Time Wasting TIG Hands May Opportunity To Run Down Clock
February 20, 2019
When the Manic Street Preachers’ guitarist Richey Edwards was at the height of his depression, self-harm and alcoholism, he wrote one of the band’s best songs, Faster, which included the following enjoyable lyric about nihilism: “I know I believe in nothing but it is my nothing.” Just 25 years later, the same words could have been used as the slogan for the launch of a new non-party, The Independent Group.
The non-party comes both with non-policies and non-entities, but it is of course able to receive your real donations away from scrutiny of the Electoral Commission. We do not know who funds them. Which is lucky for whomever that is, because they wouldn’t want to be tarred with a tinge of racism after Monday’s farce.
The question now is how the formation of a new party – it might not officially be a party, but given the divisions in both main parties, it is probably more united than either of them – might influence the course of Brexit over the next two months. The answer is: probably in no useful way.
None of the seven members who left the party could be relied upon to vote with Jeremy Corbyn, on Brexit or any other issue. Regardless of your views on Corbyn and the Labour Party’s current policies, as vague or precise as they can be, it is worth remembering the seven would happily vote against the whip. After yesterday’s launch, they made it clear that they are strongly in favour of Western military intervention, with no real ideology. Combining the Liberal Democrats and Iraq is a brave combination of the two most hated propositions in modern British politics.
Where they stand on Brexit is that they are generally in favour of a people’s vote – a second referendum. Not for themselves, obviously. That would be too crass, and they are confident that it is the voters who wanted them as individuals. You don’t have to be an expert in politics to recognise that as bullshit, but you probably would have to be an expert in politics to be able to recognise Gavin Shuker.
A second Brexit referendum is a perfectly cromulent position to adopt, in the right circumstances. The right circumstances would be a) to hold it if most people want one and b) hold it if you are confident in victory. Given there is no majority support for another referendum, and there is no indication that there is a majority support for it in Parliament, then it starts to look like this breakaway group is merely an exercise in self-basting. Re-running the vote now would do little more than lead to the same cases of condescension, lies and malign intent as last time, bringing with it the concurrent damage it did to discourse and society.
With there being no useful support for a referendum, Brexit’s course remains much the same as it was last month. The Conservatives are in charge, and Theresa May is distinctly not in charge. Beholden to the DUP and the ERG, she must lie to them and then alternately to the European Union. It is conceivable with this time-wasting that Remain-leaning Tories could join the rebel group, with a handful to crossover.
A larger, independent pro-referendum group makes that cause only less likely. If both Corbyn and May see a pressure group outside of their party but in Westminster, they will have to reject their demands in order to prove their authority.
This leaves Britain in the same place is it was before TIG launched without an atmosphere. At this stage it seems that May can run down the clock because there is nobody within her party able to force her to act constructively. The only Tory section that shows discipline is the one that is content to cut as many ties with Europe as possible. If May refuses to cede ground to either Corbyn or the more right-wing section of the Labour Party in order to gain a majority for something like her current deal, then the prospect of No Deal looms.
At that point, an election seems inevitable. The focus could then eventually be on TIG, holding the balance of power along with the Liberal Democrats. Post-Brexit it would not be clear what they would demand that the Conservatives would refuse to give them. That’s because it is not clear what the Tory Party could propose that wouldn’t match their own beliefs.