There’s a Storm a-Brewin’

Since the meaningful vote in January, we’ve had some relative respite from the never-ending tumult of Brexit.

While the threat of no-deal still loomed over us like a policeman who’s caught you drinking when you’re 15 (I’m still scarred from that experience), there were scant few headlines of any real importance. There were a few smatterings of events that wanted to be stories, but mostly these were just murmurs about how cross everyone would be about a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

Last week saw the creation of The Independent Group, and I wrote that it could prove to be something of a catalyst for breaking the deadlock. Without wanting to seem like I’m desperately craving praise (I definitely am though), it’s starting to look as though I might be right. There have been some major developments in the last 24 hours and it feels like we are now, at last, approaching the Brexit endgame.

Yesterday, at the start of what could prove to be an exceptionally important week, the air suddenly got heavy and still. The previously distant rumbles started to crack louder, with once-distant flashes now appearing overhead. In the distance, the rain clouds started to form and the wind blew them closer.

The storm hath brewed, and it is here.

BREXIT’S BACK, BABY!


Corbyn Backs Second Referendum

Let’s start with the Labour shift first. Everyone’s favourite mardy Marxist, Jeremy Corbyn, announced yesterday that the Labour Party will support a second referendum for the first time. He has finally decided to have a strategy on Brexit that isn’t just watching what the Conservatives do with a thumb stuck firmly up his bottom.

While for remainers, this is undoubtedly good news and is something of an ideological victory, there are some caveats worth noting:

  1. This absolutely, categorically, does not guarantee a second referendum
    • An amendment backing a second referendum will only be voted on after his own version of a deal is voted on (which he expects to lose), making it a Plan B.
    • Additionally, and more pertinently, it is also widely believed that there would not be a majority of MPs in Parliament (from all sides) to vote for it to pass, so even if a vote for a second referendum is held it may well LOSE.
  2. This has been the Labour Party’s unofficial stance for quite some time
    • While Labour MPs have largely been in favour of a second referendum, although this is the first time the Party is officially, and proactively, supporting a People’s Vote
  3. As such, the timing of the announcement has to be considered
    • The formation of The Independent Group last week, who are all pro-second referendum, has scared the living bejesus out of the Labour top branch.
    • More and more Labour MPs have threatened to defect if there was no change in Labour policy, so this could be seen as a means to appease them.
    • This is especially true if, as above, there is no majority for it – Labour’s leaders could be seen support to a People’s Vote it but secretly know that it won’t happen.
  4. If it does happen, it will be a nightmare
    • Many would argue that it is a necessary nightmare, but the nitty-gritty will be a right old slog.
    • For instance, what would the vote be on? Leave/Remain? Deal/No-Deal? Deal/No-Deal/Remain?
    • What happens if there is a tiny winning majority for Remain, similar to the one the first time round? What happens if Leave wins again, with a bigger margin?

All fun questions to be considered, and the not-particularly-cuddly Communist will be pressed today into explaining his stance further and will be challenged on much of the above.

Could be fun.


Tories Are Revolting

No, not like that, though plenty of you seem to think so.

This week, Theresa May has had her position massively undermined by her own party. While she has been off in Egypt saying “It’s my way or the highway, buster,” her party have been slowly taking the wheels off the car she’s currently driving, “her way,” towards a wall at 80mph.

  • Prominent cabinet ministers (and some non-prominent ones too for good measure) have threatened to quit their roles as ministers and even the party if the Prime Minister doesn’t definitively state that Britain won’t leave the EU without a deal, as have scores of MPs.
    • The Conservative Party is starting to corner her into ruling out no-deal.
    • She and the Brexiteers in her party insist that no-deal must be on the table as a negotiating tool, but those who disagree believe that the threat of the damage it could cause is simply too much of a risk to use as a bargaining chip.
    • Her rebelling ministers are saying that she must be more responsible, and up until now she has flicked them the V and blown them a raspberry in a far less adorable way than Olivia Colman.

Now, however, she will have to listen. With the threat of the Cooper/Boles/Letwin amendment tomorrow, she will be desperate to remain in control of negotiations, something she will not be able to do if the amendment passes. Increased pressure of rebellion might just be enough for her to consider her negotiating stance untenable in the long run (thank you again, TIG).

Reports this morning have said that Brexiteer MPs have been briefed to receive bad news today, as Theresa May will be making a statement which presumably panders to the ministers threatening rebellion. Most likely, she will attempt to win the amendments tomorrow by tabling her own that takes no-deal off the table. It seems as though she is listening to a moderate majority for the first time, rather than pandering to the ERG.

There have been fascinating stories this week about Theresa May’s leadership style – absolutely zero co-operation, no listening, no concessions, just a zombified walk to a destination she doesn’t know yet.

Now, finally, she might just have her decision (or lack thereof so far) made for her.


The most notable thing about these two stories is that both leaders are finally, FINALLY, having to change their official stance on Brexit, a mere five weeks before it’s legally bound to happen. The influence of The Independent Group cannot be understated here, providing MPs with a credible threat to leave, and thank goodness someone had the balls to actually try to break the deadlock.

The staring match is over, and now we enter the endgame.

The skies crackle and roar, and the first few drops of ice-cold rain land upon the balding British head of destiny.

Hope you brought a brolly, because it’s going to be a downpour.


Tomorrow will be the first of the Inbox Insights, a short, bullet-point-based email which will tell you all you need to know about the amendments in a five-minute read or less.

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, please sign up here.

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been quite a week in British politics. Well, sort of. More pertinently, it may end up being quite a week in British politics, but we don’t really know for sure yet. The formation of The Independent Group (the members of which are now, entertainingly, being referred to as TIGGERS) could prove to be the start of something monumental in British politics.

Aside from the Lib Dems’ coalition with the Conservatives, where they got screwed harder than an IKEA flatpack being constructed by Eddie Hall (…if you get the reference), the Labour and Conservative Parties have absolutely dominated British politics over the last few decades.

Now, however, there is potentially a real contender for the top spot.

We won’t know the real scale of the threat that TIG’s creation could pose for a while. This is because:

  1. We don’t know how many more MPs will join it;
  2. Because they are not a party yet, we don’t know what their policies will be;
  3. There are real concerns about how MPs from both sides of the political spectrum could agree on a unified strategy, even if they are largely moderate (i.e. not hard-line right or left-wing).
    1. There is already an example of this, where Anna Soubry (ex-Conservative) mentioned that she supported the austerity measures put in place by Cameron’s government, which Labour vehemently opposed.

So, for those of us who have been despairing at the state of our democracy for some time, this is by no means the solution we have been waiting for.

Or rather, not yet it isn’t.

Because TIG has been created as a grouping of MPs but not an actual party, they have given themselves a considerable amount of room to manoeuvre. There almost certainly won’t be a general election for at least a year, given that the last one was in 2017. Even if Theresa May resigns (which could happen if her Brexit strategy ultimately fails), the Conservative Party would most likely find a new leader to take her place – there does not need to be an election.

With this time frame, TIG can be methodical and thorough in creating its own manifesto, or overarching belief system. It has the time to go out and listen to what the people really want and what they would vote for, then create a party on those principles. The vagueness of ‘The Centre’ plays to their advantage – they can write policies that sit best with potential voters because so long as it is moderate, it falls in their remit.

Additionally, because they are not a party, they don’t have to adhere to a party leadership telling them to toe the party line – they can openly oppose their former parties, or any party, without fear of retribution. Using this, they can build up a considerable amount of goodwill for their group by holding our two defunct major parties to task and ramping up public opinion against them. One of the major failures of our system at the moment is that Labour provide absolutely no real opposition to the Conservatives. If The Independent Group can generate some momentum in the media by illustrating how useless the other parties are, they will start to become a real threat.

Additionally, while we won’t know how powerful TIG itself will be for a while yet, the fact that it exists at all has provided one immediate effect: moderate MPs within the Labour and the Conservatives now feel more empowered. A moderate MP can now demand more moderate policies from their parties and have an answer when their leaders ask, “Or what?”

Now, they can say, “Or we leave.”

Justine Greening, a highly-respected Conservative MP, has already threatened to do this over Theresa May’s handling of Brexit, as have a number of her cabinet ministers. The Times has reported today that Jeremy Corbyn could face a mutiny from ‘dozens’ of MPs and shadow cabinet ministers if he fails to back a second referendum.

While The Independent Group is in its infancy, it has already had a massive impact upon the fraught political landscape and I predict its influence to grow more and more.

Next week, May has promised an update on Brexit on Tuesday and time for amendments on Wednesday (which could mean that No-Deal is finally ruled out). With the new spectre of The Independent Group looming over her shoulder, it could turn out to be a rather tasty week.

I, for one, am rather looking forward to it.


As there will be plenty of ‘tasty’ action next week, I will be sending out a couple of Inbox Insights to Between the Lines’ subscribers.

Inbox Insight takes the major politics stories of the day, cuts through the noise, and tells you the things you need to know in a five-minute read or less. It is sent straight to your inbox, just in time for midday. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in receiving, please sign up here.

Chuka-n It All In

So.

Interesting times. While 8 MPs may not seem like much, they may well prove to be the first trickle of hope that made its way through the compacted u-bend of British politics in quite some time. The small group of tearaways, the rebellious teenagers running away from their (admittedly pretty broken) home, are chasing their dream of “Leaving the old tribal politics behind,” in the words of Chuka Umunna, the de facto leader of this new group.

Thank Christ someone had the balls to do it. In all honesty, this split has come so far down the line (although, curiously, not after March 29th) that the impact was dampened somewhat compared to what it could have been a few weeks ago. Additionally, it wasn’t helped by Umunna’s oration being slightly too scripted, slightly too camera-savvy, to be really effective during the defectors’ launch.

However, say what you will about the baying bunch of cretinous Tories that are destroying themselves over Brexit (and, possibly, the British economy with them), there has been a gaping chasm where an opposition should be. The Conservatives are a disaster, and Labour are no better.

Jeremy Corbyn has systematically failed to present any sort of challenge to Theresa May at the time where a strong, organised shadow government who holds our government accountable is desperately needed. Despite the facts and figures telling him that a majority of Labour MPs are in favour of a second referendum, he has stuck to his own Eurosceptic tendencies and ignored his own party.

He could, at any time, have proposed an alternative. He could have used common sense to argue in favour of an extension of Article 50. He could even have backed the dissenting murmurs within his own party and actively backed a People’s Vote. He could been pro-something, a lifeline, a new way of looking at the problem, anything, at any point.

Instead, all he did was point out the (many) flaws of Theresa May’s deal and negotiating style, spit vitriol and insults at her and those sat opposite him in the Commons, and refuse, time and again, to be drawn onto any one alternative strategy.

Why?

Was it because he wanted to keep his party united? They were already about as disjointed as an unconstructed IKEA shelf.

Was it because the Unions told him that a second referendum was not in their best interest? Some safe-seat Labour constituencies were admittedly largely in favour of Leave but when Theresa May proactively engaged the unions a few months ago they were largely in favour of a second referendum, or, failing that, a deal that safeguarded British jobs.

Or was it, really, because he is a coward?

I think we all know the answer, don’t we? What kind of leader fails, repeatedly, systematically, to denounce anti-Semitism?

We unfortunately live in a world where a select bunch of ill-informed, angry and foolish people try to disprove the horrors of the Holocaust, arguably the single most atrocious act of the 20th Century in the West.

…I know that there was also a veritable smorgasbord of horror that happened with various dictators across the century, not least with us Brits and the Empire. However, this was a systematic attempt to wipe out an entire race, carried out in the twentieth century, which was supposed to be a more enlightened age.

It still has not been 100 years since the Holocaust.

But these people, these idiots, exist today, in this supposedly enlightened world and choose to deny it. I believe that no-one is born bad and that people are largely an outcome of their upbringing but by golly by gosh do these morons make it hard to retain faith in humanity.

And these people, recently, seem to take up residency within the Labour Party. Not during Blair or Brown, or even Ed Milliband, but only in the last three years.

Why? You would have to think that any leader of any kind of moral fibre would find it reasonably easy to denounce something so objectively cruel and misguided.

Yet the leader of the Labour Party cannot bring himself to openly renounce anti-Semitism, apologising in August of last year only for the hurt that it caused and promising only to ‘Speed up the process of dealing with it.’

How has that gone, I wonder? Corbyn promised that in August, and yet here we are, with a respected and well-liked MP in Luciana Berger saying that she is, “Embarrassed and ashamed to remain in the Labour Party.” She has faced death-threats and unbearable abuse in her stance against anti-Semitism. She was the one who fought for the Party to recognise an internationally-recognised definition of anti-Semitism (which Corbyn never fully recognised). You would have thought that any party that had any real desire to lead with decency and morality would give her and her beliefs protection and support.

Yet here she is, walking away. What better example can there be for the utter failure of leadership that has come from Jeremy Corbyn than this? As someone who excitedly waited on the Corbyn bandwagon, believing him to have the potential to be the next Blair in terms of revolutionary charisma and politics, it is a disappointment beyond words.

When he stood on stage at Glastonbury, preaching the word of positive politics and having the entire crowd in the palm of his hand, he seemed messianic. Now, his total inability to lead his party has left him looking like an utter failure.

Phew. That got a bit intense. Let’s take a moment to enjoy this baby seal I met on a walk on Christmas Day.

This article has been heavy on the anger towards Labour, but please do not think that I am biased. I am just as ashamed of the Conservative Party as I am of Labour.

I am ashamed of British politics, in fact. I am ashamed of what it has become, and what has happened to what used to be proud institutions of democracy and decency. These were deeply flawed institutions, make no mistake. Somewhere between WWII and where we are now, however, there was a time when Britain was held up as the epitome of political process, enshrined in a democracy that allowed progress to be made, but held itself accountable, too.

These days we are voting ourselves out of international power, out of economic strength and out of respect from our peers. The baffling stupidity of it all is demonstrated by the utter lack of any kind of leadership from anywhere. British politics, as we know it, is ruined.

However, to extricate yourself from an institution as all-encompassing as the Parliamentary behemoth out of principle alone deserves recognition. As an observer, I doff my cap to the newly-formed Independent Group.

As a British citizen, however, I pray to the gods of tea and crumpets that the rumours of other MPs, Labour and Conservative alike, being tempted to join them are true. We may well have come to the end of the traditional way of government and this might just be the start of a new form of politics, one that truly reflects the more enlightened and principled world we have the luxury of inhabiting in the West.

Let’s hope that this is a new dawn. Let’s hope that those rebellious teens, who pushed open the front door to see what’s outside, have stepped out into a bright new world.

Let us pray that it isn’t just a final, fizzling spark in the vacuum where decent governance used to be.

***UPDATE:

Now three Conservative MPs have joined the Independent Party. Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston have all resigned the Conservative Whip and written to the Prime Minister, telling her she’s doing an awful job, lol.

Full article to follow tomorrow. The spark is starting to glow a little bit brighter.