More Brexit thoughts

I find it impossible to look away from the political high drama taking place on the other side of the North Sea. So I’m once more going to inflict my thoughts on you; and I’ll concentrate on aspects I think are underreported.


Labour is in a leadership crisis right now. I have two points to make here.

The first is that the timing is actually good for Labour. It seems a vote will be taken tomorrow, and even if more manoeuvring is necessary after that, the party is moving speedily in order to settle the leadership question once and for all. That means that Labour will have a clear leader by the time the Tory leadership crisis starts, which in turn means voters will mostly remember the Tory problems.

The second is the more fundamental problem Labour has: it can’t come to a decision on Leave or Remain because its voters are split. That is because it tries to unite well-educated leftists with actual workers, and these groups have a quite different outlook and priorities.

That’s nothing new. However, it is an impossible problem to solve in the UK context. When something similar took place in Germany and the Netherlands, part of the solution was the creation of a second, more traditionally socialist, party; Die Linke and the Socialist Party, respectively. In the Netherlands the SP is a lot more Euro-sceptic than the traditional Labour party (PvdA), as well as a lot more left-wing economically.

The limits of FPTP

Unfortunately the British political system enforces a fake unity on its large parties that leaves no room for such a split-off. If the Brexit episode (or, in fact, the US Trump episode) teaches us one thing it’s that First-Past-The-Post systems are too rigid for today’s fluctuating politics, and that more representative systems may be better equipped to handle these tensions.

But of course FPTP is Sacred, and very British, and immutable. So be it, but you’ll see this sort of problems more and more often as time progresses.

And in case you’re wondering, the Tories will find they have exactly the same problem, although here an alternative, in the shape of UKIP, already exists. The Tories have to manoeuvre even more carefully than Labour, which might mean their leadership struggle will be much more protracted.

Also, if new elections are called, don’t be too surprised at a temporary LibDem/UKIP coalition during the campaign. Both parties have a clear stance on the EU, and together they can force Labour and the Tories to either make a clear choice or remain stuck in mushy-mouthedness. That would benefit both the LibDems and UKIP, who’ll be able to bind those Remain and Leave voters, respectively, who’re fed up with vagueness.

The Tories

The more I look at the EU’s response, the more I think it should be seen not as an anti-British move, or even an anti-Brexit move, but an anti-Tory move.

I mean, we all got sick and tired of the Brits and their specialness and their insularity and their insistence that they need all kinds of privileges ages ago, but it was mostly the Tories who actually did all that. And now they gave us a major headache all over again, and they weren’t even serious! (Except for the David vs. Boris struggle; they’re extremely serious about that. Still, to keep the entire EU hostage to a pissing match between two classmates seems a bit over the top, even for the Tories.)

Anyway, I venture to suggest that the rest of Europe is very, VERY tired of the Tories, and that the EU reaction is mainly aimed at making governing a living hell for them, leading to new elections where they’ll be wiped away.

As I asked last Friday, which individual politician is actually going to take the UK out of the EU? Let’s say Boris wins the pissing match and becomes PM. At that point, he has three options:

  1. Activate Article 50 and leave the EU. This will piss off the Remain camp, including the Tory part of it, and it will cost him in the next elections.
  2. Sheepishly admit that the referendum was a typical example of British humour, and remain in the EU. This will piss off the Leave camp, including the Tory part of it, and it will cost him in the next elections.
  3. Do nothing. This will piss off absolutely everyone, the more since the British economy will take quite a few hits, and it will cost him in the next elections.

The only thing the EU can do is to keep the pressure up, making option 3 an impossibility. That means Boris will have to choose for 1 or 2, and piss off half the electorate. Excellent preparations for the next election, I’d say. With a bit of luck the LibDems will return to the centre of power. But even if that doesn’t quite work out the Tories and their stupid English Exceptionalism will take a serious blow and we’ll have grown-ups to talk to.

The Tories take our political structures hostage? Hah! We’ll take the Tories’ economy hostage. Let’s see who blinks first. (With heartfelt apologies to ordinary Brits caught in the middle, of course. But they’re fucked for the next six months anyway.)

<— Brexit thoughts | The looming elections —>

This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.

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