Time and tide
To paraphrase someone famous – “there is a time and tide in the affairs of men and women…” – mmm could it have been Shakespeare? Anyway, I believe that time is now and the tide has just changed. My political instincts are reacting as strongly this morning as they did in 1987, which was the last time they flared so vividly (more about this below as an explanation, but let me firstly tell you what my instincts are telling me.)
Mysteriously the Labour Party manifesto was leaked yesterday (gosh, I wonder who might have leaked it – politics 101 points to Corbyn`s team) and last night Jeremy Corbyn gave an interview to Laura Kuenssberg which presented an ambiguous view which seemed to be trying to suggest to European remain voters that Labour could be relied upon to make their points for them.
This (Thursday) morning, however, Corbyn has apparently made it clear that Labour WILL deliver Brexit as per the leaked manifesto and it is this clarity that I believe that has now provided the GAME changer in this election. My firm conviction is that now is the “time and tide” for the LIBERAL Democrats. But…..
But the change of direction of the tide must now be accompanied by an equal clarity by the Liberal Democrat leadership, not just from Tim Farron, but all the leadership involved in creating the Party`s message, that if we have the power to do it, or even influence it, the Liberal Democrats will revoke Article 50 at the earliest possible opportunity.
Veteran British diplomat John Kerr — now Lord Kerr of Kinlochard — drafted the text that sets out the procedure for leaving the European Union as part of an effort to draw up an EU constitutional treaty in the early 2000s
The UK diplomat, Lord Kerr, who drafted Article 50 has indicated there is nothing to stop Article 50 being revoked and this view has been widely echoed amongst European politicians and officials, so this would be the simplest mechanism to stop the lemming like rush for the cliff edge. What, you may ask, is the political position?
My view is that, given the nature of this unique election, if a majority of pro-remain MPs is elected to Parliament, it will come within the sovereign purview of Parliament to make this simple decision without reference to a further referendum. In other words, this General Election can effectively BE that second referendum that is much talked about.
We were told quite specifically that the 2016 referendum was just an advisory referendum. As such, nobody worried about building in a super-majority clause because it would be left to the sovereignty of Parliament to make the final considered decision. Somewhere along the way this was (in)conveniently forgotten by the Leave camp and neither Labour nor remainer Tories have had the guts to champion the alternative view.
Why am I saying this NOW? The simplest answer is “gut feel”. Let me explain.
I woke quite early this morning and, as I sometimes do if I awake early, I picked up my mobile phone and started browsing the Facebook feeds. There were several threads of conversation with which I started to interact and, from 7am through to 11am, I was wearing my fingers to the bone making and responding to comments. I only stopped at 11am because I had not even paused for any breakfast and thought I would fade away if I didn`t have at least some cornflakes. (For those of you familiar with UK advertising I actually had THREE Weetabix – I won`t try and explain it to those of you not familiar, it would take too long!)
I also took a couple of minutes out to Skype with Fatima in Brazil who was so worried at my excitement level she thought I might have a heart attack. I reassured her I would let her know I was still alive (actually I had better do that now before she worries too much – hang on… OK – done that, she was relieved and smiled.) Where was I…oh yes, I was being excited that we are, at this moment, this very moment, potentially at the tide`s turning point.
Tim Farron, I am now talking directly to you. Please do not miss this opportunity to state loudly and firmly and unmistakably that Liberal Democrats WILL revoke Article 50. It WILL change the nature of the General Election debate.
Now, for everyone (including Tim) this is the story about my flaring instincts. I have probably mentioned this in blogs before, so if you have heard the story please be patient.
I stood for the Liberal Party as a candidate in Broxtowe in 1983 against the Tory minister Jim Lester and we had been nowhere before then and folk were not feeling particularly political. So when I started to do my walkabouts in Beeston shopping centre people would divert their walks to avoid being “collared”. In other words, there was a sort of flow around me as people kept out of the way. As the election went along the Liberal message and the Alliance message began to get through to electors as a positive thing and my own publicity machine started working in Broxtowe.
As a result, towards the end of the election period people were now making a bee-line for me if I was in the shopping centre, actually wanting to talk to the Liberal candidate. It was great, I really started to enjoy electioneering and the messages succeeded.
Broxtowe had been won by Labour in a 1953 byelection and had subsequently turned Conservative, becoming a safe ministerial Tory seat with Liberals nowhere to be seen. In 1983, I took second place away from Labour with just over 25% of the vote, Labour on just 21%.
Now comes the crux – pay attention. I stood again in 1987 and everything was looking good as the election started. People were coming to me when I was in the shopping centre and wanting to chat, I was even getting excited we could WIN in 1987, having been a creditable second in 1983.
Then came the fateful tipping point. Remember, if you will, that we were still in Alliance with the SDP and we therefore had TWO leaders, David Steel for the Liberal Party and David Owen for the SDP. Mrs Thatcher was in power and proving popular with her supporters but derided by her opponents.
Thinking the Alliance was doing pretty well, journalists decided to find out what would happen if the Alliance held the “balance of power”, so they asked the Party leaders “If you hold the balance of power after the election, will you go into a coalition with the Tories and support Mrs Thatcher to form a new government?”
David Steel said “NO” and was first to respond. David Owen, later in the day said “YES”.
The very next day I was in Beeston High Street and without exception voters suddenly started avoiding me. It was as if I was a block of stone in a fast-moving river. No-one stopped to talk to me – everyone sheered away from contact, I could have had a terrible contagious disease!
The reaction was instantaneous. And clear.
I called Party headquarters to get them to change David Owen`s mind but no-one seemed to understand or do anything about it. But I knew – I was CERTAIN – from that point on that we had just lost the election. That is what I mean about flaring instinct. (We did indeed come third in the 1987 election with only 22.4% of the vote – Labour pushed us into third place, getting 24.3%)
THAT IS HOW I FEEL THIS MORNING – I AM CERTAIN THAT, IF THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS ARE CLEAR ABOUT REVOKING ARTICLE 50, WE CAN ACHIEVE THE SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE AND BREAKTHROUGH THE FIRST PAST THE POST SYSTEM.
So, Tim, anyone out there who is listening. This is it. Remember where you heard this first – revoke Article 50 – say it out loud. “REVOKE ARTICLE 50 AND WIN THE ELECTION”
I just hope more people are listening to me than listened to me in 1987, otherwise we are completely and royally stuffed. We will burst out of the European Union and probably never get back in my lifetime. Young people will suffer the worst, followed probably by old people, like I will soon become, reliant upon a National Health Service that can no longer function because the economy breaks down and all the European nurses and doctors are thrown back to their home countries.
I have been writing blogs now for five years – I started blogging as a rite of passage on my 65th birthday – and this is by far the most important blog I have written. Please take notice of the depth of feeling that each and every word of this blog is imbued with.
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Brutus in Julius Caesar – Shakespeare