T-MINUS TEN : Brexit Bill Passes Parliament

And there it is.

Yesterday, MPs passed the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (or WAB, a WABsolutely brilliant acronym built for satirists). This is the same Bill that Theresa May failed to pass three times through the House.

This time, there was never any doubt. Johnson’s swinging majority bismarcked Brexit into British law. As Jozzle Bonkz himself said last night, we have now, “Crossed the Brexit finish line.”

We are now less than ten days away from leaving the European Union.


DUB(side-)STEP

For this to make sense, we need a refresher on the legislative system in Parliament. In the words of Blue Peter presenters past, present and future, “Here’s one I made earlier”:

You might have heard that the Bill had already been passed, and you’d be right – it had passed the first, second and third stages of reading in the House of Commons. Then, the House of Lords stepped in to scrutinise.

And it was more controversial than you might have thought. And should be more widely reported.

But that’s another story about the media for you, for another day.

Johnson’s version of the WAB has been accused by its detractors of being a worse deal than May’s – and unnecessarily cruel, too. The House of Lords, using its capacity as a scrutiniser of law, sought to make five changes to the WAB.

The most notable suggestions were:

  • Give EU citizens who live in the UK automatic right to stay, rather than having to apply to the Home Office;
  • Not allowing UK politicians to disregard judgements made by the EU Court of Justice, which is currently more powerful than our Supreme Court, after Brexit;
  • And the Dub(step) Amendment, which sought to allow unaccompanied refugee children to live in the UK if they have a relative here so they can be reunited with their family.

It all sounds rather reasonable, doesn’t it?

Don’t stick two fingers up at the EU, our future trading partner. Don’t tell EU citizens who have lived, worked and contributed here for decades that they need to apply to remain a citizen. Allow children who are terrified and alone to be reunited with those who can care for them.

I mean, it sounds fair enough? What arguments could there be agains–

Oh no. Here comes the Johnson, flapping in the wind.


BOZZMARCKED

Johnson has total control over every last one of his MPs, and over his majority. And how do you think he ordered his troops to deploy?

Every amendment from the House of Lords was defeated in the House of Commons.

No introspection. No collaboration. No remorse.

Now all that remains is for Royal Assent – a mere formality. Unless the Megxit Saga has finally done it for Lizzo and she declares herself Empress and invades the Faroe Islands.

Anyway.

Yesterday’s vote sets the tone for the Johnson Premiership – my way or the highway, chaps!

For all of the rhetoric about “Bringing the country together” or “healing the division,” not one inch has been given to any sort of dissent. Criticism, valid or not, is to be thought, and not heard.

And even then, Dominic Cummings might pick up the thoughts with his ridiculous, Mars Attacks, telekinetic forehead and sack you anyway.

Cummings Enjoys Naptime After a Hard Day of Telepathically Making Larry the Cat Speak Spanish to Terrify No. 10 Staffers

It looks as though this is the way things are going to continue. Johnson at the helm, naysayers be damned.

Whatever you make of Bonkey Jong, though, he’s got a direction. We are, finally, marching on. Not just endless, repeated faffing about.

And, by refusing to acknowledge the opinions of anyone other than Dominict Cummingberbatches, he has also done what we all thought he might: placed the success of Brexit, and indeed his own Premiership, firmly onto himself.

If he cocks it up, he will try to pass the buck. I think, in that instance, he won’t find too many takers.


EU Give Love a Bad Name

I was in Bulgaria recently. Sofia, specifically. It’s a city with a frankly ridiculous amount of history, having seemed to have been passed around from empire to empire until the record stopped with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And so, when given its independence, what did Bulgaria then do?

Its absolute damndest to join the EU, that’s what.

Now, some of you might joke that this is a kind of imperial Stockholm Syndrome. “They don’t have an identity without some big daddy ruling over them, hahaha, poor sods, so they joined the dogmatic EU empire because they bloody love it,” said a Mr N. Farage, The Dog and Duck, Kent (unconfirmed).

But it’s not that at all.

Bulgaria is clearly a post-Communist state. Huge, stark buildings still pepper the city centre, with only the Red Star removed to hide its past. But it’s an EU state, too – with imported beers, aprés-ski bars, and European department stores in abundance.

Tourism is on the rise, its economy is on the rise… Bulgaria, in general, is on the rise.

It’s clear what EU membership means for this country. And that’s why it was all the more profound to be somewhere like that for the last time as a citizen of an EU member-state.

Leaving Bulgaria felt very much like my own physical manifestation of leaving the EU.

Many G&Ts were drunk on the plane.


What Next?

Brexit Day. 31st of January. Will Big Ben Bong?

No. Probably not. Nor bloody should it.

But, as of that moment, we are no longer an EU member state! Praise be to Jeebus / Oh God why (delete as appropriate).

Then begins the fun part – the transition period. Can Johnson really negotiate a full trade and relationship deal with the EU in just 11 months? We’ll soon see. If progress has stalled by the summer, there might be a few leathery squeaks from the Tory benches in the Commons.

But one thing’s for sure, squirm as they might, if it goes tits-up, they’ve only got one man to blame.

And if he’s going to take the fall, he’s going to pull the whole damn stage down with him.

LABOUR-IOUS PROCESS : The Leadership Race Candidates


Cheeky Nandy’s or KeirFC?

The final five candidates for the Labour leadership race are now confirmed. Not only that, but the window for registering as a Labour supporter is now open, too! This means that for the paltry fee of £25, you can vote for its next leader.

The window closes at 5pm on Thursday. Yes, it’s just a 48-hour window. Politics is for everyone, and all that.

Anyway. Given my recent affiliations with a certain orangey/goldy party, I’m not allowed to register. But any normal voter, unregistered to other parties, is welcome to get involved with the Labour election process!

And if you can afford to, I would heartily recommend you get involved.

We’ve got Prime Minister Burrs Jernsern for 5 years, barring a colossal cock-up. But forming a strong, competent opposition is still vitally important to democracy – holding governments to account is a cornerstone of our political system.

If Corbyn had been able to put up a front that was half as unified Noel and Liam Gallagher he may well have beaten the Tories.

Instead, his ineptitude led to a Tory landslide. A principled man, but an abysmal leader. Poka-poka, comrade.

Anyway. Should you want to be a part of the process, or are simply just interested, you’ll probably want to know who the candidates are, won’t you?

Well then. Let’s find out.


Sir Keir Starmer

In the last shadow government, Sir Keir was a prominent anti-Brexit campaigner – somewhat ironic, given his position as shadow Brexit secretary under a leader who was hardly pro-Remain.

A measured man, he is far more centre-left than Corbyn. Not quite as centrist as Blair, but there are echos of Big Tony with old Keir. His knighthood was awarded for his services to law and criminal justice – he was a prominent human rights lawyer and former Head of the Crown Prosecution Service.

He also prefers not to be called “Sir.” Understandably.

Starmer is currently the outrunner by a considerable margin in terms of support within the Labour party. He stands an excellent chance of winning, and would be a sensible choice to steady the extremely wobbly, half-sunk ship.

But he might not quite have the charisma to take down Johnson at the dispatch box in PMQs. That might not be a bad thing, however – if the Johnson government is half as chaotic as early signs suggest it might be, a calm opponent might start to look very alluring by 2024.

The most likely winner. Cool, calm, collected, he could be just what the Labour party needs.

OFFICIAL BTL RATING: 4/5


Rebecca Long-Bailey

Rebecca Long-Bailey has been something of a dark-horse, emerging out of nowhere to become the darling of the Corbynistas. A strong proponent of the hard-left policies of the last Labour leadership team, she has been dubbed “Continuity Corbyn.”

This is perhaps a touch unfair – she doesn’t have the CND, 1970s Marxist background of her predecessor, having been a solicitor before becoming an MP.

Long-Bailey’s meteoric rise has come through support of the unions and other traditional left-wing support bases, so despite her relative lack of experience, she’s definitely popular.

But is she popular enough with the Labour mainstream? She recently gave Corbyn’s leadership a slightly surprising (i.e. absolutely mental) 10/10, which is hardly going to endear her to the Labour die-hards who have seen their safe seats turn blue. She’s also not the most engaging of personalities – it’s hard to see where she could beat Bumbag Jumblesale in terms of charisma.

She’s basically the only hard-left candidate, which will stand her in reasonable stead within the party. Whether or not the entire Labour party is prepared to have one last stab at socialism, which has left them decimated, is another thing altogether.

BTL RATING: 3/5


Emily Thornberry

Emily Thornberry came to my attention through this video.

Oof.

And my love affair with Emily started from there. An unashamed critic of Corbyn’s, Thornberry was a prominent campaigner and organiser of the People’s Vote campaign. At every turn, she was more than happy to throw her leader’s Brexit policy under the bus in favour of being staunchly pro-EU.

As Shadow Foreign Secretary, no less.

She’s also bloody hilarious, and would easily sidestep a lot of Johnson’s bluster in the House of Commons. It would be something of a vaudeville act, but fun nonetheless.

She’s also another former lawyer, and married to a Sir herself – she could be Lady Nugee if she wanted to (which itself sounds like a rather endearing euphemism).

But therein lies her problem – Thornberry is unashamedly centrist, and often accused of being too posh for the Labour party. She’s not popular with the unions, the left of the party, or, seemingly, that many MPs – she had a surprisingly low number of nominations.

And so, as fun as it would be, she’s unlikely to win. She’ll almost certainly be a cabinet minister – I, for one, hope she remains Foreign Secretary. Imagine her and Donald Trump meeting.

We can only dream.

BTL RATING: 2/5 (but 5/5 for the bants)

Watch until 0:23

Jess Phillips

I cannot tell you how much I adore Jess Phillips.

Another centrist Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, it’s hard to remember a politician who fights so hard for both her constituents and what she believes in.

She doesn’t look, sound or act like a politician, but that’s why she’s so bloody brilliant.

Take, for instance, this little story. When Jeremy Corbyn appointed his shadow cabinet in 2015, Phillips challenged Diane Abbott to explain why he hadn’t given any of the major offices to women. Abbott accused her of being sanctimonious.

Phillips told her to fuck off.

When asked what Abbott did after that suggestion, Phillips told a reporter, “She fucked off.”

Lovely stuff.

She’s an ardent Remainer, despite being in a Leave seat, and yet still has a huge majority – that’s how much her consituents believe in her. She is a passionate feminist campaigner, and a brilliant orator, too. She takes zero prisoners.

She’s passionate. She’s a true advocate for the people. She’s brilliant.

But she won’t win. She doesn’t have the support of the hard-left, and as wonderful as her passion is, it often doesn’t win her many favours across her party. Her allies are fiercely loyal to her, but I don’t think she can win.

And I don’t think she should yet, either.

If Jess can be in the shadow government for the next five years, keep fighting the good fight and channel her energies ever so slightly into becoming more statesmanlike, she could end up being one for the future.

BTL RATING: 2/5 but with bags of potential


LISA NANDY

Who?

Oh.

…Who?

I’m not going to lie, Lisa “Cheeky” Nandy has come out of nowhere for this leadership race. As MP for Wigan, she struck me as competent, capable, but not really leadership material.

And yet she’s received more nominations than Jess Phillips, and only 2 fewer than Long-Bailey.

Nandy also secured the backing of the National Union of Mineworkers, a persuasive force in the left-wing of the party. Her passion for reigniting town centres has also struck a chord with some members of the electorate, and has sparked some truly excellent memes.

I’m not sure what to say about Nandy, as being a candidate with little previous fame is not a bad thing in this election.

Keep an eye on this one. The Rando Cardrissian of Labour’s Leadership Race (one for you Cards Against Humanity Fans).

BTL RATING: ?/5


LOTO FUN

LOTO being Leader of the Opposition. Politics nerd wordplay banter.

…How am I not single?

Anyway, these are the candidates for leader of the Labour party. One of these five will be tasked with trying to hold a romping Johnson government in check.

No small task. But all of them, in their own ways, are competent, engaging and exciting.

And that, alone, makes any of them better than the mess that Corbyn leaves in his wake.

WABSOLUTE CERTAINTY – Brexit Bill Passed, Here Comes The Fun Part

And, with the smallest of whimpers of protest, that was that. Brexit, it is confirmed, is happening on the 31st of January.

With Johnson’s huge, throbbing electoral majority, Brexit was always going to pass through Parliament. That’s what the General Election was, after all – the Tories seeking a mandate for Brexit. And my goodness me, they got it.

This week, it was set in stone. The Withdrawal Agreement Bill, or WAB, the legislative bellend that proved so impossibly hard for Theresa May to pass, was brought back to Parliament for a final time.

It got a majority of 99. By law, Brexit will now happen.

So, that’s that then. Brexit happens at the end of the month, the people get what they want, Britain becomes opened up to a world of opportunity, and we all march off into the sunset, right?

Sure. And I’m going to live to 120 and headline Glastonbury 2025.


#Dab4DaWAB

Unfortunately for those as fascinated by politics as me, we’re about to return to normality. The last year, especially, has been absolutely bloody bonkers, with every Parliamentary vote on a knife-edge and a real mystery as to who will win.

Our political system isn’t meant to be like that. At all. In the months before the General Election, our politics was like a hippopotamus on LSD – unpredictable, a bit dangerous, but bloody good fun to watch.

Now, though, Parliament is back to normal – an old goat in a field, plodding about, keeping the grass short, predictable yet quirky.

Our system is built for one party to have a majority, like Johnson does now. He and the Tories can do whatever they want, unopposed, for the next five years. Then, at the next election, we can look back at what they’ve achieved (or haven’t achieved) and decide to stick or twist…

Yesterday’s vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is a perfect example of this – in a hung Parliament, May was unable to get the numbers to pass the Bill. Within her own ranks, there were enough mutineers (e.g. even bigger bellends) that disagreed with her version of Brexit.

No more though. Even if Johnson had suffered any traitors (he didn’t), he would still have passed it comfortably.

The ERG have fallen into line because they have no power anymore (they’re not needed for a majority), the hardline anti-Brexiteers have either changed their tunes or been turfed out and lost their seats, and the Opposition is a shambles.

Johnson’s power is absolute. All hail Johnson, etc.

And yet…


Jozzly Bob Can Still Cock It Up

I know I’ve spoken about this already. In short, my point is that Brexit could be such an absolute shitshow that the whole thing could backfire, massively.

But it’s worth noting that Johnson, so far, has taken absolute control over the story. Was the WAB being passed front-page news?

Was it balls – leave that to the star cross’d lovers, Harry and Meghan, who are bowing out from front-line Royal Duty because our press is sickening.

Anyway, back to my point – the WAB was nowhere to be seen, and nor was politics.

The Tories have quietly removed some of the rights of EU citizens since their getting into power, and, sadly, this is where we’re at now – Johnson controlling the story, very little accountability in the press, and pretty hard-right policies flying under the radar.

All we can do is take note, measure their policies, and hold them to account when it all fails miserably.


Next Week

We’re not quite sure what our quality/quantity output will be here at BTL Towers. A new dawn of politics means a different kind of urgency, and one that also screams “PLEASE GOD, NO MORE POLITICS, WE CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE.”

BTL will still be here, but the frequency might change a touch. We will, of course, keep you abreast of any changes.

Godspeed, readers. Have a lovely weekend and brace yourselves.

Brexit, at long last, is coming. And it is inevitable.

And it’s still a stupid bloody idea.

ALL-OUT WAR : US vs Iran, Centre-Left vs. Socialism

For Christ’s sake.

Week one. Week one of the new decade and Donald Trump has already pissed in the water cooler. Happy New Year to you too, you bastard.

In case you missed it, just two short days after the turn of the year, #WWIII was trending on Twitter. The US executed a drone strike on an Iranian general in Iraq, killing him and other Iranian and Iraqi officials.

And the shit has hit the fan, splattered around the room, and is now festering into a big, shitty nightmare.

We’re in the fun position of having arguably the worst ever start to a decade in terms of world peace. #2020, woo.

But there are interesting developments closer to home, too. The Labour leadership race is now in full swing – it appears to be a straight-up battle between continuity-Corbyn candidates and moderate, centrist-types.

While one conflict is arguably more pressing (and possibly catastrophic), whoever becomes Leader of the Opposition is also the one who will go mano-e-mano with Boro Jojo.

So. What to make of our illustrious start to the decade?


WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE

No, we’re not. Simmer down.

General Qasem Soleimani was killed by a Trump-sanctioned drone strike last Friday. Rather than throwing a match into a tinder-box, this is more like throwing a hand grenade into a Lynx factory: far more combustible, and profoundly whiffy.

Iran has responded furiously, promising vengeance against the US and its allies (gulp). Iraq has also been extremely critical of the move and, to be fair, they know a fair bit about US interventionism.

Retaliating to the retaliation, Trump has regularly tweeted about how big his arsenal is, and how ready he is to use it.

Because, if there’s one thing we know about Trump, he’s definitely compensating for something. And it’s not his tiny hands.

Which ties into the first question: why did this happen?


Answer: Because Trump Has a Tiny Penis

Soleimani was essentially the right-hand man to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s ruler. If timed correctly, claiming his scalp could have been a profound victory for Trump, much like a bin Laden or Hussein affair. Instead, it reeks of an impeached President trying to look tough ahead of an election this year.

Essentially, he’s trying to improve both his chances in both elections and erections.

US-Iranian diplomacy has recently been about as friendly as an after-work tipple with Philip Schofield and Amanda Holden. But it wasn’t always this way.

One of Obama’s finest legacies was his hard-fought deal with Iran that stopped their nuclear weapon development programme in return for lifted sanctions. It stabilised the region, stopped an unpredictable nation from gaining nuclear power, and was a masterclass in negotiation and diplomacy.

But because Donald Trump has a severe trouser deficiency and is a caricature of insecurity, he tore the whole thing up when he became President. Any success of Obama’s was to be covered in dog dirt, put in a bag, set on fire, then covered in dog dirt again for good measure.

That led to Iran being understandably suspicious of the US again. And, over the following years, Trump’s braggadocio on Twitter only riled the Iranians further.

With the region in flux once again, a protest broke out at the US Embassy in Iraq over New Year. The protestors broke in and caused considerable damage – all of which was not lost on Trump.

As such, when he received the intel that he could take out one of Iran’s top generals, and a man lauded for killing Western troops, he jumped at the chance, without consulting any of his allies.

Because, and I cannot stress this enough, he is a massive jeb-end.


So… Do We Need To Worry?

Well, there’s definite cause for concern for UK troops and citizens in the Middle East. Iran has a lot of clout in the region and operatives across the continent, and service personnel will probably be their first target for retaliation.

But will this lead to #WWIII? No, almost certainly not.

Unlike Trump and his tiny penis, the rest of the international community has moved swiftly to deescalate the situation. Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and other EU leaders have all phoned their Iranian counterparts to try and ease the tension. Even our very own Boris Johnson has popped up from his sun lounger on his £20k-a-week holibobs to try to calm things down.

Additionally, if Iran were to go full-on bonkers with their revenge and target civilians, they would end up hopelessly outgunned, without the moral high-ground, and open to all manner of sanctions. Iran’s previous acts of subterfuge against the West have been carefully planned to be deniable, using splinter groups or factional tribes to strike.

Any change to that strategy would be catastrophic for them.

So no, you don’t need to start buying baked beans by the pallet and building lead-lined bunkers. It’s all going to be fine (ish).


And What Of Labour?

Aha! Glad you asked.

As per last year’s Tory Leadership Contest, Between the Lines will go through every candidate individually and tell you what you need to know about them. This will happen over the next couple of weeks.

The new leader will be selected on April the 4th. Until then, expect to see the Corbyn diehards try to do everything in their power to keep Labour a far-left party, despite their absolute spanking in the election.

Because, so far, the frontrunner in the race is Sir Keir Starmer, who is essentially Tony Blair for the 2020s.

It should be quite fun, but remember: this leader will be in Opposition for five years (barring a colossal Johnson clusterfunk). For the considerable future, we’re in the hands of Bonky Jong.

Who, despite the crisis with Iran, has still not come back from his holidays.

…Leaving Dominic Raab in charge.

Maybe we are all doomed.