“ I have been very clear —– I have been very clear ——- I have been very clear —-” repeated ad nauseam by Mrs May, and especially since her re-location to No 10
“ Oh FFS. Not this shitshow again” – Deborah Ross-The Times – April 20, 2017. (An unseemly but understandable optional response to BrexEl. I can only guess at the detail of the FFS acronym.)
Just after 11 am on Tuesday April 18 Theresa May emerged from No 10 Downing Street to announce to the waiting and bemused media throng that she had decided to call a General Election on June the 8th.
She went on to outline her reasons for taking this decision, and, given that she was making a 180 degree turn from her previously stated position, it is worth noting these reasons.
She quickly stressed her ongoing commitment to implement the will of the people as embodied in the June 23, 2016 referendum, and then proceeded to outline her concerns going forward.
“The country is coming together but Westminster is not.. In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the deal we reach with the EU. The Lib Dems have said that they want to grind the business of government to a standstill. The SNP say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the EU . Unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.
“Our opponents believe that because the government’s majority is so small , our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course. They are wrong.”
“The House of Lords is not the watch dog of the constitution – it is Mr Balfour‘s poodle — Lloyd George 1908″
For some of us the resolve of the House of Lords to “fight us every inch of the way” marks a refreshing change from its position not so much that of a poodle but rather that of a bulldog in its fierce support of conservative administrations down the centuries.
Now Mrs May will know how Mr Asquith and later Mr Attlee felt about the House of Lords.
The Welsh connection
Like Mrs May I recently walked in the Welsh hills. Unlike Mrs May I did not use my foray to reflect on grave national and global matters. For my part as I struggled during the long ascent from Talybont to the top of Waun Rydd I was preoccupied with the thought that I would be pleased when I got to the top.
I saw a lot of sheep during my walk and I suspect that Mrs May also saw a lot of sheep during her walks. It might – just might – have crossed her mind to draw comparisons between the behaviour of the docile grazing sheep and the attitude of the great majority of MPs from across the political spectrum – anything for a quiet life.
So – why not shake them up now in order to acquire a greater degree of control post June 8 over the flock – show them who is the Shepherd and who are the sheep.
The opening Theresa May speech deconstructed / translated according to taste.
In The Times (April 19) Philip Collins translated her speech from Downing Street speech into language that you and I can understand. Others have rushed into print and onto the airwaves and into social media to create a tsunami of interpretation.
You pays your money and you takes your choice – one of the many benefits of living in a free enterprise economy.
“Well, now they’ve got the second referendum they wanted – dressed up as General Election” Richard Littlejohn — Daily Mail April 19
In his article Littlejohn argued that we are facing not a General Election as rationally understood but simply a re-play of June 23rd 2016, and that “they” are the remainers who have been individually and collectively hoping, like Mr Micawber, that something would turn up.
Well it has now.
In the last 18 months or so Tribune has published 2 pieces by me in which I argued the case for the UK to remain in the EU. My views have not changed and in the following notes I suggest how the opposition parties and Tory remainers might react to and confront the shabby opportunism of Mrs May.
The one fact to emerge from her announcement – the point which fully justifies her claim to consistent clarity – is that she has called the election to allow herself to move into a political comfort zone, a zone which gives her much more scope to deal with dissenters.
The dissenters vary from those who want her to speed up the Brexit process to those who would like to reverse the Brexit process.
This election is a single issue election and that issue is how most effectively to implement our departure. I believe that the most effective response by her opponents will be to take her at her word – on this occasion – and to take the opportunity afforded during the next few weeks to restate the case to reverse the outcome of June 2016.
A stroll down memory lane
Nothing has happened in the past 10 months to persuade me that the June 23 referendum was not a poor advertisement for the UK brand of democracy – an unseemly amalgam of mendacity and squalid opportunism, with both elements prominently on show with BOJO and Michael Gove. BOJO was duly rewarded for his treachery by acquiring some – not all – of the Foreign Office whilst Gove was awarded the consolation prize of honorary poodle for Mr Murdoch.
Mr Paul Dacre continues to hurl insults at those who refuse to accept that the outcome of the referendum was good for Britain.
So – how should the remainers approach the June 8 election?
More to the point – what should their objectives be, how should they campaign most effectively to achieve these objectives and how and on what basis should they cast their votes?
In practical terms – I suggest that they treat the June 2017 General Election in exactly the same way that Mrs M has been and is treating it, namely as an opportunity to replay the June 2016 referendum.
Mrs May is seeking to strengthen her position as she prepares to engage with the 27 countries wishing to remain.
In so doing she has put into the hands of the remainers a weapon of considerable potential strength – they should use it!
In short – as Mr Micawber would say – Mrs May sees the June 8 General Election as a single issue election. She is asking the British people to facilitate her task in the coming months and years AND years.
I see June 8 in the same terms but with a diametrically opposing objective – to use this replay of the 2016 referendum as a golden opportunity to rip up article 50, to apologise to the other 27 and to return to business as usual with our EU friends.
What might this approach mean in voting terms?
This could not be more simple – it would require that every candidate in every constituency would be asked to state their position with regard to Brexit with – to coin a phrase – great clarity.
Views expressed would range from:-
- At the one extreme – The UK to leave the EU as quickly as possible – speed of departure to be a crucial aim, even at the expense of waiting a little to secure better terms .
- At the other extreme – The June 2016 referendum result to be put into reverse and the UK to return to the status quo ante
The tricky bit – with the views of the candidates having been secured – voters to be urged to support the candidates most committed to the remain camp. This support to take precedence over all traditional party loyalties with the overriding aim of securing the future of the UK within the European Union.
In short – all those seeking to reverse the June 2016 result should treat the June 8, 2017 election as a second referendum on remain or leave and to vote accordingly.
United we stand – Divided we fall (Well – up to point, Lord Copper)
* UK referendum about our EU membership in June, 2016- stay or leave
Stay – 48%
Leave – 52%
* USA Presidential election
% for Trump – 46
% for Clinton – 48
* Turkey – Erdogan referendum to retain the status quo or to cede extra powers to the President
% for no change – 49
% to accept the Erdogan plans – 51
Poll of outside experts questioned about the likely outcome of any referendum held in North Korea about the popularity of the leader Mr Kim Jong-Un
% who believe that he is the man for the job – 100
It would appear that Mrs May is uneasy about her membership of the very low 50s club and would like to edge up the league table towards the enviable position of Mr Kim Jong-Un.
A word about unintended consequences
A number of issues have surfaced since June 24, 2016, some more serious than others, but all to some degree falling into the category of unintended consequences.
They include :-
Difficulties over the out status of Ulster and the in status of The Republic of Ireland.
- A perceived readiness by Spain to lay claim to Gibraltar. On this matter the readiness of those old sea dogs Michael Howard and Michael Fallon to growl at would be trespassers did little to foster international good will
- The possibility – to put it no stronger- that key personnel required by various sectors of the UK economy would not be allowed to come here.
- Another even more unfortunate possibility is that some key people already here and holding down important jobs might not be allowed to remain. The status of this group of unfortunates is that of hostages caught up in a conflict not of their choice.
- Nicola Sturgeon, wholly predictably, is proving immune to appeals to “Be British” and is working tirelessly in pursuit of her goal of an independent Scotland – and who shall blame her for doing on a small stage exactly what Mrs May is doing on the larger stage.
Some commentators argued before and after the June 2016 referendum that Immigration was the main issue that determined the outcome, and that the no vote was in large measure the outcome of decades of ignoring the concerns of those who were uneasy about large scale immigration and saw the referendum as a one off opportunity to express their concerns in the only way open to them.
There is clearly some truth in this assertion and the remainers can and must do better than simply label this group as racists.
The fact is that there is scope to reach a compromise between the Free Movement of people of people within the EU on the one hand and closed borders on the other.
Some sections of the Labour Party and especially within the Trade Unions recognise that in practice the free movement policy has been used to erode employee terms and conditions in the UK, and that the sort of generous relocation expenses available to those at the top are simply not there for those at the bottom.
The weaknesses of the EU – with or without UK membership
Remainers should recognise the valid concerns of many in the UK – and throughout the EU – about the democratic shortcomings of aspects of some EU institutions.
Sadly some critics tend to lump their concerns together under the general heading of “Bloated Bureaucracy – a valid but vague criticism. Why not take the extra step of spelling out what ought to change and why in order to bring about greater accountability and a leaner institution.
I suggest that remainers should examine the strong case for:-
- A European Union where power is devolved to local level to the maximum possible extent.
- This point to apply even to legal matters, indeed especially to legal matters.
- Work to end the system of MEPS being elected on a party basis. Electors to vote for named individuals rather than for parties.
- Remainers to ensure that the MEPS elected to EU parliament are constantly reminded of the need to tackle – not address!- the corruption in EU institutions
- I urge the electorate to take the opportunity generously afforded them by Mrs May to reverse the June 2016 result.
- I urge them to grasp that the case to remain in the EU is more important than the fortunes of any political party, however strong the traditional loyalties and ties.
- If Mrs May can change her mind with such breath taking insouciance – why should the rest of us not follow her lead?
- The UK would recover more quickly from a spell under Mr Corbyn and/or Mr Farron and/or Ms Sturgeon than it would in the post Brexit chaos under the collective thumbs of Mrs May and BOJO and Mr Murdoch and Mr Paul Dacre.
- I hope that the British electorate will take this heaven sent opportunity to bring about a return to stability and relative domestic tranquillity.
An abbreviated version of this article first appeared in Tribune in May, 2017