YouGov Poll Joins Others Showing Brexit on Cards

For as long as I can remember, Peter Kellner, a man I like, respect, admire and consider a friend for more than 30 years has been telling me that my fears over Brexit were unfounded. Peter, like myself, believes that Britain isolating itself from Europe would be a historic error of monumental proportion.
But relying on his intimate knowledge of public opinion as head of the leading polling company, YouGov, Peter Kellner has insisted again and again, on the record at public seminars and in private conversation that there would never be a majority in favour of quitting the EU.
I, on the contrary, have felt ever since David Cameron announced his referendum in January that Brexit was possible, indeed probable. It was why I wrote my book Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe (IB Tauris). The first edition came out in January and discussed the divide between David Cameron and Ed Miliband over holding a referendum. That question was settled in the general election and unless the referendum is called off we must assume we will hold this dangerous plebiscite.
I have since completely re-written the non-historical chapters of the book to include developments since May this year. The book’s cover had been changed to a bright red instead of a pale cream and explains the new reasons since David Cameron returned to Downing Street that reinforce my Brexit arguments.
Now opinion polls are moving as it were from Peter Kellner to my side of the argument, namely that Brexit must be taken seriously. The argument that it will be like the 1975 referendum or that voters always stay with the status quo are evaporating. Simon Heffer writing in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph said the Out or Leave campaigners had already raised nearly £20 million. In 1975, the In or pro-Europe camp outspent the Out campaign 12-1. Forty years it is the anti-EU Out campaign that has all the case while the In groups rely on small groups of volunteers and small amounts of money from private donors.
Under legislation passed recently listed companies, including all major FTSE firms which back staying in the EU, cannot give money to a political campaign unless it is authorised by a special AGM. No CEO is going to risk calling a politically charged special meeting of shareholders which can be packed by UKIP activists and other anti-Europeans who buy a single share in order to secure a vote to give money to keep the UK in Europe. One recent survey said the 67% of leading UK firms wanted to stay in Europe but only 6% would campaign to that end. If big business is staying on the sidelines and not chipping in with financial help, the huge amounts of cash that have flowed and still flow from private City firms owned by Eurosceptics to Ukip or anti-European think-tanks will have more influence on the outcome than under-funded pro-EU campaigns.
The new Labour leadership is not Eurosceptic in the sense of Nigel Farage or top Tories like Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid who argue that Britain will flourish outside the EU. But Jeremy Corbyn and his closest comrades criticise the EU with its focus on austerity and free trade deals. The TUC has said its members could easily campaign for a No vote if the prime minister brings back any deal that contains language implying change in so-called Social Europe provisions.
Yet the CBI, and other employer outfits like the British Chambers of Commerce and Institute of Directors have been banging on for years that Cameron must reform, reduce or remove EU social rules like Working Time or Agency Workers Directives. Labour and the unions are not anti-European but cannot offset the relentless Eurosceptic campaign by most of the mass circulation press.
Finally, as I argued in my book, the constant criticism of the EU from politicians and journalists of right and left and the failure of all government ministers since 2010 to find a good word for Europe is working its way into public consciousness. Today The Times published a poll showing a 40-38 split in favour of voting Out or Leave.
The poll was carried out by YouGov. I expect to bump into Peter Kellner at the Labour conference or soon at one of the many discussion events on Europe at which we see each other. I look forward to his explanation of why his own polling firm now joins Survation and ICM in producing Out majorities and whether perhaps his confidence in recent times that the UK would always vote to stay in Europe was misplaced.

Tribune Review

Birth and death of the League of Nations

The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire by Susan Pedersen (Oxford University Press, £22.99)

The First World War was not the war to end wars – if only! – but it was the war that began the end of empires: the Prussian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Russian empires were all over and done with by 1918.

It was also the war that gave rise to the first serious attempt at supra-national governance in the form of the League of Nations. The US refused to join the League because it implied some sharing of sovereignty with other nations. Today’s arguments over staying in or quitting the EU are an echo of die-hard American-firsters after WW1 who could not bear to share power with anyone.

This study by Columbia professor Susan Pedersen takes us into the politics of international bureaucracy and policy-making which today still bedevil the UN and the EU as well as the Council of Europe or the OSCE. The League’s first challenge once established was what to do with those areas where imperial rule had gone but there was no nation-state ready to take over. It created what were called “Mandates”’ in east Africa, the Pacific Islands, and, above all, remnants of the Ottoman empire like Syria and Palestine.

In the end, the nation-state proved a sturdy beast and efforts to impose supra-national justice or administer with decency regions once under imperial rule collapsed before national interests. Britain was responsible for admin­ist­er­ing the Palestine mandate and faced a violent refusal from proto-Islamists at any idea of sharing power with the growing Jewish population. London shut the door on Jewish emigration to Palestine in the 1930s in order to suck up to oil producing Arab states as war loomed. As a result of this crude anti-Semitic geo-political act by the Tory Government, hun­dreds of thousands of Jews who might have es­caped the Holocaust were trapped in Europe.

The League protested against this British cruelty but in vain. Today the UN and the EU begs a Tory Government to co-operate to stop those fleeing the butchery of Assad in Syria. Again in vain. The League of Nations is all but forgotten but worth studying as we try to work how to find solutions to problems that require supra-national cooperation and agreement.

Eureporter 17 September

EU ‘Zombie Zone’ in West Balkans makes refugee solution harder
Denis MacShane
Greece beat Macedonia in a tight basketball championship match this month. The game was played in Croatia but foreigners watching a thrilling contest on Greek television would have been at a loss to know who the Greeks were playing as the name of Greece’s opponents was left blank on TV screens.
This is part of the surreal failure of the West Balkans to come to terms with modernity after the decade long war of the 1990s that broke up the former Yugoslavia into seven small European nation-states. The region is now the EU’s ‘Zombie Zone’ where the dead and the hates of the past seem more alive than the living.
Like the Lilliputians in Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ who went to war over whether to crack an egg at its broad or pointed end, the West Balkan states from Greece northwards are better at finding reasons to oppose each other than to cooperate.
The rest of the world laughs at the Macedonian pretention that the hero of ancient Greece, Alexander the Great, has anything to do with today’s Slav-Albanian state of Macedonia.
But as with the Serbian pretence that Kosovo is just a breakaway province that one day will see the light and return to be ruled by Belgrade these nationalist populist passions have a debilitating effect on normal economic developments.
Greece also refuses to establish diplomatic recognition with Kosovo even if Greek businesses are important investors in the small landlocked and desperately poor state .
This leaves Kosovo in an international limbo unable to join global bodies like the UN, the EU or even the Council of Europe and access international loans and investment. The endless clamour for punishment for the massive displacement of Serbs that followed the end of Belgrade’s rule there also prevents reconciliation, trade and economic development.
Without any encouragement anti-Serb politicians in the region will remind listeners about Srebrenica, Sarajevo and the massacres of Kosovan Albanians by Serb warlords and militias.
It is as if in 1965, France and Germany had no diplomatic relations, only talked about wartime atrocities, and stopped normal economic, student, and cultural intercourse.
At last Kosovo has got its own telephone dialling code instead of going via mobile phone services in Monaco. This modest step was brokered last month by the EU and is to be welcomed.
In June, the biggest single national quota of migrants entering the EU were 57,000 Kosovans. The barbed wire barrier erected by Hungary on its border with Serbia was designed not to keep Syrian refugees at bay but to deny entry to Serb, Macedonian and Kosovan citizens who have given up hope of finding work, a home and having a future in their own nations.
The EU’s foreign service does its best and both the current EU top diplomat, Frederica Mogherini and her predecessor, Cathy Ashton, devoted more time to trying to untangle West Balkan hates and knock heads together than any other issue.
But the fact remains that fifteen years after the end of the fighting the West Balkans from Athens to the Alps is blocked by nationalist identity passions that prevent normal state development.
In this twilight world criminality and corruption flourish and movement of migrants, refugees and prostitutes through a region where states do not recognise each other’s frontiers or cooperate on policing and intelligence is a profitable business.
The EU cannot put back on their feet the destroyed states of Iraq, Libya and Syria but if Brussels, Berlin, Paris and London are so incapable of injecting a little common sense into the states of the West Balkans, including Greece, can an EU foreign policy really be said to exist?
Denis MacShane is a former minister responsible for the Balkans and the EU in the Tony Blair government.

Corbyn

Labour Elects a Leftist Robespierre as Leader as Odds on Brexit Shorten
Denis MacShane

In one of the most dramatic movements in European politics so far this century, Britain’s Labour Party, one of the world’s oldest, and most successful left parties of government, has chosen as its leader a 66 year old man of the hard, unflinching left.
After 13 years of leadership by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, two classic rightwing social democrats, pro-business, pro-EU, pro-American and against emotional leftism Labour has massively endorsed a man who is their opposite in every imaginable way.
The women who hoped to become either leader or deputy leader were swept to one side as Corbyn’s Number 2 is a middle-aged, middle-rank Labour MP, Tom Watson.
Most of Corbyn’s key aides, including the young leftist journalist and writer, Owen Jones, his economic advisors, and other close associates from leftwing campaigns dating back to the 1970s are all men.
Many leading women Labour MPs announced they would not serve under Corbyn and the Labour Party is now firmly controlled by middle-aged and older men thus defying the insistence that women should have leadership roles in modern centre-left politics.
Corbyn won 60 per cent of all the votes cast, a bigger share than Tony Blair obtained 21 years ago when he was elected leader. He went straight to address a rally in favour of allowing refugees into Britain, in contrast to the more cautious approach of the British and French and many other European governments.
Europe will now have to digest as leader of the Labour Party a man who in Greece would be in Syriza, in Spain, Podemos, in Germany Die Linke or in France le Front de Gauche.
Corbyn is a moralist not a Marxist, a preacher not a party factionalist, a signer of petitions not an intellectual ideologue, a man who sees injustice everywhere around him.
That leads him to positions where he is sympathetic to Hamas and to Hezbollah, to Hugo Chavez, to IRA terrorists, and to militant trade unions without any real examination of what they stand for and what they might achieve.
Only about ten Labour MPs actively supported him. This is not because he is disliked. On the contrary, Corybn is the most polite of men who will disagree with his political opponents but not seek to make personal points or disparage them.
I have known Jeremy for three decades and cannot remember an angry exchange even if I disagreed with many of his views.
He was anti-European in the 1970s and 1980s. His reflex anti-Americanism is that of the 1968 generation of which he an exemplar marching against the Vietnam War. He would like Britain to leave Nato, dump the Queen to become a republic, and give up its nuclear weapons.
He empathises with Latin America anti-US leftism and his last two marriages have been to a Chilean and then a Mexican political activist he met while campaigning on Latin American solidarity issues in London.
He has not spoken out in favour of quitting the EU but he is strongly critical of the orthodox austerity politics favoured by the dominant centre right EPP politicians in charge of the Commission and the EU Council. He says he wants a Europe that drops austerity and upholds workers’ rights.
In fact, the EU may provide Corbyn with his first big ballot box test as Prime Minister, David Cameron, has to hold a referendum on Britain leaving the EU by 2017.
No one expects Corbyn to campaign strongly for an institution he has always regarded with suspicion as being more in favour of big business and money-making than social solidarity and syndicalist trades unionism.
In addition, there will be many on the left who would like to trip up David Cameron by forcing a humiliating referendum defeat which would almost certainly mean his resignation as the Prime Minister who isolated Britain from Europe.
The temptation to see Cameron defeated will hover in the Corbyn camp to the dismay of pro-European Labour MPs.
Most political observers in Britain see the Corbyn victory as making Brexit more, not less likely.
But none of them have come up with an adequate explanation of how this outsider from the far-left fringe of Labour politics has triumphed so completely.
But they should look at history. Marx once wrote that history repeated itself first as tragedy then as farce. In Britain’s Labour Party history simply repeats itself. The extraordinary hysteria in British political circles over Jeremy Corbyn as if Lenin, Trotsky, and Hugo Chavez had taken over the Labour Party and consign it to oblivion forgets the first lesson of Labour Party history.
This states that when Labour goes into opposition it always turns left, often sharp left to begin with and usually elects as its leaders or leading spokespersons politicians who appeal to the party’s gut instincts not voters’ needs and aspirations.
This summer that phenomenon has been exacerbated by the decision to allow 200,000 people join the Labour Party if they paid £3 (€5) just to vote in the election and nothing else. The defeated Labour leader, Ed Miliband, resigned straight after he lost the general election and initiated a leadership contest which had never been tried before and which allowed no time for serious candidate to emerge.
Scores of thousands joined up to vote against the establishment Labour MPs, former protégés of Tony Blair or Gordon Brown who offered themselves as leadership candidates and who were seen as not true echt Socialists with a capital S.
There is always an anger on the left against an outgoing Labour government which is accused of selling out to the establishment, sucking up to America, or forgetting about the workers and the poor.
And when ex-Labour ministers go into the private sector and become very rich, the charge made against Tony Blair and other ex-Labour cabinet ministers there is a puritan desire to find a pure, incorruptible – a Labour Robespierre to lead Labour and Britain towards socialist purity.
In the 1930s, Labour elected as its leader a long forgotten politician called George Lansbury, a religious pacifist as leader in the hope Hitler, Mussolini and Franco would be converted to democracy.
In the 1980s, when Labour went into opposition after Margaret Thatcher’s election Labour had Michael Foot, another unelectable followed by Neil Kinnock, elected as party leader in 1983 as an anti-war, Eurosceptic, anti-American Labour MP.
To be sure, Kinnock changed but he remained unelectable losing elections in 1987 and 1992. So in opting for Corbyn, also is anti-American, anti-business, anti-military, anti-Israel and soft on Latin American socialism of the Venezuela/Cuba variety Labour is just reverting to type.
But at some stage Labour will self-correct as it has done in the past. How long and what form this self-correction will take is now the important question. Labour today has a new generation of politicians elected in 2010 and 2015 who are modern, smart, reformist. Most Labour MPs are horrified at what has happened as are thousands of municipal councillors, and intelligent union leaders even if they disliked the top-down control exercised by Tony Blair, and his two successors as Labour leaders, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.
In 1992, after a fourth consecutive Tory election victory, it looked as Britain would live under Tory rule forever. It didn’t. Labour will regain electability but as in the 1980s or the 1950s it may have to lose some elections before it starts to be attractive to voters. And with the best will in the world no-one can imagine Jeremy Corbyn becoming Britain’s prime minister, least of all himself

Euractiv 10 September 2015

Will Anyone Speak for Europe in Britain?
By Denis MacShane

It is more than four months since the election and so far the only senior British leader to speak out for the unity of Europe was Her Majesty the Queen at a banquet in Berlin in June.
As we have seen the prime minister suffered a defeat in the House of Commons after a maladroit attempt to rewrite traditional rules about what ministers can say during the run-up to a national poll.
But the purdah of the weeks before the Remain-Leave referendum is less important than the purdah Mr Cameron has imposed upon himself and his ministers about finding any words that might encourage the nation to believe that membership of the EU is a good thing.
Instead, No 10 tells business leaders to shut up and not say anything positive or to campaign against the bottomless purses of Eurosceptic advocates in the parts of the City or entrepeneurs like Sir James Dyson and Sir Anthony Bamford of JCB who call for a Leave vote.
This runs with the preference of most business leaders who tell opinion polls they shudder at the thought of isolating Britain from Europe but simultaneously say they won’t spend money campaigning for an In or Remain vote.
In the rest of the world referendums demand a simple Yes or No answer. Now a body of unelected officials in the Electoral Commission has unilaterally abolished that norm and proposed a question aound the verbs ‘remain’ or ‘leave’.
This helps those who are arguing that a ‘leave’ vote would not be permanent but simply opening the door to further tougher negotiations which will force 27 other member states of the EU to buckle to Eurosceptic demands.
In the first poll on the Electoral Commission’s wording, the result was a predictable vote to leave the EU. Summer events like the refugee crisis especially its local variant at Calais or the insistence of the ruling centre-right rulers in the EU that the Greeks have to accept decades of poverty in order to stay in the Eurozone have done little to make Europe popular.
It has led Owen Jones, the Lochinvar of left opining and an intimate part of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to write that he will vote No in the referendum in solidarity with the Greeks and to punish the wicked Eurocrats.
The incoming Labour leader has steered clear of Ukip-style Euroscepticism. In instead Mr Corbyn has said he would support the EU on the basis that it increased rights for workers and abolished austerity.
At best Labour might offer free votes and as in the Commons this week will not hesitate to trip up a prime minister who has spent his leadership years criticising the EU and even pulling his party out of the main centre-right European Peoples Party federation.
So who will now campaign for Europe? Who will pay for this campaign? Soon answers will have to be found.

Denis MacShane is a former Minister for Europe in the Tony Blair government and author of Brexit : How Britain Will Leave Europe to be published by IB Tauris

This was published by Euractiv 10 September 2015

Will Anyone Speak for Europe in Britain?
By Denis MacShane

It is more than four months since the election and so far the only senior British leader to speak out for the unity of Europe was Her Majesty the Queen at a banquet in Berlin in June.
As we have seen the prime minister suffered a defeat in the House of Commons after a maladroit attempt to rewrite traditional rules about what ministers can say during the run-up to a national poll.
But the purdah of the weeks before the Remain-Leave referendum is less important than the purdah Mr Cameron has imposed upon himself and his ministers about finding any words that might encourage the nation to believe that membership of the EU is a good thing.
Instead, No 10 tells business leaders to shut up and not say anything positive or to campaign against the bottomless purses of Eurosceptic advocates in the parts of the City or entrepeneurs like Sir James Dyson and Sir Anthony Bamford of JCB who call for a Leave vote.
This runs with the preference of most business leaders who tell opinion polls they shudder at the thought of isolating Britain from Europe but simultaneously say they won’t spend money campaigning for an In or Remain vote.
In the rest of the world referendums demand a simple Yes or No answer. Now a body of unelected officials in the Electoral Commission has unilaterally abolished that norm and proposed a question aound the verbs ‘remain’ or ‘leave’.
This helps those who are arguing that a ‘leave’ vote would not be permanent but simply opening the door to further tougher negotiations which will force 27 other member states of the EU to buckle to Eurosceptic demands.
In the first poll on the Electoral Commission’s wording, the result was a predictable vote to leave the EU. Summer events like the refugee crisis especially its local variant at Calais or the insistence of the ruling centre-right rulers in the EU that the Greeks have to accept decades of poverty in order to stay in the Eurozone have done little to make Europe popular.
It has led Owen Jones, the Lochinvar of left opining and an intimate part of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to write that he will vote No in the referendum in solidarity with the Greeks and to punish the wicked Eurocrats.
The incoming Labour leader has steered clear of Ukip-style Euroscepticism. In instead Mr Corbyn has said he would support the EU on the basis that it increased rights for workers and abolished austerity.
At best Labour might offer free votes and as in the Commons this week will not hesitate to trip up a prime minister who has spent his leadership years criticising the EU and even pulling his party out of the main centre-right European Peoples Party federation.
So who will now campaign for Europe? Who will pay for this campaign? Soon answers will have to be found.

Denis MacShane is a former Minister for Europe in the Tony Blair government and author of Brexit : How Britain Will Leave Europe to be published by IB Tauris