Notes from a British Brexit observer:
Reviewing in retrospect, Tuesday seems to have been mostly theatre.
Fundamentally, it is a Leaver population, but a Remainer parliament, Remainer cabinet and Remainer prime minister. Ordinary Labour party members are Remainers. Ordinary Conservative party members are ‘no-deal’ leavers.
The Independent Group are nonentities who will immediately lose their seats at the next election. They are powerless and irrelevant, but get a hearing in the media because they have all the correct opinions. They have only one donor, a retired Jewish property developer.
The number of Conservative MPs on the payroll vote (have some sort of government job) who are threatening to resign for the purposes of preventing ‘no deal’ has notably dropped from 25 last week to 15 this week. Only 6 of them have their heads above the parapet. I could see a situation where it is actually only these 6 who are actually prepared to resign 27 Feb or 12 March. It is notable that nobody resigned at today’s Cabinet meeting. They all know that they are finished at the next election if they vote to prevent ‘no-deal’. They will probably be ‘de-selected’ by their local parties anyway – our version of ‘primaried’.
At Cabinet today, the PM promised that on 12 March, she will allow Commons votes on her deal, on delay, on ‘no deal’, and on another referendum – assuming that the Speaker agrees. Those calling for a referendum deliberately want to skew the question to guarantee the result they want – a full Remain. Conservatives that break ranks are likely to be countered by rust-belt Labour MPs breaking ranks in the other direction. No one wants to break ranks, because it will finish their careers, but they will if they have to. Caroline Flint is our version of Joe Manchin, and her group could vote for Cocaine Mitch. Caroline also has genuine principals – “that’s what my voters want, I disagree, but will do what they want.”
Remember that analysing by electoral district, 2/3 of the districts voted to Leave. If the current crop of MPs refuse to vote to leave then we’ll choose a new crop that will.
Cameron’s referendum gambit was taken because he could see that we were simply starting to vote for whoever was necessary to obtain Brexit, which was going to doom the Conservative Party. By having a referendum, he hoped to isolate the EU issue from the rest of party politics and prevent the replacement of the politicians. Well, we’re seeing that the politicians may have to be replaced and the referendum did not bring catharsis, only paralysis.
People forget that the Leave vote is so huge that if translated directly into the Westminster electoral system, it would result in more than 2/3 Leaver MPs. This is what Cameron was trying to prevent by holding the referendum.
We need a new bunch of politicians anyway because the current crop have revealed their universal uselessness. The whole point of Brexit is to make different policy choices. We’re going to need a better lot than the current crowd to make and implement those choices.
I am still optimistic that we can get ‘no deal’ reasonably soon, but if it takes longer, then so be it. Theresa May’s deal is worse than remaining. If we can’t escape cleanly, better to team up with Salvini and gum up the works.
Jeremy Corbyn has secured his position within the Labour Party for the moment by agreeing to support another referendum, but I think he has doomed the Labour Party at the next general election. The Conservatives were already making inroads into Rust-belt districts in 2017, taking mining and manufacturing areas that had voted Labour for the last 90 years, on the strength of Brexit.
Wednesday is going to be interesting because there may be an attempt to seize control of the legislative agenda from the government. But unless they are able to seize the agenda (doubtful) the real action has been postponed yet again to 12 March. Theresa May is basically hoping that people will blink. But no one has much incentive to blink.