Friday 27 September 2019

Brexit is a locked room mystery

On Sunday Boris Johnson will attend his first party conference as leader. 

Dominic Cummings did think aloud, weeks ago, that the conference might be scrapped but instead this one will be the first to take place while Parliament is sitting.

I’d as soon take advice from my valet as from the Conservative Party Conference, said an earlier Tory Prime Minister and another Etonian, Arthur James Balfour. 

Nowadays conferences don’t even give advice but are there to let politicians get on television.  This is very important as Boris is fighting an election campaign even though he is not allowed to call one. He has never made  good speech in the House of Commons but he has always been wonderful at the party conference.

His Government’s attempt to suspend the House for a three-day recess for the conference was the seventh motion it has put down in the House of Commons and the seventh that was defeated.

Ministers may be flown to and from the conference by helicopter, at the party’s expense, so they can return to vote if the Opposition stages an ambush and puts down a surprise motion or bill. This could be money wasted though, as it seems unlikely the Tories will win any vote in the House, even if all Tory MPs attend.

Ministers do not have control of the House or its order of business and yet remain in office, hanging together and swinging in the wind. 

Speaker Bercow humiliated the Prime Minister, who flew in that day from New York, by making him stand and answer 116 questions on Wednesday night. 

He seemed to taunt the Prime Minister when he told MPs at the start of his statement
that they would have ample time to question the Prime Minister.

No wonder tempers frayed and anger rose. The Speaker and the Supreme Court are to blame.

Unlike with prorogations, the Supreme Court has acknowledged that courts have no power to regulate the Speaker's decisions, so he has five weeks of power to bend the executive to his will.

This is a situation that never happened before in British history. 

Boris is free to resign but if he does Jeremy Corbyn will probably become Prime Minister temporarily, supported by the Scottish Nationalists. If not, someone else will. 

This is how the constitution was supposed to work even before the baleful Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011. The Queen was always expected to discover if another government could be formed that had the confidence of Parliament before granting her Prime Minister a dissolution.

Opposition leaders say repeatedly that there will be no general election until there is a lock against the Government delaying the election till after 31 October and making a no-deal Brexit happen automatically. This is humbug, since an election cannot be held less than 25 working days after it is called and that means the earliest one can be called is November. 

An election could mean a victory for the Tories or another hung Parliament. There is not much in it for Labour, unlike for the Scottish Nationalists who expect to wipe out the Scottish Conservatives.

Sir John Major, another former Conservative prime minister, said a general election would be “pointless” in the current climate and 

“would be likely to become the most unsavoury election of modern times”.

The man who advises Boris on how to achieve Brexit, Dominic Cummings, said last night,

“To put your mind absolutely at rest on that we are not under pressure at all.

"The referendum was pressure, the referendum was difficult.

"This is a walk in the park compared to that.

"All the Vote Leave team, we are enjoying this, we are going to win, we are going to leave, don't worry.”

He also said MPs who refuse to accept the result of the EU referendum should not complain about public anger.

In the Telegraph, historian Stephen Davies says that if Brexit is thwarted the one third of the country who ardently want Brexit will become a dangerous anti-establishment force that thinks democracy is a sham and that this will be the end of Burkean conservatism.

I disagree about that point. It is Brexiteers and anti-immigration conservatives who are the real Burkeans and thinking of the generations that have died and those not yet born.

An unnamed cabinet minister told the Times that frustrating Brexit would lead to public unrest comparable with the Gilets Jaunes protests in France.

It all resembles the Home Rule crisis of 1914 and the crisis of 1832 that led to the Reform Act  – and, much further back and an unhappy precedent, the Glorious Revolution of 1689, a genuine, fortunately bloodless coup d’etat.

In the short time before 31 October you would have thought the Prime Minister would concentrate on negotiating with the EU but there might be no point. He is in office but not in power, to use Norman Lamont’s description of John Major and a deal, if one is made, will be made in the last two weeks.

The Sun has spoken to senior ministers who expect the EU leaders led by Angela Merkel to offer a last minute compromise, such as a three year time limit on the backstop. Of course they do – the Tories always place their faith in her - and of course Boris would take it.

One Cabinet minister said
“a deal is the only way we can leave on October 31 now. We’re never going to beat the numbers in the Commons, and they are against us. The PM has to lean in now and take what he can get. Being aggressive doesn’t work, the Cummings plan has clearly failed. We just can’t fight battles on so many fronts.”

Boris warned yesterday’s Cabinet that the Spartans, the most ardent Brexiteers, will have to compromise. 

The hard Brexiteers have no better hope than Boris.They know that. But will a compromise deal get through the House now?

Possibly not and this may mean an election which Boris fights on the basis of a compromise deal, which is exactly what he wants. He will fight on a people versus the politicians platform.

It may be that the House of Commons will extend the franchise to 16 year olds to favour the Opposition, if the election is delayed long enough. Will the House of Lords stand for this?

A more important question is, is a deal possible at all?

The EU continues to insist that no new deal can be negotiated at the summit on 17 October or at any other time, that it is no deal, no Brexit or the deal offered to Mrs May.

Perhaps the best solution is something like the Norway option for a few years at any rate, though that would not mean free trade between the UK and the Irish Republic. It would mean accepting the Single Market and close regulatory alignment, but this is probably unavoidable. 

It does mean accepting free movement. It does not mean the UK paying into EU projects - Norway chooses to pay a lot to the EU but doesn't have to. It does mean escaping from the non-economic side of the EU and leaves the UK free later on to decide to negotiate new arrangements or go over to WTO rules.

Had this been on offer before the referendum it would have seemed a good half way house but things have moved on a long way since then,


  1. To be neutral is to accept that you don’t understand present history. Neutrality is a sort of political atheism. Absence of political conviction implies abstinence not only from political action, but ideally even from political desire—the thymos of the ancient Greeks.

    Productive political action involves a group acting within a story. You are one person with zero stories. So you can’t “change the world.”

    You used to think that was part of your job. As a human being. Whichever side you were on. It was a bad job and you were bad at it, so you quit. Now you don’t even need to want to try to “change the world.”

    In a perfect state of neutrality, which none attain perfectly, you will be free of political energy and stress. You will not be of any use or any harm to any particular cause. You will feel neither political anger, nor political fear. You will neither cause trouble, nor get in trouble. This vacation from politics need not last the rest of your life. But it can.

    Neutrality is just an intellectual divorce from whatever narrative you may follow now. Someone could still tell a story that met your new standards. You could still believe it enough to decide to live in it. Right now, it feels really good to be on your own.

    And no: you most certainly do not vote, or demonstrate, or agitate, or do anything like that. To be neutral is to be as useless as possible to all sides of all conflicts.

    Curtis Yarvin,
    the technologist best known for blogging under the name Mencius Moldbug
    New essay:

  2. The return of Mencius Moldbug is a timely one. Across Europe, after all, people have begun to share his anti-democratic sentiments. British liberals have spent years attempting to undermine the result of the 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. American liberals have spent years looking for excuses to impeach Donald Trump and countermand the results of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Yes, it is somewhat ironic that three-and-a-half years after the retirement of Mencius Moldbug from blogging, anti-democratic sentiments tend to be heard from the left and populist sentiments tend to be heard from the right.


    So, why has Moldbug reappeared, with a new series of essays at The American Mind? Firstly, it is to reclaim the dissident right label from ‘alt-right’ neo-fascists. Secondly, it is because Moldbug and his publishers at the Claremont Institute can see that Donald Trump, even if he wins a second term, will not do much to shift cultural trends away from progressivism.

    Is this Mencius Moldbug’s moment?
    Spectator USA by Ben Sixsmith

  3. I never heard of Moldbug but I shall look him up. He sounds a good thing. Yes I too see Donald Trump has done little to shift cultural trends. I thought his speech in London saying immigration had been disastrous for Europe would make him a sort of pan-European leader of he opposition but it was ignored and he is loathed in Western and Eastern Europe.

  4. Replies
    1. OK. What do you recommend from this list:

      Free Books by Sean Gabb

      Sean Gabb Newsletter, 29th September 2019
      Dear All,

      I have made these book free to read on-line:
      Aeneid Book Six – Whole Text
      Stories from the Life of Christ – Whole Text
      Stories from Paul the Deacon – Whole Text
      Acts of the Apostles, Greek, Latin English – Whole Text
      Ars Grammatica or Τέχνη Γραμματική, by Dositheus – Whole Text
      Literary Essays – Whole Text
      Richard Blake – How I Write Historical Fiction: Advice from a Practitioner – Whole Text
      Richard Blake – The Tyburn Guinea – Whole Text
      The Churchill Memorandum – Whole Text
      The York Deviation – Whole Text
      Radical Coup: A Case for Reaction – Whole Text
      Cultural Revolution, Culture War – Whole Text
      Smoking, Class and the Legitimation of Power – Whole Text
      Neither Washington nor Brussels – Whole Text
      Neither Washington nor Brussels – Whole Text
      Dispatches from a Dying Country – Whole Text
      Chris R. Tame – The Science of Liberty: Selected Essays on Politics, Culture and Economics – Whole Text
      Chris R. Tame – Not Just Tobacco: Health Scares, Medical Paternalism and Individual Liberty – Whole Text
      Chris R. Tame – Freedom, Healthcare and Welfare Policy: A Selected Bibliography: A Resource Guide – Whole Text
      Chris R. Tame – The Land Question in Classical Liberal Thought and the “Georgist” Contribution: A Bibliography – Whole Text
      Chris R. Tame – The Works of Arthur Seldon (1916-2005): A Bibliography – Whole Text