By the end of the Tory Party Conference which is to end in a few days’ time, we – the UK electorate – might be a little clearer as to the most likely answer to the question posed in the blog title.
I was tempted to adopt an Asquithian position – wait and see – but I overcame my reservations in order to have my say now, and then compare my predictions and forebodings with the actual outcome.
I noted that Peter Kellner, when interviewed during the Labour Party Conference, was most reluctant to be drawn either on the outcome of a second referendum, were there to be one, or on the outcome of a General Election, again, were there to be one.
Why should Holdenforth walk where the sharpest of our pollsters fears to tread?
I’ll tell you why: Holdenforth has no reputation for prescience to lose – so here goes.
(Before we move on – readers of Holdenforth – assuming that are any – may recall that the wife of Peter Kellner, Catherine Ashcroft, was at one time the Foreign Secretary of the EU. That relationship would surely have given Mr Kellner an insider view of the workings of the EU. What chance has Holdenforth got, operating as it does on the fringe of the border of the periphery of events?)
Will the UK be exiting the EU or will it be remaining in the EU?
A status report on the stances currently held by the two main parties and by other interested parties.
The Labour Party
“Senator Muskie said that policy had to be democratically decided. Dean Acheson turned on him… ‘Are you trying to say, Senator, that United States foreign policy should be determined in a series of little town meeting? Don’t ask them, Senator, tell them.’”
“Portrait of Dean Acheson” by Roy Jenkins
Jeremy Corbyn said during the conference that if the wish of the Labour Party is for a second referendum then he will accept that wish in the true democratic spirit, and, if the opportunity to implement it presents itself – he would implement it.
Holdenforth suspects that Mr Corbyn is confused in his thinking: we would prefer him to adopt the robust approach of Dean Acheson and tell us what ought to happen.
A shaky start to the resolution of not just a crucial issue by Mr Corbyn: it is THE crucial issue.
The Tory Party
“Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is the Russian national interest.”
I think that the Churchillian view of Russia expressed in 1939 might reasonably cover the view of Holdenforth about the Tory party as it gingerly approaches its annual conference to be held in the coming week.
Uncertainty prevails but perhaps the key here is the sum of the personal prospects of the current Tory members of the House of Commons – as perceived by themselves. What, they will ask themselves, is the best outcome for me in terms of my political prospects?
Holdenforth believes that this is the unspoken but all-pervasive sentiment among Tory parliamentarians.
“Without Tony Blair there can be no new party. If a centrist regrouping is to shake up British politics it will have to be led or at least guided by the former prime minister”
Lord Finkelstein The Times, September 19, 2018
In his column, Danny Finkelstein was at his brilliant, infuriating best as he set out the case for any plausible third party to be led or, at the very least, strongly influenced by Tony Blair.
Where does Holdenforth stand on this crucial issue?
Here is our preferred outcome in our preferred sequence of events.
* We want an immediate general election that will be, like the last general election in June 2017, a single issue election – to leave the EU or to remain in the EU. We will call this general election Brexel.
* We forecast that the pressures created by and following the calling of Brexel will effectively force all the competing parties to spell out their positions – in or out?
* We further forecast that common sense will prevail and that the Brexel will be won by the Remainers regardless of their appeal or lack of it on other policy areas.
* We further insist that in the highly probable event that Brexel is won by the Remainers, there would be no need for an in-out referendum because the Brexel victory would be a sufficient democratic outcome to overturn the 2016 referendum.
* The final step could not be more simple – a short note from the newly elected HMG to the EU authorities to inform them formally that they should regard Brexit as dead, and please to cancel our earlier application to invoke article 50.
* At this point – Goodbye Brexit – Job done – back to business as usual.
Why exactly does Holdenforth want the in-out decision to be taken by The House of Commons?
Because the decision to hold a referendum ought never to have been taken in the first place.
The in-out decision was an ill-judged decision by David Cameron, and one which ended a promising political career.
The solution put forward by Holdenforth returns the in-out decision back where it belongs: Parliament.
A glance back on how we, the UK people, got to be burdened by Brexit.
I have previously written at length on the background to this fiasco: on the contribution of Mr Cameron, and his decision to use the ludicrous option of a referendum to put the allegedly sensitive EU membership issue to bed when he had no need to do so. The referendum device is a clumsy and wholly inappropriate tool for the resolution of most political issues, and especially so for issues with major long-term consequences. To put the charge against Mr Cameron more bluntly – Mr Cameron took a wholly unnecessary and reckless gamble in which he put narrow party interests above the national interest.
In the UK, as in most democracies we elect politicians to take major decisions on our behalf.
Sadly Mr Cameron, by his misjudgements and failures, triggered the worst of all outcomes, that is a Brexit outcome. The Brexit outcome quickly triggered his own resignation and a period of unprecedented political, economic and social turmoil; he snatched a UK defeat from the jaws of victory.
There can also be no doubt that the dubious duo of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove bears more responsibility for the outcome than any of the other participants. It has to be said, not necessarily in their favour, that their relaxed and flexible attitude to the truth aided their assertions about the bleak prospects facing the UK in the event of a remain outcome.
It was ironic that at the very moment of their triumph, Mr Gove made a dash to join the contenders for the Tory leadership following the resignation of Mr Cameron, taking care to trip up Boris Johnson whilst doing so. A short time later Johnson fled the field leaving others to deal with the wreckage that he had thoughtfully bequeathed.
However, one of Mrs May’s earliest moves as PM was to announce a thought provoking division of labour with regard to the politicians charged with arranging the small matter of the departure of the UK from Europe, the unedifying trio of Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis: the appointment of BOJO as Foreign Secretary caused the most surprise given his erratic and eccentric track record.
It soon became apparent that Mrs May and the Brexit Three had been so preoccupied with positioning themselves for a favourable personal outcome to the referendum that individually and collectively they had no idea about what to do next.
After a while the gap between aspiration and a plausible Brexit plan became so obvious to the public that Mrs May announced magisterially that “Brexit means Brexit.”
Quite So – and F*** All means F*** All!
“It (the oratory of Stanley Baldwin) lifts the discussion on to so abstract a plane that the minds of the hearers are relieved of the effort of considering the details of the immediate problems.
Nye Bevan in a less than flattering portrait of Stanley Baldwin. Tribune 1937
Likewise the oratory of Mrs May.
“It seems entirely possible that saying nothing at all comes naturally to Mrs May.”
Iain Martin, The Times.
However, as I wrote in an article published by Tribune in January 2018, the bulk of Parliamentarians remain keen to reverse the result of the referendum.
For our part, we assert that the sheer enormous scale of the output bellowed out from our traditional media and from our ever-expanding social media have done little to clarify the complexity of the in-out debate for the general public.
The unedifying spectacle of the interminable 24/7 yapping about the pros and cons of Brexit with every pontificating political and media Tom, Dick and Harry galloping from studio to keyboard results only in triggering yet further confusion.
(A word on a pet Holdenforth dislike from the wide world of UK media. I refer to the Andrew Marr show – the great political showpiece of the BBC. It beggars belief that anyone can take seriously the sight and sound of Andrew Marr – the great suppressor of investigative reporting when he was under the spotlight – attempting to grill a passing politico. Evidently in the view of the BBC – it takes one impostor to know one.
How is the political re-grouping outlined by Lord Finkelstein going to come about and why does Holdenforth assert with jaunty confidence that it will come about?
Broadly along the following lines.
- We will have a Brexel in which a serious Bremain party is formed to campaign on the single issue of in-out. This will be the Remain Party.
- “ Joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth , more than ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” Luke, 15,7
Holdenforth will welcome to the Remain fold all who see the errors of their ways, and, more guardedly, those who opt to join the Remain cause solely to save their political careers.
As the In-out general election gathers momentum – sorry about that term – no double entendre intended – current and would be Members of Parliament will desperately scuttle hither and thither to identify the likely winners, and then reluctantly cosy up to and embrace the party they perceive as emerging as the winners.
- The Remain Party will secure a majority in Brexel and immediately kill off Brexit.
- The Remain Party will assume office and get on with the mundane but essential job of governing the country.
Who are the votewinning heavyweights that Holdenforth would like to see recruited to the remain cause?
As well as Blair, and in no special order:
From Labour ranks:- Brown, Mandelson, Lords Hattersley Kinnock and Adonis, Hutton, Miliband D and Miliband E,
From Tory ranks:- Major, Cameron (yes, Cameron – a repenting sinner if ever there was one), Lord Heseltine, Osborne.
Holdenforth worries that our list may be top heavy with members of the House of Lords but then – beggars can’t be choosers.
No need to welcome the current Tory Remainers with Anna Soubry – they are there already.
What happens next
* The Tory conference holds out the promise a uniquely entreating combination of farce and tragedy.
* We at Holdenforth have said what we want to happen and what we think will happen. Our view as to we want to happen will not change – we are committed Remainers.
* Holdenforth will follow events at the Tory conference closely and get back to you as to what we think will happen when the dust has settled on the Tory bloodbath next week.