Long Read: Labour’s Logic – Playing the Game?

If you’re an ardent Remainer, and I count myself amongst this unhappy breed, living on this increasingly ‘septic’ isle, you may find yourself slightly perplexed at Labour’s recent decision to support the government’s Article 50 bill.

If you also happen to be a Labour supporter, perhaps even a Labour member, you may well be absolutely apoplectic, but, before calling for Jeremy Corbyn’s head, I’d like you to consider this simple contention; given the circumstances, Labour’s decision was absolutely correct, perfectly logical, but it does depend on whose circumstances you’re considering.

Let’s not be taken in by all this hollow ‘respecting the will of the people’ rhetoric, this was a purely strategic decision. The same decision that could have been arrived at using principles of Game Theory, and if it wasn’t, Labour should consider using the methodology immediately as it would save them from a lot of valuable time and soul searching in the near future.

Game theory is the mathematical study of decision making, a method of predicting the interaction between two or more parties in situations where the choices of players interact to affect the outcome. In it’s simplest form a win/lose scenario game is described as a zero sum game, tossing a coin for example, where one player wins means that the other loses.

Early principles of game theory, described in the 1830’s by Antoine Cournot, were further developed by von Neumann & Morgenstern at Princeton in 1944, and later by John Nash; work for which he received the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994.

Nash proposed that finite games always have an equilibrium point, a point where all participants choose actions which are best for them in relation to their opponent’s choices.

Game Theory isn’t a dark art, it doesn’t claim to make you a winner, if you’re a loser, you’re a loser, it can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear; the purpose of Game Theory is to identify and develop your optimum strategy given what the opposing players choose.

Consider this simple example of Game Theory, it’s the classic prisoner game scenario. In this bimatrix representation, Prisoner I is represented by the rows and Prisoner II by the columns, each player has two strategies, ‘confess’ and ‘refuse’, neither is aware of the other’s decision nor will they be subject to recriminations after their decision is taken. The payoff of Player I is represented first, Player II second. It can be seen that if both Prisoners confess then their payoff, their sentence, 2.2, is equal, they would serve two years each. Under the circumstances, this strategy assures the best outcome for both players.

Unconvinced? Now look for a win/lose scenario. Try changing Player I to Remain, Player II to Leave, Confess to Truth and Refuse to Lie. Got it? Clearly Remain’s strategy should have been to tell greater lies than Leave did to win the referendum.

Applying game theory to Labour’s dilemma over the Brexit bill, as will be seen later, their chosen strategy undoubtedly offered them their best payoff; yet, taken simply at face value, the criticism they have received would, superficially, appear justified.

With 96% of their parliamentary party voting Remain, along with 90% of party members and 63% of Labour supporters nationally, the strategy, adopted by Labour’s hierarchy, was glaringly inconsistent with the views of their party overall.

Leaving the Lords aside, probably the most puzzling aspect, and certainly the most contradictory, was the decision taken in the Commons at the third reading stage of the Article 50 bill.

With all attempts to amend the bill defeated, Labour imposed a three-line-whip in support of the government’s bill. This was the antithesis of the resolution, below, passed unanimously at Labour’s 2016 conference:

“Unless the final settlement proves to be acceptable, then the option of retaining EU membership should be retained. The final settlement should therefore be subject to approval, through Parliament and potentially through a general election or referendum”

To explain Labour’s position, we return to Nash who described the ‘equilibrium point’, also known as the ‘best-response equilibrium’, in a game, as the point where the payoff is at a maximum achievable for both players.

For the Conservatives, having quickly identified the potential Brexit offered them, and following two embarrassing defeats in the courts, their maximum payoff lay in delivering an unamended bill, facilitated by a strategy of limited debate time, a wafer-thin white paper and ensuring their whips did their job as effectively as possible. Why this is their best strategy will become apparent later.

For Labour, their position was far more complex. Their need, to adopt a defensive strategy, was much greater than opposing Brexit, a tactic that, win or lose, could have precipitated a snap election. A decision which could realistically see Labour’s presence in the Commons fall to just 140 seats.

By way of explanation, Labour are in possession of data which reveals that, nationally, they find themselves in an extremely weak position, reflecting widely available data suggesting 44% of those who voted Labour in the 2015 election would not vote for Labour today.

If Labour had chosen an aggressive strategy for the Article 50 bill vote, one which had rallied the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the minority party MPs into an effective, cohesive, cross-party opposition to the Article 50 bill, far more than the alleged twelve Tory rebels could have been incentivised to vote against the government.

Conservative MP Steve Baker, a member of the influential European Research Group, stated that their research indicated 27 Tory MPs would be prepared to vote against the Article 50 bill, but, due to the position adopted by Labour, there was little incentive for the rebels to vote against their government, leaving Ken Clarke their only dissenter.

The Conservatives most likely reaction to defeat would have been an attempt to call a snap election to secure a more substantial mandate to proceed with Brexit.

Prior to the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, the method of calling an early election was to simply enact the Royal Prerogative. The new legislation offers two mechanisms for securing an early election.

Ironically, considering a primary cause of this Brexit fiasco is the Cameron governments poorly drafted legislation, one of these methods of securing an early election is to simply put it to a vote in the house, but, due to a threshold requirement, it would need the support of 66% of the 650 members, a threshold that was not only sadly lacking in the 2015 Referendum Act but was actively disregarded by the government who used its ‘advisory only’ nature to dismiss an SNP amendment.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act threshold requires the Conservatives to secure 429 votes. They have 329 MPs, Labour has 229, SNP 54 and the rest, 38. Sinn Fein has 4 members, who do not take their seats, any vacant seats and the speakers, remain part of the 650.

The other method is to simply put a vote of ‘no confidence’ to the house, and, if not resolved within 14 days, through another vote, an early election will take place. With a slim, albeit bizarrely increasing, majority, this method appears to be more achievable for the Conservatives.

Whilst Labour, given how they perceived their situation, concluded that voting with the government was their best strategy for that game, the game now moves on, and many have suggested Labour have an urgent need to address the root causes of their problems as failure to do so, or ignoring these perceived problems, will be catastrophic for both them and the country. Should they resist the easy option of blaming Jeremy Corbyn only to replace him with the wrong person?

Labour’s loss of appeal and electoral share is not a recent phenomenon; they’ve been losing votes since their landslide election victory of 1997 when 13.5m voted for them. Reduced to 9.3m by 2015, latest data suggests their vote could diminish to just over 5.2m, and they’re treating this forecast seriously with Corbyn commissioning a huge 30,000 respondent private poll.

Where have their voters gone? Well, since 1997, 4m are dead, but of course the electorate is dynamic, younger people and people who qualify are being added all the time, yet this contains another worrying statistic for Labour, as YouGov explains,

“Half a century ago, two-thirds of voters were working class. In 1997, they still outnumbered middle-class electors by two million. Today, Britain has six million more middle-class than working-class electors. Of course, the profile of Labour support has become more upmarket since 1997. That’s because Britain’s economic structure has changed, not because a disproportionate number of the party’s historic core voters have rebelled against the policies of the Blair/Brown years.”

Analysing the available information, data on where electors place themselves on a left/right scale, and examining their reading habits, reveals that whilst 29% of Labour’s voters from 1997 read right-wing titles such as The Mail, Sun, Star, Express and Telegraph, today, that figure has increased to 48%.

In terms of ideology, whilst 60% of current Labour voters still describe themselves as left-wing, a massive 48% of those, who once, but no longer, vote Labour, now describe themselves as centre to right.

Outside of ideological appeal, Labour face further problems in 2020 through boundary changes which will lead to the reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600. It is estimated that Labour will then need to win an eye-watering 106 seats to regain power.

Whilst the impact on the Labour vote from UKIP may have been somewhat overestimated, these changing dynamics of the electorate, in addition to changes in boundaries, the Brexit factor, the re-emergence, admittedly from a low base, of the Lib Dems, the strength of the SNP in Scotland, combined with Labour attempting to sell a product that the collective market demonstrably no longer identifies with, suggests that Labour could do well to heed Darwin, who said:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives; it is the one that is the most adaptable to change”

The passage of the ‘Withdrawal from the European Union (Article 50) Bill 2016-17’ through the Lords may see a slightly more robust examination than was provided by the Commons, but few doubt it will not eventually achieve ‘Royal Assent’ in time for Theresa May to broadly comply with her, self-imposed, end of March deadline.

The more immediate concerns for Labour, and the Remain movement as a whole, are the results of the Stoke and Copeland by-elections. The inevitable calls for the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn alone will not solve Labour’s problems and certainly will not begin to address the concerns of the majority of Labour supporters or indeed the majority of the British public, who are becoming increasingly sceptical of Brexit and of those who delivered it, namely due to recent admissions by Dominic Cummings and a quite nauseating mea culpa piece from Michael Gove.

If a simple use of basic Game Theory can be shown to produce a logical strategy, why then not employ a more sophisticated model to produce the best possible strategy to deliver the country from a decision taken ‘without knowledge of the terms of Brexit’?

Combining the data Labour are aware of, with the generally available data on voter preferences, such as that from the British Election Study, it would appear suicidal for Labour to continue a path in the hope that majority of the electorate will suddenly undergo a cataclysmic epiphany and change their view on life, politics, Labour and Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour need to wake up and realise the majority of people aren’t interested in Blairism or Corbynism or any other label for that matter, they just want to follow a leader who they believe will deliver.

Why are Labour so important to the Remain movement? Labour are by far the largest opposition party, the Liberal Democrats may be recovering, mainly through engaging disenfranchised Labour voters, but imagining they could swiftly mount a challenge to the runaway Tories is simply too big an ask.

This is also true of the remaining parties; second largest to Labour, the SNP, clearly has geographic limitations, as do the Welsh and the parties of Northern Ireland, with the remaining parties simply too small. As for forming a new party, well, we’ve been there before and with the time available this, again, is clearly not a viable option, but if Labour can’t extricate itself from its internal struggles, that course, as disastrous as it is, may appeal to some.

What the The Fabian Society has suggested is clearly far more logical. The past has gone and given that there’s little prospect of anything other than a Conservative government for perhaps decades to come, Labour needs to lead a coalition, a progressive alliance, or face the consequences of oblivion and the delivery of a damaging Brexit.

Labour has arrived, once again, at the age old dilemma, they’ve actually been there since Brown; what’s it to be, protest or power?

If it’s protest, carry on regardless, stay in the past. If it’s power, embrace the challenge and become an opposition that the government are terrified of and start representing the majority of the people. Put simply, put your country before your party and expose this nationalism that is masquerading as faux patriotism.

If Labour can accept their reality, they can lead a progressive, strategic alliance; not one assembled in the usual Heath Robinson post-election fashion, but constructed to build a timely, cohesive and effective opposition against Brexit and the consequences of Brexit.

The consequences of Brexit are exactly what the Tories desire, particularly the hard-right of the party, including those in the fancy dress of UKIP.

Their ultimate goal is to achieve a deregulated, small state, low tax economy where destructive creationism thrives, and, not only is this goal suddenly within their grasp, incredibly, the Labour party are actively helping them achieve it.

What is so wrong with this scenario? For those with a social conscience the consequences are dire. A low tax economy does not lend itself to a large state, which means the end of the NHS, possibly the greatest single piece of legislation the world has ever seen.

The National Health Service is an evolution developed from David Lloyd George’s National Insurance Act of 1911 which replaced the private health schemes which had only exacerbated sickness and misery amongst ordinary people.

The fifth largest employer on the planet, the National Health Service was designed to meet the needs of everyone, be free at the point of entry and be based on clinical need, not the ability to pay.

That our NHS is being underfunded is unquestionable, as is the fact that, despite the vigorous denials by the Prime Minister, the Conservatives are responsible for that underfunding. Labour cannot escape responsibility either, they’ve let them get away with this charade for seven years; who could imagine Labour losing a by-election in a Labour held constituency where the government is threatening to close their NHS maternity hospital? The uncomfortable truth is that the Labour party of today is not fit for purpose.

Too many in Labour have fallen for the lies and hatred that has ended up with a party that is so impotent. Too many fall for the myth that PFI is crippling the hospitals, a scheme that delivered over 100 hospitals and is still doing it, there’s a brand new state of the art hospital opening in Liverpool later this year, it will treat tens of millions in its lifetime, save the lives of millions in its lifetime and make millions of lives better as it alleviates illness.

You want to put a price on that? Well put this price on it, this is from the King’s Fund it shows exactly who is to blame for the engineered crisis in our NHS.

To demonstrate the reality of this underfunding you only have to look at the recent report from the Royal Society of Medicine linking 30,000 excess deaths in 2015 to cuts in health and social care. This is the reality of the meaningless war of words between politicians of  all parties over the NHS, a service admired around the world, envied even, a service that has enhanced the lives of countless millions, hundreds of millions down the years.

It leaves me cold to think of anyone in this country being told that they need treatment but their private insurance policy doesn’t cover it. Remember, the needs of everyone, free at the point of entry and based on clinical need not the ability to pay.

For a Labour leader to jeopardise over 100 years of progress is inexcusable. I’m not going to descend into ad hominem attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, nor Tony Blair for that matter, but this policy he’s adopted is, in my view, deplorable and indefensible and the whole party needs to take a long cold unemotional look at itself and it needs to do it quickly.

It’s madness for Labour to facilitate a situation that will enable the government to not only continue depriving the majority of the population of essential services, but extend this to accelerate the Conservative’s clear intention of converting the welfare state into the 51st state with American Healthcare companies waiting in the wings after being courted by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Jeremy Corbyn tells his detractors he’s a believer in democracy and that he’s the democratically elected leader of the Labour party, yet democracy is clearly something he adheres to only when it suits.

Just to remind everyone, the party’s democratically arrived at position is to remain in Europe, yet this clear position is being overridden because of one man’s mistaken belief that firstly this current Labour party will eventually come to power, it won’t, and secondly, the UK, unshackled from Europe’s state aid rules, will open the door a new Attlee style revolution – that won’t happen either, that moment was in post-war Britain, seventy years later the situation has changed.

The Conservatives are taking the whole of the country for a ride, they’re now proposing a further £6bn worth of cuts, yet, as you can see from this HMRC provided chart – a chart representing their total revenue collection including, income tax, capital gains tax, national insurance contributions, value added tax and corporation tax – they’re collecting more tax than ever, but, as you would expect from a Conservative government, one that is a lower percentage of GDP, and this is before you take into account the unprecedented level of borrowing that this government has undertaken meaning that by the end of this decade the national debt will be a mind-boggling £2trillion.

With the pound tanking on June 24th 2016, today it’s worth 17% less against the USD, the impact of this on all of Maslow’s basic physiological needs is more expensive food, fuel, clothing etc, aded to a reduction in tax revenue as exports are less costly, yet to be offset by a corresponding increase in export volume, an increase in inflation, ultimately leading to higher interests rates, therefore more expensive mortgages and loans.

The main stream media will concentrate on what this means to the markets and business, yet what it means to the vast majority of the population is further misery heaped on the back of an unnecessary austerity programme.

The sole blame for all of this is the Conservative Party. It was their decision to place a binarary question on an extremely complex relationship before a largely oblivious electorate in order to neutralise the percieved threat of UKIP and placate a small number of right-wing members and backers of their party.

These are the main reasons, by no means an exhaustive list, why I believe Labour must take the lead and head an alliance to stop Brexit at all costs.

The overriding reason preventing Labour doing this is their elephant in the room. The largest party needs a progressive and charismatic leader to achieve this and appeal to the electorate.

Unquestionably, Jeremy Corbyn has many desirable qualities, a passionate man who commands loyalty from 62% of Labour’s 550,000 members, but surprisingly less from Labour long-time members and even less from Labour voters.

Corbyn’s power base, amongst members, appears to be concentrated in members who joined after he was elected, didn’t vote Labour in the 2015 election, became a member during the 2015 leadership election and, significantly, at 52%, voted Leave.

There’s little wrong with Labour’s policies but what Jeremy Corbyn can never be described as is a progressive charismatic leader that appeals to a significant sector of the 46.5m UK electorate.

Labour, due to their action of supporting the Conservative’s Article 50 bill, would appear to have accepted that they are now unable to oppose the government. To continue with this total capitulation, even if accepted that, given their situation, this is their best survival strategy, it remains difficult to comprehend given what the Conservative party has done and what, if unchallenged, it will do.

It’s difficult to ascertain when the Conservatives decided the annoyance of UKIP became the golden opportunity of Brexit. Certainly, with hindsight, their reluctance to adopt an amendment to the Referendum Act bill, an amendment that would have introduced a threshold, refused on the basis that the referendum was purely ‘advisory’, was somewhat surprising, but pales into insignificance at what happened within hours of the result of the referendum being declared.

The Right-Wing Media Has Farage Everywhere – Despite Having Just One MP He’s Been on Question Time 36 Times.

The ‘advisory’ 52/48 referendum suddenly became mandatory, ‘the people had spoken’ ‘a clear mandate’ ‘a clear majority’ ‘the will of the people’ became the instant mantras of the right-wing press and those fringe politicians of the Leave campaigns who hadn’t disappeared into thin air.

Within hours the elected Prime Minister had resigned, within weeks the elected government had been replaced with one selected by the Conservative 1922 Committee, so much for ordinary people ‘Taking Back Control’.

Theresa May delivered a carefully prepared slogan, ‘Brexit means Brexit’ a slogan instantly screamed by the right-wing tabloids, backed up by the old ‘will of the people’ tagline and, a new diktat, ‘the referendum must be respected’ designed to make any dissenter appear as treacherous as Lord Haw-Haw if they attempted to stand in the way of the unelected government’s attempt to illegally bypass parliament by using the Royal Prerogative to activate Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty; so much for regaining Sovereignty.

But wait, the referendum must be respected? Then why not respect the whole of the referendum? The legal status of the referendum has been conveniently ignored; it was a consultative referendum, advisory only; this aspect of the referendum is certainly not being respected and has been conveniently discarded by the new government in what appears to be their relentless quest to deliver a Brexit at any cost to the nation.

Eurosceptics prefer to state that the advisory element didn’t matter, now it’s all about this ‘will of the people’. However, it mattered enough when it was used to dismiss that SNP amendment to the 2015 Referendum Act, as Hansard shows, below.

As with many of the untruths over the past seven years, the demonstrably untrue ‘will of the people’ line should have been challenged by the Labour party, in their official role as the opposition, but it wasn’t.

With 96% of Labour MP’s voting Remain, 90% of Labour members voting Remain along with 63% of Labour supporters voting Remain, Labour, clearly are the Remain Party, albeit led by two historic Eurosceptics, Corbyn and McDonnell, who appear joined at the lip, and a disappointing deputy leader, Tom Watson, who talks about unity and the need to convince people to vote Labour, but offers little else.

If Labour had represented the wishes of their party, including the 48% who voted Remain, naturally the tabloids and the Conservatives would have accused Labour of being undemocratic and unpatriotic, but, realistically, such a challenge would have been far from being against the will of the people of the United Kingdom.

With only 37% of the electorate voting Leave, a collective representing just 27% of the UK’s total population, Labour should have looked to the majority, the 63% of the electorate not voting Leave, the 48% Remainers who, rather disgracefully, are being completely ignored by everyone, and used them to form a new power base.

Who exactly is being unpatriotic? Those who would attempt to protect the interests of an increasing majority of the UK or those attempting to promote the agenda of a handful of people steeped in far-right ideology?  Hardly the ‘will of the people’ more the will of a small group of right-wing fanatics. Did Labour fall for all this ‘will of the people’ and ‘respect the referendum’ a little too easily; was it just all too convenient for Labour’s current leadership?

The referendum result was little more than an indication of the electorate’s opinion on a given day, and, since June 2016, so much evidence of outright lies, manipulation and mysterious funding of the various Leave campaigns has emerged that it has only confirmed to me why any civilised country voting on an issue of such constitutional importance would place safeguards, such as including a threshold, in order to avoid a close result mistakenly giving the country’s lawmakers inaccurate information on the true ‘will of the people’.

Far too many anomalies exist over this result for anyone, other than those with vested interests, to believe that this is ‘the will of the people’. Those prevented from voting, such as the million who have lived in Europe for over 15 years and the 750,000 aged 16-18 whose lives will be detrimentally affected by Brexit, even the 650,000 over 65’s who will have died by the time Brexit may be achieved, will all have an impact, notwithstanding those who will change their mind as the truth unfurls.

As well as being confused by the poorly drafted referendum bill, I for one am also confused by the astonishing claim that leaving EU will address people’s concerns over immigration, concerns fanned, over decades, by right-wing tabloids and expertly brought to an inferno by Nigel Farage. I’m confused due to the fact that most immigration into the UK is from outside the EU, as can be seen below:

Secondly, as can be seen in this article on the Brexitshambles website, there are plenty of existing immigration control regulations which the government simply chooses not to employ, meaning that control could have taken back control at any time they chose to, so how voting to leave the EU will address these concerns is beyond me.

Surely, by now, people voting Leave must realise they have been misled when David Davis recently announced EU immigration is here to stay. ‘Let’s Take Back Control’ voters were told, told to reinforced nationalistic fears instilled by mass, coordinated, non-relenting misinformation campaigns conducted through the media, via the Leave organisations and AI propaganda companies allegedly using highly dubious psychographic techniques.

What happens when you start telling lies is that you eventually get found out. Immigrants aren’t putting pressure on our services, our hospitals; government policy is putting pressure on our hospitals, a government that is happy for the likes of UKIP and the right-wing press to deflect attention from the truth and stir-up racial tension.

Allowing the media to get away with this is madness, allowing a government to profit from it is criminal; yet whilst this has been happening, Labour have not only been ineffective in opposing Brexit, they’ve actively facilitated it by holding the EU door wide-open for the government as they shove us through. Labour’s actions in the Commons were bad enough, in the Lords, well, they’re just collaborating to make our country a poorer place.

The whole premise on which Brexit was secured has been a lie, a lie specifically designed to mislead the electorate in order to achieve something that being a member of the EU prevents.

I can understand that the EU isn’t perfect, what is? What I can’t understand is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. If something is broken, you may apply a temporary fix, but then you examine, understand how it works, identify the root cause of the problem and improve it, that’s using your intelligence, that’s why we no longer live in caves; you don’t smash it to pieces, that’s being a Neanderthal.

It’s bad enough that the electorate was misinformed over how the EU operates but there’s something deeply sinister in how in this post-truth, alternative fact world, immigration was used as little more than a device to deliver something that certainly wasn’t on the ballot sheet – a reform of a magnitude that has the potential to make Thatcherism appear benevolent and the prospective break-up of the United Kingdom; but who could blame Scotland and Ireland now?

Inevitably, there’s a certain amount of revisionism being promoted at the moment, we’re being led to believe that sophisticated algorithms operated by secretive and innovative data mining companies delivered a Brexit vote through ‘the people of Britain voting with determination and quiet resolve’. Absolute rubbish; the madness of Brexit is nothing more than a government taking advantage of their lunatic fringe, branded UKIP, welcoming the abhorrent dregs of political society.

It’s never been the ‘will of the people’ or any other of the descriptors designed to convince the country that it was. The truth is, this marginal majority of just 1.3m means that this ‘will of the people’ boils down to the decision of no more than 650,000 people on the day; just 1% of the population.

A mandate? Come on, we’re better than this aren’t we? We’re going to allow the morons and xenophobes to be used by a party hell bent on delivering a deregulated, small state, low tax economy that will detrimentally effect the lives of countless millions that make-up the vast majority of the UK? Think what you will of Tony Blair but he was right, it is time to rise up, but the question is who will lead the resurrection?

I’ve supported and voted Labour all my life. I’ve always believed in a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect. Yet I see no contradiction whatsoever in opposing the result of this referendum, a referendum that was delivered through deceit and sinister manipulation of the many by a select few.

Whilst I can accept Labour may have taken a strategic decision in supporting the government’s Brexit bill, I don’t agree with it; furthermore, I see the decision as no more than a convenient policy for Jeremy Corbyn to continue with archaic concepts involving Eurosceptisism, protest, and a belief that because policies worked in the past they’ll work in the future.

It’s actually verging on a bastardised form of creative destruction, a concept promoted by Patrick Minford, based on Milton Friedman’s theories on ‘natural unemployment’ and so lovingly embraced by Thatcher, and we all know how that worked out. Remember what Darwin said, not the fittest, not the most intelligent, but the most adaptable.

The problem Labour face today was highlighted in Scotland by their deputy leader Tom Watson, he said, “This is not the time for a leadership election. That issue was settled last year, but we have to do better. We cannot sustain this level of distance from the electorate, from our natural supporters.”

There you have it, not the time for a leadership challenge, but they have to do better. This can only be achieved by Jeremy Corbyn taking a long hard look into the mirror and acknowledging that he doesn’t have the skillset to, not only reduce, but irradicate the distance that has developed between Labour and its natural supporters. Can he put his party, indeed the country, before his principles? I’d like to think that he could, but something tells me that he won’t.

If he did who could be his replacement? Certainly none of the shadow cabinet, few of them even represent Labour’s A team, neither will a new leader be found amongst MP’s that have previously challenged for the leadership, none of those were good enough either.

A new approach needs to be adopted to both ignite and excite the electorate. It’s a relatively simple exercise to enumerate likely candidates and devise a game which identifies those candidates who will, given the opposition’s position on Brexit and a whole range of issues such as the economy, health, defence and education, not only put the fear of god into the Conservative front bench but will have the electorate once again believing in an effective opposition which will make their lives, their children’s lives, indeed their grand-children’s lives, better.

Run that game again and again and one person emerges head and shoulders above every possible candidate. The 44 year old former Major in the British Army, Dan Jarvis MBE served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was deployed twice, first on reconnaissance missions to Helmand Province, followed by a six-month tour as a company commander with the Special Forces. Jarvis joined the Labour party at 18, but put politics on hold due to his Army career.

In 2011 he resigned his commission following the death of his wife from cancer. He was selected for the Barnsley Central by-election and, utilising his military background, he ran an effective, efficient and ultimately successful campaign which he named ‘Operation Honey Badger’ after the tireless, intelligent and vicious animal.

He has limited ministerial cabinet experience but served as Shadow Arts & Culture minister, and, following the 2013 reshuffle, Shadow Justice Minister. His no nonsense approach was confirmed when a mugger at King’s Cross station threatened to hit him with a bottle unless he handed over his wallet, “we both know that’s not going to happen” Jarvis coolly told the luckless mugger.

If you run the game again, without Jarvis, the MP best suited for the position of deputy is the 54 year old former QC of the year and current shadow to David Davis, Keir Starmer.

After gaining a first class degree in law from Leeds University, he continued his studies at Oxford and was called to the Bar in 1987. Appointed a QC in 2002, he was a human rights advisor to the Police in Northern Ireland from 2003 until 2008.

Awarded QC of the Year in 2007, he moved to the DPP as Head of the Crown Prosecution Service from 2008 until 2013. Starmer entered Parliament in May 2015 and became a junior shadow minister. He resigned following the EU referendum, arguing that Labour needed a new leader but later accepted the position of shadow minister for exiting the European Union.

The combination of an Army Major and a QC, with age on their side and successful careers under their belts, leading the fight against the madness of Brexit is a strategy that offers Labour a payoff like no other available and will terrify the very life out of the Conservatives.

Building and selecting the strategies to counter the responses likely to be employed by the governemnt would involve using more complex aspects of game theory, management systems such as strategic game forms as seen below.

Tories    
    If Tories Choose A, Then If Tories Choose B, Then If Tories Choose C, Then A B C
Labour 1 d d d (__l__) (__l__) (__l__)
2 d d e (__l__) (__l__) (__l__)
3 d e d (__l__) (__l__) (__l__)
4 d e e (__l__) (__l__) (__l__)
5 e d d (__l__) (__l__) (__l__)
6 e d e (__l__) (__l__) (__l__)
7 e e d (__l__) (__l__) (__l__)
8 e e e (__l__) (__l__) (__l__)
Payoffs

 

Is this just a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted? Not at all, far from it. The Conservatives, full of their usual sense of entitlement, may appear at the top of their game over Brexit, but so far, all they’ve done is lose two court cases and scrape together a bill that’s already suffered one defeat in the Lords and will no doubt suffer more.

If their true record of handling the economy, the country’s finances, the NHS and the nations defence is anything to go by it’s only a matter of time before the real problems begin to surface, in fact they already have.

Cornwall has already discovered that the £60m they receive annually from the EU will be reduced to just £18m, despite the promises to the contrary from Leave it’s just impossible for a government intent on delivering a small state to continue with subsidies of the magnitude enjoyed by the EU redistributing the payments from the UK. It will be the farmers next, their £6bn subsidies will be phased out, again, due to the Conservatives small state, low tax economy model.

A further illustration of Conservative incompetence was seen recently when Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Liz Truss said Article 50 is irrevocable, meaning there would be no prospect of Britain staying in the European Union after triggering negotiations on Brexit. This is what the Conservatives are counting on and, as before, over the High Court and Supreme Court advice, they’re wrong.

In response to Liz Truss, Lord Kerr, the former UK diplomat who wrote the Lisbon Treaty, including Article 50, said, “It is not irrevocable, you can change your mind while the process is going on. During that period, if a country were to decide actually we don’t want to leave after all, everybody would be very cross about it being a waste of time, they might try to extract a political price, but legally they couldn’t insist that you leave.”

Then there’s Bindmans LLP who have published a fascinating opinion, known as the three knight’s opinion, which argues that the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill does not authorise Brexit, and that a further Act of Parliament will be required if Brexit is to occur in a way that is lawful as a matter of UK law.

The real game changer, and one that the Conservative Brexiteers are deeply concerned about, is the case brought in the Irish courts by barrister Jolyon Maugham QC. The case is being taken against the Irish government, the European Commission and the European Council, to argue that they have breached the law in relation to Article 50, it’s hoped that the Irish court refers it to a higher court operating on a European level, ironically the European Court of Justice.

Jolyon Maugham has said, “If we cannot withdraw our Article 50 notification then Parliament will have to accept those agreements – whatever their content. Like a Model T Ford, it will be able to choose any colour it wants, but only so long as it’s black. The Government will have free reign to do exactly what it wants. There will be no control by Parliament.”

The case, if won, will have a major impact on the government’s plans; it means that, even if they inform the EU of the UK’s intention to leave, that decision is not final, it can be reversed, and as the public become better informed as to what has happened over the referendum and their understanding of their fate under what this government will negotiate increases, will they really accept a worse deal than what we have, one which will have little influence on the issue that was most important to those voting Leave?

The game will once again move on, and, no longer in control of the Brexit situation and potentially pressurised and under immense scrutiny by the opposition, Theresa May could be instructed by her masters to go to the country to strengthen the Conservative position, in which case, who would you want to see leading the opposition to their plans?

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Colin Fitzpatrick has a background in engineering and business, he has interests in politics and strategy formulation.

 

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