Although Friday was Inauguration, Theresa May is the one with a turn up for the book this week.
I have seen her Speech on Tuesday described as ‘statesmanlike’. I can see why, but it gave me the heebie-jeebies for the high risk game I think she is playing. Wildlife programmes explain that in nature, where the odds of failure (to find food, mates etc.) are significantly higher than 50%, then a gamble can actually increase the chances of survival or success. Similarly, General MacArthur’s reason for landing a successful invasion force at Inchon, North Korea in 1950 was precisely because it was the stupidest place imaginable.
Although there are indeed some Churchillian passages in May’s speech, this approach was somewhat undermined by the ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ threat at the end. But the highest risk aspect for me is the statement that she will control immigration at the expense of the benefits of the Single Market, because Britain will make up the admitted losses in trade with the rest of the world. She is betting the farm, but unfortunately it is the farm on which all our livelihoods depend.
But let’s be fair. What options does she have? One of the biggest giveaways I have heard (but cannot prove) is that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove’s reaction to the ‘Leave’ result was utter silence, where one would have expected jubilation. Certainly Johnson’s public response was surprisingly low key. In my blog of 16th October I point out that if anyone should have thought out all the ramifications, and to sweep centre stage with answers, it was Nigel Farage. He could not leave the field quickly enough. Likewise David Cameron, who had promised to stay on whatever the result.
I discuss in that blog why I doubt whether Brexit will happen. My point here is that it was realized immediately by key figures that a mistake had been made. We are in a mess. How to extricate ourselves?
A straightforward backtracking is out of the question . In one of his blogs, my some time sparring partner Semi-Partisan Sam opined that if Parliament voted against ‘the will of the people’ there would be civil unrest to dwarf that seen over the Poll Tax. Although it was the will of rather less than half the people, those who voted ‘Leave’ did and do have strong feelings, so it could happen.
However what I fear more is the reaction of those same people when they discover that they will not get what they thought they had voted for: control of our borders. If I am right in my assessment (as per my previous blog) that since the vote, it has emerged quite clearly that losing access to the Single Market will damage Britain’s prosperity, and the choice is keep access to the Market and keep the borders open, or close the borders and sod the Market, then in making the second choice, is May bluffing?
But another odd fact is the lack of reaction to May’s mention that Parliament will be allowed to decide, given the Brexit media storm when the idea was mentioned in the first place. But one could argue that the Prime Minister has been astute here. She has stated firmly and unequivocably that we are leaving, right?
That could hinge on whether Article 50, once triggered is revocable or not. The answer is not yet known, but one possibility is that it will be decided by, wait for it, the European Court of Justice! Oh Dear!
As any Poker player can tell you, bluffing only works if you do it with panache. There was panache, sort of, in her vision of world-wide trade deals but she said, also firmly and unequivocably, that we shall walk away if we have to.
The sooner some of those who pushed for ‘Leave’ start to have the courage to tell it as it has actually transpired, the sooner there will be a way out of this quagmire.
I keep trying to point out that there may be a better option than just closing the borders – something which enables those under extreme pressure to uproot themselves not to do so. If serious disorder is to be avoided when Sunderland et cetera discover that the borders are not going to be closed, then they will certainly need to be offered something, preferably well before the Parliamentary vote. I keep trying to explain how the Universal Basic Income principle could have a part to play, but nobody takes that seriously yet. It is only a first bid. Perhaps someone with think of a better alternative to just keeping immigrants out.
On Trump, the signs are that my prediction that his administration will reverse direction on climate change is wrong. As I say, I think it hinges on Rex Tillerson, his Secretary of State. Tillerson will emerge as a steadying influence, , a more predictable member of the team, and therefore possibly even a leader. But even if that is true, it depends on whether Tillerson is intelligent enough to understand the optimum tactics dictated by the Tragedy of the Commons, or whether he really is T Rex, a dinosaur incapable of responding to an unprecedented situation.
I heard part of an interesting discussion on Radio 4 last night (21st January) pointing out that Trump, Le Pen etcetera were reactions against neoliberalism. I agree with why the phenomenon is happening, but it would hold more water as an effective antidote if Rex T, CEO of a mega corporation, was not at the heart of the Trump administration. But the programme did make the case that there was some logic in Trump’s tearing up of trade agreements
One odd fact has been brought to my notice. Among the unlikely visitors Trump has welcomed, is Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced doctor who criticised the MMR vaccine. I was always uneasy about that saga. Mind you. I could live with him dropping Dr. Wakefield like a hot potato (now that he has the vital anti-establishment votes in the bag), if he also changed his mind on climate change.