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Jun 16 2017

Simon Doesn’t Say

In the new news Theresa May’s attempt to save her Prime Ministership by entering an arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland is still an undone deal a week after the British Parliament Elections.

It seems there are a couple of problems. First, and probably not least (gonna give the Tories a break on this one), the DUP is a violently sectarian group of ultra fundamentalist Protestants with a virulently misogynistic anti-Abortion platform topped off with anti-Catholic bigotry. Most Conservatives look on them with the same distate we regard their U.S. equivalent snake handling, tongue speaking zealots.

Another difference, this time with the insular nationalistic Leavers whose nostalgia for Victorianism might make them natural allies, is that the DUP is actually quite keen on open borders and migration as long as the damn Catholics stay out the way God intended. Yes, it is somewhat self contradictory but logical consistency is not their strong suit. In Ireland support for the E.U. is very strong and there is no chance that even a Berlin Wall of a border will result in their exit (though the benighted Neo Liberal economic policies of the E.U. might and should).

All of which has resulted in delay of “The Queen’s Speech” which the reigning Monarch is dictated to read as the result of a minor disagreement known as the English Civil War that lays out the legislative agenda of the Parliamentary majority.

Drafted by the incoming Government, it doesn’t have to please the Queen but it does have to pass the House of Commons. A defeat is pretty much a vote of ‘no confidence’ and May would certainly have to resign as leader of the Tories and probably have to call for new elections (unless Sein Finn will abandon its standing policy of boycotting Parliament).

Unlike the Republican’s midnight surprise Health Insurance/.01% Tax Cut bills, it being Britain and all there are some traditions that ensure that the Members of Parliament get at least a few hours to study the document. You see, it must be hand written with a quill pen in ink on Parchment (a remarkable concession to modernity and cost cutting, it used to be inscribed on Vellum) by the Commons or Royal calligrapher (not sure which) and has to dry sufficiently that the Royal gloves are not tarnished with smearing which can take a day or two.

Of course nobody expects May to exceed her time frame to form a working majority coalition, these things were set when a fast rider could hardly get from one end of England to the other in a week, but it is possible that negotiations with the DUP could still go wrong or that Corbyn could sway enough swing Tories to block it or force an amendment (pretty much the same thing).

Conservatives don’t want to return to the polls as the indications are that the Labour surge is only getting stronger as they flounder.

Anyway, here a piece from The Guardian that speaks to the mood of the voters, and the elites who got this so terribly, terribly wrong.

A shock to the system: how Corbyn changed the rules of British politics
By Gary Younge, The Guardian
16 June 2017

In the framing of the campaign from the outset, the Tories were the predators, encroaching on Labour territory. Labour was stuck in a defensive crouch, hoping to protect what it could. The question was not whether the party would lose seats, but how many. This was the story we assumed we were covering.

We have been so focused of late on the problems of the centre left that the crisis in the mainstream right has only fleetingly disturbed our gaze. It has been easy to forget that what brought Britain to this point was weakness within the Conservative party. The Brexit referendum was concocted by David Cameron to quell internal Tory strife and shore up the party’s right flank against Ukip. When that gamble failed, Cameron fled – and May became prime minister after her two biggest rivals stabbed one another in the back.

May called this election because she could not trust her own MPs to back her through the Brexit negotiations. Now her gamble has failed – but she has stayed on as prime minister in any case. Labour’s crisis was seen as the internal pathology of a divided left. The Tories, however, have made a habit of imposing their crises on the nation.

May ostensibly called the election to strengthen her hand in Europe, but then said nothing about what her negotiating strategy was going to be. Her pitch was entirely performative (“I’m a bloody difficult woman”) and epigrammatic (“Brexit means Brexit”; “A bad deal is better than no deal”). But not even remotely substantive. Difficult about what? What does “hard Brexit” mean? What would no deal look like?

Despite all its shortcomings, for a while this looked like a strategy that might work for a domestic audience. The decision to leave the European Union was not made on the basis of details, but the broad strokes of melancholic nationalism, exclusion, anomie and sovereignty. In Corbyn, May faced an opponent who had struggled to negotiate with his own party and whose patriotic credentials were in doubt – not only did he not sing the national anthem, he had refused to say that he would drop a nuclear bomb on anybody.

May’s electoral appeal as the nation’s tough negotiator-in-chief might have held strong were it not for two problems. The first was her glaring weakness as a candidate. Backing away from her own manifesto and staying away from debates made the prime minister look shifty, weak, and lacking in resolve – precisely the kind of person you do not want arguing your case in foreign parts. The second was that this election was not only about Brexit. While the absorption of Ukip and leave voters helped drive the Conservative vote share to its highest figure since 1983, the Labour vote grew among almost every other demographic.

But even if May’s gamble had worked domestically, it would have given her very little additional leverage with her negotiating partners in the EU. A huge majority would have given her more room for manoeuvre at home, but would have made little difference in Brussels.

But she did not. And she has now left herself no room to negotiate, and nothing to use in the negotiations. Big Ben isn’t the only clock ticking. May triumphantly triggered Article 50 before the election, and now the first round of talks with the EU over Britain’s exit will begin on June 19 – while May is still haggling with the DUP over the terms of propping up her minority government.

If the old rules of politics have been laid to waste, we do not yet know what new rules will prevail. Much has changed since last week. Theresa May’s popularity ratings have plunged to -34, roughly the level of Corbyn’s last November, while now as many people have a favourable view of Corbyn as not. Survation, the pollster that came closest to predicting the election outcome, now puts Labour five points ahead of the Tories.

But much remains the same. The PLP has most of the same members; the same political journalists and columnists write for the same newspapers, and the same proprietors still own them; Corbyn still has the same flaws as a leader that he had before; and Theresa May, at least for now, is still the prime minister. Given the determination with which the mere possibility of this surprise result was denied, dismissed and derided, we should be under no illusion that the reality will be any more palatable to many.

Conventional wisdom has now developed a new convention of its own: first it states the uncertain with great certainty, only to be proven wrong by events, and then it embarks upon a period of narrowly tailored and very public retraction, which always falls considerably short of genuine introspection. After acknowledging an error of prediction, there are no efforts to address the underlying logic that produced that error. Their contrition only lasts until their next mistake.

An election provides but a snapshot in time, and these times are no less volatile when the results go your way than when they don’t. This election indicates that progressive politics are possible, and that the neoliberal programme is not quite as unassailable as many feared. This moment may have the promise of becoming something more. But at this point, it is no more than a promise.

But what it does do, perhaps, is give us a chance to figure out how we got here. In the decade since the financial crisis, there has been a series of political challenges to the notion that the poor must pay for the recklessness of the powerful, and to the belief that xenophobia must be accommodated rather than confronted – from Occupy Wall Street and UK Uncut to protests against the harsh treatment of refugees. But we have not seen those ideas challenged electorally until now. In 2010 and, to a lesser extent, in 2015, the narratives of austerity and nationalism were conceded by Labour in a failed attempt to neutralise them.

As long as Labour only spoke the language of greater fiscal responsibility and tougher controls on immigration, it could compete on the terms of the right, but it could never win. Yes, these are important issues, and yes, this strategy worked in the 1990s. But in times of economic crisis, people want more from a centre-left party than the promise of managing the crisis better – they want the crisis to end.

By the time of the EU referendum last year, enough people felt abandoned by the mainstream parties that some of them – enough to make the difference – used the ballot as an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction. This election was the first time since the crisis that a mainstream party had offered principled opposition to austerity and shifted the conversation from immigration to investment in public services. We were told that voters would not buy it. We were told it was not possible. But when the clock struck 10, the tectonic plates shifted. And for just a minute, until we found our footing, we felt a little giddy.

1 comment

  1. ek hornbeck

    Vent Hole

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