Brexit or Remain: Workers Pay Either Way

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/02/2020 - 1:30am in

image/jpeg iconnotjustthetories.jpg

For the “remain” section of the capitalist class the unexpected result of the 2016 referendum meant they had lost control of the political process. Now the December general election has confirmed the “leavers” will be in control for the next 5 years.

read more

Constitutional defence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/02/2020 - 7:00pm in

There is an interesting piece in the London Review of Books by Ferdinand Mount, Mrs Thatcher’s former policy advisor (and another Old Etonian), on Johnson’s government and, what has become a recurring theme on PP, his fascist tendencies. The article suggests: ‘Hobbes told us long ago, and everyone now understands, that there must be a... Read more

Passports please

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 23/02/2020 - 7:00pm in


brexit, Politics

These are the new blue passports (I have spared you the full view of the holder – our smirking home secretary). In full-on irony the new passport seems to sum up Brexit. It is in a new colour reminiscent of an older style, though, in fact, the EU has never prescribed passport colour. The new... Read more

Will the UK go Rogue on Northern Ireland?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/02/2020 - 4:00pm in

Introduction As we have left the EU, the “trivial” task of negotiating the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) is done. It is now a legally binding international treaty, including the Irish Protocol. We now move onto the far more complex future relationship talks. It always seemed impossible that the talks could be concluded successfully within the 10-month... Read more

Bloody immigrants…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/02/2020 - 7:00pm in

Coming over here and taking our best jobs… That is effectively what Patel and Johnson’s plan seems to be because the low skilled – for which read low paid – will not be able to find work in the UK. So, ironically, the Brits will need to take the low skilled jobs whilst the more... Read more

A C Grayling on rejoining the EU: a rational case in a time of unreason?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/02/2020 - 9:48am in

A C Grayling addressing Bath for Europe, Widcombe Social Centre, Bath, 18th February 2020

I spent yesterday evening listening to a speech by the philosopher A C Grayling at a meeting in Bath, organised by Bath for Europe, on the subject of rejoining the EU (unfortunately I had to leave before the Q and A in order to stand a fighting chance of getting a train back to Cardiff). Grayling has been one of the heroes of the Remain movement: acerbic and indefatigable. I went along to this because, as in the aftermath of December’s disastrous election result, Remainers have to think about what to do next. In particular, we need to decide whether to campaign all-out to rejoin – in the knowledge that Johnson and Cummings appear to be determined to move us as far as possible away from any meaningful relationship with the Union, making rejoining increasingly difficult as time goes on – or whether now is not the time, following the body-blow of that election result.

Grayling argued that the UK could be back in the EU in no more than a few years. His scenario – which he freely admitted was optimistic – revolved around:

– an acceptance that the majority of people had voted for remain or pro-referendum parties, and it was a divided opposition that had allowed Johnson to win and gain the untrammelled power that a Parliamentary majority confers in our political system;

– that in order to overturn the grave harm that Brexit did to the UK, parties of the left and centre-left needed to make common cause, and to offer an electoral pact at the next General Election in support of both electoral reform and a new referendum. That election could come in less than five years if Johnson (and Cummings) managed to throw off the shackles of the Fixed Term Parliament Act and revert to the tactic of holding elections at a time of the Government’s choosing;

– the reality of the negotiations was that they could not be concluded by the end of this year and that politicians would shy away from the appalling political consequences of a no-deal Brexit;

– the EU wants us back, and if the UK remains closely aligned to the EU and its rules the acquis – the conditions of membership – should be relatively easy to meet.

It’s an attractive – some would say idealistic – scenario; Grayling concluded that politicians were wrong to shy away from campaigning to rejoin. We needed to set the campaign going on the ground now, possibly through the use of People’s Assemblies.

Afterwards, I reflected that Grayling’s approach was reasonable, logical and closely-argued. And therein, in a time of unreason, lay its problems.

First, I was worried by his analysis of the result of the General Election. Yes, he is absolutely right about the aggregated UK figures; Johnson did win with the backing of a minority of the electorate and there was a small majority in favour of remain-leaning parties. But once one disaggregates the result the situation changes. Johnson’s triumph was overwhelming in England; and since his election has shown himself to be an unrepentant English nationalist. Scotland looks set for another referendum and possible departure from the UK; Northern Ireland’s position looks set to change as a result of Johnson’s unworkable border proposals and there is an upsurge in interest in independence in Wales; with elections in all three nations next year. Johnson talks a lot about the Union, but not at all about the democratic aspirations of the non-English nations, which will be undermined by Brexit. I think one could argue that the Tory election win was down to an upsurge in English nationalism and the ability of a Tory Party that has changed beyond recognition in recent years to capture nationalist sentiment. There appears to be a new, nationalist, pro-Brexit electoral coalition in England that Johnson will want to appease, and if that means throwing the troublesome Scots and Welsh under the proverbial bus, so be it. The effect of Brexit could be to accelerate the break-up of the Union, with parts – Scotland, Northern Ireland, and even Wales – rejoining. Whatever happens, that Union seems likely to change irrevocably.

Second, it is difficult to see how a coalition of opposition parties could be pulled together. Grayling said that he had rejoined Labour to vote for Keir Starmer in the leadership election; but whatever the outcome of that election there is no appetite in the Labour Party to reopen the Brexit debate that has traumatised it under Jeremy Corbyn’s hapless leadership. And there is likely to be even less appetite for any sort of rapprochement with the Liberal Democrats; Labour’s anti-Lib Dem venom is as powerful as ever.

But most of all, Grayling is advocating reasonable behaviour in a time of unreason; and I wonder whether as a polity the UK is ready to re-embrace that reason. On a (much-delayed) journey home across the border to Wales, I kept reflecting on a comment made by a staffer in the George W Bush administration, often attributed to Karl Rove:

The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ […] ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do’

I think it’s a quotation that’s relevant to our times: a very Cummings-eque description of what liberals and democrats – people who adhere to the values set out in Article 2 of the Lisbon Treaty – are up against when facing a wholly unscrupulous politics based in populism, nationalism and the denigration of truth in favour of heroic ideological statements. And because of that, I question whether we are yet ready to begin that campaign to take us back to where we belong in Europe. Because it seems to me that unless and until we can reassert a politics based on reason and truth, any campaign to rejoin could strengthen the hand of the populists and nationalists.

I respect A C Grayling for the passion, the logic and the clarity with which he set out his case. He was well-received by an audience that was clearly drawn from the reality-based community. But it seems to me that there is a bigger political battle to be won before we can lance the boil of Brexit, one that depends on the ability of liberals to rebuild the case for liberal democracy itself.

Brexit visions

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 16/02/2020 - 7:42pm in

This was tweeted by Nick, who I know only as an Arsenal supporter but his take on Brexit serves a conclusion much wider than that! He suggests that Brexit is: “People celebrating an imaginary freedom, over an imaginary oppressor in an imaginary war. With imaginary benefits.” I really cannot improve on that. Yet is this... Read more

Fascism as a Methodology rather than an Ideology

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 14/02/2020 - 4:00pm in

Introduction My father attempted to do a PhD in Germany from 1937-39, but it became increasingly obvious that things were deteriorating rapidly in Nazi Germany and that war was coming. He returned to Dublin in July ’39, a few months after the British navy finally withdrew from its occupation of Irish ports. He believed strongly... Read more

It's our money: HS2, the Barnett formula, and the threat to Welsh democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/02/2020 - 9:07pm in

Yesterday’s announcement from Whitehall that HS2 would proceed – at an estimated cost now of £100bn, a figure that seems likely to rise substantially – has opened a wide fault-line about the future of Wales and Welsh devolution.

As Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards argues persuasively in a piece in Nation Cymru, the issues for Wales are simple. HS2 is classified as a project that benefits both England and Wales, and therefore Wales will not receive any consequential funding as a result of the Barnett Formula, which provides that increasing public expenditure in England will be reflected in an increase in Westminster funding for Wales. This is despite the fact that not a centimetre of HS2 track will be laid in Wales and economists estimate that HS2 will actually damage the economy of South Wales – to the tune of £150m per year; the justification is that it will be possible to get a connecting service from Wrexham to Crewe, which some would regard as a pretty desperate piece of post-hoc rationalisation. It looks especially threadbare when one considers that Scotland – which will potentially benefit from substantially reduced travel times to London – will receive Barnett consequentials.

The loss in Barnett consequentials is likely to be around £5bn – assuming the £100bn overall cost of HS2 is correct (and it seems reasonable to expect it will come in above that).

All of this matters, not just because of the loss of £5bn of desperately needed funding in the poorest country in Northern Europe, whose economy is blighted by notoriously inadequate transport links. It throws into sharp relief issues that are beginning to emerge about the future of devolution itself.

First, it is a reminder that the Barnett Formula is no more than a convention. It has no force in law, and only exists as long as the Treasury in London allows it to exist. The Treasury could announce tomorrow that it was over and the Welsh Government could do absolutely nothing about it.

And politically, it’s essential to remember two things: first, that the new Tory government, faced with the austerity that will inevitably follow the hard Brexit it now appears to be pursuing, will be under huge pressure from its new North of England Tory MPs to protect spending in their areas, in line with Boris Johnson’s rhetoric about promoting the North of England. The convention that automatically uplifts Wales’ spending settlement is bound to be under political pressure in these circumstances.

Morevover, Wales has recently been granted tax-raising powers. There is a close fit with the Cameron governments’ localism agenda, which in theory granted extra revenue-raising powers to English local authorities through retention of business rates, but in practice became a rationale for cutting central Government funding: the message was, you can raise the money locally so we don’t need to fund you.

So there is a clear rationale emerging in which Welsh political institutions continue to take the responsibility for providing services but are systematically starved of the resources to do so; the scenario facing many English local authorities but from which Wales – has to a limited extent – been protected by the Barnett formula (although it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the ability of Welsh political institutions to deliver services like health is under huge and growing pressure).

And, second, it’s essential to understand the political context in which the HS2 decisions have been taken. It was instructive to hear Boris Johnson, yet again, using the HS2 announcement to attack the Welsh Government’s decision not to build the M4 relief road around Newport. The point is that whatever one might think of that decision, it was taken in Wales by our own government; Johnson and Westminster have absolutely no jurisdiction. here.

Added to that is the huge pressure that Brexit – especially the hard Brexit envisaged by Whitehall – will place on Wales: both on our economy and on our political autonomy. The effect of a hard Brexit will obviously be catastrophic for Wales; the Government’s own estimates suggest a 7% fall in GDP across the UK as a whole – similar to what Spain and Ireland experienced in the Eurozone crisis. Wales, because of our economic structures, is far more vulnerable than many parts of the UK. And the EU withdrawal legislation means that over areas determined by Whitehall fiat to be part of the UK single market, it will be far more difficult for the Welsh Government to act, least of all to mitigate the effects of Brexit on either the economy or essential quality-of-life issues like the environment or food standards.

In other words, the HS2 decision is a reminder that the cumulative effect of Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party’s attitude towards Wales – including its attitude to Brexit – is to undermine fatally both our political institutions and our ability to finance our own public services; it is essentially a denial of service attack on Welsh democracy. And anybody on the progressive side of Welsh politics has to understand that the HS2 decision exposes clearly the ruthless determination of Tories, ultimately, to ensure that Wales learns its place and takes its medicine.

So where do progressives start to fight back? One of the complaints that one hears on the progressive side of politics is that we don’t have the three-word slogans that Boris Johnson and his minders used so devastatingly in the EU referendum: “take back control” and “get Brexit done”.

So here’s one for Welsh progressives: “its our money”. And let’s use this as a reminder that achieving progressive politics in Wales is intimately bound up with developing constitutional arrangements that are fit for purpose, robust and not subject to Whitehall whim.

MPs Condemn BoJob’s Attempt to Control Media at Briefings

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/02/2020 - 1:26am in

This is another article from yesterday’s I, for 5th February 2020. The piece, ‘MPs from all parties raise concerns over ‘Trumpian-style’ media ban’, by Nigel Morris and Hugo Gye, reports that MPs from all parties are condemning the attempts by BoJob and his polecat, Dominic Cummings, to decide which journos should be rewarded with access to the PM at lobby briefings after Monday’s mass walkout. The article runs

Downing Street face cross-party anger over a “Trump-style” attempt to restrict access to a briefing on Boris Johnson’s Brexit policy to a small number of favoured political correspondents.

The exclusion of reporters regarded as critical of the Government prompted an emergency debate in the Commons, and the Cabinet secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, is under pressure to investigate the “deeply disturbing episode”.

I understands that Downing Street is reviewing its policy of staging selective briefings on policy.

Senior television and newspaper journalists walked out of Downing Street en masse when No 10’s director of communications, Lee Cain, insisted that only a handful of reporters would be admitted to a “technical briefing” with David Frost. I was among several titles that Downing Street attempted to exclude.

No 10’s tactics on Monday caused dismay among senior Tories and other MPs alike. One Tory MP said: “It makes us look like control freaks.”

And senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove endured an uncomfortable appearance on BBC’s 5Live programme when he refused to answer whether he would have joined the walkout when he was a journalist.

In the Commons, the Cabinet Office minister, Chloe Smith, insisted it was “entirely standard practice” to arrange such briefings and that the Government was “committed to… the principles of media freedom”.

The SNP MP Pete Wishart said Ms Smith’s “self-justifying nonsense” would not “get her off the Trumpian hook”.

Tracy Brabin, the shadow Culture Secretary, said the decision undermined the traditional neutrality of civil servants.

The Labour leadership front runner, Sir Keir Starmer, said: “The actions… are deeply disturbing. Banning the media from important briefings… is damaging to democracy.”

A No 10 source said: “We reserve the right to brief journalists which we choose whenever we wish to.”

There is nothing normal about BoJob’s crew trying to dictate who does or does not attend press briefings. Zelo Street showed that in a couple of pieces commenting on Guido Fawkes’ attempts to spin this line a few days ago. Chloe Smith is wrong, and Peter Wishart, Tracy Brabin and Keir Starmer are right.

The end result of this attempt to impose highly authoritarian control over the media is the rigid censorship of totalitarian states like Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. As for Johnson believing in the principle of media freedom, well, he may do so in principle, but he has very blatant contempt for the idea in practice. With luck this means that the media will become much less docile and compliant in their support.

Perhaps they might even start to take the idea of the journalist’s responsibility to the hold government to account seriously again.