Wednesday 5 December 2018

Carts and horses

There’s a lengthy piece by Labour AM, Mick Antoniw in today’s Western Mail (although I can’t find it online) arguing that a General Election is a better way forward than holding a second referendum, the so-called ‘People’s Vote’.  When it comes to the practical issues surrounding the arrangements for such a vote, I have a great deal of sympathy with his arguments; there are many details which are not as straightforward as many suggest.  I don’t believe them to be insoluble, though; and a second vote seems to me a better way forward than either Brexit based on the last vote regardless of any change in opinion, or parliament simply overturning the result of the referendum, despite the fact that it has every right, constitutionally speaking, to do so.
However, where I really part company with him is his closing argument that “a general election will increasingly become accepted as the only way to give the people a real choice”.  As long as the Labour Party’s leader clings to the notion that “Brexit cannot be stopped” and the delusion that, if only he were in charge, a better deal could be negotiated, there is no way in which a general election to choose between a Tory Brexit and a Labour Brexit is any real choice at all.  Even worse, and although I don’t always trust opinion polls, the polls currently suggest that it is unlikely that Labour would win such an election standing on its current policy.  Despite the complete disarray and incompetence of the Tories, they appear likely to out-poll Labour again.  And another narrow victory for the Tories will change nothing.
In fairness to Antoniw, he does also say that Labour would have to fight such an election on the basis of seeking a new deal and adds that “Labour’s manifesto would have to offer the promise of a ratification of any deal and an extension to the franchise to 16-year-olds”, i.e. a commitment to holding a second referendum after the attempted renegotiation.  It’s a face-saving formula; whilst Labour remains committed to red lines which include no membership of the single market and no freedom of movement, any ‘renegotiation’ is going to be as superficial as that undertaken by David Cameron, as well as further alienating our European partners in the attempt.  Still, the very fact that most Remainers will understand that limitation will not detract from the fact that they have a potential electoral home, even if for only one election, which will facilitate the outcome which they want to see.  And that could be an electoral game-changer for Labour.  The problem is that I don’t currently see the Labour leadership being ready to embrace such a line, even though it’s clearly their best chance of gaining a majority.  An election without that prior change of policy seems likely to do more harm than good – Labour need to sort out their position first.  And that probably requires a change of leader…


Jonathan said...

You illustrate so many reasons for re-writing our Constitution, UK or Welsh, both. Background being that Labour is putting party interests first, unsurprisingly
1. Separation of powers 1: Labour in House of Commons elect their Majority Leader (who is not eligible to be the Prime Minister because HoC is a legislature only).
2. Separation of powers 2: the government/executive is not drawn from HoC (or Lords) it is a separate branch of government.
3. The government/executive is run by a directly-elected PM/Pres. Elected by voters, that is, not by Labour party members. Say Labour members pick their candidate = Corbyn. Corbyn would be voted on by the whole electorate, not just Labour members.
Couple of other things.
Labour's leader in the HoC would not/should not have the power of patronage to impose a policy Labour MPs want eg Remain.
The rest of us would not be subject to Labour's haunted, hag-ridden, fears of what their Leave-voters might or might not think. The paralysis would end.
For what its worth, I would bet that half the Labour (and Tory) Leavers will change their mind when Sancho points out the windmills. Ok, the other half won't but you are then down to 10% of the electorate and they needn't haunt us.

John Dixon said...


I'm quite attracted by the idea that the Executive and the Legislature should be separately elected, although I do have a number of reservations around the detail. But it would probably lead to a stronger legislature, less beholden to the Executive, and also allow the Executive branch to draw on a talent pool wider than that which is to be found in the Legislature. I doubt it will happen though; it would require the Legislature to bring it about, and they might just have a vested interest in the current arrangements.

Jonathan said...

Exxactly. All the other (non-Commonwealth) democracies do this. Of course the Turkeys won't vote for Xmas. Historically what happens is: you get a period of national emergency, could be after a war, or an economic crisis. Then you get a nationwise movement saying "We have to change". This eventually leads to a Constitutional Convention. So the people choose, not the Turkeys. Not saying its easy. But I do get the feeling that Wales is near the point of starting this process.