Bremainers Ask….. Professor Juliet Lodge

Bremainers Ask….. Professor Juliet Lodge

Juliet Lodge has been a professor of EU politics at several universities in UK, NZ and EU. In the 1990s, she was named ‘EU Woman of Europe’ for her voluntary work. She has authored many books about the EU and is a regular contributor to Yorkshire Bylines. Juliet also co-convened the anti-Brexit group, Women4europe. She is currently working on EU Horizon projects on disinformation, leading work on ethics and AI.

Tracy Rolfe : What do you think is the best route to rejoin the EU and what do you think the timescale would be?

My sense is that many in the EU perceive our politicians to be way out of step with a public that is at worst indifferent rather than hostile to the EU, and at best increasingly and openly pro-European. There is appreciation of the desperate unfairness of Brexit on ordinary people, including Brexit voters, entitled to EU rights that the UK helped to create in 1986. The best route is not another referendum.

The timescale is unpredictable, given electoral variables here and in EU states, and the many other countries clamouring to join the EU (including Ukraine). I’d like to see us back in the EU tomorrow, and hopefully by 2030. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ‘best route’ in view of the hideous way in which our Brexiteer Governments connived in creating the worst of all possible Brexits, and given how they behave. It is hard to believe that they are as ignorant as their public face and party-oriented posturing suggests. They give the impression of preferring to side-step facts about the disastrous impact Brexit has on the UK and its citizens; seem uncurious about its impact on many in the EU; and in denial about how much Brexit has benefited our competitors.

Without a best route, politicians have to find a pragmatic way back. Any new Government must start by acknowledging the facts, come clean about the deceits, and prove its genuine commitment to being well-informed and working respectfully and cooperatively with our EU partners. A pragmatic way back doesn’t necessarily mean decades of delay, provided the foundations of a trusting and trustworthy relationship are cemented now. A new Government must capitalise immediately on the opportunities offered by the review of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement to restore trust in the UK and establish as close as possible relations, and work with the EU across the board. That demands openly acknowledging that we can’t achieve many policy goals alone. No country can. That’s why we joined the EU in the first place.

So, the first steps to working together are vital: paying our dues under, and participating in, the EU’s research programmes (such as Horizon), restoring Erasmus Plus and sector-specific freedom of movement, such as for musicians. But these are insufficient and discriminatory. What a future Government chooses to call what we need to do (rejoin the customs union or the single market, and restore mutual freedom of movement for all EU citizens, including Brits), is less important in the short term than being adult about what we lost and need to have. A grown-up leader should publicly and immediately work to ensure that families are able to travel and meet freely anytime, anywhere they wish; that good quality fresh food supplies are once more the norm; that trade flows free of bureaucratic barriers erected by the UK; and that our domestic and international security are once more improved by pragmatic cooperation and participation in programmes we helped to create and which we need. Our behaviour has to inspire respect and confidence in our ability to act honourably, upholding international law, and being the good partners we once were. We have to show that we understand and practise the values on which the EU was founded and thrives. That, itself, requires the UK to look closely at and address its own failings of democratic governance.

The UK has to prove that it can be trusted to be honest, open and accountable in upholding the rights and values and democratic practices we took for granted in the EU and which enabled us to flourish. In short, we have to show our value to the EU and offer constructive ideas for reform, dynamically confronting the many problems we must solve together in a spirit of open cooperation.

Steve Wilson :Many believe that the EU would be cautious about considering any UK application to rejoin. Do you agree?

Yes and no. Yes, because the Conservative Governments appear to have flippantly squandered achievements and wallow in toddler theatrics instead of genuinely seeking to have a constructive, working relationship with our closest allies and partners.

Yes, because there seems to have been a lack of understanding at the most basic level about how we worked when in the EU, and how the EU has worked (well) and developed progressive political agendas and policies without us. Yes, because purely from the point of view of presentation, too many Government and opposition politicians display deep ignorance about political realities in Europe and the UK’s increasingly irrelevant position in it.

And yes, because many feel that Article 50 should not be invoked frivolously in the expectation that its consequences can be overturned the moment things don’t quite accord with what the state who invoked it wanted. I feel that Article 50 should never have been included years later as an amendment to the original founding treaties. When the EU was created, there was no clause to leave it. European integration was the promise to work to solve problems together, in effect, forever.

No, because many EU leaders and politicians and officials, business and civil society representatives would welcome us back in the EU as soon as possible. Why? The UK co-created some of the greatest steps leading the EU to become what it is today: freedom of movement, the single market (warts and all), cooperation on defence and security, ErasmusPlus, health, climate, food and safety standards, police and judicial cooperation, and many more. The UK helped draft and agree some of the regulations which are acknowledged as genuine world standards, including the GDPR.

The friendship group created by Terry Reintke MEP is looking after ‘our star’ until we return to the EU as members. By then, many of those who knew the UK as a constructive EU member may have retired so we can’t just rely on them to be our advocate. But we can do our bit on a people-to-people basis to sustain, expand and deepen our links. Above all, we can show that a country outside the EU, which has a bigger pro-EU movement than any of the EU’s current members, is educated, interested, dynamic and a trustworthy partner who would add value to the EU.

It’s our job to educate ourselves in order to give our children a fighting chance of being in the EU, enjoying the opportunities that arise from having shared values and a commitment to democracy and working together with their European peers to improve the well-being of their communities. Isolation on a global stage is daft, on a regional stage it heralds oblivion.

Anon : As EU Woman of Europe in the 1990s, how far do you think women’s rights have come since then, and how much further do they need to move in order to equate to real equality with men?

Women’s rights have come a long way, but nowhere near far enough. Worse, we seem to be going backwards. Brexit seems to have unleashed in the UK more misogyny and an erosion of workers’ rights, inflexible working, discriminatory conditions (and little apparent attention to equal pay and opportunities for females); erosion of paternity and maternity rights, de-professionalisation of skills, exploitative practices in the gig-economy, lack of free post-school education, lack of access to EU funding for pre-school and lifelong learning, protection against domestic violence, stalling moves to a better work-life balance, undermining of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Brexit impoverished us all culturally, educationally and in terms of what we thought the UK stood for: tolerance and reasonableness.

Valerie Chaplin : Nationalism and the far-right thrive on disinformation and make us question truth and facts. How, in an increasingly digital world, do we combat this?

This area is recognised by the EU as a threat to its way of life. Accordingly, it has media literacy projects (which the UK could emulate) and programmes, such as the EuvsDisinfo project, to raise awareness and strengthen social resilience among young people as well as the public at large, and to improve rapid alerts across the EU to disinformation that represents a threat to democracy, health, the environment and security. Whereas hate speech is unlawful, disinformation is not. The EU insists that any of its measures to combat both should not undermine the freedom of opinion and expression enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The EU is investing in multinational, multi-disciplinary research teams to identify and combat disinformation without losing the potential benefits that AI may bring. The UK Government has excluded Britons from these teams. It cannot credibly combat manipulation of people for nefarious purposes while ignoring the standards set by the EU and the work it is doing. It must participate in work undertaken by those sharing common goals and values, and commit to upholding the human rights we took for granted in the EU. This does not preclude wider international cooperation, but it does mean understanding, pooling and sharing knowledge, jointly funding the kind of facilities and programmes we all need but cannot fund as individual states alone. It means working with our close neighbours to combat the challenges you mention.

There are innumerable initiatives afoot in the EU already: this year will see the EU advancing the adoption of a (reformed) AI Act which is widely regarded as setting global standards. This complements laws on the digital single market, and measures to combat extremism and disinformation. All must be seen against the backdrop of the next European Parliament elections in 2024 and concerns that hostile actors, foreign interests and non-dom media will use AI to manipulate ‘facts’, the news, citizens’ perceptions and even the results.

We all have to be vigilant, think critically, and know how to access legitimate fact checkers and assess independent reporting in order to improve our own understanding and knowledge, and we must show our children and families how to do the same. Above all, we need to join in media literacy projects and collaborate with the EU.



EU Nov

Matt Burton : Why are attitudes to compulsory ID/biometric cards so different in the UK compared to the EU?

I don’t know. Carrying ID cards in the first and second world wars was associated with national emergencies. In May 1952 they were scrapped. The UK Parliament reported on them in the 1990s. The Labour Identity Cards Bill (2004) was dropped owing to the timing of the 2005 general election. While another Act created the basis for a national identity register in 2006, this was scrapped in 2010.

Attitudes differ perhaps to those in the EU for many reasons, many associated with concern over state misuse of them; poor data handling and storage or even onward sale of data by the state and its private sector partners; fraud; and maybe an illusion that to be free means to be free of such a document. In practice, most adults have some form of official paper, plastic or digital ID – a covid vaccination card, NHS number, national insurance and tax numbers, bank cards, travel cards, student cards, loyalty cards, passports, driving licences being among the most common, and many of them biometric ones.

Legitimate questions as to the purpose of ID requirements introduced for recent local elections need to be resolved. The UK deviates from many EU norms in its seemingly laxer approach to biometric and AI tracking and surveillance of people.

David Eldridge : How has leaving the Horizon programme affected the UK, and what would be the process to rejoin it?

Disastrously. High level researchers have left (brain drain). UK universities have lost significant funding and hence a degree of research autonomy. Horizon’s budget for 2021-27 is €95.5 bn, including €5.4 bn from the NextGenerationEU to boost recovery and resilience. Worse, staff have lost the opportunity to take part in collaborative innovative research on matters from sustainable energy, AI and space research, to oceans, climate, industry, agriculture, culture and creativity, key enabling technologies, quantum security, robotics, combating disinformation, new treatments for diseases, means and therapies to restore lost abilities (e.g. through brain injury) or improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

The Government rejected the chance to rejoin Horizon because it did not want to pay its contribution to the research budget, as all partners do. This is likely to be resolved, but against a background of the EU’s overall general budgetary constraint. The EU’s budget covers things that cannot be achieved by states individually. The EU’s 2021-2027 long-term budget is €1.2 trillion and an additional €800 billion is available in the so-called NextGenerationEU recovery instrument for 2021-2026.

The priorities are building a greener, more digital and more resilient Europe. The UK has a role to play and it’s alarming that any Government would deny its people a chance to fulfil that.

Sue Scarrott : Do you foresee this Government continuing its journey along the road of divergence and isolation from the EU before the next GE? Or, alternatively, will it seek to limit the Brexit damage as public opinion changes?

This Government is likely to continue to diverge as deeply as it can and for as long as the current electoral and weak parliamentary system allow. It may moderate its position in order to show that whoever happens to be Prime Minister come the general election is potentially a more popular leader than any of his/her opponents, and rely on personalities and glib sound bites to win votes. It is unlikely to be disposed openly to taking steps to limit Brexit damage, even though the TCA review provides a good opportunity to acknowledge and remedy what isn’t working. Even then, voters must remember how fast the Governments has U-turned on commitments (such as the infamous claim of 40 new hospitals) and think critically before voting. In the background, talks have been progressing on many fronts – including security, migration and trade – few of which get covered by UK media.

Next month

Dr Mike Galsworthy is Chair of European Movement UK and co-founder of Scientists for EU/Healthier in the EU. He is also a media commentator about the effects of Brexit on the scientific community in the United Kingdom and a presenter on Byline TV. If you wish to put a question to Mike, please send it to no later than Wednesday 7 June.

Bremainers Ask ….. Professor Anand Menon

Bremainers Ask ….. Professor Anand Menon

Anand Menon is Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College London. He also directs the UK in a Changing Europe project. His areas of research interest include the policies and institutions of the European Union, European security, and British politics. 

He contributes regularly to both print and broadcast media. He is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of the European Union (OUP, 2012), and co-author of Brexit and British Politics (Polity 2018). He is a trustee of Full Fact, a member of the Strategic Council of the European Policy Centre, a Council member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and an associate fellow of Chatham House.

Paul A Brown : How does the political establishment, particularly the Conservative and Labour parties, come to realise that eventually the future of the UK must be inescapably linked to the EU?

Both parties clearly think that already, though I’m not sure they would phrase it as ‘inescapably linked’, not least as the purpose of Brexit was, in part, to give us a choice about the nature of that relationship. There is no suggestion that the EU can be ignored or that the UK could or should not work with it. Whether that means significantly closer relations than we already have is another question entirely. My sense is that there is little prospect of significantly closer relations under the Tories. Indeed, even steps we expected the Government to take following the negotiation of the Windsor Framework, such as a bid to re-enter the Horizon research project, seem to have stalled as negotiation over finance proves tougher than anticipated. Labour has promised to negotiate SPS and veterinary agreements with the EU, as well as a new security treaty. While these will bring some benefits in specific areas, they will not really impact on the aggregate economic impacts of Brexit which stem largely from non-membership of the single market. In terms of that, Labour have explicitly ruled out single market membership, and it is difficult to envisage this pledge being revisited, at least during the first term of a Labour government.


Steven Wilson : Of all the controversial Bills that have been brought forward by the government in recent months, which do you believe is the most dangerous/damaging, and how difficult will it be for the incoming government to undo that damage?

Interesting! I think the different Bills (Internal Market, Northern Ireland Protocol and Retained EU Law) have been damaging in different ways. The first two in terms of diplomatic relations with the EU and the external reputation of the UK as a country that abides by international law. Personally, I think the lattermost is potentially the most damaging. Both in terms of the potential to disrupt UK-EU relations (sunsetting EU rules has implications for the Level Playing Field agreement negotiated as part of the TCA, and large-scale divergence will impact on UK-EU trade) and, perhaps more importantly, for businesses, which will face enormous regulatory uncertainty, not least as it is far from clear that all EU rules covered by the Bill have yet been identified. At the moment, it looks like the Bill will not make it to the statute book in its current form, much as the offending sections of the Internal Market Bill were eventually removed and the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill was eventually withdrawn. All of which speaks to a broader point about Brexit, which is that so much of the politics has been performative – signalling to Brexit supporters rather than actually putting new legal frameworks in place.


Valerie Chaplin : With Starmer ignoring calls for PR and to Rejoin the EU, could he fail at the next GE?

I’m not convinced that not adopting PR or a rejoin position will damage Starmer going into the coming election. I tend to think, not least as long as the Lib Dems have not adopted rejoin, that his Brexit position is probably electorally sensible (PR will not be an issue, I think). I think Labour will want the focus to be on issues other than Brexit, which I think is probably the right approach for them. It’s certainly possible that Labour will not win the election, certainly in terms of forming a majority government, though this still seems the most likely outcome at the moment. There is a long time to go, and a lot can happen. A lot will, of course, hinge on the state of the economy at the time of the next election. My sense is that Labour will not embrace PR even if they do win – the problem being that parties that win under FPTP are unwilling to consider changing it.


Michael Soffe : For those of us who feel politically homeless at the moment, do you foresee a full-on, mainstream, Rejoin party being created in the future (besides Rejoin and Volt)?

I am very sceptical of talk about new parties, given the enormous disincentives provided by our electoral system. I think the key initial development when it comes to rejoin might be if and when the Lib Dems adopt it as a position. This could spark a debate. However, the problem is that Brexit is declining in salience among the public as a whole at the moment. So I’m not offering you much in the way of hope in the short-term, I’m afraid! There are some people who think that Labour’s position on Brexit may shift if they gain power. This will not be to a ‘rejoin’ stance, but, it is argued, may involve a far closer relationship than Starmer is willing to discuss at the moment.  This may be true, but a lot will hinge on the outcome of the next election. A significant Labour majority will give Starmer more room for manoeuvre (and more certainty of having two terms to do what he wants to do) than a narrow one, or even being head of a minority government.



Helen Johnston : You recently argued that the fire seems to have gone from many Brexiter bellies, and that the British public has lost interest in Brexit (Guardian 1 March). Is that a problem or an opportunity for the Rejoin movement?

I don’t think the former really affects the Rejoin movement, while the latter is probably a problem. To explain. The ERG no longer seems to be the power it once was, and many of its members have gone on to focus on other issues – net zero, China, economic policy etc. This makes it easier for Sunak to be pragmatic (cf Windsor Framework) but I don’t think has much at all to do with the prospects for Rejoin (which, to put my cards on the table, I think are slim). Simply put, I don’t think the initial steps in this direction, were they to come, would be under a Tory Government. I think the falling salience of Brexit is an issue in that, if this remains the case, it will be harder for any Government to justify spending time on an issue the public have little interest in.  I think a crucial issue will be the degree to which the debate about the impact of Brexit on the economy continues once we are out of the current cost of living crisis. Given the pressures people currently face, it is easy to see why a lot more is being said about these impacts (albeit I think some people are guilty of exaggerating the degree to which Brexit is responsible for, or contributing to, the current situation). Should the relationship between Brexit and the economy continue to be a live issue, then at least the conversation will continue, though the problem is there aren’t really any incremental solutions – the main costs of Brexit in economic terms are caused by not being in the single market. However, this is precisely what allows for what are seen by some as the main benefits of Brexit (ending freedom of movement, making our own laws etc). There is a certain dishonesty in the Labour position of arguing that small changes (SPS agreement etc) will make a significant economic impact.


Sue Scarrott : Do you believe the Windsor Framework will be instrumental in significantly improving future relations and closer ties with the EU?

Yes, but to limited immediate practical effect. As we saw from the Anglo-French summit that took place soon after the unveiling of the Windsor Framework, the agreement opens the door for warmer diplomatic relations between the UK, EU and member states. That being said, it would seem that negotiations on UK participation in the Horizon research programme – which I among others had thought would be one of the first fruits of a solution to the stand-off over the NI Protocol – have floundered. Nor is this Government anxious to negotiate any other formal agreements with the EU that go beyond the TCA. So, in the short term, I think we can expect to see lots of warm diplomatic words and friendly meetings, whether in the margins of the coronation, or at the G7 in Japan, or at the 1 June meeting of the European Political Community – but not much else.


Derek Ironside : Do you foresee the UK rejoining, at minimum, the Single Market via whatever means… or have we diverged too much already?

Not in the next decade, to be honest. It’s not really a question of divergence at the moment (though that might change over time or, particularly, if the Retained EU Law Bill comes into law). For me the main hurdle is political. I do not see a first term Labour Government thinking in these terms, and even if a second term Starmer Government changes its mind on this, negotiations will take time. Nor am I convinced that such a change of heart will occur. A lot will hinge on how salient Brexit continues to be, the degree to which the Tories in opposition (if, indeed, they are) continue to talk about it and so on. Labour will not want to give the Tories attack lines for the election after 2024, and accepting freedom of movement may indeed do just this. Much will depend on public opinion on legal immigration, not least as the current high levels of inward migration look set to continue for the foreseeable situation. The state of the economy will also be important. My sense is that recovery from the cost-of-living crisis might make the debate about the economic impact of Brexit less acute than it currently is which, along with the declining salience of Brexit could limit the incentives even for Labour of reopening the debate.


Lisa Burton : UK in a Changing Europe is a genuine academic think tank producing quality research and reports. Do you find it frustrating that so many groups now call themselves think tanks yet only seem to exist to produce conflicting and misguided data?

Ha, thank you! My honest answer to this is that many people, including academics, hate the fact that we have come to call ourselves a think tank. I’ve never, to be honest, googled the definition, but I must confess that I think we are the interlopers here rather than other, genuine think tanks. What makes us different is partly, as you say, that we tend to publish work by academics based on research. In that sense, I’ve always thought UKICE was not about Brexit per se but about convincing people – whether politicians, civil servants, or the public – that social scientists are worth listening to. The other thing is that think tanks generally are about making policy proposals and trying to get Government to adopt them. We are explicitly not allowed to do that. We can’t say ‘should’, in other words, but have to show what ‘is’ and let others make up their own minds what to do about it. It is written into the terms of our funding that we have to remain absolutely impartial. So I’m not sure we’re really a think tank, but one thing we do try to do is to question the veracity of what real think tanks say when this is in doubt. Our aim, I suppose, is to position ourselves such that people like you come to us for facts and evidence and, armed with them, can make their minds up about proposals made by ‘proper’ think tanks. I hope that helps!

Next Month

Prof. Juliet Lodge

Prof. Juliet Lodge has been a professor of EU politics at several universities in UK, NZ and EU. In the 1990s, Juliet was named ‘European woman of Europe‘ for her voluntary work. She has authored many books about the EU and is a regular contributor for Yorkshire Bylines. Juliet also co-convened the anti-Brexit group Women4europe. She is currently working on EU Horizon projects on disinformation where she leads work on ethics and AI. If you wish to submit a question for consideration, please email it to us

Bremainers Ask …. Russ Jones

Bremainers Ask …. Russ Jones

Russ Jones is an author and political commentator with over 277,000 followers on Twitter where he regularly reports on #TheWeekInTory as @RussInCheshire. He is currently writing the sequel to his book The Decade in Tory. The new book will be entitled Four Chancellors and a Funeral.

Steve Wilson: Of all the government failures and cock-ups that you have catalogued in ‘The week in Tory’ are there any in particular that stand out for you?

I started The Week In Tory because of one event that made me laugh my head off: our Prime Minister, Fat Malfoy, had accidentally made it illegal to drive to Wales. I started tweeting about it, and as I was writing I realised about eight other stupid things had happened in the same week, so I listed them. People liked it, so I did it again, and here we are, two years (and two books) later.

But that one still sticks with me. How can a Prime Minister accidentally make it illegal to drive to Wales? How utterly, barnstormingly cretinous.

David Eldridge: Is the new agreement on Northern Ireland the beginning of the end for Brexit?

The beginning of the end of Brexit was 9am on 24 June 2016. It’s been dying since the moment it happened, but it will be a long, drawn-out death.

At heart, Brexit was nothing to do with Europe, or with the UK either. It wasn’t related to trade deals or borders, immigrants or sovereignty. At heart, Brexit was about disruption. It was a slogan in search of a policy, promising we could simply kick away the hidebound experts, and do something different. It never said what it would actually do, just not “this”.

But ultimately all governance is about organisation. It doesn’t matter if you’re Corbyn or Thatcher, Starmer or Sunak: your job is to organise things. The “this” people objected to was that organisation, which is always fiddly and complicated, but needs to be done. However, in the wake of Brexit we elected to government a libertarian populist movement, whose defining mission was an instinctive opposition to any kind of organisation whatsoever, and therefore a rejection of the very principles of government. We shouldn’t have been shocked when they turned out to be absolutely terrible at it.

And this, of course, means Brexit was inherently doomed from the get-go. I don’t think it’ll end quickly, I’m afraid, but I do think the Windsor (NI) agreement is the death of that libertarian, Johnsonesque populism. It’s the first time for years that a major policy decision has been based on rationality. It made me quite hopeful, which is an unfamiliar feeling!

Ruth Woodhouse: I understand that you have been scathing about what you see as Jeremy Corbyn’s role in the referendum and his subsequent actions. Do you feel that Keir Starmer has dealt with the Brexit fall-out better and taken the correct approach?

My main problem with Corbyn was his self-evident inability to win, which was clear very early in his leadership. If you don’t win, it doesn’t matter what you believe in, because you can never implement any of it. If, by some miracle, he’d have reached Number 10, he’d have buggered things up in a thousand ways. All politicians do, and Starmer will too. I’m not claiming Corbyn was uniquely incapable. But because he never got the chance to be catastrophic, his devoted army still believes him to be a sainted, lost King Over The Water. So he still haunts the Labour Party, despite being as relevant to our future as Jim Callaghan.

I do worry that Starmer is misreading the mood on Brexit. I understand why – where’s the election-winning value in reopening the Brexit wounds, which will probably only benefit the Tories?

But public opinion is now strongly anti-Brexit, Sunak is already delivering a softer Brexit in NI, and is even starting to talk about relaxing migration rules (although I’ll believe it when I see it). I think it’s a bad idea to box Labour in.

I think it’s inevitable that political and economic gravity will pull us back into the EU, in some form. I worry that by ruling out absolutely any formal relationship with the EU (such as joining the Single Market) Labour will find itself on the wrong side of history.

And Labour will inherit a terrible economy. The single best thing it can do for growth is to re-join the Single Market and Customs Union, which could help fund the NHS and all the other crumbling institutions left behind by the Tories. It seems daft to absolutely rule it out.


Anon: Assuming the Tory party suffer a major defeat at the next general election, do you think they can survive. If so, what do they need to do to transform their future fortunes?

All parties are coalitions, but the Tory party is taking it to extremes. They’re not so much a party as a patchwork of imaginary grievances thrown together by Mary Shelley’s imagination.

Since the late 80s, there been have countless simultaneous versions of the Conservative Party, engaged in a furious (and to most people meaningless) thirty-year battle over who gets to keep the name. A bit like Pink Floyd.

Thatcher held it together through force of will, and because she kept winning. That tenuous unity largely disintegrated under Major and the political minnows who succeeded him. Desperation for power made those who despised Cameron shut up long enough to win, but Brexit let the demons loose once more.

The unifying socioeconomic theories that held these factions together have been proven wrong beyond any doubt. Truss killed off 30 years of Tufton Street fantasy economics in a single afternoon, and now there’s not much holding them together. If (as I hope) Labour introduce voting reform, the last thing binding the Tories as a single entity – FPTP – would be gone, and they’d all be free to follow their own mad dreams.

From the chaos a new, centre-right party of rational humans could emerge, consisting of people like Dominic Grieve or Ken Clarke. I don’t agree with them about much, but I can see their essential value and the thought process from which their policies emerge. And we need them.

I’m life-long Labour, but I’m not daft enough to think any party should face no viable opposition. Every government needs holding to account, and a sound, sensible centre-right party would be good for Britain, even from the opposition benches. Meanwhile the maniacs can all vanish into the anonymity of GB News for a decade-long circle-jerk, while the grown-ups get on with governing.

Mike Phillips: Does the current Tory party represent the dying embers of the British Empire and what lessons are there for the way we select our MPs?

I don’t think Britain knows what it’s for any more. A quarter of the world’s population was under British rule in 1880, and because we had all the money, jobs, flags and – quite importantly – guns, English ended up as the world’s default second-language. And we ended up assuming this makes us inherently important. It doesn’t.

150 years on, we’re a small, wet, heavily indebted island with few trading partners, no essential industries, and no means of feeding ourselves. We tell ourselves we’re the fifth biggest economy, but Panda is the fifth biggest cola company. I don’t see Pepsi shitting themselves.

We used to be a valued bridge between the USA and Europe, but Brexit broke half of that, and the shift in global power towards China has undermined the rest. We were once a beacon of stability, diplomacy and legal certainty, but now we smash international laws so we can treat migrants like cockroaches, and elect a PM who tells America to “fuck off”.

Unless we come to terms with our true status and build new partnerships for the next century, I don’t see a great way forward. And there is no partnership except the EU. We have no other neighbours. The EU is it.

As for MPs: we need massive democratic reform, and as part of that I’d like to see far fewer people in Westminster (we have the largest Parliament except China, which has 22 times our population). Instead, more local representation, better funding and powers for regions, and (this won’t be popular) pay the remaining MPs a lot more money. It’s a hugely challenging job with no pension, and if you want good people you need to pay for them. And we do need good people. But we should outlaw all second-jobs or political donations. Unless we have publicly funded political parties, political parties will always be in somebody’s pocket.

If something is offered to you for free, YOU are the product. That applies to politics too.

Lisa Burton: It’s a tough choice, but which politician do you think is the most dangerous regarding language and intention?

Steve Barclay. We’re all focused on the performatively evil Suella Braverman, the flagrantly pompous Rees-Mogg, and the shamelessly law-breaking Boris Johnson. But in the nooks and crannies behind the crooks and nannies, you’ll find Steve Barclay, diligently tearing apart the fabric of our society.

Of all the people I’ve written about, he’s the one safest from character assassination, because he was born without one. But he’s a wildly destructive force, sometimes holding three ministerial positions at once, and wreaking havoc across all levels of government. He gets away with it because he’s so effortlessly bland. Half the people I mention him to assume I mean Steve Baker.

Next month in Bremainers Ask – Anand Menon is Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College London. He also directs the UK in a Changing Europe project. His areas of research interest include the policies and institutions of the European Union, European security, and British politics. He contributes regularly to both print and broadcast media. He is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of the European Union (OUP, 2012), and co-author of Brexit and British Politics (Polity 2018). He is a trustee of Full Fact, a member of the Strategic Council of the European Policy Centre, a Council member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and an associate fellow of Chatham House.

If you have any questions you would like to put to Anand, please email them to us no later than Sunday 4 April.

Bremainers Ask – Siobhan Benita

Bremainers Ask – Siobhan Benita

Siobhan Benita was a former senior civil servant who left Whitehall to campaign for better politics.  Passionately opposed to Brexit, she joined the Lib Dems on the morning of the EU Referendum result and became a leading voice in their anti-Brexit movement.  Now politically homeless again, she remains active on social media and spoke at the first National Rejoin March in Autumn 2022.  Siobhan has a French husband and two bilingual daughters.

David Eldridge: Do you foresee the UK rejoining the EU? If so, what would be the timescale and steps on the way?

I absolutely foresee the UK re-joining the EU. As time passes, the economic damage that Brexit has caused for the UK will become increasingly obvious and fewer and fewer people will be prepared to defend it (or even admit they voted for it). We are already seeing a shift in the narrative with papers like The Telegraph and Daily Mail running articles highlighting some of the negative consequences of Brexit. In addition, pressure for the UK to re-join will come from younger generations as they reach voting age and want to access all the freedoms that we previously enjoyed as part of EU membership.

Given that I would like us to re-join the EU tomorrow, the timescale will never be as quick as I want but I do think it’s possible for it to happen in a matter of years rather than decades. In terms of the main steps along the way, the immediate priority is to get the Tories out with tactical voting at the next general election. I also believe that we desperately need electoral reform and a move to a more proportional system should ensure that we never again have a government with so much power but so little reflection of the voting public as a whole.

Mike Phillips: The Retained EU law bill will scrap thousands of EU laws, many of which were proposed by the UK and all of which were scrutinised by them. This imposes a massive task on civil servants. How do you view the risk of lack of Parliamentary scrutiny resulting in loss of previously agreed common standards?

The Retained EU Law Bill is going to impose huge burdens on already stretched civil servants as they attempt to meet the Government’s deadline to review all EU legislation by the end of 2023. As a former civil servant myself, I can honestly say that the amount of resource that this needless and entirely self-inflicted exercise will require – at a time when the civil service needs to be tackling huge challenges such as post-Covid, economic recovery, getting our public services back on track or meeting our climate change obligations – is both absurd and indefensible.

The fact that the Bill will allow ministers to revoke and replace EU laws with little or no parliamentary scrutiny is a major concern. Not only is this undemocratic but it will also create serious uncertainty for all stakeholders, including employers, businesses, regulators etc. And let’s not forget, that all of this effort will, ultimately, either produce no change or will actually create new red tape and regulatory burdens, especially for people who still want to trade or work with EU organisations. It’s bonkers.

Michael Soffe: Where, oh where, can those of us who feel “politically homeless” turn to? Do you see the creation of a serious full-on, rejoin party ever being created and funded?

 This is the million-dollar question that I have been asking myself for years now! I am optimistic that a serious, re-join party will emerge over time. Indeed, as polls increasingly show that a growing majority of the public now believe Brexit was a mistake, the creation of a mainstream re-join party is surely a matter of when, not if. Whether this will be a new party or, for example, a future Labour party dropping its ridiculous and unsustainable “make Brexit work” stance, I’m not so sure.

In the meantime, there are many ways that politically homeless campaigners like myself can engage, including: amplifying the voices of individuals who do publicly advocate for re-join, supporting the ReJoin Party and other fledgling movements in their grassroot efforts and taking part in movements like the National Re-join March, which took place in London in Autumn last year and which will be touring the country over the coming months. Despite its many flaws, social media has helped me to connect with other re-joiners and to keep the re-join narrative going. It can be exhausting and disheartening campaigning for something you feel so strongly about when every day the Government seems intent on taking the UK further down a nationalistic path and Labour isn’t prepared to call out Brexit for the disaster that it is, so being part of a re-join community (even a virtual one) helps to keep me energised and sane!

Anon: If you could take over the job of PM, with so many pressing issues facing the country, where would you start?

As PM, my first priority would be to bring about electoral reform. Our two-party system is broken and is no longer serving the national interest or reflecting how the public actually feel and vote. I would also prioritise reforming parliament. We have seen under the Tories that Ministers can break the ministerial code and the Nolan Principles of Public Life with little or no consequences and that must change if we want better politics and better politicians. The Lords also needs reform. There should, for example, be transparency around appointment decisions and fixed terms replacing lifelong peerages.

With regard to policy, I’d initiate a fundamental shift in funding with more resource going into prevention, such as early years provision and public health because this would create more efficient and effective public services in the medium to long term. And, given that tackling climate change is by far the single biggest challenge facing us today, I would require every policy to be considered through a net zero lens.

Peter Corr: The pro EU community is said to be “full of old white people”. Do you feel this to be true, and if so, what can we do to promote the Rejoin campaign to a wider, more diverse community to win support?

Unfortunately, the accusation that the pro-EU community is “full of old white people” can sometimes feel justified when you look at who – traditionally – the most prominent pro-EU individuals have been. That said, there are some fantastic, high-profile campaigners such a Femi Oluwole and Marina Purkiss who certainly don’t conform to the stereotype. The other accusation that I hear quite often is that the pro-EU community is very middle class.

The bottom line for me is that Brexit will make everyone in the UK poorer, regardless of age, ethnicity or class background. And, whilst Brexiteers were sadly quite successful at persuading many voters that they would be better off post Brexit, the lies are now beginning to crumble and the economic reality is becoming clear. As with any issue, the pro-EU movement will be stronger and more impactful if it is inclusive, reflecting the UK’s diverse population. As we edge towards the possibility of re-joining the EU, having clearer messages, delivered by a wide range of people, on how this will benefit everyone will be crucial and the work to engage communities and community leaders should be happening now.

Lisa Burton: I note that you joined the Liberal Democrats on the morning of the Brexit Referendum result, as they were the only party with a clear rejoin message at that point. How do you feel now about how the party handled Brexit and their position now?

 This is a tough question for me to answer because I have a lot of friends in the Liberal Democrats. We desperately need a strong, centre-ground party in the UK and I would like to see the Lib Dems doing well in the next election. All that said, however, I am extremely disappointed in the way they handled Brexit and in their current position.

In the run up to the referendum the Lib Dems were so unequivocal in their pro-EU stance. Their “Bollocks to Brexit” approach gained them profile and traction, and consequently they were successful in getting 19 MEPs elected to the European Parliament in 2019. In contrast, Lib Dem MPs today are virtually indistinguishable from Labour in their stance on Brexit. I understand the thinking; where the Lib Dems see their best chances of winning seats at the next election, they are largely Tory-facing. Nevertheless, I believe they have made a strategic error in rowing back from their clear, pro-EU position.

As a party, they are currently at around 9% in the polls and this hasn’t budged since we left the EU, despite their reticence to talk about Brexit. Unlike Labour, they need to take some risks. There was an opportunity to be seized in scooping up the millions of people like myself (and disillusioned Labour and Tory voters) who are desperate to throw support behind a serious a re-join force but the party chose not to seize it. What a shame.

Next month: Russ Jones is an author and political commentator with over 277k followers on Twitter ( @RussInCheshire) where he regularly reports on #TheWeekInTory. He is currently writing the sequel to his book ‘The Decade in Tory’. The new book will be entitled ‘Four Chancellors and a Funeral”.

If you wish to submit a question for consideration, please email it to us no later than 8 March.

Bremainers Ask….Revisited

Bremainers Ask….Revisited

To start the year, we asked three former Bremainers Ask contributors to tell us about their highs and lows for 2022 and their hopes for the coming year. This is what they had to say.

Alexandra Hall Hall is a former British diplomat who resigned from the Foreign Office in December 2019 after concluding she could no longer represent the British Government’s position on Brexit with integrity. She is now a frequent commentator and writer on British politics and foreign policy post-Brexit. You can read Alex’s earlier contribution to Bremainers Ask from May 2022 here

The low point of 2022 for me was without question Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. By the same token, the highpoint was seeing the courage of the Ukrainian people in refusing to yield to Russian aggression, under the inspiring leadership of Ukrainian President, Volodomyr Zelensky.

I was glad to see the UK respond so robustly to Russia’s invasion. Though I might question some of the motives behind Boris Johnson’s decision to champion the Ukrainian cause, I genuinely believe the British Government has shown impressive leadership on the issue. Johnson’s own visit to Kyiv in the spring undoubtedly boosted Ukrainian morale. I am willing to give him credit for that. I was also glad to see the UK work constructively with the EU and NATO to galvanise an effective international response, including by coordinating sanctions against Russia, and conducting a long overdue clamp down on Russian money and influence within the UK.

I was disappointed this did not translate into wider reflection within the British Government on our post-Brexit relationship with European partners. I had hoped that cooperation on Ukraine might prompt greater willingness to put UK-EU cooperation on broader foreign and security policy matters onto a more structured footing. Instead, many Brexit advocates argue it is proof that the UK can successfully coordinate with the EU from the outside, even though such coordination is now far more time-consuming and burdensome, and we have lost our direct influence on EU decisions.

I had also hoped that the need to stay united on Ukraine might persuade the British Government to adopt a more constructive approach on Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, the UK persists with its threat to renege unilaterally on certain aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol unless it is renegotiated to British satisfaction. While the mood music on this issue has improved, it remains to be seen whether Sunak will be willing to face down the hardliners in his party in order to strike a deal.

From a purely domestic perspective, 2022 was the year of British politicians behaving badly. I do not need to recount all the shameful examples. The UK’s global reputation, already badly damaged by the incompetent, dishonest handling of Brexit, took a further battering. The disastrous Truss premiership was the absolute nadir.

At least with Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister, a veneer of normality has returned to British politics. But just as Donald Trump’s Presidency still casts a long shadow over American politics, so the continuing influence of Boris Johnson and his ilk casts a long shadow over the Conservative party and British politics. Like his predecessors, Sunak seems to remain afraid of the extreme wing of his party, and willing to compromise again and again in an effort to appease them.

As a result, even though restoring the British economy is Sunak’s priority, he is unable to pursue some of the easiest ways to achieve this, such as by relaxing immigration to address UK labour shortages, or by staying aligned to EU standards in order to facilitate UK-EU trade. Instead, he is pressing ahead with the Retained EU law bill to shred all outstanding EU legislation on our statute books by the end of the year. Not only does this risk many important environmental, consumer, worker, health and safety protections being lost, without time to draw up adequate replacements, it also risks UK businesses being left without a stable and predictable legislative environment within which to operate. Even worse, the draft bill gives unprecedented powers to the Government to draft new laws without proper parliamentary  oversight, using so called Henry VIII powers, representing a further erosion of British democracy.

I wish I could be more optimistic for 2023. Instead, I fear the war in Ukraine will grind on with more bodies and blood, as the West still hesitates to send Ukraine all the weapons it needs. I also fear that Sunak will remain in thrall to the right wing of his party, and that Boris Johnson and his supporters will also constantly try to undermine him in hopes of engineering Johnson’s return. British politics risks continuing on an unstable, damaging path.

For me, the big question for 2023 is whether British opinion will finally swing sufficiently decisively against Brexit, that it will give the Labour  party the political space it needs to adopt a stronger position in support of UK-EU cooperation. Opinion polls suggest that more and more British voters are coming to regret the decision to leave. Our challenge is to demonstrate how top voter concerns like the poor state of the economy, the NHS and other public services, are directly related to that decision to leave.

2023 is also the year in which we need to nail the Brexiter narrative that if Brexit is not going well, it is only because it was poorly implemented, or “thwarted” by Remainer elites, or because Ministers have yet to take proper advantage of the so-called opportunities of Brexit. Brexit never was and never will be the solution to the UK’s problems.

Gavin Esler is an award-winning broadcaster, novelist and journalist. His most recent book is entitled “How Britain Ends – English Nationalism and the Re-birth of Four Nations”, and he is currently working on a new book explaining how, as a nation, we can do better. You can read Gavin’s earlier contribution to Bremainers Ask from April 2022 here

It’s always daft to write history when you are still living it, but the past year has been so crazy I’m happy to give it a go. The year 2022 will be seen by future British historians rather as Olaf Scholtz spoke of his country when he became Germany’s Chancellor. The United Kingdom is at a “Zeitenwende” – a turning point. Everything seemed to change, including our three prime ministers in four months and the resignation of at least 60 government ministers, plus the notorious Kwasi Kwarteng political suicide note. He called it a “fiscal event,” forgetting that a cardiac event is to most of us just a heart attack. The good news was that we managed to change our head of state and head of government almost simultaneously with no revolution, gunfire or rioting. The worst that happened was a leaky fountain pen and a temporarily grumpy King. I felt sorry for King Charles at that perfectly normal human moment when he was ambushed on TV by an inky malfunction.

The bad news however was everything else, and a group of failed politicians it was impossible to feel sorry for, especially Matt Hancock whose bush tucker and other trials did not seem stressful enough. In Roman times he would not have been on I’m A Celebrity. He’d have been forced on to I’m a Gladiator and fed to hungry lions. But the event of the year – as Oscar Wilde might have said – is that for the British people to lose one prime minister might be seen as unfortunate. To lose two is carelessness. In fact, we have lost five prime ministers in six years and none of them struck me as up to Gladstone and Disraeli standards.

What was exposed ruthlessly in 2022 is not merely the characters of some very strange people who rise to the top in politics. It’s a failed system of governance where those in power seem to make up the rules to suit themselves. Liz Truss became our prime minister because around 80,000 people who pay just over £2 a month to join the Conservative party decided she was The Right One. Or Far Right One. Rishi Sunak became our prime minister because Conservative MPs decided trusting their own party members was a disaster, so they chose him. Boris Johnson became prime minster because he undermined his two immediate predecessors and the party whose supposedly “secret weapon is loyalty” rewarded his disloyalty with the top job.

The one serious bit of good news of 2022 was that the B-word returned in public speech. Brexit, that greatest self-inflicted wound that we British have inflicted upon ourselves in recent years was finally regarded as something which could be discussed in polite company. My hopes for 2023 therefore include the real possibility that the unravelling of Brexit will become so obviously clear that the leadership of the Labour party will aggressively try to unpick its worst aspects even if they pretend to be living up to what was once supposed to be “the will of the people.” Many of the people who voted for Brexit have inevitably changed their minds.

My second great hope is that we start to remember what is meant by patriotism. To be a patriot is not to sit in front of a Union Jack and witter endlessly about the non-existent benefits of Brexit. To be a patriot is to want the best for your country, and to avoid making British citizens, wherever they may live, poorer and experiencing more difficulties in their lives. By that definition Brexit is one of the least patriotic events in British history.

Otto English is the pen name of author and journalist Andrew Scott. He has written for the Independent, New Statesman, Politico and Byline Times. His book “Fake History” was published in June 2021, and he is currently working on a sequel. You can read his earlier contribution to Bremainers Ask from September 2022 here

Some years ago, while down an absolute rabbit hole of research, I came across an old interview with the author Graham Greene. Unfortunately, I cannot find the recording now but suffice to say that Greene came across as extremely grumpy and when prodded on why that might be, complained that he was very easily bored. He went on to describe an incident where, while on a boat in the Suez Canal, he and the rest of the passengers came under fire from the shore.

“At first,” Greene said – and I paraphrase – “one felt an immense fear and excitement – but soon it gave way to boredom… it was just very, very boring”.

I remember wondering at the time how anyone could ever think that dodging bullets in the middle of the Suez could ever be described as ‘boring’, but as the last eight years, of at times cartoonish events, have unwound, I think I’m beginning to get it.

Living through extraordinary times can get very boring indeed and ever more, the country has felt like an absurd soap opera in which a team of frenzied writers have been cooking up crazy plot lines.

Since the Scottish independence referendum in 2015, the once United Kingdom has reeled from one crisis to another, like a drunken bear fighting a donkey on acid, in a glassware shop. In hindsight, the Scottish referendum was but an amuse bouche for the uncivil war of Brexit that followed in 2016. That disastrous folly wrecked our global standing, screwed our political institutions and wreaked economic turmoil on us all. What followed whipped back the curtain on the libertarian lies of British exceptionalism – and the myth that we ‘don’t need the EU’. But in the process, it also took a sledgehammer to the old political consensus.

In all the chaos that followed, whether that be the inanity of the culture wars, the misery of Covid, lockdowns, the migrant crisis, the on-going disaster in Northern Ireland or the tsunami of other miserable stories lost in its wake, people’s positions have been largely defined by how they voted in that referendum.

At the same time, the pandemic and war in Ukraine have been a salutary lesson in how very dangerous it is to take our certainties for granted. World events can turn in a moment and threats to our peace and security can come out of nowhere. All of this has, I believe, irrevocably changed the political landscape. Britain’s new political lines are no longer defined by left, right and centre, but by ‘pragmatic and progressive’ versus ‘chaotic cloud cuckoolandism’. The good news is that, if polling is to be believed, most voters now sit, ever more, in the ‘pragmatic and progressive’ camp.

As we’ve gone through Prime Ministers and Chancellors faster than most of us get through underwear in a heatwave, this country seems to have edged ever more back towards a general consensus – that we want to be a grown-up country once more.

So, call me a crazy optimist and cross your fingers very tightly, but I’m beginning to think there are brighter times ahead. Happy New Year.

Coming next month

Former London Mayoral candidate and senior civil servant, Siobhan Benita, left Whitehall to campaign for better politics.  She is passionately opposed to Brexit and spoke at the first National Rejoin March in London in Autumn 2022. Siobhan has a French husband and two bilingual daughters.

If you wish to submit a question for Siobhan for consideration, please email us before the 7 February.

Bremainers Ask ….. Marina Purkiss

Bremainers Ask ….. Marina Purkiss

Political Commentator, broadcaster and co-host of The Trawl podcast, Marina is very active on social media, with 289,500 Twitter followers. She has her own show, The Table, on BylineTV and regularly appears on the Jeremy Vine Show.

Valerie Chaplin: Thank you for your no holds barred reporting on “The Trawl” and “Bylines TV”. Do you think, if Labour wins the next election, they will change their “Make Brexit Work” stance, as so many now are realising Brexit was a terrible mistake?

Sadly I’m starting to think Labour will maintain their very hard pro-Brexit stance if they get into power. Keir Starmer has failed repeatedly to leave the door ajar for people like myself who are so-called Remainers and desperate at least for closer alignment to the EU and its single market and customs union, as well as freedom of movement. Starmer also appears to be ignoring all those people who, polls show, are starting to recognise that Brexit is a huge catastrophe for the UK, and he seems to be doing this to appease the red wall voters who voted unanimously for Brexit.

In part, I understand why. The Brexit word is like a touchpaper and he will be hammered by the right-wing press and the Tories if he shows any indication of actually going back into the EU or even just aligning the UK with the single market and customs union. That said, it’s really sad if that is the case because everyone and their dog can see that Brexit is a bad idea. The problem he’s got now is that he’s been so final in his wording about Brexit that it feels there is no more conversation to be had about it. Therefore, if Labour do get into power and do start going back on their word and decide that no, they don’t want to make Brexit work, and yes, they do want to start progressing towards closer alignment with the EU, then they’re going to look like massive liars, and people who lie to get into power, just like the Conservatives – which is dangerous and frankly depressing, given the already incredibly low trust in our politics and politicians, so it feels a bit like a no-win situation.

Helen Johnston: Brexit fans are getting harder to find, but they are still out there. What advice would you give to someone engaging with a Brexiter to try and persuade them away from the ‘dark side’?

I would say, most importantly, don’t speak to people as if they are stupid (even if you think they might be), because straight away you’ll get their back up and the argument is unwinnable. I would just ask them questions about whether their life has improved since Brexiting, whether they feel that what was promised was delivered, if it hasn’t been – why not? And if/when it is – what are they expecting?

If they go down the road of things like ‘sovereignty’, you can ask them what that really means. If they mention controlling our borders, I like to point out that that the ‘migrant crisis’ and record numbers of channel boat crossings, demonstrate that, actually, we lost control of our borders when we Brexited, when we withdrew from the Dublin Agreement, which allowed us to send migrants back if they didn’t qualify for asylum. Or you can ask them why our economic recovery is the lowest of all G7 countries – despite us all weathering the storms of Covid or the war in Ukraine. That tends to get them thinking, even if they dare not admit it.

Also, I think so many people didn’t realise how many benefits there were to being in the EU. Plus now we are seeing the cost of living crisis, we’re seeing interest rates rising, inflation soaring – now don’t get me wrong, this is being experienced the world over due to global shocks, but why is the UK faring so badly? It’s because of Brexit. Brexit isn’t the sole cause, but it has exacerbated almost everything.

Everything is in crisis now thanks to 12 years of Tory rule, but in particular interest rates, inflation, the NHS, social care, etc. – much of this down to our super tight labour market, thanks to Brexit.

And we need to reassure people we’re debating with that it’s ok – we don’t blame them. After all, they were expertly lied to, promised a Utopia, so I don’t blame these people for voting for it. But I would just say, try to wake up now and see that what you were promised is not going to be delivered. And the opportunities that they talk about as well, like deregulation, is only going to benefit the 0.01% of very rich people and very rich business owners. It’s also going to make it even harder to trade with our partners in the EU if you have no regulations.

Tony Isaac: The Tory Government seems to be running out of road with ever more toxic rhetoric against migrants and “wokery” as a last desperate tactic to stay in power. Is this the beginning of the end for the right-wing ideology behind Brexit?

Do you know what? I think it may be. I think what we are seeing now is what is left of the Tory party, the dregs if we’re honest, clutching to whatever “woke wars” they can, to try and keep people angry and divided, and to keep them in power. And the migrant crisis, or rather the Home Office crisis, as I like to call it, is a vehicle for doing that. The use of words like “invasion” by Suella Braverman was just so inflammatory, and done on purpose.

And then you’ve got, sadly, Rishi Sunak, who has said that it is one of his main priorities to fix the migration crisis. Now when you actually think about how much the migrant crisis impacts people in their day to day lives, versus the huge cost of living crisis which has been exacerbated by Brexit, which has basically been delivered by 12 years of Tory governance and austerity, why aren’t people more concerned about that? Well, because the Tory Government and the right-wing press make sure that they deflect away from this, to focus people’s energy and anger on the migrant crisis, when instead they should be focusing on the Tories.

So I think they are going to cling to this rhetoric for as long as possible to avoid a light being shone on them. But yes, I agree, they are running out of road.

Lisa Burton: I enjoyed Byline TV’s The Table with yourself Supertanskiii and Dan Hodges. Do you think there should be more room given to debating with those who have completely opposing views?

This is a tricky one, because I quite like to engage with people and try and break down their arguments. A bit like the way that James O’Brien does, and he’s very good at doing this, just by asking questions.

The problem I’ve got, which is why I’ve turned down going on channels like GB News, is because sometimes you run the risk of giving validity to someone whose argument doesn’t deserve it, when you engage with them. So, for example, you can argue about Brexit and people have got their thoughts, and you can break it down with facts and they come back at you with their “alternative facts”. But, with people like climate change deniers, or people who intentionally spout misinformation, I worry that if someone like myself were to have a public debate with them, it brings credence to their viewpoint, in that pursuit of false equivalence. So there could be a danger in actually letting them air their views, and perhaps having people believe them.

So I think it’s a really difficult question, and you have to use your own judgement to decide whether that person is worth engaging with in good faith, and could there be a good outcome? If not, it’s probably best to steer clear.

Steve Wilson: With so many followers and your willingness to speak out you must attract a lot of trolls. How do you deal with the criticism, negativity and abuse?

I tend to ignore as much as I can. Obviously, I’m human and there are some things that if I see them, they really get to me. I posted a tweet just a few hours after giving birth and was expecting some backlash… It was in response to Nicola Sturgeon saying she detests Tories, and I basically said:

“I’ve just given birth, and I’m full of the kind of drugs that make you love everyone, and I still detest the Tories.”

It was tweeted in jest and my eyes were still popping around in my skull from all the post-labour drugs as I struggled to type it! It got huge traction, but there were some very personal replies, quite horrible, suggesting I wasn’t a good mum, basically telling me I should be focusing on my baby. One person actually called me a sick woman. Because I was in a bit of a vulnerable state when I read those, it made me feel awful. But I just muted the conversation, and didn’t look back. And I think that’s a discipline that I have learned, and one needs to learn when you are on Twitter. You need to have the discipline not to engage, not to read everything, because some people are going to be horrible and they get their satisfaction from getting a reaction from you and knowing that they’ve got to you. If you don’t engage, you starve them of oxygen and eventually they lose interest, which is why I think I actually get by with very little in the way of abuse – that I notice anyway!

David Eldridge: How do you foresee the next election? When will it be, and what do you think the result will be?

Interestingly, I would like a coalition Government. My worry with a purely Labour Government is that Keir Starmer would not then feel any pressure to deliver on proportional representation. For me, this is the biggest issue, because proportional representation, that huge, desperately needed overhaul to our voting system means that we will never find ourselves in the frustrating position of being in a two-party race, which has made us so divided, and has also created such apathy in the electorate. So, for me, that is the best outcome. Whether that will be the case or not, I’m not sure.

I think the way Keir Starmer is going, especially with the finality with which he talks about never going back into the single market and customs union, never discussing freedom of movement, runs the risk of alienating lots of would-be Labour voters. And if he continues in the same vein, I think more people who feel politically homeless, who would have voted Labour, will vote for other left-wing parties, which could then end up in coalition, which is my preference.

And what would I encourage people to do, if, like me, you detest the Tories and just want them out? Well, you may need to just suck it up for now and use your vote tactically – by that I mean, on voting day just hold your nose, if you need to, and vote for the party most likely to unseat the Tories. Yes, you may hate Labour, but I can assure you, the Tories are worse. And for up-to-date guidance on who you should tactically vote for in your consistency to do just that, be sure to follow The Movement Forward on Twitter (@MVTFWD) or visit 

Eyes on the prize!