Friday, 26 May 2017

Is ‘Brand May’ a Show of Confidence, or CCHQ’s Insurance Policy?

In light of Theresa May’s historically high approval ratings, the Tory push for power has taken the form of a conventional US presidential campaign putting the prime minister front-and-centre.

It is so central to the campaign, that where you would normally expect to find ‘Conservative’ or ‘Conservative Party’ on official party branding, you will find instead ‘Theresa May’s Team’ - with party identity relatively obscured.

In the lead up to the local elections, CCHQ bought wraparound adverts with a host of local newspapers to promote not the Conservative Party, but Theresa May, a feature also found on leaflets, and in candidates’ messaging. The Conservative battle bus too is emblazoned with 'Theresa May for Britain'.



The thinking behind this is clear. Not only is Theresa May more popular than her party, but at the start of the campaign she boasted historically high approval ratings - higher than Thatcher or Blair at their peaks - with Jeremy Corbyn languishing far behind.

There are many theories behind her record-breaking popularity, from being a “basic prime minister for basic times” to having the luxury of being directly contrasted with her opponent - somebody widely regarded as being not up to the job.

This tactic isn't in itself unusual, with her predecessor running a similar campaign centred on 'competence over chaos under Ed Miliband'. Yet ‘Brand Dave’ did not replace the Tory identity; the two complemented each other to good effect. But this idea - in its current manifestation - is being pushed to the point of absurdity.

For instance, Theresa May is name-checked 16 times in the conservative party manifesto. By contrast, David Cameron was mentioned six times in 2015, and three times in 2010. In 1997, the Labour manifesto mentioned Tony Blair by name once.

Beyond serving as a handy electoral device, exploiting the unforeseen popularity of ‘Brand May’, perhaps this positioning allows the party to shield ‘Brand Tory’ from May’s most devastating flaws, should they manifest in the coming years.

Her indecisiveness, cautiousness, hypercentralised management style, and an over-reliance on a closely-knit team of special advisers (who carry torrid reputations) are examples of traits not adequately scrutinised; given most of the printing press are considered ‘on side’, and the opposition leader is seen as relatively hapless in the eyes of the public.

***
‘Theresa Maybe’, the Economist’s leader column on ‘Britain’s indecisive premiere’, was a frank assessment of the prime minister’s record six months after she took office, noting “it is hard to name a single signature policy, and easy to cite U-turns.”

This damning list, yet growing, includes backing down from a promise to put workers on company boards, reversing plans to compel firms to list foreign employees, scrapping Budget proposals to raise National Insurance, and changing her widely-berated ‘Dementia Tax’.

Moreover, the entire social care saga has exposed Theresa May’s greatest weaknesses in the unforgiving spotlight of a general election campaign; which leads CCHQ’s almost absurdist decision to make her the sole face of the next five years seem something of a masterstroke.

Moving forwards, the manner in which her flaws have been exposed with such ease may affect the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

As the FT’s Janan Ganesh has noted: “If Mrs May did not know that old people feel attached to their asset base, she was derelict. If she did and (admirably) resolved to face them down, then her resolve does not amount to much. Colleagues who defended her proposal in public, lobby interests who fought it and any EU negotiators tuning in from the continent will infer the same lesson: this prime minister is strong and stable, until you test her.”

With Britain facing its greatest juncture in modern history the risk of wrecking our future prospects in trade, diplomacy, and prosperity, has never been greater. And, courtesy of leaks, we know preliminary discussions between Theresa May and her European counterparts have been disastrous.


By associating the next government with 'Brand May’, almost exclusively, CCHQ has given the party the breathing space it needs should May’s tenure end in catastrophe, with the foundations set for a clean rebuilding process - but not before first throwing the prime minister under the bus.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

What Next for Labour Dissidents? Examining the Nuclear Option

There's no sugarcoating this; Friday morning's results, in the Copeland and Stoke by-elections, were disastrous for Labour. 

I've written in the past about how melodramatic cries of 'disaster' have been overblown, but this feels much different.While the party met its minimum expectation in defeating Paul Nuttall, losing a safe seat to a governing party is, frankly, unforgivable. The reasons for the Copeland defeat are numerous, and complex but, ultimately, the buck must stop with the leadership. 

This may serve as ammunition for a faction of MPs whose raison d'ĂȘtre has been to dethrone Jeremy Corbyn from the day he was elected. But following a coup that was organised with the grace of a drowning rhinoceros, and a messy leadership contest still fresh in the memory, their arsenal is thin.

One thing is certain: Jeremy Corbyn is going nowhere. He has refused to take any blame for the result and, moreover, his fate is in his own hands. Despite not having full control of the party's machinery, his strength is derived from the weakness of his opponents; first in the confused and erratic manner in which they tried to topple him; and second, in their relative unpopularity among party members.

But, besides biding waiting until after 2020, there is a nuclear option, which, if they are desperate enough to invoke, may force Corbyn's hand.


***
In normal times, Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt, who both resigned their seats in quick succession, would have been replaced without much fuss, and most of Westminster would have had a good night's sleep on Thursday. 

Instead, Labour is a bloodied party, whose internal, irrevocable divisions, exposed by two leadership elections, have been compounded by a messy Article 50 process. The bulk of the press coverage, therefore, centered on the possibility of Labour losing both seats.

Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt had clearly run out of patience; perhaps realising that instead of lingering in backbench anonymity for the next three-and-a-half years, their talents would be put to better use elsewhere.

The question now is; how many MPs have had a similar epiphany, and, furthermore, are they willing to weaponise this for the 'greater good'?

***

It's clear the anti-Corbyn faction within the PLP have little option but to wait; wait for wipeout in 2020; wait for the third leadership contest in five years; and then wait for the 2025 general election until they can mount a strong challenge against the Conservatives.

Alternatively, by threatening to resign en masse from their seats, Jeremy Corbyn would be forced into making a huge decision; call their bluff and face more than a dozen risky by-elections, or submit.

A wave of by-elections triggered in such a way could be a death sentence; not only for Cobyn, given he would have no choice but step down in the face of yet further evidence of Labour's electoral decline, presuming the current trend continues, but for the party itself; as previously loyal voters decide once and for all they've had enough of a party engulfed in perpetual civil war.

Knowing that doing nothing would almost certainly lead to defeat in 2020, will this anti-Corbyn faction be desperate enough to invoke the nuclear option, and risk it all?

Thursday, 1 December 2016

What Happened in Richmond Park Anyway?

The Richmond Park by-election campaign was, by any conventional standards, a mess, yet in the current political climate this couldn't be any more appropriate. 

Zac Goldsmith, who ran a torrid campaign only a few months ago to become the Conservative Mayor of London, resigned his seat in protest at the government's decision to expand London Heathrow, This decision was based on a promise he'd made before 2010; to leave the Conservative Party and stand against them as an independent.

He immediately set out to frame the campaign as a "referendum on Heathrow" which, at first, made perfect sense. But the local Conservative branch, in an extraordinary step, then decided to back Goldsmith, which left CCHQ in limbo - in the end choosing to step aside so as to prevent splitting the "conservative" vote.

After the Liberal Democrats picked their candidate, the Green Party decided to step aside too, so as to avoid splitting the anti-Goldsmith vote. Labour's NEC, despite reservations from senior figures, decided to field a candidate, while UKIP was the third major party to back off, throwing its weight behind Goldsmith.


Not everything, however, was as simple as it looked...

The Green Party, in a pragmatic move, decided to back the Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney in a "progressive alliance".

But Zac Goldsmith, who has previously gotten along well with Green co-leader Caroline Lucas, allegedly suggested she was backing him, while distancing himself from UKIP - who had mostly definitely endorsed his candidacy.

The local Greens said they were "deeply disappointed" in Goldsmith for making the suggestion on one of his leaflets, and a spokesperson was forced to refute any allusion to Green support for Goldsmith on the Green Party website.

Reports then emerged that the local Greens were also disappointed in Caroline Lucas for backing the "regressive" Lib Dems, with prominent local members writing a letter to the Guardian to express as much, and some figures even urging Green voters to back the Labour candidate instead.

As for Goldsmith, who was being backed by the local Conservatives, and prominent pro-Heathrow expansion Tory MPs such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, towards the end of the campaign wouldn't even rule out re-joining the Conservative Party in the near future.

***

Zac Goldsmith's attempt to frame the by-election as a "referendum on Heathrow" fell apart shortly after it became clear each of his rivals shared his view, and the government, officially backing Heathrow expansion, would decline to field a candidate. 

Tim Farron, who called this the contest "the most important by-election in living memory," when I spoke with him this weekend instead tried to frame it as a(nother) referendum on Brexit - holding several events over the last few weeks including an overwhelmingly pro-EU Brexit Q&A on the final Saturday of campaigning.

The reason for this was obvious: 77% of Zac Goldsmith's constituents voted to remain while Goldsmith, who they have returned twice, has been long-known as a proud Eurosceptic.

***

At the time of writing the winner hadn't been declared - but, for the purposes of this post, it doesn't matter.

This by-election has been messy, disjointed, and it has made a mockery of our electoral system, with three of the five major parties (as I see them), including the party of government, backing away from the fight. 

The cost of running the contest has been touted as lying somewhere between £240,000 and £250,000, depending on which source you've consulted - a big price, in my view, for what was ultimately a pointless distraction - and one that may end up costing Goldsmith his seat.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Welcome To Trumpland

On November 5, days before voters would turn out, a man tried to assassinate Donald Trump.

While he was delivering a speech to thousands of supporters in Reno, Trump cut himself off. He raised his hand towards his forehead to block out the beaming lights, and squinted his eyes, as if to take a closer look at what appeared to be growing unrest in the crowd.

Suddenly, after hearing somebody in the crowd shouting ‘GUN’, two secret service agents rushed to his side. They shielded him from danger, and escorted him off stage. Scenes became chaotic. His largely bewildered supporters began chanting, and then shouting, as security staff leapt into the crowd to apprehend a would-be assassin, and remove him from the venue. Footage, released soon afterwards, corroborated these events.

Minutes later, Trump returned to the podium, and told his supporters: “Nobody said it was going to be easy but we will never be stopped. We will never be stopped.” While Trump was finishing his speech, accounts of what had happened began to take shape.

Trump’s media aid, Dan Scavino, retweeted a message reading “Hillary [Clinton] ran away from rain today. Donald is back on stage minutes after an assassination attempt” while his son, Donald Trump Jr, wrote: “As Donald Trump just showed the American people, no matter what happens he will not be deterred and he will not give up fighting for you.”
But there was still a lot of confusion as to what actually happened.

Photos of the chaotic scenes began to emerge on Twitter; showing armed officers, and a man being dragged out. Journalists at the rally began reporting what members of the audience were telling them; that they had seen a man pull a gun. Others, meanwhile, claimed the ‘Trump assassin’ reached for the gun of a secret service agent before he was detained. And in even these early stages, supporters were speculating on social media that the assassin may have been planted by the Clinton campaign.

There was only one problem. Absolutely none of it was true.

***

Not only was the man unarmed; he wasn’t an assassin. He was a protester, carrying only a sign – “Republicans against Trump” – that he had printed off the internet.

He was identified as Austyn Crites, a 33-year-old inventor who worked with balloons. He was a registered Republican, and more importantly, completely harmless – which the secret service agents realised shortly before they released him.

But Donald Trump’s aides took advantage of the confusion. They had already begun to spread the message online that their candidate had survived an assassination attempt, while bizarrely, at the same time, Austyn Crites was speaking with journalists outside the venue to explain to them what had actually happened.

According to Crites, as he was moving closer towards the front, he raised his sign. Trump supporters had, by this point, noticed him. At first they booed. “And then,” he said “all of a sudden people next to me are starting to get violent; they grabbing at my arm, trying to rip the sign out of my hand.”

According to Crites, the crowd then began piling on him, kicking, punching, holding him on the ground, and even, grabbing him by the testicles. He claimed they were “wrenching on [his] neck” so much “they could have strangled [him] to death.”

It was at that moment he heard somebody shouting “something about a gun,” before police officers arrived and put him in handcuffs. He told the Guardian newspaper he felt relieved. And, as officers removed him from the venue, they continued to fend off supporters who were trying to attack him.

He was taken to the back of the venue, searched, subjected to a background check, and released shortly after. He wasn’t even aware, until the journalist he was speaking to outside told him, that Donald Trump had been rushed off stage.

But by now, even though barely any time had passed, Donald Trump supporters became utterly convinced their candidate had survived an attempt on his life. They had seen the news break on television, and relied on other supporters on social media, pro-Trump Facebook pages, and sources they trusted, to fill the gaps.

Rumours continued to spread – although now they knew the name of the ‘Trump assassin’. And, fuelled by the Trump campaign’s refusal to back down from this narrative, even more ludicrous theories were being fostered online.

***

Trump supporters found Austyn Crites on Facebook, as well as members of his family, including his brother, and found evidence they were conspiring to commit voter fraud.

Some suggested his Facebook page was fake, having only been created a day ago, while others claimed it had been deleted, meaning he had something to hide.

They learned that he had been campaigning for Hillary Clinton – something which Crites openly admitted to the Guardian journalist who interviewed him – but something they would not learn until they found his name listed in a Wikileaks database of the leaked Podesta e-mails, as many as seven times, along with information suggested he was a Democratic Party donor.

Others, meanwhile, landed on evidence confirming, in their eyes, that he was an agitator – a paid Democratic Party operative with the intent to cause violence or emotional disruption at Trump rallies. And some, who said they had read further into the leaked Podesta emails, became convinced that he had ties to a black ops shadow intel group known as STRATFOR.

But these conspiracy  theories were then suddenly legitimised. They were being spread by Trump’s surrogates, and members of his team. 

Ann Coulter, a notorious surrogate, retweeted links and posted conspiracy theories to her more than 1 million Twitter followers, while Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, refused to condemn members of her team for spreading false information.

Speaking to JakeTapper on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning, she said: “I’m glad nobody was hurt, but it does remind you that in these closing days, especially as the polls tighten, many of us are getting more death threats, getting more angry messages on social media and elsewhere. It’s a pretty fraught environment there. I think that’s the real focus here.”

She continued: “If you’re Don Jr and you’re on a live TV set while you’re watching this unfold, it’s pretty rattling to think of what may have happened to your father, so I’ll excuse him.”

When Tapper pushed back, saying Crites was not trying to assassinate Trump, Conway attacked CNN itself, saying: “First of all, that’s really remarkable, I have to say, that that’s what the storyline is here. Is CNN going to retract all the storylines, all the headlines, all the breathless predictions of the last two weeks that have turned out not be true? ‘The race is over. The path is closed. It’s going to be a blowout.’ You guys retract that and I’ll give a call to Dan Scavino about the retweet.”  

The Trump campaign later released a statement, written by Trump himself, saying: “I would like to thank the United States Secret Service and the law enforcement resources in Reno and the state of Nevada for their fast and professional response. I also want to thank the many thousands of people present for their unwavering and unbelievable support. Nothing will stop us – we will make America great again!”

Trump did not provide any details about the incident, and, in the days that followed, Trump’s team refused to back down over the ‘assassination attempt’ narrative – meaning it has continued to mutate across the internet.

***

This is only a single, isolated example of how Donald Trump has defeated journalism – partly by accident, and partly by design. He and his team are able to lie, and get away with it, because they know their supporters have stopped paying attention to the mainstream press.

Trump is able to plant simple ideas into the minds of his supporters, while his team sits back, and watches these grow into fully-fledged conspiracy theories without having to so much as try. 

Meanwhile, all the work the media organisations do to verify claims and establish facts has become irrelevant. 


Whether Donald Trump wins the presidency or not, he has set the template for a more sophisticated and sociopathic breed of politician to exploit in the future.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Why It Matters That Theresa May Is Unelected

What happens when an unknown quantity is thrust into the highest seat of power in the state without so much as a sofa interview?

Ahead of this year's Conservative party conference a large portion of the press and broadcast media dedicated hours dissecting Theresa May - the politician - as well as Theresa May - the woman.

If you're feeling as if journalists this week are being especially superficial then you wouldn't be alone. Many appeared more keen to scrutinise the May family scones recipe than trouble themselves with less important matters such as the deeply troubling shift in the government's immigration rhetoric, or the militarisation of our prison system.

But this especially intense obsession with the superficial, which all of us share at least a little, is grounded in the fact that we know absolutely nothing about our prime minister.

***

The general consensus is that Theresa May used her conference speech to grab the 'centre ground' or even, to an extent, the centre-left of politics. 

Curious, then, that she managed to do this while drawing praise from the French far-right nationalist presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

In my view, her speech was packed with rhetoric borrowed from the left and the right, lined with a few jokes, and hashed together in order to allow everybody to see into it anything they wanted to.

When a politician makes this sort of speech, packed with rhetoric but lacking any actual policy, it is usually deconstructed and rebuffed by lunchtime. But because we have no point of reference from which to judge her words, it forces us to take them at face value.

She has no record as prime minister. She has no manifesto. She has promised nothing, neither to her party, nor the country. Even her record as Home Secretary is foggy, with many citing the fact she had not been removed from the post as being her greatest achievement - begging the question as to what her other achievements, if any, may have been.

***

You can argue endlessly about whether or not our democracy is fit for purpose. But the process of an election, no matter how flawed, at the very least accomplishes several things.

First, within the context of our pseudo-presidential electoral system, any potential prime minister is measured up. We learn intimate details about them, their family, their home(s), their character, even their love life. And, although of less concern to the press, we learn about their management style and political philosophy - not overnight - but often over the course of several years (as leader of the opposition).

Second, the entire prospective government - party leaders as well as their frontbench teams - are forced to make promises and set targets against which they can be judged when they win power. 

Third, any policy proposed faces meticulous vetting by the media and the public. Generally, a good policy is received well, while a bad policy is thrown out. A good example of this is David Cameron's bizarre 'paid volunteering' scheme cooked up during the 2015 election campaign.

Finally, it forces political parties to shape their policy around what they believe the public wants, and not around whichever untested ideology they hold.

Theresa May's government - which we now know to be completely different from the government elected to power in 2015 in terms of personnel, policy, and philosophy - has not been subject to any of the above. This should worry us.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Why Hasn't The Labour Party Died Already?

Barely a week has passed since the EU referendum and the Labour Party has already been plunged itself another civil war; adding to the government's collapse, and the United Kingdom's very own existential crisis.

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing a full-blown coup, triggered following the sacking of the now-former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Ben last Sunday. As coups go, however, this is nothing short of a disaster.

Labour MPs, MEPs, consultants and associates have openly revolted against the leadership, resigning en masse from the shadow cabinet and from other roles, while a no-confidence ballot of MPs rendered a 172-to-40 result against Jeremy Corbyn.

Although the vote was definitive and the subsequent events have caused irreparable damage to Jeremy Corbyn's authority, the MPs who triggered this challenge, it now emerges, did so without a firm candidate to replace him, and without even knowing whether Corbyn may or may not be allowed to stand in a fresh leadership contest.

This detail is absolutely crucial, as he may yet win the support of the wider party membership if allowed to stand again. And what then if, as is extremely likely, he wins? The Parliamentary Labour Party will have failed to appeal to their own party members - for a second time - and they will have failed to put forward a credible alternative to a man so incredibly incompetent. Surely they will be finished.

All this, without the added dynamic of the long-awaited Chilcot Report on the Iraq War which is being published on July 6. What could possibly go wrong?

***

Jeremy Corbyn will not resign. Labour members may back him indefinitely. Those in power - the PLP, MEPs, etc - have abandoned him, and are actively working against him. Corbyn's survival, as many suggest, could well lead to the death of the Labour Party itself as MPs are forced to break away. 

But perhaps this was only a matter of time.

For better or for worse, social democratic parties, or the 'Establishment Left', have been falling across Europe. Yet this pattern is one the British Labour party has somehow avoided. Yes, Labour has not won an election since 2005 - but its support among the public remains far greater than the support of its counterparts across the continent.

The electoral success of Syriza in Greece marked the first major success of such a populist movement. POSAK, the established centre-left party, meanwhile has been sidelined. In the January 2015 legislative election, POSAK finished seventh with 4.7% of the vote share, a monumental collapse following their victory in October 2009 with 43.9%; its fall mirroring Syriza's rise in the intermediate six years.

Spain's June 2016 general election, the second within six months, saw PSOE, the traditional centre-left party win only 22.7% of the vote share - only a shade higher than the 22.0% it scored in December. Its collapse has been facilitated by the rise of Podemos, which received 21.1% in June 2016, and 20.7% in December, the first general election it had ever contested.

The Democratic Party of Italy led by Matteo Renzi occupies a more stable position having narrowly won the February 2013 general election with 29.5% to Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom with 29.1%. But the Five-Star Movement, a non-partisan anti-establishment Eurosceptic party, received 25.5% of the vote, like Podemos, in the first general election it had ever contested. Although the Democratic Party remains popular, polls show its support is falling while the Five Star Movement gains momentum, pointing to a defeat in 2018 for Italy's Establishment Left.

In France, the popularity of president Francois Hollande's Socialist Party is at its lowest it has been in some time (14%), and he is widely-expected to face defeat in 2017. In the first round of the 2015 regional elections, Hollande's party finished third on vote share with 23.12%, behind Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right Republicans on 26.65%, and Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front on 27.73%.

***

While the fall of the Establishment Left has given way to a host of younger, more energetic insurgency-based movements, as Marine Le Pen's success in France has shown, this shift has ushered in the return of the far-right across Europe.

This New York Times interactive chart shows a recent rise in the support of far-right parties across Europe including Hungary, Denmark, Switzerland, Poland, and Austria.

The Austrian presidential elections in May 2016 saw the fascistic Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer narrowly defeated by the former Green Party candidate Alexander Van Der Bellen by only 30,863 votes.

But the election - won by 50.3% to 49.7% - will have to be re-run after the result was overturned on the basis that election rules were broken in a way that could influence the result. The prospect of Europe electing its first fascist leader since the end of World War II is once again a very real one.

While fascism is yet to enter mainstream politics in Britain, barring as an occasional source of comedy, there are a few worrying signs.

Let alone the death of Jo Cox at the hand of an alleged far-right political extremist, since the referendum result there has been a massive rise in the number of hate crimes. Latest police figures reveal the rate has risen five fold in the previous week alone, with 331 incidents reported to the national police records website against the average of 63. But the true figure may be far higher.

***

What would it mean if, as is increasingly likely, the Labour Party splits, or even collapses altogether? Europe shows that it could usher in a more radical movement in the mould of Podemos or Syriza. Or it could happen in conjunction with the rise of the far-right. Or both. Or neither.

If, after the 2015 general election, conventional wisdom suffered a blow, the referendum was its death knell. Where unexpected events, such as the Tory majority, the rise of the SNP, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour success, were frequent pre-Brexit, we may now begin to see wild, uncontrollable, unpredictable events hit us one after another in quick succession.

For instance, we could well see the actual death of the Labour Party. But, for better or for worse, perhaps this was long overdue.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Keep Calm and Carry On?

In the lasts few days our nation has been gripped by an unquenchable madness. Nobody knows what is happening. Pandora's Box has been opened and its contents are being traded away in a fire sale. How has it come to this?

The British public have voted to leave the European Union. This decision, which has already had a disastrous effect on the economy, was made by an older, wealthier generation of voters who haven't got very long left to live, in direct contradiction with the will of their relatively penniless children and grandchildren, who will have to live with these consequences the longest.

The Prime Minister has resigned, while both the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were not seen for 72 hours after the result was declared. George Osborne finally reared his head on Monday morning to make a reassuring statement before the markets opened, only for the markets to subsequently crash as investors panicked even further.

The pound has fallen to its lowest value against the dollar in 35 years. Approximately $2.08 trillion was wiped from the global markets in one day. Credit agency Moody's downgraded the UK's outlook from "stable" to "negative" while S&P said the UK would likely lose its AAA rating. So far on Monday, at the time of writing, the FTSE 100 has fallen by 2% and FTSE 250 has fallen by 4.5%.

David Cameron, who stepped down after leading a campaign he had hoped to narrowly win, will most likely be replaced with Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London and the Prime Minister's old Etonian schoolmate, who led an opposition campaign he had hoped to narrowly lose, and who is subsequently trying to run the country from his newspaper column.

Boris Johnson, who won his campaign and signalled Britain's intent to leave the European Union, is having second thoughts over triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, presuming he becomes the next Prime Minister, while those who comprise the EU establishment want us to get out as soon as possible. Number 10 has announced the unit to lead Brexit issues will be led by Oliver Letwin, whose 'Controversies' section is as long as the 'Political Career' section of his Wikipedia page.

On what comes next, those leading the campaign have no Brexit plan, as they were never in a position to fulfil any pledges they made. The ruling Conservative party has no Brexit plan, as they were expecting those in Number 10 to have drafted any contingency. And Number 10 has no Brexit plan, as David Cameron was not expecting to lose what ultimately proved to be his last political gamble after he had won all of his previous ones.
In the first meeting of his cabinet since the result was declared, the Pm told his colleagues "this government will not accept intolerance" in light of a sharp rise in the number of xenophobic and racially-motivated hate crimes across the country.

Meanwhile, a coup has been triggered within the Labour party. Its leader Jeremy Corbyn, who does not hold the confidence of his MPs, may yet retain the confidence of the party membership. While the shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Ben was sacked over the phone for expressing his lack of confidence in the leader and triggering said coup in the early hours of Sunday morning, the deputy party leader Tom Watson, it emerged, was on a bender in Glastonbury; a detail we have only gleaned from his latest Snapchat story. Corbyn allies accused would-be plotters of planning this ongoing coup on a "Snapchat group".

The new shadow defence secretary Clive Lewis was also at Glastonbury when he was appointed to his new role, and may be late for his first Defence Questions in parliament due to the traffic. His predecessor Maria Eagle resigned in a wave of mass resignations from the shadow cabinet, a walkout which yet continues, not to mention the dozens of MPs and party figures who are resigning from non-cabinet and relatively junior positions. The list of 37 resignations as of 2:00pm BST includes 18 shadow cabinet members, ten shadow ministers, and nine private parliamentary secretaries.

Jeremy Corbyn has refused to step down, and may yet be entitled to continue until a leadership challenge is triggered. But because the party rarely topples its own leaders in such a regicidal fashion, the exact rules as to whether Corbyn may have to regain 35 nominations to appear on the ballot paper are unclear, and may have to be determined by the National Executive Committee, of which Corbyn has a slight majority. There are also rumours that the majority of the PLP will follow a 'Libya model' of sorts and form a second shadow cabinet within the party led by an unofficial leader. One may feel this all needs to be sorted out before Prime Minister's Questions, which will take place on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile our actual head of state, a woman 25 years past the retirement age, is constitutionally bound to keep shtum in times of political division by merit of a constitution we have yet to write down. She is taking a trip to Northern Ireland on Monday - a nation which may leave the UK along with Scotland in order to continue EU membership, which itself may not be possible.

Given this is only day four of Brexit Britain, what else could possibly go wrong?

***

In other news: International tensions have cooled as it has emerged Israel and Turkey struck a deal to end the six-year rift over the Gaza flotilla killings, while Iraq has taken back control of Fallujah from Islamic State in a massive blow to the terrorist group's ambitions.