All posts by Editor

The End for Boris Johnson?

Few doubt that Boris Johnson’s resignation yesterday was less to do with Brexit and more to do with his continuing aspirations to be Prime Minister. Therein lies his problem.

Johnson has form for putting ambition ahead of service, a lot of form.  Johnson biographer Andrew Gimson describes him as “staggeringly inconsiderate of others” when focusing upon his own interests.  His popularity with a significant sector of the public, may well have tipped the balance in the Brexit referendum. Though despite his vigorous campaigning it’s not entirely clear he believed he was saying.  In February 2016, it was reported that Boris had written two Daily Telegraph columns – one in favour of Brexit, the other for Remain – before deciding which would fill his weekly slot.  His decision to back Leave may well have been based on the belief that he would be narrowly on the losing side. He could then have fallen in line as a gallant loser, perfectly placed to succeed Cameron.

For months he has ignored the notion of collective cabinet responsibility to push himself onto the front pages. He seems to be sanguine about the Brexit shambles so long as it helps brand Boris. Yesterday, having agreed to May’s Brexit proposal on Friday, he did a 180 degree turn and resigned. He even produced a publicity shot, signing his resignation letter.  History shows that those who show their hand so clearly and so often rarely reach the highest office.

The resignation couldn’t have been more stage-managed and a leadership bid yesterday seemed inevitable.   A few weeks ago when business leaders questioned the government’s indecision over Brexit, Boris allegedly said: “fuck business”. It seems now that more and more people are saying : “fuck Boris”.

 

 

Brexit Uncertainty is a Myth

You don’t need a crystal ball to foresee the result of today’s cabinet summit at Chequers. There has never been any doubt, we are on coure for no deal and that means a hard Brexit with hard borders all round.

Either A) there’s a compromise that will work and all the brilliant minds in government have spent two years looking but can’t find it or B) there’s no compromise that will work. It’s B) if you’re wondering.

The problem is twofold. Even if the cabinet agrees to a fudge today it won’t hold.

The second hurdle is even bigger.

Let’s say just for argument’s sake, two years after the referendum, we agree a plan. It normally takes a minimum of five years to agree and implement a trade deal and in some cases it can take more than twenty. That’s if both sides want a trade deal. The EU doesn’t want one because it would likely lead to the breakup of the EU. So we have one year but we need between five and twenty from the date at which the EU decides it wants a deal, which is likely to be never. You do the maths.

By 2024 we might have struck some deals outside of the EU but we won’t be in a customs union or a single market. It’s not uncertainty that’s the problem it’s that the reality is so shocking it’s difficult to accept.

Trump Russia Investigation Points to Europe

Paul Manafort, who is investigating Russian interference in the United States presidential election yesterday accused Trump’s former campaign chairman, of secretly paying former European officials to lobby for the pro-Russian Ukraine government.

In 2012 and 2013 Paul Manafort and his colleague Rick Gates used offshore accounts to pay more than two million Euros to the group of former politicians the indictment says.  The plan was to “assemble a small group of high-level European highly influential champions and politically credible friends who can act informally and without any visible relationship with the Government of Ukraine.”

In March 2014 in a TV debate with then Deputy PM Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage said that the European Union had “blood on its hands” over the armed coup that ousted pro-Russia Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich the previous month.  Just a few days later, he named Putin as the leader he most admired and said EU leaders were “weak and vain”, adding “If you poke the Russian bear with a stick he will respond.”

During that time Nigel Farage also made multiple appearances on Russia Today, the state sponsored news channel.

Last summer it was reported that Farage was as a “person of interest” in the FBI investigation into alleged links between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

In 2012-13 two million Euros is secretly paid to former European politicians to speak in favour of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. A few months later Nigel Farage does exactly that. At the very least that merits an investigation into the former UKIP leader’s tax affairs.

[Picture by Michael Vadon]

PM More Unpopular than Trump

Theresa May’s approval rating has fallen to -34 following the general election according to YouGov.  In April, the PM had a net favourability rating of +10.  The net score is a comparison between approvers 29% and disapprovers at 63%.

Jeremy Corbyn’s net score is 0 – meaning equal numbers of people approve and disapprove of him.

 

Chart from YouGov

Incredibly the Prime Minister has become more unpopular even than Donald Trump.  With 36% favourability versus a disapproval score of 59% according to Gallup who measure the president’s rating on a daily basis his net score is -23. The fact that May is scoring nine points lower is staggering given that Trump has the lowest average approval rating of any US president since records began.

 

 

Clegg: I Won’t Go to the Lords

In series of tweets this evening, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg ruled out going to the House of Lords with the words “Ermine just isn’t my thing”.  He lost the Sheffield Hallam constituency in last Thursday’s election.  Nick Clegg was MP for Sheffield Hallam from 2005 to 2017 and was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2007 to 2015.

He didn’t rule out a return to The House of Commons but he did hint that he would he would make his voice heard as a journalist with a link to his article yesterday in the FT.

Of course I wish I was still MP for Sheffield Hallam – a wonderful place full of wonderful people – but that was not to be. 1/3

Still, there are big debates in UK politics where I will want to make my voice heard. My @FT column on Brexit: http://on.ft.com/2sQAsJl  2/3

Thanks for the kind petition to put me in the Lords, but I’m afraid an unelected chamber is not for me. Ermine just isn’t my thing… 3/3

 

Why May Can’t Survive

She’s at odds with her chancellor

The working relationship between the occupants of Number 10 and Number 11 Downing Street is critical. Philip Hammond said on the Today programme on 17 May that he had “occasionally sworn” at TM’s Chief of Staff Nick Timothy. The were persuasive rumours of rows and it was an open secret that May planned to sack Hammond after the election, now she can’t and her Chief of Staff has gone.  The relationship between May and Hammond is broken.

The DUP deal can’t hold

This as it turns out is the coalition of chaos. It is impossible to maintain the peace process in Northern Ireland if the government is in league with one of the parties. That alone is enough to break any deal. The DUP staunchly opposes same-sex marriage. There are 10 DUP MPs and 19 LGBTQ Tory MPs including the leader of the powerful Scottish Conservative group. As they say “you do the Math”.

She can’t manage the cabinet

She dropped plans for a major reshuffle of Cabinet because she can’t afford to alienate senior ministers. Without the power of patronage she’s not in charge.

The PM has no allies in Europe

Video that emerged from the EU summit last December showed the PM to be a lonely and isolated figure. That was before her humiliation at the polls. As we enter negotiations to leave the EU she has no influence and not a single ally.

What does Brexit mean now?

If  Mrs May thought a Brexit deal was difficult before, now it may be impossible. She can’t satisfy the right of her party because she has to guarantee an open border in Ireland. That means doing a deal on the customs union and maybe even the single market. A hard Brexit would mean a Irish border deal that would eliminate backing from the DUP and potentially bring back conflict in Northern Ireland. She can’t deliver a hard Brexit and she can’t deliver a soft one either.

Minority governments don’t last

Even with a deal in place minority governments are very unstable. The Wilson government called an election just seven months after forming a minority government in February 1974.  The 1977 Callaghan minority government lasted a little longer with the support of the Liberals, but that was gone in 16 months.

Her Chiefs of Staff are out

The PM’s joint Chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill resigned today.  Unlike PMs who have alliances with senior elected cabinet colleagues May relied very heavily on her special advisers. They were the architects of her strategy and her advisers when things started to unravel.  It led to a breakdown in her relationship with ministers and MPs. A senior Tory MP told Robert Peston: “We all f***ing hate her. …She has totally f***ed us”.  At a time when she needs friends and supporters, there are none.

The Tories won’t let her fight another election

It was “my manifesto” and “me and my team”. The campaign was all about the person and not the party and the results aren’t pretty for the Conservatives. If she can’t defend a 20 point lead she won’t get another chance to fight.  The party will want a new leader in place in plenty of time before the next election. Some pundits are saying there could be another election this year that doesn’t leave much time.

Theresa May is heading for the departure lounge. We know it and she knows it.

Clegg Casualty as UK Votes for Hung Parliament

The former leader of the LibDems Nick Clegg lost his seat last night.

The ex-deputy Prime Minister was ousted from his Sheffield Hallam constituency by Labour.  Jared O’Mara took the seat with 21,881 votes vs Clegg’s 19,756.

‘”I have always sought to stand by the liberal values I believe in but I have encountered this evening what many people have encountered before tonight and I suspect many people will encounter after tonight which is, in politics, you live by the sword and you die by the sword.” He said after his defeat.

“We saw that in the Brexit referendum last year and we see it here again tonight, polarised between left and right, between different regions and nations and areas of the country, but most gravely of all, this huge gulf now between young and old.

“My only plea would be to all MPs, including Jared, from all parties, is this, that we will not pick our way through the very difficult times that our country faces if in the next parliament MPs of all parties simply seek to amplify what divides them.”