10 October 2019
Diary of a Corbynista
Xenophobia election looms
by Don Urquhart
Suddenly politics looks exciting. Lots of military imagery and clearly several wars going on – Britain against Europe, People versus Parliament, etc. Plenty of heroes and villains. Some people are both. I am reminded of the great Prisoner of War movies, like Colditz and The Great Escape, which some would say our country is engaged in. There’s even espionage and sabotage. And yesterday the emergence of an engineering venture every POW film needs – The Tunnel, which is, in the Brexit context, a place to which both sets of negotiators repair when they are close to agreement and just a few refinements are needed. But will Steve McQueen emerge beyond the wire pluckily brandishing the legal text, or will the guards find the tunnel and block it off?
It is Friday October 4th and early next week Parliament will be prorogued to permit preparation of the Queen’s Speech scheduled for Monday October 14th. This lays out the government’s legislative programme. On the following Thursday and Friday a European Council Summit takes place and the government hopes there will be agreement to a deal of some kind.
The next day is Saturday, October 19th and here is what the EU Withdrawal Act No.2 says about this day:
If MPs haven’t approved a deal in a meaningful vote, or approved leaving the EU without a deal by 19 October, then the prime minister must send a letter (specifically worded in the Act) to the president of the European Council which seeks an extension to Article 50 until 31 January 2020. If the EU agrees to the date, then the prime minister should also agree.
Regardless of the politics how likely is it that a deal agreed with the EU on October 18th can be sensibly voted on by the Commons the next day? Perhaps it would be marginally easier had the British Government not asked the EU to keep details of the negotiations secret.
I have just finished a book called Municipal Dreams by John Boughton. It reminded me of my days in investment banking and chats with our Property Finance executives who used to spend an enjoyable week or so every year at a “conference” called MIPIM (Marché international des professionels de l’immobilier), where bankers, developers and punters, often local authority representatives, meet to hammer out deals.
The book is a learned study of Social Housing since Victorian times. It demonstrates that despite generally good intentions we usually undertake projects which do not provide enough truly affordable housing because this type of investment provides lower commercial returns than high-end builds. There are many examples of this phenomenon. One of the more recent which he describes has this revealing but sadly typical quote from a “victim” of the Hendon waterside scheme a couple of years ago:
You are displacing a whole community. You make like you are building for us, but it’s for the private sector. It’s not fair. When we signed that pledge it was like for like. All of a sudden I have lost all my neighbours. Yes it’s going to be beautiful but no-one I know will live there. The social landscape will have changed.
There are 23 cabinet ministers and 10 others who attend cabinet. On Sophy Ridge today, at a critical stage in our negotiations with the EU, which of their heavy hitters did they send out to befuddle the populace? Was it Gove, Patel, Javid, Raab, Rees-Mogg, Leadsom, Cleverley, Kwarteng or Truss? Well no, it was, to my mind, one of the least known cabinet members, a chap called Robert Jenrick.
I can imagine some of the more experienced hands not wanting to touch the current Brexit sell-job with the longest of sticks. Did Cummings do the rounds and find them all hiding under their desks, except young Jenrick who perhaps saw the call as a career opportunity?
On Twitter, plenty of Jo Swinson saying that Corbyn is threatening to enable a no deal Brexit and lots of Labour Party voices accusing her of the same.
Here’s my tweet:
Hopefully this is just grandstanding by Swinson and some Labour people. They need to be working together to make sure there is not a no deal. Knocking spots off each other is not a good look.
It looks pretty certain that Johnson will not agree a deal with the EU and that Saturday week his pen will be poised over that letter to Tusk and Juncker. Despite Cummings’ strange threats** to the EU member states delivered via James Forsyth in The Spectator, they will grant us an extension. At that point I believe that Johnson and Corbyn will be of one mind in seeking a General Election. This will be a contest between the monomania of a nodeal Brexit and a commitment to truly ending austerity with a People’s Vote side order.
Many people on my side of politics put head in hands predicting a Brexit Party landslide in “the North”. Perhaps I am an optimist, but I can’t see people up there weighing Farage against Corbyn and seeing the former as their man, however many jolly pints he shifts in the various locals.
**We will make clear privately and publicly that countries which oppose delay will go the front of the queue for future cooperation — cooperation on things both within and outside EU competences. Those who support delay will go to the bottom of the queue. [This source also made clear that defence and security cooperation will inevitably be affected if the EU tries to keep Britain in against the will of its government] Supporting delay will be seen by this government as hostile interference in domestic politics, and over half of the public will agree with us.
We will also make clear that this government will not negotiate further so any delay would be totally pointless. They think now that if there is another delay we will keep coming back with new proposals. This won’t happen. We’ll either leave with no deal on 31 October or there will be an election and then we will leave with no deal.
Leave.EU is the pressure group founded by Arron Banks and Richard Tice, the latter now Chairman of the Brexit Party. It has launched a social media campaign featuring pictures of Angela Merkel beneath the rubric:
We didn’t win two world wars to be pushed around by a Kraut.
In the coming election the Brexit Party and the Conservatives will be fighting for the “Leave” vote and the ugliness will intensify as the two seek to outdo each other on the xenophobic front.