Peer welcomes Repeal Bill but laments ‘costly’ year long delay

THE PRESS OFFICE OF 

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon (independent Labour)   

 

News Release

 

13th July 2017

 

Peer welcomes Repeal Bill but laments ‘costly’ year long delay

 

The independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has welcomed the Government’s Repeal Bill but laments that it is “a year late”.

Lord Stoddart said: “I welcome the Government’s Repeal Bill and I sincerely hope that Parliament will now do its duty by the people and pass it through the House of Commons unimpeded.

”It is a great pity that the Bill is a year late as I was advocating that it should happen soon after the referendum result.  The intervening year has been costly because it has allowed unpatriotic and anti-democratic Remain politicians to re-group and begin a determined campaign against Brexit.  The delay has also given us an unwanted and unnecessary General Election, the result of which has been irresponsibly used by Remainers to further their dangerous campaign against the will of the people.

“The Labour front bench has made clear its opposition to the Bill in its present form but where are the Labour Brexiteers?  I am concerned about their continued low profile on this vitally important issue.  When are they going to speak up for the will of the people?  Now is the time.”

 

The deal that will (hopefully) keep Brexit on track

The Democratic Unionist Party has recently signed a deal with Theresa May’s Conservatives. Unlike 2010, we will not have a coalition government but rather, a government relying on a “confidence and supply agreement” whereby the DUP will support the Tories in certain key areas. In this instance, these include “all motions of confidence, the Queen’s speech, the budget, finance bills, money bills, supply and appropriation legislation and estimates”  plus. of course, Brexit.

The Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party between them have 328 MPs  out of 650. This, in theory, gives them a slender majority if all Tory MPs behave. The margin for dissent is increased slightly by the likely absence of the seven MPs from Sinn Féin, who historically have never taken their seats at Westminster.

The full agreement can be downloaded here. As far as Brexit is concerned, the key passage is on Page 1:-

In line with the parties’ shared priorities for negotiating a successful exit from the European Union and protecting the country in the light of recent terrorist attacks, the DUP also agrees to support the government on legislation pertaining to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union; and legislation pertaining to national security. 

Crisis management of the Brexit Article 50 negotiations

The European Union’s Brexit negotiating screws are turning on a weakened Mrs May and Co. It is painful to behold the concessions given to them only to be followed by their extra demands, such as the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit.

It must be tortuous being there in the room with Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk or Guy Verhofstadt (each an EU version of the Marquis de Sade) and Angela Merkel’s (pig headed) attack dogs enjoying Schadenfreude. Did anyone think we could actually negotiate with them without being treated to an EU version of Count Dracula siphoning out as much of our life blood as possible? At what point do we recognise that these Article 50 negotiations are going to make us second class citizens in our own country and worse?  Some serious crisis management is needed, preferably before being on the rack of this modern day Inquisition (or Imposition) gets unbearable.

The most basic rules of crisis management are:

  • Don’t get into a crisis in the first place;
  • Once in a crisis, don’t do anything to make it worse;
  • Don’t believe that the original timetable, objectives and budget can still be achieved;
  • The earlier the remedial intervention, the greater the chances of recovery.

The basic problem – why things go wrong in the first place and don’t get corrected in time – is that all decisions and resulting actions, whatever is happening,  occur within an underlying paradigm or conceptual framework.  This paradigm includes subject and other knowledge, assumptions, beliefs, aspirations, language, philosophy etc. and operates to constrain intellectual activity. Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions explored the effect of paradigms on scientific progress. Kuhn noted that the luminaries of the science community tended limit their interest to exploring an existing ‘conventional world view’ of science, and ignoring contradictory evidence and theories. Progress tended to come from the ‘outsiders’ who established a new paradigm.

Individual paradigms can also turn into a group one or consensus that is fundamentally flawed; peer group pressure commonly stifles any dissenting views. Irving L. Janis in Victims of Groupthink explored how a group (in this case concerned with American foreign policy) could make potentially dangerous mistakes. He has suggested in Crucial Decisions – Leadership in Policymaking and Crisis Management how this can be avoidedThe picture of imperatives towards bad policymaking is completed by process and bureaucratic controls, poor communications, custom and practice, heuristic shortcuts and management/political leadership ego (loss of face) which can all also help to prevent reality being accepted and acted upon expeditiously, when things are going wrong.

Regarding Brexit negotiations, once Mrs May made her Lancaster House speech in January this year the die was cast, come EU hell, high water, or General Election disaster. Yet there were – and still are – many issues where our Brexit negotiations looks like shambolic vague wishful thinking, based on incomplete and inaccurate information (see Brexit and some Alternative Facts), and questionable assumptions (for some significant assumptions see The Big EU-UK Question).

 This makes us vulnerable and risks our being taken to the cleaners by the EU over, for example,: the number, order and imposed conditions of subjects ‘negotiated’ such as any ongoing contributions to the EU black hole (aka budget and liabilities), turning EU citizens remaining in this country into a privileged caste, trade/bureaucratic regulation terms propelling our finest enterprises on a one way route to commercial oblivion and setting us up as a warning of what the vengeance of the EU élite means for any wayward populists in the remaining EU Member States.  Less than two months ago, it was obvious the EU was behaving in an uncompromising way, showing bad faith in respect to Brexit negotiations (see Mayday, May! Brexit Mayday). Yet we are weaker now compared with then and need to come up with an alternative strategy (or strategies) that stands a better chance of getting us out of the claws of the EU political machinery and machinations – ensuring we achieve a real Brexit and not continuing EU members in reality, if not in name.

Recovery in a crisis needs a new paradigm to replace the existing failing one, and the resources to make it work. This suggests rapidly taking on board an effective Company Doctor or turnaround specialist (or team) for Brexit who thinks the unthinkable and stamps his or her authority and project management expertise quickly on the negotiations.  Forget the idea of just getting more of the same people – usually this actually slows down progress.  The new paradigm needs to be based on an understanding of the existing failing one and its obvious flaws, such as unrealistic assumptions about the EU’ negotiating priorities,  their desire to reach a deal,  their honesty and integrity,  their flexibility to achieve a deal, what is achievable within the timetable and the difference between a real comprehensive fully resourced plan and vacuous hyperbole.  The new paradigm needs to be evidence- and analysis-driven, including risk assessments of probabilities of being realistic. Above all, it must not be based on wishful thinking or aspirations, or after drinks entertainment for the Westminster Bubble.  And most importantly the existing team mustn’t shoot the messenger because the message is unpalatable or demand a sycophantic re-write.

It would be nice to think that everything will be all right in the end and we will leave the EU seamlessly in March 2019, despite the best (or worst) efforts of our negotiating team under the direction of Mrs May and Mr Davis (Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union).  Unfortunately history is full of projects that failed to come in on time, budget and to specified requirements or objectives.  In the absence of hard evidence to the contrary, Brexit negotiations appear to be heading the same way; or more metaphorically the Brexit orchestra is playing as the Titanic ship of state sails serenely on towards a sea full of EU negotiating icebergs.

 

Reflections one year on from the referendum

The morning of 24th June is a day I will never ever forget. By 4AM, I had given up any idea of sleep and was watching the results of the referendum on my computer as they were posted up on the BBC website. I had always believed that we could persuade our countrymen that we would be better off out of the EU, but David Cameron had gone for a quick cut-and-run campaign to minimise our chances of success. However, as soon as I saw the relative totals for leave and remain, my heart leapt. We’re going to pull this off after all! Less than two hours later, the number of leave votes passed the crucial 50% mark. “We’ve done it! We’ve done it, We’ve done it!” I shouted at the top of my voice. It was not yet 6AM and normally I would be much more considerate towards my neighbours, but after sixteen years of campaigning for our country to leave the EU, my overwhelming feelings of joy momentarily got the better of me.

Thankfully, my neighbours have never complained. Perhaps they are sound sleepers. Perhaps the soundproofing of our late Victorian semi is better than I thought. Whatever, I don’t think I will be giving a repeat performance!

I spent much of the rest of the day in a daze. We’re really going to leave! It was hard to take it in. This was the greatest day in our country’s history since the end of the Second World War and I felt a great sense of pride in having played a part, albeit only a very small one, in achieving this memorable result.

One year on from that incredible day, the memories are still fresh in my mind, as I’m sure they are in the minds of many other leave campaigners, but in the meantime, what a roller-coaster we have endured!  There was the court case brought by Gina Miller, the uncertainly about whether Mrs May’s European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill would make it unscathed through both houses of Parliament, the sense of relief when Article 50 was finally triggered in March as the Prime Minister had promised, the reluctance of the economy to tank in spite of the predictions of George Osborne’s “Project Fear” and most recently, the shambolic General Election which was meant to increase the Government’s majority but instead left the Tories turning to the DUP in order to maintain any sort of hold on power.

In spite of the chaos, the Brexit negotiations have started and we are still on course to heave the EU in just over 21 months’ time. Media reporting seems to have plumbed new depths since the election results were announced and it has been hard to distinguish the wood from the trees. Terms like “hard” and “soft” Brexit are bandied around often without any explanation, leading some concerned leave supporters to equate “soft “Brexit” with  not actually leaving the EU at all.

From what I can gather after reading complete articles, including actual quotes, rather than just the headlines, there are very few politicians who actually want to stop Brexit. Many more are concerned about the implications for UK businesses if we don’t end up with a decent trading arrangement. Such concerns are actually quite reasonable and do not in any way imply that they want us to stay in the EU.  Soundings from Parliament after last June’s vote indicated that the overwhelming majority of MPs accepted the result and would not wish to frustrate the will of the people. The General Election has not significantly altered this.

Of course, with David Cameron not having made any preparation for our voting to leave, the government and civil service are on a sharp learning curve and we still await evidence that they have got on top of the brief which the electorate gave them a year ago. Our biggest concern must surely be a chaotic – or more likely sub-standard – Brexit rather than no Brexit at all.

The main reason why I remain confident that Brexit will happen in some form or other  lies in the nature of the Conservative Party. The Tories were given a nasty shock two weeks ago. They went into the campaign expecting to flatten Labour. Instead, they only just limped over the finishing line. Most Tory MPs voted to remain last year, but the vast majority of the party’s activists and supporters are strong leavers. The Tories  hoovered up quite a few UKIP votes on a platform of leading us out of the EU. Given these issues, any backtrack on Brexit would precipitate the worst crisis the party has faced since 1846 when it split down the middle over the repeal of the Corn Laws. They dare not go there.

What is more, the party will be keen to renew itself well before the next General Election in 2022. While removing Mrs May now would only add to the sense of  chaos which has prevailed since the General Election, it is hard to imagine she will still be in power in March 2019, perhaps not even in March 2018. If the party is seeking a dynamic new leader to revive its fortunes, given the ultimate say will lie with its predominantly Thatcherite Eurosceptic activists,  Mrs May’ successor is likely to be an MP with proven Brexiteer credentials.  The party faithful will not make the mistake of choosing another Cameron.

This will not make his (or her) task any easier, but still gives me hope that in March 2019, that historic vote which brought us so much joy a year ago will be translated into reality and we will finally achieve that goal for which so many of us have been striving for so long.

Some crumbs of comfort

One person who must feel vindicated by yesterday’s election result is former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He resisted calls for snap election soon after becoming leader in 2007 and although he was defeated at the General Election in 2010, this morning he may well be considering that he could have met with the same fate as Theresa May if he had likewise gone to the public prematurely.

On the face of it, the General Election result solves very little. Mrs May asked the electorate for a fresh mandate, hoping to see the Tories returned with a substantial majority, but it didn’t work out like that. Her position has been weakened and at time of writing, it is by no means certain that her announcement early this morning that she intends to carry on as leader will survive challenges from within her own party.

On the other hand, the General Election does not create as many problems for Brexit as some commentators are suggesting .Let us be clear. Brexit will still go ahead. Both Labour and the Conservatives were quite explicit about this.  Article 50 will not be reversed. The comment in the Washington Post that last night’s result was somehow the “revenge of the remainers” is thus very wide of the mark. Also, the claim that somehow this election will “soften” Brexit, as propounded by Andrew Grice in the Independent does not stack up. Assuming the Tories form the next government, perhaps in some sort of agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party, either Mrs May carries on or else her successor is likely to be a fervent Brexiteer who is unlikely to decide that we should after all remain within the EU’s Customs Union. This election was not about how “hard” or “soft” Brexit is going to be. Ironically, considering it was dubbed the “Brexit election”, neither Labour nor the Tories went into much detail about their plans for the forthcoming negotiations with the EU.

Bizarrely, the Lib Dems were the party who were keenest to talk about Brexit. Given their drubbing in 2015, it was no surprise that they improved on that dismal performance, but campaigning on essentially an anti-Brexit ticket reaped little reward. They failed to come anywhere near winning Cambridge, a remainiac stronghold, and didn’t recapture Lewes, which they lost in 2015 to the strongly pro-leave Tory Maria Caulfield. What is more, their former party leader Nick Clegg lost his seat in Sheffield, claiming that it was because he was too anti-Brexit.

The predominant mood for some time among voters in this country has been that they just want the government to get on with Brexit. Most people have accepted the result. Therefore, the Tories, in spite of only boasting a minority of committed Brexiteers among its MPs, are unlikely to row back on Brexit knowing it would be suicidal for their future electoral prospects which do not look wonderful at the moment. Any deal with the DUP, whose MPs are unequivocal Brexiteers, will give even less wriggle room to any would-be backsliders.

So are there any crumbs of comfort from the result? – apart from the defeat of Mr Clegg?  Yes indeed. The SNP lost ground in Scotland and especially in the North East, where Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson both lost their seats.  This is the heart of the Scottish fishing industry and thus gives the fishermen, especially in places like Lossiemouth and Peterhead, a greater voice in ensuring we get a good deal on fisheries in Brexit.

Furthermore, not only the DUP but staunch Tory Brexiteers will have more leverage as the Government begins its negotiations. A large Tory majority would have given the Government carte blanche to do whatever it wanted. We have already highlighted our concerns about the European Arrest Warrant and European defence policy. It now becomes much harder for any sub-standard deal in these areas to avoid close scrutiny and challenge.

Besides the Lib Dems’ hopes of revival failing to materialise, Jeremy Corbyn’s strong performance has confounded hopes of a Blairite revival, as we mentioned a few days ago. Whatever one’s opinions about Mr Corbyn’s policies in general, he is at best lukewarm about the EU and is more sympathetic to Brexit than the Blairites, who are among the most ardent remainiacs of all. Having strengthened his hold on the Labour Party, its MPs are unlikely to try to derail Brexit, even if the deal they would ideally like is different from that which Mrs May is contemplating.

But finally, this unsatisfactory election has at least bought time for the Brexit process. Whatever happens to Mrs May, there is no appetite for any more elections. Many of us will have heard of the BBC’s new star, Brenda from Bristol. This lady, when informed that Mrs May had called an election, forcefully replied “You’re joking! Not another one!”  For all the unsatisfactory nature of yesterday’s result,  after two elections in just over two years, the EU referendum  last year and Scotland’s independence vote in 2014, everyone, especially the many exhausted candidates, will want a good break before they go knocking on doors and leafletting again. By the time we next go to the polls, hopefully Brexit will be done and dusted and the EU will no longer by an election issue.

Photo by sonstroem

The biggest losers

Following Mrs May’s response to the London Bridge terrorist attack, Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor, posted a tweet saying that “Mrs May is happy enough to tolerate the extremism of the Brextremist Lie Machine newspapers spewing hate day after day.”

Several newspapers picked this up, expressing horror that Islamic State-supporting terrorists should be equated to sections of our national press. Indeed, such was the storm of protest that Mr Campbell subsequently deleted the tweet, saying . “Previous tweet deleted. Agreed it was over the top”

But over the top or not, the damage has been done. We now know the truth. Such is the vitriolic loathing felt by remoaners like Campbell towards Brexit supporters that in his eyes, some of us are almost as awful as the men who committed the terrible atrocities in Manchester and London recently.

Mind you, there is perhaps good reason from Blairite remoaners to be feeling a bit miffed at the moment. Although unreported by the Press, one of the interesting asides of this general election campaign is that, whatever the result, the last few weeks have significantly damaged their chances of a comeback.

The Campaign for an Independent Britain, being a cross-party organisation, does not fly the flag for any one political party and has encouraged people to vote for fully-fledged Brexit candidates whatever their allegiance, but we can be quite unequivocal in our opposition to the Blairite faction within the Labour Party, which remains one of the biggest strongholds of irreconcilable remainiacs.

When Mrs May called a General Election in April, received opinion expected Labour to suffer its worst defeat since 1983, if not longer. The uncompromising Socialist agenda would deter most voters, Jeremy Corbyn would be forced to resign and Labour would tack back towards the so-called centre ground.

Things have not gone according to plan, however. Three days before polling day, a raft of opinion polls put the Tory lead between 12% and a mere 1%  – nowhere near the 20% differential at the start of the campaign. Averaging these out, Mr Corbyn looks highly unlikely to be marching into 10 Downing Street on Friday, but he could end up with a higher percentage of the vote than Ed Miliband in 2015 – certainly high enough to justify remaining in office and his party thus avoiding a third leadership contest in less than two years.

From the point of view of withdrawing from the EU, it is significant  – and welcome – that Corbyn has never made any statement during the campaign indicating that he will seek to challenge or reverse the Brexit vote.  Before becoming Labour’s leader, his anti-EU credentials were actually quite impressive and his pro-EU speech during last year’s referendum campaign was distinctly lukewarm and lacking in conviction.

Whatever one’s views of his position on other policy issues, we must therefore be thankful that his better-than-expected performance looks likely to leave the Blairites sidelined for a while – hopefully long enough to see us out of the EU. If these people equate a perfectly reasonable desire to join some 180 or so nations in being a sovereign nation once again with the murderous ideology of Islamic State, the sidelines – or worse –  is the best place for them.

Photo by University of Salford