Hancock’s Half Page


I must confess for a moment I thought Jeremy Corbyn had offered a clear path to stopping, at least, a No Deal Brexit.
The Labour leader proposed that all opposition parties and rebel Tories back a no confidence vote early next month. If carried they should then support a Corbyn led government whose sole purpose would be to hold a General Election. In the campaign Labour would be committed to a public vote on leaving the EU with an option to remain on the ballot paper.
This seemed to me a more effective way to block Johnson than the route preferred by Tory rebels to seize control of the Commons order paper and legislate to stop a No Deal Brexit.
Reaction from the opposition parties has been lukewarm, without being dismissive. The exception has been the Liberal Democrats, now 14 strong with the arrival of Sarah Wollaston. Their new leader, Jo Swinson, has pointed to the major problem in the Corbyn proposal, Corbyn himself.
She points out that his journey to a public vote with an option to remain has been painfully slow. We should not be surprised as Corbyn has regarded the EU as a capitalist club since the 1970s. It is also worth reminding ourselves what Labour’s current convoluted policy is on Brexit. It is to oppose any deal put forward by Boris Johnson BUT if a Labour government came to power, it would negotiate a soft Brexit and put that to the people, presumably with an option on the ballot paper to remain. This is why Labour MPs continue to choke when they are asked the simple question “is Labour a remain or leave party?”
What would Labour do if Corbyn was Prime Minister after a General Election about Brexit? Presumably another extension would be needed while he negotiated a soft Brexit with us close to the single market and customs union. Although Corbyn is likely to allow a remain option on the ballot paper, he would surely campaign for his deal to leave. It would be his deal, he would be respecting the 2016 referendum vote, and he’s wanted out all along.
This is why the Liberal Democrats are taking such a tough stand. They believe in the purity of their unqualified opposition to Brexit and fear it would be tainted by supporting Corbyn’s proposition. However, it is a gamble by Jo Swinson, who is being tested in her first month in office. This is because, without Lib Dem support, the Corbyn strategy is almost impossible to achieve.
For instance, how many Tories, apart from Dominic Grieve and Guto Bebb, are actually going to vote to put Corbyn in power? Bebb argues that even a Marxist Labour government is only in office for a few years whereas the damage caused by us being outside the EU will last for decades. He’s right of course, but how many Tories will buy that?
The option of Ken Clarke or Tom Watson heading an emergency government is sensible, but you cannot expect Jeremy Corbyn and his hard-line handlers to concede the toxicity of the Labour leader.
So, at the moment, it looks as if nothing can stop a No Deal Brexit. Corbyn will then be out of the EU and when the economic mayhem follows he will be able to say he did his best to stop it, but hope to come to power profiting from the far left doctrine that people need to suffer a full blown capitalist crisis before they turn to radical socialist answers.


We can now see the twin track strategy of Boris Johnson and his enforcer, Dominic Cummings, to achieve a No Deal exit from the EU and, possibly at the same time, a convincing Tory General Election victory.
The European Commission and the member states are rightly not budging. Whilst one can’t rule out them blinking at the last minute, the aggressive behaviour of the Johnson government seems designed to ensure that there are no autumn talks in Brussels to resolve the impasse.
Against this background we need to examine the huge task facing MPs who want to stop No Deal and the avalanche of election sweeteners that are coming from Number 10. The strategy is clear. Provoke a confrontation with the EU and the Commons and have a General Election campaign with an appeal to the people that Parliament is frustrating their will to Leave. The manifesto will be spiced with promises on schools, police and elderly care. This will serve two purposes. One to show that Johnson is a moderate Tory with a caring heart. It will also steal many of Labour’s policies.
Meanwhile each week Labour prove themselves less and less credible as a party of government. The policy on Europe remains confused. The anti-Semitism crisis festers, and now comes the stramash over Scottish independence. Ian Murray was the only Scottish Labour MP to survive the 2015 election, so he is worth listening to. He asks why did the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, need to promise not to oppose an SNP request to Westminster for a second independence referendum? In the unlikely event that the new parliament threw up a minority Labour government, the SNP would have no choice but to support Labour. They don’t need buying off. The SNP are hardly likely to repeat their 1979 mistake when they brought down the Callaghan government and endured 18 years of a Tory administration set hard against the idea of a Scottish Parliament leave alone a referendum on independence.
The only explanation of McDonnell’s comical behaviour on the Edinburgh fringe is that he is looking at what might happen if a vote of no confidence is passed in the government early in September. Many pundits think it is likely to pass. I calculate it is desperately close. Even if passed constructing a temporary government to stop No Deal won’t be easy. Say McDonnell’s move brings in the SNP, we then have the current refusal of the Lib Dems to support Corbyn. Follow that with the big question of how many Tory MPs are actually going to vote no confidence in their own government? Finally, few commentators talk about the role of the large number of independent MPs. A motley collection of members suspended by their whips or who have left one of the big parties and refused to join another. How will they vote?
If they can get a team together, would Johnson resign? Some of his fanatical supporters say he wouldn’t and might even call a long General Election campaign that would not conclude until after we’ve left the EU.
Most of the cards are in the NO Deal Brexiteers hands at the moment. Remainers need to get their act together fast.




The Brecon victory for the Liberal Democrats should be an encouragement to action by Remaniers because the country is slipping into a dangerous mindset that the only alternatives are a No Deal Brexit or Mrs May’s deal with a Johnson cosmetic tweet.

The hard line Brexiteers now dominate the Cabinet, the parliamentary Conservative Party and the membership in the country. In the Tory shires there is hardly a tissue paper between Tory leavers and Brexit Party members. They move between the two organisations with ease. Why aren’t Tories who join Farage’s mob not banned for 5 years from re-entry? The answer is that since David Cameron’s reckless referendum promise the Conservatives have been either terrified or thrilled by Farage’s anti EU ranting.

One has to concede that this has led to a turbo charging of the message that we must leave the EU with a big bang whatever the price. Visions of a Britain as it used to be, or a world dying to do trade deals with us are proclaimed with conviction. And now with Johnson as prime Minister we have a man who can combine bluster, optimism and humour in a dangerously seductive way. One of the most depressing spectacles is solid working class northerners buying this rubbish. They want to spurn the EU which delivered regional structural funding to deprived communities and believe the promises Johnson is making to the Northern Powerhouse in order to win a General Election.


Only the Lib Dems and SNP are prepared to remind people that there is still an opportunity for the UK to remain in the EU. Only those two parties speak with conviction to spread the message that this country’s best interests are in remaining in the EU, exercising our influence between France and Germany to bring badly needed modernisation and democratisation to the institutions based in Brussels.

But the SNP and Lib Dems lack the heft to turn this around. Tory Remainers are marginalised. Oliver Letwin now seems daunted by the task of wrestling control of the machinery of government to introduce a Second Referendum Bill. Labour Remainers have edged their leadership into a sort of Remain position but their heart isn’t in it and neither are the party’s paymasters in Unite the Union.


You only have to list the names of sacked/resigned Cabinet ministers to see how Johnson has gutted the government of one nation Tories who believed that our best interests were served either by staying in the EU or at worst staying very close. Philip Hammond was a solid Chancellor and Greg Clarke was an excellent Business Secretary. The dismissal of Penny Mordaunt as Defence Secretary was utterly vindictive. She was a Royal Naval reservist, represented Portsmouth and supported Brexit. Her only crime was to back Johnson’s rival, Jeremy Hunt. There are suggestions the Scottish Tory Party might split away because Johnson’s image is so toxic north of the border. His sacking of Scottish Secretary David Mundell and the appointment of an English MP as a Scottish Minister won’t have helped.