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!

 

 

SINGLE MARKET CHALLENGE TO CORBYN

 

NO ENEMIES TO THE LEFT.

Jeremy Corbyn does not take easily to adulation. This weekend he would probably prefer to be tending his allotment than hearing “Oh! Jeremy Corbyn”, ringing out from the Brighton conference centre.

But Labour’s surprisingly good performance (they failed to win for the third time by the way) in June’s General Election has confirmed Corbyn in the leadership for years to come if he wants to stay. Except for Alison McGovern’s Labour Campaign for the Single Market, most moderate Labour MPs have become political zombies. They remain because of an admirable sense of loyalty, hoping the tide will turn. I fear they will be disappointed.

In Brighton at the weekend we will see the hard left not only buttress the current leadership in power but take steps to make the left revolution permanent. Corbynistas are set to take control of the Conference Arrangements Committee and National Constitutional Committee. Most people have never heard of these bodies but the former used to be used by New Labour to keep embarrassing subjects like unilateral nuclear disarmament off the agenda. The latter body came into existence after the expulsion of Militant in 1986, but would be unlikely to expel similar people today. “No enemies to the Left” is likely to be the guiding principle.

But Corbyn’s people are looking beyond the day when Jeremy returns to his marrows. The percentage of Labour MPs needed to nominate a leadership candidate is being reduced so that in future left wingers will not need misguided moderates like Frank Field and Margaret Beckett to put them on the ballot paper.

Don’t expect a huge row on the conference floor about all this. The outside chance that the Tories might implode under Brexit strains and Labour come to power in yet another General Election will probably ensure good behaviour.

 

BREXIT REVOLT?

If there is to be trouble for Corbyn, it is likely to come from the Wirral South MP Alison McGovern and her attempt to get the party to commit to staying in the Single Market for ever. The Shadow Brexit Secretary Kier Starmer won a surprising partial victory in getting the Eurosceptic people around Corbyn to commit Labour to the Single Market during the Brexit transition period. McGovern wants to go further with all the implications that has for continued freedom of movement. McGovern belongs to the Blairite Progress faction in the party which has recently suffered a huge financial blow from the total withdrawal of funding by Lord Sainsbury.

LIB DEMS STICK TO THEIR GUNS.

While Labour try to walk the tightrope between Remain and Leave supporters, Tory Cabinet infighting was patched up just ahead of the Prime Minister’s Florence speech. But that was after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson repeated the lie over a £350m Brexit windfall for the NHS. Let’s remember we do not send £350m to the EU each week. After the rebate and European aid is considered the figure is £161m.

Meanwhile I was in Bournemouth with the Lib Dems. They were celebrating the EU with flags and yellow starred berets. They also reaffirmed their commitment to letting the people vote on the Brexit deal.

It would have been easy for the new leader Vince Cable to have taken the party’s poor election showing as an excuse to abandon this policy which shows no sign at the moment of being popular.

However, talking to representatives, I detected a hope that public opinion will undergo a massive change when the consequences of the botched Brexit talks become apparent. Let us hope that change of view is lead by the North, the area that was sadly deceived by the Boris bombast and which has most to lose from leaving.

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HAMMOND’S WARNING

 

SOUND CHANCELLOR

We would not be able to repeat the 2008 rescue of the banks because our debt and deficit is too high. That was the stark, and under reported, comment from Chancellor Phil Hammond in a recent TV interview.

It didn’t get much attention because Hammond went on to call for an end to Cabinet leaks against him. A bunch of extreme Brexiteers and people measuring up the curtains in No 10 are letting their teenage special advisers loose to brief the media against the Chancellor.

His crimes? Calling for a transitional phase as we leave the EU and opposing a wholesale relaxation of the government’s pay policy. The former suggestion outrages extreme Brexiteers who want to leave the EU as fast as possible and hang the consequences. The latter view frustrates those with an eye on succeeding Theresa May because they believe the best hope for the Tories remaining in power, and them becoming Prime Minister, rests with a Corbyn lite approach to austerity.

In relation to the EU exit bill, Mr Hammond also said that we are not a country that welches on our responsibilities. That is the honourable position we should all support. Unfortunately, Boris Johnson says the EU can “go whistle” for their money. The clown demeans the office of Foreign Secretary.

It might be useful to spell out exactly why the gung ho approach of Johnson is as ill-informed as usual. For those that believe we can exit the EU without a bill, these are some of the facts. We have made EU budget and foreign aid commitments until 2020. We have made loan promises to the Irish and Portuguese governments. We are on the hook for the pensions of EU staff and even for keeping European satellites orbiting. What needs to be determined is our actual share, whether spending can be reprofiled, what’s actually involved and the method of calculation. Only then will we get the bill, but get the bill we will.

If the Chancellor said public sector staff were overpaid, he was wrong but he is right to have a cautious attitude to a pay explosion. He is also right on his approach to Europe. So, he should be supported not undermined by his colleagues. He is a friend of business.

BBC PAY.

Some of the salaries of BBC stars revealed this week are excessive. This is particularly so in the case of people like John Humphrys who gets £600,000 for presenting Today and plenty more hosting conferences. He has admitted he wouldn’t work anywhere else which is just as well as there is no equivalent job in commercial radio really. I certainly can’t see LBC forking out that figure when they have Nick Ferrari. So, the argument that they have to pay him the market rate or lose him doesn’t apply. It is different for the likes of Gary Linaker.

I look forward to other broadcasting channels and companies subjecting themselves to equal transparency in respect of the gender pay gap which has been shown up at the BBC and no doubt applies elsewhere.

One thing I will say for the BBC, their coverage of this awkward subject for them was extensive and balanced.

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WILL CHANCELLOR HOLD HIS NERVE ON PAY?

 

LISTEN TO THE GREY BEARDS.

The minority Labour governments of the late 1970s were plagued with disputes with the unions over public sector pay. This Tory minority administration is facing the same problem. It seems that those who want to spend money the nation hasn’t got can sense the weakness and put pressure on the politicians.

I don’t envy Philip Hammond. It is an open secret Mrs May wanted to sack him. Now he is being publicly undermined by flaky Cabinet Ministers hinting that they favour easing up on austerity for nurses and council staff. One would expect the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to be in favour of higher pay for NHS staff, but other ministers who’ve sought to pull the rug out from under the Chancellor include right wingers like Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Those coming to the aid of Spreadsheet Phil are largely from the elder statesmen category. They include former Chancellors Norman “je regrette rien” Lamont and Ken Clarke. They know what they are talking about but don’t need the assistance of Call Me Dave. The ex-Prime Minister David Cameron’s demand for pay restraint whilst picking up a tidy sum for a speech in Seoul was unconvincing to say the least.

So, let’s consider what the former Tory Chancellors say. They point to the continuing deficit and to the fact that increasing public sector pay even by an extra 1% is very costly. They also have their eye on the politics. Cabinet Ministers calling for an easing of the purse strings are panicking in the presence of Jeremy Money Tree Corbyn. The Labour leader has skilfully captured the public mood for a splurge after years of austerity. But he’s at least 60 seats short of ever being able to do anything about it. Jez we can. Now we can’t. Lest we forget the Tories remain in power.

What will happen if Phil gives in to the pay review bodies who will now all recommend hefty increases? The Tories will avoid some criticism for being stony hearted but could lose their reputation for economic stability.

Public sector workers are suffering from rising inflation and economic uncertainty, both caused by Brexit which brings me to my second topic….

LABOUR EURO REBELS MAY BE DOOMED.

Seven North West Labour MPs defied the whip last week to support our continued membership of the Single Market. They were Luciana Berger (Wavertree), Ann Coffey (Stockport), Maria Eagle (Garston), Louise Ellman (Riverside), Kate Green (Stretford), Alison McGovern (Wirral South) and Barrow’s John Woodcock.

They moved too soon. They made themselves vulnerable to the charge that they had reopened the split between Corbyn and the Parliamentary Party in the hour of Labour’s election success. But more importantly they needed to wait till public opinion swings more clearly in favour of having second thoughts about the whole Brexit project.

What they have done is expose the euro sceptic credentials of Jeremy Corbyn. Sacking members of his shadow ministerial team for their pro-European views is far more honest than last year when he masqueraded as a Remainer heading Labour’s half-hearted campaign to stay in the EU.

The problem for the North West Seven and the forty other colleagues who rebelled is that they are in a party whose formal position on leaving the Single Market is the same as the Tories. All the stuff about a jobs led strategy and staying as close to Europe as possible is for the birds.

We need an opposition party that wants to stop the Brexit madness. I’m having lunch with Vince The Cable next Tuesday and I’ll tell you what he thinks in my next blog here.

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