Thursday, 30 June 2016

Thursday Thirteen : the dog caught the car #GuardianLive

I usually spend about 10-15 minutes on a blog post, but this one has gone into extra time because I've been on a train journey. First things first - It's also a Thursday Thirteen!

I was at the Guardian offices yesterday, for their debate about Brexit. The debate was billed as 'what next?' but actually took significant time examining how we all got to the current position.

In a few words: disenfranchised electorate with nothing to lose sticking it to the establishment of Westminster village. Separate bubbles of the haves and have nots.

Remembering that this was at Guardian HQ in London, it wasn't too surprising that the vast majority (90+%) of those in attendance were Remain voters. The phrase 'Remain but reform' was heard several times.

If many expected the end result to be Remain, the Brexit has forced an examination of a non-party-based stratified Britain that probably wouldn't happen if the result had gone the other way. The disenfranchised who voted 'Leave' may(?) get a voice from this that wouldn't happen in the same way if it had ended with 'Remain'.

I'd naïvely expected the debate to be more about the future, strategy and tactics around the next steps, but I suppose it was inevitable that there were large swathes of therapy included in the discussion.

Instead of a blow-by-blow of that debate, I'll throw in a few of my own thoughts.

The structural damage to the UK wasn't just created in the weeks of the referendum countdown. It had been going on for years as more of the UK economy was sold off and offshored as consequences of both government policies and private companies looking for ways to keep shareholders (not stakeholders) sweet.

Osborne's ongoing austerity didn't help, even when borrowing more money would have been a cheap option for the UK government.

No wonder then, that many UK people looked around for things to blame. The same people also read the ever-lurid front page suggestions of the tabloid press.

We didn't help ourselves by having electoral representation in the EU that no-one really understood, most people can't name and where 39% of the UK MEPs are from UKIP with the folded arms agenda of exit.

Much of the campaign was fought on personalities, reductionism and piffle. Everyone lied and people pretended to only hear the fibs that suited their mindset. Many key players treated the whole thing as a game. Schoolboy japes in their privileged playground.

There seemed to be a conspiracy to keep to limited topics and confuse wherever possible. "The sky is blue/green/yellow/red/above/below."

Once the lies reached a certain level, people switched off from taking the campaign seriously.

In the post referendum climate, the UK has been put on auto-pilot. The pound has dropped, shares spark at the behest of the gamblers and hedge fund profiteers and major companies reach to that shelf where they've stored their contingency plan.

The politicians have decided to look inward rather than towards the need to do anything. A placeholder Etonian ex merchant banker who wants to privatise everything has been put in charge of the Brexit planning. The one that threw confidential government papers away in a park bin.

Both of the so-called main parties are squabbling amongst themselves about who should be the next king-pin.

For a short time we had ex-journalist Gove as well as journalist Johnston stepping forward as possible next Conservative leaders. It illustrated just how disunited even the Brexit camp was. Let alone that slippery well-expensed Brussels wine drinker.

It's already changed with Boris removing himself from leadership consideration. He'd realised as soon as the result came in that the Brexit negotiation could be damaging. The Gove 'backstab' was quite handy and gives them both a way out.

Boris wasn't satisfied playing with Boris bikes, although upgrading from Boris Island as an airport to Boris Island = UK might have been one step too far.

Theresa May is probably leadership favourite at the moment, but there's all the secret corners in Portcullis House where the deals get struck.

And then the secret circles, that elite structure of the 330 Conservatives MPs to downselect to the two final contenders, then finally balloted by post to the around 160,000 members of the party.

Corbyn may have been a good choice once. It's hard to tell because of the nefarious deeds around the time of his election. Toby Young wrote that Telegraph piece urging Tories to spend £3, join the Labour Party and to vote for Corbyn.

There was then a sudden surge of around 100,000 extra members to the party just before Corbyn was elected, and a further 56,000 applicants who were turned down.

Back at the PLP nomination stage the story was 1 Andy Burnham(29%), 2 Yvette Cooper(25%), 3 Liz Kendall(18%), 4 Jeremy Corbyn (16%). At the result stage it was 1 Corbyn(60%) 2 Burnham(19%) 3 Cooper(17%) and 4 Kendall(5%). How things change.

Now it's a waiting game as the Labour party slides further into meltdown and discredit instead of running a contrarian debate like an 'opposition'.

Corbyn is hanging in there and desperately wants to be around for next week's appallingly delayed 2.6 million word £10 million Chilcot report.

Still, the situation is good for Labour membership as so far another 60,000 have just spent their £3 for the next round of voting .

I've just made up that name, based on some things that John Harris said at the debate yesterday. It's a placeholder name for a new grouping which could attempt to wrest control from the two main failing organisations. It won't work if there's all the smaller parties being separate, but a smattering of good sense people from some of the current elected could conceivably mount some sort of attempt to gain control and set a direction out of the current mess.

Instead, what we get is the current group of people who have between them crashed the country and created years of sorting out, will now be given a new set of lives like some sort of video game.

It is also strange that these people retain control of when to hold the next election. Understandably any new leaders and their freshly appointed teams won't want to immediately go to the country. And if they did, the electorate may again decide they've had enough and do something akin to keeping that X-factor 'Wagner' in for the final. Except we'd get UKIP instead of a bad singer.

Intriguingly, if the UK is still a constitutional monarchy, perhaps the monarch could exceptionally intervene and request a new election?

Also, if the democratic process is deliberative, then it does still give whoever is in charge a chance to use the aggregative directives of the people for guidance rather then blindly following them. Although, I suppose, that would be seen as playing to the metropolitan 'remain' agenda.

There's no real news on nest steps yet. People burble about the Norway model which is really a code for keeping an EFTA/EEA style trade agreement. During yesterday's session Paul Mason talked about the second trench in a battle and knowing when to withdraw to it. The second trench for UK is an EFTA/EEA agreement which is the bundle of trade agreements on pragmatically the same terms as EU membership. I wrote a similar view a few days ago when I talked about BREFTA.

It's also when the code words start to come out. Angela Merkel has been using one which I suspect will become more prevalent as others pick up on its true meaning in this context. Obligations.

And the Article 50 is being positioned as 'Exit/Sunset' terms rather than 'Ongoing terms' by the Brussels bureaucrats. Another code word used in outsourcing and implying two separate projects. Sunset and Ongoing.

Yes, the exit needs something to base negotiations upon. UK says it wants Out.

Merkel and others are already signalling that there has to be settlement of some kind to give UK any revised position. It will amount to settlement of 'obligations' (otherwise known as money).

I'll translate. "If you want to trade with us, how much will you give us?"

The answer will be a signifiant proportion of the current annual payment to the EU, ongoing forever and linked in some way to GDP, population or another similar figure.

A clever negotiation would be to link it to a reciprocal of the migration proportion, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The point will be to have something that can be used to create scuffle and eventual endgame without completely throwing the game board away.

That's the irony in all of this. UK is already quite different from many EU members. No Euro, still has its own border control. Won't increase sovereignty. Even drives on the other side of the road.

So it becomes about how much we pay to formally show we are separate, but really we are still playing in the European game.

We could still lose more from all of this. We could lose the UK financial sector, which sounds boring, but is a big piece of GDP and prestige. We could lose the market agreements and have to renegotiate dozens of separate arrangements, taking years.

We could lose (if we haven't already) the confidence of the marketplace and see further downgrades of UK status. France is 6th largest economy and we are becoming closer ins size to it as the pound diminishes against the dollar. Then it's Brazil and then Italy. We only have to move down one place and we drop from being in the top five to being in the top ten.

A major dilemma in all of this is the way that a negotiation would be handled.

If this was in private enterprise, there would be a small expert force set up and a silent running regime would be established to keep the negotiation position under wraps. A few head honchos would be updated or provide some inputs, but it wouldn't be widely known about because of the commercial sensitivity.

Parts of the negotiation could well include bluffs about position and there would be playbooks for the main moves, gains and losses. So far there's no evidence that anything like this is being planned whilst everyone plays the London personality games. Farage buffoons around in Brussels doing everything to wreck any chance of professionalism in the negotiations.

Gary Younge made a great point yesterday about dogs chasing cars. The point was they were not supposed to catch the car. They can't drive.

We now have startled politicians who chased the red Article 50 button. But, at present, apart from raving lunatics, no one wants to press it.


Pat said...

What a fine mess they have got us into.
However experience has taught me not to panic - things will work out in the end. I voted remain but think we now have to accept the result and stop whining and get on with it.

rashbre said...

Pat I agree - Don't panic and always carry a towel, as Douglas Adams reminded us.