...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Day 6742: Constitutional Outrage


No one should expect to just GET to be Prime Monster!

Liberal Democrats should call for a Vote of Confidence in Parliament before ANYONE can be appointed Prime Minister, and we should demand that the Fixed Term Parliament Act be updated to make this explicit in law.

Boris Johnson looks very likely to win the contest to become leader of the Conservatory Party, already framed as “the race to be Britain’s Next PM”. And, given that he keeps dodging any questions, he could win with remarkably little scrutiny from either his fellow MPs or the public.

That’s an OUTRAGE!

AND there’s the little question of whether he can “command the confidence of the House of Commons” as the saying goes.

The rules governing how you get to become Prime Monster are written down in the Cabinet Manual, last updated at the start of the Coalition, by GOD (that is THE god, Mr Sir Gus O’Donnell, not the deity).

That’s where it says, in big letters at the start of Chapter 2:

“A government holds office by virtue of its ability to command the confidence of the House of Commons, chosen by the electorate in a general election.”

It would be shockingly unconstitutional – but I think also HIGHLY PLAUSIBLE – for Bojo to park his clowncar in Downing Street, installed as PM on the say-so of Theresa Maybe Not with NO opportunity for Parliament to test that he CAN command a majority.

Chapter 2 of the Manual gives us all the details of how a government is made.

(First a mummy government and a daddy government who love each other very much… er, no.)

So what happens when the Prime Monster changes?

The Prime Monster is the Prime Monster until they choose to resign (s2.08).

The Prime Monster MUST resign IF they lose a General Election and someone else has an overall majority (s2.11).

The Prime Monster MUST resign (because of the Fixed Term Parliament Act) IF they lose a Vote of No Confidence and are unable to pass a Vote of Confidence within 14 days (or if someone else IS) (s.2.19).

IF the administration has an overall majority, then the Party or Parties in government get to choose the new Prime Monster (s.2.18).

But what about when there ISN’T an overall majority? Remembering that the Conservatories do NOT have a majority and the Conservatories and DUP are NOT a coalition.

2.20 Where a range of different administrations could be formed, discussions may take place between political parties on who should form the next government. In these circumstances the processes and considerations described in paragraphs 2.12–2.17 would apply.

s2.12 to s2.20 are the “what to do after an election results in a hung parliament” bit.

Firstly, the incumbent government (TMPM) is entitled to wait until Parliament has met to see if it can command a majority (but is expected to resign if it’s clear that it won’t) (s.2.12)

Eventually, the resigning Prime Monster has to go to Mrs the Queen and tell her who the next Prime Monster will be. (s2.13)

[s.2.14 just says the Civil Service can help. S.2.15 says that’s what they did in 2010]

S2.16 is IMPORTANT because it says that the government can ONLY operate on RESTRICTED POWERS for as long as there is doubt over whether it can command a majority.

Finally s2.17 says what kinds of government can be formed: a minority government, winging it from vote to vote, like Hard Labour in the Winter of Discontent; a confidence and supply agreement, like we have now; a formal coalition.

But EVEN acting together, the Conservatories and the DUP can only call on 322 votes (313 Conservatories less 1 deputy speaker plus 10 DUPes); on the other side there are at most 317 votes (with Mr Speaker, 2 Labour deputy speakers and 7 Sinn Fein MPs not voting). That is a “working majority” of 5. Pretty flimsy, and why TMPM kept losing.
Worse, if the Conservatories were to lose 1 by-election to, say, the Liberal Democrats, that would be a majority of just 3. And if just 2 Conservatories were to vote against their own government, it would fall.

Reader, two Conservatories HAVE said they would vote against their own government to stop Boris Johnson and prevent no deal.

I think it’s pretty clear that things ARE in doubt whether ANY new Conservatory Prime Monster, and certainly Mr Johnson, could do the commanding of a majority.

But who is going to tell Mrs the Queen? Let’s ask the Manual…

2.09 “In modern times the convention has been that the Sovereign should not be drawn into party politics, and if there is doubt it is the responsibility of those involved in the political process, and in particular the parties represented in Parliament, to seek to determine and communicate clearly to the Sovereign who is best placed to be able to command the confidence of the House of Commons.”
And that’s the big big problem because you and I both know that this government is going to say “there isn’t any doubt”.

This government or probably ANY government, but this one already has a track record of never doing anything by the rules unless someone loads up the Supreme Court and points it at their heads.

Ask Ms Gina Miller. Ask Mr Sir Kier Stammerer. Ask Mr Sir Oily Letwin.

This government tried to cut Parliament out of the Article 50 Process. This government had to be forced with “humble addresses” to deliver the reports that Davis David had promised them. This government tried to let us leave the EU by default until the backbenches seized control of the timetable.

On EVERY occasion, this government has taken “TAKE BACK CONTROL” to mean “SEIZE POWER FOR US!”

This government more than any other has shown repeatedly that you cannot trust it to let Parliament – the representatives of the people – have their proper say.

So what makes you think they will stick to a convention that says “if there is doubt” they have to talk to Parliament?

The Manual continues…

“As the Crown’s principal adviser this responsibility falls especially on the incumbent Prime Minister, who at the time of his or her resignation may also be asked by the Sovereign for a recommendation on who can best command the confidence of the House of Commons in his or her place.”

…but the current Prime Monster in Name Only, Theresa Maybe Not, is NOT a person who is as good as their word. Far from it, she promised many times that she would not hold a snap election… then held a snap election. She promised many times that we would leave the EU on March 29th … and then didn’t leave the EU on March the 29th.

More to the point, the story goes that when she lost the Conservatory majority in 2017, she allegedly lied to Mrs the Queen saying straight-up that she had the support of the DUP when in fact the billion-pound deal was only secured a week later. The Palace, it is said, were furious.

But again there’s your problem, right there. No action has been taken.

In order not to be SEEN to be political, the Palace lets fibbing in the dark go unpunished. There’s no one to bring them into the light of day.

Take also the case of the Sun’s “Queen Backs Brexit” headline, which was more than a little calculated to turn a few votes in the Referendum. Their source was a Cabinet Minister, widely believed to be Michael Gove, then leader of the Leave campaign. Surely a clear case of drawing the Crown in to politics.

If the convention had ANY teeth, the Referendum would have been voided there and then. The Sun would have been fined the full cost of mounting the process. Michael Gove, if indeed it was he, would have been summarily dismissed as an MP and never allowed to stand again. None of this happened.

It is transparently safe for the wicked to flout convention.

To paraphrase Sir Desmond Glazebrook, of Yes Minister, the whole system relies on good chaps behaving as good chaps, and a good chap can never accuse another good chap of not being a good chap because that’s not the behaviour of a good chap, and well, that’s where it all falls over.

I think this government, and with a new PM in charge the next government, will try to carry on as though it has 100% of the power, even though it has none of the right.

Remember those RESTRICTIONS on what government can do when the ability to command a majority is in doubt?

Those restrictions start with:

2.27 While the government retains its responsibility to govern and ministers remain in charge of their departments, governments are expected by convention to observe discretion in initiating any new action of a continuing or long-term character in the period immediately preceding an election, immediately afterwards if the result is unclear, and following the loss of a vote of confidence. In all three circumstances essential business must be allowed to continue.

And I think that means that until Boris or whoever is confirmed as the new PM by a Vote of Confidence, they should not be allowed to make a major change of policy like leaving the EU with no deal (in contravention of everything the current incarnation of this government has tried and failed to do, and against the repeated expressed will of Parliament).

But short of yet another date with the SUPREMES in Court, who is going to ENFORCE this?

So, here’s what I say:

An aspiring Prime Minister should be OBLIGED to bring a Motion of Confidence to the House of Commons, laying out their plan for government, so that it can be debated and voted on, BEFORE they can become PM.

Whether their Party is in a majority (when they shouldn’t have a problem with that), or planning to run a coalition (and their coalition partners would probably like to know), or trying to run a minority government (as is the current case), then Parliament should be able to pin them down and hold them to account.

The policy statement wouldn’t be enforceable, as such, but breaking it in some way – like saying you will try to do a new deal with the EU and then going for a “no deal” crash out – would obviously be grounds for a No Confidence vote.

And it needs to be in an Act of Parliament, because then people will NOTICE it, and especially JOURNALISTS will notice it, and EXPECT IT TO BE DONE.

Think this is unnecessary? Ask yourself: how many people are considering this Constitutional nicety right now? Answer: NONE. Everyone EXPECTS that whoever wins the Tory Leadership WILL BE Prime Monster.

It is so much easier to dodge these bits of the Constitution that only exist in papers, conventions and precedents. Look how this government HAS DONE THAT.

We are Liberals. It is OUR JOB to stop people just GRABBING power. We should not accept this. And we need to say so.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Day 6739: Polls Apart


It is three weeks since the European Elections changed everything and there’s really only one story in town. It’s just not the one you think it is.

With 3 MEPS Lib Dems topped the poll in London

Obviously, the news cycles are dominated by the Conservatory leadership. After all, Game of Thrones is over now, and the audience needs a new hit of blood, guts and sexposition…

But whether the idiot in the clown-car is now a shoe in for the Iron Throne or might still get removed by an unexpected twist, what’s less obvious is that the entire debate is framed by the real confrontation: Liberals versus Fascists.

Liberals. Standing up to the Fascists. Who’d have guessed?!

Brexit has always, always been about choosing whether we are a closed off, inward-looking Little England trying to recapture a past that never was, or an outward, embracing, forward-facing Great Britain working with the family of nations for a freer fairer future.

The failure of Theresa Maybe Not to get a Brexit that was Brexity enough for the Mogglodytes meant we got to take part in the HUGE democratic exercise that is the European Elections.

Which lead to the ENTIRELY PREDICTABLE comeback of Nigel Farrago and his Kippers 2.0. No policies. Just an overweening ego and a betrayal narrative.

(“oh but we all know what Nigel stands for” – well on the evidence, stealing his constituents’ money to spend on propaganda so he can continue to not do his job and fail to defend Britain’s interests. How’s THAT for a betrayal narrative?”)

What was less predictable – in the sense that it was predicted by absolutely no one up to and including Professor Sir Not-Richard Curtis while he was reporting the actual actual figures on local election night and still saying “well this is going to be a good night for the Greens” as the Lib Dems soared passed 700 gains – was that the Liberal Democrats would be the clear opposition.

Liberals. Standing up to the Fascists. Who’d have guessed?!

A simple, clear message. “Stop Brexit”. We changed our story, and changed the national story.

We stood up for our values. Liberal , not “centrist”. No more standing in the middle, apologetically getting hit by cars coming in either direction. Taking a stand – like we did on Iraq, like we did on I.D. cards. Not necessarily the popular choice, or the easy choice. But the right choice.

And that was all it took, for us to win London. To break Nasty Nige’s claims to be the “winner”.

Parties that favour Remain outnumbered the Quitlings on election night, and a big big part of that is the Liberal Democrats. We might not quite have managed to form a Remain Alliance, but together the Liberal voices and Green voices and Scottish and Welsh Voices are more and better than the Brexit Party.

Liberals. Standing up to the Fascists. Who’d have guessed?!

So the polls – I mean never mind the polls, but the actual vote on Euro-election night put us second, beating Hard Labour’s wilting rose and the Conservatory’s burning tree; the actual votes in Peterborough show us quadrupling our vote in Brexit central – but since then polls have shown us well up, including one having us tops.

What can all this mean?

It means two things. First, there is no limit to what we can achieve, and there should be no limit to the ambitions of our next leader, whoever SHE is.

(What? What! Oh go on, vote for Jo!)

But second it means we must embrace that clear Liberal message. When we speak with our fluffy hearts, when we are clear, when we are Liberal we win.

This country needs healing. So much. And we will offer hope for everyone. But we cannot try to offer something that will satisfy everyone. We cannot try to straddle that divide. Look at what happened to Labour. They said they were trying to bring the country together. They were – rightly – seen as trying to say one thing to Remainers and the opposite to Quitlings. If you speak with two faces, soon people start to think of you as two-faced.

The nearest comparison is Northern Ireland. It’s a bit artificial, because there are artificial rules there that mean you have to have Unionist and Nationalist power-sharing. But when the brakes were taken off after the Good Friday agreement, the votes didn’t go to the middle of the road Parties, they went to the ones who said what they meant.

That’s happening in the rest of Britain. Liberal Democrats on the one side. Brexits on the other. No longer right and left. Right and Wrong.

Liberals. Standing up to the Fascists. Who’d have guessed?!

If there was a time when the gulf could have been crossed, it was in the weeks after the Referendum, when a Prime Minister of vision could have brought together people from different sides to find a solution that saw us leave but remain close. It would have cost a bit for both sides, but Remainers would have been soothed, and Quitters would have had their departure.

But instead, the Quitlings went berserk. Seizing their waffer-thin victory, cobbled together by promising a different Brexit to almost every different voter, and claiming that it was a mandate for whatever mad scheme entered their heads: abolish human rights – will of the people, Empire 2.0 – will of the people! Denounce the judges – will of the people., General Election to Crush the Saboteurs – will of the pe… oh fluff, look how that collision with reality worked out.

Last week, there was research showing that the soon-to-be-former Prime Monster’s three years of promising No Deal because it’s better than a Bad Deal right up to the point of sitting down and being show just how very much WORSE it was has not been completely successful in bringing the country back together either.

In fact, if you want to piss off 90% of the people, just pick a Brexit. Any Brexit.

TMPM’s catalogue of cluelessness has hardened opinions all round so much so that each different Brexit tribe is now so utterly convinced of their own deluded version of Brexit (no migration Brexit, sovereignty Brexit, take back our laws Brexit, Singapore on Stilts Brexit, Red White and Blue Brexit, In Out Shake it All About Brexit and every other Magic Unicorn Brexit) and utterly so convinced that any other Brexit would be a BETRAYAL™ that they would all rather we Remain than get the WRONG BREXIT™.

And the 48%, who might well have accepted with a few British grumbles that they lost in 2016, are more pissed than ever that they’ve not only not been listened to, and called traitors up and down the country by that fatuous fag-smoking former banker in the affected Barbour Jacket, that they are now more than willing to say, you know what, we were actually bloody RIGHT in that Referendum and we damn well don’t want to put up with this Brexit nonsense any more.

Everything has changed.

The old parties tried to ride Farrage’s tiger and it’s turned on them and eaten them.

There is only one path to healing.

And that is Stop Brexit. Bollocks to Brexit. We are better than this. And when we say so, we win.

Liberals. Standing up to the Fascists. Damn right. And about time too!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Day 6688: The Second Widdecoming


With apologies to Mr Yeats:
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
“Are full of passionate intensity…
“…And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
“Slouches towards the Euro Elections to make a fast buck?”
Oh look. Here is Ms Ann Widdecombe saying: “Britain is an international laughing stock.”

Definitely not a laughing stock

Ms Widdecombe is the homophobic dinosaur who as a Home Office minister chained pregnant women to their maternity beds while they gave birth yet, imponderably, by describing her boss, Michael Howard, as “something of the night” – thus scuppering his (first) bid to lead the Conservatory Party – and through a dose of self-humiliation via the medium of ballroom dance somehow gained a measure of cleaned-up public reputation.

And now she is up for Mr Farrago’s Breakfast Club. Dancing to Nasty Nige’s tune.

Yes, she’s been on a JOURNEY, just like that other darling of the far-right fash, Mr Neil “not the musical” Hamilton, the disgraced former MP for Tatton, guilty of cash for questions, who also tripped off to join a (different) Farrago vehicle.

In the old days, you used to get caught in a scandal and went away to do GOOD WORKS.

But now it seems that appearing “game” on “reality TV” – easy enough for people who HAVE NO SHAME; it’s not like they’re not eating testicles ANYWAY – is a new and so-much-easier way to receive the INDULGENCE of the British voting public.

“Britain is an international laughing stock,” says Ms Widdecombe. Because CLEARLY some implausibly-frocked ballroom bigotry is what the nation needs to restore a proper sense of decorum and self-respect. Dancing discrimination. Cha-cha-cha-ing chauvinism. A rhumba of racism. A foxtrot of fash.

Obviously she’s forgetting that we’re a laughing stock BECAUSE OF BREXIT.

It’s the UTTER FAILURE of Brextreemists like her that have wrecked [I think you mean wreaked, says Daddy. I know what I mean!] this position upon the rest of us.

People like Ms W and her new best mate, the private jet and gold elevator-flying Farrago, promised rainbows and unicorns and then immediately did a runner the moment it looked like they might have to DELIVER on their promises and lies.

This is hardly NEW. Remember that, thanks to the so-called leadership of the Quitting Quitling, Mr Farrago’s last vanity project YouQuit (formerly Kippers) lost, fired, mislaid or disgraced all but 3 of the 24 MEPs elected under their flag in 2014, including the Less-than-glorious Leader himself. Not that you would notice the difference, since aside from grandstanding in the odd debate they rarely bothered to turn up, or represent for the people who elected them, preferring to trouser the money and run.

So no one was actually SURPRISED that within 48 hours of “winning” the deeply compromised 2016 referendum, La Faux-rage was away to spend more time kissing the orange bottom of that other over-inflated ass, the then presidential-candidate Trump.

What MIGHT raise a Mr Roger-Moorish eyebrow is all the cries of “Brexit has been BETRAYED!” Sure it has, Mr F… BY YOU!

Meanwhile, in a WEIRD (possibly Fearful) SYMMETRY the “Remain Alliance” (formerly the ChUKles (formerly the TIGgers)) are ALSO performing a reverse-Big Brother reveal of the FAMOUS FACES they’ve lined up/picked out of a hat to be their candidates by series of Press Launches, mirroring the Farrego-trip even down to Mr Gavin Esler telling us that “Britain is a laughing stock”.

On a SERIOUS note, it’s really not right that the chance of gaining MEP seats (and, not to prejudge the polls, but for some parties those are basically the GIFT of an all-expenses paid trip to Brussels) are being handed out to BESTIES.

It’s not just IRONIC, it is WRONG that the very people who complain that the EU is “undemocratic” are being so… undemocratic!

This is actually the fault of Hard Labour’s Sinister Minister, Mr Jack Straw who, when Europe told Britain that using First Pass the Port for Euro elections wasn’t properly democratic, went out of his way to choose the LEAST democratic way for us to bring in a Proportional (ish) voting system.

Which is why instead of using the British Proportional Representation that we ALREADY used for elections in Northern Ireland, he went for the de HONK method, both because it favours BIG parties like his over small ones (and alliances) and because it’s a CLOSED Party List – one where the public don’t get to choose who is on the list, or who is top of the list and most likely to get the seat.

(I know, who would have expected one of Lord Blairimort’s ministers to try and skew the system in favour of Labour!)

Well, we notice that it’s not just the fly-by-night parties but also the supposed grown-ups in Conservatory and Hard Labour who are handing out the gift of an MEP seat to their chosen favourites.

Hooray then for the Liberal Democrats managing to not only hold a proper ballot of members in the very short time between Mrs May’s U-Turn on there definitely NOT being Euro elections and the start of campaigning for those Euro elections we’re not having, but also on the members picking a hugely diverse range of candidates (even when the Party’s well-meaning if flawed efforts to fabricate-in diversity fell flat)!

Anyway, here is the late Ms Victoria Wood. (Warning: may contain SINGING!)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Day 6676: Europe: The Final Countdown. Again.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice


Happy STILL IN the European Union Day. Again. They come around so quickly, don’t they!

People keep asking me “What is going to happen about Brexit?”

To which the correct answer is “How should I know, I’m a stuffed elephant!”

But let’s give it a go.

There was exactly ONE moment when Brexit could happen, and that was 23:00 on 29 March 2019.

And it didn’t.

Entirely thanks to the ineptitude of Brexiters in and formerly-in the Cabinet demanding more unicorns and less reality in their Brexit and through the religious intransigence of Brexiters outside the Cabinet insisting that this Brexit wasn’t Brexity enough, they missed the exit.

This is undeniably good news.

Parliament, and to an extent even the Prime Monster, have looked twice into the ABYSS of “no deal” and said “no thank you very much, matey” to the death and disaster that likely would follow.

So what do we do instead.

Well, Parliament is already off on its Easter hols…

No, that’s super UNFAIR – they’ve all been working absurdly hard to try and agree on nothing, and taking time away from the bubble might clear heads and let some fresh thoughts in.

But still, this extension actually takes all the pressure OFF The Prime Monster to get her agreement signed. And equally OFF of MPs to come to any agreement for it or any other deal.

And we have seen for the last six months that if there is an option to kick the can down the road, Mrs May will punt it into the longest deepest grass she can find.

Which unfortunately gives them all time to think about doing something else instead.

The WORST that could happen would be European Parliament Elections AND a General Election AND a referendum.

So you can bet that that’s EXACTLY what’s going to happen.

With the Conservatory Party visibly self-destructing before our button eyes, it will not be long before they do something… rather rash.

Pundits saying that the Prime Monster is safe until December because of the rules of the 1922 Committee… are overlooking that the 1922 Committee can just change the rules. We’ve already had the suggestion of “Indicative Votes of No Confidence”, which would be just as lethal as the real thing if lost.

Of course, Mrs May is a past master of seeming to promise to go, only to indefinitely defer the deadline – before the 2022 election, once the agreement is passed, when the stars are right. However, the even-by-their-standards frothingly outraged reaction of her Party to having to fight the European elections suggests time is very much reaching its fullness and the appropriates of her juncture is fast approaching.

The time limit that the Prime Monster has set herself is the 30th of June, though a calamitous showing at the now-inevitable Euro elections could truncate her tenure even further.

And to be fair, not a moment too soon. She has been absolutely the worst Prime Monster since, er, the last one, who is really to blame for all this mess. But Mrs May should have gone after the unnecessary election that she lost and only the unique combination of personal mulishness and no one else wanting to be left holding the ticking timebomb let her stay. Alas for Theresa, proving that she would rather defer Brexit forever than be holding it at the moment of detonation has removed her last purpose, that of fall guy.

I actually have this notion of Theresa May that, should she be ousted either by some confected 1922 Committee mechanism internal to the Tory Party or by a Parliamentary vote of no confidence in her government… she will still be Prime Minister long enough to send a Revoke letter to the EU.

It would be a final act of petty revenge, but she’d finally be doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons.

And she would tell us, from her Downing Street podium, that – entirely correctly – she was justified in this by the House having repeatedly voted down no deal and there simply being no time to reach agreement to do anything else.

She could literally save the country to spite the ERG.

But alas, that’s really too bold, to daringly pro-active for the Theresa we’ve come to know.

Most like she’ll just slink away to her field of wheat. Or what blasted heath is left of it.

So the Conservatories will need a new lunatic to take over the asylum. And the chances are they will replace the current one with the egomaniac second only to Mr Balloon in the annals of BLAME, Boris Johnson.

Not to say they won’t move heaven and earth – more like hell and earth – to stop him getting to the final two, because if he goes before the members he will win on a manifesto of bluster blubber and betrayal.

The alternatives though are not many. Either one of the swivel-eyed band of Mogglodytes, possibly Moggy himself. If Johnson gets it, he’ll split the party in a week. If one of the ERG lot get it, they’ll split the party in under a day.

Or there are the “moderates” – the deeply unlovely betrayer of human rights, Sajid Javid or the incarnation of the Banality of Evil, Jeremy the former Hulture Secretary. Either or both hoping to play the “John Major” of this scenario – winning from out of the bland – though neither have the shining charisma or raw sexual magnetism of a John Major. And that’s saying something. They are tainted with the Remain vote, though, for all the effort they’ve put into being more right-wing-than-thou. (Which, actually, was Mr Major’s problem too – he had to out-Thatcher Thatcher, hence all the insanity from railway privatisation to Back to Bedsocks, but that was last century's Tory tragedy.)

Obviously it would be a LOT better for all of us if they decided to look for fresh blood (no, not in the Zombie Apocalypse sense) and went to a fresher face, who could actually negotiate with Europe and build a national consensus again… no, I don’t see it happening either.

They’re going to pick another loony.

And then between two and twenty of the centreerists of the Dominic Grieve flavour will cross to the TIGgers (now renamed ChUKles) and the government will fall. In fact, a SMART Tory leader would jump before pushed, calling an immediate election rather than be humiliated into one.

Which would leave us with Boris Johnson versus Jeremy Corbyn. Which Johnson would win.

That’s not to underestimate Mr Corbyn. But against a robot with a manifesto that promised a death tax on her own core vote, Mr Corbyn still only managed to drag back Labour’s performance to really very awful. He’s not going to win back the forty seats in Scotland from the SNP that he needs to be anywhere like in contention for a majority. And his equivocation on supporting a People’s Vote or a Revoke Article 50 mean he’s frittered away a lot of the goodwill of the young people who believed Magic Grandpa was playing Seven-dimensional chess to stop Brexit.

The first thing to remember is that TMPM doesn’t actually HAVE a “deal” as such at all.

What she’s got is a Withdrawal Agreement, an acknowledgement of what we need to do to settle our existing obligations – mainly pensions for UK civil servants and MEPs, and projects that we signed up to and that went ahead on the understanding we were going to contribute – so we can settle our bills on the way out the door.

The Johnsonian notion that we can walk away from the Withdrawal and let the EU “go whistle” is obviously nonsense on stilts.

The first thing we would do after quitting with “no deal” is to go to Europe to sort out our customs, defence, security, common air-travel, fisheries etc etc agreements…

And the SECOND thing we would have to do is eat copious HUMBLE PIE as they wave the Withdrawal Agreement at us with an air of “What about paying for those dumplings you had, then?”

The real “deal” is the Future Trading Relationship, whether we are in the Single Market, in the Customs Union, in a Free Trade agreement or in the DO-DO of a no deal scenario.

“No deal” is the utter severance that is yearned for by the ardent Brextremists who laugh off the fears of “experts” and warmly welcome the notion of “trading under World Trade Organisation terms”.

This is because they do not know – or care – what that really means. Or worse, they do know and plan to make a killing by shorting the pound against the collapsing British economy. What it means is tariffs, schedules and border checks. Oh my.

Tariffs are actually the LEAST of our worries. The Government laid out its plans for a lot of zero INBOUND tariffs, which might seem good for people buying things, but they cannot fix the OUTBOUND tariffs that will make selling things to other countries HARDER, and with zero tariffs in place give us nothing to negotiate with when we try to change that. Disgraced former Defence Secretary Fantastic Dr Fox will remain a useless adornment to the government. So it’s not all bad news.

The schedules, though, are a very complicated set of lists and quotas that say how much of a thing we can import at a low tariff rate, how much has to be at a high rate, or how much we cannot import at all. Britain’s are all tied up with Europe’s, so expect a big fight over what our share of the EU schedule actually is. Which will obviously be helped HUGELY by having just TICKED OFF the rest of the EU by not agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement.

But the border checks are the MOST complicated, because under WTO rules you need to prove where the things you are taking across a border came from. And not just the whole finished product, but all the bits that made it up. And all the raw materials that the bits were made from first. And you have to stop lorries and boats and planes and check the paperworks. Which takes a LONG time. At the moment, in the Single Market, we get a lorry though the port of Dover every TEN SECONDS. Just how much of a delay do you think it will need to be before those lorries start backing up along the M20? Hello carpark-Kent. Hello food shortages and soon food riots. Hello people starting to DIE from lack of medicines.

And of course any country in the World – including the twenty-seven we’ve just magnificently flicked the V’s at; including Argentina who still want the Falklands – can start a trade dispute with you. Several already have, including the biggest economies in the World, China and our supposed best buds the Americans (make that trade deal great again, the Donald). You need teams of "experts" to provide "evidence" and agree "compromise" - all the things the Quitlings hate. Your free trade quickly gets very sticky, tying you up in knots for years.

One thing we DO know about Boris, though, is that he DOESN’T LIKE HARD WORK. Work like fiddly negotiations or difficult compromises or learning a brief when a woman’s life depends on it.

So why not try this for a Boris lark. He arrives in Downing Street victorious and announces, with another turning on a dime volte-face, that Britain clearly needs to choose its destiny again and there will be another referendum. He will rise magisterially above the fray. And with that vanishes inside Number Ten to make away with the silver and the secretaries.

And with one voice the nation cries:


And so the nightmare is over. As long as Boris remembers to send the Revoke letter.

Brexit is dead. Or undead. At least until Halloween.

Now we just have to find a way to undo all the massive harms they’ve done getting us to this absolutely dead end.

Meanwhile, here is some Dr Woo…

Monday, February 18, 2019

Day 6623: Trigger the TIGgers


Hilariously, their website gives a list of their value, and only gives you the option to agree with all of them. Which, as I understand it, was their problem with Mr Corbyn. But there you go.

Let’s have a look anyway, and see what they believe in and see if we agree to tick any boxes, shall we?

Number 1:
Ours is a great country of which people are rightly proud, where the first duty of government must be to defend its people and do whatever it takes to safeguard Britain’s national security.

This is not a good start.
Leaning heavily into the nationalist, jingoist language of the Leave campaign, and subsequent government opposition love-in, and putting authoritarian “protection” as their first duty.
It’s a bizarre choice to open their manifesto rejecting Mr Corbyn’s pandering to the presumed category of “Labour-supporting white working class leave voter”… with a direct appeal to that same category.

Number 2:
Britain works best as a diverse, mixed social market economy, in which well-regulated private enterprise can reward aspiration and drive economic progress and where government has the responsibility to ensure the sound stewardship of taxpayer’s money and a stable, fair and balanced economy.

So we’re starting to see what they are doing here, which is if you want to look at the positive fluffy foot, picking and choosing values they agree with from across the political spectrum, and if you want the cynical negative fluffy foot, trying to have something that will appeal to everyone.

In this case, a typical wet centrist Tory. Wonder who they could be trying to recruit?

Number 3:
A strong economy means we can invest in our public services. We believe the collective provision of public services and the NHS can be delivered through government action, improving health and educational life chances, protecting the public, safeguarding the vulnerable, ensuring dignity at every stage of life and placing individuals at the heart of decision-making.

Now we are flashing back to core Labour belief in big government shall provide. We really are touring all the Parties, aren’t we.

Number 4:
The people of this country have the ability to create fairer, more prosperous communities for present and future generations. We believe that this creativity is best realised in a society which fosters individual freedom and supports all families.

And so, if it wasn’t for all that had come before, and the fact that obviously it’s OUR TURN, then this might be interesting – trust in people, and expressing belief in creativity through freedom. This is written to appeal to orange book Liberals

Number 5:
The barriers of poverty, prejudice and discrimination facing individuals should be removed and advancement occur on the basis of merit, with inequalities reduced through the extension of opportunity, giving individuals the skills and means to open new doors and fulfil their ambitions.

And this is a Coalition-era Cleggity interpretation of “no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. Or if you prefer “allowing everyone to get on in life”.

Number 6:
Individuals are capable of taking responsibility if opportunities are offered to them, everybody can and should make a contribution to society and that contribution should be recognised. Paid work should be secure and pay should be fair.

This is, to me, a weirdly Labour view of what Liberalism is about – note that people “SHOULD” make a contribution, and the insistence on fixing paid work. This is more derivative of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Protestant work ethic, than anything truly Liberal, in spite of the language trying to nod at freedom from poverty.

Number 7:
Our free media, the rule of law, and our open, tolerant and respectful democratic society should be cherished and renewed.

Begging the question “but how?”

These values are the bedrock and necessary foundation for a functioning democracy. The fact is we DON’T have a free media and the rule of law has been and continues to be flouted by the Leave Campaign and the May government. Tolerance and respect are not words that could describe the current political climate either.

So how do we cherish what is failing and dead?

Number 8:
We believe that our parliamentary democracy in which our elected representatives deliberate, decide and provide leadership, held accountable by their whole electorate is the best system of representing the views of the British people.

And not any more referendums!

Which is fair actually. Asserting the primacy of representative democracy really is a necessary starting point to rowing back the anything goes interpreting of the referendum outcome and Willa Thepeople populism.

But it’s not enough, given they are standing under a big slogan of “Politics is Broken. Let’s Change it”.

If the answer is “change it back to what it was before we uncorked the genii of promising millions of people their voices would be listened to” then this lot are going to make things EVEN WORSE.

Number 9:
In order to face the challenges and opportunities presented by globalisation, migration and technological advances, we believe the multilateral, international rules-based order must be strengthened and reformed. We believe in maintaining strong alliances with our closest European and international allies on trade, regulation, defence, security and counter-terrorism

Again begging the question “but how?”

Is membership of the EU are prerequisite? An option? An extra? Or ruled out?

Number 10:
As part of the global community we have a responsibility to future generations to protect our environment, safeguard the planet, plan development sustainably and to act on the urgency of climate change.

We are back to them picking up the agenda of other Parties. Just to cover their bases with any green voters they can attract

And Number 11:
Power should be devolved to the most appropriate level, trusting and involving local communities. More powers and representation should be given to local government to act in the best interests of their communities.

And so we end (on an odd number of values) with coming again to an authoritarian/Labour-eye view of what they think Liberal devolution is about.

I’d prefer to see *decisions* devolved to local government and the power given to *local people* to hold their councils accountable.

Labour has always thought they had the answers, and that anyone who questions that is a “Tory” or a “Class Traitor” or some other reason to reject having their homework marked.

So what does all this MEAN?

Well, probably NOTHING.

It’s just another flash in the pan of the febrile post-referendum, pre-Brexit fustercluck that is British politics continuing to implode under the pressure of doing something impossibly stupid in an impossibly stupid way.

The great cry of the referendum – if you can ask me to do something as moronic as to try to sum up all of the different yearnings that the vote to leave really meant – was “NOT LIKE THIS”.

(So it really should be no surprise that the only thing the House of Commons can agree on is the ridiculous Brady Amendment that says “we agree the Prime Minister’s Deal except not like this”!)

And there is just a CHANCE that BOTH Labour and Tory Parties might break up under the Brexit collapse, and that more than anything would give us the chance to change British Politics in a truly transformative way, with proportional representation and breaking up the Tory and Labour fiefdoms that mean safe seats can be given to favoured sons (and daughters, though it’s usually sons).

IF that happens, change can finally come.

THIS, though, this is not “not like THIS”. This is MORE THIS and extra custard!

This is continuity-Blairism, or more Tory-lite (all of the same policies, but you can still feel good about yourself). Tony Blair MP as anagram of I’m Tory Plan B

What it ISN’T is Liberal – there is nothing at all in their values about holding government accountable or speaking truth to power. In fact, several of them read as “power would be quite nice, thank you”.

I am happy to welcome more diversity on the political scene. But Liberal Democrats should be looking for a VERY LONG SPOON if they plan on supping with these devils.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Day 6517: DOCTOR WHO: How Many Family Dramas can you pack into one spaceship? And then eat it?


Mr Chibbers is continuing his high concept drama of “let’s prove we can do trad Doctor Who using Russell’s model.”

Russell set the standard for his revived series with present, future, past and back to the present stories. And didn’t much vary from that for four years.

So after three weeks of cracking Dr Who episodes…

the “look what effects we can do now” one,
the “moving historical” one
and the “Holy Freekin’ Giant Spiders scary” one

…the model says we should be on to the “this year’s Dalek one” one.

Oh. We’ve skipped to “The Long Game” instead.

I guess I picked the wrong week to give up not reviewing Doctor Woo...

No relation...

Actually I liked this. The design, the direction, the acting were all really good. The regulars gave us more reasons to love them. I love that the Doctor got taken down a peg for acting selfishly and took it like a woman. There was more of the Ryan/Ryan’s father backstory, nicely used, and more bonding with Graham. Yas uses a staser, drop-kicks a Pting and still somehow hasn’t had the scenes that I think she deserves.

This wasn’t outstanding.

But Doctor Who can’t always be outstanding. And already this year we’ve had the beautiful direction in “The Ghost Monument”, and the scariest scary spiders ever, in “Arachnids” and all of “Rosa”. And spellbinding writing – if not always plotting – every week. I think we can cut “average” a decent break this episode.

So, Millennium is being a bit harsh comparing “the Tsuranga Conundrum” to 2005’s under-loved “The Long Game”.

But it probably is fair to say that this is Chris Chibnall trying to show he can do Russell Davies-style “relationships” writing, in a space setting, only with a plot that actually resolves itself properly rather than pulling a deus ex machina out of its hat.

(In as much as the two perils established are the monstrous cute Pting and the remote explosion of the ship, and each turns out to be the solution to the other.)

We have:

The brother and sister who cannot tell each other they love each other because their pride is getting in the way. Complicated by the weird alien android/clone consort.

The young man having to face up to fatherhood when he thinks he’s not ready. Complicated by weird alien – and to a certain value of “hilarious” – “hilarious” biology.

The junior medic thrust into being in charge by the death of her superior, the only person who trusted her.

What we have linking them here is people doubting each other, underlined by the severe lack of trust shown by Tsuranga’s Rhesus Station who would rather kill everyone on board than risk an uncontrolled danger reaching them, and by the mentions of “dark times” in the tricky middle of the sixty-seventh century.

We also see everyone falling into worrying about their own troubles even in the face of the Pting, which is pretty much the definition of an environmental catastrophe, particularly in the confined space of the ship.

It’s a subtler metaphor for our times than last week’s Trump-lite.

As usual in Doctor Who, hard science is first to be blown out of the airlock.

You could use anti-matter for a power source, because matter + anti-matter makes a lot of boom.

But you certainly wouldn’t make it on board. Not even in a miniature CERN. In fact especially not in a miniature CERN.

Because whatever you are using to power your atom smasher must be putting at least as much power in as you’d get out from the anti-matter it creates – that’s just what E=mc2 means! – so why not just plug that directly into the drive and cut out the middle positron?

(Or, Mr Writer, you say that the anti-matter is being created from a portable rift into an anti-matter universe – and incredibly dangerous way of doing it, but one that gets you your anti-matter “for free” to fuel the matter/anti-matter reaction for the drive.)

Of course, it’s very trad Doctor Who, going right back to the years of Ian and Barbara for us to take a moment to say “so, Ian, we’re in the future, so what is this week’s science spot?”. Not to mention all those black holes, and the pop-science-inspired stories of the Seventies, from artificial intelligence to body language, and that’s just Leela’s first two adventures.

Meanwhile, the Pting appears to be able to fly through space, overtake a ship travelling (we presume from the maps) faster than the speed of light, penetrate the shields and hull, without any visible means of propulsion.

Yes, it looks a bit “Slitheen” – do not go there.

(It also appears to be bigger on the inside, from the way it swallows objects its own body size. Which suggests some seriously fan-baiting possibilities for its origins.)

But we better hope that it’s seriously blissed out from the bomb it swallowed, because booting it out an airlock (and not very far outside the Rhesus station) is not going to stop it if it can do all that.

What we do see is another example of season 37’s “villain walks away” syndrome – getting so obvious even the RadioTimes has commented on it.

Much speculation abounds that we are going to see someone from this list return as “big bad” for the season (or all of them in an Alliance of B-List Monsters to rival Moffat’s “Big Bang”!). Maybe we will.

But I’d like to suggest an alternative reading.

The Doctor’s faced adventures this year that are, more than even is usual, stamped with great big metaphors: if we skip “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, we get “Selfishness”, “Racism”, “Corruption”, and this week “Doubt” or you might prefer “the System”.

Most often in Doctor Who, the Doctor will deal with a baddie (monsters or villain) who will get their comeuppance.

But dealing with the “big issue” problems, that can be the trite answer.

By leaving our villains this year to walk away, we could be saying that look the big problem remains whether we have some false closure with this little bad guy or not. So, let’s not pretend we’ve solved something as difficult as “racism” by making sure that Rosa Parks is remembered for where she was sitting when she rode the bus.

Overall, a moderate Doctor Who episode is actually nice. It’s nice to see a TARDIS crew who are happy being there, doing what they’re doing. And a Doctor who’s enjoying being the Doctor. “That chapter in the book of celebrants. More of a volume, really.”

It’s like a return to the days of Tom Baker, when the Doctor bestrode the universe, dealing with diabolical masterminds for breakfast and just having fun with best-friend Sarah, Leela and the tin dog, or Romana. It’s like the joy is back.

Next time: we’ve seen segregation in America. Let’s try partition in India. And with more of Yas’s family, will she finally get to shine?

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Day 6516: Making the Case (Richard the Third)


We’ve been looking at Daddy Richard’s campaign to be the Lib Dem candidate in Cheadle, with his speech and literature.

But this is the MODERN age of Internets and newfanglery.

There are new ways to talk directly to the members and voters.

So, because of the low spending limit, we cut our campaign to the cloth allowed, and instead of producing a second colour leaflet, turned it into an email manifesto.

Let’s be honest, it’s a bit too long to be an email. It makes a rather better blog post… which gives me a really good idea!

Read on…

Dear Dave,

In seven words:

"Freedom, Fairness, Future. Our Shared Liberal Values."

More and more people are agreeing with me that we need a campaign built on principles not just potholes.

I've been talking with members of Cheadle Liberal Democrats about our Liberal Values, members who joined us because we took a stand, from Iraq to I.D. cards, from climate change to Brexit - and when we take a stand our values stand out.

Let me give you seven words about Cheadle that show how our values connect to people.

Freedom from illness. Fair treatment for everyone, free at the point of need, including mental health treatment. And fair taxes to pay for a Future for the NHS and social care.

This is Stepping Hill. My husband Alex was born here. I've talked with nursing staff, they are some of the most caring and dedicated people I've ever met.

But the NHS is in constant crisis and reports show Stepping Hill is failing because of short-staffing.

Stockport Together is going to be one of the first trials of bringing health and social care together. But the Care Quality Commission say that the project has been left in confusion since Labour took over. And the Labour Council have cut over £700,000 from mental health care in Stockport.

This is why it’s so important that Liberal Democrats take back control of the council.

The Freedom of living in your own home, building a Future for your family. The Fairness of affordable homes to rent or buy.

I grew up round here, moved to London for work, and came back to make a home with my husband. Four years ago this week we got married at Stockport Town Hall. That’s a very personal way that the Liberal Democrats made my life better, by changing the law so I could marry the man I love in the town we love.

Everyone should have that chance to enjoy the quality of life in the North.

But Stockport is under pressure to build new homes, pressure from the long-delayed Greater Manchester Spatial Plan and from Tory-run Cheshire East’s plans at Handforth Dean, which I've campaigned on in Bramhall. We have to talk about the Green Belt too; it so important to protect access to green spaces.

We need new solutions, new towns and green corridors. We need to build sustainable communities. And we need to build the schools, shops and services to support them.

A better Future grounded in the opportunity learning gives. A Fair deal for schools to teach and pupils to learn. Freedom to learn for life not just for tests.

I went to school here. I know Stockport has some of the best schools in the country but they’re not getting a fair share from the government’s funding formula.

Head teachers having to send out appeals for cash, teaching assistant places lost, parents having to pay for equipment. We need to fight for a fairer share.

Building a real Northern Power House for the Future where people are Free from poverty and work supports the lives they choose to live.Fair taxes that will pay for the services to support a growing creative economy.

Cheadle’s links to Stockport, Manchester and the airport give us a vibrant modern economy. But since the crash of 2008, Britain’s economy has been broken. People have been hit with inflation while wages have stagnated, and Brexit is only going to make it worse.

We should be looking to the future, thinking about the creative economy and the green economy. How we will enable people to switch to clean electric cars, where that electricity will come from, and how Stockport to take a lead in achieving a Zero Carbon Britain.

Liberals have had a great story on the economy, from free trade to the People’s Budget. Now we have to develop a new Liberal economic story, based on shared ownership and co-operation, that will give people hope for a better future.

Freedom to be who you want to be. Fairness in equal treatment in work, in law, in life. A Future where no one is enslaved by conformity.

This is Stockport's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (or just LGBT) Pride, with my friend Holly who helped me organise the Lib Dem presence there. As a member of LGBT+ Lib Dems exec, I’ve been so proud of the work the Lib Dems here have done, from attending Stockport Pride to passing a motion in council of support for Bi-Visibility Day.

Liberal Democrats are great at community politics, and that's why Cheadle has such a wide range of communities: from Zumba classes to the scouts and cadets. From local businesses to neighbourhood watch. Mosque and synagogue, temple and church. Our work can help them all.

But Britain has never felt more divided, with populist politicians blaming migration for the outcome of their own years of neglect.

I remember the way gay people were targeted in the 1980’s, with Section 28 and James Anderton, then Manchester's Chief Constable, treating gay people shamefully. Now the Jewish community, Muslims and trans people are all under attack. That’s why I’ll speak up, to stop it happening again.

We need to work with our community to come together and heal the divisions, so that people once again feel proud of the rights and freedoms that come with being British.

The Freedom to enjoy our shared spaces and shared activities. A Fair sharing of jobs between council and country and continent. A Future that everyone can enjoy in their own way.

Liberal Democrats have made a difference here. It's worth mentioning that we do get the potholes fixed. Just ask anyone the difference between Stockport's roads and Manchester's.

We need to be in the Council to make people's lives better in the streets where they live. Whether it's a stolen bin or a question about a home care plan or the smell from Adswood tip. (And I've helped people with all those things.)

We need to be in Parliament too, to tackle the national issues, like the economy, like crime, like Brexit too.

And we need to be in Europe if we're going to deal with the global challenges of climate change and globalisation.

Defending the Freedoms that we won through being in Europe. Demanding Fairness for both 52% and 48%. Looking to the Future of the country beyond Brexit.

We still believe that the freedom to trade and travel, to live, learn and love make membership of the EU something we should embrace.

Democracy depends on people speaking out, it’s why we have an Opposition whose job is supposed to be to do that. That's why Labour are letting the country down. That's why Lib Dems need to stand up for our values.
Cheadle voted to remain in the EU so we have a democratic duty to represent those voices.

Cheadle has seven letters and seven wards. Over the last three years, I have canvassed and delivered in all seven wards in Cheadle constituency, including Heald Green, where I've delivered rounds, knocked doors and spent time with members of the Cheadle Muslim Association.

I have campaigned with Graham and Iain and Keith in Cheadle and Gatley. With Claire in Cheadle Hulme North. With Grace in Stepping Hill. I have canvassed with Helen and Suzanne and Mark and delivered up and down Turves Road in Cheadle Hulme South. On top of that I am Chair of the Bramhall Branch and alongside Jeremy have driven the campaigning in Bramhall North and Bramhall South.

And I've helped out in Manchester Gorton, and I stood in Macclesfield - and that is how I was able to bring people back to Cheadle to help here.

I believe we cannot just fall back on defending the wards we hold. Only working in silos. We need a 7-ward strategy. Or given the possible boundary changes a 10-ward strategy - and we should be campaigning all the way from Bramhall to Heaton Moor.

We are Liberal Democrats. We believe in reaching outward. That makes us stronger.

I believe, if we talk about our values, we can win here again.

If you believe too, please give me your 1st Preference to be your next Lib Dem MP.

Thank you


Remember: your chance to hear from the candidates and have your say on who will be Cheadle’s next Lib Dem MP will be

October 29, 7:00 pm

Ford’s Lane Evangelical Church,
11a Ford’s Lane,

I hope to see you there.

As I say, that’s too long REALLY. And would have been better as a series, or as pages on our website or Facebook page.

If you live in London – or even just know any of our potential candidates there – you’ll have seen the EXTENSIVE use of the SOCIAL MEDIA that is being made, so it might be a surprise to you to learn that for Cheadle we were told we couldn’t use it. Or rather we couldn’t use it for anything that identified us as a candidate in the selection, but could for “ordinary political activity”.

And for direct communication, we were allowed a whole TWO emails to the members, which we had to send to the RO first to send them out via the local party’s Nation Builder. We were not to email anyone ourselves unless they emailed us first.

Anyone who has read any Mark Pack will know that this is going to lose you sight of important ways to interact with your correspondents – who opens the email, who clicks on any links and who you can feed back to with more info if they want.

So I think that our selection rules – or the interpretation of them – are going to need some updating here, because we have seen how our rival Parties, particularly in Labour, have made a huge use of Internet campaigning, with HootTube videos and Faceache pages. If our selections are preventing potential candidates showing they are good at these things, we are going to end up being left behind by the votes as Internet dinosaurs.

If you DO find yourself in a selection, DO make sure of your RO’s interpretation of the rules, and press them to make definitive statements at the beginning. Because there is nothing more DERAILING than having to deal with rulings two or three weeks into a campaign demanding you take down parts of your campaign in order to level the playing field with people who haven’t produced material for the modern age.

Labour and Tories are not give us that kind of break. We need to “demand better” from our selection campaigns.