Weekly Wrap-Up – 03/05-09/05

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As I mentioned yesterday, the breakneck speed of politics we all suffered earlier in the year has largely given way to a melancholy dirge of feebleness.

Where we once had fire-and-brimstone rhetoric, we now have bitchy and pernickety remarks. Where we once had the unstoppable force of Brexit meeting the immovable object of British politics, we now have two toddlers having an arm wrestle. Where we once had the imminent threat of political self-immolation, we now just have political impotence.

It’s all rather dull, in truth. Even Gabby Gavin Williamson kept his mouth shut this week, despite potentially being able to sue the government for defamation.

However, it won’t be for long – the European Parliamentary elections will soon put the cat among the pigeons and make things mental again. The likely decimation of the Tory party could, in all honesty, spell the end for the party as we know it. Splinter factions of hardline Brexiteers could leave to either join UKIP or the Brexit Party, or create their own group. Or, moderates could leave and join Change UK or create their own group.

The effects of that on British politics would be nothing short of seismic.

However, in the meantime, us politico-types have to make sense of what’s been happening. Let’s rattle through it and enjoy our weekends, shall we?

We need to enjoy them while we can.


What’s Been The Major Story This Week?

At the time of writing, last week’s Weekly Wrap-Up reported that the local elections were predicted to spell doom and gloom for the Tories. Holy Bejesus on a bicycle were those predictions right.

Over 1,300 Tory councillors lost their seats, largely to Lib Dem, Green or independent candidates. Labour and UKIP also suffered losses, though not half as bad as the Conservatives. These results have struck the fear of God into the two major parties, who have until now been perpetually complacent about their ability to dominate the political landscape. The losses are widely considered to be a precursor to an absolute drubbing at the ballot box for the European elections.

The fallout from the ‘locals’ was actually not quite as spectacular as many thought (hoped) it would be. While many Tories were understandably furious, no heads rolled. Local Conservative councillors who lost seats (and even those who didn’t) went on national TV to say that they will vote for the Brexit Party at the EP elections and betray their beloved party to do so, but suffered no major recriminations.

May took it on the chin, as she has all of the other bajillion sucker punches she’s endured during her premiership.


And What Else?

Speaking of taking it on the chin, on Tuesday, May celebrated the end of the Bank Holiday by resolutely telling the 1922 Committee to shove ‘it’ firmly up their bottoms, with ‘it’ being calls to resign.

She met with Sir Graham Brady, the committee’s chairman, who asked her to spell out exactly what her timetable is to leave, and encouraged her to make it sooner rather than later.

Later that day, a Number 10 spokesman said that she would stick around until September, or until Brexit is resolved.

Classic May.

Then, on Wednesday, there was a slightly strange PMQs – Corbyn couldn’t go fully on the attack because supposedly his party and the Tories were still negotiating a compromise on Brexit (that will likely never be actually found). So instead, the really notable swipe at May came from Andrea Jenkyns, one of her own, Tory, Brexiteer backbenchers, who called for her to resign. Openly, in Parliament.

Ouch.

But nope, May wasn’t to be heckled. She instead said that Brexit was “Not an issue about her,” which was essentially putting all of those calling for her head in a room and chucking a beehive of very angry bees in there with them.

So we’re stuck with May. For now, at least. Maybe the European Parliamentary elections will force her out if (when) the Tories are absolutely annihilated at them, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see her survive until December, when she can be legally challenged with a vote of no-confidence again.

She might even survive that, too.

The last thing of note is a moment to forget for Change UK, and indeed the Remain camp as a whole. Fiona Onasanya, the disgraced Labour MP who was arrested for fraudulent driving offence claims, was recalled due to those very convictions and a by-election for her constituency was called. Change UK, the Greens and the Lib-Dems wanted to join forces to put an independent, non party-affiliated Remainer candidate forward and give them the best possible support they could get.

Instead, the candidate pulled out at the 11th hour.

Gavin Shuker, a Change UK MP, blamed Labour figures for blocking and disrupting the campaign. However, it seems likely that the real reason the candidate pulled out is because Change UK currently looks like it would be unable to organise nap-time in a narcoleptic ward.

Fun times.


And What Next?

The European elections are just a few short weeks away and all parties have now started their election campaigns, so next week will likely be dominated by this. However, whispers are abound that May will try to bring her deal backagain, before we go to the polls.

May God have mercy upon us all.

Ch-Ch-Changes

When I started Between the Lines a few months ago, everything was on fire.

There was open rebellion in the Commons. Crashing out of Europe without a deal was a constant, looming menace. The Withdrawal Agreement was being constantly thrown back into Parliament, only to have its long-dead corpse whipped a few more times and thrown back out again.

It was absolute chaos.

But then the EU granted us an extension until October, the MPs went on their Easter Breaks and, all of a sudden, a modicum of calm was restored. The news stories since the break, with the exception of Gavin ‘The Gab’ Williamson being fired, have been coming at nothing like the breakneck speed of February.

And so I’ve been taking the time to make a few changes to Between the Lines, and there are few things I want to announce.


Blog Posts Will No Longer Be Daily

I know kids, I know.

I want to write about goings on as much as possible, but Between the Lines was founded on a principle of telling you what you need to know and nothing more. To continue to hash out stories of little import makes BTL no more than an online newspaper, and that’s not what I want it to be.

For instance, I could have written an article today about Andrea Jenkyns sticking the knife into Theresa May during yesterday’s PMQs, but what does that tell you? “MPs within the Conservative Party are not sure about May.”

Y’think?

However, I will continue to do Weekly Wrap-Ups on Fridays and, if anything has happened over the weekend or a big week is to come, I will also write a summary on Mondays. Besides this, I will cover every major political story with real importance on an ad hoc basis, and will also continue to put out regular opinion pieces like:

The Idiot’s Guide To The EU;
Finding Tory;
And Why Voting Is Pointless (Well, Sort Of).

Once the Brexit nightmare gets going again in full, I imagine I will basically be back to daily articles anyway. Something to look forward to, right?

…A part of my soul just died.


MOAR WEBSITE

I’ve been doing my utmost to understand how a website works. I am, first and foremost, a writer, so CSS coding isn’t really my strong suit. However, hopefully you will have noticed that Between the Lines has recently changed to a shiny, new format with a few extra bells and whistles.

I’m also playing around with a new hover function to make information in my articles easier to read!

But over the next few weeks, I’m going to be making further edits and changes to the website to make Between the Lines the sexiest political blog out there. Because politics is sexy, no you shut up.

However, to do this, I also have one major request:


Please Do Support Us!

I have absolutely loved writing for Between the Lines since I founded it, and to see how everything is looking in just a few short months makes me feel so optimistic for the future. But now it’s time to push on further!

My website upgrades and Facebook ads have been paid for through the generosity of a few Patreon donors (mostly friends and family thus far). My dream is to expand my reach much further, and to try to engage people from all sides of the political spectrum in rational, reasoned debate about politics… and even try to make it fun, where possible.

If you have been enjoying Between the Lines, then please, if you can spare it, any donation at all to my Patreon page would be hugely, massively appreciated. You can find it here:

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Even the smallest donation helps with the Patreon algorithms to promote my page further, so for just £3.78 a month you could actually be helping Between the Lines to get far more funding down the line.

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And Finally…

Thank you. Thank you all so much for your support. We’re still right at the start of the Between the Lines journey and I am so grateful that you’re already on board, just by virtue of reading this post.

I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

Matt x

Four More Months! Four More Months!

Is anyone surprised?

As I have constantly predicted against a succession of sensationalised media stories, Theresa May refused to step down from power yesterday. Instead, she is going to remain in place until she has finally overseen the outcome of these Brexit negotiations and some sort of result is found.

WHODDA THUNK.

I think by this stage, we might as well lock in for May’s tenure indefinitely. She’ll outlive all of us, supreme leader of ineptitude until the last days of man. As we live in our supposed apocalyptic post-Brexit wasteland, she’ll be reigning over her kingdom of dirt until finally, Michael Gove, turned half-cockroach by a radiation leak from a defective Chinese nuclear power station, eats her.

Much like the Tory party is currently eating itself.


You’re In A Cheery Mood Today

You know what? I’m happy. For political writers, May being in power means that we’ve at least got a few more months of drivel to keep chirping on about before things change either for the better or, more likely, for worse.

However, in the here and now, May met with Sir Graham Brady yesterday, the horse-faced chairman of the 1922 Committee. On behalf of many of the Conservative backbenchers who have been lobbying him to help them oust May from power, he asked her to spell out her timeline for her departure and encouraged her to make it sooner rather than later.

“Cheers, Graham,” replied Theresa, “But I’m not going anywhere. Ta-ta.”

Sources from within No. 10 said that her current plan was to not even consider stepping down before either September or when Brexit is resolved – whichever comes sooner.

September it is, then.

All of this came as the Conservatives admitted that, despite their best efforts, the European Parliamentary elections would be going ahead. Which we already knew anyway. Yesterday they finally admitted it, however. The Tories, having lost a considerable amount of funding from donors over concerns about their handling of Brexit, will be running a cut-price campaign. David Liddington, May’s deputy PM in all but name, announced all of this in a statement yesterday, expressing regret that talks with the Labour Party to find a compromise had not gone as quickly as expected.

Which was ironic, considering that a few short hours later, Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour Brexit Secretary, was saying how the Tories had just offered Labour an absolute pup of a deal. If the Tories had wanted a compromise to be found, they could have made it happen – instead, according to nearly all media sources, they’ve dragged their heels.


What Is All This Deal Malarkey Anyway?

Basically, while the Tories and Labour align on some compromises around Brexit like matching the EU’s regulations on protecting workers’ rights, the dreaded customs union is still the sticking point. In essence:

  • The Tories want to leave the customs union so that they can strike their own trade deals with other major trading powers such as the US and China;
  • Whereas Labour want to maintain pre-existing trade relationships with the EU to ensure that workers are protected as far as possible.

The proposal by the Tories yesterday was to remain in a customs union until 2022, which when the next General Election is scheduled to be (because it is five years after the 2017 election – remember that fiasco?).

However, given the way that we will be breaking off from the EU, this would likely be the case anyway, so the offer to Labour is basically to wrap a pretty little bow on the existing situation to make it look shinier.

So it’s currently looking like a real compromise is unlikely. Which means that Corbyn might be forced into supporting a second referendum, and May faces a total impasse as to what to do next.

Should be fun!


Anything Else?

Two stories – one funny, the other absolutely not.

Firstly, Jean-Claude Juncker, the steadily-sozzled President of the European Commission, claimed yesterday that he could have “won” the referendum by telling the British people that the Vote Leave campaign were all liars.

While Vote Leave has, it must be remembered, openly admitted to cheating during the referendum campaign, this is still a wildly hilarious way of looking at things. According to sources, many EU diplomats quietly said to journalists that it “Wasn’t very helpful.”

Which is a polite way of saying that they considered Juncker to be a drunk old uncle telling everyone that things would be better, “If only they’d listened to me.”


The second story is far more serious.

At Between the Lines, we try to be as neutral as possible. Yes, we do not hold back our ire and frustration at the ineptitude of our politicians, but we do try to see both sides of the story. Both Labour and the Conservatives have been dire recently, and we see the Us vs. Them rhetoric of Brexit as incredibly damaging – far better to find positives on both sides and engage in debate rather than put our walls up further.

However, there are some issues where we will simply refuse to see things as a bystander.

Carl Benjamin, the UKIP MEP candidate, has made repeated jokes about the fact that he “wouldn’t even rape” the Labour MP Jess Phillips. When questioned about it, he stated that “anything can be made a joke.” UKIP have looked into the matter and their leader, Gerard Batten, has said that is was a bad thing to do, but Benjamin has not been deselected. He will still be running as an MEP.

Phillips herself has received thousands of messages of sexual abuse online, and has been harassed in the street by supporters of UKIP and Benjamin, his words legitimised by the lack of action by his party or other authorities.

This is where Between the Lines, as a policy, will not stand on the sidelines. In our opinion, if you believe in what Carl Benjamin has to say, you not only have no place in politics, you have no place in society. Abhorrent, abusive language like this is a relic of days gone by, and if you really believe that it’s ok to joke about rape, especially in public, then you don’t deserve a vote.

Take this as an official statement from Between the Lines:

Fuck you Carl Benjamin. You pathetic, mummy-issue-ridden, walking sack of festering turds come to life.

If you support Brexit, I urge you to vote for the Brexit Party, not the vile club of racist and misogynist cretins that UKIP has turned into.


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Seeking Council

Over the weekend, this writer took his partner for a romantic getaway in the Cotswolds. On the first evening, having had a lovely, if slightly treacherous, ramble up a large hill and down again, we wandered into a local pub. It was full of proper countryside people and smelled of proper countryside beer – give me a pub like that over a London Wetherspoons any day.

The conversations flowed loudly about big nights out in Gloucester, why the weather was getting colder again and some predictions for the local football team. The atmosphere was jolly, friendly, and boozy. It was perfect.

However, as I went to the bar to get our second round of well-earned drinks, an older gentleman had commanded the attention of those around him. As I approached, I heard him utter the words,

“Of course, no-deal is better than no Brexit” and almost retched.

Even in the remote little pub in the Cotswolds, Brexit was still the talk of the town. Despite my best efforts to escape, it had caught up with me. There is no escaping Brexit, just delaying it. Like the Predator, it will hunt you down eventually.

As I sat back down, glum-faced, my partner asked me what was wrong. “Brexit,” I replied.

She rolled her eyes and turned her attention to a nearby dog.


Well The Local Elections Were A Shit-Show, Weren’t They?

For the Tories and Labour, they most certainly were.

While last week’s elections must be taken with a pinch of salt, there is no denying that a strong message was given to Westminster by the people of Britain. That message was a hearty, “Spin on this,” while flipping the most aggressive of birds as possible.

The Tories lost around 1,300 councillors. That is, without question, a total disaster, especially as speculation before-hand about losses between 800-1,000 was considered “appalling.” The Labour Party were quietly hoping to see defections from the Tories over to their side but oops, no, sorry Jezza, the complete opposite. They also lost councillors, although only to the tune of a modest 84. UKIP, even in this political climate, lost councillors – 145 of them, in fact.

The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, had a remarkable evening, having previously been confined to the fringes of political discourse after their Tuition Fees-based waking nightmare of 2012. They gained a whopping 704 councillors. The other gains were made by the Green Party, who received 194 new councillors and there were a massive 661 new independent councillors without party affiliation.

Woof. That is a bad day at the office for the two “behemoth” parties. There are, however, as with all things politics, some noteworthy caveats.

The first is that neither the Brexit party nor Change UK ran any candidates, which would have changed the outlook significantly. The two main parties would still have suffered massive losses, but the Lib Dems’ gains would likely have been split with Change UK. Additionally, there were a record number of spoiled ballots (i.e. voters defiling their voting cards to express displeasure, often with a phallus) – it is safe to assume that many of these voters would have turned to the Brexit party.

In the upcoming European elections, both Change UK and the Brexit party are running.

Additionally, it is worth noting that Local Elections are often used as protest votes – when it comes to a General Election, the people tend to play it safer and vote for one of the two established parties, so this result is not a direct indicator of voting intentions if there was a General Election tomorrow.

However, for both May and Corbyn to suggest that the results of the local elections demonstrate that the people want them to “Just get on and deliver Brexit” is laughable – the vast majority of the councillors gained went to Remain-backing parties, and the Leave-backing parties all suffered losses. Again – take with a pinch of salt: the nation is not now overwhelmingly in favour of Remain, but it is an indicator of public opinion shifting.

This will, undoubtedly, form part of Farage’s planning for the European elections and his attempts to unify the Leave vote.


So What Next?

This could well be a week of big news.

  • The Tory/Labour Deal is rumoured to be near completion, but this is extremely unlikely. It is far more likely to fall apart at the end, and for Corbyn to then be forced into backing a second referendum.
  • Theresa May is currently meeting the chairman of the 1922 Committee, who will likely ask her when she plans to resign as Prime Minister – she may be forced into giving a specific date this week.
  • Gavin Williamson, the disgraced Defence Secretary who was sacked last week, might hit back at the Conservative Party – this could be a truly spectacular clusterbunk.
  • The government might also announce its next strategy – another vote on the withdrawal agreement? Indicative votes? Who knows, but either will be highly unlikely to succeed.

Stay tuned to Between the Lines – we’ll be cutting through the noise for you (and offering emotional support where necessary).


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Weekly Wrap-Up – 26/04 – 02/05

So… besides the Huawei scandal, it’s not been a big week in terms of headlines. I’ll grant you that.

As I’ve previously said, it feels a bit odd for me to be writing about something that isn’t Brexit. The European Parliamentary elections are around the corner and they will be the clearest reflection of public opinion since the 2017 election, yet politics continues to truck on obliviously in the meantime.

It’s only going to get worse from here, though.

At the time of writing, the local elections have already taken place and the counting of votes is currently underway. As of 2am, no results have been announced, but the rumour is that the predictions are coming true – these elections will be a colossal failure for the Conservatives.

This is probably going to be the last weekend before things might get really messy. Next week, the results of the local elections will likely have struck the fear of God into the ruling parties, and an absolutely nightmarish campaign will begin to try and dissuade us from voting for any party that isn’t Labour or Tory.

It’s going to be hell on Earth.

I can’t wait. Can you?


If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider supporting us. You can do this by:

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Are You Gavin a Laugh

Whoops.

Yesterday, Gavin Williamson, Eddie Redmayne’s evil older twin, was sacked from his role as Defence Secretary. This was due to the fact that he was allegedly the source of the leak from the National Security Council over the Huawei discussions, as I covered here.

This is a pretty serious blow for Mr. Williamson’s political career – nobody likes a snitch.


Who Is Gavin Williamson?

From many accounts, not the easiest man to get on with.

Keenly ambitious, Williamson has always had the air of someone who was using the political game more than he needed to. Almost all politicians have aspirations of power, for better or worse, and in order to get to those positions near the top you have to do some political manoeuvring – find some allies, get them to support you, a little of bit of ‘You scratch my back’ quid pro quo, etc.

Williamson, however, sounds as though he was practically Machiavellian in his political outlook.

Before his appointment as Def Sec (which is around 200% less cool than Def Jam), he was chief whip for the Conservatives – the man who kept MPs in line and enforces party discipline. While in that role, and I cannot stress how wonderful I find this piece of information, he kept a tarantula called Cronus on his desk.

The man is literally a Bond villain in the making.

Besides this, he was also closely linked to David Cameron’s inner circle, was at the forefront with the slightly shady deal with the DUP to ensure a Tory majority in 2017, and as Defence Secretary was often an irritant – he loudly lobbied for more military funding from the Treasury, and was ridiculed for telling Russia to “Shut up and go away.”

Even by the Tories’ esteemed standards in some quarters, he was quite something.


Why Is This Important?

A few reasons.

Firstly, it’s a power move by Theresa May. Def Sec is one of the most powerful positions in the cabinet and she has coldly and savagely removed a powerful chap from office. It’s quite a marker against Williamson, but it’s a rare show of strength from a PM who often looks like she’d rather be in an armchair doing a crossword puzzle.

Secondly, it’ll put the fear of god into the rest of her cabinet – not just because she’s shown she’s willing to be tough on those who disrespect her, but the systematic leaks from every cabinet meeting will now, it seems, no longer go unpunished. This isn’t great news for those who have been angling for her job by having a constant, direct line to journalists after every political get-together.

Finally, this isn’t over. Not by a long shot. Did you really think a man who owned a tarantula would roll over on something like this?

Williamson has strenuously denied any wrongdoing over the NSC leaks – he has sworn on his children’s lives that it has nothing to do with him, called the accusations a “vendetta” and claimed that poor relations with Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary who carried out the investigation, were to blame.

He has also said that a “thorough investigation” would have exonerated him, and that this was a “kangaroo court.” With some MPs now calling for a criminal investigation into the matter, there is a chance that he may be found to be not guilty after all.

In which case all hell would break loose. A prominent politician sacked over serious accusations without reasonable proof would be disastrous for May. This might, just might, be the straw that broke the camel’s back and brought down the government.

But, for all of us who have been following this Black Knight cabinet, arms and legs chopped off yet still somehow soldiering on, it’s just another day at the office.


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RE: Referendum

The People’s Vote campaign has been simmering away under the bonnet of Brexit since the referendum result was announced, all the way back in 2016. The million-strong march through London in favour of a second referendum demonstrated the amount of support behind the idea with the general public, and prominent politicians and celebrities took to the stage demanding a second vote. During the second indicative votes process, the strategy for a second referendum won more overall votes than any other plan.

You wouldn’t have been stupid to assume that it was around the corner.

Yesterday, Labour’s National Executive Committee (or top brass for us mere mortals) decided that Labour’s official policy to shift in favour of a second referendum would not be guaranteed, despite major support for it across the party’s membership and MPs. It would only be changed if the ongoing cross-party negotiations failed and the only option left was May’s deal.

So, will a second referendum actually happen?


Er… Maybe?

Look, Brexit is as divisive as an obelus (bet you didn’t know it was called that, did you?). A second referendum isn’t going to make everything magically better because:

a) If we now voted to Remain, most Leave supporters would be absolutely apoplectic and with good reason;

b) If we then Remained, Brexit wouldn’t magically go away – all of the wounds of this division of society would be just as open and raw, we just wouldn’t be damaging ourselves economically;

c) And there’s absolutely no guarantee that Remain would be the outcome, despite recent polling suggesting that there is a majority in favour of it now.

So it does, depressingly, make a sort of sense that Corbyn is trying to resist it. However, what doesn’t make much sense is that Corbyn has always insisted that government should be a reflection of the will of the party, not top-down, authoritarian dogma. So it’s a tad hypocritical of him to now be refusing to listen to his party, who are, in the vast majority, in favour of a second referendum.

Yes, there are a few Labour MPs who represent Leave-voting constituencies who are ardently against the idea, and if they are ignored they might leave the Labour Party, but realistically there is no way of pleasing everyone at this stage. So why not decide to appease the majority? Isn’t Corbyn’s whole slogan, “For the many, not the few?


But Will It Actually Happen?

In order for it to happen, there needs to be a majority in the House of Commons for it. The Tory party has said that it will absolutely never allow one to take place, although there would probably be at least a few rebels who voted in favour of one like Dominic Grieve or Olly-bolly Letwin.

However, if Labour’s position is to whip in favour of one, there is a very real possibility of it getting enough votes – the Lib-Dems, Change UK, the SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cymru… all of these parties are unequivocally in favour of one.

It all comes down to Labour (plus a few Tory rebels).

However, if a Labour-backed deal is negotiated with the Conservatives (and reports are starting to come out of progress being made on that front), then the ruling by Labour’s NEC yesterday rules out support for a referendum, as they believe a customs union-oriented deal is the best possible outcome at this stage.

Even though, as I have explained before, that deal is an absolute shitshow that neither achieves Brexit nor keeps us in, while removing us from the big-boys’ table in Brussels. It’s a political masterclass in an accidental national suicide by autoerotic asphyxiation.

So it really is hard to say. Personally, I believe that the deal with the Tories will never actually happen, so Corbyn could well be forced into whipping in favour of a second referendum. However, it might still not get the votes it needs to pass through Parliament.

But remember: a second referendum would not be end of this mess. It would just be the first step on another path. Admittedly our current path is covered in dog turds, but the second path would be covered in something only marginally better.

Fox turds, for example.


If you have been enjoying what you are reading, then please do consider supporting us. You can do this by:

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