Category Archives: Brexit
Opposition parties have been looking for a way to ensure that Mr Johnson is unable to fulfil his stated intention to take the UK out of the EU on October 31 with or without a deal.
There are concerns the prime minister could seek to circumvent the Benn Act – the anti-no deal legislation that requires him to seek an Article 50 extension, if he cannot get a Brexit deal at the European Council next month.
In August, The National reported that Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National party, said she would be prepared to help to install Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of an emergency government to avert the “catastrophe” of a no-deal Brexit.
Today, Laura Hughes reported that this undertaking was repeated by Ms Sturgeon, whilst speaking to the BBC:
“My point is the opposition needs to act to get Boris Johnson — the most disreputable prime minister in my lifetime — out of office, stop a no deal and then, as quickly as possible, move to a general election.”
Plaid Cymru also said it would be open to supporting Mr Corbyn, or anyone who would commit to delivering a second referendum and, remarkably, last month Conservative MP Kenneth Clarke (‘Tory rebel’) signalled qualified agreement.
The European reported that Green MP Caroline Lucas reiterated her support earlier this week. She said: “He’s leader of the opposition and I think he had every right to expect to be interim prime minister . . . I think we need to come together”.
“Labour is now the only party putting the unity of the nation ahead of narrow calculation and easy headlines”
Comments by Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, flesh out the thoughts expressed by Richard House in his recent letter to the Western Daily Press. Some edited extracts follow and his New Statesman article may be read in full here
He opens: “Let the people decide. What could be clearer — or more honourable — than that? In these divided times, where the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, two parties aspiring for government, have opted for the polarising messaging of the demagogue, Jeremy Corbyn is saying that Labour will not dictate to the voters but instead work for them and with them”.
Summarising Jeremy Corbyn’s offer, he makes five points, Corbyn is saying,
- elect me into No 10 and the party I lead will honour the vote of 2016,
- it will do its utmost to secure the best possible Brexit deal,
- Corbyn will then put this deal back to the people,
- act for the whole country, honouring the views of the 48% cent and
- place the Labour deal vs Remain on the ballot.
Corbyn is a good negotiator and well liked by many European leaders, receiving a ‘rapturous reception and a standing ovation in Brussels (Oct 2017) after meetings with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator (below) and the prime ministers of Portugal, Italy and Sweden.
No surprise then that – as Len McCluskey reports – signals have been sent from the highest levels of the EU that the contours of Labour’s deal, which would maintain access to the single market and retain a customs union would be acceptable to the 27 member states.
He points out that no trade unionist would go into negotiations with an employer stating where they will take a stand on any deal before discussions have even begun, so no heed should be paid to calls for Corbyn and the Labour Party to take a position before any deal has been reached adding:.
“The correct position remains that Labour must act for the whole country”
Len McCluskey makes a plea across the party to constituency delegates, trade union delegates, MPs and affiliated society members, trade unionists, socialists and, above all, democrats:
“Do not let us be divided or defined as anything other, either by our enemies or by Brexit. Support Corbyn, support this Brexit position. When a general election comes, we will go to the people with a platform of hope and reform, ensuring that nobody, no community is left behind. We have a programme that will transform this country for the better, healing the dreadful wounds of austerity.
“Amid the heated voices and uncompromising stances, Labour is now the only political party offering an approach on Brexit that speaks in calm tones to the whole country. It is the only party putting the unity of the nation ahead of narrow calculation and easy headlines — because it is the only party that understands that unless we heal this country, our country, our people will suffer”.
Only one political party is attempting to find a mature way through the Brexit morass and heal a deeply divided nation
So writes Richard House (below, left), in the Western Daily Press,17 September 2019, p. 18–19. He is a (reluctant) left-leaver who wants “out of the EU” and is not blind to the “hopelessly flawed nature of the 2016 referendum”.
He sees no conceivable argument for leaving being “democratically” supported – with nearly two-thirds of the voters not voting to leave, and “the disreputable Brexit campaign defined by the propagandist manipulation of spin-meister Dominic Cummings, the Cambridge Analytica outrage, a near-hysterical anti-EU right-wing press, etc”. He continues:
“Ideological Remainers are clearly oblivious to the powder-keg of anger ready to go off across the nation, if by some mischance the Lib Dems were to win the election and revoke Article 50:
“The future of this once-tolerant country is extremely bleak, with many millions of people feeling the referendum result was being ignored by a pro-EU elite determined to drive through the “United States of Europe” political project. I often do political campaigning on the street, and the level of outrage that exists on this issue is truly frightening. The political class will ride rough-shod over it at their, and our nation’s, peril”.
“I pledge to carry out whatever the people decide, as a Labour prime minister”. That pledge made Labour “the only UK-wide party ready to put our trust in the people of Britain” and “bring people together”.
Allies of Jeremy Corbyn said his intention was to stay out of the fray if there was a second Brexit public vote and focus on running the country – a stance adopted by Harold Wilson, in the original 1975 EU referendum and David Cameron in 2016.
Though remaining neutral in a future EU referendum held by a government he leads, Jeremy Corbyn would allow senior colleagues to back either side of the campaign, in which there would be a choice between Remain and a new Labour-negotiated deal involving a customs union and close single market relationship.
Richard House advises Corbyn’s team to find a succinct and convincing narrative for conveying this view that appeals beyond people’s primitive polarising instincts – because if they succeed, the election is there for the taking.
Labour should allow the Johnsonian chaos to unfold, then have an election date of their own choosing
Dr Richard House reasons with those sceptics and wavering loyalists who are finding Labour’s Brexit strategy confusing or inconsistent. Edited extracts:
Successful politics is about being flexible and responding deftly to rapidly changing conjunctures – without sacrificing core principles.
The refusal to agree to Boris Johnson’s desire for an election avoids walking into an electoral trap and risking years of yet more ruling-class assault, it’s surely a no-brainer!”
Ideological Remainers and ideological Leavers are reminded that a rigid adherence to polarised positions, reconfiguring everything to fit those positions, risks five more years of a Johnsonian nightmare, just to cling on to a purist Lexit narrative that dictates leaving the EU immediately.
Johnson and Cummings are manoeuvring to engineer an immediate election fought on their chosen Brexit ground, rather than on nine years of policy-making calamity. Far better, as Emily Thornberry expediently advises, to “let them stay in power for a few more weeks – then people can see how bad they are”.
Far from being “a formula for inaction and indecision”, this is realpolitick and an attempt to maximise the chances of Labour winning next time.
Let’s allow the Johnsonian chaos to unfold a bit, then have an election date of our own choosing, not at an opportunistic date of theirs which might well bury our yearned-for Corbyn project for good.
Richard House draws attention to an article by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, which had been shared 1600 times at 15.48 today.
Jeremy Corbyn asserts that Boris Johnson’s government wants to use no deal – which would destroy jobs and cause shortages of food and medical supplies from day one and hand our public services and protections over to US corporations – to create an offshore tax haven for the super-rich and sign a sweetheart deal with Donald Trump.
Meeting at the G7 in Biarritz
He reminds us that in 2017, Boris Johnson, when foreign secretary, proclaimed that there was no plan for no deal because they were going to get a deal, continuing: “But clearly they haven’t got a deal. And now, running scared of being held to account for his reckless plans for a Trump-deal Brexit, Johnson has decided to shut down parliament to stop them doing so”.
Adding that, ‘in the maelstrom of the coming days and weeks’, all should remember that sovereignty doesn’t rest in Downing Street, or even in parliament, Jeremy Corbyn states that the democratic way forward, when a government finds itself without a majority, is to let the people determine the country’s future and call a general election which will give them the chance to have the final say in a public vote, with credible options for both sides, including the option to Remain.
He ends by expressing his determination to ensure that Labour will bring people together by giving hope and confidence that a different future is possible and that real change can be delivered for every region of this country.
A Moseley resident draws attention to an article by Peter Oborne (left), recalling that Jeremy Corbyn’s policies struck a chord with some voters as he cut the Tories’ Commons majority in the 2017 General Election. These included the intention to impose tougher wealth taxes, to renationalise great swathes of the country’s public utilities, to cancel our Trident nuclear defence system and to introduce rent controls.
He added: “Above all, they saw a man who stuck to his principles, unlike David Cameron and Tony Blair who they regarded as snake-oil salesmen . . . I believe that voters were right to admire Jeremy Corbyn back then”.
Oborne expressed later disappointment: “He’s sat on the fence for so long that the iron has entered his soul, as early 20th-century PM David Lloyd George once said of an opponent. . . Rather than being too Left-wing, I’m convinced Corbyn is not radical enough. Very occasionally we get a reminder of his old passionate commitment to Left-wing politics”:
- He has been outspoken in his opposition to U.S. warmongering in the Persian Gulf against Iran
- He is the only frontline British politician to condemn India’s illegal clampdown in Kashmir
Has Corbyn been “spineless and far too willing to change his mind?”
Oborne notes that in 2013 Corbyn (right) was one of a dozen Labour MPs who voted in the Commons against spending seed money on HS2 high-speed rail project. But then he changed his mind and voted for its construction. The following year, Labour’s election manifesto supported the new link.
Less cogent is his criticism of Corbyn because in the 1975 referendum, he voted for Britain to leave the EU’s predecessor, the Common Market and in the 2016 referendum, he changed his mind and campaigned for the UK to stay. The writer believes that this is a perfectly reasonable attitude, shared by many, because:
- the EU has seen peace between its member states, despite their history,
- poorer regions have received funding,
- many of the EU’s environmental policies have been beneficial
- and the economies of member states have become so closely interwoven that a break would cause serious and prolonged disruption to the British economy.
Oborne continues: “But U-turn Jeremy then supported a Commons amendment in January demanding that we stay in the EU for longer and then called for a permanent customs union and close alignment to the single market . . . and now his Labour party wants a second referendum”
Towards the end he writes: “Next month will mark (Corbyn’s) fourth year in the job and it looks more and more as if he has flunked that chance. His influence is waning by the day. On October 31, with Brexit, this country faces one of the most important peacetime decisions for generations. It will be the last proper chance for Corbyn to show leadership”.
I’ve read three forecasts, two written by readers and Mervyn Hyde’s letter in the Western Daily Press (29 July 2019, p.18), forwarded by Richard House. I’ll summarise the latter because it presents the scenario which fits in with the mindset of this website. The others may be seen on this website.
Of course the sceptics will call it wishful thinking – I may even get another message like the one received last week which just said:
Mervyn made these points:
While Brexit continues to dominate the political world, both Conservatives and Labour are bound to be unpopular.
With the levels of bias towards the political right in the mainstream media, Labour’s “existential crisis” was always going to get far more unfavourable media coverage than that of the Tories.
Once Brexit is resolved and starts receding into the background, the issues that really matter to people will come to the foreground again – like the NHS, our schools, climate change, child poverty, housing, social care, crime, tax avoidance and so on.
The Tories have an appalling record on all of them – and soon they won’t have a gargantuan Brexit fig-leaf to hide behind.
It goes without saying that the right-wing media will continue to demonise Jeremy Corbyn in every way they can; but time is also running out for the Tories – their majority propped up by the Irish DUP is now so small, the inevitable will come sooner rather than later.
With new PM, Mr Johnson, having just appointed the most right-wing cabinet in living memory and with the impact this will have on these core issues, I’ll wager the sum of my pension on the polls, for what they’re worth, swinging back towards Labour before too long.
So writes Alan Simpson (left), formerly Labour MP for Nottingham South.
Labour has to shift the focus to the health of the planet that is perilously at risk. More than 1,000 doctors (including 40 professors and former presidents of royal colleges) now call for widespread “non-violent civil disobedience” over Parliament’s failure to address the unfolding ecological and health emergency staring us in the face.
Everything, absolutely everything, must focus on two things. Labour has to block any prospect of a no-deal exit from the EU on October 31.
The trouble is that Labour is in almost as much of a mess as the Tories. At a time when the government is in complete disarray, Labour’s standing in the opinion polls is actually falling. Labour isn’t seen as offering the bigger, alternative vision and Brexit ambiguity looks more like weakness than leadership.
Mischief-makers are having a field day with identity politics in order to deflect attention from the structural issues that divide society, the deeper grievances; poverty, unemployment, squalor, ill-health, hopelessness, the towering evils the 1945 Labour government set out to tackle. As you set out to address them, the divides of race and religion melt to the sidelines.
We have to address the real “health disruptors” that stare us in the face:
- London’s current heatwave doesn’t compare with temperatures in France; 1.5°C higher than their 2003 heatwave in which thousands died.
- Catalonia is on fire.
- Guadalajara, in Mexico, woke up to find districts buried in two metres of freak hailstones, the size of golf balls.
- Similar “golf balls” had shattered windscreens in southern France only two weeks ago, just before the climate roller-coaster raced into overheating.
- The last 40 years has seen an 80% fall in bee and insect populations that pollination (and biodiversity) depends on.
It is all part of the unrecognised war we conduct upon ourselves (and our children)
So, back in Britain, where is the press challenging politicians on the existential crises facing our soils, water supplies, air quality, ecosystems and biodiversity?
On all the really big issues of the day, the press (and most politicians) have gone AWOL. One reason is that there are now no answers that don’t involve systems change.
The situation cries out for an urban mining, circular economics, that reclaims compounds and elements from products and buildings, reusing and recycling materials – including IT and electronic waste – that are finite rather than infinite. Product lifetimes have to be dramatically increased (along with the repair services to underpin them).
- There is as much copper circulating in the economy (or accumulating as scrap) as probably remains in the earth.
- Britain imports all of the 17 rare earth elements we rely on for everything from lasers to cancer drugs, from mobile phones to surgical supplies. Virtually all are currently lost as exported waste or inefficient recycling.
- We import 12.3 million tonnes of iron ore each year but produce 10m tonnes of scrap iron and steel, the bulk of which gets dumped abroad.
- The weight of clothing we discard is equivalent to the weight of clothing we import. And Britain discards the same weight of electronic equipment each year as the equipment we buy.
The Tory leadership race is dominated by prejudice and pandering to the rich and powerful. It will chase neoliberal delusions, no matter what social divisions or ecological disasters come in their wake. Labour must step beyond the politics of “me” and into the survival of “we.”
Simpson ends, “In doing so, I don’t care if my culture, my race, my sexuality, nationality or religion comes a poor second. The changes Labour must deliver, within the coming decade, will determine whether our children and grandchildren have the chance to sort these things out for themselves”.
Alan Simpson now advises the party on environmental issues. His article may be read in full here:
Two correspondents – who admire JC in many ways – think so and one has expressed their misgivings in an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn:
First, congratulations to Labour for winning the Peterborough by-election and staving off a surge from Nigel Farage’s BREXIT Party.
But what a missed opportunity earlier last week?
Much as I understand your strong antipathy towards Donald Trump, you should have made a genuine effort to meet the President of the United States when he came on his State visit.
You made your views quite clear from as far back as April that you planned to boycott Trump’s visit. You fulfilled your promise and instead spoke at an anti-Trump rally.
I have to say that your decision not to attend the State banquet was misguided and I am concerned about the lack of diplomacy you are displaying on the world stage. I am also concerned about who is advising you on foreign policy.
Jeremy, when are you going to realise that as the leader of the official opposition, you will have to meet and work with politicians that you disagree with on many issues? I would rather you had met with Trump than being on the outside looking in. But despite your protestations leading up to visit, lo and behold Trump told the public that you wanted to have a private meeting with him and he turned you down.
The ideal thing for you to have done, when you were first aware of Trump’s visit, was to issue a public statement welcoming the visit and that you look forward to discussing a number of critical issues with the Donald. Then Trump may have been more forthcoming. If not, then you would have had the upper hand in calling him out.
Yes, Trump is a polarising and controversial leader. He can be pompous, rude and offensive. But he is the most important head of government that you will have to consult on a regular basis should you become PM.
Trump’s modest operandi is all about planned chaos before resolution. So expect the drama, PR stunts and the snide remarks. But look beyond such behaviour and bluster from Trump to achieve your Party’s own goals.
Jeremy, you are the leader of a political party where many of your own colleagues have been rude, pompous and offensive publicly to your face (and back) since you became leader.
In Tom Watson (your deputy leader) you have the most insubordinate number 2 I’ve ever seen in UK politics. Even Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has made harsh remarks about your leadership.
[I know you must realise that Khan is using his own public row with Trump to boost his chances for re-election and also to go after your job.]
Remember Jeremy, you are constantly accused of allowing anti-Semitic behaviour to thrive in the Labour party. Whether this allegation is true or not, how would you feel if international leaders refuse to meet you because of such allegations?
The UK is currently being led by a rudderless Conservative government and thus here was an opportunity to meet Trump on cordial terms. You could have raised concerns over BREXIT, trade, Iran, Cuba, Palestine, Israel, Saudi Arabia, intelligence, North Korea, and China.
Just imagine the faces of Netanyahu and John Bolton if they saw pictures of you discussing Palestine with Trump? You could have been that rare of person – a pro-Palestinian politician with access to Trump.
Despite the numerous disagreements that you and Trump have, there are a few things you both have in common:
- The mainstream media in the US and UK hates you both in equal measure. Especially the BBC.
- You both are anti-EU.
- Senior management of US and UK intelligence services are no fans of either of you.
- You both support less US military aggression across the globe.
- You both support negotiations with North Korea rather than the far scarier alternative
- Sadiq Khan hates you both.
To be honest Jeremy, by now you should have globe trotted to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America and UN to get first hand understanding of issues affecting the wider society, hone your diplomatic craft and build key networks.
Yes, we all know Trump has made some incendiary comments about race, women and much more. On the issue of race your advisors could have consulted the likes of Van Jones to learn how he worked successfully with Trump to achieve changes to the criminal justice system.
Jones, a Democratic Party strategist, has been a vocal critic of Trump from the very night the latter won the 2016 US presidential elections. Yet Jones managed to work with the Trump administration to pass the First Step Act, which allows non-violent criminals early release by way of increased “earned time credits.”. The Act rolls back some of the harsh and unfair measures in the 1994 Crime Bill that was passed under the Bill Clinton administration. The Crime Bill damaged the lives of African Americans more than any other group of Americans. Jones is African American.
The Labour Party’s fortunes have been floundering in recent months for reasons you do not need reminding of right now. But I strongly suggest that you add some advisors with solid diplomatic experience to your inner circle. Also do get out of the UK bubble and meet leading politicians from other nations on their home soil. We have yet to witness Corbyn the statesman on the international stage on a consistent basis.
The UK is crying out for major changes at Downing Street. The current crop of Tory candidates vying to succeed Theresa May as PM should hopefully not be there too long. We have had a decade of Tory led governments and many have grown tired of their policies, wickedness and incompetence.
It’s Labour’s turn. Just don’t blow it.
Spent three decades in working in Whitehall mainly for Customs and Excise, Cabinet Office and Home Office. Worked for public sector bodies in the UK, EU and US. Ex-London tour guide. Now lives in Jamaica. Loves photography, reading, arts, music, sports and farming.
“The savage rules of the almighty Market have created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”: Paul Halas
Paul Halas: “As we approach the 2020s there’s a growing awareness that we need change and we need change now. Running the country according to the savage rules of the almighty Market has created the conditions that are speeding us to destruction”.
In the Western Daily Press (26th April) Paul describes the Conservatives’ genius in persuading millions of long-suffering voters that the national economy operates like a household, so in order for the nation to “live within its means” we all have to tighten our belts.
But this concept – invented by Margaret Thatcher’s think tanks – was directed only at the 99% who always “suffer the destructive effects of austerity” as Halas points out.
The cuts to health, education, transport, disability benefits and other sectors go un-noticed by the I% who can afford to opt out of these systems – symbolised here by one of her ministers.
The household economics concept, Halas continues, ”echoed by every administration since . . . (is) easy to understand yet utterly meretricious”.
He refers us to sources such as the Office for Budget Responsibility, so the writer obediently found the latest report, which certainly did not confirm “the impression that everything in the garden is rosy”. Tax receipts have risen, but there is no indication that “lashings of money are flowing into the Treasury” as had been stated in the same column on 23rd April.
OBR: damned with faint praise?
- The economy ended 2018 growing a little less strongly than we expected in October. In recent weeks survey indicators of current activity have weakened materially, in part reflecting heightened uncertainty related to Brexit.
- The Government’s stated ‘fiscal objective’ is to balance the budget by 2025-26 and past forecast performance suggests that it now has a 40% chance of doing so by the end of our forecast in 2023-24.
- One risk to the public finance metrics that we do expect to crystallise over the coming months is an improvement in the accounting treatment of student loans . . . we estimate that it could increase the structural budget deficit by around £12 billion or 0.5 per cent of GDP in 2020-21.
- Net trade and private investment were markedly weaker than expected, weighed down by a slowing global economy and Brexit-related uncertainty. Business investment has fallen for four consecutive quarters – its longest continuous decline since the financial crisis.
Halas expands on tax issues and the misdirected quantitative easing adventure:
Although the prime function of tax is to regulate the economy and keep inflation under control, the failure of many of the richest individuals and corporations to pay their dues, thanks to absurdly flabby fiscal legislation, has helped fuel the UK’s runaway inequality and damaged society immeasurably.
It is estimated that 80% of new money created (by the government, via the banks) ends up into the coffers of the financial institutions and their clients, rather than funding investment and welfare as it should.
And ends: “The only sustainable way forward is to invest massively in greener forms of energy and greener transport, to create a greener infrastructure and a greener environment. This won’t be possible without a vast reduction in inequality, more public ownership, more localism, and a far more cooperative approach to economics – all policies the Labour Party is adopting. All those with vested interests will doubtless raise a billion objections, but the consequences of keeping our heads in the sand and trusting the Tories to come up with solutions would be catastrophic”.