A Softer Brexit Approach?

A Brexiteer Own Goal 

leadsomThe Independent has this: “Brexit: Andrea Leadsom’s calls for broadcasters to be more patriotic branded ‘sinister’ by Tim Farron – This isn’t a George Orwell book. She needs to apologise for these comments and realise what she said was frankly stupid“.

The article has an embedded video of the exchange between Ms Leadsom, prominent in the Leave Campaign and presently the Conservative Leader of the House of Commons, and Ms Emily Maitlis,  the very effective BBC Newsnight presenter.

The Wikipedia page for Ms Leadsom shows that she read Political Science at Warwick University.  One might have expected that her studies would have included something about how dictators seek to control the media and why that is unacceptable in  a democracy.  Perhaps she  also missed out on the aphorism of  Dr Johnson recorded by Boswell as having been pronounced on 7th April 1775:-

patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel“.

timesbrexitclownsIt is certainly arguable that the Leave Campaign in the EU Referendum was designed and led by scoundrels, a fair number of whom now infest the Wicked Witch’s unstable government.  Special mention should be made of  Mrs May’s “Brexit Clowns” – David Davis,  Boris Johnson and Liam Fox bu there others – including Mrs Leadsom.

Where do we go from here?

The Independent has this: “Hard Brexit under threat as MPs from all parties plan alliance to defeat Theresa May’s plans – ‘Certainly, the threat of losing a vote will weigh very heavily on the Government’s mind,’ says Tory MP Anna Soubry“.

Also this: “Brexit: Labour MPs back ex-Tory minister in key post to block arch-Leaver Jacob Rees Mogg – Ex-minister Nicky Morgan has been a vocal critic of Theresa May’s hard Brexit“.

The Conservative Home site has this very sensible post from Mohammed Amin, the Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum: “Mohammed Amin: The Government should now agree a Brexit position with other parties and the devolved administrations“.

UKIP2Unfortunately, the 243 comments thus far posted show how far the party activists are against such a proposal.  The voices are those of the new “Royston Vasey (Conservative) and UKIP” party.  It is unfortunate that Mr Cameron even called a referendum to placate the Brexit loons on the Conservative benches.  So Mrs May well need a cross party approach.

The Guardian has this editorial:  “The Guardian view on Brexit: Wrong then, wrong now, wrong in the future – Twelve months after the EU referendum, Theresa May’s latest Brussels trip reveals that the EU is leaving Britain behind, not the other way round“.

The Times has this leading article: “Sovereign Wealth – One year after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, voters are unconvinced of the government’s approach. A strong economy should be the priority“.

Ed West has this in The Spectator: “13 things we have learnt about Britain since the EU Referendum

The Economist has this: “Why May will have to compromise on Brexit – Negotiations begin in a very different political context“.

ww-westminsterAll of these pieces suggest that the Wicked Witch is going to have to prioritise a softer approach to the Brexit issue.  Time alone will tell whether she can achieve this by running a minority government infested with so many Brexiteers.

But if she is not up to it, both she and her party should take note of the latest polling.  The Independent has this:  “Jeremy Corbyn overtakes Theresa May for first time in poll as Labour leader becomes favourite for Prime Minister“.





The Conservative Nightmare


The Wicked Witch and the Nasty Party

Teresa May – The Wicked Witch of Westminster

Once upon a time, many years ago, the good people of Chingford (a safe Conservative seat) elected one Ian Duncan Smith (“IDS”) to be their Member of Parliament on the retirement of Norman Tebbit.  IDS was an obnoxious Eurosceptic who had become a constant thorn in the side of the 1992 – 1997 John Major Government.  In 2001 he became Leader of the Opposition and he held that post until 2003 when he was replaced by the even more obnoxious Michael Howard.

Teresa May (aka “The Wicked Witch of Westminster”) entered Parliament in 1997 and served in the shadow cabinets of Messrs Hague, Duncan Smith and Michael Howard and between 2002 and 2003 she was Conservative Party Chairman.

As this Guardian article reminds us: “‘Nasty party’ warning to Tories” it was at the 2002 Conservative Party Conference that the Wicked Witch announced to the conference hall:-

You know what some people call us: the nasty party

After the 2010 General Election,  the Wicked Witch served as Home Secretary from 2010-2016 and became Prime Minister on 11th July 2016 after the resignation of David Cameron.

Why the Wicked Witch is Anti-Immigrant

may99This October 2014 Guardian piece by Richard Seymour is worth a read: “Why is there so much hostility to immigrants in the UK ?

He makes the valid point that many British are anti-immigrant because they (wrongly) think that immigrants deprive them of their rights.   Politicians,  particularly Conservatives and,  of late UKIP, played  to that sentiment  but this is nothing new.  It has been a Conservative practice for many years.  See this Guardian Article:  Britain’s most racist election: the story of Smethwick, 50 years on

See also this October 2015 Economist article: “Theresa May’s baseless blast against immigration – A flagging leadership contender makes a pitch to the Tory party’s right“.

Likewise in 2016 the Guardian had this reminder of how awful the Wicked Witch was as Home Secretary: “What does Theresa May’s record as home secretary tell us? – While the new prime minister made a stirring call for equality in her first speech, her years at the Home Office hint at someone cavalier about civil liberties and quick to evade responsibility when it suited her”  which makes these points in particular:-

  • Her six years at the Home Office were marked by an instinctive secrecy, a talent for “going missing” or delegating when things went wrong, and a too careless approach to civil liberties.
  • Her capacity to make herself scarce at key moments of political danger peaked during the referendum campaign. Her minimal public contribution not only failed to defend her record on immigration but instead focused on her personal pledge to withdraw from the European convention on human rights to demonstrate that she was a wafer-thin remainer.
  • May has made denouncing the Human Rights Act and demanding Britain’s withdrawal from the European convention on human rights a major theme of her Tory party conference speeches while she was home secretary.
  • During her only press questioning after her only leadership campaign speech she appeared to drop this hardline stance but was in fact careful only to say that “no parliamentary majority exists for it”. That means she is likely to go into the next election pledged to Britain’s withdrawal from the European convention on human rights – which would leave Britain as the only European country in the same position as the pariah state of Belarus.

In March 2017 the New Statesman’s Stephen  Bush had this: “One good thing about Brexit: the end of “honest conversations” about immigration – Even Theresa May won’t promise lower immigration now“.

  • Regular readers will know that I am not optimistic about the Brexit process, but one unalloyed good is that time is running out for May and the rest of the “we need an honest conversation about immigration” brigade.
  • Most ministers now have to lobby for greater migration to keep their budgets in control, instead of nodding to anti-immigrant sentiment in the Conservative grassroots.
  • If you reduce immigration to the “tens of thousands”, as May notionally wants to do, now that Britain is leaving the European Union, you can do that but the bad news is that large numbers of people – let’s face it, large numbers of women in the main – will have to give up full time work to care for their elderly relatives.

Poor Stephen!  He underestimates just how nasty the Wicked Witch can be when it comes to immigration issues.

The Independent had this in February 2017:  “Brexit could prompt human rights crisis, lawyers warn – Open letter says Prime Minister must not be allowed to use leaving the EU as an excuse to also exit the European Convention on Human Rights“.  This should be required reading for every Conservative.

On 20th April 2017 the Independent had this: “Theresa May’s ‘poisonous propaganda’ about immigrants fuels violent hate crime, says Tim Farron – The Lib Dem leader accuses the Prime Minister of ‘feeding the lie’ that immigrants are a drain on the country“.

On 6th June 2017 the Torygraph Telegraph had this: “Theresa May: I’ll tear up human rights laws so we can deport terrorists” together with a video of her speech.

More soberly the Financial Times (£) had this by David Allen Green: “Theresa May and the politics of denouncing human rights law

On 17th June 2017 the Torygraph Telegraph had this comment by James Kirkup: “Theresa May’s immigration speech is dangerous and factually wrong – The Home Secretary is fanning the flames of prejudice in a cynical attempt to become Conservative leader“.

After David Cameron’s resignation, the Conservative Parliamentary Party started its process for electing a new leader.  The present “Father of the House” Kenneth Clarke was caught on camera discussing possible candidates with a colleague, Sir Malcolm Rifkind – see this Guardian article: “Ken Clarke caught on camera ridiculing Conservative leadership candidates – Clarke says Theresa May is ‘bloody difficult’ and claims Michael Gove would ‘go to war with at least three countries at once’“.

Conservative Nightmare

To describe the Wicked Witch as merely “bloody difficult” was. of course, the sort of understatement one might expect from a gentleman.   The nightmare for Conservatives is that after two years with the Wicked Witch as Prime Minister, our economy will be wrecked, our human rights emasculated and the Conservative Party rendered unelectable for a generation.

Some Conservatives are Worried

Just four days ago,  Tim Montgomerie, the creator of the influential Conservative Home blog, and a former comment editor at The Times wrote this for the London Evening Standard “Tim Montgomerie on Brexit talks: We need a new PM before we get too far in – The Tories need a new team, not just  a new leader, to stop the onward march  of Jeremy Corbyn“.

Over on the Conservative Home site Paul Goodman has been running a series of posts with something similar: “42 per cent and no majority 3) May should send for winners, having not won herself – and call in the Vote Leave team“.

Conservatives are right to be concerned.  The Evening Standard has this: “Jeremy Corbyn overtakes Theresa May for first time in poll as Labour leader becomes favourite for Prime Minister

The YouGov report is here: “Majority favour pushing on with Brexit – but many are tempted by a softer path – More than a third of Brits think the result of the election makes a good Brexit deal less likely




The Wicked Witch – Lame Duck


It has been impossible to post anything to this blog for the last few days.   Our internet service provider (“ISP”) has one of those dreadful call centres which provides revolting popular “music”  down the phone lines instead of actually answering the call and dealing with the problem.

Mind you, most UK utility companies behave rather like the Conservative Party.

State Opening of Parliament  21 June 2017

HM Queen
HM The Queen at a State Opening of Parliament

Our Sovereign Lady the Queen went to Parliament yesterday morning to read the speech (written by Teresa May)  setting  out the Wicked Witch of Westminster’s legislative programme for the next two years.   However, this was not the state occasion to which we have become accustomed. Much of the pomp & circumstance was dispensed with.  There was no carriage procession to the Parliament,  there were no royal robes, HM The Queen did not wear her Crown.

This report in the Daily Mirror  asserted that the unedifying  mess of a semi -state opening” was caused by the Wicked Witch of Westminster, Teresa May,  because:

  1. she pressed on with the speech despite not winning an overall majority in the general election;
  2. she had to drop many Tory manifesto plans because they wouldn’t survive a rebellion from her own MPs; and
  3. she delayed the speech for the first time in nearly 100 years as she struggled to form a power deal with Northern Ireland’s right-wing DUP (which, as yet, is not concluded).

The Independent has this: “Queen’s Speech: Dennis Skinner jokes ‘get your skates on’ to Black Rod ‘the first race is at half past two’” a reference to the fact that HM the Queen had had to take time out from Ascot for the convenience of the Wicked Witch.

The Independent also has this: “Queen’s Speech: Brexit dominates Theresa May’s legislative agenda with eight bills planned – Crunch votes loom on crucial aspects of EU withdrawal, including immigration and future trading arrangements

Also this: “Corbyn is primed to play politics after an embarrassingly threadbare Queen’s Speech for Theresa May – May mishandled negotiations with the DUP, arrogantly assuming on the morning after her election disaster that a deal would easily be done. She should have known that a hardline party like the DUP would play hardball. Now the clock is ticking on whether this speech will manage to get through Parliament“.

trumpvstoadPerhaps the one good thing was that there was no mention in the speech from the throne of a state visit by Donald Trump (aka “Mr Toad”).  Hopefully, that may mean that Her Majesty and her subjects are to be spared that embarrassment.

Fall-Out from the Speech from The Throne -22 June 2016

The Conservative Home site has a post by Paul Goodman: “May’s Calendar Girl Queen’s Speech” with this assessment of the Wicked Witch’s position

ww-westminsterA pessimist – no, we will declare our hand: a realist – would reply that the Government has no majority; most Conservative MPs believe the Prime Minister should leave Number Ten before the next election; there is no obvious successor; Cabinet discipline is breaking down after a period of excessive restraint; Ministers’ Brexit negotiating position is weaker; a collapse in Tory confidence has left the Government with no coherent economic plan; fewer bills should not be confused with an inability to carry them through Parliament and that, whatever the Fixed Terms Act may say, administrations that go adrift tend to float towards the rocks – these being, in this case, another election.  Oh, and the Party Chairman who presided over the worst Tory campaign in modern times is back at CCHQ.”

There were this interesting responses from readers:-

  • I still think she’s being given an criticism-free ride by the cabinet to get Brexit properly sorted before leaving to a secretly agreed timetable. It’s surely the only reason surely she’s not being challenged or openly criticised. It’s a genuine shame what happened and I like her style but that doesn’t detract from the election campaign and the last couple of weeks being an utter shambles.”
  • For God`s sake think again on Brexit – the vast majority of the country does not want Jeremy Corbyn in but with Brexit being rammed down the collective throat of business,  families, the exchequer,  Liberal opinion and the majority who now say they DO want a second referendum what could be worse ?  Offer something to remain.  I warn you now if the Conservative Party lacks the ability to adjust now it deserves to die and a perfect storm is brewing of an angry betrayed country who will not blame themselves they will blame the Conservative Party.  It was tempting of course to abandon Liberal moderates for new UKIP friends but it was an explosive act of arrogance that may plunge this country into night. Does anyone seriously think with more cuts and worse news to come that this is going to get better, what on earth will it be like out of the EU ?”

The Daily Mail has this: “Scots could derail May’s Brexit Bill: PM faces ‘legislative war’ as diehard Remainers vow to fight her ‘every step of the way’ after she admits Holyrood may have to give ‘consent’ for her plan“.

The Torygraph Telegraph has this: “Theresa May faces constitutional crisis as Labour and Lib Dems vow to vote down manifesto pledges ‘which failed to gain public support’

YouGov, which successfully predicted a hung parliament has two interesting poll results:

The Guardian has this by Rafael Behr: “The Queen’s speech has made Brexit Britain an international laughing stock – The world looks on aghast at a once highly regarded country affirming this tragic folly with all the state pomp and pageantry it can muster

Also this splendid cartoon by Martin Rowson:  “The Brexit Negotiations Begin“.

Is a hard Brexit now less likely?

Grenfell Tower Tragedy

Today, Brexit issues are not making the front pages.  Instead, the newspapers and the broadcasters are concerned with something much more serious.

Grenfell Tower was a 27 story building in North Kensington comprising 120 flats with a total number of inhabitants estimated at between 400 and 600 people and managed by the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation on behalf of the local authority.  It had recently been refurbished.  It caught fire and it is feared that there have been many casualties.

towerThe Torygraph Telegraph has this: “‘How the hell could it happen?’: how newspapers reacted to Grenfell Tower tragedy” with a selection of photographs of the front pages of other newspapers.  The Guardian has this: “‘Disaster waiting to happen’: fire expert slams UK tower blocks – Architect Sam Webb says breaches of fire safety standards in UK are common and lessons from Lakanal House have not been learned

  • “A disaster waiting to happen,” is how the architect and fire expert Sam Webb describes hundreds of tower blocks across the UK, after the fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington that has left at least six people dead. “We are still wrapping postwar high-rise buildings in highly flammable materials and leaving them without sprinkler systems installed, then being surprised when they burn down.”
  • Webb surveyed hundreds of residential tower blocks across the country in the early 1990s and presented a damning report to the Home Office, which revealed that more than half of the buildings didn’t meet basic fire safety standards. He said: “We discovered a widespread breach of safety, but we were simply told nothing could be done because it would ‘make too many people homeless’.

All the Home Secretaries from 1990 to 1997 were Conservatives.  No doubt the present successor of  Sir Humphrey Appleby at the Home Office will be hard at work preparing a brief for Home Office ministers seeking to explain why the Home Office cannot be blamed for the tragedy.  That might be quite difficult.

The Sun has this: “Theresa May orders emergency meeting to co-ordinate response to the Grenfell Tower block fire as questions mount over former Housing Minister’s delays to fire safety report“.

  • Mr Barwell (now Mrs May’s Chief of Staff) was the minister responsible for a review into fire safety in high rise buildings and told MPs in October that the government had “committed ourselves” to one. 
  • But nothing had been produced by the time Theresa May called a snap election in April. The review had already been on hold for a number of years.

The Daily Mail has this: “Fears for other towers dressed in ‘curtain walling’: Cladding company has covered six other ageing blocks in panels ‘that went up like a matchstick’ in London ALONE

  • Doomed Grenfell Tower was equipped with cladding by East Sussex-based company Harley Facades in 2016
  • It has since come to light that the firm used a similar aluminium composite material to clad several high rises
  • Four 23-storey tower blocks in Camden and a 23-storey block with 115 flats in Newham refurbished by the firm.

Until the Fire Brigade has made a complete search of the Grenfell Tower site which may take several days, the potential death toll remains uncertain.  But the Brigade has stated that it does not expect to find anyone still alive.

This is an event which is going to impact on local government in Kensington & Chelsea, but also on the national government’.

Inquests, prosecutions, civil litigation will follow this disaster as night follows day.   The Borough, the Managing Entity, the architects and the companies involved in the cladding of the tower are no doubt lining up their defence teams.

The Evening Standard has this: “Lawyers rally to offer free help to Grenfell Tower residents with compensation claims

ww-westminsterIt also looks as if the workings of the Home Office in relation to fire safety standards for tower blocks are going to be under close examination and, of course,  the Wicked Witch was previously Home Secretary.

The Independent has this: “Grenfell Tower fire is ‘corporate manslaughter’ and arrests must be made, MP David Lammy says – ‘We should call it what it is, it’s corporate manslaughter, that’s what it is and there should be arrests made, frankly,’ the Tottenham MP said“.

However, the Independent now also has this: “Grenfell Tower fire: Police open criminal investigation into blaze that killed 17 as fears grow death toll could reach 100 – Search for the victims could take ‘months’“.

The Evening Standard reports: Theresa May announces full public inquiry into Grenfell Tower tragedy“.

  • Theresa May today announced a judge-led public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.
  • Anger grew today over the fire safety failures, with the Government itself facing questions over why measures proposed following a fire in Camberwell, south London, in 2009 where not fully implemented.

All too often a public enquiry is ordered by a government to kick an inconvenient or embarrassing issue into the long grass.  However, it does not seem that the tactic will necessarily work in this case.

Hard or Soft Brexit

The Independent has this: “David Cameron and Ken Clarke join Tory heavyweights urging Theresa May to abandon hard Brexit stance – Interventions come as Chancellor Philip Hammond is believed to be pushing to keep Britain inside the EU’s customs union“.

Also this: “Theresa May is now almost as unpopular as pre-campaign Jeremy Corbyn, finds YouGov poll – In the space of a week, Theresa May has become almost as unpopular as Jeremy Corbyn once was

Yesterday the Evening Standard had this: “Deal for soft Brexit moves closer amid cross-party support“.

The May government has just announced to the Press Association, that the State Opening of Parliament and Queen’s Speech will be on Wednesday, June 21st.  That suggests that Teresa May is fairly confident of a deal with the DUP Ulster Unionists.  However, there may be a problem:  If the DUP is asking for more central government funding in Ulster, that may have Barnett Formula consequences for other devolved administrations.

The Sun has this: “Chancellor and other top Tories urge Theresa May to put jobs before immigration in talks – Chancellor Philip Hammond joined forces with Home Secretary Amber Rudd to demand the weakened PM prioritise jobs over tough immigration control“.   The article asserts that the Chancellor will say as much in his forthcoming Mansion House speech (However, since that article, Mr Hammond has signalled that he will not be at the Mansion House – and the event has been cancelled).

The Mail, however, has this: “Ministers ‘will quit’ if Brexit is watered down: Top Tories warn May not to give in to Hammond on softer deal“:-

timesbrexitclownsA senior Tory source said at least three Cabinet ministers were prepared to quit if the Prime Minister bowed to the demands of her Chancellor. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has told friends his job would be pointless if the UK stayed inside the customs union.

It probably did not occur to the scribblers at the Daily Mail that the resignation of Messrs Davis, Johnson and Fox might be the best thing they could do for the country.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori 

The Spectator has this by Hugo Rifkind: “The Tories’ real problem is that they are now seen as reckless gamblers – The Conservatives went into this election bereft of their usual USP. They were not a safe pair of hands“.

  • The Conservatives were not conservative. They were not a safe pair of hands. That normal vibe the Tories exude of ‘you don’t need to love us, but at least we can hold stuff together’ was missing the entire last part. They were not, in a nutshell, a safe and lazy vote for the risk-averse. Nobody was. And thus, in an election with only mad, risky shit on offer, there was simply no particular reason for the electorate to choose the particular mad, risky shit that was wearing a blue rosette.
  • To grasp this, you do not need to believe that Brexit will inevitably be a disaster. Even I don’t believe that Brexit will inevitably be a disaster. (Only probably.) You simply need to accept that there’s a risk it might be….Like independence for Scotland, it seemed to me to be a major, apocalyptic act of political irresponsibility. Worse than that, an act of political callousness — a risky gamble made by people who can afford to lose, but with the costs to be borne by people who cannot.

The Evening Standard has this:  “Brexit poll: Britons call on Theresa May to change course on EU after election defeat

The Independent has this: “This is Theresa May’s chance to rescue social justice and a softer Brexit from the election wreckage – The election was, in part, an instruction to strike a different balance in talks with Brussels “.

We can only wait and see.



A Softer Brexit ?

Confidence & Supply

theresa-may-speechThe outcome of the 2017 UK General Election was that no party obtained a sufficient number of seats in the House of Commons to govern on its own.  When that  happens there are two established ways of enabling a government to be formed without a re-run of the election:  (i) the greater is a coalition between two or more parties; (ii) the lesser is  an agreement with another party or even just a few MP’s for “confidence and supply”.

Coalitions tend to be reserved for times of great national crisis:  May 1915, December 1918, October 1931, November 1935, and May 1940.  The most recent was the 2010 coalition between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.   However, exceptionally the 2010 coalition was not the result of any national crisis but of a convergence of political views.  Confidence and supply agreements are needed where no party has a sufficient number of seats to form a stable government.  See this Wikipedia article: Confidence & Supply.

The Independent has this: “Teresa May signals austerity is over and overhaul of Brexit plans“.

The Torygraph Telegraph has this: “Government prepared to work with Labour on Brexit, says Michael Gove, as PM and DUP in crunch talks” also this:  “What are confidence and supply deals and what does the DUP want?

The Guardian has this: “Tories may have to ease austerity plans, says Michael Gove – Lack of majority means government will need to compromise on public services and Brexit, environment secretary says“.

ww-westminsterA confidence and supply agreement with the Ulster Democratic and Unionist Party may be reached today.  It is needed if the Wicked Witch’s Government is to survive.  She is 8 votes short of a majority.  Therefore the 10 votes the DUP could bring to the table are the key to the Government staying in power.  Obviously there will be a price to pay.  There is a meeting under way at 10 Downing Street this morning.

Hard or Soft Brexit

Paul Goodman has this on the influential Conservative Home site: “DExEU alert klaxon“. Key points:-

  • The Brexit negotiations begin in five days time.
  • The  political team in the Department for Exiting the European Union – David Davis, George Bridges, David Jones and Robin Walker  was balanced in terms of attitudes to the EU: Bridges was a Remainer, Jones a Leaver.   Over the weekend, Bridges resigned.  And now Jones has suddenly been fired.  Joyce Anelay is Bridges’ replacement.
  • Today’s papers are bristling with stories of Cabinet-level plots to water down the manifesto position on Brexit and keep Britain as a Single Market member and in the customs union.

The Spectator article referred to in the post is here: “George Bridges resigns as Brexit minister – has the unravelling begun?

The Spectator also has this: “Michael Gove signals a shift on the government’s Brexit stance“.

  • Gove made it clear that the final deal needs to gain the ‘broadest possible level of public confidence’. He also refused to rule out a cross-party Brexit commission. This is a good move and also a shrewd political step for the Tories, allowing them not to be forced to own the Brexit process entirely on their own – particularly wise if things start going pear-shaped given the government’s now perilous position.
  • One of the frustrations voters had with Theresa May was her refusal to spell out what Brexit means Brexit actually meant (This was made worse by her subsequent insistence that she had explained exactly what it meant).
  • Yet now the Tories have blown their majority, their only option is to seek out a consensus on Brexit. This is one outcome from last week’s election that we should warmly welcome.

The Telegraph has this: “Tory and Labour MPs plot secret deal to ensure soft Brexit” (£) –

  • Senior Cabinet ministers are engaged in secret talks with Labour MPs to secure cross-party backing for a soft Brexit, it has emerged.
  • Some of the most senior members of Theresa May’s team have been discussing how to force the Prime Minister to make concessions on immigration, the customs union and the single market.
  • There have also been discussions of a cross-party Brexit Commission to agree common ground between the parties and ensure an orderly withdrawal from the EU.

The Guardian has this on Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories: “Ruth Davidson is playing the long game. Her influence can help soften Brexit – The Scottish Conservative leader is a pragmatist, unburdened by policy detail, at ease in her skin and she has charm and political instinct that could take her far

  • Davidson believes that Europe should stay together and that single market membership is the best option for the Scottish economy. Given that the SNP has been demanding Scotland stay in the single market post-Brexit, it will do her no harm if she can be seen to have softened the UK government line.

The Independent has this: “Election 2017: Teresa May should admit result is a rejection of hard Brexit, says EU negotiator – “I hope the negotiating position will be more in line with the will and the interests of the British Citizens“.

The Independent also has this editorial: “This is Theresa May’s chance to rescue social justice and a softer Brexit from the election wreckage – The election was, in part, an instruction to strike a different balance in talks with Brussels“.

The Evening Standard has this from the Prime Minister’s new Chief of Staff:  “Austerity and Brexit cost Conservatives their majority, says Theresa May’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell“.

The Economist has this on the outcome of the election: “Theresa May’s failed gamble – The Conservatives’ botched campaign will bring chaos—and opportunities“.

  • Mrs May said that her reason for calling the election was to get a mandate to negotiate Brexit along the lines she set out in January: to leave the single market and to press ahead with cuts to immigration that no one considers feasible. During the campaign, she added nothing to her thin Brexit strategy beyond resurrecting the fatuous slogan that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
  • Let us be clear: after this vote there is no mandate for such an approach. Only an enemy of the people would now try to ignore the election and press ahead regardless with the masochistic version of Brexit that Mrs May put to voters.
  • But the hard Brexit that Mrs May put at the centre of her campaign has been rejected. It must be rethought.

The BBC has this:  “Manufacturers call for Brexit strategy rethink” and the Evening Standard has this:  “‘Brexit squeeze’ hits families as inflation soars to 2.9 per cent“.

Iron-May-smile-v2The Evening Standard has this: “Theresa May’s weakness exposed as Tory leader is forced to listen to demands of Cabinet, DUP and EU“.

So much for “Strong & Stable”.


Save us from the Wicked Witch

The Wicked Witch is still in Denial

The Evening Standard yesterday, had coverage of the Wicked Witch’s statement outside No 10, after her audience with HM the Queen:  “‘Queen of denial’ Theresa May vows to govern for next five years“.  Below is an extract:-

A Witch in Denial

A shattered Theresa May stood outside No 10 today and claimed to offer “certainty” after an election fiasco that shredded her authority.  She looked sombre on a day she was forced into a deal with Northern Ireland MPs to save her from an ignominious departure from Downing Street.  With no humility on display, Mrs May declared: “Having secured the largest number of votes it is clear that only the Conservative and Unionist Party has the certainty and legitimacy commanding a majority in the House of Commons.”  With husband Philip at her side, she ignored the weakening of her position and vowed to govern for the next five years. Her statement ended: “Let’s get to work.

The Guido Fawkes blog had this: “May in Denial Delivers Tone Deaf Victory Speech with No Mention of Dire Result

On the Conservative Woman blog, Andrew Tettenborn wrote this: “May is now only a caretaker PM

Even The Times had something to say from behind its paywall:  “May has no one to blame but herself

This morning the influential Conservative Home blog had this: “Conservative MPs do not believe that May can lead them into the next election. Nor, reluctantly, do we.”  It is a damning account but well worth reading.

brexitgunAnd this is the failed leader who is proposing to go to Brussels to negotiate the terms on which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.


Sunday Papers

The Observer (Guardian) has this:-

Theresa May’s plan to govern with DUP support thrown into confusion – No 10 announces deal has been reached, but is then forced to backtrack after Democratic Unionists say negotiations are continuing“;

and this “‘Drop hard Brexit plans’, leading Tory and Labour MPs tell May – May’s loss of authority means she might have to compromise on her negotiating stance with the EU“;

and this editorial:  “The Observer view on the general election – Theresa May fought a deplorable election campaign which has left her without authority or credibility

and this cartoon

The Independent has this:  “DUP to prop up Conservatives with ‘confidence and supply’ agreement – Theresa May to be propped up by the Northern Irish party following disastrous performance at polls“;

and this: “Tory-DUP alliance: 500,000 people sign petition against Conservative deal with the Democrat Unionists in 24 hours – Theresa May criticised over potential allies’ record on women’s and LGBT rights“;

The Evening Standard has this: “Theresa May is ‘a dead woman walking’, says George Osborne“.   That was a comment on the Andre Marr Show this morning.

But the Evening Standard also has 2 day old op ed: “The best leaving present Theresa May can give us is a route to stability, writes Matthew d’Ancona

and the Torygraph Telegraph had this op ed yesterday: “I am astonished: the British voters might just have saved us from a crazy hard Brexit

Salus populi suprema lex esto 

Every schoolboy/schoolgirl (or Prime Minister) knows (or should know) that this maxim was propounded by Cicero (De Legibus – book III, part III, sub. VIII) and adopted by Locke  (Second Treatise on Government) and Hobbes ( Leviathan, Chapter 30).    It appears on the arms of numerous UK  cities, towns and boroughs  such as:    Salford,  Lewisham, Eastleigh, Harrow, Lytham St. Anne’s, Tipton, Mid Sussex, West Lancashire, Swinton and Pendlebury, Urmston and Willenhall.

With the Brexit vultures:  Gove,  Johnson,  Davis, Fox,  and  other Brexiteers plotting against her, has the time not come for Teresa May to consider how to generate a cross-party solution to the Brexit problem?

A “Soft Brexit” solution might well be acceptable on a free vote to (1) Scottish Conservatives, (2) Liberal Democrats, (3) Scottish Nationalists,  (3) Plaid Cymru, (4) the Green, as well as to (4) the DUP (5) Conservative Remainers, (6) Labour Remainers and (7) the Government of Gibraltar.

may99While even the thought of a Soft Brexit might upset Rupert Murdoch, Aaron Banks, Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, not to mention the Wicked Witch herself, a Soft Brexit might be welcomed by financial services providers in the City of London, by industries such as Airbus, Honda, Nissan and Toyota and other exporters, by UK citizens at home and overseas, and  by the European Union.  But how do we get there with the Wicked Witch and her Brexit Clowns?

timesbrexitclownsIt may be time to have recourse to the current members of the Privy Council who are, after all, the  “the Great and the Good” of the nation.  It ought not to be impossible to compose a cross party Committee of Privy Councillors, perhaps with a retired Judge as Chairman,  to enquire and report to Parliament on a possible consensus on the Brexit process.

At least that would be an improvement on the Witch and her Brexit Clowns.




Wicked Witch on the Rocks

First Reactions to the Election Result

ww-westminsterThe Wicked Witch of Westminster may not have appreciated what the papers had to say yesterday about the election results.  The Independent had this scathing editorial: “Theresa May needs to face reality after the general election result – The Prime Minister – if indeed it is Ms May who is in office in the weeks ahead – must recognise that the country has had enough of austerity“.

The Evening Standard had this “General election results: Newspapers react with shock to Theresa May’s hung Parliament ‘chaos’ (with a large photograph of a choice selection of the more critical front pages).

The Spectator had this:  ” Catastrophe for the Conservatives as Theresa May blows her majority” – and any number of similar articles.

Ominously, the Torygraph Telegraph had this:  “Theresa May fighting to stay in Downing St as senior Tories ponder leadership challenge“.

The Witch as Caretaker

theresa-may-speechToday, it has become clearer that  that the Conservative Party has had enough of the Wicked Witch and is looking for a replacement.  The Torygraph Telegraph has this: “Two thirds of Tory Party members believe Theresa May should resign after disastrous election results“.  Key points:

  • A snap survey conducted by the Conservative Home website revealed that 60 per cent of party members believe Mrs May should quit while just 37 per cent of the 1,500 members who took part said she should stay in post.
  • Mrs May has abandoned plans for a major reshuffle of her Cabinet amid fears that she cannot afford to alienate senior ministers in the wake of the election.
  • David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, will remain in post despite mounting tensions in Cabinet over his role in Mrs May’s campaign.  Mr Davis is blamed by some of his fellow Cabinet ministers for helping convince Mrs May to call a snap election after promising not to do so.

The Torygraph  Telegraph also has this:  “Ruth Davidson planning Scottish Tory breakaway as she challenges Theresa May’s Brexit plan“.

  • Although it has been mooted for some time, the imminent split between the Scottish and English parties is a direct result of a dramatic deterioration in relations between the Scottish Tory hierarchy in Edinburgh and 10 Downing Street.
  • Fresh from her success in winning an extra 12 Scottish seats in Thursday’s election, at the same time as the Prime Minister was losing 21 constituencies in England, Ms Davidson also vowed to use her Commons votes to prioritise the single market over curbing immigration.
  • This is certain to split Tory ranks as Mrs May has pledged to take the UK out of both the single market and the EU customs union as part of her Brexit negotiations, which begin next week.

Unsurprisingly, the Evening Standard has this: “Theresa May told she has six months in Downing Street as PM picks top team“.

One comment on the Conservative Home website survey “Should the Prime Minister stay or go?”  makes the case:-

“Is it at all conceivable that there are some conservatives with a grain of sense left and who understand you cannot stick two fingers up at 48% of the country ?  May asked for a mandate for Hard Brexit and the country told her they prefer a sixth form Communist with a long history of support for the IRA

There is no mandate to sacrifice the Nation’s prosperity security standing and services on the back of inflantile lies and dog whistle racism, and don’t pretend that was not wot won it.

I have been trying to tell you that in the long term losing Liberal England, business and the young and the moderate was a mistake and that a Party that trashes its entire post-war history is not one anyone can respect for long”.

The Daily Mail has this: “TORIES TURN ON THERESA: Civil war erupts as irate MPs threaten to oust PM by end of the year – but she has to be talked out of resigning on the spot because party is scared of holding another election“.

The Wicked Witch’s two chiefs of staff have just resigned.  See their statements on the Conservative Home website:  Nick Timothy: Why I have resigned as the Prime Minister’s adviser and (much briefer)  EXCLUSIVE. Now Fiona Hill quits too. Here’s her statement.

See also this in the Evening Standard: “Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill resign: Theresa May’s chiefs of staff resign after election disaster

Quod Erat Demonstandum

May’s “Strong & Stable” Battlebus blown over on a motorway

The fact that a  “strong and stable” May battlebus was  blown over on a motorway during the election campaign was prophetic.

The Conservative Party has a short way with leaders who make a mess of elections.  Teresa May wished to improve her majority and instead of doing that she achieved a hung Parliament.  She is now a caretaker Prime Minister and it is very likely that she will be ousted in time for her successor to preside at the next Conservative Party Conference.

Needless to say, various other failed Conservative leaders who campaigned against the Cameron Government in the Referendum are writing for the Torygraph Telegraph.  An example would be the dreadful Ian “do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man” Duncan Smith who is “turning up the volume” in this article: “Conservatives calling for a new leader are inviting Brexit chaos. We must get behind Theresa May“.

Brexit Clowns

timesbrexitclownsUnfortunately, after the disaster of the Referendum, Mrs May stuffed her cabinet with pro Brexit Ministers – notably the three “Brexit Clowns”: David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox.   These three are perfectly happy to wreck the economy of the UK if need be and they peddle the myth that by leaving the European Union, the UK will be able to negotiate substitute trade deals with other countries.

While this may be partially true for goods – it is not so for services.  See this report by Grant Thornton: “The impact of ‘Brexit’ on the financial services sector” and also this: “What Is The Economic Impact Of Hard Brexit vs. Soft Brexit?“.

 Key points:-

  • According to initial estimates by the British government, leaving the advantages of EU membership behind and switching to use of WTO trade rules would cost the U.K.’s businesses about £65.5 billion per year (or around US$82 billion). Over a 15-year period, this would lower the country’s GDP by between 5.4% and 9.5%. In addition to lost trade, the U.K. may also be on the hook for paying about £20 billion in unpaid bills to the EU.
  • Analysts believe that the U.K. would find it difficult to replace the lost trade revenues from the EU, which has a consumer market of around 500 million people and a GDP around €12 trillion (US$13 trillion or £10 trillion). About 44% (or £220 billion of £510 billion) of the U.K.’s exports currently go to EU countries. Export trade with the EU is linked to about 12.5% of U.K.’s GDP, while the EU’s trade with the nation is linked to only about 3% of its GDP
  • According to some estimates, the limitation of access to Europe’s financial markets could cost Britain as much as the following: £38 billion in business, £10 billion in tax revenues, and more than 70,000 jobs.  Further, international companies may hesitate to invest and locate in the nation going forward, seeking instead countries that do have access to the EU single market

Some of the background to Brexit issues many be found on the Brexit Issues page.

Hard or Soft Brexit 

The Independent has this: “No matter who forms a government this is the end of hard Brexit – Membership of the single market and customs union, ruled out by May, are now back on the agenda

The Financial Times has this: “Soft Brexit hopes seen providing a cushion for the pound“.

The Express has this: “Britain is heading for ‘SOFT BREXIT’ after shock exit poll, predicts Jack Straw – BRITAIN is heading for “soft Brexit” after the shock exit poll claimed Theresa May and the Conservatives will fail to form a House of Commons majority, according to Jack Straw.

The Economist has a brief explanation: “What is the difference between a “hard” and “soft” Brexit? – Britain faces a pair of distinct choices in its future relationship with the European Union“.

A readable analysis of the differences between “hard” and “soft” Brexit is to be found in this 2016 article in the Independent: “What is the difference between hard and soft Brexit? Everything you need to know – Speculation remains over what kind of relationship the UK will develop with our partners after we leave the bloc“.

The Independent has this: “Hung Parliament: What it could mean for Brexit negotiations” and also this by John Rentoul “The election was supposed to clear the way for leaving the EU, but Theresa May’s failure has put Brexit in doubt – One of of the reasons for calling the election was to win a mandate to overcome House of Lords opposition to the Brexit deal“.

The Guardian/Observer has this: “May wanted a mandate for a hard Brexit. Now Europe expects a softer tone – Prime minister’s crumbling authority offers a new chance for compromise – and the EU could scale back its demands“.

Also this: “Drop hard Brexit plans, demand MPs  – May’s loss of authority means she might have to compromise on her negotiating stance with the EU“.

Serious politicians are calling for a cross-party approach to the Brexit issues and that seems a very sensible idea.