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Brexit has unified the Conservative Party and divided Labour

In a recent posting here, which I called How Brexit has unified the Conservative Party, and which I might have called (as I said in it (but never mind, I can use that title for this)) “Brexit has unified the Conservative Party and divided Labour”, I explained how Brexit had unified the Conservatives and had divided Labour.

Last night there was a vote in the House of Commons about whether Britain should proceed with what its voters had voted for.

Total number of Conservative MPs who voted against the bill, despite Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May commanding them to vote for it: 1.

Total number of Labour MPs who voted against the bill, despite Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn commanding them to vote for it: 47.

See what I mean.

The irony being that the demand that the House of Commons have its own vote on the matter has only served to highlight this Conservative Leave-inspired unanimity and Labour Remain-inspired division.

For how long will EUrope divide the political left in Britain? From where I sit, the longer the better.

32 comments to Brexit has unified the Conservative Party and divided Labour

  • Stuck-record

    It’s funny, I haven’t particularly been impressed by Theresa May over the years. Her stint at the Home Office was a disaster by any metric, and her attitude on freedom of information, identity cards and civil liberties is suspect to say the least.

    However, the trap she set for the remainders over the whole Parliamentary sovereignty issue was so blindingly obvious that it’s astonishing that the entire media and political left fell into it. As the saying goes, never interrupt your enemy when they are making a mistake. It was baffling to watch the opponents of Leave seize onto Supreme Court/legal option. By demanding the parliamentary vote they played into the Prime Minister’s hands. From the point they instigated legal proceedings it was a lose lose situation.

    Parliament (unless it was prepared to issue a gigantic suicide note and trigger an election thereby decimating the already pitiful rollcall of Labour MPs) was always going to vote in favour of supporting article 50. Always.

    If the Supreme Court vote went for the government there would be no Parliamentary vote, unless unless the Prime Minister volunteered to have one – which they would then win.

    If the Supreme Court vote went against the government there would have to be a parliamentary vote, which they would then win.

    It’s baffling what they thought they could achieve.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I guess what this also proves is that the campaign, led by the likes of Gina Miller, and law firm Mishcon de Reya, to force a vote and try and stop Brexit, while done by people who wanted to stop Brexit, has not only failed utterly in its ultimate objective, but also achieved the consequence Brian talks about. These people are so stupid it surprises even me. There is a basic lack of cunning.

    To some extent I agree with Brian that it is baffling that these idiots thought they could succeed. But in a way it has been positive to see such a big majority, because it is so emphatic.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    I think what is happening here is that for many Remainers this is one of those all-or-nothing issues. I actually don’t think they’re being stupid, JP, given their unifying axiom (which is stupid I do agree). That would be Stuck-record.

    And the Remainer unifying axiom is: that Brexit will be a total, total catastrophe, for them, for their idea of their country, for their country, for the universe, for all that is good and true and noble. As such, Brexit must, if conceivably possible, be stopped, 1940 style, no matter what the odds against success and no matter how much damage this fight does to the general left wing camp and cause. They’ll worry about what the hell to do next only when this battle is irrevocably lost.

    When will they decide that the Brexit battle IS lost? There will be further disagreements about that too. There already are, presumably.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    I’ll add that I think that ONE is the perfect number for the number of Conservative MPs who voted against. Because ONE proves that you COULD vote against it. If you did, you wouldn’t die a frightful death, only a metaphorical political death. ZERO would actually have suggested a stronger feeling of rebellion amongst all those commanded.

    This reminds me a bit of a vote of confidence during World War 2, a vote that Churchill won with just ONE vote against. That one vote against making the point that the right to vote NO was all part of what we were fighting for.

  • Stonyground

    I can slightly sympathise with MPs who voted remain because their constituency voted remain, they were representing the majority of their constituents after all. Those who voted remain against the wishes of their constituents are without excuse. I would be interested to see some kind of breakdown of who voted remain and what their constituents voted.

  • Flubber

    Re: Stuck-record

    There’s another trap been set for two years hence – the vote on the deal we achieve from the EU. If that is voted down, then we leave anyway on WTO rules.

    Another win-win…

  • staghounds

    This vote is the first thing that’s made me hopeful that Brexit might actually happen.

  • Stuck-record (February 2, 2017 at 10:42 am): “It’s baffling what they thought they could achieve.”

    It may mean something that the legal case was brought by an outsider. I think that (quite apart from maybe having a better feel for the true constitutional position), many Remainer MPs suspected how pointless it all was. Perhaps this is an example of what happens when your base takes your OTT rhetoric too seriously. Foreseeing the consequences of incentives is not something the left are that good at, even in their own political sphere.

    Disrupting the schedule – forcing Theresa to delay article 50 from March 31st to April 1st say 🙂 – would no doubt be satisfying to them, though I think even that looks unlikely.

  • Runcie Balspune

    I would be interested to see some kind of breakdown of who voted remain and what their constituents voted.

    Accurate data has been hard to come by as the district voting results don’t quite line up with the constituencies, there are some who have made an effort but the general consensus is that most constituencies voted leave by a clear margin.

    Guido Fawkes has a little list of MPs who voted against Brexit despite their constituency voting leave.

  • Rob

    I remember the days when 47 MPs voting against their party on Europe would have resulted in banner headlines on the BBC about “massive Tory splits”.

    Can’t seem to find them about Labour.

  • Watchman

    We could be (unnecessarily?) fair to Gina Miller and friends, and note they did claim their case was to ensure that parliament, not executive authority, was paramount in triggering the British withdrawal from the EU. OK, they wanted parliament not to follow the referendum, as that was what they believed was best, but on reflection I am not sure I disagree with the actual case they made.

    Although their insistence on follow constitutional norms might make them akin to Donald Trump’s supreme court nominee, who is also a constitutionalist apparently. Maybe the death of the liberal tradition is going to usher back in a reliance on constitutional norms rather than convenenient interpretations?

  • Watchman


    I think the headlines would only be grabbed if Labour actually acted in a united fashion – their splits seem to be the default setting now. Have to say I wouldn’t think it was a major story…

  • Stonyground

    Many thanks to Runcie Balspune for the link. Just eight MPs defying both the nation and those that they are paid to represent. Hopefully they will all be sent packing at the next election.

  • Duncan S

    There is one aspect of the Supreme Court case which, in my opinion, makes it worth the time and money spent: the unanimous decision of the judges that the devolved administrations had no say in the matter of Brexit. Whilst it hasn’t shut Nicola Selfie up, at least it has confirmed that Theresa May can ignore her.

  • James g

    Bigger picture, I see ‘the left’ currently being unable to resist this whole identity politics/virtue posturing/social justice nonsense we are seeing peak right now. It’s like cheese in a mousetrap to them. You see it in MPs demanding May be rude to Trump to stand up for ‘values’. It is the replacement of real politics with the instant gratification of social alignment to a cause, however stupid. But the feedback is all wrong. The better they think they do, the more they are losing because they can’t measure the mainstreet reaction properly. This will destroy the left as they double down each time they sense their cognitive dissonance. They now really think Trump supporters are Nazis and Brexit supporters are racists. You cannot function politically when distorting reality to that extent.

  • Cal Ford

    Brian, I said you were right in your original piece, and there’s no doubting it now.

  • Charlie Suet

    Why is the modern left so completely infatuated with the EU? Is it:

    – Hatred of the UK and desire to see its institutions destroyed
    – Hatred of the Nigel Farage type
    – Over-emphasis on being anti-racist, such that criticising Belgians and Germans, even justifiably, is unacceptable.
    – Love of bureaucracy and red tape.
    – The sort of power worship Orwell criticised.

    One could make many criticisms of Michael Foot, but he appeared to have a sincere respect for Parliament as an institution, which the left in general needs to rediscover. But currently many in the Labour Party seems to want to take credit for devolution for Wales and Scotland while being emotionally attached to its opposite in the U.K. as a whole.

  • Paul Marks

    Brian is correct – the Labour Party is more split on the European Union than the Conservative Party is.

    The European Union is a collectivist dream – Sir Francis Bacon (“New Atlantis”), his servant Thomas Hobbes, follower Sir William Petty, 13 Departments of State Jeremy Bentham would have loved the European Union.

    The E.U. preserves the image of independence – Kings and Queens rolling around in carriages waving as the masses, Parliaments (with elections) strutting about with “Mr Speaker” and so on – but none of it matters, all real power is with officials sitting in Brussels. who can impose any “enlightened” regulations they like.

    This is why if a “free market” person tells me they are pro E.U. I tend have a dim view of them – I can see why a collectivist would want officials to have the power to impose any regulations they feel like, without the consent of Parliaments (leaving the Parliaments to engage in ritual dances or just make animal noises), but a free market person who wants officials to have unlimited powers and impose them on a continent (no “voting with your feet”) is an idiot. And I may age I am quite likely to just tell them they are an idiot – which is bad of me, as I should carefully explain why they are mistaken.

    However, watch out for Conservative Party splits in future.

    The so called “Single Market” is the legal power of the European Union to impose its regulations on our domestic (internal) affairs – NOT just our trade with the E.U.

    As Prime Minister May (a “Remainer” remember) said – staying in the so called “Single Market” is legally the same as being in the E.U., its officials could still impose any regulations they liked upon us.

    Why would any Conservative Member of Parliament want to stay in the so called “Single Market” which is the legal power of the E.U. to impose endless regulations upon our domestic (internal) economy, NOT just our trade with the E.U. without our consent.

    The reason is a blunt one, some Conservative Members of Parliament are financially linked to companies that benefit from these regulations – benefit by preventing potential competitors (normally smaller business enterprises).

    I wish I could say the Conservative Party was free of such corrupt so called “Single Market” people – but it is not free of such corrupt people.

    How many there are in Parliament remains to be seen.

  • Paul Marks

    BBC “Question Time”.

    “Remainer” dominated panel – talking rubbish about the “racism” of Donald Trump.

    And “Remainer” dominated audience – screaming “racist” at most things (although with a few decent people in it).

    “Change the station Paul”.

    One problem with that – ALL television and radio stations in the United Kingdom have the same “liberal-left” political opinions BY LAW. This is what the “regulations” and “watch dog bodies” lead to.

    Name a television station or radio station in Britain that was not pro “Remain”.

    “But we won anyway Paul”.

    Yes there is that – I must remind myself not to watch British television or listen to British radio, it tends to put me it a nasty mixture of despair and rage. Which may not be justified – as a lot of other people in Britain are not watching British television or listening to British radio.

  • Alex

    Yes Paul, it is important to remember that it is a minority that watches BBC Question Time. It always was but I suspect there are fewer than ever watching it now. Personally, I went from watching every week in the late 90s through to 2011 or so to not watching it at all since mid-2011. I don’t believe I’m alone in that change.

  • Mr Ed

    “Change the station Paul”.

    One problem with that – ALL television and radio stations in the United Kingdom have the same “liberal-left” political opinions BY LAW. This is what the “regulations” and “watch dog bodies” lead to.

    Indeed, so the natural solution is to stop watching TV live and stop paying the TV licence, starving the beast of £145.50. My boycott has saved me almost £1,000 over the years, not counting the Sky that I cancelled (add another £2,000 from that). So I am £3,000 richer, they are £3,000 poorer, and I don’t subsidise their drivel.

    And do I miss TV? No, not even with my shoes.

  • Peter George Stewart

    @Charlie Suet

    The reason they are so dead set against Leave is the cosmopolitanism. The general idea being pushed by the regressive, globalist, SJW Left, and funded by crony capitalists like Soros, is the end of the nation state. That’s where the battle lines are.

    The world has been in the position of the victim of a spider wasp – gradually, gradually falling asleep and being paralyzed by a particular ideology. What’s happened is that Brexit was like a flare in the dark that sort of woke everyone up, and now people are rediscovering their primary allegiance to the nation state (it being the largest-sized mass that most people can feasibly feel allegiance to and be properly represented by).

    Now of course a Kantian, Star-Trek like cosmopolitanism and federation is in our future, and indeed I welcome it in the long run, the problem is that it’s just been forced too early (just as previous “united nations” attempts have been too forced and artificial) and on an ideologically Left-wing basis (transnational socialism), which means it’s too much oriented around centralized control without proper political representation. So the world is putting the brakes on, and saying “whoa, hang on, there’s still life left in the old nation state”.

    I think we’re going to find, ironically, that all the “exit” nations, waking up and becoming cognizant of each other, have more of a sense of brotherhood-in-arms, and may actually form a loose association that’s the beginning of a true united nations in the near future.

  • Antoine Clarke


    I refer you to the answer I have given before…

  • Alisa

    Now of course a Kantian, Star-Trek like cosmopolitanism and federation is in our future, and indeed I welcome it in the long run


  • Watchman


    I’d suggest there is a good case for it as international mobility and communication increases. I have one sibling and five cousins, and between us we have five spouses, of whom two are not from the UK; one of my other cousins has worked in other countries and two of the rest of us travel internationally for work multiple times a year. I am hardly atypical of a fairly wealthy and educated UK family (defined by more degrees that people in a generation perhaps). This sort of engagement makes interconnection more likely.

    It does not make the death of the nation state more likely though, any more than the existence of the nation state needs to make the death of the pre-existing political units more likely. Whether it be the sultans still covering much of Malaysia and Indonesia, or the survival of many native American identities, or the fact many nation states are in fact federations of smaller units, the nation state as it now exists has generally only erased its precursor units in pursuit of a particular totalitarian goal. If the Kantian cosmpolitan model of effective global unification takes place (geekily, I think in Star Trek the narrative was that this happened after wars, so this is not comparable) then it will be a matter of something achieved despite and over nation states.

    Of course, this is only a cas. I think Peter may be a bit too confident in his statement myself as other futures are possible, not all ideal, but some such as resource-sated anarchy perfectly acceptable (ironically the only model I can see for that ideal, Dancers at the End of Time was written by a fairly socialist writer…).

  • Alisa

    I just don’t see why mobility and communication, whether international, or interpersonal, or inter-any-other-human-unit, require any sort of ‘unification’?

  • Peter George Stewart


    I don’t think globalism and cosmopolitanism require “unification” – that’s the problem with this recent attempt – it tried to force a specific, Left-politicized unity.

    I think globalism will come naturally, as faith and tribalism gradually fade, and reason and individualism gradually take their place (as has been happening over the past few hundred years), simply because the things that divide us are relatively trivial in comparison to the things that unite us naturally, as severally reality-facing human beings. Everybody hurts and we all need crockery.

    IOW, in the long view, I think we’re in a transitional phase between faith as “tribal glue,” and reason as “humanity glue.” Under “faith”, I include the bizarre efflorescence of political secular quasi-religions we’ve seen from the Counter-Enlightenment (from Rousseau) onwards. The whole phenomenon of socialism in its many forms has been merely a rearguard action of faith (as described in Eric Hoffer’s True Believers). The globalist, regressive, “Tranzi” Left has been the last gasp, the current weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Left in response to things like Brexit and Trump are its death throes.

    “Liberalism” is dead, long live liberalism.

  • Alisa

    Peter, then what does ‘federation’ mean in this context?

  • Watchman


    The reason that increased interaction across national boundaries will most likely produce some form of international government (I spent about three minutes trying synonyms there, but can’t find one – I can only imagine it would be light touch and mostly concerned with governing transactions, but it will still be definable as government) is because government tends to arise at the level of social interaction. If most of my engagements (or my son’s engagements, or his daughter’s engagements, or her intelligent newt’s engagements) take place not with people relatively close to me, but with a network of people across the world (and beyond for the intelligent newt) then they are going to need mechanisms to govern those transactions, and institutions to deliver those mechanisms, which is in effect government.

    This might not be unification in the sense of nationality, as the appropriate political unit for that will still exist (as it will for ethnicity or whatever, which we can see now exists often at a different level to the nation state – idenfication with a particular identity need not characterise government), and it is a mistake to assume the concerns of now are the concerns of the future. But the fact that increasingly we are (as Peter says) moving towards an atomised society and away from collective units does not mean there will not be a need for the atomised society to ensure the rule of law.

    I would echo your question on federation though – this implies that existing units will create the government (what the EU is trying, or the US has tried with more of a national identity to help define it). The point here is that whilst government is an inevitable feature of an interconnected society, the nature of those interconnections is such that the existing units are being made irrelevant for this purpose as they cannot control the interactions.

  • Alisa


    because government tends to arise at the level of social interaction

    It does tend to so arise, but that does not necessarily mean that it must.

    they are going to need mechanisms to govern those transactions, and institutions to deliver those mechanisms, which is in effect government.

    Yes, and they can have several competing institutions to govern their interactions across the globe (just as we now can, hypothetically, have that within the borders of our existing nations*) – you could call them ‘competing governments’, if you wanted, but that would render our current understanding of the term government meaningless.

    *The reason (albeit not justification) monopolistic, rather than competing governments tend to arise at the level of social interactions, taking over entire nations, is collective defense. So hypothetically, the same model will not or must not necessarily arise on a global level, until we as humanity begin facing serious threats from extra-terrestrial intelligent beings, if at all.

  • Peter George Stewart


    I meant it more as a verb than a noun – I have no idea what form it would take, but on general principles (that the more local the government, the more prescriptive but exitable, the larger-scale, the more minimal but universal) it would be something very loose and really related to only the most basic, universal and abstract human rights. Actually perhaps just ensuring the possibility for any individual of exit from any lower-level system.

    I’m reminded of the s-f writer Jack Vance’s idea in one of a series of his novels that posited a future, star-spanning “Gaean Reach”. The many worlds in this system have all sorts of wild and wooly variations and different lifestyles, but the galactic equivalent of Interpol (a private consortium actually, although Vance wasn’t explicitly an ancap) has an office on every planet that ensures that anyone who wants to exit that society can.

  • Richard Thomas

    Brian, it reminded me of the vote in (I believe it was but may have been a totally different black and white film) “Whisky galore”.

    I suspect this will not be viewed by many but that’s OK.