Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Sorry for Laughing (at the Labour Party)

I thought I'd delve into the Labour Party manifesto today to see what they have to say about Brexit.  It is an unintentionally hilarious document and I recommend that everyone in need of a chuckle gives it a whirl.  If you're a purposeful individual with a busy schedule you probably don't have time to mine the deep comedy or savour its nuanced sense of confusion and befuddlement.  Don't worry, though, because that's why I'm here!  It is my pleasure to henceforth present the highlights.  In honour of my all-time favourite comedian, Stewart Lee, I have chosen to publish it in the form of a critical deconstruction of a comic text.  No, of course I haven't done anything like that at all. I've just picked a few quotes at random and ranted on a bit.  Honestly, it could have been any quote on any page and the rant would have been the same because it makes the same fundamental mistakes over and over and over again.  Please do be aware that I challenge readers to a fight about half-way through.  I don't know what got into me but I think it's time to put down that manifesto before I go completely postal.  Enjoy.

Let's start off with a quick rib-tickler before we move on to the main course.
"Britain needs to negotiate a Brexit deal that puts our economy and living standards  first.  That won’t be achieved by empty slogans and posturing. We cannot put at risk our links with our largest trading partner.  Instead we need a jobs-first Brexit that allows us to upgrade our economy for the 21st century."
This is the first mention of Brexit in the Labour Manifesto.  They decry the empty slogans of the Conservative Party but only a hearbeat before letting loose one of their own: "... we need a jobs-first Brexit that allows us to upgrade our economy for the 21st century .."  As slogans go, it's a cracker. I'm actually lost for words at the layers of deep irony.  Is Chris Morris involved in this?  Armando Ianucci?  Craig Brown? Somebody, somewhere is having a hearty chuckle to themselves.  Bravo.
"We will end Theresa May’s reckless approach to Brexit..."
What exactly is reckless about May's approach?  Oh yeah, it's the whole "no deal better than a bad deal" part.  May's approach is the equivalent of using the threat to give up your current job and live in a skip as a negotiating tactic to secure a job with a higher salary at a completely different firm. That is indeed quite reckless.  And idiotic.  The rational approach would be to acknowledge that the status quo is better than a bad deal and work from there.  That, after all, is the rule we all follow when bidding on ebay or buying a house or contemplating a job change.  I'd even argue that it's the default strategy for negotiating anything.  Sadly, neither Labour nor Conservative seem to be offering this as an option.  The Tories, however certifiably brain-wrong their approach might be, at least have a strategy to deal with an unacceptable EU settlement.  We all understand exactly what they plan to do. Labour, as daft as a brush, has no policy whatsoever for dealing with this situation.  They boldly assert that "Labour accepts the referendum result" yet have no credible plan to make it happen.  By rejecting the status quo and a bad deal they have left themselves with no negotiating position other than to accept whatever the EU offer and declare it a good deal.  I can barely get my head around this.  It is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard from a political leader (still not the stupidest but more of that later).  Now, it's not in any way a compliment but the Conservative Party actually have made pledges that will definitely settle Brexit.  Does that make them "better"?
"We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union..."
This sounds much better.  The only problem is that I read the entire Brexit section of the manifesto a few times and eventually concluded it was a rare example of a grammatically correct sentence that communicates zero information to the reader.  Here's the problem: the EEA isn't something you access in a limited way; nobody is allowed to pick and choose which benefits of the Customs Union they'd like to maintain.  Month after month after month the EU has been very clear that cherry-picking from the EU buffet is not an option.  Instead, The EEA is something you join; being inside or outside the EEA is a binary state.  To enjoy the benefits of the EEA you must first sign up to the four freedoms.  Correctamundo, that includes the freedom of movement of people.  I'll get to this later but the pitifully short Brexit section spends about 33% of its word count describing how Labour will guarantee to end the freedom of movement of people. Both Labour and Tories have both signed up to a fantasy where exiting the EU will leave everything pretty much the same.  Sure, a few details here, some legislation there but on the whole there's nothing to be scared about.  If anyone from Labour is reading this I'm going to impart some wisdom I learned as a lad.  It was passed down from father to son over many generations of Entoure and has served us well as an unofficial family motto.  Here it is: the only way to keep things the same is to actually keep things the same.  Enjoy and prosper.
"A Labour government will immediately guarantee existing rights for all EU nationals living in Britain and secure reciprocal rights for UK citizens who have chosen to make their lives in EU countries."
Hmm, it turns out nobody with influence in the Labour Party reads this blog.  I know that because I've already dealt with this affront to human dignity here.  They don't get it, do they?  Do I still think this will be the stupidest statement of GE 2017. Yes, I do. Oh, you disagree, do you?  Well, I don't have to explain myself to anyone. Right, let's take this outside. Yes, that's what I said. Outside! See how quickly things can escalate when you don't explain yourself clearly?  Just imagine Corbyn trying to get his head round the meaning of the words "continuation" and "persistent" in a meeting with Michele Barnier.  Now stop imagining that if you want to sleep well tonight.

What do Labour have to say about the ECJ?  I scoured the manifesto multiple times but I couldn't find anything at all.  That's right, not a single mention.  More positively, they do mention that they want to retain "access" to the European internal energy market, Euratom, Horizon 2020, European Medicines Agency and Erasmus.  Well, they won't be able to do all of that without accepting adjudications from the ECJ, Directives from the European Council of Ministers and Regulations from the European Parliament.  That's right, the UK will be forced to comply with foreign meddlers and EU fat-cats without the ability to influence anything.  There's simply no mention of the European Pensions Authority or the European Aviation Agency or how the UK will deal with the legislative nightmare of a Welsh train driver half-way through the Channel Tunnel when the clock strikes Brexit. There are close to 30 European technical agencies but apparently only two of them have any relevance to the UK.  Again, no matter how loop-the-loop it might be, the Conservatives have a plan for all of this.  Their plan, of course, is to withdraw from everything. Sure, it's mad, bad and dangerous to know but at least they gave it a passing thought and committed their conclusion to memory.
"A Labour government will end the uncertainty for our farmers and food producers by securing continued EU market access allowing British farmers and food producers to continue to sell their products on the Continent."
The EU has historically treated agriculture and fisheries quite separately from other areas of commerce. I think it all stems back to WWII and the years of austerity that followed. The Common Agricultural Policy, for example, accounts for approximately 39% of the EU annual budget. The EU, however, isn't the only trading zone that treats farmers and fishers as a special case. In fact, it is commonplace for FTAs to remove agriculture from the equation so that farmers may be protected in the name of food security. Even the WTO has historically adopted this approach, although it is trying to implement reform.  The idea that the UK can remove itself from the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy and the Customs Union (ok, we'll still have "access") but still carry on trading exactly as we do now is a fantasy.  Let's look at Norway for a second to see what is involved.  Back in 1992 Norway had no trade deal with the EU on agricultural products. Fast forward to 2007 and  Norway and the EU begin trade talks on farming and fisheries.  An informal agreement is reached in 2010 but it takes until 2012 for that to come into force.  That agreement, however, is far from comprehensive because they are still negotiating how to liberalise agricultural trade right now in 2017. There is even a plan to bi-annually review how to improve matters so this is far from over.  Norway, we need to remember, is a member of the EEA and is signed up to pretty much all of the EU Acquis communautaire.  What hope has the UK got?  Well, I would guess that the EU will only allow a comprehensive deal on agriculture if the UK adopts all of its Regulations on water quality, environmental protection, animal quality of life.  In short, they'll let us carry on selling them Aberdeen Angus tariff-free as long as we effectively stay in the EU.  Before I move on, there's that word "access" again.  No, I have no idea what they mean, either.  Do they mean a FTA?  Or membership of a specific EU scheme?  Or a magic land where food elves blow wizard dust on plants to make them tasty to eat?
"A Labour approach to Brexit also means legislating to guarantee that Parliament has a truly meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal."
I've kind of dealt with this already but I had so much fun that I'm going to give this another kicking.  What options will be presented to MPs?  I would guess the options are to either accept or reject the final Brexit deal.  Please help me out here because I can't think of any others. Isn't this exactly the same as Theresa May's "reckless" approach to Brexit?  I mean, the Labour Party are dead against that but here they are explicitly planning for it.  Giving MPs the choice to preserve the status quo of EU membership would be the sensible choice but we need to remember that "Labour accepts the referendum result".  They will never, ever give that choice to Parliament.  "No deal is better than a bad deal" turns out to be the Labour Party's manifesto pledge after all, no matter how many times they say it isn't.

I could have gone and on in this vein for quite some time but we all have lives to lead and dogs to walk. There are also friendlier blogs to read that don't challenge their readers to a fist fight so let's wrap this up. The Labour Party are a dead duck, an ex-Party, a confusion of MPs, a whirly-gig of wrong-headedness, and a challenge to Western traditions of rational thought. Please, please, please don't vote for them.

Over and out,



  1. Labour are still clueless. In addition to their lack of knowledge about what Brexit will entail, their manifesto also contains no commitment to fair voting and an arrogant assumption that they can dictate to the Scottish people regarding self-determination.

    Many former Labour voters have deserted the party in Scotland and hopefully more will follow.

    1. Can they go down to 10% in Scotland? It's all down to Corbyn and Dugdale. I know the can do it.

  2. They are certainly doing their best to totally destroy their vote in Scotland. Does Alex Rowley have a bet on at the bookies in Cowdenbeath that it'll be down to single figures?
    There are things to like in the manifesto, but on the issues of Scotland and Europe it is, as my granny would have said, mince.

    1. I've only read the Brexit section and anything that mentions Brexit. It is indeed total mince.

      Their flip-flop on an independence referendum is just bizarre. Sounds like policy on the hoof to me. Could they end up with 0 MPs?

  3. Wow!

    Excellent piece.

    If the Labour Party had said, even roughly, what the SNP has said, that the 'final position' ought to be put to the Electorate, not Westminster, then perhaps they would be more credible. As it is, they accept Brexit, want to, in some magical way, make Brexit better, but still leave the EU?

    It is frankly a ridiculous position.

    Corbyn's position on Scottish Independence also shows an utter lack of democratic sensibilities. Does Corbyn feel he has the right to dictate to us? In his beloved Westminster we currently hold 56 of 59 seats and the direction of travel for that number is up, not down. (See Scotland Goes Pop!)

    In the same poll of sub sample polls, the Tories are falling back too.

    This is becoming a perfect storm.

    1. Thanks!

      I just don't understand how they've tied themselves in knots like this. They had the perfect opportunity to really attack the Tories here but they completely blew it by not getting to grips with the problem at all. The Tories have a dreadful approach to Brexit. They're also confused and living in a fantasy land but at least I understand how they aim to implement Brexit. I can't say the same thing for Labour. I'm going to do a review of the Tory Brexit manifesto when it comes out but at the moment I think they're going to be clear winners. If I was forced to mark Labour and Tory on their Brexit homework I would fail them both but Labour would easily have the lowest score.

      It's painful to watch the Tories improving their ratings in Scotland but, to be honest, Labour deserve everything that is happening to them right now.

      I'm heading over to the ever excellent Scotland Goes Pop for some data crunching news.

    2. "hey had the perfect opportunity to really attack the Tories here but they completely blew it by not getting to grips with the problem at all."

      Yes. I am a Partick Thistle supporter. I know all about missed opportunities, it may be ingrained at birth.

      But Corbyn's position is beyond parody. You have an open goal, you turn away and run down the length of the park and tuck the ball under your own goalkeeper?

      I think that is ridiculous.

      You should only be a little cheered at the Scotland Goes Pop figures. IIRC these are all sub - samples, but the direction of travel is not in favour of either of the main opposition parties. And where I have an issue with Mr Kelly, who is propbably Scotland's best psephologist that cares about the Euro-vision Song Contest, is that quite a huge number of Greens are disenfranchised because the Greens are only standing in three Westminster constituencies this time around.

      I am half-convinced Greens facing a single choice ballot paper where there is no Green candidate will probably vote SNP.

      I could be wrong, they could all vote for the party you clinically deconstructed above or for the other mob, who have clinically deconstructed themselves.

      Best wishes.

  4. Is there not another issue?

    The EEA is made up of small countries that are, largely, comfortable with themselves.

    Why, exactly, would that club admit a boorish new member that seems to largely disagree with them?

    A wee, poor and stupid Scotland, might be welcomed with open arms, but I suspect, the UK would not.

    1. That's right. The obvious route to EEA membership is through EFTA. I'm not sure the EFTA option would remain open to the UK. The combined population of the EFTA nations is around 14 million so the UK would totally dominate EFTA if it was to join. I'm not sure they would be welcome, either. The UK has managed to burn all of its goodwill by banging on about how we won the war and accusing our closest partners of attempting to undermine the democratic processes of the UK. This is not good.

      The UK could still attempt to remain in EEA without joining EFTA. It is much more complex because it would involve implementing a mirror of the courts that govern EFTA's relationship with the EU. Switzerland followed that route via a Switzerland/EU committee but without going far enough to join the EEA. Switzerland, of course, still accepts freedom of movement of people. It is also in Schengen. The UK's chances of EEA membership seem slim given Theresa May's red lines. In fact, any kind of relationship with the EU seems remote at the moment.

      I'm sure Scotland would be welcome to join EFTA. Scotland and Norway are geographically close, Scotland is likely to have a European-style social democratic system of government, and we're about the same population as Norway and Switzerland.

    2. I am, almost, fed up saying this.

      Russia won the Second World War (in Europe) at enormous expense to itself. The numbers of German soldiers killed by the Soviets, compared to any other allied army is exponential.

      The cost to them has, really, never gone away.

      To be clear, we would have lost Europe had it not been for Russia. Or, at least until the USA nuked Berlin.

      Jesus, that seems like I have my hard hat on.

      You say:

      "I'm sure Scotland would be welcome to join EFTA. Scotland and Norway are geographically close, Scotland is likely to have a European-style social democratic system of government, and we're about the same population as Norway and Switzerland."

      If that is the place we have to be, it is, frankly not a bad place. We should be searching, perhaps through back-channels - for friends.

    3. I came across a statistic the other day that said that 80% of Russian men who were born in 1923 were dead by 1945.

      I'm quite sure Scotland would also be welcome to join the EU. It makes a perfect candidate. I blogged a few days about options aside from EU membership but I don't want anyone to think that EEA would be the only option available. Every option has pros and cons - I was just exploring them.

      The First Minister, in difference to Corbyn, has reached out and forged relationships all over Europe. The EU will be unwilling for support Scotland's case in public at the moment because they'll be keeping that weapon for the A50 talks. It's unusual for the EU to meddle in internal affairs but I'm definitely expecting to see EU politicians turning up in Edinburgh dangling EU membership in front of us when the talks really get tough.

  5. Mentioned your current post on Munguins Republic.

    This is the Dixie Chicks who were told to shut up and sing:


    So, they did. You might find the background to that song interesting if you don't know of it already.

    Think thee and me are as 'mad as hell' too.

    In context.

    The line 'mad as hell' is in that song.

    1. Thanks!

      I am mad as hell. The Tories are all over the place on Brexit. They've gifted it to Labour on a massive plate and what do Labour do? They make an even bigger mess of it. Oh dear.

      Really interesting history to that song. I had to google it, though. I didn't know US country fans were so unhinged. It must have been horrible living through that.

    2. Thanks for taking the time to understand. They are together again and touring, last time I looked.

    3. I normally start my posts with a pop song with semi-appropriate song title. Now I have one more to add to the list.

  6. Clear the SNP are running the school you went to for your political reeducation because it has failed to take. Good oh.


    1. That is way, way too clever for this blog!

  7. It just seems that Labour is saying, we will leave the EU in deference to the 52% of the British public that wanted to do so. But effectively we will negotiate to stay in the EU and everything that it stands for.

    Maybe I'm missing something here, but didn't the EU make it completely clear that if one of the freedoms is involved, then all four of the freedoms are involved?

    They have to understand, and it seems that none of them has a clue, that if you leave the golf club, you can't play there any more, or drink in the bar, or use the sauna, or dining room, of your own accord. You may, like anyone else, be a guest in parts of the premises but that is as far as it goes.

    The Tories have given away their negotiating power, what little they had. Your "leaving your job and living in a skip", was superb.

    1. I think I am a liberal, in the old fashioned sense of a liberal.

      So, help me here.

      Are not the four freedoms almost a single freedom that is indivisible? Something all human beings should subscribe to, lest politics subverts our rights?

      If I were on the EU side of the debate, would I not see picking and choosing as picking and choosing like a chicken with a meal?

      Quite why our Jeremy chose to stand on the Brexit side is 'interesting' in the sense that suicide notes are 'interesting'.

    2. Oh. Hi. Tristan Price-Williams.

      Thanks for following my link.

      And thanks for letting me follow your link. And so on ad finitum

      It is strange.

      You, me and our good host, agree on so much.

      What's to be done about it?

    3. Yup, the four freedoms are not only indivisible but they are the very definition of the single market. The single market *is* the four freedoms: a single market of labour, capital, goods, services. The phrase "access to the single market" is a meaningless combination of words, an impossibility, a self-contradiction.

      From reading their Brexit manifesto pledges I'm clueless about what Labour are planning to do. They are also clueless, even more clueless than the Tories. All they've managed to do is tie themselves up in logical knots and demonstrate that they don't see Brexit as a priority. We need to remember that Labour didn't even debate Brexit at their autumn conference. Corbyn hasn't once met an EU leader or even a European opposition leader. He is insular and small-minded. I'm sure he'd make a great local councillor but leader of the opposition? It's as if Brexit doesn't exist for him, even though it is potentially the biggest catastrophe since the last war.

      I want Corbyn to lose. Labour are so ineffectual as an opposition that they might as well lose badly. In fact, I want them to lose so badly that it forces an existential crisis in Labour. They need to grow a spine and get themselves properly organised. Maybe they need to split in two because the current sniping seems untenable. Only then can Brexit be met with any opposition worthy of the name.

      What's to be done about it? We're lucky that we all have the option of voting for anyone other than Labour. We're also able to communicate that Corbyn is dangerously terrible at his job; he is like Homer Simpson getting promoted at the nuclear plant. I think Scottish independence is the only real way out of this mess for Scotland.

      PS I must admit I rather pleased with myself about the "living in a skip" analogy.

    4. I guess the Labour situation is a difficult one, even without Brexit.

      Who could they have for leader?

      And if he/she were electable in the South of England (as Blair was) what kind of policies would he/she have to espouse, and would he/she be electable elsewhere. Once bitten...

      In any case, unless Corbyn wants to stand down and not re-stand in the next election, the membership would probably vote for him anyway.

      And in Scotland poor Kezia is on the wrong side of the argument. Scotland, to the left of England on almost everything, has a Labour "leader" to the right of the UK/English leader. What's that about?

      But don't let me give you the impression that I'm happy with Corbyn. I prefer him to any of the Blairite candidates that have stood against him. The last two contenders were really pathetic. But he's not a leader and, as you say, to have nothing much more than a few meaningless words as a policy on the one thing that above all with affect our lives in the next 10 years is simply neglect.

      I suspect they couldn't agree on anything much and so settled for platitudes.

      The Tories are far better disciplined, or better at lying to get/keep a job, if you prefer it that way.

      We know vast numbers of them are anti Brexit, but they, in turn, know that UKIP is a threat to their very comfortable existence in Westminster. They tow the line and principles be damned.

    5. That's a really good point. There seem to be at least 3 Labour parties the moment: Momentum, Blairites, Scottish Labour. They all want different things and they hate each other more than they hate the Tories. Their only hatred greater than that is for the SNP.

      I'm actually starting to wonder if Owen Smith would have done a better job on Brexit. I had high hopes for Corbyn but he is so bad that it really doesn't matter what his policies are because nobody is listening and he never fails to miss an open goal. Strategically terrible. Brexit is such a crisis that I'd rather have someone who provide real opposition on that one topic even if I disagree with them on everything else.

      Labour probably need to split in 2 and the centre probably needs to realign. I can easily see a new party with Tories, Lib Dems and Labour taking the centre ground. The SDP tried that in the 80s in similar circumstances and failed miserably. We're probably stuck with unfettered Tory rule for some time to come.

  8. I'd add the small caveat that what we know if Corbyn is what the MSM, particularly the BBC, has let us know of Corbyn... And I think all readers of this blog will get what I'm meaning there...

    But, yeah, I agree that Labour needs to lose & lose badly for that party to be saved. But the UK will lose out badly while the Labour party reinvents itself & the Tories get to rule unfettered.

    If only there was a solution for those of us living in Scotland...

    1. There is a problem whereby Corbyn's policies are dismissed out of hand as "mad" or "loony". There is definitely a bias against him in the media. Some of his manifesto policies are very hard to disagree with.

      The recent exchange between Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Tim Fallon rather underlines the point that Corbyn will be villified for saying something that would pass unnoticed if someone else said it (in this case Boris Johnson) Genuinely excellent reporting by C4 - they made Fallon look like a complete fool.

      I've only chosen to discuss Brexit here. I'm afraid to report that it is hard to even begin to understand what Labour intend to do. It is such a garbled message that it's impossible to agree or disagree with any of it. On Brexit they are woeful.

      and I find it hard to even understand what Labour are trying to ac

  9. You're a sarcastic SOB, but you're our sarcastic SOB!
    Bravo, sir.

    1. Thank you. Sarcasm is the highest form of wit. That's lucky because it is my only form of wit.

    2. btw In the interests of fairness I have a right go a the Tory Brexit manifesto in the next post. The problem there is that fear tends to drain my powers of sarcasm. I'd only recommend engaging with Tory manifetso pledges in full daylight.


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