All aboard the rollercoaster

A Prime Minister with no mandate intends to shut down Parliament to pursue a reckless agenda which could lead to food and medicine shortages. He threatens to end the careers of anyone on his side who defies him.

No, not the plot of some fanciful work of fiction I read on holiday. Quite possibly the plot of a film in a few years time.

There is a surreal feeling about what’s happening at the moment. A colleague of mine commented when we heard that Conservative MPs were being summoned to the garden of Downing Street that some of the rebels may not be allowed to leave.

An emergency debate today will lead to a Bill being introduced by the opposition tomorrow. That bill will compel the PM to ask for an extension to Article 50 to the end of January. If the European Council ask for it to be to a different date, MPs will have the chance to accept or reject that date.

Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats, have been heavily involved in planning over the Summer.  Our aim is ultimately to stop Brexit by means of a People’s Vote. That is something that was supported by 280 MPs the last time it was debated.

Boris Johnson knows that there is a good chance that this legislation will pass. It was pretty extraordinary to see Michael Gove refuse to confirm that the Government would abide by this new law.

Last night’s ultimatum, when he threw a general election into the mix, looks like it may not succeed. The only way an election can be called is if Labour votes for it and it looks from what their people are saying that they will resist that, at least in the short term. My worry is that an election called for 14th could be delayed to 31st once Parliament is dissolved, when it’s too late to do anything to avert no deal, by a Prime Minister who is  not exactly known for keeping his word.

This is a hugely anxious time for anyone with a liberal mindset. A government taking an increasingly authoritarian, anti-democratic course needs to be stopped. Every vote is going to shred our nerves and send our blood pressure through the roof. A longer term objective surely has to be to end the 15 minutes of drama that goes along with every Commons vote. Pressing a button would end that agony.

As far as an election is concerned, I don’t actually agree with Tony Blair that it would necessarily result in a Conservative majority. His win in 1997 came from a place of people voting to get rid of the Tories in their area. The SNP in Scotland in 2015 and Justin Trudeau in Canada showed that first past the post can bring about a tidal wave for a party that captures the mood of the nation. Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats, with a strong message on stopping Brexit and standing up for this country’s liberal values could do the same thing. When the alternatives are so extreme, a young, competent, confident, engaging woman could save our nation from disaster. And if anyone can do it, it’s Jo Swinson.

In every interview she does, her determination, confidence and ambition for party and country come through. If there is an election we will be looking for seats in the hundreds, not tens. There needs to be a lot of Lib Dem MPs to actually stop Brexit. I’m more than up for doing everything I can to bring that about.

Strap yourself in – the drama intensifies from now on in and it’s going to be quite a ride.

 

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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39 Comments

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Sep '19 - 9:03am

    “Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats, with a strong message on stopping Brexit and standing up for this country’s liberal values could do the same thing. When the alternatives are so extreme, a young, competent, confident, engaging woman could save our nation from disaster. And if anyone can do it, it’s Jo Swinson.”

    This is true. But it requires cute campaigning/positioning and a very different approach to targeting.

    You have to fight one flank at a time in elections. And the flank you fight is not always the most obvious. At this moment in time we have to fight our competitors not our opponents.

    We have to become in the eyes of the nations of the UK the undisputed champion of the anti-Brexit cause. Our main competitor in this is Labour. Our main message is that you can’t trust Labour to oppose Brexit. We must do that at every possible moment. We must never get on the blind side of Labour. We must never waste a change to tickle up people’s deep anxiety about Labour/Corbyn on EU membership.

    Much on actions and messaging follows from this.

    At least since the arrival of Jo we are prepared to go for 200+ seats. Now we must mean that and be cute in letting a thousand Liberal Democrat flowers bloom.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Sep '19 - 10:06am

    Bill le Breton 3rd Sep ’19 – 9:03am “You have to fight one flank at a time in elections.”
    With respect Bill that may be true of our party, it might even be true of Labour if they publish their policies and adhere to their manifesto, but it was not true of the Tories in 2015. ISBN9781847924056 Burgemeester in Oorlog

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Sep '19 - 10:09am

    We should also remember the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.
    Cummings told his team of campaigners that it did not matter.
    This is the man who is now advising Boris Johnson.

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Sep '19 - 10:19am

    Richard, in fact 2015 was a classic example of the Tories taking care of one flank first. Which is why Paddy and others didn’t see our destruction as a player.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 3rd Sep '19 - 10:45am

    Just one question. What plans have been put in place in case the EU 27 refuse an extension?

  • Andrew Toye 3rd Sep '19 - 10:49am

    A general election in October will almost certainly snuff out the prospect of stopping a Brexit crash-out, even if it were held (as suggested) on 14th. (By the way that’s a Monday and parliamentary elections since WW2 have all been on Thursdays). Following an election, there is a period of about 2-3 weeks to register newly-elected MPs, elect a Speaker, receive a Queen’s Speech, and vote on its contents – which would take us to (or beyond) 31st October. That’s the “elephant trap” that Corbyn is being urged to resist. The bill to delay Brexit may pass its initial stages, but Parliament can be prorogued as early as next Monday.

  • John Marriott 3rd Sep '19 - 11:51am

    As Chicago sang; “Everybody needs a little time away”. Caron has obviously benefitted from her break. This article of hers makes a lot of sense. Her take on an imminent GE is largely mine as well. It might be like a red rag to a bull; but a GE needs to be resisted at the moment. The situation is far too serious for individuals, such as Mr le Breton, to indulge in party politics and ‘one upmanship’. That’s for later.

    Now the ‘however’. It’s the idea of stopping Brexit “by means of a People’s Vote” that worries me. You see, I am not convinced that, despite what recent opinion polls say, there has been a massive shift from Leave to Remain, certainly as far as England is concerned. Given a choice I would of course wish to stay in; but I have always classed myself as a pragmatic remainer (better inside the tent etc.). I am not a fan of federalism as far as the continent of Europe is concerned. The only federalism that excites me is one that is confined to theses shores.

    What I remember of the 2016 Referendum above all was Clegg’s answer to the question from the audience about how he thought the EU would be in ten years’ time. “About the same”, for me at least, just about summed up why Leave came out on top, or rather, why it ended up as the largest minority.

    So, if the party really is going to nail all its colours to the Anti Brexit mast it really has got to stop painting the EU as some kind of utopia and start to fess up to its flaws. ‘Remain and Reform’ is a slogan I have heard used occasionally; but not often enough. Let’s start with ‘Free Movement of People’. What’s wrong with ‘Free Movement of LABOUR’? How about closing down the Strasbourg parliament and concentrating on relatively neutral Brussels? How about attempting to sign off the EU budget now and again? If you are going to pool your military capabilities, do it through NATO. After all, Trump won’t be there forever. You get the idea.

    So, if we do get to vote again, how about a campaign slogan that starts with something like “Let’s reform the EU” rather than “Let’s remain in the EU”?

  • Three cheers for Bill Le Breton (words I never thought I’d write).

    He really does get it. We have to mop up ALL the Liberals, from centre left and centre right. Then we become the only game in town.

  • Bill le Breton,

    I hope the party will not follow your advice, my fear is that it will.

    Nationally I would hope the campaign would be like the European elections, with us saying we want to stay in the EU, we will give the people a referendum on a deal and staying-in, that no deal will be really bad and it will take much longer to make a deal later with the EU, and point out that Labour want their own form of Brexit. We have to attack the government and its no deal madness; most of our target seats will be Conservative held ones. Our message to Labour voters should be we have better economic polices than the Labour Party; that we will grow the economy by about 3% a year each and every year, that we will build at least 300,000 new homes a year of which at least 100,000 will be new social homes and that with our Rebalancing Fund we will bring economic growth and prosperity to all the regions and nations of the UK; and we will reverse all the benefit cuts since 2010. Locally we can point out why people should vote for us rather than Labour.

    If we attack Corbyn and say that the Labour Party are extreme those voters who might vote for us will vote Conservative to ensure Labour do not form any part of a new government as they did in 2015.

  • Paul Barker 3rd Sep '19 - 1:49pm

    The first point to make is that we should stop talking about possible shortages of Medicines, the shortages are happening Now, Pharmacies are already running out of vital Drugs.
    This Autumns Flu Vaccine is already delayed & shortages are likely.
    The Economy is already slipping into recession, The Pound is already hitting All-time lows, Property prices have been falling for Months.
    These things aren’t threats for the Future, they are here, Now.

    In any Election, there are 2 keys to our success :
    1st a short, clear message – Stop Brexit. We must be explicit that a Vote for The LibDems is a Vote to Revoke Article 50 & end Brexit.
    2nd, we should reach out to everyone who wants to stop the drift to Extremism & Division. We should be trying to build the broadest possible Electoral Coalition.

  • Dennis Wake 3rd Sep '19 - 1:58pm

    After 1918 the Labour party came to power by seeking to destroy the Liberals and succeeded. Putting up candidates in hopeless rural seats who took enough votes to ensure the Liberals lost etc which they still do now. We should not paint them as extreme but out of date with policies which are no longer relevant. Unfortunately there does not seem to be much evidence of our party having relevant policies but the usual obsessions with minority interests such as railways which are used for a tiny percentage of journeys outside London and the South East.

  • Bobby Copper 3rd Sep '19 - 2:04pm

    Richard Underhill

    We should also remember the murders of Tory MPs Airey Neave, Anthony Berry & Ian Gow plus that of Ulster Unionist Robert Bradford

    The man who is now effectively No 2 in the Labour Party praised the gunmen and bombers who killed them

    Brexit is important but common decency even more so. There can be no commone cause with a Labour Party led by Corbyn and McDonnell

  • Will be an interesting campaign.

    Swinson will have to spend a lot of time in her own seat just to try and hold it with an SNP surge widely predicted. I hope the LD’s have a plan for that.

  • @ Dennis Wake “After 1918 the Labour party came to power by seeking to destroy the Liberals and succeeded.”

    How very naughty of the Labour Party to decide to take part in the (sort of) democratic electoral process in 1918, Dennis, albeit with just over 300 candidates (less than half the seats).

    In fact it can be more accurately argued that after 1918 (and before) the Liberal Party and it’s leaderships had already begun to destroy itself by internal division and its own illiberal decisions when in (in one form or another) some sort of government. It left a vacuum waiting to be filled…. and of course many ex Liberal M.P.s decided to join Labour.

  • Dennis Wake 3rd Sep '19 - 2:52pm

    David Raw:
    I was not criticising Labour and the Liberals were the authors of their own misfortune. The process started in 1918 and continued in 1922, 1923, 1924 etc with growing numbers of candidates despite the huge deposit in today’s money. I meant we should not be embarrased to follow their lesson in gaining power.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Sep '19 - 3:01pm

    Bobby Copper 3rd Sep ’19 – 2:04pm
    Murder is murder.
    Professor John Curtice was on BBC tv News at about 14.30 today 3/2/19. Inter alia he said that there have been recent opinion polls in Northern Ireland and consequentially Alliance may get one MP, or maybe up to three in a general election (first past the post). John Curtice did not name the three seats and coverage was brief, but the Alliance leader Naomi Long was previously elected as MP for Belfast East, defeating the then DUP leader Peter Robinson. In 2019 she was elected as one of three MEPs for the whole of Northern Ireland in an STV election.
    Blessed are the peacemakers.
    Alliance also did well in local elections (in another thread).

  • @Graham Martin-Royle Just one question. What plans have been put in place in case the EU 27 refuse an extension?
    Well firstly, this will play into Boris/Cummings hands as they will play this hard as the EU being unreasonable etc.and so encourage them to ignore Parliament – there wasn’t time to consult Parliament, it was an emergency, so only needed the war Cabinet to consent…
    But if Parliament does play its cards right then the obvious card to play is to revoke our Art.50 Notice. I’m sure Boris/Cummings/Mogg can come up with some form of words that satisfies the EU27, yet leaves the door open to a future invocation of Art.50.

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Sep '19 - 5:08pm

    Puzzling reaction.

    I should have thought it obvious that the more Lib Dems in the next Parliament the more chance of stopping Brexit.

    The Tories won’t give you that. Nor will Labour.

    Politics is about concentrating the message and targeting the message. People have one vote in the next election. They will either use it to vote for a pro Brexit Party or an Anti-Brexit Party.

    What is best for Liberal Democracy is if as many as possible use their anti-Brexit vote to elect Lib Dems and as near an equality of people intending to vote Brexit vote Tory or TBP ie the Brexit vote is halved and the anti-Brexit vote is concentrated on us.

    If you want to sacrifice the best chance we have of avoiding being a rump in someone else’s minority administration, then, you are probably right

  • Allan Brame 3rd Sep '19 - 5:41pm

    John Marriott: “What I remember of the 2016 Referendum above all was Clegg’s answer to the question from the audience about how he thought the EU would be in ten years’ time. “About the same”, for me at least, just about summed up why Leave came out on top, or rather, why it ended up as the largest minority.”

    I have seen this point made several times. Nick Clegg might have expressed himself more happily, but surely the point he was making was to counter the Leave claims that we were about to form an EU super state and that such scaremongering was nonsense

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Sep '19 - 5:49pm

    John Marriott. If you’re going to criticise the EU at least get your facts right. The EU budget has always been signed off. You should stop believing the myths created by the anti EU press.
    John Major agreed to the Strasburg meetings (in order to get some sleep so it was said at the time). I believe it is in one or other of the treaties. ALDE have campaigned to abolish the two EU Parliament meeting places, but it will have to be agreed and France will be against it.
    What’s wrong with Free Movement? It applies to ALL EU citizens including the millions of Brits who work in other parts of Europe. The way you write it would seem you think it’s all one way into the UK.
    There really are too many lies about the EU regularly trotted out on LDV. The biggest is about federalism. That can only happen with the unanimous agreement of all EU members, all of whom have a veto on treaty change. The second is that the UK “will not be allowed to use the veto”. It has and would continue to be able to do so if it remains in.
    So yes, ALDE does use the slogan reform the EU and if our erstwhile leader had ever bothered to talk to our sister parties, he would never have given the crass answer he gave in the debate with Farage. [He actually spent much of his energy trying to stop Guy Verhofstedt being our Spitzenkandidat even after his rival had withdrawn, thus losing Guy’s formidable campaigning ability in the 2014 Euro poll.]
    Of course the EU needs reform. In some areas it needs to do less and in others it needs to do more. That’s what subsidiarity is about.
    Most of the causes of Brexit are nothing to do with the EU, but rest fairly and squarely in the UK government’s court. Austerity, poor housing, homelessness, poverty, politics that ignores ordinary people, power structures that leave out the people affected, voting systems that give unrepresentative results are all things which the UK government can do something about. Our party has policies on all these issues, but whether we are in or out of the EU will make no difference to tackling them.

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Sep '19 - 5:51pm

    Bill Le Breton. Johnson does not have a veto on the terms of UK exit. The UK is not in the room when Brexit is discussed, only the 27.

  • John Marriott 3rd Sep '19 - 6:25pm

    @Allan Brame
    I remember that Farage debate well and Clegg’s body language in reaction to the question. It was clear to me then that the idea of questioning the EU had never crossed his mind, nor, for that matter, that of most of the chief Remainers. You see, as an EU pragmatist, I don’t want the status quo, I want a common market, which is largely what my generation voted for in 1975, in other words a watered down version of what we have now. Yes, I knew what ‘pooling of sovereignty’ meant; but remember the size of the EEC back then at the height of the Cold War. Look at the EU today. It’s a very different animal and that was what Clegg was either unwilling or incapable of acknowledging.

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Sep '19 - 6:35pm

    Mick, it is a joke really but Britain is still a member of the European Council and I think could vote on this issue.

  • Dilettante Eye 3rd Sep '19 - 8:37pm

    Bill le Breton has made a very valid technical point which has clearly gone over the heads of some?

    If this ‘rogue’ legislation goes through which requires (forces), Boris to ask for an extension, it is perfectly possible (and legal), whereby he can go to the EU and say:

    a) Parliament has instructed me to ask for an extension to Article 50, but…

    b) As the executive of the UK which is still the 28th member with a legal veto on that request, I on behalf of the UK reject the UK request and proposal at the EU level to extend the request for an extension of A50.

    This means that he will have completed his legal duty to ask for the A50 extension, but with his veto as the 28th member, has auto rejected that very same request irrespective of how the other 27 vote.

    Takes a while to sink in and on one level it sounds quite mad, but it would be legal for the executive of the 28th EU member to refuse the extension request, which the UK parliament forced him to ask for?

    Whatever you think, be under no illusion, we have come too far now to let this freedom go, and I promise you that you will never get ‘leave’ back into its unwanted and unasked for EU box. For the British, the EU is now very much history.

  • Bill le Breton and Dilettante Eye,

    Article 50 states,

    “3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
    4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.
    A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238 (3) (b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union”.

    It is clear that because of paragraph 4 the UK does not have a veto, because we are excluded from the European Council when discussing Brexit.

  • Nom de Plume 3rd Sep '19 - 9:43pm

    @ Bill le Breton and Dilettante Eye

    Even if it were possible, it would mean that the Government was actively seeking a no deal Brexit. Neither parliament nor the EU would be responsible. The responsibility for the breakdown of negotiations and the subsequent consequences would lie 100% with the UK Government. Shifting the blame would be a lot more difficult.

  • Dilettante Eye 3rd Sep '19 - 9:49pm

    Michael BG

    “…in agreement with the Member State concerned”

    But what if the very executive (Boris), of ‘the Member State concerned’, doesn’t agree to the request for an extension of Article 50, which parliament forced his to ask for?

    We are still a member of the EU until the date we leave, and thus have a veto, because there is as yet no withdrawal agreement which negates our veto?

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Sep '19 - 10:05pm

    Government Ministers have said that they will obey the law, which might be passed tomorrow, Wednesday 4/3/19, these include Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Rees-Mogg.

  • David Allen 3rd Sep '19 - 11:58pm

    If Labour think it is good enough to get the Extension Bill passed, and once that has happened, to vote to allow Johnson to hold an election, they will still be caught in Johnson’s elephant trap.

    Johnson can then call an election for October 14th, and campaign on a promise to repeal the Extension Bill, forthwith. If he wins, he can push through No Deal Brexit on October 31st, and get five years in power as well.

    With that promise, he can scupper the Brexit Party and hoover up all their votes. On the other side, Labour and the Lib Dems can fight to a standstill, win a majority of votes, and a minority of seats.

    Labour need to box cleverer than that. I’m not sure they have the cleverness. But if they don’t, they’ll lose badly. We will also lose. We’ll get 50 seats but we’ll lost Europe. Not a good exchange.

  • David Allen 4th Sep '19 - 12:08am

    “Our main message is that you can’t trust Labour to oppose Brexit.”

    No! No! No!

    Of course we are the only major all-UK party which unrquivocally opposes Brexit. That can and should be said. But it cannot be our main message.

    What the nation wants to decide is whether to cheer on Johnson’s subversion of democracy and his No Deal Brexit, or put a stop to it.

    Labour will say that the Lib Dems cannot be trusted. They will say that the Lib Dems helped the Tories recently and that they could do it again. They will say that only Labour can be trusted to fight Johnson’s coup. If we declare that Labour are our main enemy, we will give credence to Labour when they lay that charge against us.

    Instead we must declare that we will do whatever it takes to stop No Deal Brexit. Corbyn may not be the perfect democrat, but Johnson puts him in the shade when it comes to lawlessness and lies. Our main message must be that Johnson and No Deal Brexit are our enemies.

  • Dilettante Eye,

    Article 50 states that the member state leaving has to do so in accordance with its own constitutional requirements (paragraph 1 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A12012M050).

    Therefore the position of the member state is not the position of the executive, but the position of the country as set out in its laws.

    You haven’t read paragraph 4 correctly. Paragraph 4 states that the country leaving shall not participate in the decision of the European Council on all issues regarding our leaving. It means that we are not included in its membership and its unanimous decision making process with regards to the EU’s position on extending Article 50.

  • Peter Hirst 6th Sep '19 - 6:22pm

    While it’s high drama and at least a possibility that Brexit can be halted, it dismays me that for three years we have indulged ourselves with a contest that though important is not the sole reason for electing our MPs. We will not see the full implications whatever the final result for many years. We cannot afford to devote so long to one decision again and need a proper constitution that prevents it.

  • I am at a loss as to what good this law is supposed to achieve. Boris is forced to go to the EU and declare he does not want an extension, hopes that one of the 27 will veto one anyway and that he is being forced to ask by a set of MPs many of whom won’t survive the imminent election, a fact they recognise very well because they are opposed to one.
    Do we expect a remain landslide ? I like many other voters, detest Johnson but fear Corbyn more. A dreadful situation but a Libdem vote risks getting me a govt whose leader has spent years praising Fidel Castro and Maduro.

  • Geoffrey Dron 6th Sep '19 - 7:08pm

    @Hard Rain – as far as I can see, having looked at the Remain Us poll, the only beneficiary from a November GE (post-extension) would be Labour. LibDems would gain nothing from holding on.

    Alternatively we’d be risking a BoJo-Farage pact which would, if victorious, impose a no deal exit.

    Better an Oct 15th GE.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Sep '19 - 7:20pm

    Hard Rain: Corbyn has absolutely no chance of becoming PM, except in the extremely unlikely event of Labour winning an overall majority under his leadership. Under no circumstances will Lib Dems help him into No. 10, and on current polling they probably won’t need to, as they could be 2nd in terms of seats.

  • Geoffrey Dron 6th Sep '19 - 7:22pm

    Sorry ‘Represent us’ poll

  • Re: GE
    I don’t see any benefit in holding a GE before Brexit is resolved one way or another, as until then we can expect parties, specifically Bexiteers, to treat any GE as a pseudo-referendum, so don’t expect the campaigns to be honest. In fact holding a GE, probably just digs the hole deeper…

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