Stewart Wood on Brexit divided parties…
“The Tory Brexit divide is like a porcelain vase with a massive crack that’s been there for decades, yet somehow it’s still standing.
The Labour Brexit divide is a porcelain vase that has been immaculately pristine since the late 1980s, but which is about to be thrown at the wall.”
Yesterday Labour’s Heidi Alexander, the MP who tried to block the triggering of Article 50 in January, confirmed that Remainers are seeking a permanent transition to prevent Brexit:
Richard Madeley: “Do you secretly hope that the four years turns to six years, and then eight years, and then ten years and then we just gradually drift into a kind of a half way house relationship?”
Heidi Alexander: “I think that if there isn’t a better offer on the table then staying in the Single Market and Customs Union permanently would be the right thing for the country.”
A never-ending transition that keeps us in all the institutions of the EU and buys time for a second referendum has been telegraphed as the key Remain strategy since the turn of the year. As Guido wrote in January:
“Remainers see this as their golden chance. If the transition takes years, during which Britain remains in the single market, essentially in the EU, Remainers can buy time to argue for a second referendum or try to prevent a real Brexit.”
The ultra-Remain CBI proposed the same last month, consistent with the permanent transition plan. At the time we noted:
“One of the most senior Remain figures from the referendum told Guido himself they wanted a lengthy transition lasting years, by which point they hoped the public mood had changed and Brexit could be prevented.”
Now you are getting prominent Labour Remainers saying this publicly, from Heidi Alexander to Stewart Wood:
“I think if I was a Brexiter I’d be worried that over the next three of four years if a transition deal lasts that long that other circumstances will change and the will to move on from transition stage to full Brexit might be less present than it is now. I think that’s definitely a possibility.”
And Stephen Bush:
The thing about a transition is, the longer it goes, the less likely a government of what will be a majority-Remain country triggers it.
— Stephen Bush (@stephenkb) August 27, 2017
Which is why the government must ensure the transition is strictly time-limited and as short as possible, ideally one or two years. Can’t say Remainers haven’t warned you…
Remember those clandestine tape recordings of Labour events which mysteriously made their way into the press during the election? Guido has been sent one of Spencer Livermore, Labour’s campaign director in 2015, speaking on Tuesday night. An enjoyably candid assessment of why Miliband lost.
“The accepted wisdom is that in 2015, Labour had the wrong strategy to win the election. But my experience is not that the strategy was wrong, but that it was absent. I don’t that that we had the wrong strategy, I don’t really think we had much of a strategy at all. I think that none of the elements that I would associate with strategy were present in the run up to 2015. There was no identified electorate that we wanted to pursue. There was no attempt to de-position our opponents. There was no attempt to frame the debate on our terms. There was no coherent or persistent narrative. I think what we had was not a strategy but a credo. It was an ideological project based on a mistaken assumption that the country has shifted to the left… There was ideology there, but there was no strategy there”.
There is no mention of Ed Miliband’s unscheduled ‘brush-by’ with President Obama in Mike Allen’s Playbook, the morning round up of anything going on in Washington that matters to anyone who is anybody in Washington. Sebastian Payne at the Post reports that Ed is scheduled to meet national security adviser Susan Rice this afternoon, officially the White House pointedly says there is “nothing to announce on the president’s schedule”. Presumably at this point Obama will drop in, if he doesn’t have a world war to avoid. Damian McBride, recounting the President’s five snubs of Gordon Brown and subsequent humiliating chat in a kitchen, has his fingers crossed:
“Team Miliband will have left nothing to chance before their man’s meeting at the White House today. For starters, they will have ensured he gets at least as much ceremony and time as David Cameron enjoyed in his first visit to President Bush as leader of the opposition. Aides will have their stopwatches out, ready to squash any suggestion that Mr Miliband was given less time than he was due…
The reality is that every presidential summit, visit, brush-by, drop-in, and walk-and-talk is nowadays so stage-managed that only someone as afflicted by bad luck as Gordon Brown could ever come a cropper. Provided Obama turns up and the White House doesn’t serve bacon sandwiches, today’s meeting will be the diplomatic equivalent of the speaking clock.”
Miliband’s intellectual henchman Stewart Wood was responsible for White House relations under Gordon Brown, surely he will ensure that this time there is no screw up. Interestingly McBride names Dougie Alexander as the source of the leak of the ‘five snubs’ story back in 2009. Which goes some way to explain the enmity between him and Michael Dugher, then Brown’s comms chief…
The consensus of broadsheet pundits is that Ed has, with his cost-of-living crisis line that prices are rising faster than wages, nimbly and cleverly switched from a losing argument on the economy to a winning “retail offer”. Guido thinks this successfully plays into the British national psyche; grumbling about both the weather and the cost of things rising. However as the economy rises unemployment falls and earnings will caeteris paribus begin to outstrip inflation as sure as the sun rises. The ONS data shows this is about to happen…
Guido is beginning to worry that Miliband, like his former mentor Gordon Brown, hasn’t really got a strategy. The whole “too far, too fast” thing was bound to end in tears unless there was a permanent recession. As it happened the predictions by Ed Balls of a triple-dip turned out to be über-pessimistic, statisticians say there wasn’t even a double-dip. The only recession the UK suffered originated under Gordon Brown.
The energy cost argument still generates headlines, however international comparisons show that UK energy costs are middle of the league table for Europe – though US fracking and shale gas means their energy costs are way below ours. Fracking however is opposed by Ed Miliband.
What then? Having lost the argument on debt and the economy, followed – food banks notwithstanding – by the cost-of-living crisis evaporating, Labour will have to change tack again. Labour can’t fight on economic competence, because so contaminated is Ed Balls that he even loses to George Osborne. Labour are blamed for the economic mess and are suspected by the voters of still being untrustworthy on dealing with the deficit and debts. They would be unwise to fight on leadership; “weak and weird” Ed versus “posh and out of touch” Dave is not a great prospect for Labour.
Guido’s guess is they will try to have it both ways, partially accept the coalition’s spending envelope and pretend they can tax their way to prosperity. A policy Miliband’s socialist frère Hollande has now abandoned. All the chatter (spun by his adviser Stewart Wood) about Ed’s plans for “big changes in our economy” – a strategy based on East Coast academic theories from Harvard professors on new “Varieties of Capitalism” – will have Lynton Crosby crying with laughter into his (Australian) Chardonnay. Doesn’t mean Miliband isn’t going to try it…
UPDATE: The FT has surveyed economists and they mostly think households will start to feel better off – this is after consumer confidence surged 20% in 2013. Well spotted economists…