Politics, on a horse

Gordon! Get yourself a wagon and a poem.

Wonderful news from Slovakia today (thank you to the Slovak Spectator). It appears that the Slovak agriculture minister, Stanislav Becík, has taken to poetry and horse-drawn carts to spread his message to the people. Gordon Brown might be doing social work in Kirkcaldy, but is he travelling the length of the country in a modified gypsy caravan with political slogans on the side? No, he is not.

In the global ranking of Ludicrous Political Stunts, where David Cameron's wind turbine charges in at number one, Becík has made an extraordinary entry into second position. This is the stuff of greatness. And the poem! Oh, the poem. Here's a sample:

In the whole world, farmers are best,
No other caste can pass the test,
Keep them always in deep respect,
Your gratitude never defect.

Gordon! Come on! Write a poem. What about:

In the whole world, Brownies (also known as people strong-armed by Mandy) are best,
No other bunch can pass the test,
Keep them always in deep respect,
And please for God's sake support us otherwise everything will go tits up come the election and I'll have to go back to hanging out in Kircaldy all the time (a week was enough) and stop holding big international world-saving summits which will be rubbish.

(Yes, yes, I know, it doesn't quite scan yet. But come ON, Gordon, live a little.)

 

 

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.