October 29, 2019
People's Vote descends into Civil War
We are generally cautious about making political predictions. Some of the firmer calls we made have been that Brexit will happen, and that there will be no second referendum. Events might still turn against us. But at least yesterday's events moved towards both of our central Brexit expectations.
The second referendum campaign - or the People's Vote as they euphemistically call themselves - had a very bad day. The infighting that has been going on under the surface erupted into the open amid a classic power struggle. The so-call People's Vote is a coalition of nine organisations with different aims. One of the PV's ringleaders is Roland Rudd, the brother of Amber Rudd, and one of the leaders pro-Remain campaigners in 2016. He is the head of Open Britain, one of the organisations behind the PV campaign. He fired two people over the weekend: the head of communications and the campaign director. But they refused to go, challenging Rudd's right to dismiss them. They are backed by Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair's former enforcer. There was a staff walk-out yesterday as the whole thing descended into chaos.
So, what is this about?
The two men dismissed by Rudd wanted to keep the PV campaign on the straight and narrow by focusing on the second referendum. Others want the PV to become a vehicle to revoke Brexit by whichever means possible. The split in the PV campaign is the counterpart of what is happening on the opposition benches in the UK parliament. The LibDems no longer back a second referendum, and have switched their strategy to full-on support for Brexit revocation. Labour's official position is to hold a second referendum after it negotiates a customs union deal with the EU.
We noted a comment on Twitter yesterday that the PV is not really about Brexit but about its supporters' grip on power. It is the crowd that used to run the country. When they started to win their big political battles in the mid-to-late 1990s, they thought they had defeated the Thatcherite right forever. To them Brexit came as a complete shock for which they were ill-prepared in 2016. We noted at the time that they never reflected on the deep causes of their defeat, and moved on seamlessly to the second referendum campaign.