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Emrys's Journal
Emrys's Journal
July 25, 2016

Sarah Champion unresigns as Labour Shadow Minister in letter to Jeremy Corbyn

Sarah Champion has unresigned and been reinstated as a Shadow Home Office Minister.


A spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn confirmed her retraction had been accepted and she had been reinstated.


The spokesperson went on to suggest this could be more than one unresignation - perhaps growing into a deshuffle.

They said: "We hope that others will rejoin the shadow cabinet and get on with the job of opposing Government."


I'd seen online rumours over the past week that moves like this were going on behind the scenes. And yes, "deshuffle" may find its way into this year's OED update.
July 24, 2016

How David Cameron’s Plan To Screw Labour Cost Him The EU Referendum

In the last days before the EU referendum David Cameron and his team of Remain campaigners were still frantically trying to get young people’s attention. 18-34 year olds, the polls had said, were Britain’s great unharvested crop of Remainers. And everyone agreed that if enough of them turned out on June 23rd, it was in the bag.


Yesterday, hidden within the cache of information dumped on the government website before ministers went to recess, was a clue as to what went wrong: a written statement by Gary Streeter, a spokesperson for the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, which showed a full nine percentage point drop between 10th June 2014 and 1st December 2015 in the number of 18-19 year olds registered to vote.


The change {a motion to change the responsibility for signing up to vote from households to individuals} had been due for December 2016 - plenty of time for voters accidentally left off the new list to get their act together and re-register. But Cameron had wanted to rush it through more than a year early. The reason? Those likely to be accidentally left off the new list were Labour voters.


Cameron did it to screw Labour in this year’s elections - those of London’s mayor, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh National Assembly - but also to skew an upcoming constituency boundary reform vastly in his favour. This redrawing of boundaries is to be based on a snapshot of the electorate from December 2015, thus - as least as far as yesterday’s figures indicate - permanently disenfranchising many thousands of Britain’s young, whether they re-register now or not.


More revelations from the massive end-of-sitting document dump: another take on what went wrong with the Brexit referendum, and another example of the Tories sacrificing the country's interests for electoral gain and party politics.
July 22, 2016

Spain could veto Brexit talks, Margallo says

The Spanish Government will veto the terms of any Brexit negotiation between the UK and the EU that sought to include Gibraltar, Spain’s acting Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said yesterday.

The minister said once the UK activates the withdrawal process under Article 50 of the EU treaty, the European Council must agree the broad terms of the withdrawal negotiation “by unanimity”.

Against that context, Spain would “make clear that Gibraltar does not belong to the UK” and would “have the right to veto” if it did not agree with the negotiation framework, Sr García-Margallo said.

He said once the UK was outside the EU, Gibraltar must be seen as “a third territory”, adding that Brexit would have “very serious consequences for Gibraltar economy and for the Spanish workers who worked there”.


July 22, 2016

11 bits of bad news the Tories buried on the last day before their summer holiday


More than 300 documents have been dumped by the government just hours before MPs toddle off for their summer break.

Ministers alone have given 30 written statements on the final day of Parliament, up from a usual level anywhere between two and 10.

... Labour shadow minister without portfolio Jonathan Ashworth wasn't impressed.

He said: "In a deluge of statements her ministers have slipped out confirmation that tuition fees will go up, nurse bursaries will be scrapped and the news that correspondence regarding patients’ medical records has gone missing.


The article summarizes the "bits of bad news" it's chosen to focus on (and these aren't necessarily the most significant in the grand scheme of things):

1. 57,000 Bedroom Tax victims fell behind on rent
2. ... While rich people get more second homes
3. The DWP got told off for its 45p-a-minute phone line
4. A Saudi diplomat 'brought a slave to Britain'
5. A Mexican diplomat 'made child sex abuse images'
6. Tuition fees are going up ...
7. ... And school budgets could be going down
8. Diplomats owe Britain nearly £100million
9. Bungling NHS chiefs sent wrong forms for 5 YEARS
10. A special jobs body will be shut down
11. It's confirmed nursing bursaries are being axed

Dumps like this on the final day of a sitting aren't that unusual, but the scale of this one is.
July 22, 2016

EU support surges in big European countries after Brexit vote

(Reuters) - Support for the European Union has surged to multi-year highs in the bloc's biggest countries following last month's Brexit vote, according to a poll that will disappoint Eurosceptic parties hoping to usher their own nations out of the EU.

In an IFOP poll taken between June 28 and July 6, a few days after Britain's vote to leave the EU, support for EU membership jumped to 81 percent in Germany, a 19 point increase from the last time the question was asked in November 2014.

In France, support surged by 10 points to 67 percent. In both countries, that was the highest level of support since at least December 2010, when IFOP started asking the question.

"Brexit shocked people in the EU," Francois Kraus, head of the political and current affairs service at IFOP, told Reuters on Wednesday.


IFOP = Institut français d'opinion publique

Not the first set of polls since the Brexit vote to indicate a similar trend.
July 21, 2016

Why it's time to accept the fact that Brexit may never actually happen


Leaving the EU is so difficult, and the consequences are so economically damaging, that it may be easier for prime minister Theresa May's government to endlessly delay the process rather than to actually leave.

Morgan Stanley economists Jacob Nell and Melanie Baker published a fascinating note to investors this morning in which they attempt to figure out how the UK will actually leave the EU, and what the UK's post-Brexit relationship with Europe will look like.

Nell and Baker do not make any specific predictions about how the UK will leave the EU, but they do point out two key facts:

* The EU will not give the UK a deal in which Britain gets access to the single market but opts out of the "freedom of movement" requirement that lets EU migrants into the country. In fact, the EU cannot give this deal to the UK because it would represent an existential threat to the EU itself: If one country gets access to the single market while controlling its own immigration borders, then every country in the EU will want to do the same.
* Leaving the EU will cause such massive damage to the UK economy that it might be political suicide for any government to actually leave despite the fact that a majority of people voted Leave in the EU Referendum.

Full article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/why-its-time-to-accept-the-fact-that-brexit-may-never-actually-happen-a7148816.html

An article by Jim Edwards from Business Insider UK republished by The Independent, which omits some of the embedded links in the original.

The article about Nell and Baker he refers to is "Morgan Stanley just admitted that it doesn't really know what Brexit will do to the British economy": http://uk.businessinsider.com/morgan-stanley-on-uk-recession-and-economic-uncertainty-2016-7

Another article linked explores legal advice to the House of Lords that Article 50 can be untriggered before the process has run its course: "There's a loophole in Article 50 that lets Britain back into the EU whenever we want" (not the most accurate headline) http://uk.businessinsider.com/brexit-how-does-article-50-work-2016-7
July 20, 2016

The Scottish Labour Party's conservatism

reflected a long-time double bind: on many issues, Scottish Labour's membership (and a substantial proportion of the electorate) were broadly to the left of the UK Labour Party's stances, but were told that they had to support policies that were acceptable to those in the South East of England because that's where the bulk of the national votes were - the old argument about having to win power no matter what compromises that entails.

This first became unavoidably apparent for me way back when UK Labour abandoned its opposition to Trident - old (northern English) activists in my local CLP and CND group bemoaned the move and were visibly torn, but said it had to be done because "people down south won't go along with it".

People wore this for a long, long time. Some gritted their teeth through the Blair years because Gordon Brown (not a total firebrand in his youth, but he had written a well-received biography of Red Clydesider James Maxton, among other things) was seen as the leader-in-waiting and commanded some respect and grounds for hope. In the end, he was a grave disappointment, and that knocked the stuffing out of many of them. Eventually, with too few exceptions, leading party figures didn't just adopt RW policies for electoral expediency, but because they believed in them, and weren't afraid of showing it publicly because they assumed their voters had nowhere to go.

Scottish Labour was (and as a rump, still is) the party of the Establishment in Scotland. Here's a roundup of how incestuous the Scottish political scene has been:

Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive: BBC Scotland and the Labour Party

The Family resides in Glasgow and is presided over by Ken McQuarrie. Ken MacQuarrie’s Head of News at BBC Scotland is John, John Boothman. John is married to Susan, Susan is Susan Deacon. Susan is a former Labour MSP and Health Minister at Holyrood.


Ken’s Head of Online News is Tom, Tom Connor. Tom and John are said to have offered media training to Labour Party wannabe politicians. Tom’s department operates BBC Scotland blogs; infamous for their ban on public comments, unlike any other part of the UK.

Another Tom is Tom McCabe. Tom is a member of the Scottish Labour Party and used to be an MSP. Tom also used to be the partner of Lorraine, Lorraine Davidson. Lorraine’s career has swung between the Labour Party and the BBC. She used to be a spin-doctor – with the Labour Party or was it the BBC? Not too sure on that one. Lorraine became a weel-kent voice on BBC Scotland frequently ushered in to air her views on all the big issues of the day. Lorraine is now married to David.

David is David Martin and he’s a Labour Party MEP. David Martin is friends with Catriona, Catriona Renton. Catriona loves politics which is good because that’s what she covers as a BBC Scotland reporter. Catriona was a Labour councillor in Glasgow with ambitions to become an MSP but sadly didn’t get elected in 2003. Catriona is a friendly sort of lady with Facebook chums the likes of Jackie Baillie ( herself a very friendly lady who is also chums with Gary Robertson and Alan Clements hubby of Kirsty Wark ), Yousuf Hamid, Tom Harris, Mike Dailly, Frank McAveety, John Robertson, John Park, Steven Purcell, Dave Watson – is there Labour person Catriona isn’t chummy with?


It goes on and on. Now, in a small country with a population of around 5 million, a degree of incestuousness in politics is unavoidable, but the SNP's young enough as a major force at the moment that it isn't yet entrenched as the new Establishment. There are some of the usual problems at constituency level, but they're not widespread (yet, at least), and given the level of hostile media scrutiny, its presence in Holyrood is holding up well.

Those media-Scottish Labour ties still endure, which warps much of our political coverage up here. But it became so blatant that, particularly during the indyref, it was impossible to ignore, and many developed a mistrust of the mainstream media and found other sources of information that bypassed it. So, in some ways resembling what seems to be happening with Corbyn's support within the Labour membership at the moment, attacks start to lose their impact, and even rebound. You can only mislead people so many times before at least some of them get tired of it and switch off.

Campaigning alongside the Tories and wholeheartedly adopting Project Fear - effectively abusing (verbally, on the record, in a number of stupid cases) those taken-for-granted Labour voters who just happened to support Yes for their own valid reasons - just sealed the deal.
July 15, 2016

Theresa May has vowed to unite Britain – my guess is against the poor

The Tory party seemed to have been blown apart by Brexit, but coalesced like the T-1000, this time taking the form of a woman. Andrea Leadsom, a sort of defrosted Theresa May, said that she was withdrawing in the national interest, but the suspicion will remain that she was ordered to stand aside by some blasphemous, tentacled demigod addressing her through a screaming mirror. You would have thought that having two women competing for the job would have gone down well with the Tory cabinet, rekindling fond childhood memories of the trial-by-combat phase of their nanny selections, but May was seen as the safer pair of hooves. She immediately vowed to unite Britain – my guess is against the poor. She will no doubt introduce a cap for migrants. Probably an orange cone with an “M” on the front that gives out an electric shock if they stray too close to a golf course.

You’ve got to say that at this crisis point the Labour party should be concentrating on doing what it’s good at, and surely that isn’t elections. Jimmy Savile armed with a cloak of invisibility let loose at Hogwarts would have more self control than the Labour party. A headline in the Guardian quoted a colleague describing Angela Eagle as “tough – in the best possible sense”, although personally when I think of tough in the best possible sense, I’m thinking maybe al dente pasta rather than voting for a war that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. There are those on Corbyn’s side who suggest this is a struggle between the top-down and bottom-up ideas of parties as social movements. I mean, it might be; it might also just be a struggle between people who don’t really seem to know what they’re doing and people who have some really firm ideas about how to change direction that are terrible. Eagle was widely derided for not putting forward any policies at her campaign launch, but really I think everybody knows the kind of things she stands for, and she was wise not to mention any of them. Indeed, given the makeup of the electorate, the whole thrust of her campaign should be to try to stop people remembering what she represents, and ideally who she is.

It’s hard to know whether all this is taking it out of Corbyn, due to his clever tactic of starting each day looking like he slept in his car. Yes, the media is hugely, systemically biased against him, and reason in general, but his one-note response seems to be going nowhere. He has this manner with interviewers where he seems to think that he is calmly talking sense to a lunatic, when really he is talking to the machinery in an abattoir. It’s probably worth noting that the referendum will have been seen at Westminster as a huge reaffirmation of the power of Murdoch generally, the Sun and the Daily Mail. Looks like it’s going to be a long time before senior politicians start turning up to the weddings of bloggers.

The fallout from the referendum continues. Some people are finally saying they’re embarrassed to be British, admittedly because we’ve left a trading union, rather than the centuries of mass murder, but it’s a start. House prices have dropped and you won’t be able to use your phone abroad – good, my kids can buy a flat and won’t be bothered by work calls on holiday. This all sounds as tragic as a conga line through a cocktail bar so far. Yet there’s no doubt racists feel vindicated by the result. It’s like a dam has burst. Finally we’ve thrown off our politically correct shackles and can tell it like it is – “That tapas ... It ain’t a meal. It’s just snacks. It ain’t right Terry! Pizza! They’re havin’ a laugh. It’s just cheese on fuckin toast! That Polish. Where’s the vowels? It ain’t right. It’s bad enough we let the Welsh get away with it.”


Another dose of Frankie Boyle.
July 15, 2016

Sturgeon, the SNP and the team of experts she's assembled have been way ahead of everybody else

on the diplomacy front and in exploring the options. May would do well to draw on their input, as it may point to possible solutions and approaches that could be adapted to the rest of the UK as well.

Noises from Europe about the prospects for Scotland alone remaining within the EU have been surprisingly encouraging, despite media claims otherwise. See here for a roundup that Andrew Marr has described as "a really useful, indeed essential, piece":

Our Friends In Europa

If your only source of news was the mainstream media, you could be forgiven for thinking that the consensus in the EU regarding an independent Scotland was bleak. Spain would, we’re told endlessly, veto Scotland’s place in the EU out of hand, and so, allegedly, would France.

And when Scotland’s First Minister went to Brussels after the referendum vote to meet with EU officials in regards to Scotland’s membership, we were told that this bold act of outreach fell on deaf ears.

The language of the press was hostile bordering on sadistic. The First Minister, acting to secure the democratic will of the people of Scotland, was apparently “running out of friends” and had to “beg” Ireland to help us out.

The reality, readers will be astonished to hear, is somewhat different.


To answer your question, I've not seen any serious discussion about the need for "SNP approval", no idea of veto for the whole UK as such. More a question of pointing out just how convoluted and un-thought through the whole ramifications are, and whether Scotland can or should be dragged out of the EU against the will of a majority of its voters.
July 15, 2016

Whatever happened to the Chilcot Debate?

You know, those two days of Parliamentary debate to follow up the long-awaited Chilcot Report's release?

Well, it was obviously overshadowed in the media by the turmoil among our political parties. But it did happen, on Wednesday and Thursday.

Links to Hansard reports and televised proceedings here:

If you're interested, I think you'll have to pick the bones out of it yourself, because I've been unable to find anyone in the media who has.

Unless you know different ...

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