Weekly Wrap-Up – 24/05 – 30/05 : *BORIS EDITION*

For the last few weeks, it had seemed as though Brexit had ground to a halt, much like a freight train crashing through its sidings and slowly digging into the ground behind it until it came to rest.

Or, if you’re picturing sidings at a major railway station, crashing into the nearest Costa coffee and smashing headfirst into the espresso machine.

Now, however, the situation seems to be gathering momentum again.

*distant screams*

Since Theresa May stepped down a week ago, her name has barely been mentioned. All the discussion has been focussed on what comes next: Who will be the next PM? Will Labour ever come up with a proper strategy for Brexit? Is Nigel Farage the saviour of British politics?

Well, next week Between the Lines will begin to dissect the candidates for the Tory party leadership one at a time. We’ll start to address the future then.

For now though, we’ll wrap up the past week through an analysis of a fairly major turn of events.

It involves one of the aforementioned Tory party candidates. The frontrunner, no less.

It’s been a bad couple of days for Boris.


So BoJo Is A Criminal Now?

No.

Unless you ask his ex-wife. ZING.

It’s really, really important to write about this in a way that is impartial. Not just because we here at BTL don’t particularly fancy a lawsuit (SPONSOR US HERE IF YOU WANT TO FUND OUR LEGAL FEES), but because this whole story has the potential to disrupt both the Remain and Leave camps in equal measure.

Here are the facts.

  • During the referendum campaign, Boris Johnson, former London Mayor and Foreign Secretary, claimed that when we left the EU we would receive an extra £350m a week to go to the NHS.
  • At a glance, this claim is dubious, but not demonstrably false. It ended up becoming a major statistic for the Vote Leave campaign.
  • It has since become a beacon of fury for Remain-supporters, who claim that the statement is, at its core, unprovable propaganda. Up until now, the claim was nothing more than an alleged lie.
  • Now, however, a man named Marcus Ball has accused Johnson of ‘misconduct in a public office,’ claiming that he used his position as a prominent political figure to wilfully mislead the public through his ‘£350m-a-week’ claim. Essentially, Ball has taken Johnson to court over an accusation of lying – and if found guilty, Johnson could actually face life imprisonment.
  • A judge on the private prosecution circuit has ruled that there is enough of a case for Johnson to have to appear before the court. BoJo is going to have to prove his innocence in the middle of a run to become leader of the Tory Party and, by extension, Prime Minister.

Just because I can, I will say this: yet again, the Balls think they’re bigger than the Johnsons.

Thank you, thank you. Yes, I am proud of that joke, shut up.


But… It Was A Lie, Right? That Means Boris Is Going To Jail…?

This is politics. Nothing is ever as simple as that.

Firstly, there’s not currently any legal argument to prove that it was a lie, let alone one used for nefarious means. Also, this legal case is going to run into obstruction after obstruction, where lawyers for the defence (Boris) will claim, as they have already, that the whole thing was a stunt. In a case such as this, it is incredibly hard to prove proactive wrongdoing.

Basically: Did Boris wilfully mislead the public? If so, how do you prove it?

To jump on this legal case, as many Remainers already have, as proof of the Leave campaign’s wrongdoing is to jump the gun before it’s even been loaded. There is a remarkable amount of scope here for conjecture, but the brilliant thing about the British legal system is presumption of innocence – no-one can be charged for anything without ‘reasonable doubt’ being eliminated.

So, until proven guilty, Boris is innocent.


…But?

Yeah, but.

There’s something about recent coverage of the Leave campaign, as well as some movement from their own camp, that doesn’t quite sit right.

First of all, this charge against Boris has been long in the making (Ball has taken three years to build the case), and yet the rhetoric hasn’t changed. Day in, day out, the message from Leave HQ has been about how feeble and pathetic the Remain camp is. The legal case is, without a doubt, a real challenge to that cocksure attitude, and if it wasn’t a real threat, it would have been laughed out of hand immediately.

Aaron Banks, Andy Wigmore, Nigel Farage… any prominent Leave.EU members or founders could have shrugged it off.

Instead, there has been next to no coverage of it.

What we have had instead is some pretty tetchy media outbursts – the most notable being Andy Wigmore’s suggestion that Femi Oluwole, a prominent Remain campaigner, both sounds and looks like Dianne Abbott.

Except, in Wigmore’s own words, that Femi, “has much more of [sic] glowing complexion.”

Which, we would argue, is nothing short of being outright racist.

There’s something to this case against BoJo that has Leave HQ worried. Quite what that is, we’ll have to wait and see. Maybe Boris will be sentenced to life imprisonment, who knows.

But Remainers are likely to jump the gun on all of this and declare a moral victory before the legal process has even begun, which would be counter-intuitive and incredibly damaging. In this day and age, there are scant few systems left in place in which the public have faith.

Let the legal system be one of them, whatever the outcome. Innocent until proven guilty.

If guilty, however… Holy shit.


I Thought This Was Meant To Be A Weekly Wrap-Up?

Oh yeah, Theresa May quit and the European Parliamentary elections were a shit-show.

What a time to be alive. We’ve forgotten all about those stories less than a week after they broke.

Tune in next Friday for updates on our new Empress, Ivanka Trump. With ‘The Donald’ coming over next week, can we really rule that out anymore?


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Fallout

If you haven’t started watching Sky’s Chernobyl yet, I’d strongly encourage you to do so. In a nutshell, it’s a drama based on the explosion at the nuclear power station in northern Ukraine during the days of the Soviet Union, back in 1986.

In the first episode, politicians and other political figures frantically try to ensure that they are not blamed for the disaster, with each trying to demonstrate their loyalty to a corrupt and creaking government. Each one is in their own personal state of denial, telling experts that they are wrong: “Do not criticise the Party.”

As a result, the lives of the millions of people affected by the disaster are put in jeopardy. The politics outweighs the practical, and as a result, innocent citizens are doomed.

It is gripping telly.

That being said, it’s on Sky, so you’d need to pay for a subscription to watch it. If you fancy watching a free compelling political drama which has:

  • A cock-up of monumental proportions caused by ineptitude;
  • Yellow-bellied politicians denying reality and pledging blind loyalty to a crumbling regime;
  • And a handful of Communists who don’t know what they’re doing;

then I’d recommend sticking on BBC news.


Ooh, Spill The Tea

Right, let’s get started with the Conservative Party, who are in the first throes of a leadership contest.

On we stride towards a new Prime Minister, chosen by the votes of the 125,000 or so Conservative Party members and the Tory MPs themselves. Between the Lines will be covering all the candidates in more detail in the near future, but for the purposes of this article we’ll be looking at some of the more prominent candidates.

Many candidates, following the drubbing by The Brexit Party at last week’s EU Parliamentary elections, have forthrightly come out and said that “No-deal is back on the table.” Well done chaps, that’ll stick it to Farage, said no political strategist, ever.

Boris Johnson has proclaimed his swashbuckling idea to go back to Brussels to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, particularly the backstop, then go for no-deal if that fails. He is not the only candidate to do so. However, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, has again come out to say that the deal will not be renegotiated, no-way, nuh-uh, never.

So that means no-deal.

However, Jeremy Hunt, survivor of one of the worst Freudian spoonerisms possible when he was Culture Secretary, has declared that no-deal would be “political suicide,” which in these strange times has lost him support. Michael Gove, the unfortunately-faced Environment Secretary, has benefited from this, as he positions himself as a “Leaver that Remainers can talk to.”

So why is no-deal actually political suicide? Why would Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey, and other assorted Conservative leadership hopefuls all declare that they would leave without a deal on October 31st when they know it would be bad news?

Because nothing has been learnt from the May years. Theresa May’s premiership was a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of “Let’s promise this impossible and damaging thing now because it’s what voters want to hear, then we’ll find out a way to do it afterwards.”

It is worth remembering that no-deal is not a good thing – it would cause massive economic disruption to the UK and should, by any rational account, be avoided if at all possible.

Additionally, a no-deal Brexit is not as guaranteed as the Tory candidates would have you believe.

Enter Speaker of the House, John Bercow.


What’s He Done Now?

First of all, like Jordan Belfort, “HE’S NOT GOING ANYWHERE.”

Bercow told The Guardian that he isn’t going to step down in July, as he had previously been touted to do, because of the ongoing situation with Brexit. “It doesn’t seem to me sensible to vacate the chair,” he said.

This would likely make the hearts of the no-deal Tories sink, as it was essentially his interventions during the last frantic scramble to resolve Brexit that allowed Yvette Cooper to pass a bill ruling out no-deal.

And he’s ready to do it again, too. In a speech to the Brookings Institute in the US, he said that “The idea that parliament is going to be evacuated from the centre stage of debate on Brexit is simply unimaginable.”

He has a point. It is quite absurd to think that these Tory candidates are all campaigning as though they are about to be elected supreme overlord of Britain. If they say they will go for no-deal, that does not mean that no-deal will automatically happen. 

It will have to be approved by a Parliament that will most likely refuse to let that happen, much as it did the last time. Johnson and his rivals would do well to remember that – the Parliamentary arithmetic is the same, no matter your policy, so you can’t just get what you want without passing it through Parliament.

But for now, they will continue to spout platitudes about “taking the fight back to Brussels,” or “leaving without a deal for a brighter future for Britain,” all the while hiding the fact that these claims are either next to impossible or economically damaging.


And Now That Labour Are In Favour Of A Second Referendum, They’ll Finally Be In A Place To Lay Down A Real Challenge, Right?

Oh Labour.

As if things weren’t bad enough, the Labour Party expelled Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s spin-wizard and prominent People’s Vote advocate, for voting Lib Dem last Thursday.

This has caused a furore about the speed at which they expelled him compared to the speed in which they have dealt with antisemitism cases, with other lifelong Labour politicians coming out and saying that they also voted Lib-Dem or Green – they have challenged their party to expel them, too.

The timing was also about as ideal as a giggling fit at a funeral, as The Equality and Human Rights Commission launched an investigation into Labour’s handling of said antisemitism cases. Prominent Labour voices have condemned their party, calling it abhorrent that racism has become something of an accepted norm within it.

Corbyn, meanwhile, has remained tight-lipped about whether or not Labour will actively support Remain if there was a second referendum, further alienating a large swathe of Labour voters (though not all, it must be added).


So Who Can We Turn To?

How about one of the real winners from last week, Vince Cable?

Oh wait, no, he’s stepping down.

Nigel Farage? He’s said he’s going to challenge in a General Election, but the First Past The Post system means that he probably wouldn’t get many seats.

Let’s just make Bercow sort it out. It’ll at least be funny to watch everyone collectively lose their shit over it.


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Brexit Means Brex… Oh Wait

And there we have it. The European Parliamentary elections have resulted in an absolute thrashing for Labour and the Conservatives, a romping win for the Brexit Party, and massive results for the Lib Dems and the Greens.

Exactly as predicted, therefore.

The fact that it has gone quite this badly for the two main parties is either terrifying, hilarious or brilliant depending on your political beliefs. It is, undoubtedly, an evening with huge ramifications for the future of British politics.

But it isn’t quite the dawn of a new age that some would have you think. While the implications are potentially huge, there are some pretty major caveats to the election results.


How So?

First of all, despite the importance of the elections, turnout remained low across the UK at around 37%. This is despite the fact that the average across the EU was 51%, the highest in decades.

A General Election usually has well over 60% turnout, such as in 2017, which saw 68.8%. So, while a message has been sent tonight, it is also well worth remembering that around 63% of UK citizens didn’t vote when they might in a General Election.

It’s a fair assumption to make that those who did vote were more politically-minded than many other citizens in the UK, however, so it’s still worth noting the results – it’s just that they don’t give the full story.


So When People Are Calling This A “De Facto Referendum…”

They’re lying. It isn’t.

The turnout at the referendum was 72% – higher than most General Elections. That was a direct vote, In or Out, Yes or No. European Parliamentary elections, while hugely overshadowed by Brexit in this instance, are far more complex than that.

Put simply, the majority of people don’t fully know what they’re voting for or what it means for them, which goes a long way to explaining the smaller turnout – you’re electing a representative, not voicing an opinion. It’s harder to care about something that seems so removed from day-to-day life.

Additionally, whereas the referendum was Yes or No and nothing else, there are a variety of options for voters in an election.

Leave voters have voted overwhelmingly in favour of The Brexit Party, but there will still be huge swathes of Leavers who voted for the Conservatives only for them to be absolutely trashed in the results (…Well, maybe not huge swathes, if the results are anything to go by, but a large number nonetheless).

Perhaps more pertinently, Remain supporters had their vote split between the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, or even Change UK, while in Scotland the SNP campaigned heavily in favour of Remain.

This means that while no party might win outright when compared to the Brexit Party behemoth, a vote for any of these parties could be construed as a vote to Remain. Their combined votes, which have beaten the Brexit Party overall,  means that claiming that Hard-Brexiters have won isn’t quite the full story.

As a final complication, what of Labour? While Corbyn himself may want to leave, his party remains overwhelmingly in favour of a second referendum, as do many Labour voters. A vote for Labour could be considered a vote for Remain or Leave, therefore…


So What Does It All Mean, Then?!

So, here are the BBC’s predicted results as of 2am (Scotland and Northern Ireland are yet to declare):

Screenshot 2019-05-27 at 01.54.55.png

And here’s what it means:

  • The Tories have been eviscerated. Despite low turnout, it is hugely, hugely worrying for them.
  • The Brexit Party have done sensationally well, as expected.
  • UKIP, now very much a party run and championed by overtly racist cretins, did appallingly, thank Christ.
    • Tommy Robinson (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) also failed to win a seat in the North West, coming a resounding last in the votes there.
  • But, if you consider the Brexit Party to be in favour of Hard Brexit and everyone else apart from the Conservatives and Labour to be outright in favour of Remain, the stats are:
    • Conservatives/Labour: 23.2%
    • Hard Brexit parties: 34.9%
    • Remain parties: 40.4%

Which puts Remain in front.

Again – take all of the above with a pinch of salt. But it was certainly an interesting night and one which will have huge ramifications for the two main parties.

Most likely, it’ll mean that Labour and the Tories will now have to take definitive stances over Brexit, Remain and Leave respectively, if they want to avoid an absolute drubbing at the next General Election.

Which will probably happen before the end of the year.

I’m going to bed now. Wake me up when Brexit’s over.


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The End Of The Road

Earlier this morning, Theresa May announced that she will resign as Prime Minister on the 7th of June.

And I really don’t know how to feel about it.

Her speech has been widely praised for being both magnanimous and defiant to the last, which it was. There were a few aspects to it that felt a touch disingenuous, such as saying that, “We have helped more people than ever secure a job,” when food banks and homelessness are more prevalent than ever.

But, right up until the last couple of sentences, it was a good speech – strong and stable, as it were. She even warned her successor that “Compromise is not a dirty word,” trying to protect them from the inevitable shit-storm when everyone realises that having a new leader will change diddly-squat.

Then, at the very end, a crack in the facade – as she told us how grateful she was to “serve the country she loves,” her voice wobbled, and the tears welled. She quickly about-turned and retreated into the safety of No. 10.


You Sound Sympathetic…

Because I am.

…I think.

Look, I have laid into Theresa May as much as the next pundit over the last few months (and years). Her handling of Brexit has been nothing short of catastrophic, beginning with the one of the worst election campaigns in living memory back in 2017, which lost her the Conservative majority.

She then pretended that her government was far stronger than it was. She forgot about the fact that Brexit has always been a case of 52% vs 48%, rather than anything unanimous. There were always going to be rebels, there was always going to a furious debate over it, and there was always going to be a need for compromise.

She refused to search for it until it was far too late.

But I don’t think any Prime Minister could have negotiated a better Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. She was sitting at the negotiating table holding UNO cards while everyone else was playing high-stakes poker.

Trying to ram it through Parliament three times was desperate, but it was the only real way to achieve a negotiated Brexit – she has always been clear that she believes firmly in upholding the referendum result, she recognised the lack of majority for a no-deal Brexit, and she made plain the fact that the Withdrawal Agreement could not be renegotiated with the EU (which they decided, not her).

And, in the end, it was the right thing to do to try to find a compromise. Anyone who says otherwise simply doesn’t understand how government works. You cannot pass something through Parliament without a majority, and not everyone is going to agree with what you propose. The arithmetic demanded that she find support from those across the House because some in her own party, like the ERG, flatly refused to recognise this simple truth and continuously betrayed her. She really did try her best to find it.

And, more than anything else, I think that she is a tempered, honourable woman who courageously took up the mantle of Prime Minister because no-one else would. She was the one who offered to try to fix the Brexit mess when the leadership bids of Johnson and Gove collapsed, and she fought off the frankly offensive campaign from Andrea Leadsom, who famously said she’d be a better Prime Minister because she had children and May didn’t.

Anyone who thinks that she doesn’t love the United Kingdom or didn’t try her best is wrong – she tried her utmost to serve her country in impossible circumstances. You can see, plain and simple, the toll it has taken on her, yet she has fought until the last.

So yes, I think that I am sympathetic on the whole. She has made some fatal errors, and I strongly disagree with much of her politics aside from Brexit, but she is an honourable woman who has given her all to do what she thinks is right.

So I, for one, will say this: “Cheers Tezza. You did your best.”

“Also, in about three months time, we’re really going to miss you.”


What?! We’ll Miss Her?!

Oh dear sweet reader. If you think that this the beginning of a bright new dawn then you are sorely mistaken.

What comes next is going to be horrific.

First up, the leadership contest. As I mentioned, the last one was chock-full of bitching, in-fighting, betrayals and smears. Since then, the Conservative Party has absolutely unravelled into Mad Max levels of anarchy.

So this leadership contest will be twice as brutal.

Boris Johnson is the leading candidate according to polls of the 125,000 Conservative Party Members, who will eventually choose the new leader of the party. But first, the party itself chooses who will be the final two candidates, which is going to lead to a few grubby weeks of candidates trying to rally support with backhanded deals.

Then, the candidates will have to go head-to-head. It will be bitter, it will be bitchy, and we will likely end up with a Brexiteer leader, who will probably win with a swashbuckling promise to go to Brussels and get a better deal.

And then promptly be told that it can’t happen, as May was, and as the EU has openly said, multiple times. They have always said that the Withdrawal Bill is the final offer, and will not be reopened.

Additionally, no-deal will continue to be voted down by Parliament, and it would be seen amongst the Tories as a huge betrayal if a second referendum is mooted.

There is nowhere to go.

Whoever comes in next will quickly come to realise that they are also a lame-duck Prime Minister. Brexit will not be resolved by the deadline of October 31st, and this mess will continue.

This is not a bright new start. May, for all her ills, was starting to handle Brexit in the name of concession and compromise, which is what is needed to make it happen. Now, I fear, we are back to square one.

So goodbye Theresa. We’ll miss you.


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Like a Lead(som) Balloon

It’s fair to say that Theresa May didn’t need that.

Last night, on the eve of the European Parliamentary elections, Theresa May suffered a high-profile resignation – the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom. 

In a scathing resignation letter, Leadsom, British Politics’ Dolores Umbridge, told May that she “No longer believed that their approach will deliver on the referendum result.” She went on to slag off May’s Shiny New Deal, and essentially called her handling of Brexit both inept and cowardly.

Ouch.

We, the people, go to the polls today. What are we to make of this?


That It’s A Total Balls-Up Of A Colossal Scale?

Yep, pretty much. And the Tories are going to be eviscerated because of it.

Leadsom’s resignation comes off the back of May’s final attempt at getting some kind of Brexit resolution through her announcement of a new version of her deal, which we covered in more detail here. It was widely met with derision across the House of Commons, with both opponents and allies alike largely calling it a load of utter toss.

It alienated those who might have been wavering in their support but could have been persuaded back, and gave ample ammunition to those who had no intention of voting on her side in the first place. It was a truly incredible piece of conflict-resolution: to bring everyone together, she told both sides that they were right, but also that they were wrong, and then to prove her point she set fire to herself.

British Politics, 2019.

Leadsom has been a prominent voice for Brexiteers, actively campaigning for a harder Brexit. The rumours from the Cabinet meeting that preceded May’s announcement of her new deal are that she and Chris “Lord Commander of Failing” Grayling refused to allow Tezza to make real concessions to Labour, such as a confirmatory second referendum.

However, the new deal was clearly just a step too far for Leadsom. Her resignation came during a fraught evening within the corridors of Parliament, where Cabinet Ministers are rumoured to have requested multiple meetings with Theresa May only for her to refuse. We can only assume what these requested meetings would have been about, but old Maggie Thatcher was eventually ousted by a series of one-to-one meetings with her Cabinet Ministers who all told her to resign.

So, it’s relatively understandable that May, in the words of Iain Duncan Smith, put the “sofa up against the door.”

It wasn’t enough, however. Leadsom resigned, May lost one of her major Cabinet Ministers, and the Tories now look more divided than ever.


So… What Happens Now?

Well, first things first.

If you are registered, then

GO OUT AND VOTE.

Today is the election that many argue shouldn’t be happening, will be won by the group who hate the EU the most, and will likely be the worst result for the Tories in generations.

Every vote matters. Every. Last. One. This isn’t a voting system where First Past The Post makes your vote irrelevant if you don’t vote for the winning party, every vote counts and has a direct impact on our future relationship with the EU. If nothing else, vote Green – the world is literally dying, so you might as well vote for those who want to try to stop that.

Anyway.

The fact that today is an election day means that media coverage of politics is massively scaled back to be reporting only – anything that might be considered to change the opinions of voters isn’t allowed. Which means that May can cling to power throughout today because politicians can’t appear on tellie and tell her to clear off.

Friday, however, is another matter. While the results of the election won’t be announced until Sunday, exit polls will give a good indication of where people’s votes have gone. So we should know, roughly at least, what the damage is.

May will meet with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, on Friday. He is probably going to be reasonably unsatisfied with the results of the election, and with May’s refusal to leave, having asked her to spell out her plans to resign on multiple occasions already.

There is every chance that he will suggest that May resign on Friday.

Whether or not she does that, however, is anyone’s guess.


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“At Least It Can’t Get Any Worse.”

I am genuinely worried about Theresa May.

Whether or not you agree with her on a political level (and, to be fair, you’re currently in a very small group if you do), over the course of her premiership Tezza has gone from looking like that auntie who lives with three cats in a very pink house to looking like a half-eaten turkey twizzler left next to a bin.

She’s clearly exhausted, deeply saddened by the catastrophe of her leadership and can count her number of allies on her fingers. And yet, despite overwhelming odds, she’s still fighting. It’s like watching a pigeon attacking a horse, but she’s still fighting.

Eventually though, she will run out of steam and this sad spectacle will come to an end. The mantle will be passed onto someone else. Boris, maybe.

Yesterday was a big step towards that happening.


So What Was This “New Deal” About, Then?

It was May’s last chance at getting her Brexit deal through. The one that has died three deaths already, one being the biggest ever defeat on a Bill being put to Parliament.

Basically, May tried to attach lots of shiny little gifts onto it to try and persuade MPs from across the House to vote for it. In my mind, I picture it like a string of fairy-lights draped over some roadkill.

She tried to win over Labour MPs by promising that workers’ rights and environmental protection laws would match the EU’s after we leave, ending freedom of movement and also allowing a vote on a permanent customs union. None of these have been enough to gain Labour support.

She tried to win over Conservative and DUP MPs by promising to find alternative arrangements to the backstop, or a promise to “stay aligned” with Northern Ireland if the backstop comes into play (i.e. we wouldn’t abandon Northern Ireland to become part of the EU). Neither of these have been enough to gain Conservative support.

Finally, she tried to win over Remain-supporting MPs by promising a vote on a second referendum should her deal be passed at the second reading (the first Parliamentary vote on new legislation). NB, this is not a promise of a second referendum – it is a promise of a vote in Parliament to allow one, which could happen without her approval anyway. As such, it hasn’t been enough to gain Remainer support.

In fact, the whole thing has done the exact opposite of what it was supposed to do – rather than entice MPs to see the promises she’s made to them, they’ve seen the promises she’s made to their enemies instead. Views have hardened against May overnight.

She was already up Shit Creek without a paddle. Now she’s managed to set fire to the boat.


Yeesh. So What Comes Next?

Well, she announced all this in a speech yesterday, and will set it out to the actual House of Commons today. It’ll probably go about as well as combining a wolf sanctuary with a petting zoo.

The level of dismay and anger on show from her supposed allies in the Conservative Party about the “new” deal, as well as the outright rejection of it from the DUP and Labour, means that she may actually be encouraged to kill the deal herself before it’s even put to a vote. 

However, a sense of duty might mean that she rolls the dice anyway, because with a vote could come some amendments, tabled by MPs, that might include a second referendum or some means of finding a way out of this mess.

If she does decide to pull the vote, then it would probably mean curtains for May, at long last. The 1922 Committee has rejected calls from the Tory backbenchers to change their rules and force May out over the last few weeks – this time, she might not be so lucky.

Alternatively, she might keep on being “lucky” and remain in the job for a while longer. This is unlikely, as rumours have come out from her inner circle that she admits that her deal failing would leave her with no options left, but she’s already stuck around far longer than anyone thought she would.

Like herpes.


And The Elections Tomorrow?

Ah yes, that.

It goes without saying, but please, for whatever party:

GO OUT AND VOTE.

Democracy doesn’t work when good people don’t take part in it. By reading this twaddle, you’re already more committed to politics than the average joe. Tomorrow’s elections are incredibly important in defining our future relationship with the EU – go and become a part of history.

Between the Lines will be back with analysis on the results later this week. After a month of little happening, the Brexit chaos will begin anew.

Yaaaay.


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The Mad Queen

In the week where we finally discover the result of hundreds of hours of surprisingly gripping fantasy TV (shut up, I haven’t seen it yet, DON’T YOU DARE RUIN IT FOR ME), it is fitting that we might also discover the result of thousands upon thousands of hours of fantasy politics.

This week will likely see the largest turnout for a European Parliamentary election in the UK’s history. It might also herald the decimation of the two-party system within this country – both the Tories and Labour will likely see their worst ever results in any election in the modern political era. While there is a quantifiable claim that people vote differently in European elections compared to General Elections, the results of this week could have dire consequences upon British politics.

Those feeling alienated will feel empowered, those feeling loyal will feel betrayed. But no-one will really be satisfied.

Much like Series 8 of Game of Thrones.

While this isn’t the week that ends Brexit, it may well be the one that decides it.

Here. We. Go.


So, What Are We Looking At?

Carnage.

According to the latest ComRes poll, the Brexit Party will win Thursday’s election with a vote share of 31%. Labour are on 22%, having haemorrhaged votes rather than win them, the Lib-Dems are on 16%, and the Tories are currently tied with the fucking Green Party on 9%.

Major political figures in both of the major parties have also stated their plans to defect. Michael Heseltine, deputy PM to John Major, has said he will vote Lib-Dem, and Dame Margaret Hodge, the Labour Peer, has told people to vote tactically – i.e., vote for anyone that prevents the ‘bad guys’ winning as opposed to voting for Labour outright.

Both of these stories are most likely to be met with blank stares and a question of “Who?” by most people, but these two are stalwarts of their respective parties. The fact that they are turning their backs on them now cannot be downplayed – it is massive.

It’s going to be a bloodbath for the Tories and Labour.


OK Kewl But We Already Knew That, Right?

Yeah, we did. It’s still pretty hilarious / terrifying / hilarifying though.

Why?

Because, with absolutely scant regard for the wellbeing of the nation, the Tories have decided that now is the time to think about what comes next. Not how we move on from this horrifying monster that we call Brexit, however. How we move on to vote for the next useless prick to lead the country.

And it’s probably going to be BoJo. 

…Boris Johnson, so we’re clear.

While Mad Queen May’s days are numbered, Boris let slip his intention to run for Prime Minister at a conference for insurance executives. This is probably as fitting a place to announce it as he could have hoped for – wannabe king of the wankers, announcing his desire to rule to a room full of massive wankers.

As May’s departure is all but confirmed now (he said, deciding to not remember the past and pretend that she might finally fucking leave as opposed to be supreme ruler for the rest of time), a poll of Tory party members put him miles ahead of Dominic Raab, his closest competitor.

He’d trash him head-to-head by 59% to 41%, according to the poll.

And BoJo would swoop in on British politics, full of braggadocio and bumbling affability, and declare that he will change the EU’s mind on the Withdrawal Bill and create a Brexit for everyone.

And, after announcing a mission-plan so fundamentally stupid, he’d probably accidentally walk into a staging light and set himself on fire.

Whoever comes next, Boris or otherwise, will face the same issues May has. Personality will not be enough gloss over an utter vacuum of policy…

For a while, at least.


So… We’re Screwed, Then?

No. We might be ok.

Maybe.

First up, the Tories’ front-runner in leadership bids has a history of failing miserably. David Davis, anyone?

Because of this, Boris is not an out-and-out surefire winner for the leadership race. This is partially due to the fact that he is the favourite amongst the Conservative membership, but not the Conservative MPs.

The Conservative MPs are the ones who decide the candidates through a process of elimination, and there is a chance that they may decide not to put their faith in Johnson – in fact, while many Tory members love him, the majority of Tory MPs see him as duplicitous and moronic.

We might be saved from him yet.

But if we were, we might let Corybn into the doors of No. 10. A man who will decimate our economy.

I’m going to go and buy shares in bunkers, DVDs of films from the 90s and a lifetime supply of Pom-Bears. I don’t want to influence anyone’s thinking, but now would be a good time to stock up on games that take over a generation to finish.


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Weekly Wrap-Up – 10/05 – 16/05

Well now.

At long last it seems as though an ultimatum has been put on Theresa May. This blog clocked from the second it was announced that her resignation was a complete bunch of hokum and that it would take something more than her own sense of honour to unseat her.

And so, after her meeting with the 1922 Committee yesterday, it finally seems as though the decision has been taken out of her hands.

And yet, after everything that’s come before, it still seems sad. Even though May has quite rightly earned the title of one of the least successful Prime Ministers since time immemorial, it still seems like her leaving isn’t the silver lining we were all hoping for.

Partially because whoever takes over will likely make the situation twenty times worse, and partially because I am quite clearly suffering from political Stockholm Syndrome.


Wait, You’re More Reflective Than Usual…

Because it really does seem like this is the end for May.

But You’ve Always Said Her Resignation Was A Con!

Not this time.

This blog has reported again and again on the sensationalised news reports that May’s tenure was coming to an end… and every time we called bullshit on it. And hey, guess what? We were right every time. 

Gold star to us, hubris wins over common sense every time, hooray for the world we live in, please God end our pain.

When she announced in March that she would step down once her Bill was passed, we reported that it was a total crock. Lo and behold, nearly three months later and she’s still in office. Since that time, the rebels within the Conservative Party have been hounding her constantly, with the backbenchers of the 1922 Committee lobbying her to leave. Until now, however, she has stood strong, resolute and barking mad, defying the will of her decimated party.

Now, at long last, she has all but ceded defeat.

She has called for the full Withdrawal Bill to be put before Parliament with a view to it being turned into law, despite it failing three Meaningful Votes and every other party opposing her (including Labour, who she has been in cross-party talks to try and find some form of ‘greater-good’ concession for the last seven weeks).

She simply doesn’t have the numbers to get the majority needed to pass it through Parliament and, barring a miracle, it will fail.

She has signed her own death warrant.


So What Happens Next?

She will probably be forced out before Parliament’s Summer recess. The Bill will be brought forward for early June, and between it failing and the Conservative Conference a new leader will be put in place.

And Boris has confirmed he is running. May God have mercy upon us all.

Even if Bojo doesn’t win and some other Brexiteer takes over, whether or not they galvanise a dying party, whether or not they unite the Leave campaign into a single, unified force, they will still suffer the same fate as Theresa May.

Why?

Because the EU will not change the Withdrawal Agreement. Ever. To say that they will is as much of a lie as saying Chris Hemsworth is objectively unattractive (and damnit I will fight you to the death if you disagree). Whoever comes next and whatever momentum they are riding on will be abruptly and fatally halted by the concrete crash-mat of the EU – for all the bluster, no new leader will ever be able to negotiate anything better.

By September, everything will be crumbling around us once again, except someone far less suited to being Prime Minister will be at the helm. Then we will have to ask the EU for another extension, because no-deal will once again be voted down in Parliament.

Whether they’ll grant it or not, by that stage, is anyone’s guess.


OK Cool! That All Sounds Dandy. Anything Else?

Not much. Nigel Farage has been dealt a blow by a number of reporters from the BBC and Channel 4 asking him to tell them about what he actually believes this week. He failed to answer their questions, so threw his toys out of the pram and declared them the enemy.

He is the leader of the party that will win next week’s elections.

Between the Lines is impartial to results, so long as they are won fair and square. When the European elections next week are won by a landslide, we will be among the first to give credit to a superbly-organised campaign led by Farage, even if it was funded by Aaron Banks, who donated £450,000 to old Nige to get the job done.

However, the worry is what comes next.

  • When the Brexit Party win, what will they do? Create disruption.
  • How? By opposing anything that comes their way.
  • Why? Because they do not have anything close to resembling a single policy other than “We’re not sure about Johnny Foreigner but we’ll use arguing about ‘democracy’ to hide it.”

This will probably be where politics goes for the next ten years or so – no positive policy, only populism.

Yay.


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Mayvel’s The Offenders : Endgame

After the cataclysmic events that lead up to this point, the battered and war-wearied forces of The Offenders gather for one last attack, against all the odds, to win the Brexit Infinity War.

Nearly all hope has gone from the galaxy/country. Our heroes have lost swathes of allies/voters to a purple tyrant… Well, he was purple when he was UKIP, at least. Faranos caused the “Snap” referendum, which resulted in half of the people in the country ceasing to exist (in terms of having any say in the outcome of Brexit).

But Captain Amayrica has rallied her troops for one last attack. Hunt-eye, Captain Morvel, Gorve the demigod, Iron-Hamm – all of her closest lieutenants stand by her, shoulder to shoulder, ready to do battle, one last time.


Please Stop Now, Some Of Those Were Actually Painful

I know, I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself.

Yesterday, Theresa May told Jeremy Corbyn face to face that, on the week commencing June the 3rd, she would bring the Withdrawal Bill, in its entirety, to a vote in the Commons.

This is not a meaningful vote. This isn’t an indicator of support for government policy. This is an attempt to actually pass the Bill into law. The Bill that has already failed to pass through Parliament three times, that is.

It’s nothing short of a suicide mission.


What?! Why On Earth Would She Do That? Surely It’ll Go Down In Flames? …Again.

Because she has literally no other options.

In another long and arduous session with her Cabinet, May eventually realised that this was her only strategy left. In deciding this, she told Corbyn of her plans to put pressure on Labour to try and finally find some kind of concession in the cross-party talks.

Labour have already said that without a successful negotiation between the two parties, they will not support May’s Withdrawal Bill. The tone of the comments about the cross-party talks have become increasingly defeatist recently, with this being the seventh week of discussions. So, if (or, more likely, when) they fail, May will not have the support of the Labour vote for her Withdrawal Agreement.

Because it has failed to resolve the backstop, the DUP have also already come out to say they will not support it. Obviously, the Lib-Dem, SNP, Green, Plaid Cymru and Change UK MPs will not support it. Some of those Tories who voted in favour of the last meaningful vote as a desperate move to save Brexit have hardened their stances again, so they will not support it.

The numbers are simply not there, barring a major volte-face after an absolute drubbing at the European election ballot box. But even then, given that the government is a minority government, they would still rely on a considerable number of Labour defectors to have a majority – while some would rebel and vote in favour of it (those from a heavily Brexit-favouring constituency, for instance), they would not nearly be enough.


So It Really Is A Suicide Mission. What Happens If–Sorry, When It Fails?

May’s threat is that if it fails, the only two scenarios are no deal or revoke Article 50. A final, brutal head-to-head which will probably favour revocation over crashing-out, if only by a small margin.

However, this assumes that she will still be in government. Should the Bill pass, and I literally just snorted out some coffee typing that, she will leave – she promised to do so back in March, remember? If it doesn’t, it is most likely the end of her, too.

When the Bill fails, it will bring the end of the Parliamentary session, i.e. the current sitting of MPs being available for lawmaking. Because of her lack of majority or authority in basically anything, she will be unable to start a new one – this will likely pave the way for a leadership contest.

What happens after that is anyone’s guess. She might even stay in power, and it might end up being a straight fight between no-deal and revoke. But, whatever the outcome, the battle-lines have been drawn.

It is about to get GoT Series 8 episode 5 up in here.


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T-Minus 10 (Days) And Counting…

I’m not particularly good with calendars. I can have a date in my mind and remember it, but I’m never really completely aware as to when that date actually is.

The European Elections are on the 23rd of May – miles away, right?

Nope, turns out they’re next Thursday. 

The reason why this hasn’t particularly sunk in is that there seems to be a level of urgency within British politics akin to that of a cat, lying in a sunny spot on the kitchen floor, being asked to move so you can hoover.

This probably because any feeling of excitement towards it lies only in the Brexit Party – everyone else seems destined to suffer severe losses. Despite there being just ten days until the elections, the feeling isn’t so much “roll up your sleeves” as it is “tie your own noose.”

So, with the elections round the corner, what’s been happening over the weekend?


The Gab Returns

Gavin Williamson, the former Defence Secretary who was sacked over the Huawei leaks, wrote in the Mail On Sunday that he thought that the cross-party talks with Labour were a “grave mistake.” Warning that it could destroy the Conservative Party, his remarks came at a time where May’s support was at an all-time low.

Yes, there are those who have consistently been furious with her for beginning the talks in the first place, but some of the more moderate Conservative MPs within her party are now also starting to lose patience with her and the process – we’re ten days from the election, yet all that the Tories are doing is skirting around the edges of ideology with their sworn enemies.

It’s not a good look.

Additionally, Sir Keir Starmer, Shadow Brexit Secretary and superbly-haired Labour Minister, came out over the weekend to say that even though talks would resume today, a breakthrough was unlikely. He also said that anything that was agreed would need to be ratified by a second referendum. 

…Which May has sworn to never do. We’ve had six weeks of these talks and so far we’ve made all the progress of a Morris Minor doing the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

On Thursday, our battered and beleaguered PM meets with the 1922 Committee to explain exactly what her plan is and to spell out her timetable for leaving. This comes as the Times revealed today that current polls have the Tories at fifth place, behind the Lib Dems and the Greens, for next week’s election.

I’d imagine that the meeting will be about as pleasant as a Saturday-afternoon Glastonbury toilet.


Feisty Farage Receives Barbed Barrage From The Beeb

Appearing on Andrew Marr’s show on Sunday, Nigel Farage was keen from the outset to speak about the betrayal of the British people by the government. In fact, being old Nige, he was just keen to speak.

Marr, however, took the opportunity to ask him some pretty pertinent questions about his beliefs. He asked him about:

  • His views on immigration, climate change and gun control;
  • His previous admiration of Vladimir Putin;
  • The ‘Breaking Point’ poster he used for the referendum featuring non-EU asylum-seekers;
  • A health insurance system for the NHS, which Farage has previously supported (i.e. making the NHS more privatised);
  • And his quote that concern about global warming was “the stupidest thing in human history.”

Which, of course, Farage avoided answering at all costs, except to say that he wasn’t sorry about the ‘Breaking Point’ poster. In fact, Farage got pretty furious, and after the interview he called the BBC ‘The Enemy.’

Leading Remainer commentators have called Farage out on this, saying that the second any of his views get challenged, he simply threatens to take the ball away and not to play any more rather than engage in discussion.

Their argument is that the Brexit party has no policy or strategy, but is just bluster and bluster alone – how would the Brexit party, for instance, govern the country if it stood in local elections?

To deny the impact and momentum of the party, however, would be a grave mistake – they are currently set to absolutely destroy the opposition at the ballot box come the 23rd…


As I mentioned last week, the format of Between the Lines is changing slightly so there won’t be an article tomorrow (unless all hell suddenly breaks loose… which is possible).

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