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Current location: Scotland
Member since: Mon Sep 7, 2009, 12:57 AM
Number of posts: 4,844

Journal Archives

Has the EU really ruled out another Article 50 extension?

No. But Boris Johnson needs Labour MPs to believe it has.

Deal or no-deal: that’s the stark choice MPs will face when the Commons sits on Saturday if reports from Brussels are to be believed. Asked to rule out a further extension to Article 50 beyond 31 October, EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: “We have concluded a deal and so there is not an argument for the delay. It has to be done now...[Boris Johnson] and myself don’t think it’s possible to give another prolongation. There will be no other.”

Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, has struck a similar note. “France said very clearly in the spring that we mustn’t pursue these discussions after the end of October,” the French president has said.

In appearing to rule out another extension, Juncker and Macron have created the cliff-edge scenario that the prime minister believes is necessary to deliver a majority - and particularly the Labour switchers that he will need in the absence of the DUP's 10 votes. It has been dutifully reported to that effect, most notably by the BBC's breaking news app.

The problem for Johnson, however, is that the proposition is not as binary as he might like. As much as Juncker sounds like he is opposed to a further extension, it is not within the Commission’s gift to offer or reject one (and nor did he expressly rule it out). Rather it is the individual member states who will decide whether to accept or reject a request for an extension the government has committed to table under the terms of the Benn Act, or, for that matter, offer one themselves - as was the case in March.


Soundings among various EU office holders indicate that a decision on any extension if this deal isn't passed is by no means done and dusted, despite interpretations of Juncker's statement earlier today.

Barnier's been talking about the prospects of an extension into 2020.

The media, including the BBC, jumped the gun earlier today in reporting Juncker vetoing any chances of an extension - indeed, the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg has been serving her usual role of craven stenographer to the Johnson regime and putting her gloss on matters that serves it best. It's a shame that Katya Adler, a much better analyst with no identifiable ulterior motives, isn't in her role - see what she tweeted in Muriel's reply to Sophie's post in Latest Breaking News.

Conservative Party election leaflets suggest Brexit delay

The leaked leaflets, made available to agents and activists last week, also reveal some of the arguments the party may use against their opponents in a general election.
But more intriguingly, the language in the leaflets clearly suggests the party is expecting the UK not to have left the EU by the time of a general election, saying: "Without a strong majority government, we can't deliver Brexit," and "Nigel Farage can't deliver Brexit but he could yet block it."
Another leaflet is aimed at people who voted Leave in 2016 who are now tempted to vote for the Liberal Democrats.

This leaflet says "without a strong majority government Brexit won't get delivered", again suggesting the party intends on sending this leaflet out after the UK's departure has been delayed.
People who voted Leave and are now deciding between the Conservatives and Labour will be targeted with the following leaflet.

It says "Labour's Brexit policy is more delay", once more suggesting that the UK will not have left the EU at the time of a general election.


One question that arises is whether this is just the Tories planning for a "worst case" (though possibly not the worst case for them electorally) and whether there are also unleaked drafts of leaflets dealing with a situation where the UK has left the EU at the time of an election.

Revealed: Trump's attorney general met Priti Patel as he sought UK help to investigate Russia probe

Donald Trump's attorney general met Priti Patel this summer as he sought British help in an investigation casting doubt over the Russian 2016 election meddling probe, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

William Barr met Ms Patel, the Home Secretary, in London shortly after she got the role while both attended a conference for the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance.

They met on July 29 - just days after Mr Trump had reportedly urged Boris Johnson to help with the investigation, which is looking at how the probe into Mr Trump's Kremlin links had begun.

Multiple Home Office spokesmen and aides declined to rule out on-the-record that Ms Patel and Mr Barr discussed the investigation.


I'm not sure how long this story's legs will be yet, and so far only the Telegraph (where you need to register or subscribe to read beyond what I've quoted above) and Mail are covering it.

FWIW, here's some of the Mail's version:

Donald Trump's Attorney General 'met Priti Patel as he sought British help investigating inquiry into Russian meddling in 2016 US election five days after she became Home Secretary'
Their meeting came days after Mr Trump reportedly asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to assist him as he tried to discredit the Mueller investigation into possible connections between Russia and his election campaign.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the Commons on Wednesday that no British government member, including the prime minister, would collude with Trump to discredit intelligence agencies looking into Russian interference of the 2016 election campaign.
Mr Johnson's Attorney General Geoffrey Cox also met Mr Barr at the Five Eyes conference and said had the investigation been raised he would have declined to talk about it.


The journalistic formula "X happened as Y ..." can sometimes be misleadingly used to link two events that may be unrelated except in occurring around the same time. But the last sentence quoted from the Telegraph piece - "Multiple Home Office spokesmen and aides declined to rule out on-the-record that Ms Patel and Mr Barr discussed the investigation." - is bound to fuel speculation, especially given Patel's disastrous past record as a loose cannon in foreign affairs.

Tory MPs beware: if you whip up an angry mob, they may end up angry with you

There is so much of this to Cummings’ “people vs parliament” brand of politics, but the patsies – the Tory MPs – are yet to catch on. While most women could read that New York Times column and work out what it basically meant for them, a lot of Conservative MPs are dutifully spouting Cummings’ lines, but don’t yet seem to have worked out where they leave them.

But listen, Tory mooks – I’m here to help. While you’re getting a tiki torch and standing a post, let me tell you what a “people vs parliament” election ultimately means for you. First, if you whip up an angry mob, why do you assume they won’t end up angry with you? Do you think the mob is going to come upon an MP and go, “Wait, wait – this is so-and-so. He voted for Meaningful Votes 2 and 3, so we should, you know, definitely not put our pitchforks up his arse”? Eventually, you’re going to get a pitchfork up your arse either way.

To adapt that phrase of the alt-right to whom you tack closer every day: mobs don’t care about your feelings. If I had to come up with an adjective to help you understand mobs, it would probably be mob-like. Very mobby. Mobtastic. If you go to the country in a people v parliament election, you may indeed get elected and be part of a triumphant Tory majority. But when you have been elected, and when you’ve “got Brexit done” – which is to say, when you’ve either taken the UK off the no-deal cliff, or opened up the next however many painful years of trade negotiations fuckery-pokery, which is never going to solve the problems it is magically supposed to – you, then, are “parliament”.

The even angrier people are then versus YOU. That’s when they come for you, because you asked them to. You invited them in. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this line “the revolution devours its children”? That’s you, babe. Second, I know you’ve already only read about one war, but bad news: it’s the wrong war. You need the first world war, not the second. By way of a crash course of what Dom’s got planned for you, take the line in Blackadder, where the general brays to the guys he’s sending over the top: “We’ll be right behind you!” and Blackadder mutters: “About 35 miles behind you.” You’re the cannon fodder, you’re the Twenty Minuters. But, hey – enjoy it out there.


I had to really gut Marina Hyde's article to comply with the forum's paragraph limit, but what I've posted of it chimes with something I've long thought about Trump, Farage, Johnson and other petty but powerful demagogues who keep popping up. Hyde no doubt expresses it more pithily and elegantly than I can.

Perhaps it's just my cheery, optimistic nature. But maybe some day, when all the cheap rhetoric's spent and they run out of excuses and scapegoats and adversaries to whine about to explain why they never actually deliver on any of their grandiose but vague promises - if they even bother to formulate a positive message at all - but mysteriously and consistently end up making themselves and their shady cronies filthily richer at the expense of the rubes and plebs they secretly hold in utter contempt while using their snobby caricature of the thuggish, amorphous blob of ballot box fodder "outside the M25" or "oop North" or wherever, always on the verge of erupting into convenient violence, to try to scare people into doing what they want, maybe some day, when they're finally rumbled by those they've conned, maybe then there'll be a row of lamp posts with their names on.

Boris Johnson's billionaire leadership backer urged prorogation before he became PM

One of Boris Johnson's billionaire leadership backers was, as early as July, urging the prime-minister-to-be to prorogue parliament to force Brexit.

Just as Johnson was poised to become leader, hedge fund financier Crispin Odey, said that he was backing Boris because he would be ready to "dissolve" parliament for a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking to Channel 4 the day before Johnson won the leadership, Odey also said he was urging Johnson to pack the House of Lords with sympathetic new peers in order to "get this done".

The statements, revealed in the documentary Tories at War, suggest Johnson was considering prorogation at the behest of hard Brexiteer backers before he even became prime minister.


I hope the Supreme Court judges due to give a verdict on the prorogation on Tuesday don't get wind of this, or it might influence their decision.

This follows on from earlier reporting on the role of Johnson's hedge fund backers: https://www.democraticunderground.com/108817465

I wonder whether the Financial Times will stick by its line at the time, "No deal Brexit is not a hedge fund conspiracy"?

Brexit Disaster Capitalism: 8 Billion Bet on No Deal Crash-Out by Boris Johnson's Leave Backers

While the Prime Minister defies the law and insists Britain will leave the European Union on 31 October, his backers stand to make billions out of the disaster.
At the start of this year, a number of hedge funds – including that of Crispin Odey who made £220 million on the night of the referendum result – announced that, in their view, Brexit wasn’t going to happen and that they were going to take bets out on sterling going up.

Between January to May 2019, less than 10 short positions were being taken out by hedge funds per week. However, that all changed dramatically when Boris Johnson announced that he was running for the Conservative Party leadership on May 16. The number of short positions thereafter doubled, tripled and quadrupled and, by the time of his victory was announced, had risen to around 100 per week.
Currently, £8,274,350,000 (£8.3 billion) of aggregate short positions has been taken out by hedge funds connected to the Prime Minister and his Vote Leave campaign, run by his advisor Dominic Cummings, on a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Does this £8 billion bet explain why the Prime Minister has said that he would rather “die in a ditch” before asking the EU for an extension? Is it the reason why Johnson is willing to defy the Benn Act that stops a ‘no deal’ Brexit? Is the £8 billion any kind of motivation to prorogue Parliament?


Government Publishes Operation Yellowhammer Plans

Having claimed that the leaked documents a month ago were "outdated", they've now made them publicly available:

Rosamund Urwin, who published the leaked version in the Sunday Times, tweeted tonight:

Rosamund Urwin @RosamundUrwin

What's different about the new Yellowhammer document that the government has just published compared with the one I got hold of last month? The heading.

What did the version I had say? BASE SCENARIO

Now what does the new one say? HMG Reasonable Worst Case Planning Assumptions

You'll notice there a heavy redaction of paragraph 15 above. Urwin, who saw an unredacted version, tweeted that it read:


Rosamund Urwin @RosamundUrwin

"15. Facing EU tariffs makes petrol exports to the EU uncompetitive. Industry had plans to mitigate the impact on refinery margins and profitability but UK Government policy to set petrol import tariffs at 0% inadvertently undermines these plans." [More to come]

Rosamund Urwin @RosamundUrwin

"This leads to significant financial losses and announcement of two refinery closures (and transition to import terminals) and direct job losses (about 2000). (2/3)

Rosamund Urwin @RosamundUrwin

Resulting strike action at refineries would lead to disruptions to fuel availability for 1-2 weeks in the regions directly supplied by the refineries." (3/3)

You can download the assessment from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-response-to-humble-address-motion

Direct link to full PDF: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/831199/20190802_Latest_Yellowhammer_Planning_assumptions_CDL.pdf

Scottish judges rule PM's suspension of parliament is unlawful

Appeal court says prorogation order ‘void’ but fails to issue injunction for MPs to return

Scottish appeal court judges have declared Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful.

The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the power to interfere in the prime minister’s political decision to prorogue parliament.

Lawyers acting for 75 opposition MPs and peers argued Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament for five weeks was illegal and in breach of the constitution, as it was designed to stifle parliamentary debate and action on Brexit.

The court issued an official summary of its decision declaring the prorogation order was “null and of no effect”, but Carloway said the judges were deferring a final decision on an interdict to the UK supreme court, which will hold a three-day hearing next week.


Before we get too excited, it's worth pointing out that the Scottish courts not infrequently take different views to the English courts - the High Court in London's decision last week went the other way. But this is an important principle to test anyway.

"Sources" in No. 10 (a.k.a. Dominic Cummings, no doubt) said "We note that last week the High Court in London did not rule that prorogation was unlawful. The legal activists choose the Scottish courts for a reason." Some have taken this as a slur on Scottish judges' independence. Jolyon Maugham QC says they chose the Scottish Appeal Court as a venue because the English High Court wasn't sitting in August.

PM aide Dominic Cummings blames 'rich Remainers' in Brexit snap at TV reporter

Privately-schooled Dominic Cummings, whose baronet father-in-law owns a haunted castle, had a characteristically blunt response while leaving his £1.6m townhouse
The senior No10 advisor told a TV reporter: "You guys should get outside London and go to talk to people who are not rich remainers."
The son of an oil rig manager and teacher, who has repeatedly portrayed himself as the scourge of the civil service establishment, was educated at the fee-paying Durham School and Oxford University.

He and his wife Mary Wakefield - whose father, Sir Humphrey, owns 'Britain's most haunted castle' Chillingham Castle in Northumberland - bought their Islington townhouse for £1.65m in 2013 and later applied to extend it.

The luxurious home features a separate 'Tapestry Room', 'Reading Room' and 'Formal Living Room' spread across two floors.


I don't know about anybody else, but I'm heartily sick of Cummings and other patronizing shady overprivileged wealthy useless conniving wannabe class warriors co-opting "the working class" and "northerners" as a stick to beat anyone who's not as barkingly bonkers in favour of plummeting out of the EU with no safety net or parachute as they are, as if either of those blocs is monolithic.

From 2017, by LSE researchers:

Brexit was not the voice of the working class nor of the uneducated – it was of the squeezed middle

Over the past year or so, Brexit has been interpreted as the symbol of a historical shift to anti-establishment politics, kicking off a surge in the ‘outsider’ vote across Europe and the United States. In line with this narrative, initial interpretations of the vote depicted Leave voters as marginalised segments of the population – both educationally and economically – who had channelled their discontent through the referendum.

Another popular view that emerged is that Brexit was the unified response of the working class which finally found its long-lost voice. Yet subsequent, rigorous analysis showed that the profile of Brexit voters is more heterogeneous than initially thought, and that it includes voters with high education and ‘middle class’ jobs. If Brexit is really connected to socio-economic factors, how do we make sense of this apparent contradiction?
The left-out argument has been constructed around voters whose low levels of education render them unable to compete with those with a university degree in the globalised economy. Academic research has already argued against this. For example, Goodwin and Heath show that voters with A-level education from low skilled communities had similar pro-Leave voting profiles to those with no education.


Our findings confirm a negative relationship between education and voting Leave: the higher the level of one’s education, the lower the likelihood of them voting Leave. Our findings, however, reject the dichotomous view of the low-educated Brexiter vs the high-educated Remainer, by showing that two groups with intermediate levels of education (voters with good GSCEs and A-levels) were more pro-Leave than the low-educated (those with no formal education and with low GSCE grades).


From last May:

It has become commonplace to ascribe the leave victory in 2016 to the votes of working-class Labour supporters. This is misleading. Most leave voters live in Conservative constituencies. The Tory shires mattered more than Labour’s industrial heartlands.

A YouGov analysis of more than 25,000 voters suggests the following division of leave voters in the referendum, linked to the 2017 election result.

• Middle-class leave voters: Conservative 5.6 million; Labour 1.6 million.

• Working-class leave voters: Conservative 4.4 million; Labour 2.2 million. (A few of the remaining 3.6 million leave voters supported smaller parties; most did not vote in 2017.)

So the largest block of leave voters were middle-class Conservatives, followed by working-class Conservatives. Just one in eight leave voters was a working-class Labour supporter. To be sure, had even half of these 2.2 million voters backed remain, the result of the referendum would be different. But to suggest that the referendum’s 17.4 million leave voters were dominated by working-class Labour supporters is simply wrong.

From last March:

8 reasons we should stop assuming “northern” means “pro-Brexit”

1) Many regions within the North were majority Remain – and many down South were majority Leave
2) Everywhere has large numbers of Leave and Remain voters
3) The North has an awful lot of people – but not necessarily enough to stop Brexit alone
4) Differences aren’t as big as percentages make it look
5) Non-voters narrow the margins further
6) Opinion polls show Remain gaining ground in the North
7) Referendums don’t work like elections anyway
8) In general, stereotyping is just a bad idea

Cummings isn't a subtle person. The battle lines he wants to draw up for an upcoming election are obvious: people versus parliament; rich Remainers versus - well, who the hell knows, hard done by? - Leavers; his nihilistic world view, dubious motives and ultra-wealthy backers versus what passes for reality nowadays, the national good and those of us who aren't rich by any means, just collateral damage in his machinations.

Blessed Be the Meme Makers

Last night, Rees-Mogg caused a bit of a stir by lounging undecorously on the front benches during proceedings, finally being called out on it by Caroline Lucas:

The picture of Jacob Rees-Mogg lying down on the job will haunt the Tories for decades

When the tale is told of the first parliamentary vote of Boris Johnson’s premiership, it will mention his spectacular failure to win it; his removal of the whip from lifelong Conservatives including former cabinet members and Churchill’s grandson; and his loss of a majority, and potentially the forcing of a general election on a tired and bitterly divided British public.

But after the immediate repercussions of this weeks' vote are over, there will be an image from last night that hangs around Tory necks for years to come: Jacob Rees-Mogg lying horizontal on the front bench as he listened to the debate, lounging insouciantly like a rebel child defying nanny, showing all the grace of Kevin the Etonian Teenager.

Rees-Mogg’s disdain for parliament, for democracy, for his colleagues could not have been made clearer. His body language screamed “I shouldn’t have to be here listening to you people”. It was a pose designed to suggest this debate shouldn’t have taken place at all. But it was a mistake – and one that will haunt him and his party for decades.


Let the haunting begin. The image has already inevitably spawned a number of Photoshops. My favourite is:

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