Newsletter 25/02/24


The drama in the House of Commons over the SNP’s opposition day motion about Gaza reveals two sad facts about politics in the UK.

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Dear Subscribers,

The drama in the House of Commons over the SNP’s opposition day motion about Gaza reveals two sad facts about politics in the UK. The first is that Labour under Keir Starmer will sacrifice the impartiality of significant constitutional offices for the sake of party politics (as if that wasn’t already clear with the appointment of Sue Grey as his Chief of Staff). The second is that the Gaza lobby is sufficiently influential over MPs to cause chaos in Parliament, their preferred modus operandi being intimidation.


Speaker under fire

The Hungarian parliament is due to ratify Sweden’s accession to NATO on Monday, after the Swedish PM met Orban in Budapest this week. The Hungarian leader was the last hold-out, and it took the promise of 4 new fighter jets for Orban to give in after 21 months of stalling. It is the last Scandinavian country to join the bloc, after Finland joined in April.

The UK has signed a deal with Frontex – the EU’s border agency – for greater cooperation on illegal migration into and through Europe. The deal does not contain a returns agreement, meaning that the UK will not have to take asylum seekers from EU countries but also meaning that the UK cannot return asylum seekers crossing the Channel to France. The deal mostly covers intelligence-sharing and cooperation on training border forces.

The EU has released funds worth €137 billion to Poland which were being withheld over a dispute about the rule-of-law. Opposition figures in Poland were quick to point out that there has of yet been no legal changes and that the measures proposed by Prime Minister Donald Tusk are likely to be blocked by President Duda.


Payday for the Polish PM

A test of the UK’s nuclear capabilities which ended in failure has raised questions over the efficacy of the deterrent. One of Britain’s Trident missiles crashed into the sea soon after launching. Officials claimed that the crash was event-specific and would not occur in war time.

The Prime Minister has called on western governments to be bolder about seizing Russian-owned assets in response to damages inflicted on Ukraine. G7 countries have been exploring plans to seize assets currently frozen and give them to Ukraine as compensation for the damage done by the Russian invasion.


Rupert Dawall on Net Zero

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Islamism in the UK

Roland Oliphant on the situation in Ukraine


Goldman Sachs: Wrong on Brexit by Catherine McBride

A recent research paper by Goldman Sachs claims that the UK’s economy had significantly underperformed ‘other advanced economies’ because Brexit had reduced trade, lowered business investment and lowered EU immigration. The paper is unconvincing with evidence flimsy at best and some of their trade statistics are incorrect. If anything, the paper simply proves that the US would be a better economic model for the UK, not the EU.

The GS paper is based on the use of a doppelganger model (in which a synthetic index is constructed composed of data from supposedly similar countries). A doppelganger is technically a twin, and twin studies are very useful in biology, but much less useful in economics primarily because there are no identical twin countries. And even if there were, unless their respective governments make the same decisions all the time, they are unlikely to get similar economic outcomes.

Citizens’ Assemblies: a threat to our democracy by Nick Busvine

Nick Busvine looks back at his first article for this site ‘What Price Democracy?’(March 2019) – and concludes that the UK democracy remains under threat. Labour’s renewed flirtation with citizens’ assemblies should act as a wake-up call – and is symptomatic of a continued lack of establishment faith in our hard-won democratic system.

The real tragedy is that, as our ruling elite try to subvert our democracy, it is not just the UK voter that suffers, but also the cause of democracy and liberty globally.  I won my OBE for conflict resolution and the facilitation of Mozambique’s first ever democratic election.  Thirty years later, democracy is unravelling there very quickly.  If we don’t believe in democracy, why should anyone else?

Key Points

The Labour leadership showed its true face this week, twice. At the beginning of the week, Sue Grey, Keir Starmer’s Chief of Staff, was quoted as saying that the Labour party would set up citizens’ assemblies when in office. (Keir Starmer has since distanced himself from the comments.) At the end of the week, the Labour leader, along with his whips, appears to have bullied the Speaker of the House into defying convention to get the Labour party out of a tricky political situation. Both are constitutionally subversive and they give a foretaste of what we can expect from a Labour government.

The purpose of citizens’ assemblies is not, as claimed, to ‘build consensus’ or ‘tackle difficult issues’. They are a way to push radical reforms without accountability. Parliament is set up so that legislation can be thoroughly scrutinised before it comes into law. A citizens’ assembly need not have such measures in place, but once it has come to a decision, politicians can use the veneer of legitimacy the decision acquires from being ‘the will of the people’ to push legislation through Parliament without the usual scrutiny.

That is if the decision of the citizens’ assembly ever gets that far. Does anyone seriously think that the Labour Party would implement the decision of a citizens’ assembly to abandon Net Zero policies or to deport migrants arriving on small boats? Only if ‘the people’ come to the ‘right’ decision will a Labour administration choose to pursue the policies it recommends. In Ireland, where citizens assemblies were introduced in 2016 and which is often hailed as a model to follow, the government adopted only 2 out of the 18 recommendations that were made.

It is not just citizens’ assemblies which the Labour leadership see as merely a means of pursuing their own agenda, the rules and conventions of the citizens’ assembly – the House of Commons – are treated as mere instruments in the same way. The neutrality of the Speaker is a cornerstone of the proper functioning of the House of Commons. He has extensive powers over the order paper in Parliament and if he is seen to be biased towards one party, faith in the institution as a whole will crumble.

But the Labour leadership are willing to risk this loss of faith for the sake of their own political agenda, just as they are willing to undermine the authority of Parliament by creating rival assemblies. For them, having a Labour government is more important than having a functioning parliamentary democracy.

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