Gordon Brown leads the guff charge

Election 2010: Guffwatch.

The problem with election campaigns is how much everyone has to say -- both politicians and the media. Hour after hour is spent churning out words to fill hour after hour of campaign speech-making and news report.

But hidden in the thickening broth of guff are always some true gems. The überguff, ultra-guff, the big-time, full-blown, hot-air-filled guff glory. Welcome to Election 2010. And all its guff.

So. First up is Gordon Brown's substantial speech on constitutional reform delivered in London today. Big stuff, solid announcements. And a conclusion so guff-filled I didn't know where to look.

And so I know that this is a road which progressives must walk alone. Progressives know the struggle always continues and so if further change is needed, we will make it. Because more, far more, is now at issue than the revolving door of power shifting between parties. Too much of our politics has been a closed shop to too many people for too long.

Woah there, Gordon. You've got a road, a revolving door and a closed shop. Are you creating a metaphorical townscape? But also, in the words of a great song, you'll never walk alone as long as everyone else thinks they're a progressive, too. Which they do.

And what about open shops with revolving doors? Hey? Didn't think of that, did you? That's the problem with metaphors and their inevitable mixing. They'll lead you up the garden path and chuck you out the window (yes, on purpose).

Anyway, check back tomorrow for more Guff. This election might already feel tiresome in many ways, but there will never be a shortage of the guff stuff. Of that you can be sure.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Theresa May's "clean Brexit" is hard Brexit with better PR

The Prime Minister's objectives point to the hardest of exits from the European Union. 

Theresa May will outline her approach to Britain’s Brexit deal in a much-hyped speech later today, with a 12-point plan for Brexit.

The headlines: her vow that Britain will not be “half in, half out” and border control will come before our membership of the single market.

And the PM will unveil a new flavour of Brexit: not hard, not soft, but “clean” aka hard but with better PR.

“Britain's clean break from EU” is the i’s splash, “My 12-point plan for Brexit” is the Telegraph’s, “We Will Get Clean Break From EU” cheers the Express, “Theresa’s New Free Britain” roars the Mail, “May: We’ll Go It Alone With CLEAN Brexit” is the Metro’s take. The Guardian goes for the somewhat more subdued “May rules out UK staying in single market” as their splash while the Sun opts for “Great Brexpectations”.

You might, at this point, be grappling with a sense of déjà vu. May’s new approach to the Brexit talks is pretty much what you’d expect from what she’s said since getting the keys to Downing Street, as I wrote back in October. Neither of her stated red lines, on border control or freeing British law from the European Court of Justice, can be met without taking Britain out of the single market aka a hard Brexit in old money.

What is new is the language on the customs union, the only area where May has actually been sparing on detail. The speech will make it clear that after Brexit, Britain will want to strike its own trade deals, which means that either an unlikely exemption will be carved out, or, more likely, that the United Kingdom will be out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union.

(As an aside, another good steer about the customs union can be found in today’s row between Boris Johnson and the other foreign ministers of the EU27. He is under fire for vetoing an EU statement in support of a two-state solution, reputedly to curry favour with Donald Trump. It would be strange if Downing Street was shredding decades of British policy on the Middle East to appease the President-Elect if we weren’t going to leave the customs union in order at the end of it.)

But what really matters isn’t what May says today but what happens around Europe over the next few months. Donald Trump’s attacks on the EU and Nato yesterday will increase the incentive on the part of the EU27 to put securing the political project front-and-centre in the Brexit talks, making a good deal for Britain significantly less likely.

Add that to the unforced errors on the part of the British government, like Amber Rudd’s wheeze to compile lists of foreign workers, and the diplomatic situation is not what you would wish to secure the best Brexit deal, to put it mildly.

Clean Brexit? Nah. It’s going to get messy. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.