And we’re free! …free falling

So there it is, over the cliff we have gone.  The impact, and the years of pain and disablement that follow, doesn’t happen the moment you go over the cliff.  But it sure is the moment when there’s no going back.  We are now in free fall, without control, and the pain and damage that will follow is unavoidable.

200131 brexit tea towel

Done, and we certainly have been

What the hell have we just seen on our TV screens at the 11pm moment of exit, at Nigel Farage’s rally in Parliament Square London and at Andrea Jenkyns’s crummy firework display at Morley rugby club?

Above all, it looked like a demographic crime: a crime by the old against the young.  It looked like a final fleeting moment of catharsis and defiance by a generation whose best days are behind them, have no plan for the future, no real interest in the future, and above all have not the slightest intention of taking any responsibility for what happens next.

An act of extraordinary irresponsibility and petulance by what will now be the only generation to enjoy the ‘cradle to grave’ welfare state their parents built for them for the whole journey cradle to grave,  as they pull the ladder up behind them and leave the younger generations following in the shit.

There was bathos as well.  Something that really seemed to crystallise on watching the scenes of union jacks being waved in Morley juxtaposed against the Scottish saltires being waved in Edinburgh, was the sense that this time it really does feel like the end for the United Kingdom.

The Boris Johnson tea towel really is quite a thing.  It is authentic Johnson in that it is actually genuinely quite funny.  It solves one puzzle: what was Brexit ever for?  Turns out it was just a little in-joke, meant to be taken ironically.

The joke’s on us because amusing though the tea towel is, it is not an adequate piece of clothing to protect us as we head out naked into the freezing cold world of international power politics and trade negotiations. Fintan O’Toole has written about the imaginary humiliation perceived by Brexiters.  Now we find out what real international humiliation feels like.

It is already perfectly obvious that Britain is completely unprepared for the hardball treatment it is about to receive at the hands of the Americans, and as the new EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen patiently pointed out, from the EU too now we no longer have the protection of membership.

Trump and the Wall Street billionaires don’t so much want a trade deal as to acquire a new vassal state from which imperial tribute can be extracted.  They also want to use the UK as a means of undermining the EU single market, its environmental standards and protections for workers.  The EU rightly perceives this threat, and will use its weight to defend itself.  We’re on a hiding to nothing.

Much of the Tory cabinet is in the pay of the billionaires and will be working for them, not us, in the negotiations process.  By announcing in advance that we will be diverging from the EU’s standards, we have made ourselves helpless in the negotiations with the Americans.  Some of the others have made naive statements that the negotiations will be a process in which the British right to defend its own interests will be respected.  “If they make the NHS pay more for American big pharma’s drugs, then the deal’s off” – this can only work but only if we stay under the protection of the EU.  Alone and isolated we can try to go it alone, but we would need to get used to being a whole lot poorer.  We haven’t so much shot ourselves in the foot as cut ourselves open and showed our guts to the vultures circling above.

As we dive down towards 31 December, and the implications of having simultaneously snookered and checkmated ourselves diplomatically become obvious, then all sorts of people will be thrown out of the balloon.  The plan, to the extent there is one, will be to protect the City of London at all costs.  To repeat a comment from an earlier post, there is a clue in the term ‘Singapore-on-Thames’ about where the North of England fits in to the Brexiters’ plans.  Sitting beneath Boris Johnson’s rhetoric about unleashing the North’s potential lies nothing, literally nothing.

Singapore-on-Thames as a positive vision of how Britain might be able to make its way in the world will probably fail, but the handful of disaster capitalists who paid for Brexit will make their fast bucks in all scenarios and disappear offshore.  Meanwhile, the trawlermen, the farmers, the brave men and women who try to keep a manufacturing business going, or to keep a hospital or a school serving the public: they will all be sold down the river, one by one, as 31 December approaches.

Little England’s over 55s have brought all this on themselves and on us.  They are a generation that in December took the power of the vote – a power put into their hands by their grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generation –  and spaffed it away, putting into No.10 the most transparent charlatan to occupy Downing Street since before the Victorian era.  A man so lazy he can’t be bothered to learn the lines of his lies.  Nobody at Morley rugby club will be able to say in the future that they were conned by Boris Johnson: he has never made any serious effort to conceal that he will insouciantly sell his supporters down the river.



The Little Englanders voted to get screwed and they have duly got the Prime Minister they deserve.

Northern Umbrella

So it’s not looking great.  This is a country where the destitute die in the streets, literally under our noses, and the majority of us just walk on by.  Can it get any worse?  Unfortunately, yes it can.

But hope springs eternal.  It’s customary in these things to say, when criticising older people for voting for Brexit and for Tory rule, that not all older people are Tory Brexiters.  And this is true.  These are the oldsters who can reach out to the young and help them to assert their economic interests a bit more.

Boris Johnson’s political honeymoon will be over soon, probably within a few short weeks.  But there can be no going back to the way we were.

The state of the planet demands a change.  We need a new economy, a new way of living.  It can be better than what we settle for now.  It’s a crazy hope, but maybe the North of England, the cradle of the modern industrial world, can play a part in inventing that next human system.



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Will the North’s turkeys be voting for Christmas?

So this is it: the day before the general election.  When we open the little door on our advent calendars on Friday the thirteenth, will it be Boris Johnson’s face gurning back at us from inside No. 10 Downing Street?

And will it be the North of England’s voters who have put him there?  Will the North’s turkeys have voted for Christmas?

turkeys voting

This was always going to be a strange election.  The thought that tomorrow the Tories could lose enough seats in the well-to-do home counties of Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire to turf Boris Johnson out of No.10, so long as no other seats changed hands, is weird enough.  But to think that this handful of losses could be cancelled out by an avalanche of Tory gains in the austerity-wrecked industrial towns of the North of England is bizarre and horrible beyond words.

Oh, Jeremy Corbyn

“I was Labour, but I can’t bring myself to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.”  Over 50 years old, across the North, they’re all saying it.  It’s like a refrain.  It’s become common sense, it’s what we think around here.  It’s a meme, in the original sense of the word.

“They’re all only in it for themselves.”  Corbyn’s total expense claims for a whole parliamentary term were something like £1.50, when the Tories were buying themselves duckhouses and Michael Gove was making himself a millionaire by getting the taxpayer to pay for his and his wife’s game of flipping houses.

You poor, gaslit old bastards.

This is what relentless propaganda – masterfully orchestrated across TV, radio, newspapers, internet, social media – can do.  What a fucking mess.

Here are two quotes from a superb piece by Sky News’s excellent Lewis Goodall about what they’re saying in Birmingham, but it could be anywhere in the North:

Chantelle, a mother of three, whom I remember telling me two years ago that she would back Labour “because they have the best policies for me and my family”, said she didn’t know what to think now.  Most worryingly for the party, she couldn’t even really say why. She said she saw so much online, heard from “other mums in the playground” about Mr Corbyn; “they’re all saying ‘Jeremy Corbyn this, Jeremy Corbyn that’, you just don’t know what to think”.

Talk to any working class voter for long enough and you’ll hear a fragment of something they’ve seen on Facebook, an echo of a whisper about something connected with the IRA or terrorism, or desire to disband the army or some such.  Story after story, sometimes fake tweets, or some tales about Mr Corbyn’s past.  This slow marinade helps explain why views around him are so impacted, why his personal ratings have remained stubbornly low. The invective is profound; they can’t even tell you why they hate him, so they just do.

Here’s some tips on how to do something about it on the doorstep, from activist Duncan Thomas:  It’s from Ashfield, Notts, but apart from the ducks, it could be anywhere in the North:

Everyone has a dog. A lot of people are quite old.  The most common response to a door knock or a phone call is bitterness and disillusionment, sometimes inflected with aggression.  People do not want to talk.  People say they don’t care about politics, but they do: they care about their houses and their roads and their schools and their hospitals.  People know and understand more than you might think they do.

There is a residual working class culture and sensibility.  You can be blunt and straightforward and honest with people, and if you refuse to give up until they slam the door in your face, you can make an impact. The older women start calling you “duck”.

Use swear words. Talk about class politics. Talk about the Tories not as your opponents, but as your enemies. Because they are, and everyone fucking knows it. Boris Johnson is a blathering moron who couldn’t give a shit about how you live, or how you die.

You can see people’s faces change. They are shocked that someone is speaking to them like this on the doorstep. They agree. They reassure me that there is a solid majority in this country for a decent and humane and caring society, even if you have to dig a little to get there.

“There is a solid majority in this country for a decent and humane and caring society.”  Let’s see how that turns out in 48 hours.  Let’s hope so.  Or else, as Frankie Boyle has it: “because Corbyn has wonky glasses, in a couple of years you’ll be living in a tent city outside an Amazon warehouse trying to GoFund a tonsillectomy”.

 Brexit: keep the faith

There’s none so blind as them who will not see.

Every person over 50 years old in the North of England knows that the government is sitting on economic impact reports that it has denied exist, that show that Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit will hit the North’s towns the hardest, wiping out what is left of civil manufacturing industry in the region.  The North East’s great achievement, to be the European production location of choice for the Japanese, some of the best engineering companies in the world, will lie in tatters.  The City of Sunderland, among many others, will be economically finished: dead.  Everybody knows this, but they are in denial of what they know to be true.  On Thursday a very, very large number of them are going to ignore it and vote Tory anyway “to get Brexit done”.

Three years ago older people across the North of England knew that things had gone badly wrong in their communities, and that a big change was needed.  They put their faith in Brexit as that change, the thing that could put the clocks back.  It was a mistake because the thing that had gone wrong was the so-called neoliberal experiment, the transformation of Anglo-American capitalism from a system of wealth creation into a system of cash extraction and latterly, by the time of the 2007 crash, just straightforward criminality and corruption.

But having signed up for the Brexit faith, they have stuck with it, and continue to double down on it, even though polls show that older pro-Brexit voters no longer actually believe Brexit will improve things.  People stopped asking what good will come of it ages ago, now it’s just something that people will willingly believe just needs to be gone through with on point of principle, at any price.

As for what the North’s economy will do for a living after Brexit, the master plan is called “Singapore-on-Thames”.  There has always been a clue for the North there, about where it fits in to the Brexiteers’ plans.

But older pro-Brexit Northerners have got the idea of ‘sink or swim’, ‘do or die’, into their heads, and they aren’t budging: even though they expect the North to sink, and they expect it to die.  Maybe it’s a Northern thing, a folk memory of the traditional protestant belief that the end times are nigh.  Or, as Fintan O’Toole has said, maybe it’s a masochistic fantasy, a twisted babyboomer guilty reaction for blowing everything and throwing away the welfare state their parents’ generation gifted to them.

Whatever it is, it’s a crime against their children and grandchildren, and the only thing that you can guarantee is that when it all goes wrong, they won’t be blaming themselves.

The great NHS heist

Every person over 50 years old in the North of England knows that they are going to rely on the NHS more and more as they get older.  They know that the compulsive liar Boris Johnson is lying his fat arse off that the NHS is not on the table in the trade deal he is going to do with Donald Trump, once the trade talks with the EU prove to be a disaster.

They know that NHS hospitals and GP surgeries might be as little as a few days away from a winter crisis that could be terminal, as thousands of dedicated doctors who keep the system running on the spirit of public service and goodwill, call it a day and walk away at the prospect of things never getting any better, only ever getting worse.  They know this but they are in denial of what they know to be true.  On Thursday a very, very large number of them are going to ignore it and vote Tory anyway, “to get Brexit done”.

Boris Johnson is just the front man for the most merciless group of international vampire capitalists to hold power in this country since Norman times.  The placemen of the men who paid for Brexit, people like the Taxpayers Alliance’s Matthew Elliott, are already sitting in the heart of No.10.

For them, waiting for a Boris Johnson working majority in the House of Commons is like waiting for the starting gun for a trolley dash.  It’s just going to be load up with billions of public assets and public cash, and get it into offshore accounts as fast as possible, before it all goes tits up.  The fastidious will be particularly upset by the banal, blinkered, frequently incompetent short termism of it all.  They should have kept a closer eye on Trump’s America.

As James Meek writes in his book Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else, when a country has sold off all its industries, the only thing left to sell off next is its people, or to be more precise, a share of each person’s monthly income, and a share of the public cash that is spent on each citizen through public services, most notably the NHS.

For young people who are working, the method of extracting the cash is through monthly rent, payments on loans.  (The Lib Dem manifesto policy of a government loan to young people to pay the deposit on a privately rented flat is a classic of genre – bet the Tories pinch it.)

But for older householders, babyboomers enjoying a modest home they own outright, a few quid in the bank, perhaps an old-style final salary corporate pension (who knows, maybe even an ‘investment property’), how do you get the money out of them?  With the skim on rip-off charges for gas, electricity, water, broadband maxed out, the big new seam of paydirt has to be healthcare.

As we already know, because the secret documents were leaked to Jeremy Corbyn, the first target will be extracting cash from the NHS, for example through the prices the NHS pays to big pharma for prescription drugs.  The numbers are eyewatering.  But in the longer run, the prize is to destroy health care free at the point of use as the standard operating model.

So many Northern over-50s who will be voting Tory on Thursday will be thinking that because they have some bit of a health insurance policy, they will be able to personally avoid the fallout from an NHS meltdown by “going private”.   But most of them know in their heart of hearts that when illness gets serious, private health insurance stops paying out.

What they probably don’t realise is how brutal the American model of private health, which is what we will be getting, really is.  In America’s litigation culture, private health insurance is a monstrous maze, riddled with rake-offs and fraud.  But fall out of the insurance system, and get sick, they’ll gulp down your lifetime’s savings in one or two bites.  George Osborne’s employer Blackrock will gladly buy your house off you and rent it back to you.  Fall behind on your payments, you can go and live in your car.

Under Boris Johnson, when the UK sits down with the USA for the trade talks, the US billionaires have already bought both sides of the negotiating table.  About trade talks they say that if you’re not sat at the table, you’re on the menu.  That’s another clue about where the North’s proud Brexit-voting householders fit in to the grand plan.

The Great British unwritten constitution

The British constitution confers what the Tory Lord Hailsham called an ‘elective dictatorship’ on the prime minister who wins a Commons working majority.  Unlike in countries with proper, written constitutions, many of the checks and balances on the government are traditional ‘conventions’ of fair play, not legal rights.  But on Friday, the old school Tory guardians of gentlemanly fair play, the John Majors and Dominic Grieves of yesteryear, will all be out, and the new boys will be in.

The rapidity and ferocity with which the Johnson administration will set about consolidating its power by riding roughshod over traditions, will likely surprise very many.  Which is odd given that just a few months ago Johnson and Rees-Mogg lied to the Queen (and to everyone), prorogued parliament under false pretences, and then connived at putting neo-Nazis on the streets to put the frighteners on citizens’ protests against their coup.

On that occasion, they were thwarted by the supreme court.  With a working majority, they will simply change the law as they need to, as they go along.

Few have been paying attention to the Tory manifesto.  Hidden away on page 48 of the Tory manifesto is carte blanche to change the constitution in any way that they feel like (hat tip: Armando Iannucci).  At a guess, the Fixed Term Parliament Act will be repealed by Christmas.   As Paul Mason puts it, 2019 may prove to be the last free and fair general election we will see in this country.

This is hell nor are we out of it

As the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett observes, with its monarchy, its unelected Lords, its House of Commons elected under an indefensible electoral system, Britain cannot really call itself a proper modern democracy anyway.  But for a flawed, partial democracy, we have traditionally prided ourselves on reasonably high standards of public democratic conduct, by international standards.

They have always been far from perfect, as anyone who remembers Iraq, or the miners’ strike, will tell you.  Fleet Street has always been a disgrace, and the BBC has always acted as a state broadcaster, not a truly independent broadcaster, whatever they tell you to the contrary.

Boris Johnson turned up smelling of booze – drunk, or hung over – at the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday and put his wreath down the wrong way around.  The BBC tried to help to cover this up, but made a mistake by going too far and substituting false footage of Johnson from a previous year’s ceremony.  The BBC would probably have done that for any Prime Minister at any time over the last 100 years – all that has changed in the era of Twitter is that it is harder to get away with it now.

But the depths to which democratic standards have sunk in 2019 must surely be new lows.  Convicted of lying to the Queen and his prorogation of parliament quashed: that surely would have seen the resignation of any British Prime Minister before Boris Johnson?

Looking at the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee report, which is understood to be damning on Johnson, Cummings and Gove taking Vladimir Putin’s money and methods for the Vote Leave campaign in 2016.  Would No.10 have as shamelessly refused to publish it in previous times?  Maybe.  Would the media have simply let the matter drop, as they have done, in previous times?  Maybe.  But would we in previous times had the sheer nonchalance and fatalism that accepts that of course we can see the report, just as soon as the election is over and it’s too late to do anything about it, and that of course nothing will come from it?

What feels new is Boris Johnson lying so openly and shamelessly, and continuously, and that the BBC should smile along with it, because – as borrowed from Berlusconi via Trump – the voters can be in on the joke.  The BBC narrative – Nick Robinson and Andrew Neil are the experts at this – is that you the viewer or listener can be sophisticated if you can grasp that all sides are equally cynical, equally charlatans.  Everybody is a liar, but you can be a winner if you run with the liar who just happens to have the money and the power.

That is pure Putinism.  The BBC propagates it like crazy (arguing that it has then met its obligation to balance) , and the public imbibes it deeply.

Both Robinson and Neil have always been right wing activists, and rightly consider themselves to be successful political players of much greater importance than most of the cabinet themselves;  shapers not reporters of the political weather.  It is self-importance, not concern for British democracy, which has driven Andrew Neil’s attack on Boris Johnson for ducking his interview.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a tweet stamping on a human face – forever

And bringing it all together, it’s yesterday at Leeds General Infirmary.  A microcosm of our present, and – if the North’s towns vote the Tories in tomorrow – our future.

A kid with pneumonia on the floor of A&E.  The collapse of the NHS.  England’s betrayal of its own children.  The pathetic, shameless little turd of a Tory minister.

The lies, the fake news.  The dead cat on the table.  The tweets “I’m hearing from senior Conservative party sources that…”

leeds infirmary tweets

The angry, perhaps slightly too self-righteous, but utterly non-violent, utterly traduced Corbynista.  The reverse ferret non-apology apologies from the telly celebrity reporters (Peston and Kuenssberg), which you just know would never have been made if there wasn’t mobile phone video footage out there going viral on the internet.

The change of plan.  The bogus tweets from the troll farm telling us the photo of the kid on the floor was faked.  The amplification of the lies by Fleet Street (the Telegraph’s Allison Pearson) and Murdoch shock jocks (TalkRadio’s Julia Hartley-Brewer).  The denial by the hospital, the brave editor of the Yorkshire Post standing his ground.  Allison Pearson doubling down on her lies anyway.

The Tories are spending record sums on social media in the last week of the campaign; have they been spending it on this?  Spending Russian money on disinformation spread from troll farms?  How could we ever know, how could we ever link them to the fake tweets?  How can we ever stop this, when the Tories move in to take full control of Channel 4, and join forces to conspire with Facebook to take full spectrum control of what we see on the internet?

It’s just a shit situation, and this is our future, if the North votes the Tories in tomorrow.

Tactical voting in the North – it really couldn’t be much simpler

There are loads of tactical voting sites, but there is really only one page you need to look at on the internet, Tactical Vote’s site comparison page, here:

In some parts of the country, it’s quite complicated, but in the North of England, it’s really not.  If you’re in South Lakeland, Cheadle, Hazel Grove, Eddisbury, Harrogate & Knaresborough, or Berwick-upon-Tweed, vote Lib Dem.  If you’re in Sheffield Hallam, vote for who you want.  If you live anywhere else in the North, it’s vote Labour.  The rest of UK really needs the North’s red wall to hold.

Don’t let the turkeys ruin your Christmas, folks!








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This likely lad is the North’s problem to fix

Say what you like about Dominic Cummings, but you’ve got to admit he’s a Northern kid.

He’s got attitude, he’s got swagger, he hates the effete London metropolitan liberal establishment.  If he’d gone into Britpop rather than Tory politics in the 1990s he could’ve been a classic Northern hero by now, reminiscing for cash on BBC4 rockumentaries.  But he did go into Tory politics, and right now he presents a genuinely mortal danger to our democracy.  So the North owns a big part of the job that needs to be done right now: getting rid of him.

Taxi for Mr Cummings

Dominic Cummings thinks he has all the trigger slogans and Facebook profiles he needs to deliver enough swing seats in the North for the Tory party to win the coming general election.  For the moment, the Trump administration and the international hedge fund billionaires believe him. What the North has to do now is not to fall for his tricks, and simply refuse to show support for the Tories.  Then the big money will quickly do the job of removing him from our lives.

This post was going to take a look at Dominic Cummings’s life story and ask the question, how did he work his way up to become Britain’s most powerful person, holding an entire country to ransom?  What exactly happened to make this ordinary Durham lad the craziest megalomaniac Britain’s seen in ages?  But in this week’s New Statesman, the job has already been done, and done well, by Harry Lambert: The Machiavel in Downing Street

The piece is well worth reading, and for what it’s worth, it seems like his parents in Durham are decent people.  Maybe it was moving from a state primary school to the posh-but-tough, private sector Durham School, in the shadow of the ancient cathedral, that taught him how to protect himself against bullying by becoming a bully himself.  Or maybe the North isn’t to blame, and something in him died when he joined the neoliberal goldrush into Yeltsin era post-Communist Russia in the 1990s.  Perhaps he saw enough criminality and cold brutality there to turn him into a nihilist.

But there comes a point where diminishing returns are hit in trying to work out whether Cummings is a toxic nutcase in good faith – a man who really believes that he will improve the country by tearing it to shreds so that he can build it back up again according to the half-baked sketches set out in his voluminous blog; or whether Cummings is a toxic nutcase in bad faith – a misanthrope who wants power for its own sake, and will burn the country down just for kicks.

There comes a point where you just think, who cares – this guy is a toxic nutcase either way, so get him out of 10 Downing Street right now.

Story time

George Monbiot tells us that if we want to make political impact, we need to stop quoting statistics and writing searing polemics, and start telling stories instead.

So here goes: a fairy tale about a cheesy night club that could be in any Northern town – a world that we know Dominic Cummings himself is well familiar with.

Klute-y Dumpling

It’s the big Friday night down at the town nite klub – let’s call it No.10’s.

A little while earlier Psycho Dom and his big daft hooray henry mate Bozzer made their dramatic entrance.  They’ve pulled some entertaining, if somewhat alarming, moves on the dance floor and have now moved to the bar.  But Dom is totally off his head on a very dangerous drug: power.  Refused another round of shots, he’s shouting the place down and is starting to smash the place up.  Very soon people are going to start getting hurt – seriously hurt.  There’s only one option for what to do: get this guy out, and fast – Route One to the exit.

Let’s add a twist to this tale.  Psycho Dom and Bozzer are actually the night club’s managers.  They’re running the place for Owd Liz, who has owned it for many years.  What are the bouncers going to do now?  He’s threatening them with the sack if they come anywhere near him.  The staff know Psycho Dom is not a man to be messed with – he sacked 21 of their colleagues just a few weeks ago.

They also know that Dom has been lying to Owd Liz.  He’s not looking after her interests at all.  He’s cut a deal with a big American boss, Don, to trash the premises and buy it for a song, and then knock it down and put up a luxury hotel for Don in its place.  There are rumours that Russian mafia money is involved.  The staff imagine there will be plenty of work for them in the fancy new place, but they know the club’s current clientele definitely won’t be invited.

So here we are, Bozzer is stumbling and mumbling around, and Psycho Dom is stood, back to the bar, waving a broken pintpot about.  “You’re all soft as shite, man.  None of yez can take me!” he yells.

There’s really only one thing to do, the clubbers themselves are going to have to take this headcase down, and get him out.

The lads from the building site, having a night out, could do it easily.  So could the big group from the call centre, celebrating a leaving do.  Even the students from the uni could do it, despite being pretty useless.  But the students are currently sat in their different cliques: Jo and Chuka’s team aren’t talking to Jez and Emily’s crew because of a dispute over who said what to whom in the gender-neutral toilets down at the student union.

If all the clubbers rushed him at once, Psycho Dom wouldn’t stand a chance.  But Dom has got a few tricks up his sleeve.  He knows the workers from the building site and the call centre take a sceptical view of the students.

“Look at these students, they’ve never done an honest day’s work in their lives!” shouts Dom.  “Are you going to let them fuck this club up with their gender-neutral toilets, eh?”

Bozzer comes up alongside Dom and starts chucking peanuts at the female students.  “Yeah!” he shouts, and then falls over.

“Look at these lot.”  Dom gesticulates towards a group of Asian-British kids who have decided to have a night out at No.10’s.  It’s their town after all, they’ve lived here all their lives.  “We NEVER used to have their sort in THIS club.”

A nasty group in the corner cheer at that remark.  It’s the Footy Lads.  They’re a sad, paunchy bunch of has-beens, their glory days of football aggro in the 1980s now long gone.  There’s only a few of them, but they still look ugly and dangerous.

“If you touch me”, yells Dom to the clubbers, “my footy mates are going to batter you and everybody else in here.  Why would you get battered for a student?  I’m on your side against them – and against them!”, turning to snarl at a young Asian-British woman.

“Jolly well looks like a jolly old pillar box” manages Bozzer, before falling over again.  A couple of the older women in the group from the call centre burst out laughing.  He’s not supposed to say that, they laugh, but you’ve got to admit, he is hilarious.

The footy lads chuck some beer and it lands on the young Asian-British woman.  She looks both frightened and angry.  The two women look nervously at each other: that wasn’t so funny.  But still, Dom and the footy lads weren’t having a go at them, and they weren’t the ones getting wet.

“Look guys, it’s like this.”  One of the students appeals to the building site lads and the call centre party.  “Dom’s not on your side, he’s trying to close this place and get all of us kicked out.  He’s really working for an American guy called Don.  They stand to make millions.”

The building site lads are listening.  “Don’t listen to that little pillock and his conspiracy theories.” warns Dom.

“And another thing,” continues the student, “this place needs to become an arts space with a vegan menu and gender-neutral toilets.”  The building site lads aren’t listening any more.

Dom senses the change of mood.  “Let’s just get this done!  Traitor students out of this club!  No fucking surrender!” he yells and boots over the students’ table full of drinks.  The footy lads launch up into a chorus of “No surrender to the IRA”.

Dom grabs one the student girls and drags her out of her seat by her hair.  “All of you students get out now, or I’m going to throw her to this lot”, he says, pointing to the footy lads.  She looks very afraid.  One of the builders mutters under his breath: “Howay man Dom, you’re going too far.”

Greta, smashing, super

Then suddenly a young girl with her hair in plaits steps up.  It’s Greta, the school exchange student from Sweden.  How the hell did she get in here?  She’s never eighteen.

“You are a bully and this has got to stop now,” she says calmly.  Dom looks wild-eyed.  He’s been challenged.

She turns to the assembled clubbers, addressing all of the tables. “You could get together and stop this right now.  Do you have the courage?  How dare you leave it to a child to do what you should be doing!  In five seconds I am going to walk up and disarm this man.  If you are all with me then we can do it easily and no-one will be hurt.  If you do not join me, I will have no future.”

5, 4, 3, 2, 1……………. What happens next?

That’s up to the people of the Northern town to decide.

Post-script: what needs to happen now

Boris Johnson needs to be removed from No.10 straight away – next week – and replaced by a caretaker government.  That Government should do three jobs:

  • Ask the EU for a long delay to Brexit so that a no deal crash-out on 31 October is avoided.
  • Put through a new, tightened up electoral law to properly defend free and fair elections, rather than relying only on traditional conventions of fair play at election time.  This means excluding foreign interference and international dark money, and ensuring that whatever Dominic Cummings plans to do on Facebook in the last few days of the campaign is anticipated, and exposed for all the country to see;
  • Organise a clean referendum and general election, perhaps to be held on the same day, observed by independent international election monitors.  If those ballots can only be held in a year’s time, so be it.  The delay will allow the country to carry on functioning, whilst everybody takes a breather and calms down.

In one way all Cummings has got up his sleeve is a few million dodgy Facebook ads, yet because he will have the Trump administration and the whole mainstream media propaganda machine behind him, defeating him is going to be a mammoth task.

It won’t be easy, it will be very hard – and it will require those who oppose Cummings to cease fighting each other, compromise, and start fighting him.

If they don’t, then he could easily win the coming general election with 35% of the vote.  And that could spell game over for British democracy.  If Cummings wins the election he will be licensed to go all-out for full-spectrum domination of the media, the internet and the government machine.  As Leigh’s Paul Mason tells us, there may not be another free and fair British election in our lifetimes.

So, the stakes are high.  But if the anti-Cummings forces can stand together to fight him, peacefully, democratically, he can be beaten at the ballot box.


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That special place in Hell

As the thermometer hits the mid-80s Fahrenheit across the North of England, the tundra burns across the Arctic, and Boris Johnson takes his first grip on the reins of power in Westminster, it feels timely to remind ourselves of Donald Tusk’s “special place in hell for those that promote Brexit without even the sketch of a plan”.

It is scant comfort that Boris and whatever horror show of shysters, creeps, nutters and full-on sociopaths he assembles for his cabinet tomorrow, have a place reserved for them in hell.  Because they will be taking us down with them.  If we plough on with No Deal Brexit on 31 Oct – and who at the moment can say that the EU won’t simply lose patience and kick us out – the North and all its people will assuredly be going to social and economic hell, either as a slow descent or as a rapid nosedive.  And that’s not even the worst of it…

angel of the north descending to hell

The Euro election results in the North

The worst of it is that in the North, Boris will be doing this with the keen support of very large numbers of our fellow citizens.

The next post on this site will be an analysis of the Euro election results across the North.   It will show that, although the North as a whole was (marginally) less taken with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party than the Midlands or South West of England, and although as a whole it would (probably) narrowly vote for Remain were there any second referendum, overall a very substantial fraction of the North’s voters have stayed resolute for Leave.

Unlike Wales, there is no clear signal in the election result data that the North has fundamentally turned against Brexit.  Despite three years of unavoidable, staring-you-in-the-face evidence that Brexit will be a disaster for the UK – and within that disaster, a particular industrial catastrophe for the North – not nearly enough people have changed their mind about Brexit to make the project no longer politically tenable.

The Brexit pilgrims

So the UK is now, more than ever, divided into Scotland, Northern Ireland, London – and now Wales – against Brexit, and England outside London still substantially for it.  The Brexit faith, a self-contained belief system impervious to the real world as it is, was identified some time ago by Fintan O’Toole as primarily a matter of ‘English-British’ national identity.  Hence the remarkable opinion poll showing that Tory members would be perfectly content to see the break up of the UK if that was the price of getting their Brexit.

In the Brexit faith, the criticism or ridicule of others only strengthens the faith of the believer.  Whilst, as O’Toole points put, for the Brexit faithful, national humiliation is something almost to be masochistically actively sought out.

Nobody says it better than John Bunyan about the psychology of the North’s Brexiters and their faith:

Who would true Valour see/ Let him come hither;/ One here will Constant be/ Come Wind, come Weather./  There’s no Discouragement/ Shall make him once Relent,/ His first avow’d Intent,/ To be a Pilgrim.

Who so beset him round,/ With dismal Stories,/ Do but themselves Confound;/ His Strength the more is./ No Lion can him fright,/ He’ll with a Giant fight,/ But he will have a right,/ To be a Pilgrim.

No true Northerner is going to disagree with those sentiments – in theory (we’ll see how we get on when actual hardship is spread to the more comfortably off).  Rupert Murdoch and Nigel Farage’s genius was to sell Brexit as the promised land, the destination of the pilgrimage.

Boris’s mill

What is Boris Johnson going to make of this?  It was never Boris’s plan to actually win the referendum.  The plan was to become the next leader of the Tory Party after David Cameron on the back of being the valiant but defeated Brexit campaigner.  It is highly doubtful that Boris believes Brexit is a good idea.  The objective was only ever to get the job of being Prime Minister.

The irony is in many respects quite amusing.  But Boris is unfortunately no joke for British Muslims and many others who are upset and alarmed that a man who is so cynically willing to ‘play the race card’ for political advantage should make it to No. 10 Downing Street.  As the former Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum Mohammed Amin pointed out as he resigned from the Tory party today, Boris’s racist dog whistles are not funny when they lead directly to an upsurge in racist abuse and attacks.

Behind the façade of buffoonery is a gang of really nasty people, and few nastier than his old campaign supremo Lynton Crosby.  For the people hiding behind Boris, there is only one political objective: to keep the City of London going as a place where the rich can make easy money, safely.  There’s little they won’t stoop to in pursuit of that objective.

It goes without saying that they don’t give a damn about the North and its Brexit supporters, except perhaps as a source of pensions wealth and health service spending they can rake off and rip off.  Stalwart Northern Brexit pilgrims are just grist to Boris’s mill.

It gets worse.  The evidence of Boris’s behaviour during the leadership hustings, for example over the Kim Darroch affair, and Trump’s comments about him, seem to point to there having been some kind of deal with Trump.  Boris has been signalling to Trump that he will be his appropriately subservient disciple, and Trump has been tweeting back his approval.   Who knows what understanding has been reached between them.  But you’d better believe that the North’s Brexit-voting pensioners, as well as the rest of us, are on the menu.

Boris’s plan?

For all his success in the leadership election, out in the real world Boris is in a precarious position.  Pundits are saying that whichever way he moves leads to checkmate against him.   But he must have a plan.  Despite the claims of some that it would be quite in character for him to indeed have no plan and no clue, it just seems so improbable that he should have waited his whole life to be Prime Minister, and not now be ready to pull some kind of trick to try to hang on to the job for more than a few weeks.

Northern Umbrella’s guess is that Boris’s plan is a general election.  One called in response to parliamentary deadlock, with 31st October looming.  The EU will grant a delay for the election to take place.  Boris will call an election not a referendum because he thinks he will win a general election, and secure a five year term.

The prediction here is for a surprisingly bold stroke: an electoral pact between Boris’s Tories and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.  Farage’s party will be given a free run against Labour remainers in Northern seats.  This was the game plan that was being teed up back in 2017 for UKIP under Paul Nuttall.   They will also run against Tory remain rebels who baulk at the plan.

The numbers from the Euro election show that this plan can win the election – the next post will set this out. Basically, whichever side of the Brexit divide can unite their vote will win the next general election, and whichever side splits their vote will lose it.

Beating Boris with a Remain Alliance

Whichever side unifies wins, and whichever side stays split loses, and this works both ways.  This will be demonstrated in the Brecon & Radnor by-election on 1 August when a Remain alliance candidate (in this case a LibDem) will win, against a split Tory/Brexit Party leave vote.  But beyond rural Wales, and particularly in the North, the Euro election results show that a Remain alliance could only win if Corbyn’s Labour is part of it.

Sadly, there is nothing currently visible in the Remain world to suggest that the #fbpe centrist Remainers and the Corbynistas are capable of coming together in order to keep a Boris/Farage alliance out – indeed the LibDems’ lacklustre new leader Jo Swinson has already ruled it out.  Meanwhile, the Blairite and Brownite old guard in the Labour party will revert to their despicable 2017 position of a general election being well worth losing, if it allows them to seize back control of the party.

Corbyn and John McDonnell’s Labour, for all its faults, is doing a lot of very interesting and useful policy thinking about how we might address some of our social, economic and environmental predicaments, and do so whilst respecting democracy and human rights.  For example: this.  But, sadly this means nothing to LibDem and ageing New Labour and ex-New Labour Westminster MPs, whose only vision is the impossible dream of a return to the way things were 1997-2016.

Without some kind of Remain alliance being formed, the Corbynistas, the Labour Old Guard, the ChUKkas, the ex-ChUKkas and the Liberal Democrats will all be defeated.  So will the poor old Greens.

The Corbynistas may hang on to the Labour party, or Tom Watson and his dirty-fighting old guard may seize it back.  But it won’t matter either way because post-Brexit the predators will descend and the welfare state will have been killed and picked clean by 2025.  No doubt by then the climate crisis will then be beyond the point of no return, causing serious wars and deaths.  The big money may well have decided by then that what England needs is a dose of fascism.  And Boris will then head off into retirement, and the opportunity at last to make some serious money, on the payroll of Blackrock, or whoever.

This doesn’t have to happen, but it will happen, unless grassroots Remainers can see clearly enough to realise that Corbyn is not their worst enemy, and falling for the crude demonisation of Corbyn is exactly what the forces of evil want them to do.

The only glimmer of cheer in this sorry prospect is the thought of the Scots taking their independence and walking away from the whole shitshow.  For the North of England there will be no hope, unless we urgently start talking to each other, understanding each other’s positions, and finding out what magic ingredient can bring Northern voters back to their senses.  We have approximately three months to do it.



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The European elections in the North

At 7am tomorrow morning the polling stations will open in every town, village and neighbourhood across the North for the elections for the European Union parliament – elections that nobody expected to see happening in circumstances of Brexit being completely unresolved.   What’s in store?

the irritating gentleman cropped

Unbidden, NU advises a voter on tactical voting options in the d’Hondt election system

At last, useful polling data

At the weekend Best for Britain, the marvellous anti-Brexit campaigning organisation that Northern Umbrella identified last July as a cut above the Peoples Vote campaign, did something that not a single mainstream media organisation had hitherto bothered to do: it published an opinion poll that actually gave numbers for each region of England, the regional constituencies which form the basis for the MEPs getting elected. It also published the numbers for Wales and Scotland.

Suddenly – lo and behold! – we discover that the SNP is not bumping along at 4%, as the BBC and the newspapers were reporting, it is polling at 38% in Scotland, 18% ahead of all other parties: on course for a huge victory.  And of course, at 0% in England and Wales.

Almost as sensational is the reveal that Plaid Cymru is the second-placed party in Wales at 19%, four points ahead of Labour, albeit miles behind Nigel Farage’s Brexit party which is polling at 35%.  In case you missed it being reported in the BBC news, Adam Price, the erudite new leader of Plaid Cymru, is now pushing for an independent Wales inside the EU.  Quite a turnaround in Wales, where outright independence was rarely seriously considered.  But this is the impact of the Little Englanders’ Brexit.

So what were the poll findings for the North?  Here are Best for Britain’s numbers as adapted by Northern Umbrella from Brexit Factbase (links provided in the discussion section below):

B4B poll by region

Choking on straws

There are some straws of good news we can clutch at: the main one being that it appears that Northerners appear to be less taken by the Brexit Party than any of the other regions of England outside London.  In the North East they stand on 35%, in Yorkshire 33% and in the North West, 32%.  This compares with Brexit party support of 37% in the South East and East Midlands, 40% in the West Midlands and East of England, and a scary 42% in the South West.

But it’s a straw to choke on really: the Brexit party is in a big lead in all three regions of the North – a lunatic situation to be in on a day when Brexit has killed off Scunthorpe steelworks after 150 years, and most likely taking Skinningrove in Cleveland down with it.

The 64 million dollar question of whether the combined vote for pro-Brexit parties exceeds the combined vote for anti-Brexit parties depends entirely on how you classify support for the Labour party.  One thing that the numbers show quite clearly is that there is no majority in the country as a whole for a hard Brexit.  That at least is good news.  But there is no obvious majority for Remain either.

What this shows, perhaps above all else, is that a vote for Labour in this election is a vote for letting someone else interpret what your vote means in terms of your position on Brexit.  Len McCluskey and Ian Lavery will interpret it their way, Andrew Adonis his way, Lisa Nandy and Caroline Flint their way.  If you’re happy with that, fine.  But if you’re not, tomorrow is a day to think hard before voting Labour.  More on this in the final section below.

The Brexit fantasy bubble

The Brexit party is as transparent a scam as has ever been perpetrated.  In fairness, you have to admire the sheer chutzpah of Farage saying “vote for me first and I’ll publish my manifesto after the election” – and romping to the top of the polls on the back of it.

But, as Northern Umbrella pointed out back in February, it is only succeeding because the people are now willing participants in the con trick.  Like TV wrestling, they know it’s not real, but they’re going along with it anyway.  Support for “Just get on with it” Brexit has long since lost any contact with reality, and is now just pure self-indulgence.

25,000 jobs can go in a day with Brexit clearly to blame – and with it the end of steelmaking in the North, a whole industry central to the North’s former industrial greatness – and yet for the “Just get on with it” brigade it won’t make a blind bit of difference to how they will vote.

Why not – is it not real for them because they think it won’t hit their pension, won’t hit their housing equity?   You can tell them, “oh yes it will, and post-Brexit poverty is coming for you” – and probably deep down they will know you’re right.  But they won’t be listening because it’s not real for them today.  Today they can, so they will, carry on pretending.

It’s a fantasy bubble that has blown up over the last three years perhaps because of, as much as in spite of, the facts piling up that “have your cake and eat it” Brexit was not on offer.  But instead of bursting on contact with reality, it just morphed into the fantasy that a “clean break” Brexit is doable and won’t be any trouble that we Dunkirk veterans can’t handle.  It’s a bubble that was given new life by the deadline extension granted by the EU on 31 March, and it has not been pricked in any way by this election campaign.

Fox in the (chlorine-washed) chicken house

It is said that a people get the politicians they deserve, but you would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at the incredible – but unstoppable – prospect of the North West’s “Just get on with it” gammon getting the Revolutionary Communist Party’s Claire Fox as their anointed representative.

There cannot be many Brexit party voters in the North West who don’t know by now that Claire Fox wouldn’t condemn the IRA bombing of her own home town of Warrington.  They are ignoring it through the power of cognitive dissonance.  But quite a few will still be unaware of how weird she really is.

The RCP of the 1980s was to all intents and purposes a cult, and had all the weirdness that goes with that.  It’s difficult to say what Claire Fox and the other RCPers really believe these days, but it appears to all intents and purposes that the core group of cult members still exists and acts as a collective.  Whether or not they still think they are overthrowing capitalism, it seems plain that they think they can play Farage and the Bad Boys of Brexit to their own advantage.  Meanwhile, the Bad Boys think they can play the RCP.

So far, so banal.  But also, and far more sinisterly, the RCP think they can play the Koch Brothers and the American dark money.

The American vampire capitalist dark money, which is so obviously funding the Brexit party through undeclared £499 PayPal donations, cares literally not at all for the welfare of the North of England or its people.  But they certainly have an interest in us.  We are there to be used as a pawn in their geopolitical game, and as a population that can be bled dry for cash, then thrown away.

Their main geopolitical game is to try to destroy the EU, and thereby remove as the only world force capable of showing the American people that there is another way.  But, on the business side, to them we are a population there to be used and abused as they ram through the privatisation of the NHS to American healthcare corporations, and open up our kitchens to their factory farm corporations, and all the hormone-fed beef and chlorine-washed chicken you can stomach.

You can help support efforts by investigative journalists (such as Peter Geoghegan of Open Democracy)  to get to the truth of who is funding the Brexit party, here.  Whatever you donate, you will certainly get your money’s worth when the truth comes out, because it will more sensational, and horrifying – and absurd – than you can imagine.

What is to be done?  Northern Umbrella’s tactical voting picks

In the face of this absurdity and darkness, it is too easy to despair.  It is also too easy to say brightly, don’t despair, vote tactically for the LibDems, as if it wasn’t the LibDems’ enthusiastic adoption of deep austerity that is the main root cause of this Brexit mess in the first place.

Nevertheless, turnout is everything in an election like this, so GET OUT TO VOTE.

Unlike our lucky friends north of the border in Scotland and west of the border in Wales, this is the only chance a Northerner gets to vote in an election that isn’t run under the first past the post system.

Although the party list system and single non-transferable vote used for the Euro election is a terrible version of PR (chosen deliberately by Tony’s Blair’s Labour party to benefit themselves and discredit electoral reform), it is a proportional representation election, and so there is a clear temptation to say, just vote with your heart and give your vote to your first choice.

However, in the North, there certainly is a case for judicious tactical voting.  The Best for Britain polling numbers translate into forecast seats as follows:

Brexit Party 3 2 3
Conservative 0 0 1
Labour 1 1 2
LibDem 1 0 1
Green 1 0 1
Change UK 0 0 0

Lots of tactical voting advice is out there but Best for Britain’s Vote page allows you to test your own options using sliders – try it out.  A hat tip also to the info put out by Democratic Audit and Brexit Factbase.  Meanwhile, Northern Umbrella’s advice is as follows:

Across the North, a vote for Change UK is a wasted vote.  Change UK has been a hubristic yet lacklustre shambles from the start.  Let’s use this election to kill it off.  Their supposed big beasts can eat humble pie and then go crawling to the LibDems to let them in.  It will do them good – especially the Labour contribution to Change UK, who are a far less attractive bunch than its Tories.

In the North West, tactical voting is relatively easy.  Labour and the Brexit Party look comfortable to win two seats and the LibDems to win one, so it looks like a three horse race between the Green Party, the Tories and the Brexit Party for the final MEP seat.  Therefore all Remain tactical voters should give their support to the Greens, to get their experienced and effective campaigner Gina Dowding over the line and elected.  What a great breakthrough that would be for Green politics, and for saving the planet.

In the North East, where only three seats are up for grabs, the numbers show that Labour can comfortably win one seat but will struggle for two.  If you are inclined to vote tactically, the best chance to deprive the Brexit Party of two seats is to vote LibDem.

In Yorkshire and Humber, the top two Labour candidates are Richard Corbett and Eloise Todd, and probably there are no two people in the country with better anti-Brexit credentials.  Eloise Todd, who spoke to Northern Umbrella last July, is in with a sniff of getting a seat, and tactical voting would help her.  As Chief Executive of Best for Britain, Eloise has worked her socks off to stop Brexit, and Yorkshire could not elect a better or more well-qualified MEP.

But for Eloise Todd to do this, she will probably need to squeeze out the Green Party’s “magic” Magid Magid (last year’s superstar Lord Mayor of Sheffield) and the Yorkshire Party’s Chris Whitwood.  Which would be a shame.  It would be good to see either Greens or the Yorkshire Party break through – in the table the Yorkshire Party are hiding in ‘other’ at 5%. Even though 5 or 6% wouldn’t win them a seat, it would represent a breakthrough on a journey to give the Yorkshire a progressive, civic regionalist force something like its own version of Plaid Cymru.   Too difficult – no recommendation.

And they’re off!

An update will be posted here when the results are announced on Sunday.


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Think on, Rebecca

As we enter the second day of Jeremy Corbyn’s talks with Theresa May, what will happen next is very unclear.  Corbyn’s own intentions remain remarkably inscrutable – nobody really knows if he is the same Bennite Brexiter he was in 1975 and 1983, or if he is actually a ninth dan master of constructive ambiguity who is going to come out of this game of three dimensional chess with both a second referendum and the keys to No.10 in the bag.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (centre), shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey in his office in the Houses of Parliament in London preparing for a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

Salford’s own Rebecca Long-Bailey (blurred in the above photo) is a key part of Labour’s negotiating team.  What Northern Labour MPs think, and what they perceive Northern voters think, is a really important part of what happens next.

Northern Umbrella’s take on it all is simple: let Corbyn cook up any deal he wants with Theresa May, but whatever it is, PUT IT TO THE PEOPLE.  The ‘Kyle-Wilson’ compromise would be the simplest given the extreme lack of time we have – vote through Theresa May’s existing deal, which we know the EU will agree to, on the condition that it is put to a ratification referendum, with Remain as the alternative.

Jez kidding?

The real danger is that May and Corbyn will agree on some softer form of Brexit (all the Labour bullshit of ‘a’ customs union, as opposed to ‘the’ customs union), conspire to sell it as a happy compromise between the extremes of Remain and No Deal, and rush it through before the EU’s deadline of 12 April.

Why would they do that?  There is no such thing as a ‘jobs-first Brexit’: all forms of soft Brexit deliver a worse deal with the EU than the one we already have, and would be a stupid, pointless throwing away of Britain’s seat at the EU table.  People propounding soft Brexit only ever make the case in terms of respecting the 2016 referendum vote, they never make the case in positive terms of what it offers the country.  Nobody even bothers to ask them to.

The problem with soft Brexit is that it only unites the country in the sense that nobody wants it.  So why would Corbyn and May go for it?

One argument in its favour is that it drives the hard Brexiters nuts.  The only enjoyable thing coming out of the latest twist in the crisis is watching the charlatans, clowns and disaster capitalist crooks of the Tory ERG lose their shit as they realise they have lost their control over what happens next.

But the argument offered here is that what both Corbyn and May share is a vested interest in keeping Westminster’s undemocratic two party, first-past-the-post-in-single-member-constituencies duopoly system intact.

They both fancy their chances in a Westminster General Election, while both deeply fear having to contest the European parliament elections in June, run under a proportional representation system*, when the real state of support for their two parties would actually be revealed.  (*A very bad version of PR, the so-called party list system, cynically chosen by Tony Blair to discredit PR.)

Think on, Rebecca

But if Labour would just stop and think for one minute, they would never do anything as mad as push through soft Brexit in cahoots with Theresa May, without a ratification referendum.

If Brexit is any one thing, it is a crime by the old against the young.  The statistics on the age breakdown of the Brexit vote in 2016 are astonishing.  The old – with many honourable exceptions of course – wanted to leave and the young wanted to stay.  And things have got even more polarised since then.

The most amazing fact about Brexit voters is that not only are they much more pessimistic about the future than Remainers, but also that they do not expect Brexit to change that.  Brexiters think Britain’s best days are behind it, full stop – even after Brexit.

The most amazing fact about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party is that he would not have won the leadership, and he would not have hung on to it against a vicious backlash by the Labour party establishment, without the enthusiastic support of the young.

If Corbyn and Rebecca Long-Bailey secure a confirmatory referendum as an outcome of these talks, then they will be walking on water as far as the young people of this country are concerned.  One million marchers and six million signers of the revoke petition will become a young and enthusiastic doorstep army to win the referendum, and they will probably then move on to put Jeremy Corbyn into No. 10 too.

If they conspire with Theresa May to deny a referendum, then their support from the young will evaporate overnight.  Furthermore, and quite rightly, the young will turn against Labour and the dream of a reforming Corbyn government will be over.

Labour’s high command must have thought through the arithmetic, and if they come out against a referendum, they must believe that Brexit voters in the North are the crucial factor in their chances of winning a general election.  They would be making a gigantic strategic mistake.  Alienating the young and siding with the past against future is no way forward, in the North as much as anywhere.  Assuming young remainers have nowhere else to take their vote would soon be proven wrong: they are a lively lot and would create somewhere else to take their vote, and Labour as a dynamic and forward-looking force would be finished.

The Northern Labour MPs holding out for hard Brexit are a mixed bag.  Some, like Caroline Flint, are compromised by spending too much time in Annabel’s with Andrew Neil and the dark alt-right netherworld he is a gateway to. Some want to represent what they feel their constituents are saying to them.  Some just worry about getting re-elected.

But most, like Ronnie Campbell, are nice enough guys but at the end of the day are just living dinosaurs: yesterday’s old party men whose best days are well behind them and have given up on offering any kind of hope or future to the young people of the North of England.

Brexiters are now a clear minority in the country.  As they attempt to deny this, it is worth asking: if they represent the will of the majority as they claim to do, why are they so afraid of putting that to the test of a referendum?

The hard Brexiters, the crooks and the charlatans, cannot be compromised with.  They can only be confronted and defeated.  Meanwhile the “just get on with it” brigade, the pensioners who read the Daily Express, and believe the shit fed to them in it, should be sympathised with, but we can’t allow them to crash the car with all our kids in it.

Rebecca Long-Bailey could be a good leader of the Labour party some day.  She should consider: does she really want to side with the past against the future?

[UPDATE]: 25 Labour MPs’ letter urging Corbyn to reject a referendum

So 25 Labour MPs have written to Jeremy Corbyn urging a quick compromise deal with Theresa May “to avoid fighting the European elections”.  They say that Labour party policy is that a “deal that secures jobs and rights at work… does not require a confirmatory ballot”.

Of the 25 MPs, 20 represent Northern seats, and all apart from one represent seats in the North or the North Midlands.  It’s a broad group of Labour MPs, men and women, old and young, from different wings of the party – it’s not just limited to the dinosaur brigade.  What links them is that they all represent seats that voted heavily for Brexit.  It’s long and depressing list of ex-mining and manufacturing towns that are in a bad way:

Trying to get a better future for places like these is why Northern Umbrella exists.  So it is right to respect that this letter comes from these towns’ elected MPs and represents a genuine point of view.

However, we are entitled to ask these MPs to make clear what their ‘Labour Brexit’ deal would actually do to make their towns a better place.  Because they have nothing to say on this.  All they can say is that making Brexit happen “respects the result of the 2016 referendum”.

All of these MPs will be fully aware of the well-known issue that Brexit will hammer the areas that voted for Brexit hardest.  Sure, soft Brexit won’t be as bad as No Deal Brexit, but it will be bad.  To be aware of this problem, and not to show leadership in their communities on it, just for the sake of avoiding bother, is shameful.

Of course respecting democracy is important, and this is why it is a travesty of democracy to deny the people a confirmatory referendum on the actual Brexit proposal, as opposed to 2016’s blank sheet of paper that nobody cared to define and nobody understood (and was lied and lied about, in a Leave campaign that broke the law).

The real reason they don’t want a referendum is because they know they will lose it, and lose it quite badly.  A soft Brexit deal they claim can “bring leave and remain voters together” if put to a referendum would likely do just that – it would bring them together to reject it, and would struggle to get 30% of the vote.

It would be a particular travesty of democracy to ram through a hurriedly lashed-up deal without scrutiny, just so that the Labour and Conservative parties can avoid having to face the genuinely democratic test of a European election.

In fact, holding the European election is a great democratic opportunity to find out what people really think about Brexit, and what they want to do next.  It’s a PR election where votes properly count, and so a range of parties that actually reflect the range of public opinion will be able to set out their stall, and people will be able to vote for the platform they like best.

Contrast this to a general election where questions of much more vital importance to voters than Brexit need to be settled. We have had a taster of this with the Newport West by-election tonight, won by Labour with a 1,951 majority over the Tories in a campaign in which “neither Labour nor Tory focused on Brexit”.

We need a general election, and we need to settle Brexit.  But a general election is not a good means of settling Brexit, in fact it is a very bad one.  And a British general election least of all, with our unfit for purpose, first past the post, single member seat system that turns our general elections into such a rigged, fundamentally undemocratic and depressing occasion.  Polls are saying 80% of people don’t want a general election now.

There has to be a suspicion that these MPs want the two party duopoly Westminster system, and their safe seats within it, more than they want to make sure they are doing what really is best for the country.

Let’s be charitable and say that this suspicion is unjustified.  In that case, we need to make the time for them to present their case, and for it to be debated.  To do this, we are going to need a long extension to the Brexit deadline, a breather so that everyone can calm down, and then return to a more reasoned debate.

There is only one way to bring the Brexit debate to an end so that we can move on to solving the North’s actual problems.  We must engage seriously with those who have reached for Brexit as a panacea for the serious problems of neglect and austerity, whilst at the same time confronting the No Deal Brexit fantasists and fanatics, and democratically defeating them.  The Labour MPs who can’t see that are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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April Fool’s Day

Should the inquest ever come to be held on why Britain committed national economic and diplomatic suicide by crashing out of the European Union without a deal, April Fool’s Day 2019 will be the most important day to examine.

Today is the day to stop fucking around with mad Soft Brexit unicorns like a customs union or Common Market 2.0.  The very idea that any arrangement can be negotiated with the EU at a few days’ notice is utterly ridiculous.  The only possible deal we could get would be one that would put UK at a massive disadvantage to the EU.  Two years was spent negotiating on Theresa May’s deal.  It’s a bad deal for Britain, because our fundamental strategic economic weakness made that inevitable, but it’s the best one we can get and still Brexit.

The fact that there are still large numbers of the public who think crashing out is going to be a matter of a short period of belt-tightening then we’ll be fine is a national disgrace – a disgrace for which the BBC bears a large share of the responsibility.  The BBC’s conduct must be placed at the centre of any future inquiry.

The best deal Britain can get from the EU is the one that we spent the last 45 years negotiating: the one we already have.  The only available alternative is Theresa May’s deal.  That is why there are only two options left on the table that make any kind of sense: the first is the Kyle-Wilson proposal for parliament to vote through May’s Deal on the condition that it then goes to a ratification referendum with two options on the ballot paper: May’s Deal or Remain.  This is a viable option in that it is straightforward and something the EU can understand, and therefore may agree to.  Remember, we have now reduced ourselves to supplicants to the European Council.

If Theresa May and her Tories cannot agree to a ratification referendum, then there is only one option left, the one that should have expired on 29 March but the EU kindly extended to 12 April, which is to revoke Article 50 and stay in with our existing deal.

All else is bullshit and it is an utter scandal to see Tories and Labour – and the media – focusing on garbage like a General Election or, God help us, a Tory leadership election. Yes, those things are going to be needed, but we have 12 days to come up with a proposal that the EU will accept, or to revoke Article 50, which they will have no choice but to accept.  It’s one minute to midnight, folks.

It looks like Labour may whip its MPs for sanity and a second referendum today.  Let’s hope so.  The Labour party failed to support the indicative vote for the ‘revoke Article 50 in an emergency’ option – for the very mature reason that it was proposed by the SNP, who they hate.  Today is the day to put that right – let’s hope they do.  But there remains the issue of Northern Labour MPs defying the whip and voting with the ERG for national oblivion.   The descent of the North of England into unrecoverable decline and social disaster will be not only the Tories’ fault, but it will also be their fault, and we will never forget that.

Northern Umbrella will be watching you!


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