This could be right – Corbyn blocking moves for a second referendum triggering more MPs going

February 18th, 2019

And could the moves against CON remainers be another recruiter?

Mike Smithson


On the Betfair exchange LAB’s chances of winning most seats next time drop to a 41% chance

February 18th, 2019

Betdata.io chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

On what is quite a momentous day in British politics it is quite hard to single out a specific market that has seen change. The one I’ve chosen is the next general election where punters who only last month rated LAB as a 50-50 chance to win most seats now put it at 41%.

A lot depends on reaction to the move and whether the development gets traction in the media. For the individuals concerned these are massive personal decisions but they have made their choices.

For Corbyn’s LAB this isn’t good news and, as David Herdson was pointing out on Twitter, means that with other MP losses this parliament we have seen the equivalent of getting on for half the LAB gains from GE2017 are now wiped out. The smaller LAB is at Westminster the less powerful it is to influence events.

In many way this was always on the cards. In 2016 Corbyn, as I pointed out on the previous thread, only managed to win support of 20% of the parliamentary party in a confidence vote.

Clearly there’ll be lots of speculation about where the group of seven end up. Could we see an enhanced centre party emerging taking in the independents, the LDs and Caroline Lucas? Clearly there will be closer working together.

I also wonder whether Corbyn’s tenure might not be as long as is widely perceived. How will the unions view the weakened party? How will John McDonnell react.

Mike Smithson


Today could be the day that Corbyn’s Labour Party finally splits

February 18th, 2019

Judging by activity on social media overnight there appears to be a reasonable chance that today could be the day that the Labour Party finally splinters. The Tweet above from Corbyn loyalist Rebecca Long-Bailey reflects one of the ways that the mainstream party is responding to the threat.

This was supposed to happen last Thursday with a widely briefed story that at 8 p.m. that evening a big development would take place. Some leading names were associated with those reports. It didn’t happen partly, because this was such a big night in the Commons anyway and my guess is that the prospective rebels wanted to maximise the impact of their actions.

    The big questions, if this does happen, are how many are taking the plunge and who they are. It really needs some big hitters like those who have been seen as leadership prospects in the past to be amongst them.

Corbyn is no stranger to rebellions against his leadership and in 2016 80% of LAB MPs voted that the had no confidence in him. Because of the Labour party structure that was not enough to oust Mr Corbyn who went on to win a second leadership contest by a big majority.

One of the big deterrents to potential rebels is the memory within the movement about what happened during the last splinter within LAB in the early 1980s. This was, of course, the formation of the breakaway SDP. Its creation and the massive challenge of the first past the post voting system enabled the Tories to increase their majority by a huge amount at the ensuing 1983 general election.


But it appears Corbyn’s actions on anti-semitism and, of course, his equivocal approach to the main political issue of the day, Brexit, have just been too much for a number of MPs.

Interestingly there’s a by-election in prospect following the death of Newport MP Paul Flynn who retained his seat at GE2017 with 52.3% of the vote.

Mike Smithson


Do Farage’s claims about 100k people signing up for his new party stand up?

February 17th, 2019

Or is the ex-UKIP leader taking the Trump approach to “facts”?

A big development today has been the claim from ex-UKIP leader, Farage, about the success of bis new Brexit party in getting people to “sign up”.

Crick’s question is very pertinent particularly as the number is so out of line with the membership total that UKIP once had.

Farage is on of Trump’s leading British fans and I wonder whether he is taking the President’s approach to facts.

At least Michael Crick is on the case.

Mike Smithson


The Sunday open thread

February 17th, 2019



Why Chief Justice Roberts could hold the key to Trump’s wall

February 16th, 2019

SCOTUS with Roberts front row centre

James Blundell gives his assessment

Away from the ebb and flow of Brexit on the other side of the Atlantic, the 45th President of the United States continues his tempestuous term in office, since the midterms very effectively opposed by a House of Representatives galvanised under the gavel of Nancy Pelosi. The USA has had divided Government before, but never has it effected the running to such a degree that federal workers missed out on pay packets as a result of the longest Government shutdown in history.

A consequence of this schism is Trump’s invocation of emergency powers to fund the border wall, beloved to his base and a sign of all that is wrong with his presidency to his opponents. However he has already readily admitted there will highly likely be legal moves to block funding for such the wall, necessary as Pelosi would not and will not budge for a conventional budget settlement.

Part of the border area is already fenced, and even if Trump’s ‘wall’ were to be fully constructed there would not be a solid wall stretching the 1500+ miles from Boca Chica to Tijuana. But be in no doubt, this is one of the key promises he made to his base whilst campaigning and he is determined that it should be built whatever ultimate form it takes.

This use of emergency powers begs many questions to be asked, just how far does presidential reach go ? Is there an “emergency” on the border? Will the wall be effective? The answer to these questions depends on whether you’re a Trump supporter or not. If you are part of the base, the wall is absolutely necessary. If you vote Democrat, it is not and the Democratic base will not allow the wall under its watch if it can help it. So to the US legal system we go.

Legal moves against will start in lower courts, with likely a sympathetic judge placing an injunction or some equivalent block on the funds needed for construction to proceed. Trump will appeal at this point, and up the US court system the case will proceed till it eventually arrives at the Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS for short.

Now one can’t be 100% certain, but broadly liberal Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan will I would have thought likely oppose Trump on the wall. Highly conservative Thomas, Alito and Trump appointed Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh will find no issue with the presidential order. A surprise 9-0 or 0-9 ruling (These are actually very common on more apolitical matters) could turn up but I don’t expect it to, which leaves us with “The Wall” not as a Roger Waters construction but a Chief Justice John Roberts decision.

Appointed by George W Bush in 2005, Justice Roberts is by any stretch of the definition a conservative Justice; one of the decisions SCOTUS reached last year was when he joined other conservative Justices upholding Trump’s travel ban on June 25th in a 5-4 ruling.

But he is not, and will not be seen (And by implication the entire court due to the current political makeup) as a nodding dog Trumper. He was the key Justice on a 5-4 ruling siding with the 4 liberal Justices to uphold a lower court’s refusal to allow Trump’s ban on asylum for immigrants attempting to cross the southern border illegally on December 21st 2018.

So he’ll have a decision to make when the matter of President Trump’s wall heads to SCOTUS. And likely as goes Chief Justice John Roberts, so goes the nation.

James Blundell


Olly Robbins’ overheard comments are a clue that TMay might be considering EURef2

February 15th, 2019

David Herdson dissects the detail of what was said

Brexit is not going to plan, it’s fair to assume. Only the Leave Ultras, intent on a No Deal outcome are likely to be feeling any confidence at the moment, and that group is always given to unjustified hope and expectation before the event anyway. Labour partisans not bothered about Brexit might also be revelling in the government’s discomfort too, but the list pleased with how it’s going runs short after that.

In reality, any optimism on the part of the ERG No Deal fringe should be tempered by the prospect of parliament firming up plans to oppose that outcome. Their asset is the lack of anything like a majority for the existing Withdrawal Agreement, and the lack of time or political space to find an alternative. The EU regards the text as closed and if that does remain the position, it’s May’s Deal, No Deal, delay or revoke. Given that revoke would be political suicide, delay merely postpones the question and there’s no majority for May’s deal, that leaves them in the box seat, yes? Well, not quite.

Can-kicking is an EU speciality. I doubt there’d be any great enthusiasm for it over Brexit, given the extent to which the subject has distracted the EU over the last four years (since Cameron’s intitial negotiations), but putting the deadline off would still for them be the least-worst option when set against both the economic disruption around Britain’s borders, and the Irish issue in particular, where EU officials apparently recently confirmed the obvious to Dublin: that they’d have to choose between a hard border with the North, and some sort of semi-detached status with the Single Market.

For how long might an extension be agreed? Here’s where an overheard comment from Olly Robbins – May’s civil service Brexit supremo – comes in. My assumption had been that any Article 50 extension would be short, in order to enable ratification before the new European Parliament sits on 1 July: three months at most. That in turn implies that it would only be granted to tidy up the parliamentary process and that therefore 29 March was a practical deadline for the Commons to ratify the (or a) deal. However, if Robbins was reported accurately, then “the extension [would be] a long one”.

What are we to take from that? To me, there are two probable interpretations. The first is that the two sides just keep on talking. The problem with that is that it doesn’t resolve the political problems at the heart of the issue. The two sides struggled so much to reach agreement, and have struggled even more with ratification, because the red lines don’t leave space for agreement – and on the part of the UK government, those red lines are determined by Conservative MPs, the DUP and Labour. If those aren’t willing to shift, and are willing to countenance No Deal, then pushing back the deadline isn’t going to achieve a breakthrough; quite the contrary: it takes the pressure off.

The second interpretation, however, is that May might be thinking of offering a referendum.

At first sight, this might seem madness but if it is, there’s method in it. A referendum couldn’t be run within six months at the minimum due to the need to legislate, for the campaign groups to organise and register, and to then hold the vote. That’s why you’d need a long extension.

A referendum also has signal benefits over the otherwise mooted general election. An election puts the entire government at risk, throws many other issues into the mix, and even if May were to win comfortably (a highly optimistic assumption given her last performance), would be likely to produce an outcome little more conducive to passing her Withdrawal Agreement due to the scale of Tory opposition. By contrast, a referendum could be made binding and provide in advance for each outcome.

Where a referendum really wins out though is that it might be the one process that can command a majority in the House, if No Deal and Remain are also offered alongside the agreed deal. Enough people then have enough of an interest in gaining the mandate necessary to deliver what they otherwise couldn’t.

On a low politics level, it would also be richly ironic if, having resisted huge pressure from within Labour to demand and pursue a second referendum, Corbyn then watched May stand up after another defeat and announce precisely that.

Some will say that it would be a democratic abomination to override the original Leave vote from 2016 and reoffer Remain as an option. I have some sympathy with that. However, that might have to be the price and the incentive necessary to get No Deal and May’s Deal on the paper too. If Leave is still the will of the people (and a more informed will now), then it should win again. And if the referendum were structured as two questions: (1) Leave/Remain, and (2) if Leave, then Deal or No Deal, then there wouldn’t be the risk – as there would be with AV – of Remain winning on transfers, despite a majority for one form of Leave or another.

From the other side, many will object to No Deal being explicitly on the table. Well, if it’s that bad an option, argue against it. But it needs to be there, both as a ‘clean’ Brexit option, and also to enable the PM to keep some semblance of control over her own party, without which they would at some point inflict a crushing defeat.

We also have to remember the other side of the equation here, which is that a “long” extension has to be agreed unanimously by the EU, which means it needs justifying. Asking for at least six months implies putting something on the table for them too, which Remain does (as, to a lesser extent, does an increased chance of passing the agreed deal).

Theresa May’s career has generally been marked by caution and to call such a divisive vote would run counter to that. All the same, why would the UK ask for a long extension – which she must know would be hugely controversial – without a game-changing proposal? A second referendum would break the parliamentary deadlock and would be that game-changer. She’d be right to do it.

David Herdson


The “Led by Donkeys” billboards probably won’t stop Brexit but they’ll undermine many political reputations

February 15th, 2019

In 2017 the movie,Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, won a host of awards and was a good demonstration of the power of this form of advertising. It is in relative terms cheap and can be focussed geographically.

Whether that was the inspiration for the “Led by Donkeys” crowd-funding campaign I don’t know but over the past our weeks a series of posters like the ones above have been appearing in prominent locations throughout the UK.

There’s one featuring Mr. Corbyn that simply is a blank Tweet which says a lot. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a picture of that.

My favourites are those reflecting views of the two former BrexSecs, DDavis and DRaab. In the current context both are highly effective. They are also an indicator that post-Brexit, assuming that it happens, it will continue to be a dominant part of the UK’s politics and will likely be flung back at the named individuals.

Mike Smithson