Is Will Quince MP psychic?

Will Quince, stopping traffic using the power of his mind.
Will Quince, stopping traffic using the power of his mind.
I’ve discussed before the voting pattern of Colchester’s ‘independent-minded’ MP, Will Quince, but it seems I owe him an apology. You see, I was assuming that he meant he’d come to his decision independently instead of doing what the Tory whips told him to do, when what’s now clear to me is that ‘independent-minded’ is actually a euphemism he uses for ‘psychic’. Yes, it turns out that Will can see the future and makes his decisions based on that.

You want evidence? Well, on Wednesday evening, he said this when asked what side he was on in the EU debate:

“I will reach a decision and draft my reasoning as soon as the final deal has been agreed and I have read it” is pretty unequivocal, I think. He wants to make his decision once a deal has been agreed and he’s had a chance to read it, which sounds fair and reasonable.

But what’s this?

Suddenly, while David Cameron is still locked in negotiations with no final deal in sight, Will makes his decision. The only possible explanation must be that using his psychic – sorry, ‘independent-minded’ – powers, Will has looked into the future to see the deal that Cameron will agree and decided he doesn’t approve of it. That’s the only logical explanation for his sudden change in stance because I refuse to believe that he’d decided all along that he was going to back the Leave side and was just waiting for an opportune time to reveal it. That would mean he’d consistently not told the truth to people when he said he hadn’t made his mind up and was waiting to see the deal, which surely couldn’t be true. No, the only logical response must be that he has a talent to see the future which he’s scared to disclose to the world in case it hates and fears him.

It’s time to be brave, Will, and admit your psychic talents to the world. Otherwise, people might just start to think your promises to vote on anything other than purely partisan political considerations aren’t worth anything.

Worth Reading 188

Palin’s Late Style: He Knows the Main Thing – An analysis of the latest piece by radical performance poet Sarah Palin.
Horizontal History – An interesting perspective on births, deaths, famous lives and how they overlap.
The audacious rescue plan that might have saved space shuttle Columbia – A mission that would have pushed NASA and the astronauts to the limit might have saved the seven astronauts on Columbia, if the damage to it had been spotted before re-entry.
How Not To Deal With Activists, Courtesy the Britain Stronger in Europe Campaign – Andrew Hickey writes a post I was thinking of, on the continuing problems the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign has with organisation and message.
The conspiracy theorists who have taken over Poland – Interesting look at the mindset and ideology behind the Law and Justice party, which has parallels in many parties in other countries.

Corbyn and the EU referendum make predicting 2016 impossible

crystal ballI have occasionally been known to risk a tiny amount of the minuscule credibility I possess by putting forward some predictions for the political year ahead. While there’s a temptation to do that because not only does it allow me to put a post up now, it gives me the chance to write at least one more at the end of the year reviewing them, I’m not going to. The present state of politics in Britain and elsewhere is so febrile and chaotic that making predictions for what will happen in the next couple of weeks seems foolish, let alone casting forward a whole twelve months.

Beyond the general chaotic nature of politics, I think there are two other important factors that are distorting British politics. Both of these have unpredictable outcomes that will resonate across the entire political system and have such wide-ranging effects that trying to predict anything that might happen in their wake is pointless, except as a means to fill empty column inches at the start of the year.

These two unpredictable factors are what happens to the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, and what happens in the EU referendum. These share the potential to distort not just the events of the next twelve months, but the fundamental ways in which British politics has organised itself, making any attempt to predict the future little more than guesswork. On their own, either of them would be an event well outside of the norms of our political system with the potential to completely disrupt it, to have them happen together dramatically increases the chance of a major disruption taking place.

The Corbyn effect is already transforming the Labour Party, shifting it towards the left and changing the balance within the party system. It’s a party system that’s already fragile because of the rise of the SNP and UKIP (who stubbornly refuse to comply with the predictions of their imminent demise) and what happens to Labour could be the catalyst for a wider shifting of positions and allegiances within that system, or could even be the trigger that kills the current one and replaces it with a new one. The interesting thing to watch about Corbynism and the Corbynistas will be how much they change the structures of the party and how involved all those new members and supporters get. Perhaps they can change Labour into a mass popular party of the left and centre-left that can challenge the Conservatives, or perhaps they might just become the UKIP of the left – very very popular amongst their core voters, but finding it very hard to attract anyone from outside that core.

While lots of ink has been spilled and blog posts written about the past, present and future of the Labour Party, the fact that we will likely be having a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU sometime very soon is still very much in the political background. Sure, those who have spent most of the past two or more decades obsessing about Europe continue to froth at the mouth and write massive screeds about it but for most people it’s still in the ‘worry about it later’ pile or even the ‘nothing to worry about’ one. There’s a double layer of complacency in play at the moment, with people assuming that Remain will comfortably win the referendum, and that it will have no longer-term implications. These are, of course, the same sort of predictions being made about Scotland two years ago. Saying then that No would win after being neck and neck in the polls for a while and the fallout from the referendum would see the SNP becoming near-hegemonic in Scottish politics would have been a pretty wild prediction. Now that it’s happened, any look to the future has to include the possibility of the EU referendum causing a similar shake up in the politics of the rest of the UK, regardless of the result.

On top of all the other ‘events, dear boy, events’ that can come along and disrupt our expectations, the Labour Party and the EU referendum both hold massive chaotic potential that could make January 2017 so vastly different from today that trying to predict the politics of it is pointless. So in politics, my only prediction is that all your predictions will be wrong.

Worried by the In campaign

strongerinBritain Stronger In Europe (formerly known as The In Campaign) officially launched itself today, ready for the referendum on Europe whose date we still don’t know. The fifteen members of the campaign’s board were also announced and I have to admit that the names they’ve released don’t fill me with too much confidence.

I’m not saying that they’re unimpressive names, as they all have a strong record of achievement in their respective fields, and they’d make a very impressive board for a national charity. The problem is that this isn’t a charity, or a networking event for the great and the good, but one of the most important political campaigns of my lifetime. There are fifteen members of the board and only one of them – Peter Mandelson has run a successful national political campaign. The others may make great spokespeople for the cause, but in terms of being on the board – the group that are meant to be leading and giving strategic direction to the campaign – how do their talents fit with that? If the campaign team brought them a strategy as bad as that used by Yes To Fairer Votes, would they be able to recognise it and demand changes, or will they just nod it through? Indeed, what is the actual campaign strategy, and how can people not invited to be on the board get involved?

Stronger In appears to be heading towards a lot of the same problems previous pro-EU campaigns have run into. It’s attempting to create a national campaign from the top down, and assuming everyone will want to come along and be part of it. As far as I can tell, there’s been no serious attempt at creating a grassroots infrastructure for the campaign as yet. Given that there’s a massive informal anti-EU network of people out there, just waiting for the Leave side to motivate and activate them, this is an area the Remain side can’t just leave to the last minute and hope to botch together. Having a range of people who can write comment pieces and tour the TV studios is fine, but if there’s no one on the ground out talking to people and delivering leaflets with at lest some of the fervour the Leavers will manage, then the In campaign is hamstringing itself from the start.

What we have instead is a campaign that’s getting people to sign up, but then not offering them even a local contact for the campaign, just a few bits of Facebook content to share. Supporters appear to be being kept in a very passive role, not being organised into any active and useful. This is supposed to be a campaign for everyone’s future, but the people appear to be being kept at arms length from it. The launch of a campaign like this should be a time to champion the people you’ve got backing you, not shoving them behind a curtain in order to wheel out the great and the good.

Hopefully, there’s still time and motivation for the campaign to open itself up and get people involved in it. If not, then maybe we’ll just have to ignore them and go and win the campaign ourselves.

(Disclaimer: I applied for a job with the campaign and didn’t get it, so feel free to dismiss this as bitter ranting from a reject)

Conservatives for Britain: Who’s in the secret group for freedom and openness?

I’m pleased to announce the formation of my new group, People Who Agree Nick Is Right About Everything. This group has been formed to campaign for the principle that I am right about everything, and as that’s the mainstream view, you won’t be surprised to learn that it has millions and millions of members. Of course, you can’t see the mailing list and only I and a select few people (none of whom are me in disguise) will speak to the media about PWANIRAE and its aims, but rest assured that if you choose to sign up, you will be part of a rapidly growing movement. Indeed, I firmly expect that between now and the moment you join, membership of PWANIRAE will double.

Naturally, such a large movement needs to be covered by the press, and so I expect I will be busy appearing on all the big political talk shows and several people who definitely aren’t me working under a pseudonym will be writing comment pieces for newspapers and websites. Luckily, the naturally trusting nature of the British press means that I don’t need to prove the number of supporters I have behind me, they’ll take it on trust.

I know I don’t have to provide any proof of numbers behind me because I’ve been watching how the media have covered the launch of Conservatives For Britain, the nascent form of the Tory No campaign for the EU referendum. When it was launched last week, we were told it had 50 MPs signed up to it, and now they claim the support of 110 MPs, 12 MEPs and 13 members of the Lords for their cause. The problem is that despite all the gushing press coverage they’re getting from their friends on the right, there’s no way to verify this level of support, as there’s very little officially published by the group. There’s a Twitter feed and a Facebook page for the group, but no website, and definitely no published list of supporters.

It seems quite odd to me that when one of the frequent Eurosceptic complaints is that the EU is secretive, unaccountable and cannot be properly scrutinised, that a group campaigning against it is being even more secretive. Let’s remember that this isn’t a group of private citizens but a large group of legislators, most of whom were democratically elected, trying to exert influence on the Government’s foreign policy. Surely we have a right to know who these people are, not just a few of their chosen spokesmen while the vast majority of their membership lurks in the shadows? They’re elected by us, they’re accountable to us, and they should have the courage to announce their principles in public and tell us whether they’re a member of Conservatives for Britain or not. Until they do go properly public, the media should treat them with the scepticism they would treat any other group with unverified claims of vast support, though I won’t hold my breath expecting it.

Would a ‘nations lock’ in the EU referendum increase the possibility of an overall No vote?

Writing in the Guardian to argue for giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote in an EU referendum, Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, also argues for what he calls a ‘double majority’ rule to apply to the result:

We will also seek to amend the legislation to ensure that no constituent part of the UK can be taken out of the EU against its will. We will propose a “double majority” rule, meaning that unless England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each vote to leave the EU, as well as the UK as a whole, Britain would remain a member state.

There’s a strong political and practical argument for a rule like this, as a close referendum is likely to bring up an interesting georgraphic array of results with some strongly in favour of staying while others are equally eager to leave.

However, setting all those arguments aside, one concern I would have about such a rule is the strategic effect it could have on voting. Assume that such a rule was passed as part of the referendum and that in the run-up to the vote, opinion polls were showing that Scotland was highly likely to vote to stay in, and Wales and Northern Ireland were too. Now consider that from the position of an English voter who’s still undecided in the campaign. However they vote, Britain as a whole won’t leave the EU, so they can effectively discount and ignore any information they’re given in the campaign about the negative effects of it. That leaves people free to cast a purely expressive vote without having to consider the consequences of it, because the effective veto from the other nations means that whether England votes to stay or go is irrelevant as the decision has effectively been made.

English voters would effectively be handed a free vote and given the chance to express a pure protest vote – a chance to vote against all the things they don’t like about the EU without having to weigh any of the positives from our membership. The question wouldn’t be ‘do you want to stay or leave?’ it would be ‘given that we’re staying, do you like the EU?’ and that, I think, would boost the No vote. Because England has the bulk of the UK vote, a vote to leave there could very easily dwarf any majority for staying from the rest of the UK, meaning that the overall result of the referendum would be the UK as a whole saying it wanted to leave, but staying in because of the ‘double majority’ rule. That’s a recipe for nationalistic rows to erupt across the whole country, even if the majority for leaving has only arisen because English voters ended up in their odd position.

Of course, this is just one of dozens of issues that are going to be raised during the passage of any Referendum Bill through the Commons (and the Redwoods and Bones of the Tory Party have been waiting for years for this to happen, so expect all sorts of fun) but it’s the sort of unintended consequence we could find ourselves facing at the end of the process, even before we get to discuss any of the actual issues of Britain’s EU membership.