May. Treating you like a fool.

New Labour’s legacy is alive and well. When it trouble, don’t accept responsibility. Instead, blame someone else.

Books have been written about how Alastair Campbell, as Tony Blair’s Head of Communications, tabloidised the entire culture of government.  At the heart of the sweeping-away of old restraints and conventions was a feral instinct.  When in trouble, don’t admit error; don’t accept responsibility: instead, blame someone else.

If Theresa May’s broadcast this evening proved anything, it is that Campbell’s legacy of spin is alive and twitching.  Downing Street will have studied the polling.  As James Frayne has suggested on this site, its overall findings are ambiguous, but there is clearly frustration with the state of Brexit – and recognition among both Leave and Remain voters that it is not being delivered on time.

The Prime Minister thus sought to “frame the debate”, in the jargon of the trade.  So you, unhappy voter, are baffled, even angry?  Well, don’t blame me.  Blame those MPs!  Blame the politicians!  One might almost not have known from that she is herself an MP and the most senior politician in the land.

“I am on your side,” she declared, just in case viewers were too obtuse to get her point.  But May herself is playing as much of a game as any other of her 649 colleagues.  It is same-old-same-old: her chicken game.  Vote for my deal or there will be No Brexit.  Vote for my deal or there will be No Deal (depending on the need of the moment).  Her aim is to mobilise voters against the Commons.

Perhaps she will succeed.  Maybe her broadcast wowed the public  – though we doubt it.  Either way, there is one group of people among whom her gambit will have gone down with like a lorryroad of lukewarm vomit: her own colleagues.  It is a measure of the Prime Minister’s desperation that she no longer seems to care.  Who was it who used to say that “politics is not a game”?

Iain Dale: Self-indulgent Remain Ministers, self-deluded ERG MPs

Plus: My exclusive insight into that May Corbyn summit. Why does the BBC indulge Brok? And: Cooper trooper – not so super.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

Remember those briefings from Remainer ministers that 40 of them might quit if Theresa May didn’t allow her front bench free votes on Tuesday?

Call me old-fashioned, but I must have missed the consequent resignations when this didn’t happen. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting slightly fed up with self-indulgent ministers who go on the media and whine about resigning if they don’t get their own way. (I discussed this in last week’s column.)

They should all be called in to see Julian Smith for interviews without coffee, and told that any repetition will lead to their instant dismissal. If a Chief Whip can’t control Ministers, then none of us can be blamed for writing about chaos at the heart of government.

– – – – – – – – – –

“There once was an MP called Cooper

Who for the cause of Remain was a trooper

Yet for their whinge and her wail

She just couldn’t derail –

So we leave on the 29th, which is just super”

(h/t @BenStoneham)

– – – – – – – – – –

On Monday night, I wrote an open letter on my blog to the European Research Group, and emailed it to most Conservative MPs.

The main thrust of it was to urge them to vote for Graham Brady’s amendment, and to say that their antics were threatening to derail Brexit by leaving the Prime Minister with little alternative but to apply to extend Article 50 beyond 29 March. My fear is that once it is extended, it could lead to Brexit never happening. I won’t rehearse the arguments here, but suffice it to say I didn’t pull any punches. I was expecting quite a volcanic response.

Instead, I was assailed by text after text, email after email from Conservative MPs – including members of the ERG – saying that I was bang on, and that they agreed with me. It demonstrated to me that even though Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker like to present the ERG to the media as a cohesive group, which votes as a slate, this is far from the case.

It’s all very well for them to say we should leave with No Deal, but I’m afraid this implies that they can’t count. As the passing of the Spelman/Dromey amendment proved, Parliament will do anything to prevent us leaving on 29 March without a deal.

Clearly, the rest of the votes on Tuesday weakened the hands of the second referendum campaigners and those who think they can thwart Brexit.  But make no mistake, this week isn’t the end of the parliamentary battle. Only at 11pm on 29 March, assuming we leave, will it be over.

– – – – – – – – – –

I’ve been given an exclusive insight into Theresa May’s meeting with Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday. Here’s the transcript of their conversation…

TM: Thank you Jeremy. Glad you could make it at last. By the way, what’s that tape measure for?

JC: Oh, Laura asked me to measure the curtains. Anyway, Prime Minister, to the subject at hand: how are you intending to support my good friend Nicolas Maduro?

TM: No, Jeremy, we’re to discuss the Withdrawal Agreement…

JC: I totally agree. You must persuade Donald Trump to withdraw his sanctions against Senor Maduro’s regime. It’s what Hugo would want.

TM: I don’t know what Mr Swire has got to do with anything, but we really must find a way through…

JC: I totally agree. I think it would be great if you could divert £1 billion from the aid budget. In fact, Nicolas has given me this bank account number…

TM: Thank you Jeremy, but I really must insist we talk about what you need from me to support our deal. More workers’ rights? Guarantees on the environment? What’s your price.

JC: I just told you.

TM: You’re caracas.

– – – – – – – – – –

Imagine the outcry if a Conservative or UKIP MEP had been found to have charged constituents 150 Euros to visit them in Brussels. They’d have been metaphorically torn limb from limb by the UK media, including the BBC.

Last week, Politico revealed that’s exactly what the CDU MEP Elmar Brok, so beloved by Newsnight and the BBC, had been doing. On Wednesday, the BBC reported his words reacting to Theresa May’s intention to reopen the backstop.

Katya Adler, their Europe Editor, tweeted: “Elmar Brok, MEP, bursts into English to appeal to UK MPs “Please talk to each other in London before you come to us. We’re united (in EU), you’re not (in UK)!”

She then followed up with this tweet: “Elmar Brok, German MEP appeals to UK for rational dialogue and warns a no deal Brexit will be toughest of all on the UK. To which UK MEP shouts “Auf Wiedersehen!”

Does anyone really think if this had been a scandal-hit British Conservative MP, he or she would have been quoted about anything? I’ve interviewed Brok on my show a few times. It won’t be happening again. Schade.

– – – – – – – – – – –

If you’re into podcasts, do download Matt Forde’s Political Party podcast with Alastair Campbell and Adam Boulton. They talk about their famous incident just after the 2010 election, as well as tell some wonderful anecdotes from their respective careers. A brilliant listen for a car journey or commute!

Steven Edginton: The BBC’s Question Time last week. Abbott was the victim of her own rudeness – not of racism. As I saw at first-hand.

The only explanation I can find is that she mistakenly assumed I was just another Tory public school boy, to whom she did not need to bother giving the time of day.

Steven Edginton is the Chief Digital Strategist at Leave Means Leave.

Diane Abbott had a shocker on BBC Question Time last week – so she’s slapped the corporation with a formal complaint. The Shadow Home Secretary claims that the most plausible explanation for the way the audience reacted to her woeful performance is the colour of her skin. So she is crying racism – accusing the programme of “legitimising mistreatment, bias and abuse.” And I’m calling her out.

I was with Abbott throughout the evening in question, and I did not see or hear a single thing to support her knee-jerk allegations. What I did observe was an extremely haughty, discourteous individual who behaved as if she were superior to everybody else. Her attitude towards me personally was shocking – and appears to offer an insight into the deep-seated prejudices of the current Labour leadership.

On air, on what was only Fiona Bruce’s second appearance as Question Time’s new presenter, Abbott floundered about, struggling to defend her party’s increasingly bewildering position on Brexit. That’s understandable. Off air, she was offhand to the point of rudeness, failing to extend even the most basic of courtesies to others involved in the show. It was embarrassing to watch.

From the moment Jeremy Corbyn’s old ally boarded the 16.47 train from London St Pancras to Derby, she seemed to be in a funk. I was travelling with Isabel Oakeshott, the political journalist and commentator, who has been supporting me in my career since I was 17.
The last few years have been a great journey in politics, and after various short-term jobs, including at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, I am about to join the cross-party Brexit campaign group Leave Means Leave as their Chief Digital Strategist.

I first contacted Isabel three years ago when I was 16, and still at state school, asking if I could interview her for my YouTube channel, Politics UK. Soon after, she offered to mentor me, and I have since accompanied her to Question Time on four or five occasions. She is always nervous before the show, and likes my help. I enjoy going because I get to meet some of the most interesting characters in politics, who always have fascinating stories to tell.

It’s also an opportunity to find new interviewees from across the political divide for my channel. I am careful not to get in anyone’s way – almost everyone is anxious before the show – but the atmosphere among fellow panellists en route to the venue and in the Green Room is always friendly, and if there is a good moment to introduce myself to some of the politicians and researchers, I take it.

Alastair Campbell, Lord Winston, Armando Iannucci, Emily Thornberry, the Apprentice’s Claude Littner and the many others I have spoken to before and after the show have all treated me with warmth and courtesy. Six weeks after I met him in a makeshift Green Room in Putney, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor and I met at Kings Cross, where he generously gave me half an hour of his time to talk about Brexit for my YouTube channel. What a contrast with Abbott, who struggled even to muster an ill-tempered “hello.”

My opportunity to introduce myself to the Shadow Home Secretary came sooner than I anticipated last Thursday, when Isabel and I found ourselves sitting almost next to her on the train taking us to the show in Derby. As we boarded, she and Isabel exchanged basic pleasantries, before settling down to their preparations.

When Isabel stepped out of the carriage to make a telephone call, I took the chance to say hello to Abbott. “I’m Steven Edginton, I work for Isabel,” I said tentatively.

“I know you work for Isabel,” she sniffed disdainfully – and stuffed on her headphones. She clearly wanted nothing to do with me.
Doubtless she was preoccupied: certainly, she was making plenty of notes. But this went beyond being busy and distracted. Abbott was openly hostile and continued to be so for the rest of the journey. She went out of her way to ignore me, physically turning her back on me on the platform as we alighted, and avoiding all small talk.

When I asked her whether her job was stressful at the moment with all the political chaos, she scoffed back, saying: “I get paid to do it.” The only explanation I could come up with was that, based on the way I look and sound, and my association with Isabel, she mistakenly assumed I was just another privileged Tory public school boy, to whom she did not need to bother giving the time of day. It set the tone for her attitude to others throughout the evening, from her aggressive “talk to the hand” gesture at Isabel which viewers would have seen in the first few minutes of the show to her haughty demeanour to other panellist and their staff.

Abbott’s complaint to the BBC begins with claims that the audience were “whipped up” against her before the show was recorded. Based on what seems to be nothing more than hearsay from a couple of Corybnistas in the audience, she whines that during rehearsals, someone mentioned her youthful romance with Corbyn 40 years ago. Well knock me down with a feather. How very dare they!

Maybe they did; maybe they didn’t – but neither Abbott nor her researcher can possibly know, because they were not there. They were a long way from the auditorium at that point, in the Green Room, with all the other panellists. Any impropriety, by Fiona Bruce or anyone else, is vehemently denied by the very professional BBC Question Time team, which in any case cannot be expected to gag the audience.

During the show itself, Bruce was tough but polite and entirely even handed. Neither Isabel nor Rory Stewart, the Prisons Minister, escaped mockery and heckling from the audience. They smiled and sucked it up, as par for the course on that particular show.

Abbott has some fine qualities: she has dedicated half a lifetime to public service; she is brave, and has to put up with piles of abuse. She is a talented communicator, which is why she is in such demand from broadcasters. She is an old hand at Question Time, and knows what it involves. This is called being held to account by ordinary voters – and if you put yourself forward for the experience on live TV, sometimes you get a roughing up.

Those who falsely cry “racism” to cover up failure or inadequacy discredit themselves and do a terrible disservice to the cause. Abbott, of all people, should know this. Perhaps she should consider her own prejudices – and what instant class-based judgements she makes of someone like me.

Anyone can have an off day. Screwing up in the intense gladiatorial arena of a prime time television show after one of the most extraordinary weeks in British politics is quite understandable. Blaming everyone but yourself is lame, but perhaps not an unnatural reaction to feelings of public humiliation. What is unforgivable is crying racism, when there is nothing whatsoever to support such a claim.

It wouldn’t have mattered whether Abbott’s skin was black, white or the colours of the rainbow: she would have been mocked for trying and failing to defend the indefensible. She knew it; the audience knew it; and they reacted with the derision that her party’s cynical, incoherent and opportunistic Brexit policy merits. If that’s racism, then I’m a jellybean.

Nadine Dorries: Thuggery. Abuse. Threats. Unacceptable everywhere. But no-one came to Brexiteers’ defence when we were victims.

The abuse became so bad that I felt the need to stop giving media interviews, writing articles and to remove myself from the public arena.

Nadine Dorries is the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire and a Sunday Times top ten bestselling author.

“I want to see you, trapped in a burning car and watch as the heat from the flames melts the flesh from your face.”

Just one of a huge number of threats I have received since the day I became an MP. I decided not prosecute the originator of that remark, since he pleaded that his wife was pregnant, that he had just started a new job and his life would be in ruins if I took action.

That was the moment for me when Twitter transformed from being a platform of debate to one of abuse because within weeks, I had inherited a stalker who stuck with me for eight long years. I wasn’t his first victim. He had targeted his local female MP for three years before me, but she didn’t have a Twitter account and wasn’t on social media, so he moved across the country, rented a house, yards from my own, and then began eight years of intimidation and torment that affected me, my family, my job and my wellbeing.

Did anyone care? Was anyone bothered? Did anyone understand? No, not a bit. Especially not the Crown Prosecution Service, which appeared to believe that, since as an MP I was accountable to the electorate, it followed, unfortunately for me, that this accountability could manifest itself in a variety of ways. I had to move out of my own home and constituency because I was terrified – and it appeared, I was entirely on my own.

I didn’t think things could get much worse after that.  But then came the EU referendum, and it was as if the floodgates of abuse had now opened to the full, leaving my own stalker looking like a third rate amateur.

In addition to the social media and email onslaught, I have barely been able to use my own office for over a year, thanks to the ‘Stop Brexit’ campaigners outside of my window – meaning that, most of the time, I am displaced as I work on a canteen table, or in the Commons library. Month by month, the threats have intensified and they reach the darkest corners of the all-abusable me.

Forget the ‘C’ word. That comes as standard – usually as a subject header on an email. I have become immune. Forget the death threats – for goodness’ sake, there are, so many; so gruesome. It had become very obvious, by the standard of notifications on social media and the comments aimed at me as I walked to Millbank to give interviews, that something was afoot. The language of social medial via the immunity of the keyboard was becoming normalised. I haven’t given an interview on College Green for months, thanks to the stop Brexit protesters. I haven’t walked to Millbank without a male member of staff for over a year. What people would once only have said in private, they have been saying in public, as discourse noticeably deteriorated.

This Christmas, I deactivated my Twitter account. It hurt. There are things I care about, deeply. When you post a tweet that has 10,000 likes and almost three quarter of a million impressions, you know you have an effective platform. To advance my views is one of the reasons I became a politician. Not to duck down behind the sofa, but to jump on the parapet, to put myself in the public space of debate. What’s the point otherwise?

However, the abuse became so bad that I felt the need to stop giving media interviews, writing articles and to remove myself from the public arena. To get off the bus. It was all too much. People were becoming far too angry.

And it’s not just here in the UK. You only have to look around the globe to see how the internet is empowering people – not always in a good way. How minority groups can bully and dominate social media platforms to establish acceptable norms on so many issues. In politics, the paradigm is shifting. Walking the corridors of Westminster is like trotting through quicksand, and many are struggling to understand the new politics.

The Remain Metro Elite thought it was all absolutely fine to project fearmongering, scream “Stop Brexit”, campaign for a second referendum and present themselves on TV to systematically denounce and traduce the result of the referendum and to even, via the courts, try to have the result overturned.

Alastair Campbell of dodgy dossier fame, who proclaimed that the will of Parliament alone was enough to take us to war in Iraq, now endlessly calls for a second referendum, yet no one has died as a result of the referendum vote. He campaigns for a second poll so that the people vote again until they vote the establishment way. The metaphorical equivalent of removing the pin from a hand grenade.

The BBC thought they could spout pure unadulterated bias. Give Gary Lineker a free pass as he abuses elsewhere those 17.5 million people who agonised over their vote, and believe that there would be no consequence as a result. Broadcasters describe working classes leave voters as “gammon” and thick, and so much more besides. Well, I am gammon. I am working-class and proud. I never for one moment thought that these developments would end in anything but tears, and the very worst is still to come.

The handling of Brexit. The fudged negotiations. The deceit, the lies, the attempt by Number Ten to Brexit in name only will soon come home to roost.

People said it was impossible for America to elect Donald Trump, that it would never happen.  That Angela Merkel would go on and on and on in post. Emmanuel Macron was a slap in the face to the French establishment. Shifting political sands.

People here in the UK have reached their own tipping point. Some will become totally disenfranchised, remain at home and will possibly never vote again. Some will vent on social media and the abuse will continue. Others will step away from the keyboard and out onto the streets, and that is already happening. Journalists, Westminster elite, MPs, Prime Minister – we are all to blame, as while we fiddle, Westminster may burn. And someone not at all committed to democratic norms – someone we haven’t yet thought of, or maybe we have – will rise from the ashes, and we will only have ourselves to blame.

If the EU can’t offer May a fudge now, the responsibility for a no-deal departure is theirs

According to TS Eliot, April is the cruellest month. In 2019 January, February and March are going to run it pretty close. The outcome is as unpredictable as Trump’s mental processes. Unlike the pundittieri I’ve got neither crystal balls nor a God-given ability to predict the future. Fortunately, also unlike them, I’m not driven by […]

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According to TS Eliot, April is the cruellest month. In 2019 January, February and March are going to run it pretty close. The outcome is as unpredictable as Trump’s mental processes. Unlike the pundittieri I’ve got neither crystal balls nor a God-given ability to predict the future. Fortunately, also unlike them, I’m not driven by a hard instinct and can admit errors. So let me make a few guesses.

The pundits themselves, their house journal The Guardian and their think-tanks in Treasury and the Bank will go into a euro-enthusiastic frenzy, predicting immediate disaster if we Leave, or a dragged-out version of it if we accept Theresa May’s application for colonial status. They’ll hold out the prospect of eternal bliss, prosperity and rallying the world against Trump, Putin and even Kim Jong Un if we stay.

Theresa will beg for a pretty (but unbankable) promise from the EU not to be too beastly and, if she can get it, permission for small dogs to enter the EU without a photographic passport taken by a French photographer. Her task now is to persuade enough Brexiteers that hers is the best deal any human being could possibly get while claiming that the EU may eventually be released from the tagged probation if we behave nicely. She hopes that this will get enough people to vote for her Brexit Postponement Bill.

The Labour Party will continue to fall apart. Corbyn will claim that cochons will fly under a Labour government. Meanwhile the bulk of his party will shuffle off to the soft option of a People’s Vote which will both allow them to creep back into Europe and ensure that Corbyn won’t be able to implement any of his radical plans.

The rampant Remainers will continue their collusion with Brussels. The Tony Blair Foundation will provide winter clothing for more parliamentary flag-wavers. The master propagandists, Campbell and Adonis, will promote a Remainer People’s Vote while prophesying doom, disaster and bubonic plague if we crash, crawl, eject or stagger out.

As for the great British public, they won’t revolt like the gilets jaunes. Stoicism is the British rebellion, not riots. Yet they are becoming fed up and alienated as they realise that their political leaders are not only incapable of delivering what the people voted for, but totally incompetent – having done little except blame the people for their vote while allowing clever EU bastards to humiliate them.

In short, it’s totally unpredictable but certain to be a mess. However, I can say what should happen.

If Theresa’s sell out doesn’t get through Parliament, there can’t be another referendum because there’s nothing to vote on. Remainers will generate a frenzy of fear about a no-deal departure, though that can come only if the Government gives up. So the Government must resume negotiations with new proposals.

The EU has constantly claimed that they want positive proposals from Britain. Make them. Make them stronger. Demand an extension of the two years to negotiate them. The EU will bluster and try to refuse it on the grounds that they’ve made their best offer. They haven’t. The Government can’t get it through Parliament. So it lapses.

The EU have already indicated that they’ll allow an extension to conduct a referendum. That’s impossible until we have a deal Parliament can accept. Which puts the ball back in their court. If they won’t offer one, they damage themselves when their economy is already doing badly. In the face of the world trend to freer trade and facing failure with the euro, they won’t dare to humiliate us.

Fudges end every argument in the EU. If they can’t manage one now, the responsibility for a no-deal departure is theirs. Forcing it will rally the British public to it and the necessary concomitant measures to support industry and expand the economy. It’s certainly better than limping into humiliation because the Government has no guts and Remainers have reduced a proud nation to gibbering with fear at the prospect of quitting a leaking hulk to join a prospering world.

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Iain Dale: Brexit Derangement Syndrome breaks out everywhere. Adonis, Bridgen – and now, alas, Boles. Everyone’s going bonkers.

Plus: Which of Hancock’s Slags should I liaise with? I’m not known as “Uncle Herod” for nothing. And: Here’s hoping 2019 is happier than 2018.

Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

In my role as a Brexit doctor, I have diagnosed various politicians and commentators with Brexit Derangement Syndrome. It predominantly affects ultra-Remainers. The symptoms are to lose all sense of perspective and say and tweet rather mad things.

Andrew Adonis has it worse, closely followed by Alastair Campbell, Sarah Wollaston and Anna Soubry.

On the Brexit side Andrew Bridgen also suffers from it, and Jacob Rees-Mogg showed signs of symptoms after the vote of confidence in Theresa May, although he seems to have recovered since.

Unfortunately, my good friend Nick Boles has seemingly now contracted it. See above for what he tweeted on Tuesday.

Consider me astonished. Nick isn’t given to rushes of blood to the head, but this was an extraordinary tweet. It’s the sort of view that in normal circumstances an MP would make known to his whip, before the Chief Whip then invites him in for a meeting without coffee.

Either the whipping system is breaking down or Nick’s agenda is to encourage other Conservative MPs to follow his lead as part of a concerted public campaign to ensure No Deal. No one was surprised when Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston indicated that they would do the same thing.

On the same day, another sufferer of Brexit Derangement Syndrome, Chris Patten, described ERG Brexiteers as “Maoists” and “rodents”. Philip Hammond described them as “extremists”. Pot, kettle and black and three words which apply here.

Just image the outcry from hardline Remainers if members of the ERG used that kind of language about them, or threatened to resign the Conservative whip in the event of Article 50 being extended. They would quite rightly question the Conservative credentials of anyone who did this.

This is a time for cool heads. All 317 Conservative MPs are going to have to work together once this is all over (if it ever is) and they should all remember that careless talk costs votes and seats.

Having said that, I might as well save my breath because no one is in the mood to listen or compromise. Both sides are utterly convinced that they are right and that the other is motivated by warped beliefs. How very sad.

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In 25 days’ time. the meaningful vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal is finally due to be held.

That’s 25 days for the Prime Minister to come up with something to persuade both the DUP and the minimum of 71 Conservative MPs who’ve publicly opposed it.

On the face of it, it looks like a thankless task. But I just wonder… I believe that she thinks it’s still possible to win. I also sense that things are starting to move in her direction. I’ve lost count of the number of Conservative MPs who’ve told me that their Party members and constituents just want them to get on with it and support the Prime Minister.

The key is for her to drag a concession out of the EU, even at the last minute, which she can sell to Arlene Foster. If Foster can bring herself to support the deal, you’d have to expect most Conservative rebels to fall into line, surely? The trouble is that the Prime Minister needs practically every single one to, and whether that’s achievable is a very moot point indeed.

– – – – – – – – – –

The peril of the iPhone autocorrect are a delight to behold. I was texting Matt Hancock the other day trying to arrange an interview for the New Year. I asked him “Which of your multifarious Spads should I liaise with?”

Unfortunately, I hadn’t noticed that what I actually sent him was this: “Which of your multifarious Slags should I liaise with?” His reply? “Jamie – he ain’t no slag!”.

– – – – – – – – – –

I don’t feel at all Christmassy. I hope that changes in the next few days, but I’m not sure it will. The older one gets, and the further away from your childhood you get, it just doesn’t feel the same anymore.

Given that I don’t have kids, I suppose that’s not surprising. However, I will get to spend this Christmas Day with a friend of ours and his two year old. Wish me luck. I’m not known as Uncle Herod for nothing…

I hope you all have a very happy Christmas and that 2019 brings you all that you wish for. 2018 has been a pretty ugly year one way or another. My fear is that 2019 will make 2018 look like a halcyon era…

On that happy note, I bid you farewell until January 11th.

The Remainers’ shocking litany of lies

In their annoyance at the people for rejecting their beloved EU, yesterday’s men claimed that the people had been bamboozled by lies, Russian propaganda and their stupidity in not understanding the huge benefits of the EU. Particularly to our establishment. Their real concern was that their own lies and manufactured fears were rejected by the […]

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In their annoyance at the people for rejecting their beloved EU, yesterday’s men claimed that the people had been bamboozled by lies, Russian propaganda and their stupidity in not understanding the huge benefits of the EU. Particularly to our establishment. Their real concern was that their own lies and manufactured fears were rejected by the people after forty years’ experience of the rambling shambles that is the EU.

Defeated, they’ve now launched an even bigger programme of lies to put the people back into their box and con them to stay in it and the EU. They’re top grade lies, mostly propagated by the author of the Iraq Dossier as Tony Blair’s representative on earth, one A Campbell. Here are the lies:

DEMOCRACY REQUIRES THE PEOPLE TO VOTE AGAIN

This is really a confidence trick based on the assumption that apathy and fed-upness at being buggered about will reduce the Brexit vote to allow some of the people to reverse the vote of more of them. It can’t be a vote on Mrs May’s solution because Parliament won’t pass it and the politicians can’t agree on any alternative. So the ballot will be “Stay in? Yes or Yes”. The EU will reject any alternative, as it did with Greece’s referendum.

BRITAIN BELONGS AT THE HEART OF EUROPE

Although it’s already relegated to the periphery. Unless it accepts the euro, Schengen, the EU army and the dominance of Germany, it must stay there and unlike most members we won’t get any aid. Only our own money back with their costs taken out.

THE EU IS OUR BEST MARKET

In fact it’s a protective bloc set up to protect French agriculture and German manufacturing. Its share of world trade is declining, the euro wont work and has led to deflation and unemployment. We run a £95 billion deficit which means the export of jobs, money and demand. Membership is a drain not a boost.

LEAVING WOULD BE TO CRASH OVER THE CLIFF EDGE INTO DISASTER

Oddly the rest of the world trades with the EU on WTO terms more successfully than we do as members. They can hardly punish us without damaging themselves and the scare stories of the Treasury and the Bank of England both assume that Brexit would mean deflation. In fact it would compel a Keynesian expansion, the opening of new markets and cheaper food.

WE’D BE ALONE AND IGNORED

Yet small nations are the most successful; independent nations are growing faster because they can manage their economies to suit their own purposes. Outside a bloc designed to suit France and Germany, so can we.

BREXIT WOULD BE DISASTROUS FOR BUSINESS

Small business doesn’t trade with the EU. The assumption is that British business has no guts, no resilience, can’t compete in other markets and is totally dependent on trade agreements negotiated by the EU in its interest not ours. British complacency might benefit from a shock, as Australia and New Zealand did when Britain betrayed them to join the EU.

There is however one element of truth – though it’s one they don’t tell. Our leaders love the EU because it gives them a bigger stage to strut on, an excuse for their failures and the illusion that they’re still important – the only satisfaction left to them, after screwing up Britain.

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How May’s Conservatives could morph into SDP Two – realigning British politics from the top down

The sequence of events: bow to a second referendum, lose the ERG, gain Blairites, contest a general election – and rebrand the Party.

Robin Cook was sympathetic to hunting – though he had to be careful, given Labour’s fervent opposition to field sports.  Asked about his view, he once said that “I have never ridden to hounds”.  He paused before adding.  “But I have undoubtedly ridden horses that have been ridden to hounds”.

Cook’s reply may come in useful as we chew over reports that, as Cabinet discipline over Theresa May’s Brexit deal breaks down, David Lidington and Gavin Barwell are talking to groups of Labour MPs about a second referendum.

There would be nothing remotely wrong in the Prime Minister’s effective deputy, or any other senior minister, exploring how to get opposition MPs to support her deal.  If that includes peeling Labour MPs away from their leader, so much the better (at least as far as Downing Street is concerned).  Clearly, this is happening.

If, however, the conversation went on to mull furthering a policy to which the Government is opposed, the deputy in question would be in breach of collective responsibility.  As we write, neither Lidington nor Barwell have denied the claims.

Then again, collective responsibility at Cabinet level has broken down altogether.  Its members appear to have reached a consensus that May’s deal is dead in the water.  Only those who owe their Cabinet presence to her, such as James Brokenshire and Karen Bradley, are likely to pretend otherwise.  Otherwise, the top of the Party is dividing into two main camps.

The first includes Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and the Cabinet Brexiteers who didn’t resign when May’s deal was presented to them.  Their view is that no deal preparations should be intensified, in the hope that this will convince the EU that the Government is serious about planning for it, and thus persuade it to offer real concessions on the Northern Ireland backstop.  If this doesn’t succeed, this group is prepared to embrace no deal.  Hunt has given an interview to that effect today, and Penny Mordaunt plans an announcement shortly.

The second includes Lidington, Philip Hammond, Greg Clark, David Gauke, and apparently Amber Rudd.  All opposed Brexit during the referendum campaign and, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, now conclude that the result cannot stand.  Some may have believed in the Prime Minister’s deal.  Others may never have done so.  But all are now reported to want another vote on it to take place soon, preparing the way for an “indicative vote” to take place on other policy options.  Again, these claims have not been denied.

This would duly find little support for no deal, and more for a second referendum.  The way would then be clear for turning that support into a Commons majority.

This helps to explain the ferocious infighting among Remainers and Soft Brexiteers about the so-called Norway Plus scheme.  Campaigners for a second referendum are trying to kill it off, in order to leave their plan as the only practicable option for that spectrum of MPs to back.  Nick Boles, the leading Conservative Commons advocate of Norway Plus, is fighting to keep it alive – and looking to Labour opponents of a second referendum to help him to do so.  If he fails, other MPs who have pushed the scheme, such as Oliver Letwin and Rudd herself, will find that a combination of their sympathies and events push them towards that second referendum.

Mention of cross-party conversations takes us back to Robin Cook.

Just as Cook never rode to hounds, so we can presume that Lidington will not be talking to Labour MPs about political realignment.  The Cabinet Office Minister may have been able to persuade himself that to discuss a second referendum with opposition MPs is permissible.  After all, May’s deal really can’t get through the Commons, as matters stand.  The Government must find an alternative policy.  Discussions about the possibility of a second referendum, he might reason, merely seek to find a new approach once the present one is exhausted.  But for such a lifelong Conservative – a Tory to his bones – to collude in discussing realignment would surely be several steps too far.

But just as Cook rode horses that had been ridden to hounds, so Lidington will be talking to Conservative MPs who are talking to Labour ones about breaking the party political mould.  Nicky Morgan has floated national government – though that is not quite the same thing.  Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve have spoken of putting party before country, thus providing a mirror image of the European Research Group’s position.  ConservativeHome was struck by the airy way in one which one prominent backbencher told us recently that he is already assuming that the present party system will break up, and baking that calculation into his thinking.

This takes us to Theresa May.

The Prime Minister is hostile to both Norway Plus and a second referendum.  But there is a difference between being opposed to a course of action and never taking it.  The Sunday Times claims that she recently “war-gamed her options during a recent conversation with David Cameron. Her predecessor told friends that May – while personally opposed to a referendum – was a “servant of the Commons” and would back a second vote if MPs voted for it”.  This site has had the same reasoning put to it.

Up with this the ERG, and a big swathe of the centre of the Conservative Party, would not put.  Some of its members would again seek to bring down the Prime Minister.  This would arguably be as likely to produce a general election as a leadership contest, now that the option of a ballot of confidence in that leadership is not an option for a year.

One of the main reasons why the SDP failed was because, under our first the post electoral system, challenges to the established parties from the bottom up face formidable obstacles.  This might be less true of change from the top down.  In a general election under the circumstances we describe, May would control the Party, the money, the manifesto – and, ultimately, the selection process.  ERG members and some other Conservative MPs would not support a manifesto committed to a second referendum.

Is it too speculative to imagine a Tory Party which has lost those MPs – and much of its activist base – but gained a mass of Blairite ones?  And then to go on to think of the Party changing its name to reflect this development?  And of any new rival right-of-centre party having to set up from scratch, without a durable claim to the Party’s name, infrastructure or assets?

Perhaps.  But these are strange times.  And building an SDP Mark Two from the top down – in which Gavin Barwell would end up rubbing shoulders with Alastair Campbell, Rudd with Yvette Cooper, Lidington with Chuka Umunna and, yes, May with Tony Blair, as the Evening Standard smiles on – would be a great deal easier than doing so from the bottom up.

To those who say that all this is far too fanciful, we quote not Cook, but Erasmus – as we gaze on the hatreds consuming the Conservative Party, and bubbling away within Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.  Erasmus was contemplating those tearing apart the Church.  “The long war of words and writings,” he observed, “will end in blows.”

Operation Gobble. May promotes Leavers within the Government…with an eye on a coming Brexit vote.

Meanwhile, the Government has quietly been appointing more trade emissaries during the last few months.

Yesterday evening, it was announced that Mims Davies will replace Tracey Crouch at Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.  Jeremy Quin will be a Government Whip.  (Very able, is Quin: watch him.)  Nigel Adams will be a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Wales Office and an Assistant Government Whip.  And Gareth Johnson will be be an Assistant Government Whip).

All of these appointments are from within the ranks of the Government – and all, bar Davies, are unpaid.  That’s further evidence, were it needed, of how the Ministerial ranks are over the statutory maximum of 109 paid Ministers.  When Henry Hill carried out a check under the Cameron Government, almost half the Conservative Parliamentary Party was on the payroll.

Theresa May has no disincentive to cut the proportion.  Every new MP on it is a MP with a new obligation – namely, to vote, as a member of the Government, for its business.  That will matter if it comes to the most crucial vote of all, both for this administration and for the country – namely, the “meaningful vote” on any Brexit deal, and the votes on legislation that would follow.

Downing Street thus has an incentive, as matters stand, to appoint MPs for voted for Brexit to the payroll: the more there are on it, the more will be obliged to support any deal she strikes in the lobbies.  Number Ten will be mindful that Party Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen are in a similar position.

It lost pro-Brexit Ministers, PPS’s and CCHQ appointees last summer in the wake of Chequers – David Davis, Boris Johnson, Steve Baker, Chris Green, Conor Burns, Maria Caulfield, Ben Bradley, Robert Courts, Scott Mann.  (Plus, separately, a pro-Remain Minister: Guto Bebb, over concessions to the ERG, plus Phillip Lee)  So it has ground to make up.

Of the four new appointments, three were on our EU referendum list as supporting Brexit – Davies, Adams and Johnson, a former PPS.  All were previously on the payroll – so to speak – and thus already under an obligation to support the Government.  But the first and last moves are unarguably promotions, and will bind in those concerned more deeply.

Meanwhile, the Government has quietly been appointing more trade emissaries during the last few months.  Though these are not on the payroll, they are also under an obligation to the Prime Minister.  Downing Street has no incentive to publish the appointments, but it is impossible to miss that some pro-Leave MPs have been among them.

So we have Pauline Latham as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Kenya and Andrew Rossindell as the equivalent to Tanzania.  Back in the days of New Labour, Alistair Campbell had a crude but effective term for Conservatives drawn into its Big Tent – “Operation Gobble”. Number Ten might not put it the same way, but it will certainly be looking for the same effect.