Leave, Actually – What the Election Means
By Duncan Whitmore
“Tidings of Comfort of Joy” – so heralded the front page of The Daily Telegraph during their vision of Boris Johnson’s election victory descending from heaven with a chorus of angels. Certainly the magnitude of Johnson’s achievement is difficult to overstate. Not only has he propelled the Conservatives to an impressive parliamentary majority by robbing Labour of seats in its traditional working class heartlands; he has also, in a few short months, purged the Tories of their wrangling over Europe which has plagued each of their party leaders since Margaret Thatcher. For libertarians, however, while the result of last Thursday’s poll brings much comfort, the joy may have to be put on ice for a while.
There is comfort in the fact that, for the third election in a row – two general, one European – the British people have reaffirmed their 2016 decision to leave the European Union. No longer can dyed-in-the-wool Remainers claim that the electorate did not know what they were voting for, given that the precise form of Brexit was there for all to see in the text of Johnson’s withdrawal agreement. In the end, the possible split of the Leave vote between the Conservatives and the Brexit Party failed to materialise. Instead, as Nigel Farage intended, his party contributed to the fall of Labour in working class constituencies while the Tory vote remained intact. In some of the most surprising Tory victories – for example, in Durham Northwest, Blyth Valley, Bassetlaw, Bishop Auckland and Bolsover (where Dennis Skinner was unseated after nearly fifty years) – the spoils from Labour losses were parcelled out between the Brexit Party and the Tories, allowing the latter to accomplish anything between narrow and landslide victories over Labour. Although, according to Wednesday’s Times, some studies have claimed that the Brexit Party actually deprived the Conservatives of around twenty further seats, this is no bad thing. For in spite of gaining only 2% of the vote nationally and no seats, Farage’s combination of help and hindrance to the Tories has paid off by decimating the prospect of any parliamentary “Remainer” alliance while also neutering Conservative complacency. Of course, the precise unfolding of Brexit – i.e. the final form of Johnson’s withdrawal agreement and the eventual results of negotiations over the trade deal – remains to be seen. But the prospect of a second referendum leading to the outright cancellation of the decision to leave has finally been buried. Read more
Boris and Brexit
By Duncan Whitmore
At the time of writing, a bill to delay Britain’s exit from the European Union beyond the October 31st deadline is making its way through the House of Lords, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s loss of all of his votes thus far in the Commons. Johnson has also lost his Commons majority after one MP defected to the Liberal Democrats on Tuesday while a further twenty-one were denied the Tory whip for voting against the government that same evening. It is, therefore, probable that the bill will be passed and, without the ability to call a general election, somebody will be carted off to the EU to grovel for a Brexit extension until January 31st.
Nevertheless, in contrast to the Maybot (whose repeated defeats ground her down into the appearance of an exhumed corpse), Johnson remains remarkably upbeat. If his chief strategist, Dominic Cummings, is as brilliant as he is reputed to be, then this may be no surprise. After all, every major obstacle to achieving Brexit, “do or die”, on October 31st was known in advance, namely:
- An overwhelmingly pro-Remain Parliament which could be expected to use the excuse of an alleged no deal “catastrophe” to tie the Prime Minister’s negotiating hands;
- The existence of a significant number of rebellious Tory MPs amongst a Parliamentary majority of just one;
- A Speaker barely able to feign impartiality through a willingness to bend constitutional propriety and parliamentary procedure.
A View from the Right
by Sean Gabb
27th August 2018
Seen from my point of view, on the libertarian right, there are at least three ways of looking at the alleged or real anti-semitism of Jeremy Corbyn. The first is that it is very, very funny. Since the 1970s, he and his friends have been whining about the horrors of racial prejudice. Now, every time he opens his mouth, he says something that upsets Jews – and that may legitimately be of concern to them. You tell me it is uncharitable if I fail to keep a straight face. The second is that the scandal is a distraction from the real issue in British politics. Next March, we are supposed to leave the European Union. Whether we shall or ought to leave with some kind of agreement is arguably more important than with whom Mr Corbyn shared a platform at the Conway Hall in 1987. These first two being noted, I will focus on the third, which is what impact he will have on the so far arrested realignment of English politics. Read more
This lunchtime, with a sore throat, I spoke at a debate at my college.
Back to the Future?
Motion: “By looking backwards Jeremy Corbyn threatens the future of the Labour Party”
I spoke against the motion. I spoke without notes, but this is roughly what I said:
“First of all, in response to one of the speakers for the motion, it seems to me that even the Parliamentary Labour Party is largely united. The willingness of Lord Falconer and Hillary Benn even to serve in a Corbyn shadow cabinet suggests a level of unity which I found rather surprising. So, Corbyn hasn’t torn the PLP apart yet, which many of us on the right complacently predicted.