Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The pros and cons of backing a December election

It's sometimes a struggle to keep up with Somerset's leading political blogger - a day or two ago he was bitterly suggesting that the SNP were about to "vote with the Tories" for the wrong reason, ie. that they were passing up the chance to cut a deal with Boris Johnson that could bring about a second indyref, but were instead following a path that "cleverly" wouldn't have that effect.  But he seems to have brightened up a bit today and has concluded that the SNP voting for a December election might trigger an indyref - but only by 'complete accident', naturally.  The image we're expected to have is of a Mr Bean-type political party, bumbling its way through life.

What I find curious, though, it that one of the conditions for this 'completely accidental' scenario falling into place is that the "Tories have to win" any election in December.  And yet that of course means the SNP would lose the leverage Mr Campbell wants us to believe they have in the current hung parliament and that could supposedly secure a Section 30 order immediately if only they would listen to him.  So is having leverage in a hung parliament suddenly now a bad thing?  I'm confused.

The reality is that anyone paying attention over the last couple of weeks will have been thoroughly disabused of the notion that Boris Johnson is a man open to cutting painful deals with the SNP.  As Ken Clarke has pointed out multiple times, the arithmetic is probably there to pass the withdrawal agreement right now without the SNP, and it probably would even have been there to pass the agreement in time for 31st October.  But Johnson didn't actually want that - he pulled the bill rather than submitting a more realistic programme motion.  OK, there was a danger the withdrawal agreement might have suffered 'death by amendment', but he didn't even give himself the chance to find out.  He's not remotely interested in compromising with opponents to deliver Brexit - he wants to do it breaking them.  If the SNP had turned up at his door offering to back the withdrawal agreement in return for a Section 30, he'd have burst out laughing, and then shut the door - firmly.

So this current parliament is not one in which the SNP have the leverage to get a Westminster-approved indyref.  To have any chance of gaining that leverage, there will have to be a new parliament, and that means an election at some point.  To that extent what the SNP are doing today makes perfect sense.  The objection people are raising is that opinion polls currently point to a majority Tory government, meaning that the SNP still wouldn't have leverage in the new parliament.  In fact the situation would have worsened, because there wouldn't need to be another election for another five years, during which time a Section 30 would be essentially impossible.  Shouldn't the SNP hold off, therefore, until the polling situtaion deteriorates for the Tories?

The snag is that the SNP don't just need the Tories to be defeated - they specifically need a hung parliament in which Labour are the largest single party.  A Labour or even Liberal Democrat majority government wouldn't be much more likely to grant a Section 30 than a Tory majority government.  The range of election results that would do the trick is incredibly narrow, and the SNP would look a bit daft if they held off, waiting for the pendulum to swing, and it ended up swinging too far in the opposite direction.  There's a long history in the UK of political leaders getting cold feet about holding an election, and then finding that the polling position actually deteriorates afterwards rather than improves - James Callaghan in 1978 and Gordon Brown in 2007 spring to mind.

Waiting certainly wouldn't be a risk-free endeavour for the SNP.  Opinion polls have suggested for some time that they're on course to essentially take Scottish Labour out of the game completely.  If an election is delayed long enough for Labour to recover (which ironically would be the whole point of the delay!), the chance of a strategic breakthrough for the independence movement might have been squandered.  The SNP also appear to be on course for gains from the Tories, even if we're less clear about the scale of those gains - so why would we want to give the Scottish Tories a few more months in which they could potentially bounce back?

I know there are some people who will worry about the effect of being seen to "vote with the Tories" to engineer an election.  There was a chap in the comments section of this blog the other day who even threatened to throw away his SNP membership card if the party ever walked through the lobbies with the Tories.  When I pointed out that they had already done so several times this year (as had Labour and the Lib Dems) he hurriedly shifted the goalposts and said it would only count if the SNP and Tories went into one lobby and Labour went into the other.  Which is nuts, if you think about it - that would be a 'reverse Bain' principle that would give Labour a de facto veto on any step the SNP take.

In spite of Andrew Adonis' optimistic trial run yesterday, I can't see any cry of betrayal sticking.  This isn't 1979 - a Tory government is in office at present and a general election is an opportunity to remove it.  It'll hardly be the SNP's fault if Labour and the Lib Dems prove to be too rubbish to take that opportunity.  And it remains to be seen whether they will prove to be too rubbish - the electorate has been incredibly volatile in recent years and surprise election results have almost become the norm.

UPDATE: The last two paragraphs are moot now that Corbyn has backed a general election (literally within the time it took to write this blogpost!).  It's safe to assume he wouldn't have done that unless he'd known the vote was going to pass anyway - he couldn't go into an election campaign being seen to be scared of losing.  So that shows the value of the SNP not following the reverse Bain principle - sometimes a bold stance can force Labour to back down.

*  *  *

I simply cannot understand why Mr Campbell is once again pushing the self-destructive narrative that the SNP and/or pro-indy parties in general need a majority of the vote for a mandate, and not just a majority of seats.  For months he's been loudly calling on them to use their current mandate to call a pre-2021 indyref (and I agree with him on that) and yet that mandate was won without an outright majority of the popular vote.  Look up the 2016 election result if you don't believe me.  So why would we suddenly and needlessly start setting ourselves a much tougher threshold for future elections?  It makes no sense at all.

74 comments:

  1. Ian Murray was on Scotland Tonight last night blaming SNP for calling election helping Tory Party

    must of choked on his cornflakes seeing corbyn calling for election this morning

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    1. Doubt it. Holding two conflicting principles in your head at the same time is a necessary skill for any socialist. Thesis, antithesis and synthesis is how it's supposed to work for them, isn't it?

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    2. Never realised Ian Murray was a socialist.

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  2. Well, to be fair to Stuart Campbell, his argument is that the SNP would have to treat the forthcoming election as a plebiscitary one. If they are bold enough to do that surely it follows that they would need to secure a majority of votes, so as to make a credible political argument?

    Of course, it remains to be seen whether the SNP will stand on a single issue in this election. If not, the rest of his argument is moot.

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    1. What he's suggesting is crazy on multiple counts. Yes, by all means I would support the SNP using an election to gain an outright mandate for independence if all else fails. But that's not what he's suggesting - he wants them to seek a mandate for a referendum, which is something they already have via the Holyrood election of 2016. He also wants to throw away that mandate by insisting they need an outright majority of the popular vote, which is likely to be unattainable.

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    2. We now have a democratic mandate, what would be achieved through gaining 50+1% of the vote would be a political or popular mandate that would create additional pressure on each of the three pillars of UK power, the executive, parliament and the judiciary.
      The current mandate, while democratically legitimate was not sufficient to secure a referendum when the section 30 order was requested.
      Wings wants to secure independence not just the moral high ground from which to cite grievances. Its not a concession that the current mandate is not legitimate or sufficient but a recognition that in the real world that is what would be required to secure independence.
      If the legitimacy of the mandate is on trial in the conscious of the Scottish electorate, then it requires a majority verdict in its' favour. The negotiating position of the SNP leader then becomes much much stronger.

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    3. In which case, you seek such a super-mandate in a "home" fixture where you might stand a chance of actually achieving it, not in an "away" fixture where you know it's pretty likely that you won't. In other words, you do it in a Holyrood election, not a Westminster election where media coverage will be dominated by the London parties.

      It's charitable of you to say that Wings wants independence not the moral high ground. It seems to some of us that he's much more keen to continually set up "win or bust" scenarios where he knows "bust" is the more likely outcome. Maybe that's his gambler's instinct, but our country's future is on the line here, not just his poker stake.

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    4. Incidentally, you're quite wrong to suggest that he isn't saying that a 2016-type mandate isn't legitimate in his own eyes. He said explicitly in an earlier post that the SNP wouldn't have a mandate for an indyref after 2021 unless they won an outright majority of the popular vote on their own (ie. not even in combination with other pro-indy parties). Which makes even more of a nonsense of his plan to put up candidates against them in 2021.

      Really, what he's saying is that a 2016-type mandate is legitimate now but won't be in 2021. Which makes no sense, and we all know that. On some level he probably knows that himself.

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    5. Highest SNP vote share achieved in GE 2015 not a Holyrood election, turnout in Scotland much higher in UK General Elections increasing the popular mandate. Time-frame of likely UK GE much more viable as any extra period Scotland is outside of the EU makes rejoining harder and may result in popular acceptance of being outside of the EU.

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    6. He's called on Nicola Sturgeon many times since 2016 and prior to her doing so to use the 2016 mandate and call for a section 30 order in posts and on twitter.
      The fact that the order was refused and the SNP are not proposing any other route to independence as an alternative has changed the circumstances somewhat.

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    7. "Highest SNP vote share achieved in GE 2015 not a Holyrood election"

      Oh come now, that was achieved in very special circumstances that can't be replicated now. In normal circumstances the SNP will generally do better in Holyrood elections.

      From the Wings Bunker: Is the 2016 mandate, achieved without an outright majority of the popular vote, legitimate or illegitimate? It has to be one or the other.

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    8. If your suggesting these are 'normal circumstances', then while its' a matter of opinion, I'd suggest you'd be the only person doing so.

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    9. Sigh. You know perfectly well what I mean. The near-miraculous SNP vote share in May 2015 was possible because there had been an independence referendum in September 2014.

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    10. Legitimate or illegitimate, you're asking the wrong question, its' not a question of legitimacy but utility, can the mandate be used to secure a referendum and hence independence or not.

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    11. I'm simply interrogating Mr Campbell's own logic. Wising up to the inconsistency at the heart of it may save some of his followers a lot of grief in the long run.

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    12. Adapting your tactics and positioning to a changing operational landscape or battleground is the sign of a good strategist and not indicative of flaws in the internal consistency or the cogency of one's logical reasoning. If you stand still you may get outflanked.

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    13. When you mentioned the Somerset blogster, my first thought was Mogg MP, and "What tripe's he spouting now?".

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    14. Apparently Mogg and Campbell regularly go for a beer in their local.

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    15. Celia Rodina Arthur Whyte-SempleOctober 29, 2019 at 10:00 PM

      They're never out of the Sense and Sensibility Gentlemen's Club either, downing pints of champagne cocktails and lap-dancing for each other. Allegedly.

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    16. "Adapting your tactics and positioning to a changing operational landscape or battleground is the sign of a good strategist"

      That's fine. But just one snag - I wasn't talking about tactics or positioning, but about the rather more fundamental point that a mandate cannot be both legitimate and illegitimate depending on which year it occurs. Schrodinger's Mandate?

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  3. Just had a quick swatch at the comments on wings.. really is depressing reading.. 'the SNP are all over the place,why they getting into bed with the Tories' etc etc..

    Be the last time!

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    1. It must be a big bed as Labour are already in it.

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    2. Stuart Campbell is in there as well now, but has managed to get out of his kip to peer out of the ''Wings Bunker'' and talk a load Unionist crap.

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  4. Clearly SNP plan is to secure 85-90% of Scots MPs on an explicit Independence manifesto, then expidite litigation on refused S30 post haste. Also whatever the arithmetic the Tory's (Cummings) would relish losing 55ish Scots MPs perpetual Tory Maj in England & Wales

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  5. The Tories may regret calling the election. Recently I have spoken to two friends who are life-long Tory voters one in London and one in Angus. They told without asking that they will not be voting Tory for the first time ever. Johnston was the reason for their decision and the mess the Tories have left the country in. They cannot be the only ones thinking that.

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    1. Yes, I think it just depends on whether the anti-Tory vote can coalesce in an effective way, or remains split down the middle.

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    2. And if Farage joins in? What kind of impact should we expect?

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  6. This doesn't surprise me, I think there's a trend in general of switching party loyalties and the typical socioeconomic demographic characteristics of each party's voters are changing. How this will all play out in vote shares come the election, well watch this space!

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  7. Most of the used to be regular Wings contributers have left that site due to Stuart Campbell's continuous bitterness towards not just the SNP but Nicola Sturgeon herself
    Campbell seems obsessed by his own self worth and self importance and doesn't realise that most of the world neither knows nor cares who he is and if they don't he's annoyed about that too, so his position has attracted, in his words a right load of zoomers possibly in the hope somebody will keep funding his life because the people who used to aren't there any more over his insulting behaviour

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    1. I don't blame former Wings supporters for abandoning the site in their droves. His output has absolutely plummeted in recent years, while his funding has remained relatively stable. Any Wings supporters are getting a fraction of their money's worth - and what little they are getting is sour and spiteful, an endless dreary procession of articles designed to depress and deflate.

      The fact that many in the Wings comments section now proudly proclaim that they shall be abstaining from voting in future elections is a sign that the site is now the preserve of idiots, cultists, and cynical Britnats seeking to promote counterproductive ideas.

      "The SNP can't be trusted, so I'm abstaining for independence!" Yeah, Boris thanks you lot for your invaluable contribution to the Unionist cause.

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    2. I suspect these two are a couple of yoons who are attempting to deter people from engaging with the output of the greatest political activist since Nelson Mandela.

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    3. I doubt that he needs anyone to fund his site now. Like many of the Unionist newspapers he's probably getting bumper cheques from elsewhere. People talk of Davidson and her U-turns. Stuart Campbell beats her hands down. Shame that the handful of genuine supporters on there can't see it. The penny will eventually drop as his blogs in the lead up to Indyre2 really push the SNP Baad line.

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    4. I used to visit Wings at least once a day, but it recently dawned on me that it's been weeks since I bothered. I even used to comment occasionally and still think it was a great website in its day. I didn't make a conscious decision to stop reading - it just became irrelevant and boring. It's a shame.

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  8. "The fact that many in the Wings comments section now proudly proclaim that they shall be abstaining from voting in future elections is a sign that the site is now the preserve of idiots, cultists, and cynical Britnats seeking to promote counterproductive ideas."

    But even 'classic' Wingers were willing to encourage belief in the existence of creatures such as the "BritNat". Ask yourself if this is helpful to our cause. Did the Irish promote the idea of "British Isles Nats" or Norwegians suggest the idea of "ScandNats"?
    Maybe stuff like that makes people feel good about being civic regionalists. That's one explanation.

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    1. I use the term Brit Nats, I don't have a problem with that. If people who believe in the existence of a Scottish state are Scot Nats, then people who believe in the existence of a British state must be Brit Nats.

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    2. I am a Brit Scot but not a Nat si. Unlike the Jocko Nat sis I respect the result of the ballot even when the Jocko Nat si Tories prevail.

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    3. The census has 26% of Scots in whole or in part nationally identifying as British, i.e. 'British nationalists'.

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    4. That is likely to be because most real Scots immigrated post WW2 and migrants mostly Irish who love Ireland but do not want to live in Ireland are in Scotland. And they breed.

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. He'll be calling on SNP voters to stay at home shortly, mark my words.

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  11. If I was around the collaborators including the Speaker to thwart brexit and democracy would have been sorted.

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    1. You sound tough and impressive.

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  12. Hopefully we'll see the end of this parliament on November 5th, BOOM!

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    1. Corruption never goes away but only illimunated temporarily.

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    2. That's an interesting word.

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  13. General Election 12th December approved by Westminster parl 438-20.

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    1. I think you'll find this will play out exactly as wings has predicted it would.

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    2. Wings couldn't predict his own teeth falling out, that's why he's such a bitter wee man

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  14. If, as the opinion polls suggest, the Conservatives win, Boris Johnson will likely get any new Parliament to pass his Brexit deal with Britain then leaving the EU before the end of the year.

    Happy New Year folks!

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    1. If the politicians who said they would respect the referendum vote then stabbed the people in the back are booted oot then it will be a happy new year. The Scottish Nat si EU crawlers will no doubt win most seats in Jocko land however it is a UK election just like the referendum was.

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    2. As crazy as 123, GWC...............

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    3. There will no such thing as a UK election if BJ's bill passes as N. Ireland will be subject to different rules on trade and immigration. The break up of what's left of the UK/Empire will formally begin.

      Enjoy your last UK election.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. NI MPs will need to be excluded on certain votes in Westminster due to the different arrangements going forward. This is obvious.

      The red saltire will not last long on the tattered union flag even if the blue one did remain for a while.

      Brexit is the end of the UK. Both symptom and cause.

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    6. Wir werden den Nazi-Jungen sehen.

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    7. Also, die Nazi Jungen, Aber Sir wussten das schon. Oder?

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    8. Sir = Sie

      Selbsverständlich!

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    9. Praesident Jakob's Lieblingsblume ist die schlichte Distel.

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  15. I discovered today that there's a Labour MP for a Scottish constituency called Ged Killen and s/he has been there since 2017. I've heard of Labour's Low-flying Jimmies but this one seems determined to keep her/his head well below the parapet.

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  16. Can't see a GE as anything other than helpful. AB Mac Neil reckons we'd be stuck with a Tory majority which won't allow us to have a new indy ref, but no Westminster government is going to be more likely to do so than one composed of 'little England' Tory Brexiteers. And nothing could spur the indy cause in Scotland more.

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  17. The remainers should be held liable for British taxpayers money going to the EU. Some smart lawyers needed to do this.

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    1. You should hire some. Turn a few tricks and hey presto - you've got the money! You could charge a lot from punters with bizarre tastes that you could please.

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  18. Ve Germans are on the march again and vith the help of the Scottish Nat sis Ve vill prevail this time. Ve appreciate you Jocks and Irish were forced by the English to fight us and save the Jews. Ve forgive you so get on board and ve vill vin this time.

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    1. I say, good fellow, a major theme of my election campaign shall be back doors.

      I fled through the back door in Scotland, after the keening mob made me soil my frillies. Now, I'm preparing to do my ultimate patriotic duty, surrender the whole Northern Irish limb of the Union to the EU, and dutifully bend over a desk to open my own back doors for Leo and Jean-Claude.

      I'm sure we can count on you to do the same, good sport. GWC has already signed up to do his duty, bend over, and open his own Back Doors for Brussels.

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  19. I have funded wings for years but his anti snp/sturgeon rants as we near the promised land and his refusal to answer questions directly put to him , only saying he will ban those who question his views are frankly sad.
    my suspicion is early onset dementia.
    his site is a no go area for me these days. Pity really as he has a good database to use.

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    1. My suspician is that he has either been threatened or bunged by the State. He won't have been the first or the last.

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  20. Herald poll showing the SNP Westminster vote at 57% - should do it!

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  21. Oh look. The SNP abstained and did not vote with the Tories.

    That was obviously predictable.

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    1. Seems that Mr Campbell got that one wrong too.

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  22. Major Reginald SpankerOctober 31, 2019 at 7:38 AM

    Pros and cons are backing an election. Yes. Pr*stitutes and confidence tricksters. My point is made for me. If ever we needed Brexit. It is now.

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