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Monday, 10 July 2017

Lame Ducks and Kamikaze in Cloud-Cuckoo Land

Mrs May's new ploy might be quite clever; and if it is, one wonders who dreamed it up for her. To issue a draft speech two days early is a new trick, as far as I know. It is designed to set the media into a frenzy and to challenge the opposition parties to make a considered response to the apparently-arid actual content of the discourse.

Mrs May appears to be a lame duck premier, but her party dare not precipitate an election if it can be avoided. She may indeed survive long enough for the arch-Brexiteers to be shown up as lame ducks, instead.

A so-called Kamikaze wing of the Conservative party is - against all reason - demanding a 'hard' Brexit, which seems to mean complete withdrawal from the European Economic Area and the destruction of what the Thatcherites [and the neo-Thatcherite New Labour crew] left of the British economy. With various degrees of enthusiasm about self-immolation, there are reckoned to be up to sixty people of that persuasion: enough the prevent any more moderate consensus in the Tory party. Before her spectacularly unsuccessful election campaign, Mrs May hoped to get a big enough majority, including a large number of Remainers among the new MPs, to be able to face down the loonies and come to a solution of the Brexit dilemma [which she did not solicit personally] that could probably attract massive support in parliament and in the so-called parliament of the EU.

She is now launching an attempt to build a Commons consensus anyway. It will take a long time, but it may have the effect of moderating the success of the Momentum movement in the Labour Party.
Corbyn was spectacularly equivocal in all the recent election grandstanding about the Brexit issue. His personal antagonism towards anything that might protect or strengthen capitalism is beyond doubt, and as is evidenced in Germany the EU is good for business. M Macron's euro-enthusiasm is largely driven by his recognition that it will be less difficult finally to smash the French trade unions in a context of a stronger European Union than in has proven to be in a still-sovereign France. The Corbynistas will have noticed that: Macron is a product of the French system for producing technocrats who serve the secret state that lies behind the constitution, and the hard left recognises the enemy. This is the context in which Corbyn's twists and turns in the coming months should be observed. He has command of the party - increasingly - thanks to the crazy constitutional changes that his predecessor pushed through the party: but he has no empathy with the mainstream tradition of the Labour party which most of his MPs [including the new cohort] represent.

Thus Mrs May's scenario planning could set the Corbynista minority of Labour and the Kamikaze minority of the Tories on the outside of a developing consensus. As that political experiment fails at the first hurdle, but might eventually be made to run, economic reality will turn the enthusiastic Brexiteer ministers into lame ducks. Putting both Fox and Davis alongside Johnson in key roles at the sharp edge of the Brexit negotiations seemed crazy at first: and perhaps it was simply that: crazy. But now the real evidence is coming to the top, the wedges between the three musketeers will become apparent. David Davis is learning the limits of practicality, and will soon have to make a decision about whether he sides with Philip Hammond [who has already, in effect, said that the UK must remain within the European Economic Area] or go out on a limb. Johnson will follow where the wind blows: he was late in deciding to opt for the Brexit camp, astonished when they won, and confused now that they are faced with increasingly harsh realities.

Liam Fox has appeared to be the most dangerous Brexiteer minister. He seems really to have believed what he said about the gains that post-Brexit agreements with the USA and India and China can bring to the country. But today the main manufacturing employers' body has emphasised that point protectionism is increasingly transcending overall trade agreements specifically in China, India and the USA. To protect their own firms, trade associations and governments in those countries are simply setting up ad hoc barriers against imports, especially of the high-tech and IP-strong exports that Britain needs to build up in the future. Fox will be proven to be a very lame duck before he can be really dangerous; and that public exposure will greatly strengthen the argument that the UK must remain within the European Free Trade Area: on almost-any terms.

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