Saturday, December 1, 2018

How the dice could be loaded in favour of Brexit in a "People's Vote"

There's been a lot of talk over the last few days about the increasing possibility of the ludicrously-dubbed "People's Vote" actually taking place, partly because Sam Gyimah has resigned to support it, and partly because John McDonnell has been making unusually positive noises on behalf of Labour.  I still don't think it will happen, because there would inevitably be a substantial Labour rebellion against it, and even if it got to the point where it looked like the arithmetic was there, the Prime Minister would then come under Tory pressure to preempt the issue with a snap general election.

If by any chance it does go ahead, though, everything would hinge upon the format.  McDonnell seemed to be hinting at a multi-option referendum, which presumably would include the May deal, remaining in the EU, and no-deal.  But how would a three-option vote actually work?  Nobody would ever seriously contemplate a first-past-the-post rule, because that would be like settling the constitutional future of the UK on a lottery (although of course that does beg the question of why we routinely choose governments that way).  A bit more plausible would be a preferential voting system or a French-style run-off, which I suspect would be Remain's best realistic hope.  But my guess is that we might instead end up with a two question format - the first question would ask whether the May deal should be approved, and the second question would give a straight choice between no-deal and Remain if the answer to the first question is "No".  (The result on the second question would be voided if there was a majority 'Yes' on the first question.)

If you think it through, the dice would be loaded in favour of Brexit on that format.  There would be extensive polling on both questions, and if the second question polling showed a clear majority for Remain (as you'd intuitively expect it to), Brexiteers would have every incentive to make a tactical switch in favour of campaigning for a Yes vote on the question about the May deal.  With government, media, and Brexiteer support, the deal would in all likelihood be approved, and Britain would leave the EU as a result.

Incidentally, it's impossible to know whether there is already a natural majority in favour of the May deal without that sort of tactical switch.  A Survation poll the other day showed a narrow majority in favour of the deal for the first time, but a new YouGov poll conducted at roughly the same time continues to show a massive majority against.  That sort of difference can't be explained by the standard margin of error - either one firm is getting it completely wrong, or they both are.  The YouGov poll also continues to show that Scotland is less supportive of the deal than any other part of Great Britain...

Support for the Brexit deal by region:

London: 22%
Rest of South: 29%
Midlands & Wales: 27%
North of England: 23%
Scotland: 20%

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

If Ruth Davidson, David Mundell and Theresa May "hate" the Common Fisheries Policy, why did they all vote Remain?

There has been a lot of disquiet in recent days about how the mainstream media is effectively allying itself with the Tory party in either falsely claiming that the SNP want Scotland to remain in the Common Fisheries Policy, or that the SNP's opposition to the CFP is some sort of farcical sham.  For the avoidance of doubt, SNP policy is that the CFP should be scrapped, or comprehensively reformed (which amounts to the same thing).  But because the SNP aren't Brexiteers, this would have to be achieved by agreement with our European partners.  It couldn't be done unilaterally.

"Unilaterally" is an interesting word, because it calls to mind the issue of nuclear disarmament.  Thirty years ago, the Labour party abandoned the cause of unilateral nuclear disarmament, but insisted (as it still does today) that this didn't mean it wasn't still committed to the elimination of nuclear weapons.  It just wanted to achieve that objective by multilateral means.  In other words, the implementation of the policy depended on the agreement of other medium-sized nuclear powers such as France and China, in much the same way that the SNP's hopes of abolishing the CFP depend on the consent of our European partners.  But, as you've probably noticed, the media have never seemed to find the concept of multilateral disarmament inherently ridiculous.  So it seems more than a touch odd that journalists and TV presenters are inviting us to to accept that no political party can be regarded as truly opposing the CFP unless they want to scrap it unilaterally.

The irony is, of course, that Labour's support for nuclear disarmament is a sham in a way that the SNP's opposition to the CFP isn't.  Labour are hiding behind multilateralism because it's too awkward to admit that they want to retain Trident, come what may, as a national status symbol.  By contrast, nobody can seriously doubt that the SNP genuinely loathe the CFP and would make the case for reform as an independent Scottish government, however likely that might be to fall on deaf ears in other European capitals.  And if journalists honestly believe, as they are forever telling us, that Nicola Sturgeon privately wants to kick Indyref 2 into the long grass and is therefore reconciled to Brexit occurring in some form, what would be so hard to understand about the SNP saying: "Withdrawal from the CFP is the one and only part of Brexit that would actually be in the Scottish national interest, so you'd damn well better at least deliver that if we're going to have to suffer the rest"?

A final point: someone quite reasonably asked in this blog's comments section the other day why journalists don't challenge the hypocrisy of Ruth Davidson, Theresa May and David Mundell, who all voted Remain in 2016, and therefore by their own standards (and by the media's standards) were all voting and campaigning for Scotland to remain within the "hated" CFP.  Why did they support the CFP back then?  Why have they changed their minds now?  They can scarcely argue that the Tory government would have agitated for reform of the CFP in the event of a Remain vote.  David Cameron had a golden chance to prioritise fishing in his pre-referendum renegotiation, but failed to do so.

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Andrew Gilligan (he of Hutton Inquiry fame) claimed a couple of days ago that the Scottish Government had left its plans for gender self-identification open to legal challenge by changing its Twitter cover photo to the words "Dear transphobes, we have a phobia of your hatred.  Yours, Scotland".  This was clearly intended to coincide with the publication of the outcome of a consultation on self-ID, in which 60% of respondents were in favour of the proposal.  I would be amazed if there is any prospect of a legal challenge succeeding, but I do think the timing of that change of cover photo was deeply ill-advised.  Imagine how it must have made opponents of self-ID feel, especially if they participated in that consultation in good faith.  One perfectly plausible interpretation was that the 40% who didn't support self-ID were being implicitly branded as transphobes.  If so, the consultation was not a genuine listening exercise, but was instead a presentational stunt that always intended to make an example of ideological undesirables.

Where does this identity politics zealotry end?  We've had the newly-elected SNP Equalities Convener openly use the dehumanising slur "TERF" against her ideological opponents on the self-ID issue, and express her generic distaste for the male gender.  In years to come, will people who persist in opposing self-ID find themselves expelled from the SNP on the grounds of "transphobic hate-speech", in the same way that Grouse Beater has just been expelled on a highly questionable charge of anti-Semitism, having had his guilt prejudged weeks in advance by the aforementioned Equalities Convener?  And if the SNP are ever foolish enough to go through with their relatively new policy of implementing the Nordic model on prostitution law in Scotland, thus defining certain types of consensual sex as "violence against women", will those who oppose the law be shunned by all right-thinking people as "enablers of violence"?

If you've ever wondered what Robespierre would have been like if he'd been an avid fan of A Thousand Flowers, we could be about to find out.  Let's reinject a bit of common sense before we meet that ghastly fate.  Let's debate those we disagree with, and not attempt to destroy them.  Politics, not pulverisation.

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Sky News are hellbent on undermining Scottish democracy - they must be challenged, and stopped

You may have seen today that SNP depute leader Keith Brown has written to Sky News chiding them for their apparent plan to exclude Nicola Sturgeon from the proposed TV debate on the Brexit deal.  Now, it's possible that Sky may argue that this is not a general election debate, we're not in a regulated general election period, and therefore all that is needed is the leading representative from the pro-deal side (Theresa May) and the leading representative from the anti-deal side (Jeremy Corbyn).  But that won't wash, for the simple reason that Sky News are right in the middle of a bizarre months-long crusade to exclude Scotland's leading party from future general election debates as well, so their plans for the Brexit debate are clearly fuelled by exactly the same Anglocentric mindset.

Not that they're being upfront about their desire to exclude the SNP, of course - they're simply badgering viewers to sign an innocuous-sounding petition to "make leaders' debates happen".  But the very few explanatory words at the top of the petition set out exactly what Sky's definition of a "debate" is, and it's nothing short of extraordinary.

"Genuine leaders' debates took place in 2010, but in the next two elections didn't happen."

What?  What?  What?  The "genuine debates" in 2010 excluded the SNP, Plaid Cymru, UKIP and the Greens.  Whereas in 2015 there was an immaculately inclusive debate on ITV that included the leaders of all of those parties, alongside the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.  According to Sky that was not a "genuine debate".  Why?  Presumably because the Jocks and the Taffies were cluttering up the set and making it hard for viewers to concentrate on the "real choice" between the terribly important London-based parties, who are terribly important because they're based in London.

Make no mistake - Sky's agenda is to destroy Scotland's political distinctiveness and to impose a one-size-fits-all London model on the entire UK.  They must be stopped.

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Sunday, November 25, 2018

YouGov poll suggests that Scotland is even more opposed to May's Brexit deal than the rest of the UK

"The British people want us to get this done!" says Theresa May, implying that they want parliament to endorse her Brexit deal.  The only snag: opinion polling suggests they want no such thing.  Here are the latest GB-wide numbers from YouGov...

Support the deal: 23%
Oppose the deal: 45%

In fairness that represents an 8% increase in support for the deal, which mean things have gone from catastrophic to merely disastrous for May.  But if the Scottish subsample of the poll is to believed (and yes, there are the usual caveats about the reliability of any individual subsample) things are even worse for her here.  Only 14% of Scottish respondents support the deal, and 51% oppose it - more than a 3 to 1 margin against.

The likes of Kenny Farquharson, and May loyalists in the Tory government, have tried to get a narrative going that says the SNP should act responsibly and in the national interest by letting the deal through. But for as long as only 14% of the public actually support that notion of "responsibility", there will be absolutely zero pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to reverse her plans to vote the deal down - and with a bit of luck to bring the wretched May premiership to a long-overdue end.  Now is the time, Prime Minister, now is the time.