Perfect Financial Idiocy

Wednesday   27 September

So, John McDonnell would like to bring all Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) “in house”; the crowd went wild. It’s not hard to fathom the reaction because PFIs aren’t very popular, nor are they well understood. ABOLISH THE RICH, AAAH! Mr McDonnell was followed by junior ministers suggesting that he hadn’t meant; it; PFIs would just be reviewed. Let’s spread a little bit of ambiguity shall we!

The problem is that whether reviewed or cancelled McDonnell is stuck in a 1960s Hungarian economics textbook, he isn’t asking the right questions. This man is auditioning for the role of Chancellor; custodian of the purse, analyst of the economy. The question shouldn’t be “what economic things do people not like” but instead “what economics things do and don’t work for our economy?”

He stopped short of announcing a free unicorn in every household, and everlasting happiness and glee. That would’ve been silly. The problem is that saying you’re going to cancel PFI is a bit silly too. If he’d have had said “we will cancel/renegotiate/yell at the bad PFIs because they are a drain on the taxpayer” then fine. There are bad PFIs in the same way that there are bad things of anything else; it is right and proper to draw a line and say “no more”. But to cancel all PFIs is to say two things, (1) nobody in government for the past 30 years has gotten anything right at any level, and (2) I don’t care what works, I want what I want.

In respect of point 1, I don’t mean the political imperative, of whether PFI is a good or a bad thing, I mean the calculations and the terms; PFIs had to be cheaper than the government’s own ability to self perform those services to be approved, and also, most required provisions to ensure for example, the PFIs were subject to UK tax, value for money reviews were obligatory or the risk transfer to industry justified the profits. So again, where bad ones have been signed or mistakes have been made then great, cancel them (or something similar). Otherwise, I’d like to believe that our public servants are capable. If they’re not, why do we believe John McDonnell, charmer that he is, is going to fix that?!

Point 2 is the same criticism I have been making of Jeremy Corbyn since his election as leader; he treats the means as ends and ignores the real life impact of his policies on people and the world. I understand the appeal of the Corbyn project (much as I disagree with it), and I understand that people feel disenchanted and frustrated with the political class but that shouldn’t lead to the reductive politics of the lowest common denominator and ignorance.

But don’t these companies make massive profits?! Yes and no. They make profit in the same way that anybody selling anything does, but perhaps unusually PFIs also make large losses especially during start up, and they also take the risks of delivery. Making profit isn’t a bad thing, it is the reward for taking risks (and losses) but also a measure of the hassle, overhead, and work involved in delivery. Whether PFI exists or not those profits will be made, unless the government is doing it all itself; having experienced government services I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.

The thing with PFI is that revenues and costs are fully transparent so people can see the profits; before PFI nobody had a clue. Forgetting actual value for money for a second, one of the real benefits of PFI is the transparency for both government and the public; the cost of providing the service is transparent, in one place, benchmarked and market tested.

So PFIs are wicked?

Of course not, there are problems, and there are bad ones. That doesn’t invalidate the concept and it doesn’t justify John McDonnell’s hectoring.

Fix or cancel the bad ones, improve those that can be improved but let us not cast aside success stories that deliver excellent service and value for the sake of it.

Speaking as a taxpayer, I don’t like ambiguity in economic policy; and I’m not entirely sure that Mr McDonnell isn’t spreading a bit of ambiguity now and wouldn’t continue to do so if he reaches number 11.

Barnabus Howard


Why Moderates Should Listen More to Jeremy Corbyn

Monday 25 September

One of the most famous quotes attributed to the American journalist, critic and scourge of populists, H.L. Mencken is beloved of many working in and commenting on public policy:

“There is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.”

A century old now, the quote seems to be a useful reminder to the political and policy follies of Donald Trump and his simple solutions to complex problems. Build a wall in order to control immigration, withdraw from free trade agreements in order to protect manufacturing job in the rustbelt, all simple solutions and all flying in the face of evidence and (perceived) common sense, but at the same time all compelling and easy to convey. It is not surprising that people who worry about the declining fortunes of their communities in a globalised world might respond positively to Trump’s rhetoric.

Of course populism isn’t the preserve of the political right, the British Labour Party are riding a wave of renewed support and interest based in large part to the appeal of Jeremy Corbyn and his commitment to anti-‘austerity’ policies, social justice and challenging the very wealthy. While the centre right happily decry Corbyn’s pitch as ‘virtue signalling’ and the centre left dismiss it as naïve, there is no doubt that the Labour leader’s pitch is gaining increasing support.

And so it should be. After seven years of government trying to eliminate the budget deficit, many people find their disposable income shrinking and their public services diminishing in both scope and quality. No moderate/centrist- or whatever the more politically pragmatic chose to call themselves- should be content at this state of affairs.

The challenge for them is to explain why providing fair access to education to all means investing heavily in early years and secondary education- the place where disadvantage takes hold- not spending £11bn on young adults who access tertiary education. It involves pointing out that you cannot claim to be in favour of social justice while committing to £9bn worth of benefit cuts to the poorest while preserving current tax rates for middle income earners.

Centrists and social democrats must revive their progressive spirit and be proud of it while at the same time challenging the quick win rhetoric of populists from both ends of the political spectrum. This will involve updating their language and engaging with new ideas that not only challenges easy solutions, but also the dry and academic language of moderate public policy that is so easily associated with the status quo. Despite obvious revulsion from the centre, Michael Gove’s ‘experts’ comment on the eve of the EU referendum resonated with many who felt politics had become too obsessed with technocratic solutions.

Moderates should not be happy to be portrayed as cool, dispassionate and out of touch, when so much many people in the UK are struggling to come to terms with a fast changing world that appears to directly challenge their notions of prosperity and security.

The political centre does have some of the solutions, but it must modernise its delivery and approach in order to be seen as a credible challenge to decline, as well as a positive force for change. Finally, it must also recognise that while Mr Corbyn has few answers, he poses a great many valid questions.

Steven Duckworth


The Democratic Socialist Republic of Canterbury

3rd July 2017

By Keith Nieland-

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Canterbury


“Yes, Canterbury!”

“Do you the mean the Canterbury with the cathedral, archbishop and lots of niche shops? The middle England Canterbury?”


“It went Labour?”


Indeed so. By a swing of 9.33% Rosie Duffield stretched far down the list of Tory target seats and took middle England Canterbury. But why did the voters deliver this surprise result?

Water Pipes and Rail Lines

Were the voters of this corner of Kent attracted by the notion of civil servants running the trains of South Eastern or the state owning its water pipes? Psephologists have already started the process of taking apart the general election outcome but we already know 71% of Labour voters were Remainers and that Brexit accounted for half the swing to Labour ( It would not be, therefore, unreasonable to suggest that the voters of Canterbury were, in the main, rejecting Prime Minister May’s Hard Brexit characterised by “no deal is better than a bad deal”. Canterbury also has lots of students – the very group who have most to lose from withdrawal from the single market with its loss of the right to work, live and study in any of the EU’s 27 countries.

Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing

The evidence is that Labour became the refuge of choice for the 48% who did not vote for Brexit and those who rejected May’s apparent charge towards a hard exit. Labour racked up hung swings and big majorities in areas that had been solidly Remain (15.10% in Hove, 15.83% in Bristol West, 10.59% in Kensington). It would not have been unreasonable for voters to believe that Labour supported continued membership of both the customs union and single market. Indeed Keir Starmer’s 6 tests strongly suggest this with reference to an acceptable deal delivering the same benefits as both.

Labour’s manifesto did not lie easily with Starmer’s tests and, despite what was stated in the manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn hardly made exiting the customs union and single market the headline announcement at his rallies.

It would have come as a surprise to some who voted Labour as a protest against a Hard Brexit to discover on the Sunday after the vote John McDonnell committing Labour to that very thing. (See video)

Along Comes the Cavalry

Those downcast by McDonnell’s commitment to support May’s Brexit line would have been cheered a few days later by Chuka Umunna, who enjoyed a 9.60% swing in his own London constituency, and a group of 50 politicians from across the party announcing a commitment to a softer Brexit and continued membership of the Single Market and Customs Union.

Either by design or accident Labour had fudged its Brexit line during the election. The problem with fudges is that you get found out in the end.

Brexit! What Brexit?

It was supposed to be the Brexit election. The nation was being invited to give May a big majority and, therefore, a strong mandate for the exit negotiations in Brussels. It appeared May’s strategy was to harvest UKIP votes to the Tory cause with an unremitting commitment to a Hard Brexit. There was little debate about the nature of our exit – it was hard, take it or leave it – characterised by leaving the single market and customs union. No time was given to the potential different models of leaving and what would come next. There was little analysis of the pros and cons of remaining in both agreements or examination of the nature of our relationship with Europe going forward.

The reality was that May hardly campaigned at all and seemed to be relying on a strategy which suggested the more voters saw of Jeremy Corbyn the more they would reject him. For his part Corbyn’s election slogan could well have been “Brexit! What Brexit?” so little did he refer to it.

As a result the election settled little. If May went into the vote saying she needed a big majority so she had a strong negotiating hand, the fact she lost the majority she had must be interpreted as voters not willing to give her the mandate she craved. Voters seemed to be saying we wanted a more nuanced separation and less of the brinkmanship and threats.

It appears as if the mood of the nation has shifted but that of the two main party leaders may have not.

Has the election result, against all expectations, trumped the referendum outcome?

A Fight to the Death

Some commentators speculate that Brexit has split the country. The vote last June created two distinct camps that had not existed previously. No compromise has been created or even sought. This conflict was reflected in the election result with big swings to Labour and seats gained in Remain areas with the Tory vote holding up in Leave areas.

So is this simmering conflict now reflected in the House of Commons? We now have MPs representing strong Leave and Remain areas sitting in the House and some even in the same party. Anna Soubry, Ken Clarke, John Redwood and Jacob Rees-Mogg are in the same party but hear them speak about Brexit you would hardly believe so. Chuka Umunna, Peter Kyle and Wes Streeting are in the same party as John McDonnell, Kate Hoey and Richard Burgon but again on Brexit you would hardly think so.

This poses the question: will MPs put party loyalty above their views on Brexit?

Loyalty to Constituents or Party Leadership?

Once the Brexit negotiations are finished and voted on in Parliament that will be that. There will be no revisiting and no way back. The cast for decades to come will be well and truly set.

As things currently stand it appears May and Corbyn want the same thing – the UK out of the EU and no membership of either the customs union or single market. They can whip their MPs to support any vote. However, there is much double talk along the lines of enjoying the same benefits of both agreements without actually being a member (the cake and eat it option). At the same time Liam (Air Miles) Fox continually zooms around the world and has yet to announce any commitments to new trade deals to replace those we may lose with the EU.

So is it possible soft Brexit MPs of both main parties will say enough is enough? That they will abandon tribal party loyalty, defy their leadership, take control, and guide the ship of state to a soft Brexit with continued membership of the customs union and single market? That they will prioritise close links with our European partners over some as yet undefined championing of international free trade?

So the game is far from complete and there is much to be played for. Many MPs are currently keeping their powder dry but will keep a close eye on the opinion polls, what happens to the economy over the next two years and what constituents are saying.

It is just possible they will unify across the Commons and bring down the Hard Brexit house. 71% of Labour voters plus SNP and Green voters and the soft Brexit Scottish Tories and the DUP will cheer them on no doubt.

With Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell on the same Brexit page as Jacob Rees-Mogg and John Redwood perhaps our politics will change in such a fundamental way that a new centrist grouping will emerge.

By Keith Nieland

Please note: articles and posts on ‘Middle Vision’ reflect the views of the individual authors and not of all involved in ‘Middle Vision’

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Where do we go from here?

16th June 2017

 -By Steven Duckworth-

Where do we go from here?

A week after the people spoke, politics appears to be in an unholy mess, or so we are led to believe. While the nature of the general election campaigns and the level of political debate were unremittingly awful, the end result need not be. A hung parliament with a minority Conservative government will not please activists of either main party, but it could be a platform for a period of sensible and pragmatic government. For this to happen, all parties will need to play a part while keeping one eye on how they best prepare for the next election. What will not be in doubt it that two issues: Brexit and ‘austerity’ will loom large.

One indisputable point to be taken from the 2017 general election is that the Conservatives ran a terrible campaign. Once Theresa May had been locked into the ‘strong and stable’ mode of campaigning, she was completely unable to change tack and style as the election developed. Once her plans for adult social care had been dubbed – slightly unfairly – as a ‘dementia tax’, she started losing ground and the decision to signal a future parliamentary vote on fox hunting is still inexplicable.

But beyond style and (some) substance it became clear that some voters wanted to punish the Conservatives over the decision to leave the European Union and for seven years of unrelenting deficit reduction. Previous electorates had taken David Cameron and George Osborne at their word; that the UK needed a short, sharp fiscal corrective, but this time they signalled enough was enough. Also the Conservative-supporting press felt that a few lurid – though essentially accurate – headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s past would damage the Labour leader. They didn’t; either because people had already factored it into their view of Corbyn, or they simply saw the reports as desperate smears.

There is one thing that will buoy the Conservatives and it is that they are now, or should be, fully aware of what faces them and the reasons for failing to win a majority. In response to the dangers facing them the Chancellor Philip Hammond could signal a significant easing-off on deficit reduction and pave the way for both a public sector pay rise and funding for early years and secondary education. Theresa May could also state that she intends to soften her Brexit stance by staying in the European Customs Union. Both would be anathema to the right of her party, but it may pay dividends in the run-up to the next election.

It’s possible that such decisions may add life to the barely breathing frame of UKIP, though the Conservative managers may conclude that could hurt Labour just as much as their own party. As it is, Theresa May will probably survive a fair way into a five year term and then be replaced by a warmer and more engaging leader. Write off the Tories at your peril.

Labour has a different if equally interesting set of issues to deal with. Jeremy Corbyn had a fantastic election campaign that surprised a lot of people, perhaps himself included. His warmth and engagement with people was the perfect counter to his opponent’s cold aloofness. However, the Labour leader has a decision to make: whether to embrace a more conciliatory relationship with his parliamentary party or to stick with the base support that has served him well. Corbyn should probably stick with left wing populism for the first phase of opposition until the fallout from the election is fully understood and the options become apparent. Corbyn is a product of the left, but he is not as doctrinal as, for instance, his shadow chancellor. Over a period of time he will need to decide which wing of the party can better serve Labour’s electoral chances. Two issues could also threaten Labour in the next parliamentary term. While the party managed to ‘look both ways’ over Brexit and get away with it, repeating the trick again may prove more problematic.

Labour’s other major problem is its more general policy platform which is left wing (mainly in the style of Nordic social democracy) but not especially progressive. Offering free degrees to the children of middle income earners while you are not helping the poorest by using the tax and benefits system might have passed voters by this time. But as with Brexit, Labour may not be so fortunate a second time. One certain thing is that Labour has momentum (if you’ll excuse the pun) and should allow themselves a celebration at their loss, but not for an extended period of time.

Both the party and its leader – neither of who have the benefit of being underdogs any more – will come under serious scrutiny. In such circumstances over-confidence could be very damaging.

One leader who didn’t see out the election fallout intact has been the Liberal Democrats’ Tim Farron. Never intended as the leader to fight an election, rather a transitional repair man, he fell on his sword over issues of faith, ostensibly. Practically his position was untenable. Poor leadership sat at the heart of the Liberal Democrats’ campaign; an increasingly two horse race meant that Farron quickly got sidelined. But his inability to even try and punch above his weight became obvious.

In contrast with Labour the party did have a broadly progressive policy agenda that sought to increase public spending and use fiscal levers to improve the position of some of the poorest in society. Unfortunately for them this may well have been viewed as too technocratic in the current climate of populism.

Brexit was also an issue that the Liberal Democrats tried to grapple with and would have got more support had the leader been able to project himself more successfully. Under a new leader (whoever she may be) the party could be able to sell their vision of a leaving the EU with minimal damage to the country’s economy and reputation. Indeed the Liberal Democrats could make a public offer to support the government on limited terms – no more coalitions – in order for securing a softer Brexit and a vote on any final deal. Such a deal would almost certainly be rejected by the government and anger Labour loyalists with memories of the ‘Con Dems’, but could well get the Liberal Democrats some wider recognition and respect from an electorate that has largely ignored the party.

So the upcoming parliament will be both intriguing and fraught. None of the main parties at the election really talked about the challenges that face the country going into the 2020s: such as how technological innovation will impact on the economy and society, how to reform benefits, the changing nature of work, the knowledge and skills agenda, the reform of (not just spending more on) public services and how our public institutions often get in the way of people rather than supporting them.

In fact both main parties appeared to have decided that it was time for one last hurrah for their previous greatest hits. If they try that again, the public may well decide that they are starting to rather like the idea of hung parliaments.

By Steven Duckworth


Please note: articles and posts on ‘Middle Vision’ reflect the views of the individual authors and not of all involved in ‘Middle Vision’

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The Mirage in the Desert

13th June 2017

By Keith Nieland-

The Mirage in the Desert

Success is often measured against expectation. When Theresa May called the General Election in April the expectation was that she would win with a thumping Commons majority, perhaps in three figures. For Jeremy Corbyn expectation was very different. He was expected to lead Labour to one of its worse defeats ever.

Never Believe the Evidence!

The evidence for these predictions was overwhelming. May enjoyed record level poll leads for both her party and her personal competence. Most weeks she wiped the floor with Corbyn at PMQs. For his part Corbyn’s Commons performances were usually appalling and listened to in silence by his own benches and often his backbenchers did not even bother to turn up. He could not form a shadow cabinet so how could he form a government? He could not command the respect of his MPs so how was he ever going to command the respect of the country?

Corbyn has views that many considered outside the British mainstream on defence, Trident renewal and foreign policy. He had in the past kept some dodgy looking company – the IRA, Hamas and Hezbollah. In over 30 years as an Member of Parliament Corbyn had not even been a minor shadow minister let alone held any office of significance. He has, as a matter of routine, voted against all the different leaders of his Party.

So what could possibly go wrong for May?

Campaign What Campaign?

The 2017 General Election turned out to be one of few where the outcome was heavily influenced by the campaign. It was almost a text book example of how to snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory. I say ‘almost’ because the Tories did actually win albeit by the skin of their teeth with help from friends from over the water.

Quite simply May did not engage. She had no press conferences, did not turn up to debates and had no forensic examination of Labour’s manifesto. Her public appearances were obviously stage-managed and the Tory Party manifesto launch was one big bodge. How could a party so dependent on the votes of the over-60s come up with the “dementia tax” proposal? Didn’t anybody think to stress test it beforehand?

She had little to say to anyone beyond bad news and voters noticed.

It’s the Economy, Stupid!

May christened the campaign ‘the Brexit election’. She was seeking a strong mandate to take to Brussels. However, beyond a few empty platitudes, she hardly mentioned Brexit, and Corbyn even less so. Since 2010 the Tories’ ace card has been economic competence but May did not seek to built on that reputation. She made a major miscalculation by assuming voters were prepared, if not happy, to continue with austerity. After all they had endorsed it by a majority of two million votes two years ago. It turned out voters, while apparently liking the talk of deficit and debt reduction, did not like the reality and declared they had enough and wanted to move on.

Corbyn in the Wheat Fields

May’s campaign left Corbyn free to do what he does best – run a leadership campaign.

Free of the restraints and challenges of the House of Commons he was able to roam the country talking to sometimes huge adoring crowds of supporters. He talked in positive terms and used the word “hope” a lot. He promised an end to austerity and new investment in public services. He promised one of the biggest public spending binges of all times to be supported by a record level of tax take. This was wrapped in a promise that the rich would pay for it all. No mention was made of the deficit or the level of national debt or how the wealth from which the tax would be taken was to be created. The IFS had done a demolition job on Corbyn’s tax and spend plans but the arrogant, over-confident Tories did not bother to follow up.

While May was saying little, Corbyn was telling many voters what they wanted to hear, albeit it in generally vague terms. He looked good on television in comparison to May’s edgy and defensive performances. You just do not tell a nurse live on national TV who expresses concern about no pay rise for years that there is simply no magic money tree. Corbyn was left free to cultivate a wise old uncle act. He often looked like a kind, cuddly Jackanory reader.

So Corbyn toured the country making a very similar speech free from any forensic examination of his programme while instead the Tories resorted to insults. The Tories made the fatal mistake of thinking Corbyn would self destruct and that the Corbyn they see in the Commons would be the same Corbyn speaking to the crowds in the wheat fields.

But Hang on a Minute!

If May was so bad, and believe me she was, if voters had had enough of austerity, if they had rejected the “no Bexit deal is better than a bad deal” mantra, how come Labour did not win? Why couldn’t Labour overturn the narrow Tory Commons majority? Why did it feel like the loser won and the victor lost?

The answer to that goes back to the levels of expectation when the election was announced.

A few days have passed and the celebrations in the Labour ranks have calmed. If Labour is to progress further it faces some steep challenges. The reality is that the Tories won the most seats and May is planning to embed herself for a number of years. Frantic work is going on behind the scenes to present a united Tory front.

Labour’s Mountain

Over the weekend Twitter presented me with some interesting statistics informing me how well Corbyn did, that by some measures he actually won and that Labour is but a short skip from being landlord for Larry the Cat.

So let us have a look at the numbers that really count:

  • Labour remains 56 Commons seats behind the Tories
  • to close that gap they would have to gain twice the number of seats taken last Thursday
  • to achieve that they would have to bank last Thursday’s popular vote number and increase it by a further one million (at least)
  • Labour remains 64 seats away from a Commons majority of just one
  • Labour would have to further increase its vote share by 3 to 4 per cent
  • the Party is 90 plus seats away from what Blair achieved in the 1990s
  • the more we revert to a two party system the more votes Labour needs to rack up in winnable seats
  • for Labour to do well history tells us it also needs the Lib Dems to do well also by taking seats in more traditional Tory areas

Quite simply, to win the next election Labour needs to win more seats directly from the Tories.

It needs to win in places like Milton Keynes, Crawley and the Kent and Essex estuary seats. Some seats it would need to target have five figure Tory majorities. It would need to reverse the drift away evident in some midland and northern seats and make further gains in Scotland. Labour will need to advance further beyond the suburbs into rural areas (remember when Labour held a seat in Dorset?). It short it would need to perform well all over the country.

Socially Conservative Labour Voters and Liberal Tory Voters

What worked for Jeremy Corbyn this time will not work next time – the Tories will not underestimate him again. They will be ready and waiting.

If Labour is serious about gaining power again it will need to develop a strategy that not only appeals to its 2017 voters but also to those it needs to gain. They are more likely to be middle-of-the-road socially conservative Labour voters or more liberal Tory voters; voters who are wary of extremes, cynical about grand promises and hold more traditional values. Voters who put store in family, thrift, hard work and turning a profit.

To capture these Labour’s strategy will need to stretch towards the middle ground of politics. This is ground occupied by what some of Corbyn’s less informed supporters define as “Red Tories, Tory Lite” and sometimes worse.

Jeremy Corbyn’s 2017 manifesto was not new – it reflected views he has held for decades – nationalisation, trade union rights, higher public spending levels, more state intervention and higher corporation and high wage earner taxes. His challenge is to go beyond that with a programme even more relevant to the opportunities and promises of the 21st century that will inspire an even wider group of voters than last Thursday.

Lake of Opportunity or Desert Mirage?

Little was expected of Corbyn by many before last Thursday. His better than forecast result has saddled him with a hopefully welcome level of expectation. Will he take the view that the tried and tested is sufficient and one more heave will get Labour over the line? Will he take the view that there is more to be milked from the alliances he built last week?

If he does Labour will go backwards at the next election. If it fails to build new bridges, levels of trust among new voters, to reach out to areas which have been no-go for over 10 years, then the promise of last Thursday will be lost and the lake of opportunity will turn out to be have been a mirage in the desert.

By Keith Nieland

Please note: articles and posts on ‘Middle Vision’ reflect the views of the individual authors and not of all involved in ‘Middle Vision’

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Isn’t this supposed to be the Brexit Election?

2nd June 2017

By Keith Nieland-

Isn’t this supposed to be the Brexit Election?

It seems an age since Theresa May announced the snap, surprise general election. If I recall correctly it was necessary because of Brexit. She feared those dastardly Labour, LibDem and SNP MPs would gang up on her and bring the workings of government to a halt if they did not get their own way.

Her second reason was that she believed having a large majority in the Commons would strengthen her hand in the negotiations with EU leaders.

If that is the case why are we not all talking about the types of Brexit on offer? Why are options not being identified and debated? Why are politicians not setting out the pros and cons of these options for us all to consider?

A One Way Ticket to Ride

Now, I am not suggesting we re-run the referendum. We voted to leave and leave we will. What nobody voted for was a model of the economy post-Brexit. No doubt some people think they did but the reality is there has been little debate about the new model for our economy. Do we pursue the Canadian, Norwegian or Swiss models or resort to WTO rules and have no agreements with the EU?

People did not specifically vote to leave the Single Market and certainly did not vote to leave the Customs Union. I doubt many voters had ever heard of the Customs Union or knew what its function was. People did not vote for their jobs to be potentially moved to Dublin, Paris or Frankfurt.

I live near Oxford and if BMW decide not to build the new electric Mini at Cowley it will cause job losses, hardship and undermine the local economy. Nobody voted for that either. Nobody voted for a 20% drop in the value of the pound, higher inflation and an end to the Open Skies agreement or compensation for flight delays (very topical of course). Nobody voted to surrender their EHIC card.

Different political parties should be championing different models so voters can debate and decide how they wish to go forward. This is why it is quite scandalous that May and Corbyn are basically singing from the same Brexit song sheet.

The Elephant on the Table

I would suggest Brexit has become the elephant in the room because, for different reasons, it is not in either Theresa May’s or Jeremy Corbyn’s interests to venture into the murky world of Brexit.

First, May’s reasons for calling the election are quite spurious. There is no cross-party plan to bring government to a halt. The opposition parties do not have the numbers to do that and in any case Corbyn’s Brexit position is much nearer May’s than Tim Farron’s. Remember, Corbyn marched as many of his troops as he could into the lobbies in support of the Tories when the House of Commons voted.

Secondly, the size of May’s majority is of no significance to the EU negotiating team. They have already laid out publicly their negotiating position and for them there are agreements to be reached on the status of Northern Ireland and EU nationals living and working in the UK plus the size of the divorce bill. These will have to be settled before anything else is considered and May will not be able to link these issues across to trade etc. For the EU there is nothing to negotiate just agreements to be reached.

Those Damned Experts

The conspiracy theorist in me thinks the Treasury economists have warned May about the damage to the economy immediately post-Brexit and she does not want to have to handle an election in 2020, the year after the full impact of our EU departure begins to hit home.

Assuming May wins next week she could hold off having another election until 2022 in the hope the economy might be on the up again.

There is no doubt the terrible events in Manchester have affected the election but the debate on security, terrorism, integration and alienation has not knocked Brexit off the front page as it was not there in the first place. Apart from a controversial venture into foreign policy Corbyn continues to talk about the NHS, education and public services and May continues to talk about nothing very much no doubt hoping exposing Corbyn to public scrutiny will deliver her a victory.

Strength and Stability for the Many and not the Few

So May has been mouthing “strong and stable” at every opportunity and promoting the Tories’ reputation for economic competency which was severely undermined by her dementia tax gaff. I know Twitter is alive with charts of the Tories’ cuts to public services, reductions in police numbers and the size of the national debt etc but we need to remember a little over 2 years ago 11 million people voted for a continuation of austerity and prioritised reducing the debt and deficit over everything else. Ed Miliband offered a different route but by 2 million votes it was rejected.

So “strong and stable” May plus economic record plus red meat for UKIP voters is May’s strategy. The polls appear to indicate that UKIP is imploding and its voters going to the Conservatives by a sizeable majority. It’s here we find May’s reasons for not wanting to talk Brexit. The hard line Brexit supporters are to be found in the UKIP vote. Farage and co are watching the Tories like hawks and anything that smells of the slightest weakness towards our EU partners will be pounced on. Hence hints about walking out of the negotiations if we don’t get our own way plus tough measures on immigration. Any hint of remaining in the Customs Union or Single Market will also be pounced on. The UKIP doctrine is to cut ourselves off completely from Europe, have nothing to do with its institutions and create a new world role for ourselves. May needs their votes and will, therefore, say nothing to put that at risk.

Debating Brexit during the Brexit election is just too risky for May.

Corbyn’s reasons for not debating Brexit are different. Prior to his lacklustre efforts during the referendum (remember him going on holiday!) he has traditionally voted against all things EU and given where he lies on the political spectrum he probably see it as a capitalist club operating for the benefit of corporate business. Turning to this election he will be aware of the complex Single Market rules about state intervention and subsidy and would see this as a risk to his nationalisation plans.

The Size of One Side of the Coin Decides the Other

I have had Corbyn fans on Twitter (ah yes the wonderful world of Twitter) say to me that while they are unhappy with Corbyn’s Brexit position as they had voted to remain, they love his other policies. I have pointed out to them that Brexit and our public services are two sides of the same coin. If post-Brexit the economy shrinks and confidence falls, as is already beginning to happen, the amount of money available to invest in the NHS, education, police etc also diminishes as the tax take falls. A Chancellor McDonnell, instead of going on a £49b tax raising and spending spree, could find himself struggling to keep services at their current level while keeping borrowing down and the debt and deficit under control. I doubt Keynes would have endorsed raising taxes when profits and wages and the pound were falling and inflation rising.

So there you have it – May does not want to talk Brexit for fear of alienating UKIP voters on a journey to the Tories and Corbyn does not want to because it will expose the risk to his state interventionist and nationalisation plans.

It’s the Economy Stupid!

The Brexit model we end up with will affect us all for decades to come. It will determine how the economy will perform. The 48% who voted to remain have been largely marginalised and ignored during the campaign.

Our future economic model will now be determined by politicians in secret meetings more concerned with the fortunes of their parties rather than the wider interests of the whole population. Nobody will have a say over the chosen model going forward – not even Parliament who will get a ‘take it or leave it’ offer. This cannot be good for democracy and will possibly alienate large sections of the electorate for years to come.

By Keith Nieland

Please note: articles and posts on ‘Middle Vision’ reflect the views of the individual authors and not of all involved in ‘Middle Vision’

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Sorry to those who will suffer because we have let you down

Angry doesn’t even get close. But I am not angry for me. I am angry for those communities and individuals we have let down.

The election results are awful and there can be no running away from that. No dressing the results up as being ok or blaming the weather, Brexit, lack of seats on trains or the wrong type of voter.

The results must be owned by the leadership and their inner group.

Leadership is a huge issue and although it is impossible in the current political climate to translate this into a definite general election outcome – the warning is there and it couldn’t be clearer that rallies, twitter storms and disowning our record when in government is a huge turn-off for voters.

Labour are at our best when we are radical, forward looking and inclusive – this means a centre left offer that meets the aspirations of the electorate and not small cliques and protest groups.

It doesn’t mean that we simply dress up 1997 New Labour it means refreshing New Labour and making it fit for now and the next ten years.

Perhaps most importantly we need to understand (once again) that to bring about change, to have a Britain based on our values we need to be electable and that winning elections has to be at the heart of everything the Party does.

If we can’t do that we will continue to lose.

Tonight we need to be humble and apologise to those who will suffer as a direct result of the actions of the current leadership and his team.

It also saddens me that so many decent Labour Cllrs and candidates have been let down so badly and more than ever we need to accept that the warnings of the 172 MPs in the PLP were right.

This doesn’t translate as all those in the Labour Party who believed in Jeremy Corbyn are monsters. It doesn’t mean they need to leave – he has let them down.

He promised to take the fight to the SNP in Scotland – he didn’t – he gifted Scottish seats to the Tories.

He said the fight back starts here and pushed our local election campaign in Harlow – result we lost seats to the Tories.

It is time to say enough is enough!

We can rebuild and win back trust but not with the current leader.

He might be well meaning. He may have stood against apartheid (didn’t we all!) I am sure that he has supported many important campaigns.

But none of that matters now – it is now clear that he cannot win the support of the electorate and he has to take responsibility and go and go quickly!

Tim C