Workers and Brexit: From Construction Sites to Car Plants

During the referendum campaign of 2016 George Osborne tried his best to scare many British workers. Despite many of them feeling the effects of uncontrolled and British power being gift wrapped to Brussels in the form of restricting government intervention, Osborne’s Project Fear claimed that as a consequence of a vote to leave the European Union up to 800,000 workers would lose their jobs.

Three years on and we learn that nothing can be further from the truth. The current government is celebrating that unemployment is at its lowest point since 1975. On the eve of the vote just under 5% of British people were unemployed, however, now it is 3.8%. Wages were also supposed to be fall, but the Office of National Statistics shows that real wages are at their highest since March 2011. Part of this is because many EU citizens have left the UK. However, Project Fear also claimed that these jobs would not be filled by Britons. In fact, in April the government announced that over 90% of these new vacancies have been filled by British workers. This should give us hope that once Freedom of Movement has been suspended and an Australian-style points-based system is introduced we can re-energise the British workforce and give greater opportunity to the millions of people, especially young people.


Uncontrolled immigration had a major effect on construction sites across the United Kingdom, with average wages falling as EU migrants were undercutting their wages. Since that monumental vote in 2016 and net migration figures have begun to fall wages have increased. Research carried out by Recruiters Randstrad highlight that in 2018 the average annual wage in construction rose by £3,600 from the previous year. Much of this is because there is not as much damage through cheap, alternative labour. During the referendum campaign Project Fear told the British people that Freedom of Movement had no effect on the wages and livelihoods of ordinary Britons. This is clearly fanciful. Once we leave the European Union the uncontrollable undercutting of wages will end once and for all and an Australian-style system will enable us to never fall short in industries that need additional employees.


The car industry has been hijacked by Remainers as an example of how Brexit has failed the workers. When listening to many British news outlets it may seem that it is only the United Kingdom that is suffering with car plants closing. It may come as a surprise that little over a week ago the Guardian announced that Ford has decided to axe 12,000 jobs across the continent. But what is the reason for this? Perhaps because of limited profit margins that saw the closure of a Ford plant in France and Nissan’s decision to remove the X Trail from Sunderland as their European sales had halved in 2017. However, China has for the first time in two decades seen a fall in buying cars. This has had a major impact because this ever-expanding market has not been able to remove the pressures of European failures by balancing the books. The last, and possibly most important issue is diesel. This is solely based on supply and demand economics. When Tony Blair and Gordon Brown encouraged people to buy diesel in 2001 through financial incentives, we couldn’t foresee that by 2019 we would have had the VW scandal and climate change would rise to the forefront of international politics. This dissuades consumers from buying diesel. The move to electric has proved somewhat problematic. Especially with Jaguar Land Rover cars being predominantly producing diesel. If anything, the EU has damaged the British car industry. In 2012, the EU actively damaged British car manufacturing by encouraging a plant to be transferred to Slovakia. And by being outside of this protectionist bloc we will have access to more and cheaper car parts. There is a bright side. Last month it was announced that Ford would close its Bridgend plant, at the cost of 1,700 jobs. The chair of Ford Europe, Stuart Rowley announced this had ‘nothing to do with Brexit’. But when Aston Martin went on to say that they would be creating jobs for almost 3,000 people in St Athan, just a quarter of an hour away from Bridgend, it has given fresh light to the British worker. Evidently Britain can be an attractive market for car makers, and with serious changes happening to the industry we could try and push ourselves to the forefront of this with the green economy that many people are crying out for.


Aircraft has also been targeted by James O’Brien and other Remainers who use Airbus as their prime example. O’Brien’s LBC show can be seen as a few hours of belittling Brexiteers, so it must be terrible for the man who has a book called ‘How to be Right’ to be so wrong. He must look back on that call from Steve in Gloucester in disbelief when he persistently stated that Airbus were all but certain to leave Britain. They must have been enraged when the recently appointed CEO, Guillame Fuary, went against the words of his predecessor to say that Airbus would stay in the United Kingdom regardless of the outcome of Brexit. This is because Britain would be a part of a global market, outside of the protectionist EU trading bloc and a WTO Brexit would keep zero import duties on all non-military aircraft, including its parts and components. This is because Britain is one of 32 signatories to the WTO Agreement on Civil Aircraft.


The last industry of interest is steel. In 2016, the British steel industry was in crisis. In January of that year, just months before the referendum, over 1,000 jobs had been announced to be scrapped. There were too main reasons for this: tariffs and EU directives. The Brexit Party recently announced a more interventionist vision of how to deal with this crisis, and this is only possible once we have left the EU. Many of these communities voted to Leave in 2016 including Port Talbot and Scunthorpe. Prior to the referendum North Lincolnshire County Council and the then Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, confirmed that state aid was impossible whilst members of the EU. However, by leaving the EU we can insure that the British people have the electoral power to save these failing industries if they want to. By being an independent nation, we will also get more control over our tariffs. Unlike the EU that had 20% tariff rate on Chinese steel, the US imposed 236% in 2016. Once we are outside of the EU we have the opportunity to place tariffs that benefit Britain. This may be none at all, or a hefty tariff. But the tax making power returns to the people of the United Kingdom.


Once we leave the European Union, hopefully on the 31st of October, the British people will be able to control their own destiny. The wages should continue to improve as the current construction site wages show a clear correlation between immigration and pay. I hope to have also dispelled the myth that many of the recent downfalls in car manufacturing have much to do with Brexit at all. The real message of this blog post is a simple principle. I have not expressed my own personal view on whether we should use state intervention to save the steel works, nor have I expressed a desire to reintroduce protectionist economics to Britain. But by taking back control of huge amounts of political power from Brussels, and returning it to the British people, it will be the British people, and only the British people, who will be the masters of our own destiny.


By J Walters

MPs Were Right To Reject May’s Deal

I greeted Rory Stewart’s failure in the third ballot with a sigh of relief. Perhaps I was the only person on the Twittersphere to not subscribe to Rorymania but part of my delight at his demise was that he was the only candidate who considered the deal negotiated by Theresa May as still on the table. It got me thinking about how happy I was when her withdrawal agreement was defeated on three separate occasions.

The first time the deal was defeated was undoubtedly the best. When the 432 MPs defeated the 202 in favour of the deal I was sitting in a room at university midway through a debate about that very deal. I was sat on the opposition and hadn’t yet delivered my speech. I was nervous, I had debated at this level before, but I was ready. I had prepared for the debate a couple of days in advance and my friends at university could tell I was a tad apprehensive on the day. Sadly, they couldn’t attend as they weren’t Conservative Society members. As a long-standing Brexiteer I addressed the motion from quite an emotive perspective and I am about to try and recollect my argument from that evening:

‘Take back control. Three simple words, but a clear call to return sovereignty to the British people. But, under this deal, our government has failed to take back control of our money, of our laws and of our borders. Instead we have gift wrapped them destined for Brussels. Those sitting on the bench’s opposite may believe that this deal delivers on the pillars of Brexit, but they are mistaken. No true Brexiteer can accept ‘Brexit In Name Only’.
This disastrous deal wastes £39 billion, leaves Britain as a rule taker under the shackles of the EU in the Customs Union (Annex 2). This would prohibit us from making our own Free Trade Deals. Legally we would still be under the jurisdiction of the European Courts of Justice (Article 174). It also splits up the United Kingdom by handing the keys to Northern Ireland to the Taoiseach in Dublin. We would even be forced to commit to pan-European military agreements that would relegate our prestigious armed forces.

The sell-out supporters of the Withdrawal Agreement argue that ‘concessions are needed’. But why? We, the 17.4 million won! The losers shouldn’t be able to thwart our vision with spineless career politicians facilitating this downfall. But let’s look at the political history of our country. No referenda lead to concessions as a result. Did we care about the views of the third of Britons who opposed the Common Market in 1975? No. Did we care about the 49.7% who opposed Welsh Devolution in 1997? No. And would we have had concessions if the result had gone the other way? No. To concede the Brexit argument would mean we miss out on the benefits of being an independent nation, like being able to make our own laws, strike our own trade deals and not subject businesses to EU regulation.

The truth is Mrs May never wanted to deliver Brexit and she doesn’t believe in Britain. I am not entirely sure May knows what she is doing. By ignoring the 17.4 million the Tories are leading themselves to the electoral cliff-edge and irretrievably dividing the United Kingdom. By crushing this calamitous deal, we have a mandate for re-negotiation. Donald Tusk has made it clear from the beginning that a Free Trade Agreement remains on the table.
But if this fails then Britain must leave the EU on WTO terms by the 29th of March. We have nothing to fear by a WTO-exit. Barclays, JCB, Aviva, Deutsche Bank have all agreed they are ready and will remain under a No Deal circumstance. In Calais they say there will be no delays and Portugal remain clear that citizens’ rights will not be damaged. The British people have heard these apocalyptic claims before. The forecasts that if we didn’t join the Euro then all business would leave, or in 2016 that 800,000 jobs would be lost and that we would enter a recession. These were all the opposite from the truth with the Eurozone being a disaster and Britain currently experiencing record levels of employment. No deal saves the taxpayer £39 billion. No deal delivers certainty for businesses by trading on WTO terms. No deal removes tariffs on food, clothing and footwear that will benefit the poorest in our society. No deal makes Britain a global nation by properly exiting a protectionist bloc. But most importantly of all no deal ensures that democracy is returned to Westminster.’

It was over. We had won. Eleven members rejected May’s Deal, with only seven in favour and four abstaining in support of a Second Referendum. But it was over. We were heading for the SU bar but by the time I arrived it was packed. Instead I decided to call it a night. When I got on the train at Liverpool Street to head back to Essex, I was still full of adrenaline. I must admit I thought it was over. May couldn’t possibly bring her deal back. I was very wrong indeed.

*the speech is based on the flash cards I used during the speech and also my memory of the events.

By J Walters

Disadvantaged young people are being left behind. Vocational and technical qualifications can help.

Education helps young people discover their talents, develop resilience and realise their potential. Unfortunately for some young people, our incumbent education system prevents them from doing so. Disadvantaged young people face the biggest educational challenges, particularly when they qualify for free school meals (FSM) and/or have special educational needs (SEN). The more disadvantaged a young person is, the greater the negative impact on Key Stage 4 (KS4) attainment is likely to be. 

For example, young people with SEN have a GCSE attainment gap deficit of 17 grades in comparison to young people without SEN. 

The government claims that the attainment gap is narrowing, but a report by the Education Endowment Foundation show that this gap is only shrinking very slightly. Between 2006 and 2017, the attainment gap between disadvantaged young people and advantaged young people in primary schools fell by 2.8% and in secondary schools by 3%. 

Although there is a visible fall in the attainment gap in that 11 year period, if the government is to persist on its current track, it would take 50 years to close the attainment gap between young people with disadvantages and those without them. This is simply too slow. 

What happens in the classroom makes the biggest difference and all young people need a broad curriculum, that gives them essential life skills and provides them with high quality qualifications to progress into employment, training or further education. That is why I believe introducing a new technical route alongside GCSEs, during KS4, would provide young people who are disaffected with the current GCSE system with a promising alternative. 

By 19, over 164,000 young people had still not achieved a good standard of recognised qualification in English and Maths, this included 50% of young people who qualified for FSM. With a new technical route at KS4, young people would be required to take English and Maths GCSEs alongside a suite of technical qualifications (as I outline here in another blog post). 

Students with SEN who have taken a technical award/qualification in a state funded school have a 21% lower absence rate, 44% lower permanent exclusion rate and a 10% lower fixed exclusion rates. The link between absence and taking a vocational or technical qualification shows a statistically significant positive link. By keeping disadvantaged young people in school through the alternative technical route at KS4, the attainment gap could be closed faster than its current rate. 

By using vocational and technical qualifications to keep disadvantaged young people engaged in their studies, through greater attendance and a desire to achieve, we can focus their attention on passing English and Maths at level 2. This would provide an answer as to how we can lower the staggering number of 164,000 young people without a good recognised qualification in English and Maths. It would also fulfil the pre-requisites, that are good English and Maths qualifications, for young people progressing into secure employment, further education or training helping these students move onto higher earning jobs. 

Furthermore, supplementing disadvantaged young people’s fundamental skills learning with subjects they are interested in, and that provide them with the best opportunities for future life, gives disadvantaged young people the opportunity to achieve their very best, to break the vicious social cycle of their disadvantaged background and prompt an upward movement in social mobility. 

The government should be helping schools deliver the very best education for all young people. Currently cohorts of students in today’s education system are being left behind. By adapting and reforming the current curriculum, to provide greater choice and opportunity for young people to thrive, should be of paramount importance. Making these changes can help prepare Britain’s young people for the fourth industrial revolution, where technical skills and training will be strongly desired by employers. This can help put our most disadvantaged at the forefront of this new age. Furthermore, by engaging the poorest and most disadvantaged in society to participate and thrive in education and training we can help supercharge social mobility in Britain, allowing these disadvantaged young people to do significantly better than their parents. 

JL

The Second Ballot and a Second Chaotic TV Debate

Of the six candidates who entered the ballot tonight, only five are left standing. The survivors were Johnson who took 126 Tory MPs (up 12), Hunt on 46 (up 5), Gove on 41 (up 4), Stewart on 37 (up 18) and Javid scrapping through on 33 (up 10). Dominic Raab failed to beat the 33 required votes and only gained 3 votes since the first ballot.

Whilst I was wrong in predicting that The Saj would be eliminated I was by and large correct. Johnson still has an unassailable lead over his closest rivals and nobody appears to be asserting themselves as the second largest candidate.

This should have led into a BBC debate to beat all others, but the debate was painful to watch. Whilst I would argue that Javid probably edged it, nobody really was a clear-cut winner. However, Javid did show leadership credentials in getting his colleagues to agree to an investigation of Islamophobia in the Tory Party.

The main issue was that there were so many candidates present leading to a cacophony of noise. Emily Maitlis could barely get a word in edge ways at some points.

The main loser of last night debate was Rory Stewart. I have always been a critic of his politics but have consistently praised his superb campaign. However, tonight he confessed to being ‘lacklustre’ and the format not being to his liking. Has Rorymania peaked? He still straggles behind his competitors in YouGov polls with the members and is really only getting support off of members of the public who would be hard-pushed to ever vote Conservative. But I’m not sure if it is all over, there are plenty of twists and turns in a leadership race.

The front runner, Boris Johnson, will come out of this debate with his fortunes staying the same. It was a slightly above average day, but he dodged enough right hooks to come out of it unscathed. Johnson still appears to be tightly holding back, please unleash the Boris! Gove and Hunt both had two more average days in the office. For anyone who expected blue-on-blue conflict we mostly see praise for colleagues.

Overall, I find it hard to say anything has particularly changed in the aftermath of yesterday. The leadership race does appear to be dragging on. It needs to speed up in removing those vying for second place and also kick start a more engaging set of TV debates. Hopefully, after we can whittle it down to the final two this will happen.

By J Walters

With BoJo Miles Ahead Who Will Drop Out Tonight? – Predictions

Tonight, we expect to see Boris extend his lead over his rivals in the second ballot of the Tory Party leadership race. With a previous total of 114 expected to grow he is head and shoulders above his counterparts and recent YouGov polling has seen his popularity among Conservative members and Leave-voters dwarfing the others. Tonight’s result is less about who will win the race, but who will lose. Whilst Gove and Hunt appear to be safe from the chop, Raab, Javid and Stewart will be having a nail biting few hours trying to ensure their man can participate in the BBC debate tonight.

In the first ballot Gove and Hunt already surpassed the threshold for this ballot, with 37 votes for the Scotsmen and 43 for the former entrepreneur, therefore they would need to lose support either to the Boris bandwagon or to Rorymania in order to be put at risk. Whilst it seems unlikely that they will lose support they have not been blessed with endorsements by those who have dropped out. Hancock, McVey and Leadsom are all now supporting Boris. Even Rory Stewart has been picking up more voters than them with almost ½ of Hancock’s backers swinging behind him. Whilst I remain convinced the pair will continue on in this leadership contest, I do not see either of them as obtaining plenty of support to lead the pack against Boris.

Twitter is full of updates from journalists declaring current figures of supporters, and friends of the candidates on the brink trying to get the vote out. But who will drop? I think two of the three candidates who failed to beat the requirement for the second ballot in the first week of voting will drop.

Dominic Raab is the first. The main hindrance to his chances of becoming the next PM is that he isn’t Boris Johnson. Entering today’s ballot, he needs to gain 6 votes to continue on but given that Boris has support from an overwhelming majority of the Brexiteer MPs and his rhetoric is strong on Brexit his days are numbered. Trying to out-Brexit the man who was the face of the Vote Leave campaign has proved all but impossible. Had Boris not have been in the race then it is hard to see how he wouldn’t be the front runner. He would have the backing of the ERG and judging by the recent YouGov poll, the members. If Raab is unsuccessful tonight, then backing Boris could lead to his lead becoming unassailable in any future ballot and a comfortable cabinet position for Raab.

The second candidate who I believe will lose out tonight is Sajid Javid. He needs to obtain 10 votes to enter the next round and it is hard to picture where these votes will come from. Javid is undisputedly a candidate for the future, but cometh the Johnson, cometh the hour. The Saj has some serious backing, including from the leader of the Vote Leave campaign Matthew Elliot and the Tory leader in Holyrood, Ruth Davidson. But it is in Westminster where this matters and in Westminster where Javid is failing. With the Leavers of the last ballot gunning for Johnson and the Remainers backing Rory Stewart it is impossible to see where a Remain voter in 2016 but Leave convert can pick up the votes.

However, with little under half an hour to go until the results are announced, I believe that the phenomenon that is Rorymania may be successful. It’ll be close, but he will edge it. Why? Because Stewart has taken the reins of the May premiership, continuity, Remain and those in the Tory Party who continue to treat Brexit as a damage limitation exercise do not want Boris to have a free run at the ballot. Even some of Hancock’s former followers are supporting the Etonian Scotsmen, with Tobias Elwood and David Lidington being two recent defections. This will be enough to get him over the line, but his chances with the 160,000 members are limited, he is weak on Brexit and weak on Conservatism. Mr Stewart argues that he is the second most popular candidate with the members but a YouGov poll suggests that Tories do not want a ‘radical’ centre, and in a preferential vote he is the least sought for. I guess Stewart is using the same polls that put the approval rating of the withdrawal agreement at 80%.

What is clear is that Boris, who was assumed to be rather unpopular with MPs, is storming ahead. No matter what the result is of tonight’s ballot it is unlikely that a clear runner-up will be established. The weakest in the pack will drop off and it will be interesting who they will back in the coming days. The ‘Stop Boris’ brigade is yet to be in full swing. It appears to be a Gove vs. Hunt race in the long run. We will have to wait and see, there is little under half an hour to wait. I could be wrong, these are just my predictions.

By J Walters

Labour’s Betrayal

This morning, Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, did everything in his power to alienate to 4,000,000 Labour voters who also voted for Britain to Leave the European Union. Europe has been covered as a major issue to causing civil war in the Conservative Party, but all is not well in the Labour ranks. Watson’s comments that Labour’s ‘hearts are Remain’ ignore the concerns of constituents in the two-thirds of their seats that voted for Brexit. The disconnect between the Labour Heartlands and the so-called ‘People’s Vote’ wing of the Labour Party will have serious ramifications for the potential success of the party in what seems like an imminent General Election.

But who was this speech given to? This is a part of the Remainers in Labour plea to get Jeremy Corbyn to back a Second Referendum. Up until now Corbyn has been ambiguous over Brexit. Once regarded as a principled politician, the way Corbyn distanced himself to his Eurosceptic tendencies has not boded well with his ratings in the Heartlands. But nor has his sit-on-the-fence stance.

The EU Elections proved disastrous for Labour losing their historically held seats to the Brexit Party in the north of England, south Wales and the Midlands, but also losing leafy London to the Liberal Democrats. But does it seem fair that the constituents who were most loyal to Labour are being sidelined? Those in Merthyr Tydfil who voted to Leave have elected a Labour candidate ever since Keir Hardie in 1900, for them to be ignored seems either extremely arrogant to believe they will continue to vote Labour.

Fortunately, there is a small band of 25 democratic Labour Party MPs who, since April, have been clear that they do not support a Second Referendum. Last week they were tested when a bill was rejected that would have otherwise enabled Labour to remove the threat of no-deal.

The eight MPs who voted with the government against it were championed by many pro-Brexit supporters as were the dozen or so who abstained. But scratch beneath the surface of it, and it is clear, they are worried. In the aftermath of the EU Elections, Lisa Nandy appeared on Radio4 and declared that her constituents in Wigan regard a Second Referendum as ‘absurd’ and are swinging behind a WTO Brexit. This is because Wigan, for the first time since 1918, failed to elect a Labour candidate in a national election and alike to the rest of the North West backed Farage’s Brexit Party.

As a direct result of the comments made by Tom Watson yesterday morning two prominent Labour MPs rebuked his claims and devotion to a Second Referendum. The first was Labour Chairmen, Ian Lavery. Lavery has opposed a so-called confirmatory vote since 2017 and promised Richard Tice they would not back such a policy in 2017. His tweet yesterday that ‘ignoring the 17.4m leave voters isn’t politically smart nor indeed particularly democratic. Is it?’ highlighted his anger with Watson’s position. He is as aware as a MP for a Leave-backing seat in County Durham that his constituents will not lie down and let their elected officials ignore them.

However, it was John Mann who was more scathing in his attack on Watson’s comments. The MP for Bassetlaw was one of the ten Labour MPs who support Britain’s departure from the fastest declining trading bloc, and he saw Watson’s statement as ‘catastrophic’ to Labour’s chances in an upcoming election. He went on to say that Labour voters in the north and the Midlands are Brexiteers and that by backing a confirmatory vote Labour will lose the next general election by a significant amount’. It is difficult to disagree with Mann when analysing the results of the 2019 EU Parliamentary Elections where the Brexit Party managed to win seats that had been electing Labour candidates from as early as 1900. Even in the, now contentious, Peterborough by-election Labour should be worried as a party with little ground infrastructure and no manifesto ran them very close. Most people also agree that had Labour unequivocally backed a Second Vote they would have been crushed even in Peterborough.

Sadly, the likes of John Mann do not represent the Labour Party. Outside of the M25 the Labour Party could be regarded as the Islington Coffee Club. They are a metropolitan party who have failed to acknowledge the genuine concerns of many of their voters in their heartlands. They have ignored the issue of immigration and membership of the European Union for too long, and instead have taken these seats for granted by parachuting MPs who do not understand the area, nor their constituents concerns to roam freely around Westminster.

To make matters worse inside the Westminster bubble Labour representatives remain dismissive of these concerns. Take Lord Adonis, who failed to be elected MEP in May, he has confirmed on LBC that he has worked to ‘sabotage’ Brexit and claimed that Brexiteers do not belong in the Labour Party. Then of course we have David Lammy who believes the 17.4 million were sold a lie! Or the Gower MP, Tonia Antoniazzi, who claimed ‘we [Britain] did not know what we were voting for.’ These views are totally at odds with the growing desire for a WTO Brexit that Lisa Nandy’s constituents are pleading for, and notably the results of the EU Elections.

The greatest threat to the Labour Party is the resurgence of Nigel Farage and his new Brexit Party. Unlike UKIP the Brexit Party appears direct, professional and ready to win. However, when analysing the record of UKIP and the recent success of the Brexit Party in the EU Elections, it is no wonder that Labour MPs in the north of England, south Wales and the Midlands are quaking in their boots.

In 2015 UKIP finished second in over 120 constituencies, just over a third of these were in Labour seats held in the Heartlands. Pollsters understated the effect that Farage’s army would have on taking away voters from Labour in 2015 and given the way Leavers have been cast aside by the establishment over the last three years this may even happen again. Not only are the Labour Party losing votes to the Brexit Party but the atmosphere in these seats are of anger and resentment. Whether that be conveyed through the chorus of booes on the Brexit Party’s tour stop in a working-men’s club Yorkshire for Yvette Cooper, or in the Rhondda where Chris Bryant’s constituency office had ‘traitor’ painted on the walls. Ignoring Brexiteers isn’t the answer.

The Labour Party of the 1970s and 1980s is not the Labour Party of today. Gone of the days of the Labour Party defending the concerns of their constituents and delivering barnstorming speeches against membership of an undemocratic, fat cat club. The likes of Barbara Castle, Tony Benn and Peter Shore have been replaced by Keir Starmer, Tom Watson and Sadiq Khan. This is not the same party and the people of the heartlands will not settle with being betrayed. You promised in your 2017 manifesto to deliver Brexit, if you fail to do so stand aside and let the Brexit Party take your place. Labour you have been warned.

By J Walters

The Tory Battle Royale – Channel 4 TV Debate.

‘This is a phantom motion about a phantom bill’ chunters Sir Bill Cash from the back benches in the House of Commons last week. His description is attributed to Sir Oliver Letwin and Co’s attempts to prevent no deal from happening. Has Boris been embodying his supporter’s comments? He certainly was a phantom at the channel 4 debate on Sunday night and in fact perhaps a beneficiary. Silence is golden some might say and with his leave of absence from the Tory Battle Royale he was able to watch on from a distance as those clawing to reach the 32 vote threshold, and meet him in the final, went at one another. 

‘Believe in the bin, believe in Britain’ perhaps garnered the most crowd engagement and served as an analogy for Rory Stewart to undermine the four other candidates approaches to renegotiating a Brexit deal or proceed with no deal. ‘It’s nonsense’ Rory cried. But Mr Stewart, your answer to the question is just as tumultuously stagnating as the other options. A citizens’ assembly has already been used on the issue of Brexit in 2017 by the Constitution Unit at University College London, looking at trade and migration options after the European Union referendum result. Its findings suggested that the assembly would prefer ‘a bespoke UK/EU trade and a customs union… and to retain free movement of labour’[1]. These answers, in my opinion, perhaps conflict with the referendum result of 2016. So now Mr Stewart, having got your advice from the citizens assembly, do you now proceed to Brussels and strike up a new deal? What’s that sorry? I couldn’t hear you. Did you say no that’s not possible? Oh I see, Brussels do not want to re-open the withdrawal agreement and we are back to the original Brexit impasse, but now with a few weeks less time before our October deadline. 

Mr Raab why are you smirking? I do recall you suggesting you wouldn’t rule out proroguing parliament to break this deadlock. That was the beginning of a high road to civil war in the mid 17thcentury, a route you wish to proceed down perhaps? No I didn’t think so. Sit down. 

And you three, in the corner, yes you Mr Hunt I heard you’re an entrepreneur, is this true? Well I would have never of guessed, why didn’t you tell us a few more thousand times. 

Mr Gove’s best line was perhaps a few years back, whilst tonight his infatuation with ‘hope and love’ and looking to find the ‘treasure’ in all people was deep and warming. But Mr Gove, why not home in on your past in three large government departments and then proceed to tell us you can change the lack of spending in Education. Were you not you Education Secretary once upon a time Mr Gove? 

Finally, Sajid Javid, ‘The Saj’, towing the line on all candidates promises of spending on public services and more investment and attention diverted to the ‘unfinished revolution of our time’ adult social care; missed the opportunity to tackle the knife crime epidemic harming our country, and London in particular, by putting it high on his agenda. 

Thus, the phantom of Boris, so it would seem, benefited significantly from his absence. He did not need to dirty himself in the scrapping of contenders inside the channel 4 colosseum. But what tonight has illustrated is that even a phantom, a figure of our imagination, holds greater chance of leading the Conservative party and the Country than the candidates that are on display. I do not question their talent, charisma, intelligence and whit as politicians and as people. However, the next leader of the party and of the Nation needs to sort this wretched Brexit mess out with a viable and acceptable option once and for all so that they can proceed in governing those issues that really matter. 

JL


[1]Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit, Summary Report 

A Conservative and Brexit Party Pact is Needed to Prevent Corbyn and Save Brexit

In the middle of the Conservative leadership contest, one thing appears inevitable; a general election is on the horizon. Whether this is through a vote of no confidence or through the next leader calling an election to break the impasse, it is looming, and Brexiteers must be ready to campaign and to win.

As in 2015, Nigel Farage is a thorn in the side of the Tories electoral chances. But in 2019 his impact appears to be even more profound. Tonight, the Daily Telegraph uncovered discussion of a pact between the Brexit Party and Tory donors. It could see the Brexit Party not contest seats held by Leave-voting Conservative MPs and give the Brexit Party a free-run in the leave-voting Labour. A pact can save influential Brexiteers like Iain Duncan Smith, whose majority has narrowed in recent elections.

It would be disastrous for the pro-Brexit vote to split and enable a Corbynista, who intends to thwart the democratic wishes of the British people, to be elected to the Commons. Furthermore, it can allow the Conservatives and Brexit Party to concentrate their resources. Including the Brexit Party to focus on seats like Wigan, that has been held by Labour since 1918.

Electoral pacts are not unusual in British political history. Before the 2015 general election, there were similar talks about a potential Conservative and UKIP coalition, yet this failed before take-off. The SDP-Liberal alliance was a relative success that ultimately ended in full political merger.

However, in the late 19th and early 20th century, electoral alliances were successful and essential to preventing another party from taking control of the Commons. The one that appears to have the most considerable parallels with the dilemma facing Brexiteers is undoubtedly the Lib-Lab Pact of 1903.

The Gladstone-MacDonald agreement saw the Labour Representation Committee face no competition from the Liberals in 31 seats, successfully leading to 24 of their candidates entering the Commons.

Had the pact not been taken then the anti-Conservative vote would have been massively split potentially enabling the Conservatives to storm the Commons. Instead, 1906 proved to be the end of Conservative hegemony and the beginning of Liberal welfare reforms.

When the pact failed to resume in 1910, seats like Gateshead went from having a 4,000-vote majority over the Tories to little over 400. In the national picture, the Liberal landslide collapsed and instead the Commons became a hung parliament.

The historical use of pacts accompanied by the recent Westminster opinion polls have convinced me of the merits that an electoral pact can grant Britain her independence. The last four consecutive YouGov polls have placed the Brexit Party as the largest party; however, because of the first-past-the-post system, this may not see the Brexit Party govern Britain.

To ensure that the referendum result is implemented and to prevent Corbyn crippling the country, the two parties must think big and form a pact. The two parties can look to Peterborough to see their vote enabling Labour to succeed, and a potential by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire may prove to be even more damaging. The rural Welsh seat may see the Liberal Democrats sneak to victory with the Tories and Brexit Party in a nail-biting second and third.

A failure to create an alliance would lead to greater instability in our economy and our Union with the likely result being a Labour minority government propped up by the Scottish National Party. This could see the results of two referendums overturned; creating more considerable anger and resentment among the 17.4 million.

A somewhat optimistic ComRes poll has indicated that Boris Johnson is the only candidate that could command a majority in Westminster with 37% of the vote, placing the Brexit Party on 14% of the vote, this almost mirrors the result of the 2015 general election.

But how can we be sure this happens by the time the voters go to the polls? What appears more likely is that the vote will split more evenly between the 52%; therefore, the only way to combat the first-past-the-post is to form the mother of all alliances.

This is the only way to prompt the European Union to give us a sensible Free Trade Agreement that will pass through a pro-Brexit Commons and bring some stability to parliamentary proceedings over Brexit, if the EU fails to manoeuvre then we will have the power to leave without a deal. Without a general election and the two parties agreeing to the pact, how can Brexit be adequately delivered?

Despite this, for the Conservative Party, this pact is to do with far more than Brexit. It is to do with the viability of the party for years to come. It is easy to forget that the Conservative Party, and its predecessor, the Tory Party, is one of the oldest parties in political history and likewise one of the most successful ones.

Tory leadership contenders agree that the party must deliver Brexit, and Dominic Raab has gone as far to say that they are ‘toast’ if they fail. This is the best way to guarantee that Brexit is delivered and that the Brexit Party do no significantly dent the vote of the Conservatives.

While Nigel Farage has claimed he would ‘do a deal with the devil’ in order to see the United Kingdom leave the European Union; a pact will allow the Brexit Party to be able to make far more significant gains in the north of England, south Wales and parts of the Midlands.

Farage will be able to dwarf the success of UKIP in 2015 and force the referendum result to be delivered. If this is not the Brexit Party’s goal, I do not know what is. However, unlike the Tories, Farage and the Brexit Party have more to gain if the Tories do not form a pact and subsequently fail to deliver Brexit. The Brexit Party would replace the Tories and have a fighting chance in a future general election.

Therefore, it is essential, sensible and pragmatic for the Brexit Party and the Conservatives to enter an electoral alliance. This will allow Britain to leave the European Union and return stability to Westminster through a Brexiteer majority.

The threat to the country and the Conservative Party is far darker if they ignore the concerns of disgruntled Tories in the south and Labour voters in the north. With Corbyn in Downing Street, in the pocket of the SNP, there will be no Brexit, no future for the Tories, no United Kingdom and no faith in the democratic process.

By J Walters

The Brexit Party, Peterborough and Two-Party Politics

A week is a long time in politics, and never has this been more accurate than in the week since the Peterborough by-election. In the morning that the result was announced Remainers were first to pounce on it as a disaster for Nigel Farage and for Brexit itself.

Sir Vince Cable argued that ‘if the Brexit Party were going to win a parliament seat anywhere, Peterborough was their big opportunity’ and the unelected Lord-cum-failed-Labour-MEP-candidate, Andrew Adonis, claimed that the failure to elect Mike Greene showed ‘a determination to stop Brexit’.

But all is not lost. The defeat was not as calamitous as the Remainers would have liked us to believe. It has become clear that Labour’s local database, their somewhat controversial utilisation of postal votes, their ambiguity over the European issue and the surprising hold-up of the Tory vote enabled Labour to hold the mother of all marginal seat.

The Brexit Party can take serious lessons in this defeat. They have learnt that a manifesto is needed to retain the 8% of voters who were lost from the EU Election to the by-election, and they have learnt they will need to play catch up on the established parties to gather statistics on local voting patterns that will help them get the vote out.

But if somebody was to say an 8-week old party, without a manifesto knocked the governing party into third place, seriously challenged the opposition, and influenced the direction of the Conservative Party’s leadership contest then this could easily be considered as at least a political tremor.

Peterborough should also serve as a huge warning sign to the Tories and Labour. The Brexit Party claimed that Peterborough was 201st on their target list and on the basis of Dr Hanretty’s estimates Peterborough ranks 131st in Leave-voting seats and 267th in backing the Brexit Party this May.

This was no Clacton, this was not even a Rochester and Strood. This was Peterborough which is politically its own beast. Despite this for much of the by-election it was a nail-biting affair and to think there are 200-seats where the Brexit Party anticipate doing better than they did last week. If that doesn’t send fear into the Tory and Labour central office, then I don’t know what will.

But what does this mean for the Brexit project? Andrew Adonis’ claim that Peterborough shows a desire to bring a halt to Brexit was not only preposterous but objectively false. In a head-to-head, parties who favour leaving the EU (Brexit Party, Tories and UKIP) recorded 52% of the vote, whereas those indisputably Remain parties of the Greens and Liberal Democrats could only muster 15%.

Of course, the ever-equivocal Labour Party do not take a side, but if we logically conclude that, as in 2016, a third of Labour voters were Brexiteers then Peterborough’s leave vote tallies at 61%. This is identical to 2016, and therefore, to put it simply, nothing has changed. If the Tories continue to make a pig’s ear of Brexit, then there is room for the Brexit Party to contest and be successful in a general election.

The Brexit Party’s influence on the Tory leadership contest may also prove to be extremely important as to whether or not Brexit is delivered. With Theresa May as leader the Brexit Party topped the EU Elections and since the Tory leadership contest has begun they have topped three polls consecutively. However, in the aftermath of the first ballot it appears that a Brexiteer may be crowned leader of the Conservative Party, in the form of Boris Johnson.

A ComRes poll has shown the Tories could command a majority of support in the country, with Johnson at the helm, on 37%, and the Brexit Party’s support would fall to around 14%. If the British political landscape has two parties who are hell-bent on delivering on the democratic wishes of the people by the 31st of October, then we would be one step closer to Britain leaving the European Union.

However, if by some remarkable situation Boris Johnson does not become the next leader of the Conservative Party and subsequently Prime Minister then the Brexit Party are expected to grow their lead in the polls as the largest party. Given a general election is the only way to deliver Brexit the polls do look quite kindly to Johnson and Farage.

In the near future Britain can potentially expect a third by-election of 2019 in Brecon and Radnorshire. Historically, this is a humdinger between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, but the EU Elections suggest that this is going to be a second referendum in rural Wales with the Brexit Party topping the poll and opening up an eight-point lead over the Liberal Democrats.

The recent YouGov poll alongside ElectoralCalculus predictions could see the seat being a three-way race between the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and the Brexit Party. Whilst the pro-Remain vote would clearly take feet in the Liberal Democrats, the question is how much of the pro-Brexit vote will be split between the Brexit Party and the Conservative Party, like in Peterborough.

The future of the Brexit Party depends on the future of their rivals. If Corbyn buckles and Labour openly back a second referendum, then the Brexit Party will take hold in the Labour heartlands of the north of England, the Midlands and south Wales.

If the Tories fail to elect a Brexiteer then the Brexit Party will maintain control of leave-voting Conservative seats in the English shires and coastal towns as they did in the EU Elections.

The longer the mainstream parties kick the can down the road, the more likely it is that two-party politics will be broken. The Brexit Party’s success demonstrates a clear message; deliver Brexit or stand aside and enter the political wilderness.

*written on Thursday 13th of June 2019

J Walters

Outstanding schools are exempt from inspection.

By law, primary and secondary schools receiving an ‘outstanding’ grade from Ofsted become exempt from further routine inspections. This absence of regular inspection can seriously cloud parents and management’s confidence that their schools meet the outstanding grade. This can have a seriously damaging effect, particularly on parents, when it comes to picking the best school for their child. 

Areas with schools that meet the ‘outstanding’ grade are subject to higher average house prices, something dubbed the ‘Ofsted effect’. On average, house prices in areas where there is an ‘outstanding’ school are £38,600 more than postcodes with a ‘good’ graded school. School gradings contribute significantly more to postcode areas that have schools with ‘inadequate’ grades. Average house prices in these ‘inadequate’ areas are £100,000 cheaper than the corresponding ‘outstanding’ areas. This can of course cause a headache for many parents when it comes to the trade-offs of where to set up shop. Do they prioritise ‘outstanding’ school districts and settle for shoebox living? Or do they favour the larger, more comfortable family home and settle for those ‘inadequate’ schools? 

Of course, these extremes are under the assumption that the parents are in the position to decide between paying more for their home and the quality of school their child attends. What happens to those who cannot pick and choose how much they pay for their home? Those that can only afford to live in the areas with ‘inadequate’ schools, who can only dream of those ‘outstanding’ school districts. A dangerous cycle ensues. Ceilings are put in place for children who are subject to below standard teaching from the primary school age. Educational growth cramped and character development hindered because they are forced to attend ‘inadequate’ schools based on their parent’s financial situation. Schools which are characterised by below standard teaching, a careless factory designed curriculum there to pump out exam minded students, with little attention paid to character development, students interests and their ability to function as an active member of society. 

This stems from Ofsted’s inspection framework that subjects schools to definition by a single adjective. Resulting in these unnecessary potential outcomes as a result of the government’s inability to understand the fragile temperament of the school environment. Schools should be subject to consistent and rigorous inspection regardless of their prior attainments. By giving these once outstanding schools a gold standard or free pass, school management could quite easily take their foot off the gas and standards start to slip. A backwards step for our educational system as our top schools become lackadaisical in their approach, lowering standards and causing parents to become disillusioned with their child’s progress. 

Furthermore, an even greater problem emerges as parents are dumbfounded to find that their decision to favour the ‘outstanding’ school districts, in favour of that more comfortable family home, has in fact actually left them with less than they bargained for.

Ofsted inspections provide assurance to the public and government that minimum standards of education, skills and childcare are being met. In the absence of these inspections, how can any assurance be provided? Some schools under this exemption rule have not been inspected for almost a decade. This exemption rule needs to be looked at seriously and radically reformed to give parents, students and teachers the clarity and assurance about how our schools are actually performing. 

JL