Monday, 11 July 2016

So We Have a New PM. Yes, this is Democracy.

So Theresa May is going to be Prime Minister soon. We live in a representative democracy, not a direct one, and the Conservative party was elected by an electorate who (could have) had the full knowledge that Cameron wasn't going to contest the 2020 election. May is part of his top team, and represents continuity. There is no need for an election, and she has a job to do.

I suspect Brexit is going to happen, but May will be more likely to manage to remain in the single market. The worst elements of the Brexit camp have now been sidelined. If the immigration obsessives can be thrown under the bus in favour of "passporting for the banks", so be it. After all, immigration wasn't on the ballot. "Democracy" you see...

If there is to be a bright economic future for the UK, the single market is probably part of it. Quite what benefits this brings compared to being in the EU is beyond me; the faith in "free trade agreements" to be part of this are likely to be overdone. Within the single market, we will still pay in, and obey all those rules that so "hamper" the UK (which was until a couple of weeks ago was... um.. the best performing developed economy, and no brexiteers could point to unnecessary rules). What the UK still exports are unlikely to be particularly hurt by small tariffs, and FTAs rarely cover services, which the UK is good at.

If we can remain in the Single Market via some sort of bespoke deal, with some token bone thrown on free movement, then that might be a compromise which will end the issue that has poisoned politics for so long, for good. The crucial negotiations to withdraw from the EU are going to be handled by grown-ups. rather than a tryo of questionable competence.

My guess - a framework for Brexit will be negotiated with partners after the French and German elections in 2017, with article 50 to be triggered at some point within the parliament. However, I see no reason why those of us who want to remain, should stop campaigning for it to not be. Democracy, after all, is a process, not an event. One man, one vote, once is the "democracy" favoured by dictators. If we can get a new deal with the EU, perhaps one with a significant changes to the relationship, there might be grounds to stay in the EU.

I suspect the one risk is that this process will not be quick enough for the "bastards" (John Major's description...), who will want article 50 triggered more or less immediately and who will sniff betrayal at every step. The "Remainiacs" may well get stronger as time passes, and of course the bastards have a point that the longer before article 50 is triggered, the less likely it will be. If you don't like this, UKIP is over there, folks. You know what to do. Don't let the door hit your arse on the way out.



Thursday, 7 July 2016

The Mary Whitehouse Experience

The "Bastards" who see the British membership of the European Union as the central question of politics are not only petty-minded nationalists. They are also mostly small-minded, authoritarian christian bigots. They aren't just coming for free movement, they're against gay marriage too. They're against most of the modern world. It's true, I do agree with them on the economic questions of the 20th century, but that no longer matters, the economic liberals' victory is pretty comprehensive.


Leadsom represents the conservatism of Mary Whitehouse, not Margaret Thatcher. This is why Leadsom has such enthusiastic support from UKIP. She is the culture war, as well as the brexit candidate. This isn't about Europe. It's not about economics. It's not left and right. It's open vs closed society. 

They don't just want to reverse the European Union, but roll back the "permissive society" of the 1960s. These are the purse-lipped miserablists who write into local papers complaining about "filth" on TV or "hooligans" in the street, who in reality are just boys playing football. This is the racist aunt, who now feels confident to say she doesn't like Mrs Patel in no.34 because she smells funny. This is the Daily Mail (Paper, not website) made flesh, obsessed by what other people do in the bedroom, and absolutely terrified someone, somewhere might be having fun.

This is where we are, when Theresa May is the standard bearer for the liberal cause. What a time to be alive.



Saturday, 2 July 2016

Labour and Tory are Electoral Coalitions Which Have Been Broken

The referendum last week as a fundamental break in British politics. While article 50 remains uninvoked, I remain hopeful it won't be. There is now a pro-European backlash representing nearly half the country. Maybe more, given the buyer's remorse from leave voters who didn't expect to win and now realise the consequences are potentially vast.

Whatever, the die is cast. There were 2 leave campaigns. One, an open-society, free-trade vision with which I have some sympathy. Already, the USA, Canada, Australia and Ghana have reached out for free trade with us. New Zealand, those dear, distant friends (except during the 80 minutes of a Rugby match) have gone further and offered their trade negotiators to boost the UK's corps of 12.

This is welcome, and it's a start. But it won't go close to replacing the benefits of the single market. Not least because many of the benefits of free trade with these Nations we effectively enjoyed or will have enjoyed anyway one day within the EU.

This free trade vision of post-brexit Britain was not the loudest voice, and the main effect of the brexit referendum was to draw the battle lines between those who desire and open Society, and those who desire a closed Society.

If the Tory Labour split was mainly about economics, taxation and redistribution, a battle the free market privatising Tories comprehensively won. the new culture war is about what sort of society we want to be. Imagine this split looking something like spectrum between the Liberal Democrats, and UKIP. The current electoral coalition is no longer fit for purpose.

It looks like the party that has brought this catastrophe upon us, will end up being the chief beneficiary in electoral terms, at least in the short term. If the Tories manage a coronation of Theresa May and not go to the party in the country with a final shortlist of two, they will have achieved a vision of competence that perhaps they no longer deserve.

Assuming no major disaster beyond that expected, labour being in complete disarray will be unable to capitalise on the chaos of the brexit negotiations. Furthermore labour have been abandoned by large swathes of the electorate in the Heartlands of the North, adding to their wipeout in Scotland.

John Major's "Bastards" however, are working hard. Having won the first battle in the culture War they are looking to press home their advantage and install one of their social conservative candidates as prime minister. UKIP candidates already rejoining the Conservative Party.

However it is premature to write off the Conservative Party to the morlocks just yet. UKIP will become an electoral Force across large swathes of England. Corbyn will have achieved his function and destroyed the Labour Party reducing it to a few hold out in a few cities.

If UKIP does indeed become electrically successful, expect to see the right of the Conservative Party move that way. This leaves a space within the Conservative Party for the sensible elements of the Labour Party who have come to terms with the twentieth century's economic settlement to make common cause with their fellow open Society advocates across the floor of the commons.

Just as the Labour leadership election going on at present is about the ownership of the Labour brand, (does it belong to hard left socialist, or the social Democrats of the centre?) so is the Tories'. If Leadsom wins the leadership election, then the Tories will move right and absorb UKIP. May, supported almost exclusively by the Tory MPs who favoured remain, Leads the liberals, but whichever way The Tory Party will dominate politics for the foreseeable future (about 3 days at present...)

The Be.Leavers may think this choice of Prime Minister is about Europe, but actually it's about an open vs a closed society.

The European Union was a hard institution to love. I was certainly a harsh critic of it. It's hubris in assuming the trappings of a state, are a large cause of the resentment. Unbecoming arrogance from the panjandrums of Brussels didn't help.They revelled in the myths of their omnipotent Power, myths which fed the Paranoid delusions of the people who want to leave.

However I never felt compelled to make destroying it my life's purpose. I suspect the EU is an institution who's value only becomes apparent when it's gone. It seems that the Scots viewed Europe as something of a counterweight to the hegemon to their South. As such the European Union had become one of the ties that bound the Union together. The the European Union was Central to the Anglo Irish settlement.

Above all above all the European Union was a crucial part of the Post cold war security architecture of Europe. It seems likely that Russia under Putin will get a much easier ride from a European Union that does not contain the United Kingdom. We are weakened. And Putin is emboldened. As are the idiot populists of the democratic world, who seek to thow up borders, pull up the drawbridge and sulk at the modern world.

I've seen this flick before, and it doesn't have a happy ending.

This also comes down to identity. We have seen a rise of English and Scottish identity, and a fall of British identity. Britain is the loser. British is an identity into which it is much easier to assimilate  new  citizens. And as for me, I am not English. I am British. I am not European, I am a man of the West. Brexit has divided Britain. It's risks dividing to West. And it almost certainly will makeus  poorer weaker, and less able to confront the new threats of the world. It is, for most people who voted for it, a vision of little England, not caring about the Scots, or the Irish, or our friends and allies accross the continent. This isn't the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland I have served most of my adult life.

I Lament the loss of the world European Union was trying imperfectly to create: one of trade openness and political stability. A Unified West Staring Down our enemies and keeping the world free. If there is one lesson of history it is that revolutions eat their children, and nothing good comes from smashing functioning institutions.

Pour your bile into the comments. I have chosen my side. It's whoever stands for an open Society, free trade, low taxes, constitutional conservatism and economic competence. That half of the Conservative Party still exists.

Just.

My Great Britain still exists.

Just.



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