London Globalist: Labour’s resounding election defeat was about much more than Brexit

Voters are beginning to reject economic arguments in favour of those who are seen to reflect their social values.

This article was first published in The London Globalist.

Labour lost votes to every other party and in almost every seat in this general election, and countless seats that have been reliable Labour territory for decades have turned blue. Mining towns across the north and the midlands who swore never to vote Conservative again in the days of Thatcher have become so frustrated that we have not left the EU and are so aggrieved by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party that they found themselves voting Tory. The constituency of North West Durham, for instance, which had been held by Labour for 70 years, has swung to the Conservatives, unseating Shadow Cabinet minister Laura Pidcock, who had been tipped for a leadership position in the very near future.

And it wasn’t just mining towns either. Scunthorpe, the home of British steel manufacturing. The fishing town of Grimsby. These are areas that were, until very recently, some of the most staunchly anti-Tory parts of the country, and now they are all represented by Conservative MPs. So why have they abandoned Labour in such great numbers? It seems that, as with everything in British politics at the moment, it all comes down to Brexit.

Throughout this election campaign, Labour has tried to avoid the subject of Brexit as far as possible. It is in the uniquely difficult position of having to balance huge numbers of Remainers and Leavers, so its solution was to not explicitly take a position for or against Brexit and try to drag the debate back to more comfortable territory, such as the NHS. The election results suggest they failed in that, as many Labour spokespeople have since acknowledged. The party line seems to be that this election came to be defined by Brexit, which is therefore the primary reason for Labour losses.

It appears that Labour are perceived by many Leave voters as being unwilling to carry out the result of the 2016 referendum. Their Brexit policy in this election was to renegotiate a softer Brexit deal and then put it to the country in a second referendum, along with the option to Remain. When Labour figures were asked about Brexit during the campaign, they deflected and dodged the question because whatever they said, they would end up alienating a sizeable chunk of their voter base.

Contrasted with the crystal clear Conservative promise to ‘Get Brexit Done’, along with a pledge to have us out of the EU within weeks, those frustrated Leave voters felt they had no choice but to abandon the party that many of them had voted for their whole lives in favour of the Conservatives.

With hindsight, therefore, it might seem at first glance that Labour were too pro-Remain and that if they had made it clear to Leave voters that they intended to carry out Brexit, they would have done better in this election. But because of Labour’s extremely precarious electoral position, that is not necessarily the case.

If, for example, they had promised to renegotiate our exit from the EU along Norway lines and then implement that new deal without a referendum, that would have been a shunt towards the Leave end of the spectrum because it would have eliminated the possibility of a Labour government remaining in the EU.

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So if they done that, they may well have held onto some of those Leave seats in the north and the midlands rather than losing them to the Tories, but would probably have lost many in London and the south to the explicitly pro-Remain Liberal Democrats. This is the dilemma they were facing; Labour were walking a Brexit tightrope. For every Leave vote they could have held onto by edging towards the Leave end of the spectrum, they would have lost another Remain vote that dropped off the back and was scooped up by a more Remain-y party.

This is a nice illustration of electoral dilemma faced by left-wing parties as they seek to build a broad enough voter coalition to form and sustain a government. The only reason that Labour have been a truly competitive electoral force in Britain in recent decades is because of those areas with industrial heritage and the toxic Thatcherite legacy there. In other words, voters who would never otherwise be expected to vote Labour have been doing so for decades for cultural, rather than political, reasons. But even with those extra bastions of support, the only Labour leader to successfully be elected Prime Minister in the last 45 years is Tony Blair, who wasn’t left-wing at all.

In broader terms, this election fits the pattern of a seismic global political shift. I put it to you that voters no longer care about money. It seems to me that the reason for this political realignment, not just in Britain but all over the world, can be boiled down to a rejection of economic arguments in favour of social ones. Electorates are arguably voting against their own economic interests in favour of parties who are seen to reflect their social values. Voters care more about their sense of identity than the money in their pocket.

Brexit is, of course, the archetypal example of this. Every analysis shows that it is going to cause significant economic damage, especially to our manufacturing industry and with a strong disproportionate effect on the working class. And yet, those people vote for it to happen again and again. Voters are no longer asking who can offer them the greatest social mobility and present them with the best professional opportunities to improve their quality of life. Instead, they are voting for the parties and the people who they see as espousing the social values and national identity that they seek. Labour’s failure to offer anything to those who now entirely frame their political identity in terms of Brexit was their downfall in this election.

In the style of Benjamin Disraeli, Boris Johnson is successfully uniting the ultra-elite such as himself – the Etonian Tory who was born babbling in Latin and has been waiting his whole life to be Prime Minister – with the angry Leave-voting working-class masses, against the perceived middle-class Guardian-reading Remainer Twitterati. He has successfully built that broad voter coalition from the right which Labour have consistently failed to do from the left.

So, what happens next? In material terms, we will now have five years of Conservative government. That in itself is quite remarkable, since the Conservatives have already been in government for nine years. It also appears likely that they may stay in office for a further term after that, since Labour overcoming such an almighty deficit in vote share in a single electoral cycle looks very improbable, especially given the fact that the Tory share of the vote has been climbing consistently since 1997. It seems that we will leave the EU in January under Boris Johnson’s deal, kicking off what will likely be years of wrangling over our future trade relationship with the EU.

As for Labour, the party will soon come under new leadership. Jeremy Corbyn has already said he won’t lead the party into another general election, so the party will shortly be electing both a new leader and a new deputy leader. Top contenders include shadow ministers Rebecca Long-Bailey, Angela Rayner and Dawn Butler, all of whom are likely to broadly continue to espouse Corbynite politics.

There was talk during the campaign of Labour trying out a co-leader structure, where it could have two leaders, presumably with one appealing more to Leave voters and the other to Remainers. Perhaps that could prove to be the far-fetched solution to the left-wing electoral dilemma. Only time will tell.

VozWire (news report): Supreme Court poised to rescue Dreamers and deal a huge blow to Trump’s immigration policy

The Supreme Court is due to review some of the most controversial aspects of the President’s immigration policy very soon, with the possibility it could block some of his harsh anti-migrant measures.

This article was first published on VozWire.

When President Donald Trump got the opportunity to fill not one but two slots on the Supreme Court, he probably thought he would be able to do whatever he wanted during his time in office. In fact, that is what everyone else thought too, which is why the entire left was up in arms over it.

However, the appointments of Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the bench of the highest court in the land have not been as useful for the President as he might have hoped. On the issue of abortion, for example, the Court continues to side with the progressive side of the debate by blocking various additional bans and restrictions.

The supposed conservative majority, then, only really operates in theory. That is a very big problem for the entire GOP in the very near future, as the Supreme Court is due to review some of the most controversial aspects of the President’s immigration policy very soon, with the possibility it could block some of his harsh anti-migrant measures.

One of the pillars of President Trump’s nationalist approach to immigration policy since taking office has been his attempts to row back on the reforms implemented by President Barack Obama, especially the Obama-era protections granted to illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, known as Dreamers.

The fate of almost 700,000 Dreamers hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court weighs up whether to side with Obama or Trump on their residency rights. Crucially, the final decision is due in the next term, placing it right in the middle of the 2020 presidential election campaign, threatening to shake things up and make the situation much more difficult for Trump if the verdict does not go his way.

It has taken several months for the Supreme Court to even agree on whether or not to look at this case at all. In the meantime, the judges unilaterally allowed continued renewals for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, sometimes known as DACA. In other words, during all this deliberation, even with Trump in the White House, the Obama-era policy has continued uninterrupted.

The DACA program has served as a vital lifeline for thousands upon thousands of migrants in the United States. It grants participants protection from deportation and gives them permission to seek work in the US. Naturally, it has become central to Trump’s war of words – and, indeed, policy – over illegal immigration.

The dilemma faced by many recipients of the program is that they cannot seek legal status of their own accord because they were brought into the country illegally or overstayed their visas, which is why the DACA program is so essential, since these migrants would often have no other way of becoming lawful permanent residents of the United States.

“It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts.”

That is just one of many countless public statements made by the President, usually on Twitter, lamenting the fact that he is unable to implement his preferred immigration policy solely through his executive authority. Though it might play well with his voter base, this kind of rhetoric is unlikely to help sway the judges towards his point of view.

This is a trade-off that the President will face repeatedly between now and November next year. He has to tread a fine line between firing up his potential voters and not jeopardising his own policy initiatives, which is a very difficult balance to maintain.

VozWire (news report): Supreme Court slaps down Alabama abortion ban

Various states have already had new anti-abortion legislation blocked. In the case of Alabama, one of those laws made its way to the Supreme Court, only for it to be revealed today that the Supreme Court has refused to revive the law.

This article was first published on VozWire.

The debate over abortion has seen a significant resurgence in recent weeks and months, with the state of Alabama at its center. Local lawmakers have been doing their utmost to toughen restrictions and generally make life more difficult for women.

A reactionary attack on abortion rights of this kind as been on the way for some time. Now that the Supreme Court has an ostensibly conservative majority, thanks to President Trump’s recent appointments of Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the bench, anti-abortion activists have been vowing for a while to get Roe v Wade overturned.

Pro-lifers see this as a golden chance to advance their agenda. They know that there is a very real possibility that the White House will turn blue once again next year, and it is hard to say how long the slim and shaky right-leaning majority on the Supreme Court can actually last.

So far, though, the traditionalists have had very little success with their attempts to change the law of the land to criminalize abortion procedures. The Supreme Court has not come close to overturning Roe v Wade, and many of the local laws that state politicians have tried to push through have been blocked by various courts.

The states of Alabama, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas have already had new anti-abortion legislation blocked. In the case of Alabama, one of those laws made its way to the Supreme Court, only for it to be revealed today that the Supreme Court has refused to revive the law.

The ban, if enacted, would have effectively outlawed the most commonly used procedure in second-trimester abortions. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall emotively refers to the process as “dismemberment abortion”, but this was apparently not sufficient to persuade those who sit on the bench of the highest court in the land that it should be outlawed.

The process is generally referred to as dilation and evacuation. A law banning it in Alabama was first enacted in 2016, but it did not take long for the courts to step in and put a stop to it. Today, the pro-lifers’ final attempts to rescue it have been crushed definitively by the Supreme Court.

US District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that the process of banning dilation and evacuation would, in practical terms, result in all abortions after fifteen weeks of pregnancy (seven per cent of all abortions carried out in Alabama) being banned.

Thompson’s ruling – blocking the ban – was then upheld by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals. However, two of the three judges on the panel admitted that they only consented to the law being blocked because they are constricted by past Supreme Court rulings on the issue, in support of abortion rights.

Chief Judge Ed Carnes appeared to agree with the hardline conservative view expressed by the Attorney General on the issue, writing in his ruling that he concurred that the procedure amounted to “dismemberment”, but adding that, “in our judicial system, there is only one Supreme Court, and we are not it.”

This ruling is a major victory for pro-choice campaigners, but it is far from the end of the road when it comes to protecting vital abortion rights for American women. The Supreme Court is likely to hear another abortion case this year, this time concerning the state of Louisiana.

A Louisiana law proposed to impose significant restrictions on which doctors are allowed to carry out abortions, but it was struck down by a district court on the basis that it would result in the closure of one, or possibly two, of the three abortions clinics currently operational in the state.

It is likely that the Supreme Court will concur with the local court once again, but only time will tell.

VozWire (news report): UK voters reporting they were blocked by polling centres in recent elections, denied voting entirely

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has written to the UK
Cabinet Office to complain about the situation and request further
information about what went wrong.

This article was first published on VozWire.

Nobody expected European parliamentary elections to be held in the United Kingdom in 2019. The Brexit date, the date on which the UK was supposed to leave the European Union, was in March.

With the elections due to be held in May, it was only when the exit date was pushed back that the British government had to hurriedly prepare to hold that series of national elections.

The elections were held at the end of last month, and the political shockwaves are still being felt from the staggering results that emerged. The governing Conservative Party was pushed down to fifth place, with Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party and the hardline Remainer Liberal Democrats occupying the top two spots.

Turnout in the elections was thirty-seven per cent, up nearly one and a half percentage points on the last set of European elections in 2014. However, in the run-up to the elections, some EU citizens living in the UK reported being unable to vote in the European elections, as is their right.

In order to be eligible to vote in the UK in these elections, most EU citizens were required to have completed a UC1 form by 7 May and returned it to their local authority. This was to confirm that they would not be voting in any other state and could therefore register to vote in Britain.

However, some EU citizens reported that the UC1 form was delivered to them late, leaving them insufficient time to complete and return it, meaning that it was not processed by their local authority fast enough and their registration was not confirmed by voting day.

The Electoral Commission, which oversees election processes in the UK, blamed the “very short notice” given by the government about the UK’s participation in this year’s elections.

A Twitter campaign soon appeared, in which EU citizens living in the UK used the hashtag #DeniedMyVote to share their experiences, with many reporting similar cases of paperwork processing getting in the way of their voter registration.

Some said they had been turned away from polling stations on voting day, and others reported never having been informed about the importance of the UC1 form in the first place.

It was revealed today that the European Union itself has now become involved. EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has written to the UK Cabinet Office to complain about the situation and request further information about what went wrong.

In her letter, she expressed concern at the reports of voters facing “a number of obstacles to participation” in the crucial European parliamentary elections. She went on to attack the efficiency of British electoral processes.

“[The UK has] the obligation to respect the right to vote of EU citizens and to take the measures necessary to ensure such voting rights can be effectively exercised,” she wrote, adding that in the 2014 elections, “the same problems were encountered by Union citizens”.

Ms Jourova pointed out that the British government had promised to address those issues before this year’s elections, but had apparently failed to do so, citing the “practical challenges” faced by UK authorities during rushed preparations for the May elections.She added that the European Commission had received “complaints directly from citizens” about voting difficulties in the UK.

In response to the EU’s intervention, the UK Cabinet Office said: “The UK Government took all the legal steps necessary to prepare for the European Parliament elections, including putting in place all the necessary legislative and funding elements to enable Returning Officers to make their preparations.”

The official statement added that “the government’s priority was to work to leave the European Union before 23 May and so not take part in the European elections”.

VozWire (news report): Shocking footage shows Government minister choke-slamming Greenpeace protester

Outrage has engulfed British politics today after a senior Government minister was filmed choke-slamming an apparently peaceful protester against a wall on Thursday evening.

This article was first published on VozWire.

Outrage has engulfed British politics today after a senior Government minister was filmed choke-slamming an apparently peaceful protester against a wall on Thursday evening.

Mark Field MP, a minister in the Foreign Office, was attending a black-tie dinner in Mansion House, London at which Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney were keynote speakers.

The event was infiltrated by climate change activists from environment charity Greenpeace. Footage has since emerged of the protesters being removed by security staff.

However, one of the protesters, who has since been identified as long-time Greenpeace activist Janet Barker, broke away from security staff and moved hurriedly towards the main table, where Hammond and Carney were seated.

The formally-dressed attendees watched on in shock as the equally formally-dressed protester was then stopped in her tracks and forced out of the room by Field.

As Barker arrives behind him, Field can be seen leaping out of his chair and lunging towards her, apparently holding her against the wall by her neck.

He is then seen leading her out of the room, requesting assistance from nearby staff to “remove this person”, as Barker continues to flail and resist.

Soon after the incident, Field issued an apology for his conduct, in which he stated that he “deeply regrets” his actions and apologised to Barker “unreservedly”.

He went on to explain his actions: “In the confusion many guests understandably felt threatened and when one protester rushed past me towards the top table I instinctively reacted.”

Field also said that he would be referring himself to the Cabinet Office to investigate whether he broke the ministerial code.

The Government also announced that he would be suspended from his position as Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific while an investigation into the episode is carried out.

The incident has ignited a fierce debate among senior politicians. Dawn Butler, Labour MP and shadow women and equalities minister, called Field’s behaviour “horrific” and said that he “must immediately be suspended or sacked”.

However, several of Field’s Conservative colleagues came to his defence. Fellow Tory MP Johnny Mercer said that, in the current political climate, Field’s actions were understandable.

“He [Field] panicked, he’s not trained in restraint and arrest,” he said. “And if you think this is ‘serious violence’ you may need to recalibrate your sensitivities.”

Some people have caused controversy by invoking Jo Cox, a Labour MP who was killed by a far-right terrorist in 2016, as an explanation for Field’s insecurity around the protesters.

Bob Stewart, another Conservative MP, suggested to BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme that Field may have chosen to target Barker’s neck because if he had “touched her anywhere else he’d probably have been deemed highly inappropriate”.

The incident has placed Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in an awkward position. As well as currently battling his predecessor Boris Johnson for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Hunt is also Field’s boss at the Foreign Office.

In response to Field’s apology, Hunt sought to defend his colleague’s actions, but also stressed the need for a comprehensive investigation to learn the facts of what had happened.

“Mark [Field] has issued a full and unreserved apology,” he said. “In his interest and in the interest of the lady involved, we need a proper [Cabinet Office] inquiry and that’s what is going to happen.”

Barker has since spoken to the BBC to express her horror at the way Field behaved towards her. She described his actions as “really over the top”.

Barker went on to say that she “didn’t expect to be grabbed by the neck”, and to emphasise the fact that the protest was peaceful, saying the activists had only planned to “stand there dignified”.

You can watch the footage of the entire incident below.

VozWire (news report): MPs furious after Boris Johnson called ‘racist’ in House of Commons

Ian Blackford MP is not known for mincing his words, especially when it comes to firing shots at senior Conservatives in the House of Commons. Today’s session of PMQs was no different.

This article was first published on VozWire.

The House of Commons is rarely a quiet place. MPs like to cheer and jeer when their colleagues say the most remotely controversial or incendiary things, to the point that when the House is near capacity, it is often impossible to hear what the Member on their feet is trying to say.

That often leads to Speaker John Bercow having to intervene in his unique fashion, which can sometimes make the situation even worse and get MPs yet more riled up.

The time of the week when this is most apparent is just after midday on Wednesdays, when Prime Minister’s Questions takes place. Theresa May might be on her way out, but that has not made MPs any less excitable on the green benches.

At this week’s PMQs session, a particularly controversial comment drew a period of sustained jeering lasting several seconds, followed by a strong intervention from the Speaker.

Ian Blackford MP is not known for mincing his words, especially when it comes to firing shots at senior Conservatives in the House of Commons. He is the Westminster leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and when he gets to his feet, MPs across the chamber know to brace for an onslaught of fury.

Mhairi Black MP, one of his SNP colleagues, once complained that other MPs get up and leave the chamber when Blackford stands up to speak.

This time, though, no one left when Blackford stood up, meaning that all the other MPs were still there to make their anger known when he made his highly inflammatory point.

Apparently referring to an article written in conservative magazine The Spectator by Boris Johnson over fourteen years ago in which he heavily criticised future Prime Minister and Scot Gordon Brown, Blackford claimed that the frontrunner to be the next Tory leader and Prime Minister was unfit to govern the country, even going so far as to call him ‘racist’.

“I ask, does the Prime Minister realise,” said Blackford, “not only is the Member [Boris Johnson] racist, he is stoking division in communities and has a record of dishonesty.”

Predictably, the Conservative benches did not take kindly to this. As soon as he uttered the word ‘racist’, Blackford’s words were drowned out by very loud objections from the opposite side of the chamber.

He continued nevertheless: “Does the Prime Minister honestly believe…”

At that point, Blackford was interrupted by Speaker Bercow, who called for order in the House, and advised Blackford to be careful what he said.

“If the Right Honourable gentleman [Ian Blackford] is referring to a current Member of this House… he should be extremely careful in the language he uses. He should have notified the Member [Boris Johnson] in advance,” he said.

“I would urge him [Ian Blackford] to weigh his words,” he continued. “And indeed, I think it would be much better if, for now, he would withdraw any allegation of racism against any particular Member. I don’t think that this is the forum and I don’t think it’s the right way to behave.”

In response, Blackford confirmed that he had in fact informed Johnson of the fact that he would be speaking about him in the Commons during that session, as is common courtesy among MPs. He refused, however, to withdraw his comment.

Nearly half of the 313 Conservative members of Parliament went on to vote for Boris Johnson to be the leader of their party later the same day, placing him miles ahead of all his fellow competitors. Clearly, then, they did not take Blackford’s judgement to heart.

VozWire (news report): When protest goes wrong: Man pleads guilty to “milkshaking” Nigel Farage

Paul Crowther avoided jail, but will have to pay compensation to Farage after emptying his banana and salted caramel milkshake onto his suit.

This article was first published on VozWire.

Protest takes many forms. Ever since Suffragette Emily Davidson threw herself under a horse over a hundred years ago – and thereby gave the ‘votes for women’ campaign a significant boost – no method has been too outlandish for those who want to make a political point and draw attention to the issue that is closest to their heart.

The latest bizarre trend in political protest is what has come to be known as ‘milkshaking’. As British political parties campaigned for the European elections towards the end of last month, controversial pro-Brexit figures found themselves having milkshakes thrown at them.

Victims of such attacks included independent candidate Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (also known as Tommy Robinson), UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin (also known as Sargon of Akkad) and leader of the ultimately victorious Brexit Party, Nigel Farage MEP.

Farage was perhaps the most obviously offended by his milkshaking, which took place in Newcastle city centre on 20 May. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, he was caught on camera directing a blaze of fury at his security staff. “It’s a complete failure. You could have spotted that a mile off,” he could be heard saying. “How could this happen?”

He added to his comments the same day, saying: “I won’t even acknowledge the low-grade behaviour that I was subjected to this morning. I won’t dignify it. I will ignore it. Perhaps keep buying new clothes and carry on.”

In a more measured response, Farage tweeted later that day that political polarisation over the Brexit debate was to blame for the attacks. “Sadly some remainers (sic) have become radicalised to the extent that normal campaigning is becoming impossible,” he said.

He continued: “For a civilised democracy to work you need the losers (sic) consent, politicians not accepting the referendum result have led us to this.”

It was reported at the time that the milkshake in question was banana and salted caramel flavoured, and had been bought from a local Five Guys restaurant for £5.25 (around $7). Northumbria police announced later that same day that a 32-year-old-man had been arrested on suspicion of common assault.

The identity of that man has since been revealed. His name is Paul Crowther, and he was reportedly flippant to nearby journalists immediately following the incident. “I was quite looking forward to [the milkshake],” he said. “But I think it went on a better purpose.”

In the latest update to the story, it was reported today that Crowther has been ordered to pay compensation to the Brexit Party leader. Crowther, of Holeyn Road, Throckley, pleaded guilty to common assault and criminal damage at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

Avoiding jail, Crowther was given 150 hours of unpaid work assessment, and has been ordered to pay Farage £350 compensation. District Judge Bernard Begley laid into Crowther in the courtroom, declaring that he had committed “an act of crass stupidity”.

Solicitor Brian Hegarty, defending Crowther, argued that his client was only being penalised because of the political nature of the incident. He told the court that the attack was a “moment of madness”, and insisted that Crowther regretted his actions.

“The fact is,” said Hegarty, “it is said to be a politically motivated incident which has caused him to appear before this court and caused him to lose his good name.” The court also heard of how Crowther had lost his job as a technical advisor with Sky as a result of the case.

Despite the regret he may be feeling now, Crowther sounded proud of what he had done in the days following the ‘milkshaking’. He told reporters that it was “a right of protest against people like [Nigel Farage]”.

He continued: “The bile and the racism he spouts out in this country is far more damaging than a bit of milkshake to his front.”

VozWire (analysis): Can a new Prime Minister actually change anything on Brexit, or are we in for more of the same?

All ten of the candidates to be the next Prime Minister have
committed to delivering Brexit, so whoever takes up the leadership mantle next
month will have to employ creative methods to break the logjam.

This article was first published on VozWire.

During the First World War, stalemate on the Western Front brought much of Europe to a complete standstill. German forces, having snatched some land from France and Belgium, were determined not to give up what they had just won. On the other side of the battlefield, the British and French had shored up their defences and were unwilling to concede another inch.

To confound the problem, both sides had developed exciting new weaponry such as machine guns. That meant that the staple military tactics of the day – running towards the enemy as quickly as possible – were no longer quite as cutting-edge as they had once seemed.

The result was years spent pottering about in soggy trenches as soldiers awaited instructions from armchair generals entire countries away and speculated wildly about what might be happening on the other side of the barbed wire. Since neither camp was willing to put their position at any risk, everyone simply stayed put. Swap out artillery fire for explosive headlines on the front page of the Mail on Sunday and relentless mudslinging via Andrew Marr’s sofa and you have a rather accurate image of the current state of British politics.

We are months into an unprecedented parliamentary stalemate, with the convictions of each group seemingly becoming more and more resolute by the week. Thanks to Gina Miller’s courtroom activism and Dominic Grieve’s astute political manoeuvring, no progress can be made on Brexit without parliamentary consent. The House of Commons collectively behaving like a petulant child has therefore caused Brexit to stall.

The British constitution has always worked this way, of course. The role of the legislative branch of government in a parliamentary democracy such as ours is indispensable. Nothing has changed, you might say; except that Brexit has changed everything. Not in constitutional terms, perhaps, but certainly in terms of the political reality. MPs are more powerful than ever before, and British politics will never be the same again because of it.

Every trick in the book has been tried as part of increasingly exasperated attempts to break the logjam. Then, someone wrote some radical new ideas into the inside back cover of the book in crayon, and those were tried too. Sir Oliver Letwin’s seizing control of the Commons agenda to hold so-called indicative votes was nothing less than a minor constitutional revolution.

It was a desperate and concerted effort to find out whether MPs could agree on any aspect of Brexit whatsoever, to the point of ditching the division lobbies and presenting members with a list of eight possible options for how to proceed, all of which were rejected without a flicker of hesitation.

The kicker is that nobody saw this coming. Since Article 50 was triggered in March 2017, it was universally presumed that the UK would leave the EU either with or without a deal two years later. Even the most seasoned analysts and commentators failed to foresee that the government’s deal would be heartily rejected and that No Deal would also be tenaciously blocked, forcing multiple extensions to the exit date.

Parliament only has two division lobbies – one for the “ayes” and one for the “noes”. Until now, that was all that was needed. The government would propose a policy, and MPs would vote for it or against it. On Brexit, though, the choices faced by the House are infinitely more complex than a binary yes-or-no vote. There is no division lobby for “alternative customs arrangements”.

Brexit is a far cry from the tame and simplistic politics of old (read: pre-2016). The agonising complexity of the menu of available options, combined with a hung parliament, a rogue Speaker and record frontbench resignations on both sides of the House means that there is no easy way forward. Dispensing with any whiff of pragmatism, MPs have responded by retreating into their ideological factions and refusing to give any ground whatsoever, à la Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig.

All ten of the candidates to be the next Prime Minister have committed to delivering Brexit, so whoever takes up the leadership mantle next month will have to employ creative methods of some sort to break this unprecedented legislative logjam. The possibilities available to them are far from plentiful.

General election

The government’s confidence-and-supply partner is refusing to back it on its flagship policy. Even with the support of the DUP, the Conservatives’ majority in the House of Commons is razor-thin. Discord within the two main parties is rife; the Tory leadership contest promises to be bruising and Labour’s Brexit policy is anyone’s guess. Fundamentally, MPs and their stubbornness are the problem. So, why not trade them in for some better ones?

There is a timeline in which the new Prime Minister calls a general election, both parties clarify their Brexit position and a clear Commons majority is returned, allowing neat steps forward to be taken. However, as has been made incorrigibly clear, we are living in the Banter Timeline in which everything that can happen to make the political situation yet more convoluted and excruciating, however unthinkable, will happen.

The chance of an election making things any easier for the government is roughly equal to the chance of Lorraine Kelly becoming Prime Minister. Two new parties have already been spawned as a result of Brexit fury, and election polling is terrifyingly volatile. All conventional electoral wisdom is being jettisoned as British voters edge as close to a populist insurgency as is possible under Westminster’s majoritarian system.

Despite their recent self-destructive tendencies, Tory lambs do not vote for the slaughter. Nor do they vote for five years in Opposition under a socialist government, which is arguably worse. All ten leadership contenders have categorically ruled out calling a snap election. The wounds from 2017 cut deep and continue to sting, and horrifying polling showing a thumping resurgence of the potty-mouthed Liberal Democrats and Nigel Farage hoovering up disaffected Tory Brexiteers means that it is hard to see how a general election in the foreseeable future could culminate in anything less than total catastrophe for the Conservative Party.

It is, therefore, not an option that will be immediately available to the next Prime Minister. It is not inconceivable that we could stumble into an election by accident. If that were to happen, all bets would be off. Party splits and mutinies would be near-certain. The dog’s dinner of a parliamentary makeup that would be returned would breach Italian levels of government instability.

Proroguing Parliament

The next Prime Minister will be the fourteenth to serve under Queen Elizabeth II. Their power and the legitimacy of their government will flow directly from the Crown. It is therefore theoretically possible to force through a policy by foregoing parliamentary authority. Since MPs are being obstructive, why not simply send them home for a bit, execute Brexit unilaterally under the royal prerogative and then bring them back?

The monarch is, of course, honourably and necessarily apolitical, which is the first of many reasons why the Queen is not going to celebrate Hallowe’en by dismissing her own government in order to adjust Britain’s relationship with the EU, against the express wishes of the democratically-elected lower chamber. This prorogation would come with a very specific Brexit policy haphazardly conjoined to it with sticky tape, which is a bit like buying a new car and then trying to attach an elephant as a bonnet ornament. The whole thing would be dead on arrival.

What’s more, if a book were to be published now entitled How to Keep the Conservative Party out of Government for a Generation, the prorogation of Parliament would be the subject of chapters one through three. It would instigate a perfect storm of political destruction by alienating the very large wing of the party that is opposed to a hard Brexit by actively ignoring their existence and almost certainly triggering a party split.

Impressively, this move would also work against the interests of the minority within the party whose policy preferences it seeks to cater to since it would profoundly undermine the Brexiteer narrative of a betrayal of democracy over the result of the referendum. It would be fitting of the Banter Timeline for the new Prime Minister to seek to offset concerns about democracy being neglected by taking the most obviously undemocratic approach to government imaginable.

One of the few things about prorogation that is clear is how catastrophic it would be for the Conservative Party. It is deeply ironic, then, that multiple candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party have indicated that it is an option they are considering. Speaker Bercow has also signalled that he would consider it; that is, he would consider it briefly, and then say no. Bercow would do everything in his power – which is, as we have learned, rather a lot – to stop it from happening, as he declared recently with all his usual verve and vigour.

Citizens’ assembly

Not so long ago, the notion of a citizens’ assembly was a quirky idea floated by people nobody really listened to, like the Lib Dems and the Greens. (That was, of course, before those two parties put in record electoral performances and relegated the governing Conservatives to fifth place.) It was broadly seen as a back-up plan for People’s Vote campaigners who wanted to overturn the referendum result and cancel Brexit by any means available and was rarely taken seriously as a policy proposal.

Now, though, in these desperate times, the idea has burrowed its way into The Political Mainstream, with much of the discussion fuelled by Rory Stewart. In his Remain-leaning pitch to become Prime Minister, Stewart has suggested putting together a randomly-selected jury-like group of British citizens, from across the ideological spectrum, to hammer out their positions on Europe and come to a universally amicable compromise, which could then be presented to Parliament.

Proponents of the idea have posited that a citizens’ assembly could seize the nation’s attention and put sufficient pressure on MPs to compel them to stop obstructing the progress of Brexit and approve the assembly’s fudge. In reality, fierce public debate on Brexit has been repeatedly shown to make MPs more loyal to their specific ideological commitments and less willing to compromise, not vice versa. It seems unlikely, to say the least, that these groups would give up what they have fought for so hard and for so long on the basis of arbitrary advice from a small group of ordinary people.

Not only is it unclear whether anything would be gained from the time-consuming use of a citizens’ assembly, but it is likely that it would make things considerably worse. Stewart and others have insisted that a citizens’ assembly is the height of pragmatism, and that compromise can be reached on issues as contentious as Brexit if only we could sit down and talk about them.

This is a naïve view, to put it kindly. The question of the UK’s relationship with the EU has been top of the political agenda in this country for at least four years now. Over time, the positions have hardened, and the trenches deepened. Now, Nigel Farage and his merry band of populists – who enjoy the heartfelt sympathy of a sizeable wing of the Conservative Party, hence their recent electoral success – have decided that anything other than a No Deal Brexit and a clean break with the EU would be a betrayal of democracy.

Meanwhile, those on the other side of the argument have also become more confident in their political sentiments. The Remainers made the transition from pushing for a soft Brexit to calling for a second referendum and are currently in the process of moving from a referendum position to a full-on, no-holds-barred Remain stance. That has resulted in a bizarre mangling of messages, such as Change UK representatives saying they “stands unequivocally for a People’s Vote and remaining in the EU”, implying that they miraculously already know what the result of a second referendum would be.

There is a true stalemate between the ideological extremes of the debate. The Faragist No Dealers will not consent to anything less than a hard Brexit, and the Remainers are unwilling to countenance any kind of Brexit. The idea that they could converge on a mutually acceptable soft Brexit of some kind is extremely fanciful, and the notion of Parliament rolling over on that basis alone is quixotic.

These three proposals – a general election, proroguing Parliament and a citizens’ assembly – are all ultimately attempts to avoid the will of Parliament. Change the MPs, ignore the MPs, or force the MPs to change their minds. These plans, in addition to being entirely unfeasible, represent a reluctance to engage with the issues directly, opting instead to tactfully dodge them, or close our eyes, cross our fingers and hope they go away.

There are other ideas, of course. Matt Hancock has proposed essentially drowning Parliament in bureaucracy and trying to bluff his colleagues in the Commons into completely reversing their positions. He plans to address profound and widespread concerns about the Irish border by setting up an Irish Border Council. He has chosen, though – judiciously, one might say – not to explain what power this body would have or what difference it could make, choosing instead to gesture vaguely at the technology industry and then phlegmatically move on to another issue.

Michael Gove has indicated that he would be inclined to request yet another extension to the Brexit deadline if renegotiation attempts are unsuccessful. This is despite the fact that Brussels has stated repeatedly that there is no renegotiation to be done, now or ever. This approach, therefore, opens the door to indefinite Brexit delays, chipping away at confidence and prolonging the crippling uncertainty that has gripped the British economy for what seems like an eternity. Surely, there is only a finite amount of road down which this particular can may be kicked.

On the one hand, where we will be in a few months’ time is anyone’s guess. On the other, it is hard to see how we could end up anywhere other than exactly where we are at the moment. British politics has hit a roadblock the size of Russia, and there does not appear to be a viable solution. We are stuck in something between Groundhog Day and 127 Hours, except that no one can agree which arm we should cut off.

Beaver (feature): A Look Into Three Strikes

Climate strikes earlier this month were not the first time students in London have become involved in political activism by taking to the streets.

This feature article was first published in The Beaver.

Earlier this month, hundreds of LSE students took to the streets in central London as part of the international climate protests movement. In tandem with students around the world, the protesters marched through Westminster to make a point about the importance of policy addressing climate change.

This was, however, far from the first time that movements of this kind have picked up speed in and around the LSE. Back in the 20th century, students protested not on climate issues, but war. On 17 March 1968, a demonstration in Grosvenor Square led by students from across London sought to make young people’s feelings known about the conflict and casualties in Vietnam at the time.

The students wanted their voices to be heard about the havoc being wreaked in Vietnam by American troops, and in particular about the support provided by the British authorities. The protest has since become infamous because of the catastrophes that ensued. The mood at the march was described by people who were there as “good humoured” – that is, until it reached the US Embassy building.

An estimated 10,000 protesters marched through Grosvenor Square, with the area surrounded by hundreds of police. Tensions began to rise as some of the students broke through the police ranks and made their way onto the lawn of the embassy. The police reacted forcefully; stones, firecrackers and smoke bombs were thrown. All in all, over 200 people were arrested, with 86 injured and around 50 rushed to hospital.

More recently, 30 November 2010 saw students protest in central London about tuition fees. The students had planned to march from Trafalgar Square towards the Houses of Parliament, but preemptive police action blocked their route. Before long, clashes ensued, and over 150 protesters were arrested.

Information is still emerging about the most recent climate strikes, but they seem to have been the most peaceful of the three.

Beaver (feature): Campus Is Abuzz With Exams Talk As LSE Clarifies Its Assessment Regulations

The LSE has announced that first-year undergraduate students will have access to in-year exam resists for the first time in 2019.

This feature article was first published in The Beaver.

This week saw the long-anticipated release of the LSE exam timetable for summer 2019. The full timetable of exams for all subjects is now available on the LSE website.

However, this renewed talk of exams has reignited some concerns about the way the LSE regulates its assessment procedures, with drawbacks of the system being highlighted and fears expressed.

For instance, at the LSE, if an exam is passed, it is not possible to retake it under any circumstance including mental health or personal circumstance. This means that students may be stuck with a low pass grade even if capable of a higher result and are willing to resit the exam in question.

An LSE spokesperson confirmed this: “The School’s General Academic Regulations outline that it is not possible for students to resit an assessment they have passed as this would harm the academic integrity of the School’s awards.”

The spokesperson also highlighted the extra provisions made by the LSE where necessary: “We have a ‘fit to sit’ and exceptional circumstances policy to ensure students do not attempt assessments when they are not well enough to do so.

We also provide academic and pastoral support within Departments and across the School to provide students with advice and guidance.”

Another common concern among students surrounds contesting the marks given to summative assessments. Since these results often count towards the final degree classification, students are keen to ensure that their marks are fair and accurate.

An LSE spokesperson said: “LSE has robust marking practices and an External Examiner system to ensure our marks are safe and accurate.

However, LSE’s appeal regulations allow students to challenge individual summative marks when they believe there has been a procedural defect. It may also be possible to request an administrative mark check.”

The LSE is keen to reassure students about their rights in exam procedures, and emphasise its confidence in the integrity of its assessments:

“LSE is committed to reviewing its regulations and listening to student feedback through liaison with the Students’ Union, input from Student Representatives, and the student community more broadly.

For example, as a result of student feedback, in-year resits will be available for first year undergraduates in 2018/2019, with further roll-out from the 2019/2020 academic year.

Information has already been provided online for students who have received provisional results for January exams, and we will continue to support all students with their assessments through advice and guidance across the academic year and beyond.”