1. War gaming Brexit – seven scenarios
A House of Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit plan is due on Tuesday, 11 December, if she doesn’t postpone it.
Katy Balls at The Spectator has delineated seven scenarios as to how the Brexit saga will play out. Rule out the first, I think:
- Theresa May squeaks over the line after convincing Brexiteers that it was her deal or no Brexit — and Remainers that it was her deal or a no-deal Brexit.
There would be consequences:
- The DUP then rains on May’s parade. Seething over the backstop, it declares that the confidence and supply agreement is over for good.
Jeremy Corbyn says he will not allow a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
Of the remaining five, I would I would put a bit of money, but not much, on May calling a second referendum. Other than that, a vote of no confidence and an election seems possible.
Project Syndicate offers a variety of perspectives. Harold James thinks the Brits have embarked on a revolution which will change Britain forever. The best analogy is the Tudors and Henry VIII giving the papacy the finger.
He warns that those who start revolutions are usually devoured by them.
Mohamed A. El-Erian points out that behind the messy politics of Brexit are deeper issues that all countries will have to confront sooner or later.
- Political and economic systems are undergoing far-reaching structural changes, many of them driven by technology, trade, climate change, high inequality, and mounting political anger.
Amidst all this he says experts and pundits:
- had underappreciated the role of “identity” as a driving force behind the June 2016 referendum. But now, voters’ deeply held ideas about identity, whether real or perceived, can no longer be dismissed. Though today’s disruptive politics are fueled by economic disappointment and frustration, identity is the tip of the spear. It has exposed and deepened political and social divisions that are as uncomfortable as they are intractable.
He also says:
- The question is not whether the UK will face a considerable economic reckoning, but when.
Outside the EU, Britain will have less flexibility, agility and resilience, not more. Firms and jobs are already leaving.
2. Kerryn Phelps and populism
Properly considered Kerryn Phelps is a middle-class populist, according to Osmond Chiu, Secretary of the NSW Fabians.
That looks like it’s pay-walled, so here is his substantial argument:
If we understand populism as centred around representing ‘the people’ against an existing, unrepresentative elite rather than a specific ideology rooted in nationalistic discontent against immigration and globalised trade, it becomes clear.
The election of these independents [Phelps, McGowan etc] is in fact a moral middle-class incarnation of populism. Their anti-political stance arises from a widespread mood where the electorate sees politics as detached from their lives. This populism of the liberal centre taps into public dissatisfaction with politics by rejecting the major parties and their methods of operating. Phelps’ claim in her inaugural speech, that the political system ‘has evolved to turn inwards and primarily serve itself, at times silencing the voices of reason and compassion’, fits into such a populist narrative.
It draws upon a tradition of good citizenship, to act in the interests of the people by being ‘above politics’, seeking a ‘stronger relationship between people and our elected representatives’ through a MP ‘who would put the electorate first’, as Cathy McGowan said. Chisholm MP Julia Banks’ resignation statement from the Liberals, where she spoke of the actions of MPs being ‘undeniably for themselves, for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition, not for the Australian people’ and that she would be putting first ‘people that the major parties have stopped listening to’ echoes this.
Their election is based on the idea of good citizenship and community representation.
- While these independents may have more progressive views on economic issues, it will not be what defines them or determines why voters support them, it is their civic-minded appeal.
The government will be forced to treat climate change, asylum seekers and public broadcasting not simply as a culture war issue. Its precarious position may mean that the tone of political debate changes and it may be forced to deliver stronger integrity and accountability measures…
Independents of this kind are not in an ideological vacuum. They share the liberalism and/or conservatism of the people who elected them. As such, they are not racist or exclusionary.
Chiu cites the Australian Election Study as to how the electorate has changed:
- The Australian Election Study shows the extent of these changes, with the percentage of voters who have always voted for the same party falling from 72 per cent in 1967 to 40 per cent in 2016. Over that same period, satisfaction with democracy fell to 60 per cent from 77 per cent, and now only 26 per cent believe people in government can be trusted compared to 51 per cent. It is of little surprise that it has manifested in an increase of minor party votes to 23.2 per cent in 2016, up from 9.7 per cent in 1969.
3. Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou arrested in Canada at US request
Meng Wanzhou, a top Huawei executive and daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecommunications giant, was arrested in Canada at the request of the United States on the same night Xi and Trump had their dinner.
We may be seeing the new normal, where China and the US cooperate and clash at the same time.
- The timing of her arrest is more than an insulting poke in the eye for the Chinese government, particularly after US national security adviser John Bolton confirmed on Thursday that he was aware of the plan to arrest Meng going into the December 1 meeting between Xi and Trump. In the same interview, he also said Huawei, and other Chinese tech giants, would be a “major subject” of discussion between US and Chinese trade negotiators because of their alleged practices of using stolen US technology.
The Trumpistas could be badly mistaken if they think the Chinese will just cop this sweet.
4. Merkel’s successor to provide stability and continuity
Since her election in 2007, Germany’s Angela Merkel has been an anchor of stability within Europe and beyond. Having indicated that she would resign before the next election, she may have become a lame duck if the right-wing and charismatic Friedrich Merz had been elected leader of the CDU and effectively Chancellor in waiting. In particular he questioned whether the right to asylum should remain anchored in the German constitution.
The CDU chose continuity when it voted for Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to succeed Merkel as CDU leader, albeit by a smallish margin of 517 to 482.
On the day, Merz’s oratory deserted him. His delivery was technical, defensive and flat.
Merkel did not overtly take sides but looked distinctly displeased as he spoke.
In contrast, Kramp-Karrenbauer defied expectations with a feisty and upbeat speech that called on the party to have the courage to change while remaining anchored in the political center. She listed a range of challenges facing Germany, from “egoists and autocrats” abroad to threats to European unity. But, she said, the CDU could rise to the occasion.
“The answer isn’t in the stars, the answer lies with us,” she said, urging the party to come up with new ideas and embrace innovation.
“If we have the courage, we will take brakes off people who want to do something in this country,” she said. “The natural think tank of politics must be a Volkspartei like the CDU.”
In October Merkel’s CSU had been humiliated in Bavaria, losing more than 10% of their vote to fall below 40% for the first time. However, the left centrist SPD did worse, becoming a minor party, supplanted by the Greens:
Then a few weeks later something similar happened in Hesse:
In neither case did the extreme right anti-immigration party AfD get beyond the low teens. However, the voting patterns are changing.
5. ScoMo stops parliament
Here’s Mark David’s cartoon:
We are going to Bribie Island today to see my wife’s brother and his wife, so I’ll develop this further in a separate post tonight. However, I can’t see ScoMo coming back to parliament. He said he’d do anything to stop the Phelps’ bill on medical evacuations from Nauru passing into law, so he may just have to abandon parliament and go to an election.