Brexit Big Beasts Going Wobbly

Brexiteers are getting seriously nervous after Parliament voted this week first to block no deal, and then in favour of an Article 50 extension – with Theresa May’s support – with another load of egregious antics from Bercow thrown in. The Benn/Cooper/Letwin coup was seen off by just two votes. While neither of the main votes was legally binding, the fact that an extension was proposed by the Government and carried with a majority of over 200 has alarmed many committed Leavers…

Numerous Brexiteer MPs have been dropping hints over the past few days that they are starting to feel that voting for May’s dire deal may be the lesser of two evils, given the risks of losing Brexit altogether once lengthy delays start being put into law. The price is that May herself agrees to quit

Resolute Leaver Lucy Allan told the FT: “I have to seriously consider supporting the prime minister’s deal, although in my view it is a worse option than remain”. Conor Burns added: “I’m actively looking for reasons to support the withdrawal agreement. That’s why the attorney-general’s advice was so important, critical to many of us to see whether we could be persuaded to support it.” Burns is one of Boris’s closest allies…

Even Esther McVey dropped a very strong hint today, saying “people are going to have to think a different way next week”. Her diehard Eurosceptic other half Philip Davies already raised eyebrows by voting for the deal at MV2…

Other leading Brexit supporters are also coming round to this view, Fraser Nelson wrote in The Telegraph yesterday that May’s deal is:

“a pale imitation of the Brexit that could have been, the Brexit a different leader might have been able to negotiate. It’s half a Brexit – but it’s better than no Brexit.”

Matt Ridley tweeted out Fraser’s article this morning, adding: “I am fairly sure now, after yesterday’s votes, that this is right.” Even deeply committed Brexiteer economist Professor Patrick Minford wrote yesterday: “Let not the best with little chance be the enemy of the good with a reasonable chance”…

The DUP will be in London all weekend to try to hammer out further reassurances from the Government over the backstop, after Nigel Dodds told the press “we want to leave with a deal” this afternoon. Ultimately they still hold the key, if the DUP come over then many MPs will follow, if they don’t budge then MV3 is going the way of MV1 and 2…

May and Rudd Trying to Be ‘More Brexit Than Brexit’ on Immigration

Two pieces today express the unhappiness of Brexiters with Theresa May’s version of Brexit. Boris tells the Telegraph leaving will be “pointless” if we cannot diverge from the EU and strike trade deals with other countries, and makes the case for a “liberal” immigration policy that allows us to take “software people from Hyderabad” and “Australian paramedics” as well as skilled migrants from the EU. Fraser Nelson blasts May for pursuing “the wrong Brexit” in the Spectator, warning:

“Many Remainers genuinely believed they were engaged in a battle of ‘open’ vs ‘closed’ — and that ‘closed’ won. So as democrats, they ought to obey what they believe to be the demand of Brexit voters: clamping down on migration, sounding more tough and less liberal. This is a tragic misreading not only of the referendum result, but of public opinion today. Seeking to control immigration is not the same thing as being anti-immigrant…

Limits should be placed on unskilled labour, as is common in most countries, but skilled workers should be welcomed with open arms. There should be no more treating Australians or Indians as second class immigrants, and no more violinists deported to Massachusetts because they don’t earn enough.”

This is essentially the problem with two Remainers, May and Rudd, being in charge of the post-Brexit approach to immigration. In an effort to win the support of Brexiters, May and Rudd have overcompensated and tried to be more Brexit than Brexit, playing up to their caricature of what they think Leave voters want. A Leave Prime Minister would not have used EU citizens as bargaining chips as May did for so long. A Leave Prime Minister would not continue to favour EU migrants over non-EU migrants post-Brexit, as Brexiters fear May and Rudd will do to get a better deal. Polling by Open Europe found 56% supported continuing immigration “as long as there are controls to make sure they will contribute to our society, economy and way of life”. It is about control and fairness, not the cold approach exemplified by the Windrush scandal…

Fraser Burns Polly

Zinger from Fraser Nelson as Polly Toynbee went after Toby Young’s record on free schools:

Polly: “He wanted to create a school for his kids.”

Fraser: “Yes, it’s better than sending them private like some columnists I could mention.”

Remember Polly sent two of her children private. Zing…

Fraser Nelson Takes Tories to Task on NI

Karen Bradley wheeled out the nonsense Tory line that the legislation only referred to Class 1 NICs. It is the same line that has been sent to Tory MPs doing broadcast today:

This is dire stuff. The legislation came after the election – the manifesto did not mention anything about Class 1 NICs. As spin goes it really is weak…

John Cleese’s Spectator Column So Bad It Was Canned After One Article

nelson-cleese

After John Cleese asked his Twitter followers why “half-educated tenement Scots” are allowed to run the English press, Fraser Nelson had to look up the term. Since the Speccie editor isn’t “educated, cultured and intelligent” (in the words of Cleese) his regular Telegraph column standing up for press freedom was merely an example of how his “craving for social status” makes him an “obedient retainer”.

Fraser hits back today in the Telegraph today:

“his writing fell short of the standards expected of a Spectator contributor – which is why his status as a contributing editor did not last longer than his first article. An expensive education, you see, can’t buy you everything.”

Indeed Cleese’s first and only piece in 2009 was so dull and unfunny that they never had him back. Not much has changed since then.

Fraser Nelson Contextualises IDS Exit

British Journalism Awards Bunfight! Speccie v Newsnight / Buzzfeed

yentob

It wouldn’t be the British Journalism Awards without a good old barney about the nominations. Newsnight and Buzzfeed are jointly nominated for Investigation of the Year for the Kids Co scandal – a story on which they did a lot of good follow-up work but was broken by Miles Goslett in the Speccie. Five months earlier…

Buzzfeed’s ‘Head of News’ Stuart Millar is probably regretting engaging:

Media organisations can pay £75 for a vanity-satisfying nomination, something Newsnight and Buzzfeed apparently wasted no time in doing but Miles Goslett, who is a freelancer, didn’t. As Goslett explains:

“Until February 2015, when The Spectator published my article on Kids Company, not a single bad word about it or its chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh had appeared in the mainstream media.”

You can read the original Goslett scoop here

It Was Lynton Wot Won It

Fraser Nelson is the first sceptic to pay tribute to the architect of victory…

“Crosby’s strategy, which many (myself included) found infuriatingly dull, has now been utterly vindicated.”

Quote of the Day

Fraser Nelson on Sky:

“Capitalism is a funny name which lefties give to basic freedom.”

Relative Values: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

OSBORNE-NELSON

The spat between George Osborne and Fraser Nelson over whether or not the deficit has been halved is very much a Westminster bubble affair of little consequence to anyone outside SW1. Interested voters who even understand the difference between the deficit and the debt know that the government’s target to balance the budget in 2015 has been missed by £100 billion or so. As Jonathan Portes over at the Keynesian redoubt of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research gleefully points out, George Osborne has succeeded in implementing the Darling plan, which his own Financial Secretary to the Treasury condemned, for being endorsed only by The Guardian. The Chancellor deserves a degree of Fraser’s ridicule for only managing to execute the very Plan B that Osborne himself once ridiculed as ruinous.

The Tories are arguing, whilst simultaneously carrying the goalposts, that they have managed to halve the deficit in relative terms, relative to GDP. Professional economists seem to think that is a fair method of measuring the deficit. So how are they doing, in relative terms, on other key indicators?

The national debt relative to GDP is up, from 78.4% under Gordon Brown in 2010 to 90.6% last year. It is still rising, which is in the government’s own self-defined terms a big economic failure.

The Tories like to boast that employment is higher now than ever before, as indeed it was every year under the last Labour government, because the population grows. The unemployment rate is relative to the population. That is down impressively from 8% to 6% thanks to IDS, better still the youth unemployment and long term unemployment rates are also down. A trump card in the economic argument.

Per capita GDP was, as Danny Blanchflower and Ed Balls kept pointing out sombrely with smirks on their faces, falling. We were getting, on average, poorer. According to World Bank figures, the answer to Reagan’s famous question for voters “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” is a “yes”, just about. After inflation voters are on average 1.8% better off now than they were in 2010.*

Quantitative Easing on a scary scale has rigged other economic indicators like inflation and interest rates whilst pumping up asset prices. Great if you already owned financial assets or prime London property…

It seems a long-time since The Spectator was eulogising George Osborne as “the true Tory leader“, the enmity towards the Treasury from the Speccie is near constant nowadays. Guido notes that in a Tory leadership election it is almost certain that the magazine will back Boris, a former editor, against Osborne…

*Although for higher income earners – the income bracket usually well disposed towards voting Conservative – Osborne’s Guardianista pleasing fetishising of the Gini coefficient will mean they are probably worse off. Only a genius political strategist like Osborne would bash his core vote hardest.

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