A Glaswegian Twitter-user has posted an excellent thread reviewing every national parliament or congress building in the world, the kind of thing Twitter was made for. He courted controversy early on by bagging the Australian federal parliament, which I loved (as well as the old one) when I lived in Canberra in the 1990s. Its 1980s interiors remind me of my youth, and feature some impressive tapestries, and the flagpole towering over the hill makes a great visual shorthand for Australian cartoonists. The building’s confident modernism was a good match for the Australia of the late 1980s and early 1990s—the one that all went to pot in 1996 (cf. UK architecture of the late-1990s and early-2000s). I was dismayed when they fenced off the grass running over the top of the building, as it was so fundamental to the concept and the experience of the place. I haven’t seen it since that was done, and am not looking forward to seeing the fence in person.
Boris Johnson wrote in his letter yesterday to Jean-Claude Juncker that “the proposed ‘backstop’ is a bridge to nowhere, and a new way forward must be found”. If Johnson is an expert on anything he’s an expert on bridges to nowhere.
Ian Dunt excoriates Johnson’s Brexit plan. There’s a lot of presumption in the media today that every MP who ever wanted some sort of deal will want this deal, which isn’t even a possible deal unless the EU agrees to it. The Brexit steering group of the European Parliament aren’t having any of it. The EU is preparing for life without us.
The Festival of Brexit seems to come sooner and sooner every year. Here are some limericks to celebrate Boris Johnson’s latest proposal, which is sure to win support from the EU, MPs, Leavers and Remainers alike, and isn’t at all designed to fail so that he can blame everyone except himself.
Given the sweeping under the carpet of Leave campaign irregularities by UK authorities in recent days, I feared the worst yesterday, and feared that a ruling in the government’s favour would open the door to the neutering of British parliamentary democracy. So it was an unexpected relief to hear the unanimous conclusion of eleven Supreme Court judges that Johnson’s prorogation was “unlawful, null and of no effect”. Parliamentary democracy lives, and parliament itself returned today to try to head off the looming disaster that Johnson seems determined to bring down upon us.
If a week is a long time in politics, the two weeks since Boris Johnson’s government announced the prorogation of parliament has been an age. Johnson has lost his majority, lost (or ejected) 22 Conservative MPS, and lost six out of his first six votes in Parliament. Since the dramatic scenes at the close of parliament on Monday night, we have learned that the government’s act of prorogation is unlawful (subject to an appeal to the UK Supreme Court to be heard next Tuesday), and that even the barest of outlines of Operation Yellowhammer, the government’s contingency plan for a No Deal Brexit, is enough to demonstrate that Project Fear was always Project Reality. (Here’s a pithy Yellowhammer summary in summary.)
Johnson bulldozes Britain deeper into chaos. The trade remedies problem. Do Conservative MPs really think they can cope with the consequences of No Deal? Brexit’s circles of self interest. What Johnson and co. are trying to teach us with their performative prorogation.
Much of the article is reasonably straight reportage of the general landscape of Remain activism, particularly the Twitter side, but the tone is skewed by Cohen’s use of the term “remainist” to make it seem as if hardcore remainers are some sort of extreme fringe. The label “remainer” seems perfectly adequate to me. We’ve had no trouble distinguishing between different types of remainers to date—people have talked about Remain voters versus Remainers, or “hardcore remainers” as the Guardian puts it in the lede of Cohen’s article. “Remainer” means more than just “somebody who voted remain”, because at least some remain voters are now leavers, just as some leave voters are now remainers. It’s also flexible enough to include those who are generally supportive of remaining, through to those who are passionate enough to go on a march, tweet or post to Mefi Brexit threads, through to those who have given up their day jobs to devote themselves to the cause. It’s a broad church, and it isn’t defined by #FBPE.
Evidence that the Home Office should be abolished, part XVII: The Home Office have privatised the visa system and made it even less accessible. The Home Office detained a trafficking victim for five months because it insisted he was somebody else.
Evidence that the US is lost, part XVII: The youngest child separated from his family at the US border was 4 months old. America’s new concentration camp system.
Canadian permafrost is thawing 70 years early. The reality of melting Greenland sea ice. Antarctica has lost as much sea ice in four years as the Arctic lost in 34. Planes are even worse for the climate than we thought. #ShowYourStripes
Finally, a sad development in a country close to me: Cocaine and meth fuel crime and chaos in Fiji.
Two months ago I gathered a handful of links to mark the massacre in Christchurch, but couldn’t collect my thoughts sufficiently to post them here. The city has been one of my favourite places ever since J. and I lived there for a few months in 1997, and as often happens with awful events in places I love, I found it hard to disentangle the events from my memories of the place.
The European Elections are out of the way, and soon Theresa May will be as well.
The BBC reported yesterday that Australians will remember Bob Hawke for breaking a beer-drinking record and being a good bloke, which was a pretty feeble eulogy. Australians will remember him for a bloody sight more than that.
Remember when it was early December, and we were all in agony awaiting the first Meaningful Vote on May’s deal, which ended up not happening that month? That was only four months ago. If we have six more months of this, we’re not even halfway through the end of the beginning.
56 hours to go, and we still don’t know if we’re going.
Once again the UK is potentially days away from crashing out of the EU with no deal, with no clear path to avoiding it. Theresa May is in talks with Jeremy Corbyn about reaching a cross-party agreement which could trade away our freedom of movement and any chance of a people’s vote for some vague statements about post-Brexit negotiating aims. On Monday in Parliament Labour whipped in favour of three indicative motions to find a way forward, but not for Joanna Cherry’s crucial emergency brake, on which many of its MPs abstained. If we crash out because of that, or leave on the barest of terms with Corbyn’s approval, many voters will be abstaining from voting for Labour.
A BuzzFeed report on EU officials’ responses to the past couple of days of UK political developments has just the best punchline.
I’ve long thought that Labour’s switch to selecting its leader via a direct membership vote was a wrong turn, and that the next Tory leadership battle will be disastrous for the same reason.
Two weeks until a possible No Deal, and we’re all having to twiddle our thumbs for five days until Meaningful Vote 3 to see what fresh hell awaits us.
With three weeks to go, Britain is unprepared for any kind of Brexit and unable to decide which way to turn, with May’s government operating under a cloak of secrecy and considering prolonging the indecision if parliament’s second vote on her Withdrawal Agreement fails next week. The endless Brexit lies have left us in an Orwellian nightmare, with some MPs receiving death threats every single day. Now new lies are doing the rounds of social media, as questionable money buys who knows what amount of under-the-radar campaigning in advance of a possible second referendum. Bookmakers, though, consider the odds of a second referendum to be worse than those of No Deal (5/1 versus 4/1 respectively), with the odds of the latter shortening.
I’d better post something to mark our penultimate month in the EU. Since the parliamentary votes at the end of January I’ve been resigned to the worst, and too ill for most of the month to pay the daily ins and outs much attention, but here are a few things I noticed and briefly commented on along the way.
Another precious week has passed with no sign of progress on Brexit, as everyone waits for next week’s next parliamentary vote.
Theresa May’s statement to Parliament yesterday about her Brexit Plan B was a non-event, after a week of even more floundering about than we’ve come to expect. Gina Miller has written about the need for MPs to use the parliamentary sovereignty that she fought for. David Lammy MP argues that even a Norway outcome would be lose-lose. A backbench effort to rule out a no-deal Brexit is supposedly supported in private by much of the government, who don’t want to do it themselves for fear of splitting their party. But might explicitly ruling out No Deal mean that May’s deal ends up getting through?
Tom Watson played a blinder in his speech to the House during the no-confidence vote. Just look at May’s laughter when he points out the impact of the past thirty months on EU27 citizens living in Britain. Nervous laughter, or laughter at the idea that she’s failed to give them reassurance, or outright indifference: whichever it is, it’s a terrible look.
I’ve been thinking about what I’d say to Lexiters, and any other Brexiter who’s willing to listen, that might get past the whole “will it/won’t it be a disaster” debate with firmly held positions on both sides. I’m not sure it would help in most cases, but it might in some...
The meaningful vote is due in something like six or seven hours, and the anticipation is hard to bear.
Two short sentences in a comments thread woke my inner satirist.
That’s an argument, not a story. A story gets an emotional reaction.
Now that Christmas is out of the way, Parliament’s vote on the EU withdrawal agreement, delayed by Theresa May in December, is imminent. The ever-reliable Ian Dunt has explained Wednesday’s extraordinary events in the Commons, which came two days after a small group of Brexit supporters staged a yellow vest protest and three days after the government staged a fake traffic jam intended to show that we could survive without a deal, so there.