If we must have an old Etonian as the next PM….

I suspect my support would be the kiss of death – not that I am a member of the Conservative Party (way too young and far too liberal!) . Anyway if we must have an old Etonian and Oxford graduate then let it be Rory Stewart.   Of course he wouldn’t be selected because he is ….well I’m sure many Tory member can fill that in for themself!

One final thing…he is now the most popular Rory on both Google and Wiki.   Not a bad result for a campaign which was really aimed at raising his profile.   Forget Boris – so last year…this year it has to be Rory.   It is surprising what actually talking to people can do…perhaps some of our political classes should try it sometime.

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So it is starting to like Al has got it….

So are we there yet?   Is Alexander Johnson the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?   No and No but I feel we might be getting very close after his significant win in the first ballot of the Tory MPs today.  The only thing that the other candidates are fighting over is second place and there is a reasonable chance that by the time they have come back from talking to their constituency party members over the weekend that some form of a stitch up may well take place  and all the other contestants will withdraw.   Probably but more likely probably not.  However, should Johnson pull off a commanding lead after the next ballot on the 18th June Johnson then all bets are off and we may well find the remaining contestants start to manoeuvre for a favourable slot in the new Johnson government rather than prolong the contest.   So there is more than an outside chance that Alexander Johnson will be next Prime Minister (providing he can demonstrate to the Crown he can command a majority in the House of Commons and thereby form a government.)

But then what?   Beyond the unicorn fantasy of these elections nothing will have changed.  We have a House of Commons that doesn’t want a no deal Brexit;  He doesn’t have a majority for anything in the House of Commons no matter how much he might like to pretend he does; The Europeans have made it very clear that they will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement;  The British electorate is polarised by the whole Brexit process and appear to be unable or unwilling to support a compromise and Alexander Boris Johnson is no longer a person who can charm a crowd.  He might be able to see off Nigel Farage  but he is at best unloved by far more people than those who voted for the Brexit party and will act as a recruiting officer for the anti Brexit voters.

In short Alexander Johnson’s honeymoon period as Prime Minister may have to be measured by the best atomic clocks.  The next few months would test the most cunning political operator who is in command of their brief whilst at the same time able to drive forward with gusto and slight of hand.   Alexander Johnson is not known for any of these skills.  Should we leave without a deal he will be tested like never before.  There is no evidence to date that he has the first clue how to deal with such a Pyrrhic victory.

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Up Alexander….

I’m really not sure I’ve cracked the likeness just yet but I have yet to see a less qualified candidate for the office of Prime Minister than Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in a very long time.  A case can be made for Jeremy Corbyn  but as at the time of writing he is unlikely to be the Prime Minister by the end of July.  Alexander, on the other hand, has got a very very good chance of being elevated to the highest political office in Britain.

His main claim to be considered for the job is that he is better than Nigel Farage at being Nigel Farage or something like that.   The last time he held high office, last year, he was considered by most to be possibly the worst Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary  in a very long time.  If you want to see the level of incompetence this man can bring to the job then you only have to see what he managed to achieve for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.  In fact his Wikipedia entry for Foreign Secretary is just a list of the cock ups and down right disasters that he managed in just over 2 years.  Yet this is the man that is thought to be the best person the Conservative Party can elect to be their leader.  Oh and by the way should he become prime Minister then he will have the power to launch the nuclear missiles.

Britain’s Donald…and that is supposed to make things ok?!?

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And the winner is….

Congratulations to Lisa Forbes the newly elected person to represent the constituency of Peterborough (she will only become and MP when she has taken the oath sometime next week. )    There are all sorts of winners and losers from last night’s result but probably the biggest loser would be anyone who is going to try and predict where this takes British politics over the near term.  It was a by election and they are unpredictable creatures at the best of time.  In current febrile atmosphere that unpredictability can be multiplied by a factor of 100 or 1000 or whatever multiple of ten you might wish to use.

All that being said I am sure that it will be used by all the parties concerned to predict the future and claim victory for their vision of the future.  The first one to do this will be Jeremy Corbyn.  He has had terrible time over the past few weeks and it would be only natural for he and his supporters to argue that this proves that things are nothing like as bad for the Labour Party under Jeremy as their political enemies within the party would have you believe.  They may well say that this proves when the voters are asked to support Labour they still will.  Whether this is true only time will tell but if I were a Labour party stratiests I would be seriously concerned by the 17% swing against Labour.  This doesn’t say much for the party who is facing the collapsing Conservatives (swing of over 20% against) that there swing against was only 17% compared to 20%+.   General elections are not won with performances like that.

The second person will be Boris Johnson and his attempt to become the leader of the Conservatives and thereby the Prime Minister (perhaps*).  He will no doubt claim that Peterborough shows that the Conservative Party needs a leader who can claw back all those voters they have lost to the Brexit Party and as he is by far the most charismatic person in the race he is the person to do just that.  He is also a Brexiter to boot (the European Research Group may well beg to differ on that!)   With Boris at the helm the only way is up he will no doubt claim.   Again whether this is true will be judged over time however it is fair to point out that Boris is now very much a marmite political force and whilst he might attract Brexiters back from the Brexit Party he is likely to drive as many voters away from the Conservatives.  Then there is the trust question.   Can you trust Boris to do what he says he is going to do?  I will leave the Conservative Party members to answer that one.

The third person who could claim to be happy with this result would be Nigel Farage.  Afterall in the time it has taken Change UK to form and then collapse he has  created a political force that has shaken much of the established political thinking.  The only problem was that even with a 29% swing to the Brexit Party they lost and Nigel Farage has yet again fallen short when it comes to the need for political organisation compared to political bombast.  No wonder he disappeared from the count early, refusing to talk to the media (possibly a first, not talking to the media that is rather than losing in Westminster elections.)

In the end no one can truly know what the result last night really means beyond that Lisa Forbes won.  Let her enjoy her moment of success and leave the rest for historians of the future to decide what the real meaning of the  Peterborough By Election might be.

*A person will only be asked to be Prime Minister if he/she can command a majority in the House of Commons – this is far from certain for any of the potential Conservative leaders including Boris Johnson.  If he can’t then we may well be heading for a snap election because it pretty certain Jeremy Corbyn can’t in this parliament.

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D Day…

So the draft dodger in Chief has left our shores after celebrating the bravery of many  thousands of his fellow citizens who didn’t cry off when called to serve – I’m not sure if that is ironic or telling?  For the record my father was recovering in an Indian hospital after being shot on some unknown road in Burma by a Japanese snipper whilst trying to recover the body of a fallen British soldier.   What it does make you wonder is if the situations were reversed just how would we have reacted if called?   What we also have be thankful for is that we have never had to make that choice.  So let’s remember everything those brave men and far more than a few women sacrificed for us, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.   This world may not be pretty at times but I suspect it is a whole lot better because of their sacrifice than what might have been.

What a strange and wonderful place England is – lest we forget.

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It must be unicorn season….

Because I am that type of sado I have been paying attention to the first week of the proxy war that is the Tory party leadership election and I have to ask whether any of the minor runners have actually been inside of the chamber of the House of Commons for the last six months or so?  If they have then they clearly weren’t paying attention as they all seem to be offering unicorn solutions to the ever increasing political and constitutional crisis that is Brexit.   Some of the highlights from the weekend include these great pearls of wisdom:

Sajid Javid  offered a unicorn solution to the EU/Northern Ireland border whilst at the same time managing to sound ever so patronising to the Republic of Ireland.  His solution is that the UK Border Force, a Home Office function, should take over policing the border and put in place the non existent  digital enforcement technology.   As a sweetener he offered for Britain to pay for the whole lot.  Now I am not sure whether this man has ever visited the border or has even the first clue as to the complexities involved but apparently it would mean that there wouldn’t have to be any technology/border checks actually on the border.  So that is nice but I don’t think that he understands that the Republic of Ireland’s border with Northern Ireland is the European Union’s and so it is with the EU that any border policies have to be agreed not the Republic who I am sure are so happy that the Brits are willing to help them out of their little local difficulty;

Andrea Leadsom has decided her solution is to rebrand No Deal Brexit as a Managed Withdrawal or something like that.  Her plan is that a British ministerial team will visit all EU 27 countries to sort this mess out, thus by passing the EU altogether.  At the same time she would place a number of bills on the floor of the House of Commons to put in place local fixes that have been agreed as part of the Withdrawal agreement with the EU.   So on the one hand she wants to deal with the EU and at the same time by pass the EU.   It is logic like this that allowed her to be beaten last time around by Theresa May;

Rory Stewart’s unique answer is to form a citizen’s council or group to replace the deadlocked House of Commons to listen to the experts and then put forward their recommendations that the House of Commons would then unquestioningly put into action.  This novel approach will take ‘…about 5 weeks…’ to be put in place.  Disregarding the fact that the House of Commons has got to agree to this, less than zero chance I would guess. We then have to select 100 good men and women to represent the whole country, sounds a bit like the House of Commons to me but only 1/6 the size, during the summer holiday period when of course everybody is available at the drop of a hat.  Rory does sound plausible until he starts to go beyond his well rounded back story when he too seems to have an attraction to mythical creatures;

And finally we come to Dominic Raab who is clearly going for the Alan Bas’tard vote.   He seems to not have noticed that the world has moved on and there isn’t that many votes for the Tories being the nasty party.  (I might be misrepresenting what he has been saying but that is the overall impression I get everytime he says something).

The two front runners, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, have kept a relative low profile, if you don’t count Boris being prosecuted for his part in the referendum campaign  and given the less than impressive showing by some of the other candidates that would seem the best strategy.

So to recap, the last three years haven’t happened and all of the candidates seem to think that the British only have to put on stern faces and the EU will roll over and give us everything we want.   None seem to be aware that this is all just nonsense and are clearly refusing to face the realities:  Brexit has changed everything; The EU 27 has  are much more united as a result of Brexit; the 31st of October is not that far into the future to achieve anything substantial and to try and force anything through this parliament will cause the biggest constitutional crises for over 100 years and most probably lead to the collapse of the government.  Given the current identify driven, Remain or Leave, sentiment of the electorate the likelihood of a Tory party being reelected with anything other than a small rump of MPs doesn’t seem to have crossed the minds of any of the candidates minds at all.  Even thinking that trying to play the Corbyn card isn’t going to help as many of the disgruntled voters will go to the Brexit Party, Lib Dems or Greens rather than Labour (See Euro elections for guide).  The outcome would be that we would have an even more divided parliament than before.

Still at least we’ll have all those unicorns and the giant baby Donald Trump blimp.  So that is nice.

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Then what?…

Having re read what I wrote yesterday about the problems that the Labour Party faces after the European Elections I feel I might have been a little harsh.  After all there is no suggestion that the party is about to collapse into total anarchy as is likely to happen to the Conservative Party after the election of their new leader whomever he  may be (I don’t think a woman has much of a chance this time round as the boys seem to be drawing all the attention – perhaps I will be proven wrong I hope so.)   Yet Labour have huge challenges ahead none of which they seem to be able to take on.   The greatest challenge is this – with such an incompetent Conservative party why is it that Labour is incapable of winning any national vote?   I have no idea but clearly whatever Labour is doing isn’t getting through to the voters and I find this a real shame.   It would be great to try something different which may not work but given the record of the current ruling party there isn’t a lot of success on the other side either.  It just fills me with despair.

Enough of despair lets try and address the question in the title of this post – Then What?  The Conservatives appear to be hellbent on selecting a new leader who is going fight the last battle – let’s call it the battle of Nigel – and are not interested in the future of their party let alone the country.   But the 31st October 2019 isn’t that far away and as things stand we are going to leave the European Union (EU) without any kind of withdrawal agreement but then what?   I have always assumed that in the short term companies that want to export to the UK from the European Union will still want to and so they will no doubt have come up with their own contingencies to get around the problems associated with having a hard border between the European continent and Great Britain.   I have also assumed that the UK/EU southwest land border will cause all sorts of unintended and unknown unknown consequences some of which may well lead to violence.   Just to illuminate this a little further Sein Fein have had a bad set of election result in the Republic of Ireland and any tensions along the border would be used by them to bolster their support.  Again where this might lead is anyone’s guess.

However, away from all this you have to look at what the European Research Group (ERG) view of what should happen next – we should start to work on a free trade agreement with the EU who, after all, represent our largest external trading partner.   Of course the first thing that the EU is going ask for is what they see as the unpaid bills of the UK – circa €40bn and are unlikely to budge until this dealt with.  Then they will want to ensure that the UK doesn’t have an unfair advantage over working practice ie low pay and working conditions compared to the rest of the EU and of course they will want to ensure that the EU citizens that live and work in the UK are fairly treated.   They will also want some form of judicial oversight of any agreement  to ensure that both sides are playing fair. Oh one final thing there will need to be some form of agreement that ensures that any problems along the UK/EU land border are reduced to a minimum.

If any of this is starting to sound familiar well of course it is because this is what was negotiated and agreed between the UK government and the EU in the withdrawal agreement and it doesn’t matter whether Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab or Steve Baker is the new Prime Minister these are the same problems they are going to face and all the fluster of Nigel Farage won’t change any of this.  However don’t expect any of this cold light of reality to enter into the ever crazier things that these people are going to say over the next few weeks.   Whoever is the next Prime Minister he (see above for disclaimer on personal pronoun) will have a honeymoon as long as it takes them to finish their acceptance speech.   They will have hard choice to make in very short order even if we leave the EU without a deal. (This is unlikely to destroy the Brexit Party as I am sure that Nigel Farage has already thought of this and will morph the Brexit Party into another vehicle for his political ambitions.   You have to admire his political skills if you don’t agree with his political aims.)

This will require a politician of great skill and cunning to try and sort out.  Which of the declared candidates have any of these skills?   I suspect only one but that is a story for another day.

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