Friday 30 November 2018

May's Machine and the Doctrine of Frontal Attack

Ten days ago I wrote, under the heading Powering Brexit Through The Grid:
Some things in life are decided by the better-prepared and more pig-headed
Droid Army:  quite a spectacle
As a spectator sport, watching May's machine grind into action is quite a sight - like the deployment of a droid army in a Star Wars episode.  Predictably, the Beeb falls immediately in to line; and the MSM lap it up - see the Grauniad's summary of how Project Hysteria plays in the press. This is quite a preliminary bombardment we are watching.

Now many of us, myself included, much prefer the inventive flanking maneouvre, the pulling of a bold stroke, the deployment of a knock-down argument to score a point; but the fact remains that some great enterprises are won by just grinding away, frontal assault, wave upon wave, trench by trench, 'defeating in detail' the opposition, one at a time if necessary.  "Hey diddle diddle, straight up the middle" as they say in the US Marine Corps.

It's OK, perhaps, when you have the numbers.  The 'Indirect Approach' (© B Liddell Hart), by contrast, has particular appeal to those who can't take the casualties, who've sickened of attritional warfare, who like the sound of Sun Tzu's prescriptions for defeating the enemy even before battle has been joined.  But if you have a preponderance of resources, there's always that siren argument: we can slog this out.  And some people are born sloggers.

(A case-study I use when explaining different strategic approaches is the Ford Sierra: when first launched, as the successor to the all-conquering Cortina, it was greeted with universal derision - the "jelly-mould" would surely never sell.  But did Ford change tack?  Nope: they ploughed on, with redoubled commitment, ever more advertising, ever more dealer incentives, ever more fleet deals, ever more special offers & 0% finance packages - slogging it out until the Sierra was as ubiquitous as its predecessor.) 

And thus we come to May's winter offensive.  She's made the maximum use of tactical surprise (quite effectively, it must be said) but that's over now and she is carpet-bombing her way towards the Commons vote.  No strokes, no subtlety.  It's not difficult to predict abject failure and many do: it's a scenario we have entertained here.  

Salamanca:  No slogger, Wellington.  No Wellington, McDonnell
But.  As also noted here before, no-one else shows any sign of having another plan.  God alone knows what the ERG thinks it is up to, or the SNP.  McDonnell, though, is a bit easier to read.  He is clearly hoping he'll be sufficiently nimble and decisive to spot an opportunity to pull a stroke, in the manner of Wellesley at Salamanca.   I have to say, though, this seems unlikely:  McDonnell's *army* doesn't obey orders in quite the same way as the Iron Duke's.  Nor does McD look like a tactical genius to me.    

In truth, his and all of the other opposing forces hope - at best- to defeat May's droid hordes in a ten-second miracle per the Star Wars script, by suddenly blowing up the communications satellite.  With one neatly-placed missile they will triumph at a stroke, and the reins of government will fall into their hands.  Deus ex machina.

Yeah, right.  This is lazy-man strategy - a million miles from Wellington's perennial practice of "taking trouble".

May can lose: but can McDonnell win?  Meanwhile the grid-script grinds on - with the Daily Mail onside! - and some of those scare stories really are commendably lurid ...


Thursday 29 November 2018

Whatever happened to credible spin?

Related image

Theresa May wants a debate with Jeremy Corbyn. A debate purely about her soon to be defeated Brexit deal. The deal that dare not speak its name. The Toxic one. That no one mentions anymore. Possibly because Theresa put a 'D' notice on it. So the 'C' word cannot even be mentioned, about not even being mentioned.
She wants to have a live debate about that.
Yes, really. 
She does.

The strategy of politics is something we often consider here. From the bullying and threatening manipulation of Campbell. 
The darker, more subtle, more poisonous, machinations of Mandelson. 
The insider knowledge spinning of Coulson. 
The 'too clever by half' nudging of Oliver.
The Malenkovian maneuverings of Milne. 
And the secretive Mandarin whispers of Robbins.

It has often been noted that the government is only interested in the government.
Good or bad. Success or failure. Costly or excessively costly, are irrelevant. 
Perception is everything. If the public can be made to accept something, then it is automatically a success. Regardless of its real world outcome.

The superlative spin machine in Downing Street, and the considerable oratorical and thespian skills of Tony Blair, persuaded parliament, the press, and much of the country, that going to war, as an aggressor, without sanction or evidence, was 
'The right thing to do.'

This war was possibly the biggest mistake of any post-war UK government. And it was pretty obvious it was going to end badly, right from the very moment Tony Blair said he wanted a war. 
Once the counseling and attempts to convince him otherwise had failed. The economic, diplomatic, social, and military costs shown to him, and dismissed, then it was the job of his inner henchmen and henchwomen to ensure this terrible folly was painted as a brilliant salvation. 

And so we ended up with 45 minutes of dodgy dossiers and anthrax island and all sorts of nonsense. The war was a disaster.
The operation to have a war; the whipping and debating and convincing. The honours and favours and promotions; and leaking and spinning and planting required to have this war, was a huge success. The very pinnacle of the great golden age of spin.

Since then, spinning has had a far less successful effect. Corbyn's people have only convinced the faithful that he isn't an antisemitic terrorist appeaser. 
May convinced few that she really was strong and stable. 
The referendum, despite the largest spinning operation, on a worldwide scale, failed to prevent the unimaginable leave option being chosen. 
Project Fear was deemed such a success for stopping the Scottish breakaway and the Miliband tendency, that it has been deployed non stop, ever since.
The ridiculous London Mayor race. Brexit. Corbyn the IRA member. Climate change. The effect has been to shift a few % points at best. But probably just as many the other way. 
Yet, despite its very patchy recent record, it remains the number one choice of government for use on the public. Turned up to eleven at all times.
With seemingly no concern for just how ridiculous this makes the architects of the Fear seem. 

So far, the only thing the Treasury hasn't advised this week, is to stock up on Zombrex.
But its only Thursday. There's still time. The coming 'vote me down and unleash a Zombie Apocalypse' is somewhere on Nick's grid.

Does this show a lack of talent in Westminster?  Surely the most prestigious position, the PM's confidante and assassin, would be one which attracts the very best in the business? It pays well too. Not quite as well as private work, but its only for a few years. With a guarantee that whatever follows is a choose your own salary position. 
Comes with an exit knighthood and a contacts and secrets file that would guarantee instant board appointment or euro non-job of your choice.

So why so lackluster? Labour are concentrating on social media and core vote. In a better way than Miliband's team managed. But they have no wider plans. Unless they luck into them. Just the usual class war, Tories are babykiller bad and rich people are worse. Let's take their stuff. Mixed with some eye-watering handouts. But no attempt to convince the extra votes they need that they too can enjoy the fruits of a bounteous socialist economy.

And May? Her blinkers and her handlers only allow her two minutes of non-brexit time a week. Which is why after more than two years of being PM all we know is she doesn't like diesel or cotton buds. Plastic straws or being lonely. 

The debates are not quite agreed yet, they may not happen. The Government political bubble is being particularly obtuse. Assuming that the words of the two Great Oz, would make far superior viewing to some jungle themed reality show.
They can't believe that Sky+ user data for the debate of the century won't set any records.

If it does come to pass, I believe it will be a huge mistake.

Not just because the two worst debaters in the parliament will be doing it.
Image result for boring debate

 But because there is a potential elephant trap in it for one of them. 

A career ending one.

Can you spot it?

On Manoeuvres: Who Succeeds May?

This is an entertaining one.  We know that whenever the leadership of one of the big two parties is on the line, an amazing array of no-hopers thrust themselves forward (Andrea who?):   even a 1-500 shot of becoming PM at a stroke is too much for a mere mortal to resist, still less a venal MP.

But whom do we reckon has a serious chance?

For what it's worth, I'd say Hammond is on maneouvres in a big way.  He never seems to feature on shortlists, so maybe the true insiders know of some absolutely fatal feature in his background.  That apart, surely he's the safe-hands candidate by a country mile.

What do we think?

(Andrea who?)


Wednesday 28 November 2018

Hammond "the end is nigh.."

Eternal lead remoaner and all round Mr. Average Chancellor Philip Hammond is today touring the media studios warning about how terrible Brexit is. If there is one thing about Brexit that we can all agree on it is that the UK equipping itself with two remainers to lead it out of the EU has been the worst part of the entire story - it just guaranteed a bad and failed negotiation.

However, today Mr Average is at it again, bleating on about new 'old news' news that Brexit might be a bit shit for the economy. Well, this is a real game changer as I myself can't ever recall anyone having made this point before and surely if they had done pre-referendum then the vote would have gone the other way.

Anyhow of more interest is that the markets are really taking all this news in their stride and that is a bit odd really. The Government is bereft of even a majority in the house, it will fail to pass its Brexit deal and we will be on course for a Brexit or Remain showdown in the early months of 2019.

Perhaps the markets are as bored of Brexit as most of the populace?

Some might say that there has been a reaction, but this is not true over any longer term view. There is small drop of late but that is nothing compared to the 5 year trend when the economy has been in first gear at best most of the time.

2018 FTSE Year to Date - slightly down on the year but not much and Santa Rally ahoy!

5Yr FTSE Performance, nothing to see here

Monday 26 November 2018

May's last days

So now that the date of the 10th December seems to be firming up in Westminster, we can begin the process of writing the political obituary of Theresa May.

Currently, there is just no chance of the Withdrawal Agreement being passed in Parliament. As Nick Drew opined in our last piece, there is more chance of a complete collapse of support than anything else.

This is going to mean May wandering around, coming out of No 10 for updates for he next couple of weeks, trying to look Prime Ministerial, whilst all the while knowing the game is up. Two years spent negotiating a deal that fails and she will be in the same exit seat as Cameron with nowhere to go but obscurity.

It is going to be a sad time for her personally, all the work and stress with come to mean nothing. Perhaps if we remain in the EU in the end she will be happy that her overall mission was complete. I doubt it because remaining in the EU will also mean the Tories are dead, really dead and possibly so dead as to not be a realistic party anymore in the UK. After all, they will have held an vote that half the country did not want and then no implemented to alienate the other half. Goodnight Conservatives at that point.

So what can May do for the last few days that she has in power? Gordon Brown famously managed to raise income tax to 50% on virtually his last day, is there anything May could do in last swish of the Prime Ministerial wand? I sort of doubt it as she become very bitter, very quickly in the next week as she realises the deal is lost and the game is up for her.

In other news, all those Tory plotters had better get the band back together PDQ, they have one last bullet in the shape of a new Prime Minister and if they miss this time, its curtains.

Saturday 24 November 2018

Back to the Negotiating Table

Drew's 8th Law of Politics runs thus:  a narrow victory is more significant than a landslide, which betokens little more than that everyone knew what the result was going to be and piled in behind the obvious winner.

The Noes to the Left - and to the Right, and the Centre
She's playing the 'only plan in town' card for all it's worth: but the way things are going, May's deal might get the landslide treatment in Parliament, if every MP decides it's going to fail anyway.  They've all got perfectly good (if wildly different) reasons for opposing at least some aspect, and eventually they may just all stream in to the Noes.  And the more they pile in, the less it means.

In particular, as stated here before I don't see it necessarily results in a GE.  It could force May out, of course, but it's a truly anarchistic Tory MP who wants a GE.  Far more likely is that everyone leaves the chamber chorusing Back to the Negotiating Table! 

And who knows what they'll find there?  An angry Spaniard?  No Irishman at all, his having been bound and gagged by Merkel and placed in a darkened room?  An entirely empty room with a rude hand-written message on a post-it note and no coffee?  Or the proper negotiating forum that Cameron strove to convene in 2015, and failed so utterly and ignominiously to achieve?  

I certainly don't know.

I do know it is the latter that Brexiteers of all stripes, most specifically including John McDonnell, are pinning their hopes on.  So let's look at Labour's official position, as maintained by Corbyn & McDonnell (not Starmer) throughout.  They want two things.  They want them very badly, and one makes no sense to them without the other.  

They want Power; and, since what they mean to do with that power would be endlessly challenged under EU law, they want out of the EU and the ECJ.  This very week, McDonnell has summarised their position as being: they want to stay permanently in "a" customs union, and (he means 'but') no ECJ jurisdiction.  Hah!  Has anyone bothered to explain to him that not a single word issuing from Brussels over the past two and a half years gives an iota of comfort that such a deal could be achieved?   

They'd take Power, of course, as a down-payment on their dual desiderata.  No GE in prospect?  That's why McDonnell is talking up the 'constitutional' argument that if May's deal falls in Parliament, the next step must be 'give the other lot a go'. 

Which is where we come back to the size of the prospective Parliamentary no-vote.  If it's overwhelming (e.g. with most Tories agin it or abstaining), it is May that has to go, not the Tory government.  

So, right now, pending a Spanish veto or a Merkel no-show tomorrow, I reckon a reasonable scenario is this:
  • everyone 'signs the deal' tomorrow (for whatever that's worth)
  • Parliament rejects the deal next month
  • May resigns
  • Labour tables a vote of No Confidence which is defeated
  • Happy Xmas Mrs Merkel, because it's Back to the Negotiating Table!
But, like I said - who knows what you find when you get there?  

There's a lot more brinkmanship to come.  Stockpile food and meds in Jan and Feb, I'd say.


Wednesday 21 November 2018

Thoughts needed; What do we need to do to stop a rigged referendum?

Fast coming up the aisle today is the failure of May's agreement in Parliament.

There are too many Tory rebels, too few Labour rebels, hatred from very different angles by the various nationalist parties (including Lib Dems in this group as  EU Quisling/Vichy nationalists) for any vote to pass.

As such, the Tories are going to be very reticent to force and General Election on the back of a confidence vote  - but that may come about.

The DUP, surely, will not make the Government fall in order to get the Irish Nationalist supporting Corbyn as PM - if they think Brexit is bad news for them....

So then we will be at the point where another referendum, which not long ago I bet money on not happening (!), will come to pass.

And here is where the remainer game is, in referendum you need a decisive result, so the two options the remainers will get is this:

A) Leave the EU with May's Withdrawal Agreement
B) Remain in the EU

May will agree to this as she will think A) vindicates her position and she can win. B) Pleases remainers and is May's preferred option to no deal.

For the country as a whole, it is a disgrace as it is a classic EU stitch up to which Barnier, Weygand and Selmayr will say the following -

"Here English plebs, is your choice between two things that you don't want. If you choose not to participate then, ha!, you don't really believe in democracy after all. So now vote and betray yourselves you racist scum..etc etc."

There is a decent chance of the above happening and the ERG folk have shown themselves not competent to oppose this (they would not have the votes in parliament to stop this bill for a start).

What can be done if this comes to pass...thoughts welcome in the comments.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Damn Uppity Proddies

It's no joke.

With much graft and heft, Team May has been slowly trying to get the good ship BINO to port. Despite all the leaks and a frankly underpowered engine, it has been heading for home.

As Nick Drew wrote yesterday, May has a battle plan, a really crap one, but a plan nonetheless. Corbyn's team are now trying to pretend he is pro-EU, a remarkably stupid proposal even by their own low standards. The ERG Tories are split because they must choose between loyalty and rebellion and that is not an easy decision for backbench Tories to make.

However, we have the DUP. The DUP are more of May's kind of enemy. Determined, Pig-headed and perhaps even a bit ignorant. The remain media will point out they don't speak for Norn' Ireland, but they do care. They have never sort to. They speak for themselves and their model is the SNP in Scotland.

What the DUP currently want is the same treatment for NI as the rest of the UK, something Southern Ireland and the EU long ago identified as the insoluble puzzle of Brexit - to their advantage.

Now, rational people might think the DUP would understand a bit of this and decide that, given they want Brexit, a bit of compromise would be a price worth pay.

COMPROMISE however, as we long know, is not something the DUP are given over too - just ask the gays!

Cutting off your nose to spite your face is a heroic action in their slightly warped world, standing firm against everybody is also to be respected - right or wrong does not come into it.

Thus perhaps it will come to pass that Team May is felled not by her own backbenchers but by the DUP -ending the confidence and supply arrangement could cause a General Election which I do think would see Labour as the largest party and the end of even BINO brexit.

Monday 19 November 2018

Powering Brexit Through The Grid

It wasn't so very long ago (6th Nov) that a plausibly detailed 'Grid' for the selling of the Brexit deal was leaked to the Beeb.  Its authenticity was, of course, denied  - on the grounds that there were spelling mistakes and use of "childish language" - and at the time there was no Deal in sight anyway.

And yet, here we are:  Monday 19th, CBI Conference.  Remind us - what did the leaked document say?
The narrative is going to be measured success, that this is good for everyone, but won't be all champagne corks popping. Then there's recess until 12th. After the announcement of decisive progress there follows the 10 days of Sherpa meetings with EU 27 and then daily themed announcements. 19th November - "We have delivered on the referendum" PM speaks at the CBI conference. Saying this deal brings the country back together, now is the time for us all to unite behind it for the good of all our futures etc. She will also hold a business reception.
So far, so accurate.  In fact the only obvious howler is that Raab was down to front for a lot of it.  Nobody told him, evidently - which was of course his problem throughout.  I think we may confidently expect to watch the whole leaked Grid unfold in much the same manner: it'll prove to be essentially accurate, but a bit on the optimistic side as regards how far these things can really be choreographed in detail.

More importantly, though, it highlights a critical factor.  However lamely, Someone Has Been Planning.   Planning, that is, for the one thing they are vaguely good at, which is media management (esp. steering the Beeb's rather predictable reactions, funnily enough); and Party management as well.  We may also confidently expect that the impression of quite a juggernaut will be conveyed to the ordinary punter, who does actually like to see the wheels turning smoothly.  That calm-and-confident Mrs May seems to know what she is doing, doesn't she Ethel?

As well as the ever-stolid Beeb, there's something else she can probably ride a fair way along the road, which is that the Tory Party is basically quite loyal: there's some genuine intertia there; a strong proclivity for giving the benefit of the doubt.  Now, you can argue it is probably shedding members and support to the point of real enfeeblement:  but there's no GE scheduled for a long, long while.  Anyone who stuck with their membership of the Tory Party after 2017 is someone who seriously, seriously doesn't like the thought of Jezza + John in Downing Street, even if generation snowflake doesn't know why marxists are not to be trusted with power.  

It's early days, of course, but she really does seem to have made the most of her head start.  Name me any other politician on the entire playingfield who looks even vaguely as though they have a plan?

I wouldn't underestimate how far this can take her.  Pedestrian and plodding it may seem to be, against a backdrop where drama and desperate deeds might be expected - but hey, where are these desperados?  There's an awful lot of wait-and-see going on. 

Still, early days.  This cunning Plan will need to encompass a remarkable session in Parliament, with the Noes having a very real prospect of coming out on top.  This is so obvious that it, too will have been thought about: and it's not clear to me why it leads automatically to a GE.  Thus far, Team May is looking rather more assured than Team ERG, or Team Corbyn.  Some things in life are decided by the better-prepared and more pig-headed - irrespective of the apparent hopelessness of their cause. 


Friday 16 November 2018

BREXIT COMPO: No Plan Survives First Contact With ...

... reality.  I wonder how well Mr Barwell's wargaming is standing up to what's unfolding before us.

Anyhow:  it's Compo Time at C@W!

At the start of the First World War the FT ran a compo.  They printed a big empty map of Europe, on which entrants had to mark what they reckoned would be the national borders when hostilities ceased and the losers had been carved up.  (History does not record who won, and how close they came to the actual result.)

So - your predictions, please, for the state of play on Brexit Day 29 March 2019:
  • who will be PM?
  • has there been a GE?   If so, what headline outcome?
  • has a 2nd referendum happened?  If happened - question? result?
  • in broad terms, on what basis is the UK / EU relationship set for the immediate 12 months following that date?
  • has Gove disappeared up his own fundament? 
  • do the LibDems still exist? 
  • tie-breaker: any other colourful details concerning British politics you care to append? (this is not mean as an open invitation to devise cruel and unnatural punishments for your pet-hate politicians)  
Events are obviously moving fast, so we'll set a closing date of midnight Friday next (23rd).  Anyone who offers an early entry is free to offer a revised entry up until that deadline.  Small prize.


Thursday 15 November 2018

The course I have set is the right one. [citation needed]

Theresa May has come out fighting.

 Image result for theresa may today

 In a speech reminiscent of a previous PM, Gordon Brown, whom she resembles in very many dysfunctional ways, she insists she is getting on with the job. Delivering on her promises. Standing up for Britain. Everyone loves her and backs her. And only a few rebels are against her.
She might as well have added in a Scottish drone, “it’s the right thing to do.” And then stared woodenly and unconvincingly at a camera that wasn’t switched on.

After a day that has seen her lose junior and senior ministers.  Have her cherished Brexit plan savaged by the very person who would be delivering it. And seen the final few letters needed to begin a leadership challenge being delivered to the chief whip, Theresa has decided she will stand firm.
Like a rock. 
A big, granite, lumpen, featureless, brooding, immovable and pointless rock.

Obviously the PM has been in with her advisers. She has looked at the numbers for and against her. And decided that with some bribery and arm twisting. Some stick and carrot, that she could see of a leadership challenge.

There is no clear replacement to her. The party is split and will vote equally for Leave or Remain hopefuls. There will be many hats in the ring. Some loathed by others. Faction after faction will be stabbing and smearing their opponents in the media. She won’t face that. So she can slip through the middle on a split vote. Again. That would have been her advice. Which she accepted.

And as usual, it is poor political and practical advice. Advice from spads and schemers who see survival as a great success in its own right. Instead of the failure that simply being challenged already means she is.

If her advisers were honest with her, they would be more truthful. She has already lost. She was mortally wounded by her own terrible election campaign many, many months ago. And has only been limping on because her main rivals are divided and her official opposition is a joke.

But that does not mean she is a success. Only that others are even worse.

What the most senior and most trusted of her inner circle should be telling her is that it is over. 
 That if she goes now, before the challenge is official, she can go with some dignity. Can always claim she was defeated by opponents who never allowed her to put her brilliant and visionary Brexit plan to the actual test. And that she gave way only because time was so short for the Brexit deadline, and the stakes so high. That for the very good of the nation, she sacrificed herself. And they can also tell her a whole load of other untruths she can spin in her memoirs.

They should point out that if she doesn’t go now, however, she will face a challenge. Like hapless John before her, her majority isn't large enough to be certain a challenge can be seen off. And if she fails to win over her MPs, she will go down as a failed, booted out, PM.

They need to point out that glad-handing, schmoozing, backslapping and bonhomie is not on her skill set. That she will need to be able to woo the party. Individual MPs. Backbenchers. Buttering them up and being their buddy. One on one. And she is useless at that unfamiliar socialising lark.

The advice should be just how long will the contest now take? How much time will be lost. What size of a majority she thinks she needs to win by. Because just winning by one vote isn’t nearly enough. How much weaker will she be if she only got a small level of support? Enough to win, but not to lead. She already knows that 48 are definitely in the rebel camp. And those may be the bravest or most disgruntled 48. But there will be many more timid souls who will wish her well to her face. But will stab her in the back if they can do so anonymously.

And even if she survives the challenge unscathed, so what?
She still has to drive through her divided cabinet a Brexit plan so toxic she dared not mention it by name at her own conference. 
 A plan that is so poor and so weak she has to hide it from her own ministers.
 A plan so awful she has to try and bounce it past her cabinet by not letting them read about its contents until two minutes before a vote on it. And giving them false choices to approve it or ruin the country. To agree with her or take a long walk down a driveway to humiliation.

And if she gets it through her new cabinet appointees, how does she get it past parliament?
Labour are dizzy at the prospect of defeating her over it. The SNP want their NI like own exceptions included.  The liberals..are simply irrelevant.
Remoaners hate it. Leavers hate it. She has lost a remoan minister just this week. And lost two Brexit ministers today. Both saying they couldn’t begin to introduce it, it was so bad.
She lost a foreign secretary the day she tried to force the Robbins plan on everyone.
It has been roundly rejected by everyone who has read it, bar a handful of ultra loyal Mayites.

And even if, by some mathematical miracle, she got it through Parliament? So what?

The DUP who are against it, and will simply bring the entire, fragile,  government down anyway.

And even if they don’t it’s such a feeble framework that the further concessions she must give to the EU will erode any lingering support the prime minister has. While allowing her opponents to jeer,that they told her so!

It’s a bad draft. From a bad Prime Minister. It fails to deliver on all the things she claims it does. And all are aware of that. Hiding the detail isn't leadership or clever politics. It’s cowardice and delusion.
Yet, like the appalling Prime Minister Brown, she seems not to realise what is most obvious to all else.

Early on in his premiership, Gordon the Mad, insisted that 42 day’s detention was “the right thing to do.”  Nobody really agreed with him. But he insisted it was. He made the non issue of pretending to be tough on crime into a contest about himself.  He faced down labour rebels. Demanded loyalty. Sent in his fixers and black ops to ‘persuade’ the waverers. 
 He spent days and nights on the telephone attempting to placate, promise and win over his own reluctant, soft on crime, lefty MPs.
It became a trial of strength. His own Hamburger Hill. A vicious fight with many casualties, for not very much at all.

In the end he used every drop of his already depleted reservoir of political capital and every ounce of his shallow stocks of good will and managed to secure a small majority for his 42 day detention bill.

At a time when he was still popular and had a Parliamentary majority Cameron or May would have killed for, he wasted all his time, effort and resources to secure a mild win on a minor matter. That was, as everyone had told him it would be, defeated in the Lords and abandoned completely soon after.

 He was a bit of a laughing stock in the media. He was never able to reasonably explain quite why he had this obsession. Why his was the only possible solution to the issue. Why he ignored all reasonable advice and alternative proposals. 
 Or why he allowed himself to be sucked into defending an indefensible position in the first place.

It was the beginning of the end for him. And when the real threats and real problems came later on, he had few friends and little power left. He was only saved from his own ignominious booting out by his own party, by the economic catastrophe that he had so happily helped to ensure.
And as we all know he ended his political days as a sad joke. An object lesson. In appointing someone whose ambitions far exceeded their abilities.

So, Theresa. Why persist? The very, very, very best outcome is that in years to come, people will say your Chequers deal was 'Meh!' 
Trust me. There won't be crowds lining streets to raise a public subscription for a statue immortalising you and your Bino. 

What you will be remembered for is failing to win an election with a stonking great poll lead, with national support, against a communist whose own party wanted him to lose.
  Failing to introduce any legislation of note except banning plastic straws and destroying the diesel car industry.
 And by fighting a bloody rearguard, possibly igniting a civil war of succession, that fractures the Conservative party and returns the country to the grip of malign socialism that will take more time, treasure and pain to repair than any cliff edge Brexit ever could.

That's what her advisers should be telling her.
But they won't.

Image result for gordon brown theresa may

Bizarre Development from the ECJ

Here's a piece of news that draws several classic C@W strands together.

As if intentionally trying to illustrate the sovereignty issue, today the ECJ has ruled that the UK's electricity market Capacity Mechanism is illegal State Aid!

That's, the UK's much praised - and emulated - Capacity Mechanism for keeping our lights on in winter.

No, I don't think the electric cooker will go cold under the Xmas turkey, but - what a bunch of plonkers!  If anyone in the Brexit camp actually understands this admittedly recondite issue, and can spare the time from polishing their stilettos, there would be a modest amount of political capital to be made from this.


The Red Pill!

Oh dear, with rolling resignations today the Prime Minister won't last.

The maths are quite simple.

The Tories only have a majority with the DUP voting with them.
The SNP will vote against any deal, as they want to remain.
The Liberal Democrats, both of them, will vote against any deal.
Labour only want power, they will always vote against the deal.,
Sinn Fein will not participate.

There maybe a few Labour Leave rebels, but by my count there are at least 10 Tory rebels at a minimum anyway.

The Lords will vote against any deal too by the way, as the Tories are a minority there.

May said something very insightful in her valedictory last night on the steps of Downing Street,

"It's this deal, no deal or remain."

So it is not her deal, which means we are down to No Deal or Remain. What a choice and a terrible reflection on the Tories to have led the Country to a path where No Deal is not properly prepared for in the event of a failure of the EU to negotiate fairly (which was always going to be the case).

Up until today I laughed at everyone who said there would be a second referendum, that won't be happening going forward. Interested to see in the comments what you would do - vote for hard brexit or remain?

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Brexit - Reloaded

Image result for blue pill

The Blue Pill Option

The Tories are in a right bind now, their Prime Minister has played her really shit hand quite badly. However, a deal has been struck with the EU. One that creates a meaningful path away from the EU over the next 5-7 years, with little disruption to the economy or country in the meantime. Yes, lots of caveats where the EU have had their way and lots of anger that we can't strike trade deals and other such stuff for a few years yet. But Brexit is done and no Government is going to have the willingness or political capital to change this course back once set in stone.

Taking the Blue Pill is this option, the Government with the help of a few rebels passes the Deal, life goes on, May gets another year as Prime Minister and the government can take a look at some domestic issues for a change and maybe even try to legislate in a few areas and make a real difference.

The Red Pill Option

The Tories are in a bind right now, their Prime Minister has played her shit hand very badly. The Deal on offer is not a go-er for the ERG or Remainers. Sensing the winds of change, cabinet ministers start resigning to plot their own coup attempts. The deal does not get voted on and May is gone. Chaos ensues, the EU are exasperated that all this effort was for naught and walk off the stage. The Tories have no credible replacement for May who can deliver a deal when the EU won't play ball. Instead we head for the certainties of a no deal Brexit. The Tory brand looks in a worse place than 1992 - having decided on a referendum they can't deliver the result. So we get a Hard Brexit and a Corbyn Government to boot. Once we let the commies in they will prove very troublesome to remove and in any event the brain drain will knacker the economy even more than Brexit. Northern Ireland becomes a scene of the troubles again too as the gangsters sense their moment for a bit of larceny and extortion. Scotland too fancies another referendum and the SNP gain much support.

So really, when you think about it for more than a few seconds, the choice now a deal has been agreed is not hard. Eat horrid sandwich, the alternative does not bear thinking about.  

Monday 12 November 2018

Nuclear Winter

I am on record as musing that there will be no more nukes built in the UK - including, just to make it interesting, Hinkley Point C.  News that Moorside has fallen by the way (*until someone else steps into Toshiba's shoes*, yeah, right) is clearly grist to that mill.  

However, the government's arithmetic on electrification of just about everything forces them down the nuclear road.  So all attention will now be on what they will come up with for the remaining "prospects" (Wylfa, Sizewell, Bradwell) by way of a financial package.  The counter to my negative hypothesis is of course that with enough government money you can indeed suspend the laws of gravity - for a time. 

But one has to suppose the developers will insist it is up-front money next time.  Which brings us back to Hinkley.  EDF has certainly been beavering away - the civil engineering is moving along purposefully.  But, famously, although the French screwed a handsome electricity price out of George Osborne, they don't get to trouser it until the beast is up and running.  And never mind all that dredging, earthmoving and concrete: construction of the Hinkley reactors is nowhere near being started. 

Hinkley Point C: mud, concrete, but not much else

In short, the sunk costs of Hinkley, whilst by now probably a couple of billion (they'd sunk nearly one billion before they started any work at all) would not be ruinous for EDF if they decided it wasn't worth the candle.  Obviously, Plan B would be to steam round to our resolute Prime Minister and demand some cash, threatening that Plan C would be to walk away: seeing how *helpful* she was back in 2016, when Hollande wagged his finger at her.

Still, it's not clear this would succeed a second time, not least because unless they get motoring, the chance to browbeat May could disappear forever.


Thursday 8 November 2018

Actual International Negotiating Success - It Can Be Done

Earlier in the year Trump announced swingeing sanctions on Iran, and anyone doing business with that country.  One company was most put out by this: Total, the French oil major, which had intended to make a very big play there.

So the EU leapt into action and passed a ridiculous "law to forbid [European] companies from complying with US sanctions", very much at the behest of the French".  They also tried to establish a bypass mechansim to facilitate inernational payments using a "non-transparent SPV" device - which, I predicted at the time, wouldn't work.

And, it doesn't.  In fact, none of it works.  Total has thrown in the towel.  SWIFT has thrown in the towel.  
 Like almost all other EU states, France has so far received no exemptions for doing business with Iran. Leading French companies, including Peugeot parent PSA and oil group Total, have already announced plans to curb their Iran activities. [FT]
So much for the EU's much vaunted foreign-policy strength and expertise, to say nothing of its *understanding of markets* (=0).

"Almost all ..."  Anyhow, in the middle of all this is the UK with a very specific problem.  The Iranians hold a major stake in a substantial North Sea asset-base which represents 5% of our gas production, much needed in winter.**  The main operator involved is BP (and funnily enough, Total is also involved.)  As mentioned before, I can tell you that no bugger in the mainstream energy industry (we are excepting the outright pirates) will step over the US sanctions line: which meant that gas production from the relevant fields (Rhum, Keith and Bruce) was set to be shut down - unless something could be negotiated.   

Fortunately, BP is experienced in the ways of the world and, with a little help from HMG, has calmly negotiated a waiver from the US authorities.  The gas still flows.

UK - 1, EU - 0.  These things can be done. There are people who know the score (the first half of this podcast is worth listening to).  If only the right people had taken May in hand back in 2016.

** stand by for some scary days for energy supply if Jan-Feb-March 2019 turn out cold, whether or not this gas is flowing. 

Wednesday 7 November 2018

It's still the economy stupid - lessons from America

One strong lesson from current politics in the USA this week, is that despite the rapidly changing world around us, it is still the economy that drives politics.

The Democrats in the US, broad church though they are, have much of the Corbynista about them. Many of them are utterly obsessed with identity politics, socialism and many kinds of other ideologies that allow for a stand on both victimhood and hate of the right.

Trump of course, plays this gallery well. He has no votes in the assorted misfits of the Left, but a strong base in the right of the party which can be motivated by anti-immigration rhetoric and tax cuts.

The critical bit is how thought Trump holds onto the centre. At the moment, he has lost the House and held the Senate, without getting into the entrails of it all, the Republicans have had a pretty good run. Especially when you take into account the social media driven accounts of the 'Blue Wave' and the contempt Trump is held in - especially abroad. As ever, the BBC and Sky just can't quite believe that Trump gets any votes at all given how execrable he is.

So how does he hold up the  centre, the swing votes, when the USA as a Country is as divided as Brexit Britain?

The answer is the economy, which through his pump priming, is going great guns indeed. Enough that people who have jobs, can apply for jobs and see wage growth are happy. Happy enough to vote for more of the same, even with all the terrible rhetorical baggage that comes with the President.

Overall, Trumps divide and rule is not a great way for us to drive human society forward. However, for the Tories in Government, a salutary lesson will be that even if they deliver a fudged half-Brexit, if they focus on getting the economy ticking over, job growth and wage growth, then Corbyn and McDonnell will never get the look in - after all, their ideological baggage is at least as bad as the Tories and certainly worse in some areas.

Sadly, the soft Tories we have are not clear enough on the economic development of the Country and instead are playing to Labour's tune of throwing money at the NHS and public services. There is time to change this around though over the next few years if hey can get their act together - which of course, is another story...

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Nowt wrong with the Brexit backstop

I really can't believe the level of briefing going on by ministers and opposition politicians on the state of the Brexit negotiations. There are, as we have known for a while now, no simple or good options that please everybody.

The EU has made plenty of mistakes along the way to this point. Insisting that its political aims, such as no hard border in Ireland, are in fact technical aims. They knew they had drawn red lines that were incompatible with Brexit and then forced the UK into agreeing them  - yes, the UK was utterly stupid to walk into the trap, but nonetheless, it has not worked out to the EU advantage.

This is because the EU wants a deal too, Macron in France and Merkel in Germany do not want a catastrophic end to UK membership when Eastern Europe and Italy are already finding manifold reasons to dislike the EU. So, a deal will be done.

On Ireland, the Irish have been very content to play hardball with the EU backing but that will change if the EU back off a little themselves.

Yet there is no reason for them too. A UK that remains in the Customs Union for another two or three years whilst solutions are worked out (away from the glare of BREXIT media madness) is the right route to take.

Why the Leavers are so against this is beyond me, all the years of wanting to leave the EU and now they fear they will Leave but not 'properly.' Madness. Also, in Parliament the remain in the Customs Union for a bit is probably the only vote May can win with enough remain rebels on both sides and few Brexiteers really brave enough to push for no deal AND a Corbyn Government.

Hopefully, this can all be decided soon as the economy is definitely starting to feel slow in part due to the tortuous path of the these negotiations. If it takes another three years (still prior to the next election) to work out the Canada Plus trade deal then fine - really, that will be fine with everyone. Immigration is already dropping and the Government can always focus on Non-EU immigration for some red meat in the meantime to sate its UKIP wing.

For the EU, allowing the UK to remain in the customs union whilst exiting is a big deal as it ruins its hand in the future negotiations - quite the opposite from what the Brexiteers are trying to parlay currently. With the UK not suffering any economic damage, the negotiations can proceed in an atmosphere of calm  - to date the Eu has skilfully played on the deadlines imposed by itself and the UK to control the process. After March 2019, a reset will allow cool heads to prevail at last.

Monday 5 November 2018

What Does the Budget Betoken?

In some idle moments over the weekend I perused a few leftish websites and discovered a distinct strand of opinion on t'other side is that Hammond's effort of last week is a pre-election Budget.

Which might be wishful thinking on their part, I guess.  But perhaps it's worth a moment's reflection?  My impression, FWIW, had been that the Budget was a signal to those Brexiteer Tory MPs who care most of all about tax-cutting that it'll be worth their while to support whatever half-baked deal May finally comes up with.  

Which isn't incompatible with the pre-election thesis, of course.  And it's done double duty, because the tax cuts seem to have thrown Labour into a bit of a tactical dilemma, with suggestions that their private polling has lead McDonnell to be wary on the subject, and consequent awkwardness on the Labour benches.

How do C@W readers interpret last week?


Saturday 3 November 2018

The Tatooine Times - Now only {3} credits!

The Tatooine Times

General Raab heads off to the Death Star for his meeting with the Galactic Empire's representative, Michel Barnier. The Imperial Senate 27 have not been very amenable to the New Republic in recent conferences. Theresa May has even been refused a meal at Intergalactic dining occasions.
No soup for you.
 She hopes that her representative will have greater success in his encounter with the Dark Lord.
General Raab
In a statement about the November conference Moff May insisted that a leaving agreement for the fledgling Rebel Alliance was 95% done. And she was convinced a Treaty of Friendship and Security would be signed. And that the Galactic Empire were negotiating in good faith. And not just dicking her around.

BREAKING NEWS ***Exclusive footage as General Raab presents the latest leaving proposals to Lord Barnier.BREAKING NEWS**

Image result for tatooine moisture
85% of humanoids now Vegan. Sand farming on Tatooine. Special supplement.

Related image
Watto Trading: Motto- if it ain't broke...then I don't want it.
In other Alliance news, Arron Watto, a private junk dealer from Mos Espa, is being sought by Imperial Intelligence agents for allegedly making donations from funds that may not have been just his own.
Arron Watto: Trader
 Under questioning from the entirely "Impartial Galactic Commission to Prevent Outbreaks of Democracy", Mr Watto said that the credits were all his. He wasn't simply a junk dealer and second hand droid trader. But also a Slaver. And it was in his slaving capacity that he occasionally traveled to Iridonia where he sometimes had dealings with the dubious, poisonous and dangerous,
Dathomiri Nightbrothers.

Friday 2 November 2018

The 'Softening' of the Armed Forces

Are all RAF pilots like her, Daddy?
The 100th anniversary of the RAF has seen a newly re-vamped exhibition put on at the RAF Museum at Hendon.  I'd been meaning to go for a while, and took an opportunity yesterday.  The major changes are really only one new hangar's worth of general intro to the RAF, plus the retrograde step they've taken of closing my favourite exhibit, the Short Sunderland (which can only be viewed from the outside now: you used to be able to wander through it).

Well, it's all very shiny.  I'd been warned there is much dumbing-down in evidence, but I can't really agree with that; and the hardware is all there (check out that Vulcan bomb bay, lads); and the archive is as fine and professional as ever.

But there is certainly, how shall we put it, a lot of 'profiling' going on.  In this new intro hall, illustrating the 100 years of the service there are many individual stories told on the back of life-size cardboard photos of RAF personnel, like the rather fetching one on the right. 

Are you getting the picture?  Yes: of the 51 RAF people whose photos appear in this hall, 21 are of women, almost 42%.

Now: what % of today's RAF, do you imagine, are women?  Answer: 17%.  And what was the figure at the height of WW2?  16%.  And what % of the 109,484 members of the Service who gave their lives on active service ..?  They don't mention that.

But are we surprised? - when soi-dissant *historian* Dan Snow can lie to his children that women flew Spitfires in combat?  By contrast with shameful behaviour like that, the exhibition is as pure as the driven, errrr, snow.

Still, I am pleased to note the Museum still describes the prominent twin Aden cannon-bulges on the Hawker Hunter as 'Sabrinas'.  Until some passing thought-policeperson notices ...


Thursday 1 November 2018

2019 - What a Year

1969 saw the first man on the moon.  1979 was quite a year.  1989 was epic.  The -nines weren't so interesting for a couple of decades: but 2019 is likely to stake a claim on the memory-banks.

There are plenty of indications that the Chinese are in line for an economic pause of some kind - which won't pass unnoticed in the rest of the world.  There is no shortage of situations around the globe that are perilously poised.  Many a nation now has a leadership that is new, untried, and willing to countenance significant disruption to the status quo.  The unpredictability of President T is without doubt a force-multiplier (perhaps that should be farce-).  Wars, and rumours of wars, as the Good Book says.

And then we come to our own little challenges.  Better enjoy next month's holiday season, I'd say - before adopting the Brace position ...