Weekly Wrap-Up : Settled Dust


Ok so here’s the thing.

I recently wrote an article that was, by far, the most-read, shared and engaged post that Between the Lines has posted so far.

And it’s not hard to see why – things are a teeny weeny bit tense at the moment. Which is an understatement that equals, “Roger Federer is quite good at tennis.” All those who read the article (and thank you for doing so) presumably wanted to understand why.

Boris Johnson ripped up the rulebook on Wednesday morning, stating his intent to prorogue Parliament in order to prevent it from stopping his Brexit plan.

And I, bastion of unbiased analysis and impartiality that I am, wrote an article calling him a dickhead for doing so.

Make no mistake, I maintain that BoJo is a dickhead.

However, now that the furore around the move has subsided from apocalyptic to mere abject fury, I think it is worth taking stock of what the situation really is.

And maybe with a touch less hyperbole.


This Is Not A “Baller Move”, But A “Weird Flex”

Yeah I don’t understand popular culture at all. But hear me out.

Johnson, at his core, yearns to be loved.

This move to prorogue Parliament is designed to get this Brexit shit-show out of the way so that he can move on to be the glorious leader our country needs (or deserves, if you want to throw a Batman analogy into it).

He has created a task-force to do this, full of cynical but effective political strategists. The thinking is that people are exhausted by Brexit. It’s gone on too long, no-one has had a clear strategy, and we can all move on once it’s done.

All of those statements are true. We’re all sick of it. It’s the political equivalent of that one person at a party that stays a bit too long and for some reason starts picking at the leftover nibbles.

Those leftover nibbles, so we are entirely clear, are for the hosts to enjoy the morning after rather than do the cleaning up.

But it’s not enough. To merely look at the exhaustion of voters across the UK and say “Well, they’ve given up, so we can do what we want” is utter rubbish.

Certainly in our elected representatives it’s rubbish. Our MPs were voted in in 2017, and they are still the people tasked with serving their constituents after all of the misery that’s happened since. I’d wager most of them are probably so fed up with Brexit that they’d rather be Prince Andrew’s Press Liaison than continue with their current job.

And yet still they fight. Still the anti-no-deal brigade fight on, as they have for the last three years.

But now, crucially, they are all utterly, utterly furious.

Johnson’s move was taken straight out of Game Theory, but he has failed to recognise that no-one else gives a toss. While the move might be a tactical masterstroke, Brexit has never been about tactics.

It’s about emotion.


Let’s Get Real

Brexit is no longer about Europe. Yes, the EU has a small mountain of flaws, but remaining in it is still the lesser of two evils, in a purely economic sense.

Many of those (but absolutely not all) who voted to Leave were told that the EU was to blame for their own lack of opportunities in life by mainstream media press like the Mail, the Sun and the Express. Initially the arguments were about the EU and, fundamentally, immigration.

But can any Leaver look me in the eye and tell me that, honestly, that’s really what it’s still about?

I would argue that it’s now about “I’m right and you’re wrong, and to hell with you for telling me otherwise.”

The Brexit Party are unequivocally in favour of a no-deal Brexit, as Farage said two days ago, despite its catastrophic economic fallout (as predicted by economists and business leaders). For them, it’s not about leaving the EU for the sake of the country, because if it was then they would want a deal.

It’s about proving that their political Johnson is longer and girthier than Johnson’s own Johnson.

And it’s utterly mental to think that way, yet they are the ones that Boris is pandering to.

There is no Brexit that doesn’t damage the UK in the short-term. But the damage is mitigated significantly by having a deal in place with one of the largest trading blocs in the world.

But the game has changed. It changed on Tuesday, when the opposition leaders of parties with a vast variety of policy ideas got together under a united banner. It was cemented on Wednesday, when their opponent played a deft hand to destroy their momentum.

But now, that cement is not just laid: it is set. Whatever their previous quibbles against one another, Johnson’s opponents finally stand united.

Not to undermine the will of the people. Not to undermine democracy. But to make sure that those elected to Parliament, by the people, have their say.

They are fighting to safeguard the single most important cornerstone of democracy. Johnson’s mission is legitimate, so long as it has the consent of those who we voted into power.

Otherwise, we might as well have a dictatorship.

PARLIAMENT PROROGUED : It’s Just Not Cricket


This has been a truly incredible year for sport.

Not only did we have an all-English final for the Champions League, we also saw a truly magnificent Wimbledon final, a brilliant Women’s World Cup and Tiger Woods clinch the Masters.

But nothing, nothing, compares to English cricket.

One thing that I adore about cricket is a law called “The Spirit of Cricket.” Codified into the Code of Laws in 2000, the rule states that cricket matches should be played “In the spirit of the game.”

Our team has been much maligned, much doubted, yet victorious. Ben Stokes’ work at the crease for not only our World Cup win, but also in his once-in-a-lifetime innings during the Ashes last Sunday, has been nothing short of superhuman.

The bravery of his batting, and the resilience in the face of overwhelming odds, has been staggering.

Our cricketing triumphs have been quintessentially British – we’ve shown bravery in the face of adversity, and done so in the spirit of fair-play.

It is that which has made those sporting moments, in my eyes, the most special of all.

By contrast, today, Boris Johnson announced that he will prorogue Parliament for a Queen’s Speech. This will cut Parliament’s time to block a no-deal Brexit.

It is not in The Spirit Of Cricket.


Cowardly, But Constitutional

Right. What happened today is confusing, so let’s break it down very simply.

Proroguing Parliament is not unconstitutional. In fact, it’s actually very common.

Every session, or sitting, of Parliament will end, usually after a year. This is so a new programme of policies can be set by the government. This new programme is set by way of a speech, made by the Queen, as our Head of State.

In the days before the speech, Parliament is prorogued. This means that it cannot make policy decisions – this is so that the new programme can be set without being immediately undermined.

It is, in a way, the “Spirit of Cricket” – the opposition understands that things won’t work unless they accept the rules. As such, they stand down and let the system work.

Proroguing is not unconstitutional.

However, Boris’ use of it today is absolutely not in The Spirit of Cricket.

Boris said that a Queen’s Speech is needed. He’s got a point – this particular Parliamentary session has been sitting for two years. It is overdue.

But I cannot emphasise enough how cowardly, how feeble and how downright duplicitous it really is.

After yesterday’s meeting, the Brevengers’ plan was to counteract Johnson’s reckless procession towards a damaging no-deal Brexit through legal means. They aimed to tie his hands and make it illegal to pursue a no-deal Brexit.

You can read more about that here.

However, by calling for a prorogation today, Boris has made that all but impossible. While it is undeniable that the Brevengers’ mission was to prevent no-deal, they would not have been able to do so if Parliament disagreed with them.

Everything that they wanted to do had to be ratified by all other MPs in order to be put into effect. That is how Parliament works. That is how democracy works.

Boris, by refusing Parliament even the chance to accept or refuse the planned Bill, has hidden. Rather than allow democracy to work as it has for the last few centuries, he has used legal, but immoral tactics to deny it.

All to make sure he didn’t lose.


Rant Time

Strap in.

Between the Lines is committed to being impartial on Brexit. This writer’s personal opinion is that it was a stupid referendum that blames the EU for too many issues of our making, but it happened. My side lost, your side won.

Understanding that is The Spirit of Cricket.

But you simply cannot carry out one element of democracy by denying another one.

If his actions today result in a no-deal Brexit, Boris Johnson will be remembered as the man that marched Britain into another recession through bypassing democracy. I cannot emphasise enough how damaging no-deal would be.

The line that “no-deal needs to be on the table” for negotiating is bullshit. Not only is it bullshit, it’s even been dropped by those who originally said it – scores of Tory politicians who have previously been totally against no-deal are now proponents of it.

Matt Hancock, a formerly moderate Tory MP, also wrote this of prorogation in June:

He is now a member of Boris’ cabinet.

These politicians are liars. They are shysters, they are conmen, they are, to their core, pathetic. They care for the people they are supposed to serve, to protect, far less than they do their own interests.

And Boris is the worst of the bunch. Surrounded by unelected cowboys like Dominic Cummings, he is just a mere puppet to this “Brexit Or Death” mentality that has infected our government.

He is cowed into following the plans of revolutionaries and egotists by virtue of the vortex in his head where his principles should be. His drive is determined by his need to be loved, to be powerful, to be Churchill.

But he isn’t. He’s a sad little boy who is too scared to face reality.

And he’s our Prime Minister.

I don’t care anymore that my side lost. I really don’t. But my side lost to the promise of an orderly, managed Brexit. Tearing ourselves away from the continent and tearing ourselves apart in the process is not the same thing.

No-deal is a lie, and it deserves scrutiny of Parliament. That is democracy.

That is The Spirit of Cricket.

So get your fucking pads on Johnson, you worm.

Weekly Wrap-Up – 19/07 – 25/07

Here we are. Some fifteen years in the making, we are finally living in a Boris Johnson Britain.

The politician who undoubtedly won the “Most likely to follow own ego until they become Prime Minister” prize at school is now our leader. And he has kicked things off with a bang.

Now, like some cruel teaser trailer for the film we thought we were about to see, all of Parliament will take 5 weeks to be away from Westminster. It’s unfair to call this a holiday – most MPs will take this time to work in their constituencies and use the time to help people who rely on them at a local level.

But my god, what a tease. We have two days of Boris, and then everyone sods off for a month?!

Don’t be too alarmed, though – over the next few weeks, we will keep speeding towards the inevitable carnage that is the clash between Parliament and Government. Everyone will still be working, especially Boris…

But things will only really heat up in September.

For now, though, let’s take a moment to assess this historic week, reflect, and then enjoy the sweet, sweet cool of the drizzle and clouds we have forecast for tomorrow.

38 degrees can absolutely do one.


Ad-Lib (Dem)

On Monday, Jo Swinson won the race to become the new leader of the Liberal Democrats. You can read about this here.

So far, she has done rather well – she has already mobilised the Lib-Dem social media team, who have suddenly become prolific on Twitter; shown compassion to a defeated Theresa May when Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t; and openly stated her case to be Prime Minister, not just a third-party leader.

And, with Boris’ doubling-down on Brexit this week, and Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to openly back Remain, she has seen the Lib Dem support skyrocket.

This will be making the moderate Tories either start cacking themselves, or think long and hard about defecting.

The Lib-Dems might just be on the start of not just a resurgence, but becoming a new political power. 

Watch this space.


King Boris

The day after, a second leadership election result was announced.

You can read about it, in a slightly tipsily-written blog, here, or in a slightly less tipsily-written blog, here.

More will follow from this writer next week about what the repercussions of his new Cabinet are. But, in the meantime, it is worth noting this:

Boris has firmly staked his claim as the man to deliver Brexit. He has created a team around him that is designed to achieve this goal, and this goal alone.

Ostensibly.

Whispers have come out of Westminster saying that there is widespread speculation that Boris is planting the seeds of a fantastically Machiavellian political plot.

Having gone fully gung-ho, putting all of the pressure on the EU to accept his plans to “renegotiate,” despite their repeatedly saying that there will be no new negotiations, he has created his first scapegoat if things fail.

Then, when they refuse, he will go for a No-Deal Brexit, which he knows will be blocked by Parliament. The Tory rebels, the “non-believers” and “pessimists” in the Labour Party, as he accused them of being today – they are the second scapegoat.

And, with enemies from abroad and within laying siege to the “democratic will of the people,” which he has openly embodied, he will create a passionate, furiously-loyal voter base if he fails to pass Brexit by October 31st.

And then, and only then, will he call a General Election – he will have been prevented from achieving his goals by his political enemies, and so, will run on the understanding that “We can believe in Britain again, and make ourselves the great nation we should be, by voting for Boris.”

If he won an election, he would have a mandate to govern for five years.

Maybe this isn’t really about Brexit, after all?


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Long Live The King

As I write, it is 1am. It is currently apocalyptic outside.

With a torrential downpour acting as the percussion, the night’s sky is a symphony. Regular, pallid illuminations of the garden act as a melody, with the alarmingly frequent forks of jagged lightning skimming across the sky serving as dissonant frills to an already jarring tonality.

The thunder, rolling in and out from far and near, serves as an unwilling timpani.

Two things could have caused such a malevolent force across our national clime.

  1. Cthulu, Beelzebub, or Hades themselves have risen, turning these fair green lands into their playground;
  2. Or Boris Johnson finally became Prime Minister.

Lol, it’s deffo number 2.

And actually, Boris deserves to be Prime Minister – a superb orator, someone who commands loyalty and respect from those around him, and someone who is, despite everything, trying to mobilise Britain with something that has been lost for quite some time now…

Optimism.

And yet I find myself watching the storm outside, worrying for the mental fortitude of the dogs downstairs, and finding myself falling on the side of the critics.

It boils down to one, all-encompassing and yet unanswerable question:

How does Boris make us survive the storm that, once forewarned, is now finally falling upon us?


Route One: The Masterplan

Boris is, as he has himself confessed, someone who believes that bravado and courage are more important than having a clear-cut plan. He is also someone who is more than happy to put the interests of a career, and the long-term, over what is arguably right.

This is, after all, the man who wrote two columns for the The Telegraph in 2016 – one in favour of Remain, and one in favour of Leave. He only chose the latter mere hours before the result was announced.

But underneath it all lies an extremely intelligent man, make no mistake. The hair, the bluster, the bonhomie – it is all a calculated plan to be the acceptable face of conservatism to a nation that lurches in and out of support of it.

Perhaps his claims during the election campaign were merely a mask. Perhaps his claims of leaving on October 31st “come hell or high water” are merely a ploy to strike fear into the hearts of the EU.

Perhaps there is an ace in his sleeve. Perhaps there is a get-out-of-jail-free card that is yet to be played.

But many, far more intelligent people than this humble writer have yet to see it. It is unlikely that there is an angle that no-one else has seen yet.

But you never know.


Route Two: The Boris Factor

There is no denying that Boris is a force of nature. 

This writer has even experienced it himself.

In 2006, I attended a debate that he was on the panel for. When questions were opened to the floor, I asked him, “Do you think that your political success is because of your appearances on Have I Got News For You?”

This was in front of around 600 people, many of them also prominent politicians, and the question sparked a murmur in the room (and suddenly made me need to urinate very urgently).

However, he simply chuckled and then gave his answer, all the while making welcoming, non-threatening eye-contact with me. He even cracked jokes which were warmly received by the room before him.

I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t listen a word he said – it was like being under a spell of joviality and warmth and I just found myself smiling and nodding.

But back then, I was but a mere teenager, acne-ridden and wide-eyed. The EU are not teenagers, nor are they acne-ridden or wide-eyed.

They are hard-nosed negotiators, who have the backing of an entire continent of trade and political security. We are an island, with waning power, and a distinct lack of self-awareness concerning our empirical past.

Boris might have charmed me, but I cannot envisage a time where he would have Ursula von der Leyen in the palm of his hand.


Route Three: The Ritual Sacrifice

King Boris will never fall on his sword.

However, his refusal to do so may prove to be the tipping point.

To watch any documentary about Boris recently is to see a man who is desperately insecure. According to widely-shared accounts, he has always been a man who believes that he deserves different treatment to those around him, for he knows better.

And yet, for a man who knows better, he has chosen to take the poisoned chalice of the Tory leadership at the time where it is less wine than it is pure arsenic.

He knows that Parliament will block no-deal. He knows that Parliament will block prorogation. He knows that Parliament will block anything he does, and he knows that his majority will soon be down to just three.

Three.

A majority to pass a white paper on the idea that “Kicking Kittens Is Wrong,” but little else.

The fact of the matter is that Boris will, more likely than not, come to realise that his timing was nothing short of catastrophic. His premiership will come crashing down around him as he realises that his promises of leaving on October 31st will eventually be proven to be lies; that he cannot be a One Nation Conservative while he panders to the ERG; and that a divided nation will not unite under him in these apolitical times.

In short, Boris is fucked.

A man who has always dreamed of becoming Prime Minister has chosen the worst time in history to do it. In a matter of weeks, his bluster and bravado will make way for pleading and pandering. His plans will fall to ashes, he will be forced into a General Election, and God only knows what will happen then.

Or, if fortune favours him, he will lead us into a no-deal Brexit. And it will be on his shoulders, and his alone, if the damage done to our economy is as bad as the warnings say.

The King Is Already Dead.

Long Live The King.


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Brexit – What Happens If It Fails?

Way back in June 2016, our great country was humiliated on the international stage. In a feeble act of cowardice that fatally undermined our status as one of the great European superpowers, we let ourselves down, our ancestors down, and made a mockery of ourselves.

We lost 2-1 to Iceland.

Also that month, we voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48%.

That first paragraph would ring true to some quarters of the Remain vote if applied to the referendum result, but it isn’t the case. The EU referendum was simply a matter of democracy being carried out, even if it was an extremely misjudged move on the part of the Cameron government.

What is humiliating is what has happened since.

Brexit has brewed, bubbled, and boiled over for over three years now, yet we have not left the EU. We have so fundamentally failed to leave the EU that we have recently elected MEPs to stand in its Parliament.

We have passed two deadlines to leave, and despite the bravado of the two candidates who are competing to become Prime Minister, the odds are firmly stacked in favour of another extension being granted come October 31st.

Parliament will not allow a no-deal Brexit and leading EU figures have reiterated their stance that a new deal is highly unlikely – whoever becomes the next Prime Minister will be stuck in limbo, just as Theresa May was.

So what will resolve it? Barring a diplomatic miracle or a major change of heart by a considerable number of MPs, which is about as likely as Piers Morgan becoming a vegan, there are only two ways out:

  • A General Election, where the Tories and Brexit Party will stand on a mandate of leaving the EU and all other parties will run a mandate to Remain;
  • Or a Second Referendum, putting the vote back to the people with Remain as one of the options on the ballot sheet.

Both of these options, if current polling is to be believed, carry a very real threat of Brexit not happening at all.

It is worth considering what will come next if Brexit fails.


Part One: Abject Fury

While Remainers would rejoice at the idea of Brexit collapsing, those who voted to leave will be apoplectic with rage.

And they will have every right to be. 

A referendum is an example of direct democracy within a representative democratic system – i.e. we elect our officials to make decisions for us, but a referendum is a rare instance in which we make that decision for them. If Brexit doesn’t happen, every single person that voted to leave will have had their democratic rights violated.

There are counterpoints to this, such as a 72% voter turnout not being a full representation of society, or that a utilitarian, tyranny-of-the-majority ideology of “happiness for the greatest number” is a horrendous way to run a democracy.

Perhaps the most pertinent argument is that we have now seen how economically damaging Brexit would be in any scenario, so we should be given a second chance to confirm what we now know.

However, we didn’t know this back in 2016, yet a decision was made. For Brexit to fail would be to tell all of those people, “We asked you, but you got it wrong.”

So, in that scenario, what would actually happen?

If it failed through a second referendum, which would probably happen after a lost General Election by the Tories anyway, there would be immediate calls for a third referendum. The Remain vote would point to the fact that the Second Referendum was called after new information was brought to light – as there would be no more new information, a third referendum would most likely be resisted.

This would lead to protests and possibly even riots. If the Conservative Party was still in power, they would be forced into an immediate General Election, where they would likely be decimated, even in a FPTP electoral system. The winners of this would probably be the Brexit Party, giving Farage his much-desired seat in Parliament.

However, the Brexit Party’s raison d’être would no longer exist, as the EU question would have been answered definitively against them. They would be furious, and a channel for those feeling unrepresented to voice their anger, but they would hold little sway moving forward.

It is unlikely that Corbyn will be in power for much longer, as Between the Lines has covered, so it’s hard to predict where the Labour Party would be at that stage, given the mess he will be leaving it in.

The Liberal Democrats would probably be surging in the polls following a successful Remain campaign, and they might finally have the momentum behind them to form another government.

However, there would be no clear majority for either the Brexit Party, Labour, or the Lib Dems.

A Brexit Party / Conservative coalition might have the numbers to win a majority, but if the Leave side was defeated, once and for all, then they would be driving without a satnav, screaming into the wind about how unfair the result is but with no way of overturning it.

Any majority they had would most likely not be able to get the numbers to ensure a third referendum.

Far more likely is that Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, and Change UK The Independent Group #changeforthesame, or whatever they’ll be called by then, will all form a grand, Remainer coalition to try and pick up the pieces of what’s left of our democracy.


Part 2: What In God’s Name Did We Do To Our Country?

The coalition will not be able to restore faith easily. Half of Britain voted to leave the EU, and they will all still be hurt, angry and isolated. However, after the valve is released and the protests die down, releasing the pent-up frustration and fury, the only way to move forward will be with cold, dispassionate analysis.

As the dust clears, the reality of the last few years will be revealed, with the liars, zealots and charlatans from both the Leave and Remain sides held accountable for their actions.

A review will be held into the soundbite-laden, Punch-and-Judy politics that brought our democracy to a standstill. We will lambast those politicians who tried to maximise their own political ambitions by catering to the whims of the loudest shouters on Twitter and ignoring what’s best for the country.

A hard shift will be taken towards responsible, pragmatic politics, rather than pandering to the whims of the hard-left fanatics or far-right headbangers. The media will be heavily criticised for fuelling the flames of the political war and will, at last, be held accountable by the people for helping to create the desperately divisive, echo-chamber society we find ourselves in today.

The failings of all of our politicians, our media and ourselves will be revealed in a bright, ugly light.


Part 3: Reconciliation

But it’s only then that we will be able to start to piece things back together again.

If we learn from our mistakes, we can start to rebuild. Remain voters, 48% of all voters in fact, were immediately dismissed after the referendum result as being no longer relevant to the political project moving forward. If Brexit fails, that arrogant complacency simply must not be replicated towards the Leave voters.

To gloat or castigate them would be disastrous – instead, the new coalition must open its doors to these opposing views, to welcome them as checks and balances on their plans for the future, and create a form of politics that, while not pleasing everyone, at least includes everyone.

It will have been nearly four years of tortuous division and bad blood, and finding common ground will not be easy. But by focussing on a new form of consensus-building politics, and listening, really listening, to those voices left behind by technological advances and globalisation, we can start to bring the country back together again.


Epilogue: Happily Ever After?

I know that the above might seem overly optimistic at a time where pessimism runs through the core of our political discourse. I may also be totally wrong – if Brexit collapses, things could deteriorate to such an extent that we are drawn into nation-wide riots, a civil war or even martial law.

But I believe that this country is better than that.

I voted to Remain, but I believe we should Leave. For me, the undermining of our democracy just about outweighs the economic impact of Brexit in terms of grave consequences in the long run.

It must be said that both are horrendous outcomes.

But should Brexit die, should the government fail to enact its principle policy, and should the democratic will of the people be undermined, I believe it will illuminate the cancerous ideologies that are currently tearing our country apart.

We will replace vapid, soundbite politics with progressive, constructive politics.

It will have taken a battery-farm’s worth of eggs to make that omelette, but it will be the best omelette we’ve ever tasted.

It’s ironic that the EU would still be regulating the eggs, though.


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Tory Mass Debaters, Pt. 2 – Furiously Mass Debating

The reason why today’s article is slightly later than the usual mid-day is that I have been desperately trying to find some kind of positive out of yesterday’s debate.

In an unedifying, confused and vitriolic hour, we learned nothing about what any potential leader is going to do to solve the Brexit problem. What the debate boiled down to was five men shouting over each other (and the host, Emily Maitlis) and failing to answer any of the questions given to them directly.

Even Rory Stewart, the country’s newest political intrigue, was disappointing.

All in all, it was an utter mess. Watching the debate made me desperately worried about the future of our country, and ashamed of where our politics has got to.

So what positives could I find out of such a nightmare?

  1. Sajid David got every candidate to commit to an independent inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party;
  2. And Dominic Raab was kicked out of the race before the debate even began.

Bye, Dom. You anti-democratic, anti-feminist dickhead.

Until you’re inevitably given a job in the next cabinet.


Jesus, Was It Really That Bad?

Oh yes. Worse.

The debate was billed as being four candidates vs. Boris, but actually (and especially given Boris’ incredibly lacklustre evening) it ended up being four candidates vs. Rory Stewart. On Brexit, the overall result was:

  • Stewart refused to countenance no-deal under any scenario, but couldn’t answer how he would pass Theresa May’s deal through Parliament;
  • And all four of the other candidates refused to rule out no-deal, but couldn’t answer how they would pass no-deal through Parliament.

There were no answers to anything. Because there are no answers. We’ve let the rhetoric of statements like “NO DEAL OR NO BREXIT” and “THE BRITISH PEOPLE CANNOT LET US DELAY AGAIN” to become the driving forces of the debate, and both of these lend themselves to emotion, not reason or fact. Because of this, there is no definitive answer to how we move on.

And the debate itself quickly became an unstructured mess, with candidates all talking over each other, Emily Maitlis trying to wrest back control with little success, and finger jabbing and willy waving (not literally) being the primary means of discourse.

It was humiliating for Britain as a nation. One of these bellends is going to become Prime Minister. God help us all.

The one positive from the debate itself, besides Saj’s victory on persuading the candidates to have the aforementioned Islamophobia inquest, was that the questioners, members of the British public, were all brilliant – varied backgrounds, with excellent questions, and some serious amounts of shade to throw at the candidates after they had “answered the question.”

Erin, the climate change activist who asked the candidates to commit to zero carbon emissions by 2025 (a step too far for any politician, unfortunately), was the stand-out. Michael Gove, the environment secretary, praised her activism but then said he believed that she should be in school.

Erin was not taking a single solitary fuck of that, and gave him one of the most devastating eyebrow raises in history. Good on you, Erin.


And What Of Boris?

Boris had an interesting evening. While he wasn’t torn to pieces like some had predicted (and some had hoped), he also failed to set the world on fire. He fell strangely flat, and his long-winded, mumbling responses to questions and continuous talking over Maitlis served little to dispel the growing concern in some quarters that he’s just not up to the job.

However, he did have some classically infuriating moments, too.

  • He said that by using the GATT 24 article, we could be protected from tariffs with the EU, but you fundamentally can’t use it this way as both sides must agree to it;
  • He said that it was not his fault that Nazanin Zughari-Ratcliffe was detained for longer in Iran, despite the fact that his absent-minded claim that she was teaching journalism there was cited as a reason for her sentence being extended;
  • And he backtracked on his previous commitment to cutting taxes for middle-income earners, downgrading it to an “ambition” as opposed to a “promise.”

That this man is going to be our Prime Minister, bar a major cock-up (which isn’t impossible), is terrifying.

But…


But What?

I don’t think he’ll be Prime Minister for very long.

Jeremy Corbyn will announce today that Labour’s new strategy is to promote a Second Referendum at any cost. This is big news.

It means that the risk of Brexit not happening is now around 50/50.

And we will not leave by the 31st of October – no-deal will be blocked by Parliament, the current deal will be blocked by Parliament, and we will be forced to ask for an extension.

Boris might be able to bluster his way out of that one, but even then, what happens next? How do we break the deadlock? How do we achieve Brexit once and for all?

A General Election, which the Tories fear would eviscerate them?

Or a Second Referendum, and put it back to the people for the final say?

Boris might just have the political power to be able to justify a Second Referendum, and might even be able to persuade the ERG headbangers that it’s required for Brexit to happen. And if it is a victory, with Leave-voters sounding the horn for no-deal, then we would have legitimate cause to leave without a deal.

But should Remain win out, which is a real threat, then Brexit wouldn’t happen.

And that would probably destroy the Tory party.

God help us all.


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BoJo’s Salvo

It’s a strange kind of race where the frontrunner hasn’t even started until two days in, but that is where we find ourselves in the Tory leadership race.

Boris Johnson, at long last, launched his campaign with a speech given to a room full of his allies which was classic BoJo – engaging, welcoming, and largely drivel.


Swinging Johnson

Back in the heady days of the Brexit catastrophe, when the full realisation of how badly the situation was had set in, there was round-the-clock coverage of Parliament. There was also a single man who stood outside the news tent and, during every interview, shouted, at the top of his lungs, “STOOOOP BREEEXIIIIT.”

That man, in a show of true British spirit, was outside Boris’ campaign launch today, shouting “BOLLOOOCKS TO BREEEXIIIIT.”

He was audible on Boris’ microphone.

Boris, in the first few sentences of his speech, saw fit to use the fact that four English teams were in the Champions League and Europa League finals as a reason for demonstrating how well Britain was doing. This, despite once describing Liverpudlians as “seeing themselves as victims, and resent their victim status, yet at the same time they wallow in it.”

Rings slightly more hollow, doesn’t it?

It paved the way for a speech that paved over some of the cracks of his time as a politician. While verbose, passionate and driven, as is Boris’ style, his speech portrayed himself as a champion of the most vulnerable in society, which is a pretty disputable claim.

He stated that he helped drag London’s poorest boroughs out of despair, which again rings hollow when you remember that one of his major campaign pledges is to raise the 40p tax threshold, which helps middle-earners and not the most vulnerable.

He elaborated his views on Brexit as being “prepared for no-deal, but aiming for a better deal,” against the backdrop of MPs today preparing to take no-deal off the table again. It is thought that this cross-party move today will succeed, making his claims somewhat less believable.

In fact, his speech sought to drive forward the populist nature of his politics by trying to inspire emotional backing with giving next to no actual facts whatsoever.


Trial By Fire

Far more telling than the speech itself were Boris’ responses to the questions put to him by journalists in the room. The reporters asked him some pretty robust questions:

  • Whether he stood by his previous, arguably offensive descriptions of women in burkhas as “letterboxes,” and whether or not he thought these were fitting for a Prime Minister – he said the quotes were taken out of context;
  • Failed to answer a question about whether or not he will resign if he fails to take Britain out of the EU on October 31st;
  • Asked to elaborate on his infamous “F*ck Business” statement, he hurried to ensure his support for all businesses across the UK, including the financial sector;
  • Stated that no-deal was “a last resort,” a real climbdown from his previous rhetoric;
  • And avoided a question on drug-use, saying that the only illegal thing he has done is “not always stick to 70mph speed limits.

So What Do We Make Of It?

Look, it comes down to this. If you like Boris, you absolutely would have liked what he had to say. His rhetoric was passionate, he spoke of “courage” and “guts,” and tried to inspire support through the nationalistic argument of having pride in Britain.

If you dislike Boris, you would have thought that everything he said was as shallow as his new haircut – all bluster, with no substance.

It won’t have hurt his chances of becoming leader, but nor was it the barnstorming speech that it could have been.

All eyes turn to Parliament – will they block no-deal and scupper one of his major policies before he’s even leader?


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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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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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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.


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