Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Brexit Vacuum

In all of recorded human history, only one person is known to have been exposed to the power of a vacuum and lived to tell the tale.

Jim LeBlanc was working for NASA in the mid-1960s, hired to test one of their prototype lunar spacesuits. Locked into a triple-door chamber, and wearing the suit, LeBlanc seemed to be doing just fine, when disaster struck.

A pressure hose came loose, and LeBlanc was essentially exposed to near-vacuum conditions, albeit briefly. Thankfully, LeBlanc survived the ordeal. Before blacking out due to oxygen deprivation, he distinctly recalls the sensation of saliva evaporating off his tongue.

The political situation, following last Thursday's vote has led to what many call a power vacuum, on both the government's benches, as well as the opposition's side. The Prime Minister, having failed to convince the country to support his plans, intends to resign and a new one will be in place by 9th September 2016, at the last reckoning.

The terrifying ordeal of Jim LeBlanc is a warning from history of what happens in a vacuum. The laws of nature go out the window, and the very things that offer hope and joy boil off into the ether helplessly.

At the time of writing, the government is effectively a zombie administration. The Prime Minister is leaving far sooner than he likely expected to go, and it's unlikely we can expect him to rattle off some revolutionary policies in the remaining 2 months of his premiership.

His successor is an unknown element in all this, and the first of two vacuums emerges for a very good reason. Based off a highly-rated comment on a Guardian website article, it has been suggested that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove never truly wanted a Brexit to be the outcome on June 23rd.

It sounds ridiculous, I know. But when you examine just how fantastically unprepared the Brexit camp have been, you start to realise why. Scotland voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU, along with Northern Ireland, but England and Wales went the other way.

The rules of engagement, concerning the Scottish independence issue have changed dramatically, and the same goes for Northern Ireland, but it doesn't seem to grab the headlines as much. Scotland will fight to retain its status as part of the EU, and in a possible re-run of the so-called indy ref of 2014, Nicola Sturgeon would deliver on the pledge to make Scotland a country in its own right.

Does anybody truly think a potential break-up of the United Kingdom was what Boris Johnson and Michael Gove actually prepared for, when they campaigned for Vote Leave? If the thought had never crossed their minds, they are guilty of making one of the gravest miscalculations in recent political history.

Whoever succeeds Cameron faces the bleak choice: leave the EU, but lose Scotland and Northern Ireland, to the dismay of millions, or abandon invoking Article 50 in a desperate bid to save the UK, but go down in history as the Premier who ignored the will of 17.5m people. Catch 22 on Article 50, it seems.

Now we get to the second vacuum, that is equally as deadly in its ferocity; the gaping black hole of a vacuum at the heart of the Labour Party. It's been just over a year since Jeremy Corbyn rushed to get his name on the 2015 leadership ballot, and he's become one of the most divisive leaders of the Parliamentary Labour Party's 103-year history.

It all began with Hilary Benn being sacked for calling on Mr Corbyn to resign, having failed to convince enough of Labour's support base to back the Remain campaign. 

A cascade of shadow cabinet resignations followed, and now we're at the unprecedented point where all living former Labour leaders, 2 former deputy leaders, the current deputy AND the Prime Minister have called on the leader of the opposition to go. But he refuses to budge, citing the mandate he received from the unions, affiliates and paid-up members, in September 2015.

Mr Corbyn's divisiveness as leader the PLP stems from his refusal to adjust to the gravity of the situation that has gripped the British political system. Mr Cameron's successor is likely to take advantage of Mr Corbyn's crisis of confidence, to call a general election, to shore up Tory dominance in a post-Brexit era.

Mr Corbyn's response has been to refuse responsibility for the vote to Brexit, and Chris Byrant MP (part of the aforementioned cascade of resignations) has been reported to have received no answer, regarding whether Mr Corbyn voted to remain or leave on June 23rd.

A leadership battle is highly likely to emerge, given his recalcitrance to move from his diminishing position of power. Angela Eagle is a potential rival, but anything can happen in the next 24hrs.

Momentum, the group that evolved out of the campaign to help Mr Corbyn into power, has shown repeated contempt for the PLP, and whispers of possible deselection were occasionally seen, when MPs behaved in a way that Momentum didn't like, even before Brexit.

It all becomes an awkward question: who really runs the Labour Party? An outside organisation based around one man, and an army of party members who brand MPs "traitors" when they don't toe the line, or the democratically-elected MPs?

Since the events that unfolded on June 16th, the vitriolic language directed at Labour MPs by sections of the Corbynista movement should make us be as ashamed to be British, just as we are, when we hear stories about anyone who seems remotely foreign being told to go home.

How much longer will our two main parties survive in this vacuum, before someone restores the atmosphere? And if they fail to do so quickly, which party will evaporate into the ether first? The clock is ticking.

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