LibLink: Christine Jardine: The country cannot afford a Summer of Brexit discontent

Edinburgh West MP Christine Jardine has set out some thoughts on our strategy as we respond to the total mess that the Tories are making of the Brexit negotiations.

In an article for the Times Red Box (£), she sets the scene:

The internal squabbling of our chancellor, foreign secretary, and Brexit secretary — to name just a few of the clowns at play — is making the chances of a poor deal for the UK, or a catastrophic failure to get a deal at all, all the more likely.

Instead of knuckling down and approaching negotiations with a seriousness befitting the task, Davis has so far shown up to a photo-op without even pretending to have the necessary papers and briefings, then taking the first Eurostar home. No doubt heading straight back to the journalists to criticise his leader. It rather undermines the negotiation of critical issues like EU citizens’ rights, a solution for Northern Ireland and the UK’s debt to the EU when your so-called chief negotiator would rather be at home leaking cabinet papers.

But this is all part of a hard hearted strategy. She thinks that they are trying to create such a bad atmosphere that in a year’s time, they walk way blaming the EU for the failure.

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The sixties

I just visited an amazing exhibition in Montreal at La Musee de Beaux Arts, entitled ‘Revolution’, all about the sixties, when I was a teenager. The revolution in question was the change in art, ideas, politics, power, dress, music etc etc that occurred in the late 1960s, which culminated in the 1968 student riots, Expo ’67 in Montreal and Woodstock.

Many people today, especially young people it seems, criticise the sixties as a time of fantasy, forgetting what life had been like before the so-called swinging sixties. Before the sixties, (male) homosexuality was illegal, women were second class citizens, treated as appendages of their husbands especially in regard to finance, people were hanged for murder, computers and the internet were non-existent, books, plays and films were rigorously censored and non-white people were subject to overt harassment and discrimination. Who can forget the prosecution of the publishers of Lady Chatterly’s Lover – the book the prosecutor said you would not want your wives or servants to read! Or the shocking Tory campaign in Smethick in 1964, when the Labour MP Patrick Gordon-Walker lost his seat to a campaign of ‘If you want a ******* for a neighbour, vote Labour’.

During the sixties, homosexual acts between consenting adults in private were made legal, the Race Relations Act outlawed much discrimination based on colour or race, hanging was abolished, abortion was legalised up to 28 weeks and the voting age was reduced to 18.

The sixties saw an unprecedented revolution in fashion in which the UK through designers like Mary Quant and the Carnaby Street shops changed clothing forever from the somewhat staid post war styles to the modern ever changing fashions of today. The Women’s Liberation Movement started demanding equal rights for women and the end of patriarchy, which, in Britain, eventually led to the Sexual Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act in 1975.

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How do we measure the evolving will of the people?

The 2017 Liberal Democrat manifesto boldly sets out in section 1.1 the intention to hold a second referendum on EU membership (or indeed, a first vote on the Brexit deal). As a LibDem supporter and remainer in an area which voted 70% to leave, I was simultaneously pleased and worried at the announcement.

When asked by Nick Robinson on the BBC Question Time Leaders Special about the second referendum, Tim Farron made it clear that the result of the referendum is respected, though the people ‘didn’t vote for destination’. Whether true or not, I believe that the type of Brexit that the majority of people voted for needs ratifying in some way, which one could argue a second referendum could allow.

But much more importantly, the question of overturning Brexit, in my opinion is entirely reliant on a second referendum. Polly Toynbee wrote an insightful and interesting piece for the Guardian a few days ago. She argues that a second referendum is naturally divisive, and that an ‘indefinite limbo’ could be ‘the least worst option’.  Whilst I entirely agree that referenda are by their very nature divisive, particularly close ones, I disagree with the idea of a second referendum being wrong. I believe that Brexit can only be overturned by the will of the people to avoid the potential backlash over the perception that the ‘political elite’ have ignored people who feel long-forgotten by the system. The only means to avoid the backlash is to allow the will of the people to overturn the will of the people.

However, whether there is a taste for it is unclear, and what it would take for the minority Conservative government to call one is undetermined. Opinion Polls are famously unreliable at the present. One can pick and choose an opinion poll based on their opinion on a second referendum. For example, YouGov suggest that the support for a second referendum sits at 31%, whilst against sits at 58%. Conversely, Opinium suggests that the support for a second referendum is growing, now sitting at 41% compared to against at 48%. 

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Observations of an ex pat: Crooked or incompetent?

Is the Trump team totally incompetent or crooked? Is it perhaps a combination of the two or an unappealing variation on the political spectrum?

For despite the never-ending stream of White House protestations and presidential tweets, not all of President Trump’s problems are the result of a witch hunt of historic proportions orchestrated by  the Democrats, the liberals, “ the dishonest media,” immigrants, refugees, Muslims, “so-called judges”,  turncoat Republicans, Chinese currency manipulators, Angela Merkel, Mexicans and Canadians.

Next week we may start to learn the answer to the questions posed. It is a major week for the Trump Administration.  Three big names from the Trump campaign—Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort – are all appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the Russian hacking scandal.

A bit of background for anyone who has been living at the bottom of a mile-deep Tibetan cave for the past month.  Donald Junior—after initially denying he had met with any Russians—published a string of emails which revealed that in the depths of the presidential campaign he was keen to meet with a Russian lawyer who could dish the dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The White House made much of the fact that Trump Junior released the  correspondence rather than having  it  revealed by someone else. Little was made of the fact that he made public  the emails after the New York Times said they were going to publish them.

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Vince’s manifesto shows just how far Tim took us

When Tim Farron stood for the leadership two years ago, his winning manifesto was quite internally focused. It had to be. We’d just had what could have been a mortal blow from the electorate. We were all in shock, devastated at the psychological impact of the loss of so many of our heartlands.

We knew we had to pick ourselves up, but in those early weeks, every time we tried to get ourselves off the floor, we couldn’t quite manage it. Then along came Tim with a jolt of electricity, a motivational message that energised us and got us going again. A lot of his manifesto was internally focused – about picking a ward and winning it, about tackling diversity, about how he’d make decisions in the party (with a diverse group of people in the room), and about having a festival of ideas. It was a time of innovation when newbies developed initiatives like Lib Dem Pint and Your Liberal Britain. But it was mainly internal.

Tim has left us in better shape and grew the size of the parliamentary party in an incredibly difficult election for us.

Vince’s manifesto is much more outward looking. He doesn’t really talk about internal stuff at all. It’s all about our positioning to the world.

He uses language about being ambitious for party and country that reminds me of Willie Rennie’s optimistic campaign in Scotland where we won two seats from the SNP. Where we could get that message out in sufficient volume, people liked it. It was full of heart and authenticity and optimism. People want something to look forward to.

Vince concentrates on five policy areas:

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Vince takes the stage with a strong “Exit from Brexit” line

Vince is not our almost leader any more. Just after 4pm, Sal Brinton announced that there had only been one nomination received and therefore he was our actual leader.

Having one of the country’s most credible and authoritative experts on the economy at a time when the economy is at risk is no bad thing.

We will certainly see a change in style from Vince. He won’t be as Tiggerish as Tim, but he’ll fight the recklessness of the Tories and Labour and promote our Liberal Democrat values with energy and optimism.

Vince has huge intelligence, a way of telling it like it is that makes sense to people and a wicked sense of humour. I feel much more optimistic than I did on 9th June that we can actually get somewhere.

Watch this afternoon’s proceedings here. You can see speeches from Sal, Tim, Jo and Vince.  Some key points from Vince’s speech are below.

There is a huge gap in the centre of British politics and I intend to fill it. As the only party committed to staying in the single market and customs union, the Liberal Democrats are alone in fighting to protect our economy. It will soon become clear that the government can’t deliver the painless Brexit it promised. So, we need to prepare for an exit from Brexit.

Theresa May wants to take Britain back to the 1950s while Jeremy Corbyn wants to take Britain back to the 1970s. I will offer an optimistic, alternative agenda to power the country into the 2020s and beyond.

We have a government that can’t govern and an opposition that can’t oppose. Labour and the Conservatives have formed a grand coalition of chaos, driving through a hard Brexit which would deliver a massive blow to living standards.

Both parties have abandoned mainstream economics. I want to put economics back centre stage.

Under my leadership the Liberal Democrats will be at the centre of political life: a credible, effective party of national government.

We have doubled our membership and our new members have given the party enormous energy. I want to give leadership to that energy, hitting the headlines and putting our party at the centre of the national debate.

 

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My message to liberal Tories: join us

During the General Election campaign I found myself in an interesting position. Standing as the candidate for the most liberal, pro-EU party, I found myself against an incumbent MP who spent a lot of time talking about his enthusiasm for Europe. He also spoke often of the need for ‘liberal pluralism’ and his enthusiasm for a change to the voting system.

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