All I want for Christmas

So, we finally have a date for an election, which feels waking up from a nightmare, for the moment at least. I suspect the sense of relief will be short-lived though, since the campaign that will now ensue is likely to be ill-tempered and divisive.

The final result may turn on the degree to which Boris Johnson is able to keep the focus on his preferred narrative – the one that casts him, an absurdly privileged toff, as the unlikely tribune of the common man – and away from where he actually wants to lead the country, which is not a destination likely to appeal to the working-class voters he needs to win over. Conversely, Jeremy Corbyn will be hoping that the electorate can look beyond the immediate question of Brexit, and buy into the progressive Labour programme that proved popular in 2017.

Whatever plans the parties may have are unlike to survive first contact with the population, so predicting the outcome is a fool’s game, but I’ll go for it anyway – Johnson’s gamble won’t pay off, and our Yuletide present will be a Labour government.

 

Time to vote

So, are we to have an election before the end of the year? One might think, after yet another week of parliamentary manoeuvring, we would have an answer to that question, especially since all the major parties are, in theory, in favour of an early poll, but uncertainty persists. Boris Johnson’s latest attempt to dissolve parliament, which came to a vote this evening, was unsuccessful, as, unsurprisingly, the opposition was reluctant to take him at his word when he promised not to try to push through his Withdrawal Bill before election day.

He’s going to try again tomorrow, with a motion that ties him down to a definite date, which would make it all but impossible for him to engineer an exit in the meantime. This time he might get it over the line, since the EU have granted another extension until the end of January, providing reassurance for the opposition parties with most to gain from an election, the SNP and the Liberals, who between them have enough votes to give Johnson a majority, assuming he can keep his own party on board. Labour remain ambivalent, but may have to accept that the numbers are stacking up against a further delay.

The Tories are ahead in the polls, but even so, an election is a major gamble for Johnson. He would be banking on picking up enough seats from Labour in the north of England to offset what will probably be a total Conservative wipeout in Scotland, and heavy losses to the Liberals in the south. He would need to keep the campaign focused on Brexit, and hope that Labour leave voters were prepared to overlook a decade of austerity, and the promise of more to come, and give him the mandate to finally carry through a departure. This seems unlikely, to say the least.

My view is that an election can’t come soon enough. A win for the left is more than possible, and while a Johnson victory would be a nightmare, at least we would know where we stood, and could get on with the class struggle, instead of prolonging the current paralysis.

My predictions? There will be an election in the week beginning 9th December, Labour will win enough seats to form a minority government with the loose support of the SNP, and Johnson will take his rightful place as a footnote to history.

Delayed disgratification

Not for the first time, what promised to be a decisive day in the Brexit saga has turned out to be anything but. For reasons that I can’t summon the energy to summarise, the meaningful vote on Boris Johnson’s deal has been delayed, perhaps until next week, but possibly longer.

Theoretically, Johnson should now be required to request a further postponement of the departure date, which, reports suggest, the EU will grudgingly grant. Johnson is still insisting that he will do no such thing, but he is probably just waiting until his hand is forced by the courts, so that he can burnish his populist credentials by claiming that he is the victim of an establishment plot.

As someone who wants to see the whole Brexit project consigned to the dustbin of history, I should be feeling pleased by this development, but I can’t help feeling that the continual deferment of the day of reckoning is just allowing the left to avoid facing up to the fact that we have lost this particular battle, and we need to be getting ready for the rest of the war. If the right want to use Brexit to ramp up the class struggle – which they do – then we should tell them to bring it on, because, history tells us, when it comes to that fight, we will fuck them up.

Back on the brink

So, against expectations, Boris Johnson has managed to cobble together a deal acceptable to the EU, though to get it over the line he has been obliged to completely cave in on the Irish border question, essentially accepting that Northern Ireland will stay in the single market indefinitely and that the customs line will run down the Irish Sea. To balance this climbdown he is able to point to the freedom to significantly loosen regulations in the rest of the UK, which Brexit enthusiasts have always promoted as the main benefit of the process.

However… there is still the small matter of getting this deal approved by Westminster, with a vote scheduled the day after tomorrow. The right of the Tory party seem to be on board, convinced by the promise of unfettered capitalism, while the DUP are steadfastly opposed, which is unsurprising given that Johnson has comprehensively betrayed their core principles. The Labour leadership and the other opposition parties have pledged to vote no, leaving Johnson dependent on twenty or so Labour rebels, who were previously in favour of Theresa May’s abortive deal. Johnson’s plan is much more hostile to workers’ rights though, which is likely to put off most if not all of the potential waverers, who will also be reluctant to hand Johnson a boost immediately ahead of the coming election. All things considered, it looks like a long shot.

If Johnson’s deal falls, where does that leave the nation? There was a hint today that the EU would lose patience, and just kick us out at the end of the month, but they seem to be backtracking on that threat, so a further extension, to give time for an election and/or another referendum, appears likely. We’re more or less back where we were this time last year; I’d be reluctant to bet that things will be any different by next October…

Criminally inept

There was a brief spell last week when it seemed like a resolution to the Brexit impasse might be in sight; while Boris Johnson’s long-awaited proposal for a deal was clearly inadequate, he had ditched the take-it-or-leave-it rhetoric, and it was just about possible to imagine that he had lured the ultras in his own party into supporting his strategy, with the intention of caving in to the EU at the last moment. The outcome of this would have been an unlikely resurrection of Theresa May’s deal, which, given what has happened in the months since that was last presented to parliament, might have garnered enough cross-party support to squeeze through.

Alas, this rosy scenario required crediting Johnson with more guile than he actually possesses; it has since become clear that he has no secret plan, and really does believe that his brinkmanship will compel Brussels to back down. Unsurprisingly there is no sign that will happen, so the crisis is set to rumble on.

Johnson has promised the nation that Brexit will definitely occur at the end of the month, while simultaneously assuring a court that he will abide by the Benn act and request a further postponement when, inevitably, no deal is finalised in the next two weeks. His cunning ploy to get out of this bind is to ask the Hungarians to veto an extension, though what might motivate them to piss off their EU partners for his sake is unexplained.

Adding a slightly surreal aspect to the whole business is the fact that Johnson is also on the hook for petty graft, with allegations that he steered relatively trivial sums of public money towards the business of a woman he may or may not have been having an affair with at the time.

I guess we get the leaders we deserve; an incompetent crook seems about right for a has-been power with lingering delusions of grandeur. It would be amusing, were it not that Johnson’s imminent collision with reality is going to take the rest of us down with him.