Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Post Referendum

The fact is that the Brexit camp is fighting an dreadful campaign. 

The fish rots from the head, and leadership is the first problem that the Brexiteers face. Farage and Johnson posture, but do not lead. Meanwhile Michael Gove has made his case and quietly returned to government. Only IDS continues his angry way, irritating his Conservative colleagues, but not really landing a blow. 

In the engine room, controversial but not competent figures such as Arron Banks or Dominic Cummings have a set a hostile and provocative tone which has even alienated their own supporters.

The campaign is divided- unable to put forward a clear vision of a post-EU future, because they can not agree on whether that should be completely separate, an association agreement, or full membership of the EEA. Meanwhile, despite the large amounts of cash available, the campaign is disorganised and increasingly dispirited. The polls are running increasingly against the Leave campaign.

A badly led, divided and weak Leave campaign was always going to struggle, but the unappealing personalities at the top seem to be condemning them to defeat, and possibly even a rout.

Of course nothing is certain, but from the point of view of the Conservatives, an unexpectedly wide margin of victory would open up several questions. Firstly the impact of a decisive victory on British politics could be interesting. Cameron has bet the farm on winning- and he has certainly proven extremely effective at destroying his enemies. 

The Lib Dems underestimated him, and not only did he put his tanks on their lawn, he pillaged their camp and scattered salt in their fields. In Scotland he has helped the SNP to rout Labour, and as the SNP tide turns, there is a real prospect that the Scottish Tories under Ruth Davidson (as Cameroon figure as there is in Scotland) could snatch a share of government in 2021, and many MPs in 2020. Labour is in disarray, and the chances of a recovery on either side of the border, for as long as Corbyn is in charge, seem ever more remote. 

So the biggest threat to the Prime Minister is the heidbangers on his own side. The bitterness amongst the Tory Leavers is palpable and in fact they may decline to function to the Tory whip in the coming months: the government only has a majority of 12, and there are many times that number who will be completely hostile to the Cameron-Osborne camp regardless. 

Then there is the cloud no bigger than a mans hand- the expenses scandal. IF that were to break, then the Conservatives would really be in trouble.

So even as Cameron seems set to complete another victory, having exorcised Scottish separatism and UKIP rejectionism, he still faces further battles. Although he is already quite a long serving PM, it may take another election before he can claim to have actually changed his party and his country, and the electoral commission or his own MPs may still deny him that chance- assuming that he even wants it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Just supposing...

Although the opinion polls are close, the betting markets barely move: the punters are still backing the United States to vote for Hillary Clinton and the United Kingdom to vote to stay part of the European Union. 

Yet, just suppose the punters are wrong?

Just suppose that the polls are right and the UK does vote to Leave. Firstly this would trigger an immediate resignation from David Cameron. His luck would have run out. The Prime Minister himself suggests that his successor is most likely to be a "leaver", "that is where the heart of the Conservative party beats". Despite his unhappy performance so far, that still probably means that Boris Johnson would be the next Prime Minister. The new PM would have a massive pile of problems to deal with on day one. Quite apart from the critical choices that he will have to make on behalf of the UK and it future relations with the EU, he would also have to steady the economic ship, which would be more than a somewhat rattled by Brexit. An old fashioned Sterling crisis and a significant fall off in investment would just be the start of the new world of turbulence in the UK economy.  Then there is the growing prospect of a significant political crisis. The investigation into allegations of Conservative cheating is continuing, and if charges are preferred, then it is quite possible that the government would face a series of bye-elections that could take away their majority. All of this, of course comes on top of the calls for a second Scottish referendum. The UK could be facing economic, constitutional and political crises all at once.

Then there is the prospect of President Trump. Mr. Trump has won his nomination. Come November, there is a significant chance that he gets elected. Just suppose that he does. From the point of view of the West, the reputation of democracy will have taken a severe knock, the relations of the United States with its neighbours will clearly deteriorate, but the impact of Mr. Trump's declared wish to disengage from NATO and cut a deal with Putin would have catastrophic implications, and not just for Europe. The friction between the US and China would become outright animosity. All of the conventional security platforms would be weakened and the position of the UK, which bases a great deal of emphasis on the special relationship with the US, would be weakened drastically.

The outcomes of just two simple votes could undermine decades of progress, cooperation and peace.  

When people say that Mr. Cameron is exaggerating the scale of the crisis, then just maybe they are wrong: we may not be scared enough.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Leaving Europe is so stupid it amounts to fatal self harm

Listening to the BBC one might think that, intellectually, the debate about British membership of the European Union was a finely balanced argument.

It isn't.

As Kate Hoey admitted to Andrew Neill, there is not one single independent study that suggests that leaving the EU would benefit the UK economy. The Leave campaign could have put up a "sock puppet" study up to suggest they were right, but they could not even do that- so damning is the factual evidence.

The press is suggesting that they are reporting the debate evenly- but the reality is that there is no factually based support for any of the statements put out by the Leave campaign- it is not supported by any sustainable facts at all.

I have made comments about the rise of stupidity in politics before, but quite frankly the utter failure of the media to recognize that one side is intellectually bankrupt implies either stupidity or bias. In the case of the Daily Mail, it probably implies both.

OK, it is fair to say that Boris Johnson, George Galloway or Nigel Farage are more interested in questions of political power than questions of political accuracy, but surely their cynicism is precisely the thing that the media should challenge.

But no: who David Furnish may or may not be sleeping with, in the context of his open relationship with Elton John, or whether or not Hugh Bonneville might have slept with a woman not his wife- that is what the press will go to the stake for. It is not a question of principle, it is a question of profit. 

It is a total disgrace.

The fact is that leaving the European Union would be so damaging, that is not even sure that the UK would survive. Building a new border across Ireland, infuriating the fractious Scottish body politic and creating enormous economic harm- apparently all of this is less important that the sex lives of celebrities.   

If British citizens do not care about their own future, the media will certainly not do it for them.

When every single friend of the UK- allies, trade partners and our own daughter states- says that leaving would weaken the UK, and every enemy of our country, Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin wants us to leave, then the balance of probabilities is really crystal clear.

The media should report not merely opinions, but the biases that inform those opinions. That they fail to do so is one reason why the mainstream media in the UK is increasingly ignored.

It is essential that each citizen brings critical faculties to our consideration of the argument. It is not acceptable to leave your critical brain at home when you consider the future or our country.

It is not an accident that two thirds of those who hold degrees support Remain. It is not a co-incidence that all our foreign or off-shore owned media supports Leave.

Draw your own conclusions.