representing the centre of the party, declared that Labour was the biggest stumbling block to the UK remaining in the Single Market beyond the transition period. At the moment Corbyn and Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer say that beyond the two year transition, they want to be as close as possible to the Single Market. Streeting believes there is a majority in the Commons and the country for permanent Single Market membership. He claimed a “jobs first Brexit won’t get us through 2018.” Is Labour’s tightrope act on Europe the reason why they are not surging in the polls? I’m not sure, Nor, sadly, am I sure there is a Commons majority for demanding long term Single Market membership. Even with ex Cabinet member, Justine Greening, on board, the Tory Brexit rebels have gone quiet. Look at the comfortable votes for the Brexit bill in the Commons this week. And Labour Brexiteers like Frank Field, Graham Stringer and Kate Hoey can’t be relied on.

When Starmer spoke, you could hear a man tortured by the political dilemma of it all. Labour should support EU membership with its support for workers rights. But Starmer is worried about defying the decision of the voters. He had to remind the London audience that there were lots of Labour voters in the North that wanted a clean break from the EU.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary did remind us that Labour would submit the Brexit deal to a stiff series of tests, but could they get a Commons majority to vote it down and then win the consequent General Election?

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AFTER BREXIT, A CORBYN GOVERNMENT ?

 

 

THE PEOPLE HAVEN’T RISEN UP.

At this turn of the year I wait in vain for any sign that the British public has changed its mind on Brexit in sufficient numbers to encourage a revolt amongst Remain parliamentarians.

So, in looking forward to 2018, I am forced to the depressing conclusion that the year will see some sort of deal hammered out to take us out of the EU, single market, customs union and all.

Without a public reaction against the fiasco unfolding before our eyes, the Tory rebels have only felt able to exercise their influence once. They got called saboteurs for their pains and are unlikely to use their influence again. Tory unity is an abiding reality. Remainers in the Labour Party feel similarly hamstrung by public opinion and the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has always seen the EU as a capitalist conspiracy. In any case he has other fish to fry as I discuss below.

The Liberal Democrats under the leadership of Vince Cable have so far shown themselves totally incapable of mobilising people for their Exit from Brexit campaign. 2018 might see the leadership contested between new Oxford West MP Layla Moran and Deputy Leader Jo Swinson.

The House of Lords will give the Withdrawal Bill a rough passage with courageous peers like Lords Adonis and Heseltine leading the way. However, they are likely to ultimately recognise that Article 50 had a big Commons majority and give way. The Brexit bullies will also threaten the Lords very existence if they don’t bend the knee.

Of most significance in all this is the change of tone coming from Europe. There is a sense that they’ve given up on this troublesome island and want to get the whole thing over with. Providing the terms don’t give encouragement to others to leave, a deal will probably be struck.

It is difficult to see how that will then pass through 27 parliaments and the European Parliament. It will depend how strong the mood is to make an end of the UK membership and move on to the other pressing issues the 27 face.

So, the message to businesses in the North is to prepare for increased costs, communication delays and more bureaucracy in our dealings with Europe and good luck with the search for those global markets.

AFTER BREXIT, PUBLIC SERVICES.

This year we will see a growing demand to get Brexit off the political agenda in order to tackle the huge domestic agenda that is building up. The NHS crisis, a lack of housing, the manifestations of poverty, elderly social care, rail and road congestion and the general post Grenfell distrust of institutions will crowd out Brexit eventually.

The country will be in a far worse place to tackle these issues after we are out of the EU. Watch as the EU membership contributions disappear into the Chancellor’s coffers. £350 million a week for the NHS? Don’t hold your breath.

In charge of dealing with these major social issues will be the Tories who, in 2018, will mark their eight years in power. Have they got the vision, will and energy to solve these problems? The chances are that this year we might begin to see what the post Brexit political landscape might be like. It could see the Tories blamed for Brexit and a greater faith in the radical socialist alternatives offered by Corbyn’s Labour Party.

After the next election we could see a weakened Britain deciding to pay high taxes to finance housing and social care with big cuts in defence including our nuclear deterrent. A flight of business and free market investment might be a price people will be prepared to pay.

OTHER MATTERS IN 2018.

After momentous elections since 2014, 2018 promises a quiet year on the election front in the North. Labour are already totally dominant here and even an all-out election on new boundaries in Manchester won’t change that.

We will have to look to the mid term elections in the United States for excitement. Will they produce sufficient Democrat victories to start a campaign in the Republican Party to deny Donald Trump a second term nomination ? Don’t bet on it, the economy is doing well, and Trump is delivering on some of his crazy policies to the delight of his supporters.

To brighten the gloom, we have a Royal Wedding and World Cup to look forward to although in the latter case the England team may darken our darkness.

Happy New Year!

 

 

GOOD CHEER FOR FOES OF BREXIT AND TRUMP

 

IS THE CENTRE FIGHTING BACK IN THE UK AND U.S ?

 

Over the last year it has often felt that the hard right is leading the UK and USA over the cliff. President Trump’s boorish behaviour was excused by his supporters. In this country the narrow vote to leave the EU was being used by hard line Brexiteers as a licence to cut us adrift from our European friends to set up a low tax/low standard economy linked to a trade deal with Mr Trump.

Well the House of Commons and voters in Alabama have given notice that there are limits to what we’ll take. The victory for a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal and the defeat of the awful Republican candidate, Roy Moore, in the Alabama senate contest should cheer all who occupy the centre ground in politics.

These victories will not be significant on their own, but they must encourage MPs who want the British people to think again about our membership of the EU to be bolder in the face of people like Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. In America the Democrats must raise their game to inflict bad mid term results on the Republicans who will then be so spooked that they will deny Trump renomination in 2020.

These two events may be false dawns. Taking Alabama first, Roy Moore has been described as the worst Republican candidate ever fielded. With serious allegations about his sexual behaviour unresolved Moore was disowned by most of the Republican Party, apart from Trump who knows what its like to face claims of improper conduct with women. The Democrats won’t face many easy targets like Moore. That said it was their first Senate victory in Alabama in 25 years.

Now to the victory by Tory rebels which ensures parliament will have a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal. You could call it taking back control of parliament’s sovereignty, a concept that will be familiar to Brexiteers. It opens the possibility that when the poor terms of Brexit are finally exposed, MPs will have a chance to say no. But much needs to happen before Remain parliamentarians would feel bold enough to reverse Brexit rather than just ask the government to renegotiate the terms of leaving.

The British people need to have a change of mind. They took the decision nearly two years ago at a dreadful time for the EU. They can now see the huge complications involved in leaving and what’s it all for. Mrs May is now signed up to a bill of forty billion, a role for the European Court of Justice over EU nationals, respect for new EU laws during the transition phase and full alignment with the single market and customs union unless we can work out a border agreement with the Irish.

If the public change their mind, the ranks of Tory rebels will grow and Jeremy Corbyn will seize the chance to change his party’s stance even though he’ll always remain a Eurosceptic.

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