May Survives, Sort Of

May beats back a leadership no confidence vote 200-117 and the reaction is mixed. That’s one more vote than she got to ascend in the first place (from a larger parliamentary party). She’s now immune to a leadership challenge for a year (though her government could face a vote of no confidence).

It was a weird thing. It gave us very little new information either about the preferences of the Tory MPs or about what will happen next.

I mean that a third of the MPs would vote against the PM is, in normal times, rather surprising but it’s not like it hasn’t been clear that a big chunk of the MPs dislike her and her direction. The main reason the earlier threats didn’t materialize is the correct calculation that the Tories literally have no alternative. There are plenty who would like to take over but they are clearly far far worse than May in basic competence.

I think Jacob Rees-Mogg miscalculated. This seems more design to give her the defeat she avoided by posponing the deal vote. And who knows, maybe he’ll win the spin war. But substantively, he wasn’t remotely close.

Moreover, it was an even worse look for the Tories (and given that we’re in a month that saw the government found in contempt and a last minute critical vote delay, that’s saying something). I’m not sure why May is acting so wimpy: it would seem that going on the offensive against these schmoes would be wise. Of course, they could cause her government to fall but so what? The gain is worth the risk. Attack these guys as fantasists and saboteurs. It has the advantage of being true and it might weaken them enough that she could make some sort of progress.

The Brexit brigade really needs to be destroyed. Like the Republicans, they are complete lying vandals. Unfortunately, they are secure enough right now that they can keep wrecking for quite some time.

All the more reason to take them on instead of fruitlessly trying to win them over.


Brexit Is Getting Nuttier

I knew…knew…that the end days of the Article 50 period was going to be eventful. I also knew that the particular shape of those events would be hard to anticipate and I didn’t put effort in trying to anticipate the madness.

But I am feeling a little shellshocked.

I’m still confused at how to assess May’s performance. She had a very tough hand and I’m willing to, for some purposes, to spot her the bonkers Article 50 notification. That’s seemed inevitable.

But the government’s continual ham fisted power grabs is really disturbing. The two big bookending ones were trying to control Article 50 notification without Parliament and being in contempt of Parliament over releasing their legal advice.

In both cases, it was a super dumb move for no real gain or really any gain at all. Article 50 notification passed overwhelmingly so why even make it an issue. The legal advice thing wasn’t remotely sensible: the marginal effect of having the government’s legal advice point out that the backstop is a backstop for real is zero. We all knew this!

On the other hand, that she got to a EU endorsed deal at all m, with that cabinet is pretty improbable. It will be very interesting to read accounts by the negotiators if they eventually comes out.

Technicalities For Me, Not Thee

The Brexit Referendum was explicitly advisory and won with a relatively small (though solid…it wasn’t razor thin) majority. There were shennanigans and questionable aspects on who got to vote. There were lies and illegalities.

Yet, Brexiters treat the result as binding and immutable.

Now we have a pretty big Remain victory in Parliament: the right to table and vote on a motion about the kind of next steps that should happen should May’s deal be defeated (as it probably will be:

It means they will most likely look to pass an amendment preventing a no-deal Brexit, for which there appears to be a majority in the house, or to potentially pivot to taking the country into a Norway-style arrangement or to holding a new referendum.

Of course, Brexiters don’t want that:

Steve Baker, who organises Tory Eurosceptic efforts in the Commons, said: “Grieve’s amendment … allows for an amendable motion 21 days after a government defeat of their dreadful deal.

“Whatever the outcome of the amendment, it is not legally binding on the PM. Acts are law, motions are motions. The executive still decides how to proceed.”

Sure, that’s technically true. But it’s also technically true that the Brexit referendum was advisory:

  • It contained no provision for action on the results
  • Referenda, in general, are subordinate to Parliament because everything is subordinate to Parliament

These aren’t mere technicalities. Parliamentary sovereignty is perhaps the core principle of the UK (uncodified) constitution. The Government has continually been making rather disturbing power grabs as part of the Brexit process.

Anyway, it’s rather rich to see Brexiters harping on technicalities.

I’m certainly not immune to the human tendency to see technical issues in my favour as deep principles while technical issues against me as mere technicalities. But given the lies, irregularities, illegalities, and general incompetence of Team Brexwhat? I don’t think I’m being too unfair here.

Let’s suppose the Brexit vote had been 60-40 leave that is something more like the sort of supermajority you generally want for major constitutional changes. And let’s say that the referendum had statutory language requiring the government to enact the results.

It’s STILL the case that the art 50 trigger was mad and that forcing through a Brexit no matter what isn’t a good way to go.

At the very least, the Government should have spent a couple of years preparing…thinking their own positions through and building consensus on the kind of Brexit had any sort of reasonable support. They couldn’t negotiate before triggering Art 50 but we spent most of that time fighting with ourselves to or making obviously futile demands.

We needed some sort of vote on various positions before going in then another one given the outcome of the negotiations.

This is fucking basic. You don’t rush into things that threaten your basic supply of food and medicine and over 3 million of your citizens. Not at least if you aren’t a knave and a fool.


I have to give May some credit: she has put together a (sketch of a) deal with the EU. I give the EU a lot of credit. They’ve been pretty clear on their parameters and have not tried to fuck with May or the UK. The one thing that’s hard to forgive on either side is the rush to Article 50 negotiation. I get why the EU said that negotiation couldn’t start before hand…and yet. Article 50 is not designed to produce a great separation but to be hard on the separator.

But ok. She actually managed to get something and a something that wasn’t in the mix before.

It’s…not great. It probably minimises the chances of renewed Troubles. Which is a pretty big deal. It’s clearly worse than our current situation or even staying in the EU without our carve outs, but that’s not surprising. All variants of Leave are worse except from the POV of EUphobia.

Of course, even this is barely the start. And it’s probably dead in Parliament.

So what was predicted has come to pass: No real progress over most of two years then a flurry of activity as the deadline looms. Whether this results in any kind of sensible outcome is unclear. The risks of stumbling into disaster is ridiculously high.

This is still all Cameron’s fault. Destructive menaces like Farage were the instigators and the source of the problem, but Cameron was not a fringe politician but the dominant leader of a major party. He made an extremely stupid gamble and then fucked off. The fucking off is pretty damn bad too. As was the massively destructive austerity measures that set this disaster up.

He will go down as by far the worst prime minister in at least decades.

The fact that all of the UK leaders are barely competent isn’t encouraging. Of course, there’s only so much competence can do in such a broken political culture. The fact that Boris Johnson has any sort of voice is evidence of this.

Good Digestion

I started reading Anna Karenina (again…Zoe and I used to read it to each other back in the 90s) and stumbled on a passage that feels like an excellent description of the typical citizen’s interaction with politics:

Stepan Arkadyevitch took in and read a liberal paper, not an extreme one, but one advocating the views held by the majority. And in spite of the fact that science, art, and politics had no special interest for him, he firmly held those views on all these subjects which were held by the majority and by his paper, and he only changed them when the majority changed them—or, more strictly speaking, he did not change them, but they imperceptibly changed of themselves within him.

Stepan Arkadyevitch had not chosen his political opinions or his views; these political opinions and views had come to him of themselves, just as he did not choose the shapes of his hat and coat, but simply took those that were being worn. And for him, living in a certain society—owing to the need, ordinarily developed at years of discretion, for some degree of mental activity—to have views was just as indispensable as to have a hat. If there was a reason for his preferring liberal to conservative views, which were held also by many of his circle, it arose not from his considering liberalism more rational, but from its being in closer accordance with his manner of life. The liberal party said that in Russia everything is wrong, and certainly Stepan Arkadyevitch had many debts and was decidedly short of money. The liberal party said that marriage is an institution quite out of date, and that it needs reconstruction; and family life certainly afforded Stepan Arkadyevitch little gratification, and forced him into lying and hypocrisy, which was so repulsive to his nature. The liberal party said, or rather allowed it to be understood, that religion is only a curb to keep in check the barbarous classes of the people; and Stepan Arkadyevitch could not get through even a short service without his legs aching from standing up, and could never make out what was the object of all the terrible and high-flown language about another world when life might be so very amusing in this world. And with all this, Stepan Arkadyevitch, who liked a joke, was fond of puzzling a plain man by saying that if he prided himself on his origin, he ought not to stop at Rurik and disown the first founder of his family—the monkey. And so Liberalism had become a habit of Stepan Arkadyevitch’s, and he liked his newspaper, as he did his cigar after dinner, for the slight fog it diffused in his brain. He read the leading article, in which it was maintained that it was quite senseless in our day to raise an outcry that radicalism was threatening to swallow up all conservative elements, and that the government ought to take measures to crush the revolutionary hydra; that, on the contrary, “in our opinion the danger lies not in that fantastic revolutionary hydra, but in the obstinacy of traditionalism clogging progress,” etc., etc. He read another article, too, a financial one, which alluded to Bentham and Mill, and dropped some innuendoes reflecting on the ministry. With his characteristic quickwittedness he caught the drift of each innuendo, divined whence it came, at whom and on what ground it was aimed, and that afforded him, as it always did, a certain satisfaction. But today that satisfaction was embittered by Matrona Philimonovna’s advice and the unsatisfactory state of the household. He read, too, that Count Beist was rumored to have left for Wiesbaden, and that one need have no more gray hair, and of the sale of a light carriage, and of a young person seeking a situation; but these items of information did not give him, as usual, a quiet, ironical gratification. Having finished the paper, a second cup of coffee and a roll and butter, he got up, shaking the crumbs of the roll off his waistcoat; and, squaring his broad chest, he smiled joyously: not because there was anything particularly agreeable in his mind—the joyous smile was evoked by a good digestion.

(That last line is sublime.)

The analogy with fashion is particularly apt!

It seems like a great quote to include in a class about “low information” voters.

Not a Disaster

Given the fundamentals, this midterm was a triumph for the Democrats.

It wasn’t my preferred triumph. My preferred triumph included the Senate or at least not losing ground in the Senate and in spite of some damn fine performances (cf O’Rourke) we didn’t do that.

Republicans have insulated themselves from the majority and continued to avoid total defeat in spite of their evil policies and grotesque ineptitude at governance. This isn’t good.

On the other hand, the ACA was and remains a genuine triumph that continues to do good. So improvement is still possible.

But it grieves me that so many fellow citizens vote in support of fascism, authoritarians, and grotesquerie of all sorts.

We Voted

Zoe had some adventures since she was in town so had to cancel her absentee. Voting is made far too difficult in the US.

This is the fourth major election since we became dual citizens. Two were god awful (Brexit and Trump). The UK General was not the horror show I feared but didn’t solve anything.

It’d be great to wake up to a Democratic Senate as well as House but I’ll settle for a Democratic House.

Here’s to hoping for better times.