Friday 11 January 2019

The Government is still The Government

Oh yes, a pretty lousy one, under an extremely limited PM: but it's the only one we've got.  And that's the point.

I had planned to do a week-ender on historical precedents, but then the Graun came up with these two pieces: by Raphael Behr (rarely much good but interesting here) and Jonathan Freedland (usually rather better, balanced and perceptive).  Ignore the clickbait titles, that's just the subs trying to earn their keep.

First Behr.  The useful bit is this:
the race is on to form some cross-party coalition that can agree on some kind of plan: any plan that is not May’s one, and doesn’t involve flying off the no-deal cliff edge. As one cabinet minister put it to me recently: once that coalition is found, “it is then effectively the government”
... and he goes on to describe how difficult this is.  Varying the metaphor, Freedland addresses a similar question:  "For pro-Europeans, the moment of truth is coming. To avoid no deal, they have to choose ... standing on the deck shouting at the [iceberg] will not help. MPs have to agree a plan to get out of the way – and they have to do it very soon."  He also then explains how problematic this is - with some interesting notes on McDonnell's evolving position.   And although he concludes ...
rarely for an opposition, [Labour MPs] can shape events. They can steer the country to safety.
... he doesn't tell us how this could practically be done. 

As regards the possibility of such a coalition: way back in 2016 I expressed surprise that a disciplined block of Remain MPs hadn't formed during that summer, probably with a parliamentary majority, albeit of a single-issue nature.  Evidently, they were all sitting on their hands.  Fair enough - who knew what was going to happen with enough certainty to glue such a bunch together?  But for this to happen right now, in a maelstrom of unpredictable developments, seems to me even less plausible.  Dominic Grieve (who, BTW, was known as Pushy Fresher of the Year at University, and was equally insufferable then) can command a majority - this week - for his clever-clever, not-too-partisan procedural gambits, which Jezza and John don't mind encouraging for their disruptive effect.

But for something that constitutes a concrete, deliverable course of national action?  See messrs Behr and Freedland for just how difficult that could be, not least because all the components of the coalition have other, different loyalties (see Behr's neat Rubik Cube analogy).  The difficulties would be particularly acute when any efforts to frame a concrete resolution were to bump up against Corbyn's world class intractability and/or McDonnell's old-Marxist-in-a-hurry desperation to bring about (*fanfare*) The Revolution.    

Which leaves us with the only army in the field - HMG.  Yes, asymmetric warfare is all fine and dandy, but who gets to talk daily to Merkel et al?  Who wields the Civil Service / Police / etc etc?  Who administers the benefits system?  Who has plans, however culpably half-baked, for the ports and trucks and medecines and air traffic and electricity for NI (and gas for the Republic) ...

In short, however effective a squad of snipers may be on their own terms, they don't constitute an army of occupation.  There are a couple of outlandish examples in history of individuals bluffing whole battalions to surrender on a misunderstanding - but it doesn't constitute a reliable strategy.

I can't see what the outcome will be in any detail.  But I do believe it will be, well, whatever the government decides.  



Lord Blagger said...

1. There's no cliff edge.

The EU has no choice but to keep free trade. After all, Germany won't stand for BMW workers being sacked because they can't export cars to the UK.

2. The preparations for Universal Credit are going on. Not going to be stopped. Remember that EU rule about no recourse to public funds? Universal credit is defined as welfare.

Lots of things included in that. So for foreign nationals that can be turned off in one hit. Billions to be saved. Housing fixed in a single stroke.

Then we look at the EU. 13.5 bn for the one year of delay. 13.5 bn times two for the A50. 10 bn plus for each year of the indefinite transition. 100 bn for the pension bailout. The EU spent their pension cash.

1 bn pays the wages of 30,000 nurses. Why should we have the austerity, the cliff edge here? Walk away.

We have told the government what to do. They don't like it. They want to order us around and screw us financially. We don't get the right of informed explicit consent because we're plebs and we will be forced to do as we are told.

Well, now look at France. It's not working. When they work out there are 11 oil refineries, and a blockade is easy to organize, its game over.

Well its game over for France anyway. 40 Trillion Euros of state socialist pension ponzi debt can't be avoided.

E-K said...

The latest is that this government wants to abolish prison sentencing for less than six months gaol terms.

This means a hell of a lot of disruptive people being allowed to roam free.

You can guarantee the Tories to ALWAYS take the other's side.

Matt said...

@ E-K

And the rationale for this stupid suggestions for no prison for < 6 month sentences?

That people lose a lot (job, house, family etc) if they get sent down.

Now that strikes me as quite a deterrent - so remove it and what happens?

Lots more people decide that taking something from a shop isn't such a problem anymore. And if that's okay, then might as well help yourself to the neighbours goods as well.

You couldn't make it up...

Sebastian Weetabix said...

We need Lee Kwan Yew. Look at what he achieved after Singapore’s “cliff edge” exit from the Malaysian federation. And that happened literally overnight against a background of internecine violence.

We won the Second World War quicker than these useless bastards will disentangle us from Brussels.

James Higham said...

I've come up with a brilliant plan called the Higham Alternative.

In this, we walk away with no deal. Brilliant, eh? Why has no one else thought of it?

Lord Blagger said...

The Czechs and Slovaks divorced quickly.

So what's going on the UK?

Very simple, politicians don't like being told what to do, they just want to orders other around.

So lets have a real test of the EU. For remainers, we set up a website where they can crowd fund the EU. They agree collectively to pay the EU 13.5 bn a year, and they get Erasmus, freedom of movement etc. You know, the right to turn up in the EU and claim welfare. They also get to fund the short fall in tax against cost of state services for EU migrants here.

Now that's a good solution, its a compromise. They get the benefits. Others don't get the costs. The EU gets its money. A win all round isn't it.

Heck it even has the right of consent.

But of course, even I can spot the problem. Remainers want to force others to pay for their wants. They don't want to pay.

Lord Blagger said...

On the 6 month sentences and prison in general.

We can cut the prison population by 11% overnight. We just deport all foreign nationals in jail.

Matt said...

@ Lord Blagger

You wouldn't believe the fun & games involved in trying to get rid of foreign national offenders (actually, you probably would).

We can't force them to get travel documents from their embassy so they don't. We can arrest and charge them for this (including prison sentences) but if we keep doing it, it's eventually classed as indefinite detention and we have to let them go.

And this is for people who were given a deportation notice at the time of sentence because of the severity of their offence. The Home Office doesn't even bother with the others. We get rid of literally a handful of people each year - not really surprising when there we (until recently) only 2 people in the UK working to deport them (a massive 6 of them now!).

Elby the Beserk said...

@EK - Nota bene; 6 months or less sentences for sex or violent crimes will not go.

Make what you like of that.

Lord Blagger said...

For foreign offenders, we make it a legal obligation that they give up their details. If they don't its a year in jail. We just keep asking them every six months.

They will eventually get the message.

What's critical is that the government's pathetic response is one of the causes of people voting to leave.

tolkein said...

76 days to go. We leave unless the Withdrawal Act is repealed/amended and the Government asks for an extension to Article 50.

I am not sure there is enough time to do this.

Anonymous said...

As an inhabitant of the true blue shires, I've been watching our local by-election this week. As has been happening for a while now, the anointment of the Conservative candidates in both elections has been postponed for another 4 years.

Was there a swing to the red, green or orange? No.

Did UKIP surge? Yes to the bottom of the pile - by a long way.

It was the "independents" wot won it.

There is a wholesale rejection of political parties here and an adoption of local people who put the immediate concerns of the residents first. And given the images portrayed by the adult creche called Parliament, you can understand why.

Have a look at some of Dominic Cummings work for Vote Leave and you'll see how well he read the mood of the country and how badly the political parties listed to what he found out. It was all there, if the Central Offices just listened.

andrew said...

Acc to the sunday times
The govt will be the parliament.


Elby the Beserk said...

andrew said...
Acc to the sunday times
The govt will be the parliament.


Grownups? Wot, Like Bercow?

Bill Quango MP said...

I’m currently writing a gumshoe style parody of a very distopian uk.

The problem was in finding a credible way for the uk to go from centuries old traditional, measured parliamentary democracy,
To a free for all, regressive, obsessive, banning-compulsory, over and underregulated and uncontrolled idiot powerstate.

And John Bercow provided the solution that saved me scores of pages of background explanation.

“I read the parking meter, just for laughs. Amendment traffic - parking - enforcement - byways highways (78-3b) applied.
This was a Bercow precedent, introduced by Abbott. So not only was it ridiculous, the maths didn’t even add up.
‘Maximum daylight hour parking one hour or 132 seconds, whichever is the smaller.’
I did what everyone did and stuck my “first responder” sign on the dashboard. By the same MP, another law said first responders(self certificated) has priority parking on all streets in city.

Every car in the road had “first responder” in the windscreen.

andrew said...


Bit more complicated. Grownups are the people who can exercise power - and do.

You might not like that.
Most children dont when they feel freedoms are being infringed.

Bercow has been pushing back against decades of encroachment by the executive.
Both con and lab.
As such i am instinctively on his side.

Elby the Beserk said...


Sorry. Now that politics is a career a huge number of low rent MPs have infested parliament - presumable as they are incapable of productive work. I look at the Lammys of this world - poor man is very thick, but lauded as MP of the Year. Were Parliament comprised of "grown ups", that would be good. It's not. And Bercow is a poison with a horrible case of small person syndrome. At 6'5" I recognise it a long way off - indeed I was about to jump on a career of 23 years at the same company as they appointed a Bercow as our manager. Happily I got them to make me redundant instead. He is, as my old man used to say, "first rate shit"

Reminder. We voted to Leave. Not to do a "deal". You do not do "deals" with the EU. They tell you what's what and you do as you are told. Have you read Varoufakis? He's very clear about that. The only way we would have got a deal would have been May starting from No Deal, our position of strength and their weakness. Instead she crawled on her hands and knees to Brussels saying "Please, please, please". Hopeless Home Secretary, desperate PM. Hopeless politicial parties. Hopeless MPs (with a few exceptions).

Anonymous said...

Bercow has been pushing back against decades of encroachment by the executive.

I voted for a parliament - not an executive. Herein lies the issue. One executive trying to outdo another.

Have you read Varoufakis? He's very clear about that.

Can't think of any win by a country over the EU with the partial exception of Switzerland.

Mrs M (and her team) are not the people to be showing the way on this. We need Magna Carta V2.0 with Parliament sorting this and instructing the PM what to do i.e. get out.

The problem is power going to one person's head.

Now where did I put that guillotine.

hovis said...

Anon 7.31 - agreed.

Wrt: "Can't think of any win by a country over the EU with the partial exception of Switzerland."
- Indeed, note the negotiators (such as in the case of Varoufakis) have the ground cut from under them by their own side. In our case May didn't even try. The EU MO is to weaken opposition from within, less good at open competition.

andrew said...

I can think of a number of countries that have have at least drawn:

USA - "you want access to the US market - you follow _our_ rules"
Russia - "you want us out of ukraine etc etc - ... feeling a bit cold... "

In each case, the country has power - something the EU wants.

What does the EU want from us?
(I think we do have leverage)

On Bercow - never said he was a good person, just that if you really mean 'take back control', he is one person who has been trying get parliament to take back some control from an overmighty executive.
I do wonder what would have happened if the speaker (Michael Martin) had forced the govt to publish the iraq war legal advice etc back in '03.