Ozzy's Corner

A view from the Libertarian Left. With no spin


Progressives must accept a Brexit world

If the UK votes to leave the EU, mark the evening of June 13th 2016 as the time when everything changed.

The news of two new polls broke last night. You Gov recorded a seven point lead for Leave, and ICM reported a six point lead. My social media stream, mostly populated by left wing people, was mostly silent. I think the reaction was one of shock and incredulity. The nightmare of Remain supporters could be becoming a reality very sharply.

Also, The Sun came out backing Brexit. That is of no real surprise to anyone, but The Sun does not lead opinion, it follows it. It only backs who it seriously thinks will win, and this can be judged by the way it has backed the GE winner for a very long period of time. If The Sun backs your horse, it’s probably favourite to win.

This morning, the social media streams that were stunned into silence last night, have gone into panic mode. You can smell the fear. Remain just might be heading for serious electoral kicking. The public could be about to reject a core belief of the UK’s mainstream progressive parties.

At this point it is vital all progressive parties think very, very hard. It has two choices.

Firstly, it can continue to run around like Chicken Licken, screaming the sky is about fall down should the vote go for Brexit next week. Will this help? Almost certainly not. All sorts of negative information about what Brexit could mean has been the core of the Remain argument for weeks, yet the referendum is going away from them. If the public has discounted the risks already, there is no sign yet further warnings will help either. The remain campaign looks like a collective group of Cassandras

Alternatively, it can begin to think how it could influence a post-Brexit United Kingdom. Occasionally politics goes through a sea change. In 1979, there was no going back for Labour. They had been heavily beaten. In 1997, when Tony Blair routed the Conservatives, the game had changed. Labour and the Conservatives spent a long time in opposition until they realised change was required, before the public would listen to them again. In the same fashion, progressive parties need to consider an independent United Kingdom, and how they can ensure they are part of the process that rewrites what is a brand new rule book.

If they can’t learn and adapt to the new political geography, they will simply be ignored, and the foundations of the country will be written by conservative and reactionary forces. It is time for progressive parties to move on from the apron strings of the EU and work out how Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and Plaid can cooperate and ensure they lay down the foundation blocks. Holding grudges about who voted for what during this referendum is pointless, and will result in wasted years of counter-productive arguments, while the electorate shake their heads and give their support to other parties.

The left needs to wake and smell the coffee fast. If the public vote to leave the EU, the left had better accept it or be irrelevant.


A Response to a Left-wing ‘Remainer’

Yesterday, an person who I will not name posted this on the Internet:

My warning to all Lexiters – and there are many on my timeline, unfortunately.
I’m afraid this is my vision. On June 24th we wake up to discover the UK has voted “Leave”. Soon after, Cameron resigns. We then probably get Boris as PM.He may call a General Election, because a) he can and b) he wants a full term to put through HIS changes. He will negotiate our exit, on his terms, not by referring to the country. Those terms will be followed by a gradual or not so gradual erosion of our rights at work, because there is no EU to protect them, and because that’s what he, IDS and Priti Patel have promised, under the banner of “a more flexible workforce”. He’ll also tear up our environmental protections, hastening the advent of mass fracking etc. And he’ll also continue apace with the project to sculpt our democratic system into a permanent Tory-electing one. One of the more exciting things he’ll do along the way is to get a TTIP-style deal with the USA – whether Clinton or Trump – which will almost certainly be on worse terms (is that possible?) than the current one. Come 2021, there’ll be another General Election. With the changes Boris will have made to the system, and despite our best endeavours, Boris will win a second term.
If that, or anywhere near that, happens, I shall hold each and every lexiter responsible for the disaster.

I post this, as it is very much typical of the doomsday prediction that is driving left-wing voters to vote to remain in the EU. I was challenged to respond with the scenario I think is likely to occur, to defend my position as a ‘Lexiter’.

Dear Remainer,

Thank you for outlining your vision.

I agree that a Leave vote would be terminally damaging to David Cameron. He has already given notice he will quit anyway, and as evidenced by Tony Blair’s departure, stating an intent to step down makes you yesterday’s man immediately. If Leave wins, he would not only have backed the wrong horse, he has stated many times the disaster that Leave brings to the UK. How could he lead UK negotiations after that? In addition, 50% of his MPs and the majority of his grassroots members will be against him.

Who follows David Cameron? Boris would like it to be Boris, but he has demonstrated on a continual basis to change his mind more frequently than his underpants, and suffers ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease. He’s great for rent-a-quote Journalists, but I can’t imagine enough MPs or party members trust him to be Leader. Even if they did, the public would quickly realise they have a buffoon as PM.

Therefore, I reject the idea that he would become PM.

Whoever follows will be keenly aware that the misery of being an unelected PM brought upon Gordon Brown makes it unlikely anyone else would try it. Also, even before the referendum, the Conservative Party had a small majority and simply couldn’t get controversial bills through Parliament without lots of U-turns. Given the massive fissures that would have opened up in the last few months – wounds that won’t heal quickly – leading the Conservative Party will be a nightmare akin to John Major’s last few years.

For all these reasons, I conclude a new Leader will quickly be established and an election will follow, probably in October. The Fixed Term Parliament Act can be easily be engineered to do this.

All the policy ideas of the Tory right (Priti Patel and IDS et la) are very controversial. Do you really think the public would vote for such a manifesto in big numbers? Who would vote for reduced holidays, the loss of maternity rights and so on? I think the chances of a big Tory election win in October looks slim, as the party will still be fighting over Europe.

Assuming that this hurdle is overcome, if a small majority Tory Government tried to reduced holiday entitlement etc, there would be too many Tory MPs in marginal constituencies with post bags full of opposition from their voters, to get such measures through. Conservative MPs are nothing less that practical, and they won’t vote in a way that threatens their seat at the next GE.

So what do I think would happen should Brexit occur?

  1. David Cameron would resign very quickly or get pushed out by his party
  2. A non-Boris Candidate would win – my personal tip would be Theresa May or Phillip Hammond
  3. The Conservatives would win a small majority at best (my bet would be a hung Parliament)
  4. The negotiation to leave the EU would be hampered from the Tory-side by lots of infighting and old grievances. The list of right-wing fantasy policies would be ditched to get something through Parliament that other parties could support

There would plenty of scope for a progressive alliance of Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems and Greens to ensure the shape of the UK as independent nation would be far from the right-wing nightmare you have envisaged. In fact I can see scope to improve the country, as everything would be down to the UK voters without reference to another supra-nation body.

Best Wishes,

A Lexiter

 


1 Comment

The Left must not turn on itself over Europe

Until recently, much of the EU Referendum debate has been seen as a blue-on-blue matter. David Cameron on one side, and the person most keen to replace him, Boris Johnson, on the other. This has been the perception, but it hides a more complex picture under the surface.

Without a doubt, the Conservative Party is deeply split, and the rift could be very long lasting. Conservative MPs are evenly divided between Remain and Leave, and the membership similarly affected. No matter what the referendum result, the Conservatives will have to try to form a working Government with a tiny majority, hindered by the self-inflicted campaign wounds.

Labour also have difficulties. Their Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been a long term critic of the EU, but is supporting Remain alongside 90%+ of the PLP. Labour voters are far less supportive of the Remain camp than the Labour Party itself. The latest You Gov poll show support for Remain at 65% and Leave at 24%. There have been warnings from Labour Campaigners that in many areas of the country, Labour voters are not coming to the Remain side. If the country votes for Brexit, the vast majority of Labour MPs will have backed the wrong horse.

I support Green Leaves, a campaign group for Green Party members and supporters who wish to leave the EU. Labour also has a campaign to leave the EU. There is a substantial debate within the left about how to vote on the 23rd June. This debate has become more and more fractious, and has become very hostile in recent days, given the poll movements that have brought the chance of a Brexit vote becoming more likely.

Baroness Jenny Jones, Green Party Peer, has published a number of articles setting out a left-wing and progressive case for Brexit. I have seen comments about her that are utterly disgraceful, and disrespectful to a person who has worked for the Green Party and progressive causes for decades.

I know good left wing people, who were supporting Leave, but due to being tired of being called fascists, UKIP supporters, traitors and so on have switched their support to Remain under duress.

There are no certain outcomes, no matter what the referendum result is. There are a range of possibilities that exist, and it is for each person to evaluate the best way to vote for themselves. Supporting Leave does not mean supporting Nigel Farage or the Tory right. Leaving the EU does not mean workers rights being destroyed or environmental protections diminished. Should Brexit occur, our Government who has struggled to get fairly basic things passed with a tiny majority, will have even more difficulty removing holiday pay or others workers rights, given they will be in civil war. The Conservative Party has too many MPs in marginal seats, who will surely cave in under the pressure a constituency mail bag, threatening their seat at the next GE. And the power handed to UKIP? They have one MP now, and will still have one after June 23rd.

I ask that people of the left understand that voting Leave isn’t traitorous.

I ask that people of the left understand that voting Leave isn’t a sign of stupidity or character defect.

I ask that people of the left understand that given the same partial and ultimately subjective information, others may come to a different conclusion.

 

 


7 Comments

For Hilda

DSC_0106Hilda Margaret Elizabeth Sanderson 1935 – 2013

Yesterday, on Tuesday 9th July, my dear mother-in-law died in Dewsbury Hospital.

After being severely affected by one stroke some days earlier, a week last Saturday she suffered a second one. This one did such immense damage that recovery was impossible.

With great sadness, she was placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway. Care is quite an odd description for a process where essentially a person is deprived of food and water, being allowed to slowly die while just being given drugs to ease the pain.

One cannot watch a loved one slowly die in such a fashion and consider it anything other than cruel. Watching them just waste and fade away, not knowing if they can see or hear you. You are torn between wanting them to hang on, and the guilt of wanting them just to let go and stop the suffering. Once she had finally gone, it good to know she looked in peace and at rest. No more suffering.

Hilda hung on for seven days.

I cannot escape the idea that once someone is deemed so ill to be put on the LCP, then surely for humanities sake leaving them for days to die is much worse than allowing a form of euthanasia. This should be severely limited, but someone on the LCP is going to die. In reality, the LCP is a form of euthanasia.

Hilda Margaret Elizabeth Sanderson was a wonderful lady who deserved more dignity at the end of her life, more dignity than the LCP offers.

Update 11th July 2013

Today, as per Hilda’s final wishes, her three cats were put to sleep. They died quickly, painlessly and with much more dignity than Hilda herself.


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Cameron’s Mythical Dragons

01021_george_and_the_dragon

You know a Government is in trouble when they start slaying mythical dragons.

David Cameron announced this week that immigrants families would face being ineligible to apply for a Council house for up to five years. The Prime Minister has been under pressure from Conservative MPs since their appalling Eastleigh by-election result, where they slumped to third behind UKIP. The UKIP campaign was based strongly on an anti-immigration and anti-EU stance.

With a background of a stalling economy, poor poll ratings, internal conflict and a stress-cracked Coalition, the omens for the next election look poor for the Conservatives. With under three years to go, it would take a remarkable and unlikely turn around to reverse the trend.

So how does such a Government in this mess move forward?

They roll out their mythical dragons to slay.

For the Conservatives these are the EU, immigration, the public sector, unions, the welfare state and the so called deficit. Each is chosen for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the myth must be commonly shared. It is useful if your friends in the media will propagate helpful stories, using one-off extreme cases to demonstrate the rule. For example, a single mother with eleven children was the centre of a media storm last month. This case was used to demonstrate the ‘failing of an over generous benefit system’ , despite being a highly unusual case that represents a minuscule percentage of benefit claimants. The domination of the right-wing press ensures that such issues are rarely portrayed accurately, or with a fair evidential basis.

Secondly, each dragon should represent a group that is vulnerable and weak. This applies to immigrants and welfare claimants. These groups do not have the influence to seriously fight back.

Thirdly, the concept of scape-goating should apply. Are immigrants responsible for the lack of social housing? No, the issue is decades of not building them, while simultaneously selling the stock off. Are people on Job Seekers Allowance holding back the country and responsible for their own worklessness? No, our economy is so configured to ensure a permanent high level of unemployment to create a downward pressure on wages, and transfer wealth to global corporations and the super-rich.  Scape-goating also helps to ensure ordinary workers focus their rage on those they should unite with. Why should the elite fight everyone else, when they can have ordinary people fight among themselves?

The Conservatives know that organised labour remains a barrier to eroding employee rights and creating the  preconditions which would enable global capitalists to further asset strip the people of the United Kingdom. This is why the public sector and Unions are targets for slaying, not because they are bad, but for ideological reasons. The Miners strike in 1984-85 was a classic case of artificially constructing a fight, with the intention of destabilising the union movement and to justify a reduction in union rights.

The Conservatives always talk about the deficit as something Labour grew so large due to spending too much. This is nonsense, and even a cursory look at historical data blows this myth out of the water. The deficit is being used as a trojan horse to fragment and privatise our services for corporate profit.

So given the Conservatives inability to win the next election based on their performance or benefit they have brought to people, we can expect two years of further attacks on the classic Tory dragons.

Those on the left need to ensure that they fight every myth propagated by this Government, as it gets down and dirty heading towards 2015. No action should be done or speech made that gives credence  to these myths.

This lesson needs to be quickly learned by the Shadow Cabinet.

Are you listening Liam Byrne?


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The Left Should Unite and Strike Now

“Anyone in this party who’s in any doubt who we should be fighting, what we should be debating, where our energies should be focused – I tell you: our battle is with Labour. This is a bunch of self-satisfied Labour socialists who think they can spend your money better than you can, make decisions better than you can and tell you what to do, and we should never, ever let that lot near government again.”

David Cameron, Conservative Spring Conference, 16th March 2013.

This passage from David Cameron reveals the hole in which he and his party find themselves.

The Conservatives surely never thought it could get as bad as this. Several things have come together.

Firstly, their key aim of this Parliament was the elimination of the deficit, an aim now stretched out way into the the distance. The austerity medicine delivered has killed patient. 2013, instead of seeing strong economic growth as predicted on 2010, is a zero growth struggling mess.The Government is actually more more money, not less, to plug that gap left by anemic economic activity.

Secondly, David Cameron policies have been a story of flip-flop, cock-up and disaster. The Coalition agreement always a back-of-the-fag-packet look about, and this has been borne out in practice Some policies such as NHS and education reform have been carried our despite deep unpopularity and the obvious fact they will not work. Other policies have been ditched for no reason other trying to popular after the event, such as the minimum price of alcohol.

Thirdly, they expected Ed Miliband to be a disaster. To their shock, Ed has not only not been a disaster, he is doing well. The Labour Party has not fallen apart, but has actually been a successful tactical opposition at least. This week’s PMQ’s, with Ed’s joke about organising things in a brewery, demonstrated the it is David Cameron, not Ed Miliband who appears on the back foot and struggling.

Not only does the Prime Minister have a united opposition to trouble him. The Conservative Party is split and ill-disciplined about issues such as gay marriage and Europe. Many Tory MPs see the Prime Minister’s stance as not Conservative enough, blaming the Liberal Democrats for unduly influencing the Coalition. This has created an opportunity that UKIP has taken with both hands. Eastleigh’s by election humiliation, where UKIP forced the Conservatives into third, was a stinging blow.

The polls also show no comfort either. A recent large poll by Lord Ashcroft showed how successful Labour could be in 2015 and how poor Conservative supporters thought their chances were. Polls have been showing a strong Labour lead of about 10 points for many months.

All these factors led David Cameron to his speech. He knows he is looking down the barrel of defeat if he gets to 2015 as leader. He also knows that he is polling the sort of numbers that Maggie Thatcher was when removed as leader. In addition, he knows that polling at the low 30’s is the irreducible core vote that they got at their biggest kicking in the modern era – 1997.

So should Labour prepare for Government?

Labour is in a strong position, yet quite frankly have done very little. To just allow the Government enough rope to hang himself is not enough. It is complacent and will not allow Ed to lead what would be needed in 2015 – a national renewal on the scale of 1945,

The real fear for Labour has always been stigmatised with being associated tax and spending. Virtually all we have heard from the Government since 2010 is blaming Labour for spending too much. Labour has meekly defended itself at best, and so it has stuck firmly despite being fundamentally wrong.

In addition, the signs are that Labour are drifting to the next election with caution, and a probability to match the Conservatives spending plans as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did in 1997.

This would be very bad, as the clear aim of Cameron’s Government has been to privatise health and education, destroy the public sector and dismantle the welfare state. Another five years of following this Governments spending plans would make these changes permanent. What is required is a clear and loud rejection of austerity, and a laying to rest the economic myths that have now sadly become unquestioned. Anyone who thinks that these myths are true, don’t listen to amateur left bloggers, read the works of Paul Krugman (Nobel prize winning economist) and others.

Given the weakness of the Conservatives, now is the time to strike and strike hard. Labour now has only a few years to set out an alternative economic agenda. It will take time to blow away the myths, and this conversation may not be easy.

Labour needs to articulate their plans for health and education, and on how key services can be better by not auctioning them off to highest bidder. We need to accept that the treatment of the poor, frail and elderly in the UK is a disgusting abuse that shames us all. Vulnerable people need the dignity and care they deserve in a civilised society.

The need for not just growth, but the right growth should be made. We don’t need everyone to buy a new TV or pile money again into a housing bubble, we need to grow by building low carbon energy technologies that supply us for decades cleanly and safely. We need to build in infrastructure – better, cleaner transport and high-speed broadband – that can be the backbone of future businesses. We need to ensure we build enough high quality housing to ensure that everyone can live in a modern, energy efficient home that ordinary people can afford.

The values of our society need to be challenged. As a nation we simply cannot accept the inequality hard-wired into our economic system. Work should earn a living wage, and excessive salaries by the elite should be both limited and action taken to ensure they are not squirreled away in off-shore tax havens.

These are the bold messages that Labour should be shouting from the roof tops now, and every minute up the next election. Labour are well placed to lead a coalition of the left, and with the agenda set out here would surely drive Cameron and company out of Downing Street and deliver a society we could all be proud of.


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David Cameron’s UKIP Conundrum

The Eastleigh by-election can described as a hard fought win for the Liberal Democrats or a sign that Ed Miliband’s one nation message has travelled no further south than the Watford gap.

However, the second place by UKIP, dumping the Tories into third, has brought home to the Conservatives the fact that UKIP are a dangerous threat to them winning the next general election. This is the big message from Hampshire.

Eastleigh by-election, 2013
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Democrat Mike Thornton 13,342 32.06% -14.44%
UKIP Diane James 11,571 27.80% +24.20%
Conservative Maria Hutchings 10,559 25.37% -13.93%
Labour John O’Farrell 4,088 9.82% +0.22%
Independent Danny Stupple 768 1.85% N/A
National Health Action Iain Maclennan 392 0.94% N/A
Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party Ray Hall 235 0.56% N/A
Christian Kevin Milburn 163 0.39% N/A
Monster Raving Loony Howling Laud Hope 136 0.33% N/A
Peace Jim Duggan 128 0.31% N/A
Elvis Loves Pets David Bishop 72 0.17% N/A
English Democrats Michael Walters 70 0.17% -0.33%
TUSC Daz Procter 62 0.15% N/A
Wessex Regionalist Colin Bex 30 0.07% N/A
Majority 1,771 4.26% -2.9%
Turnout 41,616 52.8% -16.5%
Liberal Democrat hold Swing -19.2

The effect of UKIP has been to divide the right. Mirroring the impact the SDP had on Labour in the eighties, UKIP is taking crucial votes from the Conservatives.

Below is a graph showing the percentage lead in each seat the Conservatives won in the 2010 election over the second place party.

UKIP

 

As can be seen, if just 10% of the Conservative vote goes elsewhere and the second placed party just stands still, the loss of seats would be around 80. Is this possible or likely?

Below is a chart showing the change in vote share for the Conservatives and UKIP in the by-elections they have fought this Parliament.

CON UKIP

Of course, by-elections can exaggerate the sort of changes seen in a general election. However, the Conservatives are not only under threat from UKIP. In the north and urban areas Labour is moving strongly against them, without the sort of splits that divided them in the eighties. Eastleigh demonstrated that Liberal Democrat heartlands have a tough core.

There is irony in that two euro-sceptic parties have split the vote, allowing a pro-European party to win the seat. One might think that an electoral pact would help to ensure a bigger voice for euro-sceptics. This is unlikely for several reasons in my view.

Firstly, Nigel Farage, UKIP Leader, now has almost a cult following. He is driven and motivated, and the smell of fear from Conservative HQ will be too strong to resist.

Secondly, the Euro elections loom next year. Given the proportionate system used to elect MEPs and subject being UKIP’s key issue, they are very likely to kick the Conservatives hard. With less than 12 months before the general election campaign, a bruised set of Tory backbenchers will be very nervous about their future. They will be in no mood to talk deals with the very party who threaten them.

Despite claims that the Eastleigh by-election was just another mid-term protest vote, I think the roots of the defeat of the Conservatives in 2015 are growing strongly.

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