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A tale of five referendums

We all know that the first rule of the modern world is to expect the unexpected.
Corbyn, Brexit and Donald J Trump.
Ex-Russian spies poisoned with nerve agent in Salisbury and ex-Russian journalists emerging alive in Kiev, having been assassinated less than 24 hours earlier. There’s really nothing that should surprise us.
That Irish referendum last weekend though. A huge victory for women and a turn of events that would not have been predicted a year ago.
Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar took a big risk when he pushed ahead with the poll on a pretty tight timescale. He was vindicated by a spectacular 2:1 victory for liberalisation that would simply not have been possible in 20th Century Éire. This was, after all, a country in which the conservative Catholic Church was completely entangled with the state and the expectation was that people would always defer to the religious order. No more.
But the surprise referendum produced another twist. Suddenly attention was focused on Northern Ire…
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The fuse has been lit for two years. But when's the detonation?

The best way of thinking about Brexit is to picture a minefield or maybe a darkened labyrinth with a number of carefully-laid tripwires. Any false move along the way and there’s a danger of a detonation. So Theresa May can’t run freely, as she once did through the wheat fields of her youth. She tiptoes cautiously and brings along her bomb disposal experts.
So far, no explosion. But the mines and tripwires stretch off into the distance. And there’s a deadly surprise lying in store.
Even if you manage to make it to the end of the maze, a blast is set to go off on a timer anyway.
The more I look at the politics of Brexit, the more I see circles that just cannot be squared. Just decisions and crunch points that get endlessly deferred. Until eventually there’s no more road left.
If you’re the DUP, you believe in Brexit, but you don’t want a hard border. At the same time, you don’t want regulatory alignment with the EU and a border in the middle of the Irish Sea.
If you’re The…

Tough truths revealed by the Windrush scandal

Until recently, Windrush was probably a name that resonated mainly among the Afro-Caribbean community, political activists and students of British social history. In 2018, it has become a household discussion point, synonymous with scandal and the appalling mistreatment of a community that deserved respect and admiration.
There is no need to rehearse the detail here, as it has been covered extensively across the media in recent weeks. We have listened to stories of personal tragedy, bureaucratic intransigence and the creation of an environment so ‘hostile’ that it led to people being harassed and even deported with no just cause.
The furore has engulfed Theresa May’s government and rightly so. It’s led to the resignation of one of her most senior ministers and trusted allies.
But there is one shocking revelation that has attracted relatively little attention.
Recent opinion polls show that Windrush has seemingly had no impact on levels of Conservative Party support.
ICM, YouGov and…

What if the whole Corbyn project is based on a lie?

If there’s one thing that scares the Corbyn movement more than anything else, it’s the emergence of a new centre-ground party.
Supporters know very well that once it arrives, the alleged ‘popularity’ of Labour’s far-left leadership would be badly exposed – in just the same way that Michael Foot’s good poll ratings disintegrated with the emergence of the SDP in the early 1980s.
When people are given a choice, many will opt for moderation.
When they lack choice – a particularly stark problem in the UK’s indefensible first-past-the-post electoral system – they tend to polarise to left and right.
For supporters of today’s Labour leadership, it’s therefore critically important to dismiss the centre ground as something which no one wants any more. As a failed ‘neo-liberal’ project, which has no relevance to 2018.
But consider the facts.
A recent BMG Research poll for The Independent found that millions of voters currently find themselves without a political home.
Many feel that the main parties …

Anti-semitism and the crisis in the Corbynite left

It must be a very confusing time to be a follower of the bizarre Corbyn cult.
Dissonance is rife and the reasons are pretty obvious.
Momentum was built out of the leadership campaign for Jez and, for the first couple of years, things were very simple.
The only thing Momentum members and fellow travellers had to do was to believe whatever Corbyn believed.
If Jez claimed that Blair was a ‘neo-liberal’, so did they. When the veteran leftist argued that you can borrow and spend your way to economic prosperity, all you had to do was nod in agreement.
Marrows are easier to grow on an allotment than turnips? If the Gardener of the People says so, it must be true.
But what happens when the pronouncements of the guru start conflict with common sense or deep-seated belief systems?
The Russians should decide on whether the nerve agent used in Salisbury was theirs.
Err… yes, Jez. Of course.
Membership of the single market? Completely impossible outside the EU.
Hmm… you absolutely sure about that, oh …

It's crunch time once again for the PLP. What do they have to lose?

The last few years in the British Labour Party have been full of terrible misjudgements and mistimings.
Those last-minute charity nominations for Corbyn in the summer of 2015.
The sullen acquiescence of the PLP after Jez was first elected leader, providing him with breathing space to consolidate his position.
The coup that kept on being deferred in 2016. It would be in the new year. It would be after the council elections. It would have to wait until after the EU referendum.
The eventual launch of Angela Eagle’s bid to replace Corbyn. The sidelining of Eagle in favour of Owen Smith, who then ran a campaign in which he claimed to share the left-wing politics of the man he aimed to replace. The offer to Jez of a position as spiritual leader.
The sullen acquiescence of the PLP after Jez’s second win in September 2016.
The cloak of respectability given to Corbyn by people who should know far better. Tom Watson. Emily Thornberry. Keir Starmer.
The complete collapse of resistance after Corbyn ac…

Hats off to Corbyn for sheer hypocrisy

When Jeremy Corbyn recently attacked Theresa May for her close ties with Saudi Arabia, her defence was that the UK needed to maintain the relationship in order to be able to influence the regime in Riyadh.The exchanges in the House of Commons were tetchy.
You might be forgiven for thinking that the Labour Leader (beloved by his supporters for supposedly being on the ‘right side of history’) had taken the moral high ground here. But actually there’s no moral high ground with the far left when it comes to defence, security and foreign affairs.
We can see this in Corbyn’s latest interview with the BBC, in which he was asked about UK ties with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Here is his reply: “Would I do business with Putin? Sure. And I’d challenge him on human rights in Russia, challenge him on these issues and challenge him on that whole basis of that relationship. You have to deal with people who are in the position they are as head of state…”
To be fair to Jez, one senses that he is proba…