THE Remain alliance has fractured as the Lib Dems and SNP have blinked, breaking ranks with Labour to back a General Election and leaving Labour with little choice but to follow suit.
Why did they do it? As Paul Horgan explained yesterday on TCW, the most obvious reason is to feast on the corpse of Corbyn’s Labour Party, the Lib Dems having outflanked them on Remain by backing full-on revocation. This is obviously contrary to their democratic principles, but politically it is extremely shrewd, as is stabbing Labour in the back to go for a vote and capitalise on their political opportunism with seats in the Commons.
The SNP meanwhile look set to gain as many as all 13 Conservative seats north of the border because of the swing to Remain parties.
Voters are unlikely to notice that if the Lib Dems and SNP were really trying to keep us in the EU at all costs they would not have backed an election, since it was the deadlock in Parliament that was keeping Brexit in stasis and making no-deal apparently impossible (assuming that the Speaker, whoever they are, continues to allow Parliament to repeat its unconstitutional Surrender Act party trick. Assuming also that any government legal challenge to this fails).
Perhaps the EU also used their back channels to the Remain parties to put pressure on them to break the deadlock, not wanting to be put in the position of having to keep on offering endless extensions, it being most unlikely they would ever actually throw us out, both because of appearances and because they know not only that the WA puts them in a much stronger negotiating position than a so-called ‘no-deal’ exit but that a no-deal exit would be devastating to them.
The coming election certainly looks set to be a bloody one – we dearly hope not literally. Disturbingly, a poll this week showed that 71 per cent of English Leave supporters said that the risk of violence towards MPs was a price worth paying for Brexit, while 58 per cent of English Remainers said the same thing about remaining. This is only a poll, of course, and it’s worth noting that it is only the ‘risk’ of violence that they say is worth it, and that would be violence committed by others. Presumably this means that what most of them are actually saying is that they do not think the risk that some idiots may choose to commit illegal acts in the name of their cause undermines the legitimacy of that cause. Nonetheless, it is a reminder of how deeply divided and discontented our country has become.
And though it is the Left that so often complains about abuse, an analysis by the Financial Times found that Boris Johnson has been subject to more abusive tweets in recent months than the leaders of all the other parties put together.
Conservative MP Andrew Percy told the Commons last night about the abuse he suffered during the last election, where he and his staff were spat at and attacked in the street by people chanting ‘Jeremy Corbyn’. He called on the Labour leader to ‘encourage his supporters and party members [towards] better behaviour‘.
Former Tory MP Heidi Allen, announcing she would be standing down at the election, claimed Brexit has ‘broken our politics’ and that only a new referendum could solve the deadlock. On the Today programme she revealed some of the appalling and unacceptable personal social media attacks that have been made on her. Nonetheless her explanations reveal a staggering lack of awareness. What, more than anything, has ‘broken our politics’ and created a deadlock but the the culpable refusal of politicians like herself to implement the referendum result and honour their manifesto commitments?
It hard to understand how she thinks that proposing a second referendum before the first has been implemented is the best way to solve the problems or fix politics. Can she not see that this is perceived as more of the same chicanery that has broken it?
It is terrible to think that any Member of Parliament should be subject to savage ad hominem attacks. There is no excuse. But if some of our ‘narrow vision’ and sorely lacking in wisdom politicians decide that now is the time for them to seek alternative employment, it is just as well. And we can but hope that many other MPs complicit in the anti-democratic actions of this disgraceful Parliament decide likewise.
However, ten of the 21 rebel Tory MPs who gave us the Surrender Act have been welcomed back into the Tory fold, though it seems that only three will be standing again. It may be that the Tories extended this olive branch out of fear that they would stand as independents and cost the Tories the seat by splitting the vote. Their rehabilitation seems to be on condition of supporting Boris’s deal. Yet these are the very MPs who mutinied over the prospect of no deal, not a deal. Has Boris demanded a guarantee from them – which is really needed – that they will support no deal if it comes to it, including at the end of the transition period should negotiations break down?
Brexiteers will remember, as the Freedom Association’s Simon Richards writes in Brexit Central today, that: ‘the Conservative Party has, again and again, failed to honour its promise to deliver Brexit . . . The readmission of ten of the rebel Remainer Tory MPs yesterday will only add to the suspicion amongst Brexit Party voters that the Conservatives cannot be trusted. During the election campaign, Nigel Farage, Richard Tice and Ann Widdecombe will have carte blanche to pull apart Boris’s Brexit deal, which many Conservatives acknowledge to be deeply flawed.’
This leads to the further critical question of whether Boris’s manifesto will include a commitment to leave with or without a deal. If it doesn’t, expect the Brexit Party to make hay with this and bleed votes from the Tories across the country. But if it does, will the Tory Remainers be able to stomach it? Or, more to the point, could they be trusted to follow through if it came to it? What do you think? After the last three years, that’s surely a question that answers itself.
The Tories soared to a 16-point lead over Labour this morning, hitting 40 per cent. But with the Left-Remain vote split by the Lib Dems and the Right-Leave vote split by the Brexit Party, the vagaries of the first-past-the-post electoral system will make this a very unpredictable election indeed, with local differences having a big impact on whether seats are won or lost.
So does Boris’s Conservative Party deserve your vote at this election, if only for fear that anything else could imperil Brexit, perhaps by landing us straight back in the stalemate we are just emerging from? That’s something we will all have to weigh up.