Unions & Brexit

Unions exist to fight for the rights of their members. Brexit is a calculated move, cooked up by the Tory right, to undermine workers rights and attack migrants and free movement. The whole trade union movement should be united in opposing it. By standing with Labour members, we have an opportunity to unite the party and move on with a clear policy.

NB I am a life long Trade Unionist, currently a member of the GMB. …

but democracy!

but democracy!

As we approach Brexit Ground Zero, Labour’s leavers, at least those too embarrassed to talk about immigration are pinning their hopes on the “but Democracy” argument.

In March 1975 Margaret Thatcher described referendums as “a device of dictators and demagogues” but she got a lot wrong and I ask myself if this is true.

Britain is run as a Parliamentary Democracy but there is no basic law and Parliament can do as it pleases. Many if not most of the checks on the Executive or on Ministers are based on convention not statute. We have an unelected upper chamber in which both hereditary peers and Church of England bishops have votes and we have a hereditary Head of State. I thought and wrote about the UK’s Democracy last year and found it wanting.

A democracy must exist under a rule of law; Britain does not because Parliament, which means the House of Commons can do as it pleases. Our only Human Rights guarantee is two Acts of Parliament, which can both be repealed. We should note that Government impunity is increased as the Coalition Government took away legal aid for judicial review and while this was designed to stop benefit claimants suing the Government when it broke the law, it also makes it much more difficult to defend more political rights.

Political systems must be designed to resolve priorities either by building a consensus or by articulating a majority view when the issues are such that there is a polarisation in society. We have furthermore the need to define and defend basic Human Rights which the world has developed a consensus around the UN Declaration of Human Rights, although in Western Europe we tend to ignore economic rights, such as freedom from poverty.

The problem of a dual mandate is not uncommon. Presidential systems based on the US model have this built in, as does the French system and on a smaller scale our system of Executive Mayors.  It should be necessary for a President to build a wide-ranging coalition to win, which should be a protection against the degeneration of Democracy, but history would suggest this is not the case. Where a society is split on critical social & economic issues, or religious[1] or national identity issues, the “winner takes all” nature of Presidential systems and Plebiscites is a centripetal force on the unity of the polity. (This is powerfully identified in Juan Linz’s paper, Democracy: Presidential or Parliamentary, Does it make a difference?) I say,

Only a Parliament can represent the breadth of interests[2] in a complex society, only a Parliament can negotiate popular compromises based on 2nd choices and changing priorities.

Presidents and plebiscites pose a tyrannical threat to the nuances of the people’s will, only a Parliament has a mandate and capability to resolve & negotiate these complexities and we should note its mandate is comprehensive and current. The issue of developing a compromise may be critical, particularly in the terms of the Brexit debate where a number of advocates of Leave have changed their minds from seeking a deal to opposing one. I was of the view that the advocates of Leave should negotiate the terms of exit and then as Unions do, ask if the deal was acceptable. This allows people to change their mind, and consider their opinion when the detail of the proposal is concrete.

The history of the degeneration of democracies, most recently and obviously in Turkey, is one where a Parliamentary system is transformed by plebiscite into a Presidential one, and then bit-by-bit the checks and balances are removed, starting usually with an attack on the independence[3] of the judiciary.

We are sleep walking along a similar path.

While I cannot find an inexorable proof that plebiscites[4] are the tools of dictator’s and demagogues, their history would strongly suggest that this is the case.

ooOOOoo

[1] For a short period, Bosnia & Herzgovina had a multi-ethnic/faith presidium and the Lebanon had an ethnic/faith power sharing convention sharing the President/Prime Minister/Speaker roles.

[2] This needs small-ish constituencies and fair voting systems, and in the UK the abolition of the House of Lords

[3] Although the only independence that the UK judges has is indefinite tenure; another area we could do better.

[4] I am of the view that Presidential systems based on the US model are also less capable of representing the breadth and nuamce of the politics of the nation and are fundamentally less stable. …

A week to remember

What a week it’s been for British Politics! Prior to the re-opening of Parliament after its summer recess, Johnson announced he planned to ask for the longest prorogue of Parliament since 1945. On his 2nd day in Parliament as Prime Minister, he lost control of the Parliamentary timetable, the following day he lost his majority after one of the Tory’s crossed the floor to the Lib Dems, he then threatened his Party with expulsion if they supported the cross bench bill to ban a no-deal Brexit, which they did and so did he! This put his working majority at -41. The Bill passed both the Commons and Lords. Johnson asked for an election, which is now in the hands of the House of Commons and they said No! All this within five days, thus proving what I said, that its possible he should not have been appointed as he does not command the confidence of the house. To cap the week, his brother resigned for the Government and announced he would not seek re-election and Amber Rudd, finally found her backbone and resigned from the Government and the Tory whip, with an excoriating letter.

In exchange John Mann, the semi-detached alleged Labour MP has resigned from the Labour Party and agreed to take up the role of “Anti-Semitism Tsar” (sic).

A couple of wits, put Parliament to the words of Monty Python, one of the Romans, the other on self defence from being attacked by  fresh fruit.

A week to remember! …

A very British Coup

A very British Coup

So it seems the ruthless Johnson Regime plan to suspend Parliament to stop it holding them to account for their Brexit do-or-die policy.

We are in Charles 1st territory now! The English Civil War was fought to make the Government subordinate to (some of) the people’s representatives and it was the King who eventually lost his head in attempting to ensure that his Government could rule without reference to the elected House of Commons. One of the procedural/structural 450 year old reforms was the development of the post/role of Speaker; the reason the Speaker is dragged to the Chair on their election is that standing up to the Crown was originally personally very dangerous.

In these circumstances, the Speaker can and should just tell the Government that the House of Commons will continue to meet.

We should note that control of the Met. Police, who control the doors is shared between the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London, but we need to give MP’s some help by showing our solidarity with them as they return to the House of Commons.

Please write to your MP, and sign these petitions,

  1. https://www.anothereurope.org/petitions/defend-democracy/
  2. https://www.bestforbritain.org/queenproroguepetition
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No Deal & cross border data flows

No Deal & cross border data flows

I have just written a blog at linkedin on the impact of a No Deal Brexit on cross border personal data flows. Obtaining an adequacy agreement will take time, one would have hoped that the transition period would have been enough, but without one there will be no adequacy decision on Day 1. Large and prepared entities may be OK as they can use the currently legally permitted alternatives. The US privacy shield may not be avaialable n Day 1, since its an EU agreement. If we leave, we i.e. the UK state may no longer avail itself of the Article 23 powers and the Investigatory Powers Act and the DPA “immigration exception” may cause problems in achieving an adequacy decision. …

Nobody move or …

Labour announced, not sure how it decided, that it would call for a confirmatory vote on any Tory deal and campaign for Remain. There are some who still argue that preparing for a no-deal is the only way to get a better one. This is wrong but reminds me of this scene from Blazing Saddles.

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Reasons to Remain (again)

Reasons to Remain (again)

I am arguing again with comrades in the Labour Party about Brexit and have looked at two pieces of evidence calling for Labour to become a full on Remain Party. Paul Mason has written another piece, this time in the New Statesman, “Without a transformation on Brexit, Labour’s election chances are dead”, and on statsforlefties, who writes a blog mainly on psephology. They have both changed their mind and argue that Labour must now  support Remain. Mason deals with the politics of Remain and Party unity, calls out the fractures in the Labour Parties internal coalition and the short and long-term electoral issues. statsforlefties argues about short term electoral issues. (I might write a review on Mason’s article, but it’s not long, so I suggest you read it in full; I have mirrored it here.)

I present my argument below, it was in reply to someone who had used deaths in refugee camps and the proposed appointment of Von der Leyden as President of Commission as reasons for sticking with a Leave position. I attempt as I have usually done to distinguish between true believers and those who just think ambiguity is electorally expedient.

We all accept that the EU is not perfect; if we’d done better last month, it’s possible that Timmermans would be candidate for President of the Commission and not Von der Leyen. For those for whom triangulation and winning towns in the North is key, it is getting to the position where neither Leave nor Constructive Ambiguity can enable Labour to win and that pursuing Leave seriously jeopardises our ability to be single largest party. The Party has a choice of pissing off Leavers or Remainers, and we can’t win without the Remainers, in fact it would seem that we can’t be the largest party without the Remainers.

I assume you will vote to Leave in the next referendum dreaming for the ability to build socialism in one country, thus leaving the refugees in Libya and Lesbos to the mercy of an organisation you despise and will no longer be able to influence.

I can think of nothing more I might say that will persuade you of the overwhelming justice and solidarity in the case for Remain. Leaving is a right wing project, there’s no socialism at the end of Johnson & Farage’s project and being seen to support leave looks like it will kill us before the 31st Oct, but if we are seen to facilitate it, it will kill the Labour Party and the Left in this country for a generation.

I am so tired of it, as a Party we must unite to build a better world; I am tired of the dishonesty and fantasy of true believer Lexiters. (I distinguish between those and the triangulators, but they need to make their mind up too.)

There is no economic benefit to leaving, the EU’s democracy and rule of law is superior to ours and citizenship rights inc. freedom of movement are better within the EU and this is all before we talk of building a peaceful and democratic ever closer union of peoples. But whenever we discuss this with you, you counter democracy with economics, you counter the economics with allegations of being anti-refugee, you ignore freedom of movement and migrants’ rights or even argue that migration is not in the interests of the British working class and you ignore the allegation that you are supporting the worst of the right in our country. (I have never accused you or any Lexiters of being Putin’s fools & puppets, but it’s beginning to look that way.) This is not the behaviour of comrades.

Von der Leyden is not appointed the President yet, but if she gets it, it’ll because the racists and enemies of democracy in Eastern Europe & Italy got their revenge on the man and movement that called out their racism and autocracy. He and they/we stood by the first rule of the EU, to belong you must be a democracy, with an independent rule of law. This is a fight that everyone who ignored and subverted our appeal in the European Elections (and I would include those whose behaviour corrupted the selection process) is on the wrong side of history.

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Trade Unionists oppose Brexit

YouGov have run a poll, on behalf of the People’s Vote Campaign asking Trade Unionists some questions about their opinions on the EU & Brexit, this was done on 20th-23rd June and it reports on the GMB, Unite & Unison, the top three by size. It makes sobering reading for Labour’s “Lexiters”, as all three samples would vote to Remain by significant margins and that ~35% would be more likely to vote Labour if it supported a 2nd referendum, with Remain on the ballot.

69% stated that they would vote remain in a referendum held tomorrow.

Other articles my focus on the General Election implications but I am glad that the GMB adopted this position at their Conference earlier this month. …  …