Autumn = Party Conferences
For Keats, Autumn was the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, but for politicians it is the season of party conferences. The Meteorological Office defines Autumn as beginning on 1st October each year – but it does not yet feel like Autumn here in London – but it is beginning to feel like “Party Conference Season”.
MP’s are returning from their Summer Holiday destinations (perhaps somewhat disgruntled that Sterling has fallen quite significantly against the US Dollar and the Euro – as a consequence of the Brexit Vote).
The House of Commons will sit at 2.30 pm on 5th September 2016 for a short session which will end on 15th September 2016 when the House will rise for the Party Conferences Recess – not to sit again until 10th October 2016. There are usually discussions between the parties about timing and this year’s timetable is:-
- Green Party of England and Wales – Friday 2 September to Sunday 4 September 2016 at the University of Birmingham
- UKIP – Thursday 15 to Saturday 17 September at the Bournemouth International Centre, Bournemouth
- Liberal Democrats – Saturday 17 September to Wednesday 21 September at the Brighton Centre, Brighton
- Labour – Sunday 25 September to Wednesday 28 September 2016 at the ACC Liverpool, Liverpool
- Conservatives – Sunday 2 to Wednesday 5 October at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham
- Scottish National Party – Thursday 13 to Saturday 15 October at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow
A party in Government tries to manage the short pre-conference House of Commons session to avoid anything which might have a negative impact at Conference and, no doubt, the Prime Minister and her Cabinet will have the Party Conference very much in mind.
That is why the Prime Minister convened a special cabinet meeting at Chequers apparently in two parts; the first dealing with Brexit progress and the second (without civil servants present) discussing the forthcoming conference and other political issues.
On 30th August the Financial Times had this: “May rules out early UK election and second EU vote – Prime minister will give parliament ‘a say’ on Brexit process”. The article by the FT’s Chief Political Correspondent was based on a briefing by the PM’s spokesman and included this:-
“While MPs will not be given the chance to block Brexit, parliament will be given “a say” on the process, according to the Number 10 spokesman. But he refused to say whether MPs would be given a vote in the Commons on triggering Article 50. There was no legal obligation to consult parliament before initiating the process, he said. “When parliament will have a say will be something that will be resolved over the coming months,” the spokesman said.
Well, the PM’s spokesman would say that, but the High Court is due to hear argument in October about whether a vote in Parliament is a necessary preliminary to commencement of the Article 50 Brexit process.
Swivel Eyed Loons
The Guardian has a rather good piece from 2013: “How to spot a swivel-eyed loon“. It is quite a good description of that faction of the Conservative Party who caused Sir John Major so much difficulty over Maastrict, who plagued David Cameron throughout his premiership and now seem set to cause as many problems as possible for Teresa May.
Some background to the use of the expression is to be found on this reference on the Virtual Stoa blog: A Short History of Swivel-Eyed Loons and, indeed, the piece specifically refers to John Redwood MP:
And it’s in the early 1990s that the word more or less attaches itself to a certain kind of Tory politician. In fact, we can be more specific: John Redwood is clearly the key figure here. When he was first appointed to the Cabinet in the May 1993 reshuffle, an unnamed and disgruntled Tory politician said, “we want fewer swivel-eyed ideologues not more”
Peter Lillie MP is another SEL who, as recently as 1st September 2016, had this piece in the Telegraph: “Peter Lilley: I’m still a ‘bastard’ but I’m not a troublemaker over Europe” and he was still pontificating in the Torygraph on 31st August: “We should seize the benefits of Brexit sooner rather than later”.
As one might expect, Lillie says nothing about the economic effects of Brexit. One must hope that saner minds, such as the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will understand that the referendum vote to leave the EU was not an instruction to bankrupt the country.
Also yesterday, the Guardian managed a report on comments by Nigel Lawson, the former Conservative Chancellor and now an ennobled and geriatric Tory grandee: Brexit talks: PM warned not to try to ‘negotiate the unnegotiable’. It is unclear whether Lord Lawson, was interviewed in England or from his retirement home in Gascony. At least the Guardian included some sensible observations from Anna Soubry including this:-
“The former business minister Anna Soubry, who is backing Open Britain, the relaunched remain campaign Britain Stronger in Europe, put the case for continuing access to the single market and the free movement of labour: “For me the priorities are first of all access to the single market. It is absolutely critical for British business,” she told Today”.
According to the Times: “May pledges to restrict EU migrants after Brexit“. The Financial Times sees this as appeasement: “Theresa May appeases Conservative party with stance on Brexit – The decision to focus on migration controls is right politically, writes Sebastian Payne“. The Telegraph has this: “Why Liam Fox could blow apart Theresa May’s premiership“.
In reality it is not the Conservative Party which is being appeased, but the minority of Swivel Eyed Loons who infest the Parliamentary Party.
Electoral Reform Society Report
The Electoral Reform Society has done some research on recent referenda and has now published an interesting report: IT’S GOOD TO TALK – Doing referendums differently after the EU vote. It is worth reading and the Guardian has published this piece on the findings: “Electoral reform campaigners slam ‘dire’ EU referendum debate – ERS finds ‘glaring democratic deficiencies’ in run-up to Brexit vote, with public ‘feeling totally ill-informed’”
It appears from the Report that the EU Referendum campaign was badly presented on both sides in marked contrast to the Scottish Referendum. As the Guardian puts it:-
The report confirms many of the criticisms made at the time of the referendum campaign – that it was too negative and voters were left feeling they did not know the facts. It found that, despite high levels of interest throughout the campaign, “people felt consistently ill-informed” and “many people simply did not trust the veracity of certain claims made by both sides”.
The Telegraph has this: “David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn made more people likely to vote Leave at EU referendum, report finds“.
These findings seem to strengthen the case for a vote in Parliament on the leave/remain issues before the government proceeds to invoke the Article 50 process.