There is no set way for a party leader to behave on stepping down. Some prefer to hold their tongue in retirement and speak up on select occasions. This has been Sir John Major’s approach, after he declared on leaving Downing Street: “When the curtain falls, it is time to get off the stage—and that is what I propose to do”. His intervention on Brexit last night has not escaped criticism though, as Boris Johnson used his address to the British Chambers of Commerce this afternoon to mock the “ prognostications of gloom“. The Foreign Secretary’s rebuke was much more diplomatic than the response given by the likes of Iain Duncan Smith, which led James Kirkup to lament their tendency to resort to “personal vitriol” and “talk of plots”.
Sir John Major prefers as a former party leader to hold fire, so as to maximize his impact when he goes in all-guns blazing. Nigel Farage’s strategy could not be more different, as he has kept up a sustained barrage since stepping down. His latest target is one of his favourites – Douglas Carswell. The Ukip MP has earned his ire now after emails leaked to the Telegraph suggested he was not pushing wholeheartedly for Mr Farage to receive a knighthood. The messages were proof, Mr Farage declared, that he was “consumed with jealousy and a desire to hurt me”.
The former Ukip leader wants his successor, Paul Nuttall, to punish Mr Carswell by kicking him out of the party. The Clacton MP should be meeting with party chairman Paul Oakden this afternoon, so disciplinary action could be in the offing. But Mr Nuttall knows that if does sack Mr Carswell, as I’ve written online, he would inevitably re-open the splits that he had only just managed to cover. Meanwhile if he doesn’t, Faragistas will take this as proof that he is working with Mr Carswell and his “elitist cabal” ( as one Ukip MEP put it) to desecrate Mr Farage’s legacy.
As Paul Nuttall works out how to appease the Carswellites and the Faragistas, he must be wishing that his predecessor wasn’t quite so eager to stir things up.
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Voters in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central are braving the might of Storm Doris to come out and vote today in two crunch by-elections. As polling day enters its final few hours, I’ve been looking online at how the parties will treat the possible results.
Labour is fighting to cling on two seats in what have been traditional heartlands. It shouldn’t be remarkable if that happens, but the party has lowered expectations about how it may do in the hope of making it seem so. Jeremy Corbyn’s critics will be keeping an eye out on how Labour’s majority holds up in such a scenario to see what damage his leadership may have had.
Losing both would inevitably precipitate a leadership challenge. The Tories may hope Labour clings onto Stoke then, so that Mr Corbyn can be embarrassed, but remain in place as leader. They have their hearts set on taking Copeland off Labour by trying to highlight Mr Corbyn’s anti-nuclear stance to voters there. It will be quite a coup if they manage it, as it will be a be the first time the Government had won a seat off the official opposition since the Tories took Mitcham and Morden in 1982.
Ukip’s fortunes rest on what happens in Stoke. If Paul Nuttall wins, the party will enjoy a new moment of glory as it celebrates its new MP and its first seizure of a Labour seat. If he doesn’t, his allies will be tempted to blame it on Labour’s “smear campaign” over Hillsborough. That won’t persuade everyone, as Nigel Farage told Ukip’s spring conference that winning Stoke was “fundamental” to the party’s future. If Mr Nuttall can’t deliver, some Faragistas will be sharpening their knives.
The results will be not be known until much later, likely between 3 and 4am. We’ll have them, as well as all the analysis, on our website tomorrow. Every party will hope to have something to boast about. If not, their leaders can expect to have pretty gloomy weekends.
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Nigel Farage has said comments by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that Britain may move to divide remaining EU members during Brexit talks show Brussels is “worried and nervous” about UK tactics.
Mr Juncker expressed concern that London may attempt to break EU unity in the negotiations by making separate promises to different nations during the crunch divorce talks.
Former Ukip leader Mr Farage told the Press Association that the remarks “showed cracks were appearing” in the EU stance as tough exit horse-trading looms.
“I am surprised that Jean-Claude Juncker is so worried about the British.
“From a UK perspective, I am pleased to see his nervousness. Up until now we have been constantly told it is going to be us versus the other 27.”
According to Reuters, Mr Juncker told Deutschlandfunk radio: “The other EU 27 don’t know it yet, but the Brits know very well how they can tackle this. They could promise country A this, country B that, and country C something else, and the end game is that there is not a united European front.”
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As this e-mail hits your inbox, Donald Trump is being sworn in as President of the United States. You can follow every twist and turn of his inauguration on our liveblog. There is plenty of analysis – the best of which can be found on our site – about his agenda, but what does his presidency mean for Britain’s exit from the European Union?
President Trump has been a consistent supporter of Brexit. He may not have known what the term was when Michael Wolff asked him about it, but made clear he thought the Brits “ should leave”. He quickly embraced Brexit since then, popping over to Scotland the day after the referendum to celebrate the “great victory”. He tried to seize the mantle for himself, declaring during the campaign that “they will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT!”. And so it came to pass, as the Trump campaign confounded the pollsters on an even larger scale. Brexiteers have recognised its significance, with Nigel Farage hailing his victory last night as “ Brexit plus, plus, plus”.
Theresa May will be grateful to have a proudly pro-Brexit President in the White House instead of Hillary Clinton, who made clear her scepticism of it during the campaign. Trump’s cabinet choices have made clear their preference for bilateral trade deals rather than negotiating with large blocs, which will delight Brexiteers and irk EU leaders. Mr Farage, the Trump whisperer of Westminster, has suggested the President could get a trade deal “done and dusted” with the UK within 90 days of taking office. This may be hard, according to Oliver Illott from the Institute for Government, as Whitehall is still assembling its deal-making machine. He also cites other problems, like that British negotiators know they still have trade deals to tie up with many other countries during the Brexit process, so any generous concessions they give to America in order to thrash out a quick deal would encourage others to feel they should get the same.
EU ministers have continued to sound conciliatory ahead of the Brexit talks in the meantime. Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schauble declared at Davos that he was convinced London will remain an important finance centre for Europe. He was also pretty confident the negotiations and deals will all be done within the two-year timeframe once Article 50 is served. That will put a spring in Mrs May’s step, assuming Labour’s continued disarray over Brexit and the ascension of one of its biggest backers to the White House already hasn’t.
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“They go low, we go high.” “Love trumps hate.” The left, as we learned from the recent presidential campaign, is all about love. And hope. And, naturally, fighting hate.
Thus the name of the British organization Hope Not Hate. I’ve written about it before. It describes itself as an anti-fascist monitoring group, and the mainstream media, with few exceptions, routinely echo this self-description. In fact, however, HnH, founded in 2004, is far from what it pretends to be. Think of it as Britain’s answer to the Southern Poverty Law Center: a vicious smear machine masquerading as a virtuous anti-hate group.
It was Hope Not Hate that successfully campaigned to have Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller banned from the U.K. because of their criticism of Islam. It was Hope Not Hate that slandered me and several dozen other critics of Islam in an outrageously mendacious “Counter-Jihad Report” that actually juxtaposed photos of David Horowitz and Geert Wilders with one of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik (complete with gun). It was Hope Not Hate that spent the run-up to the Brexit vote demonizing UKIP, the anti-EU party, which it routinely treated as racist, xenophobic, and neo-Nazi scum.
HnH’s modus operandi is always consistent: instead of engaging the arguments of its ideological opponents in a fair, factual way, it maligns us, misrepresents us, and does its damnedest to destroy our reputations. The ultimate goal, plainly, is to try to make us shut up and go away.
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