A Political Ping Pong Exchange between Unlikeminded Cousins and Others




Dear John Long, 
The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU.”. 
Government responded: 

You’re receiving this email because you signed this petition: “Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU.”. 

This Government –  will not revoke Article 50. We will honour the result of the 2016 referendum and work with Parliament to deliver a deal that ensures we leave the European Union. 

JL – How do you honour a 52/48% split vote for a referendum, set up without a threshold and only advisory and not mandatory, when all the Brexiteers continue to talk blithely of the ‘will of the people’ and of the absolute numbers voting, rather than the percentage? Bad faith of the highest order or at best self-serving argumentation. Surely, not the standard we should expect of a Government (of the people, for the people by the people). 

This Government’s – firm policy not to revoke Article 50. We will honour the outcome of the 2016 referendum and work to deliver an exit which benefits everyone, whether they voted to Leave or to Remain. 

JL – Well said. But how will you operationalise this intent? You need first to make clear how you will benefit anyone, never-mind about everyone. Working to deliver is not the same as delivering. The case needs to be made and much better than this. It’s feeble. 

The Government – Revoking Article 50, and thereby remaining in the European Union, would undermine both our democracy and the trust that millions of voters have placed in Government. 

JL – Both are currently undermined. The millions go two ways (see above). The question is more how to make good the democratic and trust deficits. Democracy is undermined by the increasing gap between rich and poor. Trust is undermined by the selective effects of austerity. The two are related. 

The Government – acknowledges the considerable number of people who have signed this petition. However, close to three quarters of the electorate took part in the 2016 referendum, trusting that the result would be respected. 

JL – But failed to indicate a necessary threshold majority, unlike that required for going on strike, for example. The Government acts as if the vote were mandatory; but it is only advisory. Another example of specious reasoning. How can this be justified? Also, note the % who did not vote. How about adding this percentage to the remainers and ministering to that.

The Government – wrote to every household prior to the referendum, promising that the outcome of the referendum would be implemented.  

JL – No threshold majority was specified. In such cases, referendum outcomes are advisory and not mandatory. Lastly, no withdrawal consequences were specified. These should have appeared in the letter, along with the implementation promise, not to mention a better phrased question. 

The Government – 17.4 million people then voted to leave the European Union, providing the biggest democratic mandate for any course of action ever directed at UK Government. 

JL – And the 48%? Sauce for the goose? See also above. Again, specious beyond measure. 

The Government – British people cast their votes once again in the 2017 General Election where over 80% of those who voted, voted for parties, including the Opposition, who committed in their manifestos to upholding the result of the referendum. 

JL – Correct. However, earlier points hold for the political parties, as well as the Government. Those points have not been addressed. 

This Government – stands by this commitment. 
Revoking Article 50 would break the promises made by Government to the British people, disrespect the clear instruction from a democratic vote, and in turn, reduce confidence in our democracy. As the Prime Minister has said, failing to deliver Brexit would cause “potentially irreparable damage to public trust”, and it is imperative that people can trust their Government to respect their votes and deliver the best outcome for them. 

JL – This is at best special pleading and at worst obfuscation. Again, ‘instruction’ is misused. 

The Government – Confidence in democracy misconstrued. Public trust iOS not rationalised. 

JL –  Conclusion: For a Government statement this is pathetic. It just illustrates what a mess we are in and the absence of a way out. The Government should witness to the truth of its own, the country’s and the people’s position 


I have re-joined the Labour Party out of desperation. The inequality between rich and poor is increasing. The reasons are many: the austerity programme; inadequate economic planning; tax breaks/loop holes for the rich; corporate lobbying and influence; failure of companies to pay their taxes; banking self-serving . In addition, the present government’s policy concerning Brexit. Although I have reserves about the Labour Party and its leadership, it is more aligned with my concerns that the Tory Party.


Interesting that you’ve rejoined the Labour Party (I don’t think I’d realised you’d left). Was that move caused by the appointment of Boris and do you see an early opportunity for your party to benefit from a likely early gaffe from the new PM?


I refused to pay my subs after the declaration of the Iran war. Automatically, excluded.

Boris’ appointment was the last straw.


We need to gird up our loins against the reprobate in any ways we can, gaffes or no gaffes. It’s his policies and philosophy that I am against.


My overall political aim in all this is to increase fairness in the UK in opportunity and achievement, as concerns: social level; economics; politics; education; justice; health; old age etc etc.


Do you come from the centre left, and if so whom would you support as a Labour leader if Corbyn fails to weather the apparent growing dissatisfaction of his colleagues inside and outside Parliament? Do you rate people I think as serious Labour politicians such as Keir Starmer and Hilary Benn, and do you think they would/should be prepared to take up the poisoned chalice at the head of a cleaned-up Labour Party? 
If not them, whom do you see as a successor to an ousted or retired Corbyn? Someone on the current front bench, the oft-touted Rebecca Long Bailey, a prominent backbencher such as Wes Streeting?

I’m genuinely interested in hearing the views of a Labour supporter, and you’re the only one I know. Sorry for the intrusion.


Starmer, Benn would be worth a try. Also, Ken Clark. Maybe Long-Bailey too. Unfamiliar with Streeting.

You mentioned the possibility of transferring your allegiance to the Liberal Democrat’s (why won’t this machine let me pluralise Democrat without adding a ‘ ?) You can’t have heard Jo Swinson’s excitable teenage acceptance speech.


– The voting would be tactical to achieve the overall general aims as above, including an equitable resolution of the Brexit saga .

PS How would you answer your own questions, if suitably re-phrased as follows?

1.Do you exercise your political rights and duties as a citizen? if so, how and why?

2.Do you belong to a political party? If so, which one and why? If not, why not? 

3.Do you think UK democracy is working well? If not, why not?

4.What is your position on Brexit? What are you doing about it?

5.Anything else?


You mentioned Starmer and Benn as plausible leaders of a cleaned-up Labour Party, the same two as mine. No mention of Corbyn, nor of any Tory likely to stand. Might I add Frank Field and perhaps Yvette Cooper to your Ken Clark. What we needed most desperately was a capable party leader but much more a national leader – and now we have one – the relentlessly optimistic Boris.

Your statement of your overall political aim – increased fairness in opportunity and achievement in a wide range of fields – would surely sit happily in any party’s manifesto. Presumably it’s a matter of who you believe can achieve it, and how.

You describe the election of Boris as ‘the last straw’. I suspect your antipathy towards Boris is not recent: you condemn his philosophy, fair enough if that’s how you read him, but also his policies, which are surely still in a rudimentary, inchoate state. The last straw for me was the contest for Tory leader between Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom (she stood down early on). The Tory leaders since Major – Howard, Hague, Duncan Smith – were all hopeless in their different ways, but within their party, at least, carried a measure of authority lacking in timorous, indecisive Theresa. Time will tell whether the damage she did to our standing across the world will be mitigated or made worse by bellicose Boris.

I much enjoyed our game of Tour de France pingpong, but political pingpong is quite another matter. It is with some trepidation that I tender my tentative toryism, fearing that any thought I have the courage to poke above the parapet will meet with both barrels from your staunch socialism. But here goes.

In response to your 1 to 5 above:

1.  The prime way in which I exercise my political right is to vote in local and general elections, the former usually on devolved local matters, the latter depending on whether I like how the incumbent party is performing. Other rights such as seeking election to public office, performing in that office, petitioning and protesting, I have yet to exercise. 

2.  No. I have never been tempted, and now is surely not the moment. Once upon a time the major parties had recognisable principles and policies, not usually changing from one general election to the next. I have right now no clear idea of the direction of travel of the main parties, so joining either one of them would be rather like boarding a train without knowing where it was going. Under its over-eager leader, the newly confident Lib Dem party certainly knows what it wants, but that is very evidently against the wishes of the people when they were last asked. But see 4 and beyond.

3. UK democracy seems to be working ok within its own complicated definition. What was perhaps the earliest form of democracy (and which flowed from the Greek-derived meaning of the word) was a show of hands answering a straightforward binary question, for example, should we go to war or not. We have elaborated on that simple definition in so many ways which all serve to obscure what the people really want: political parties, constituencies, the first past the post voting system.

PR can get closer to the truth, but comes with its own problems, but the most revelatory approach is surely a referendum, which poses a carefully worded question or questions with a simple answer, free from some complications but not from ingrained political allegiance.

4. Brexit, ahhhh! Brexit. The team assembled by Remainer May has been signally unable to organise an orderly, or indeed any other sort of Brexit, being, apparently, outpointed by Brussels at every turn. Its quite possible that our new leader can do better, but the scars left by this three-year bruising will not go away, and dealing with the Eurocrats will be difficult however we leave, or even if we don’t. Politicians still talk about respecting the decision of the people, but that decision was taken three years ago, it was not decisive, nor even binding, and was based on much less information than we now have. What we need now is a new referendum, the outcome of which would be to remain. That would lead to more bloodletting on the floor of the House, but at the end of it we will resume our rickety pre-Brexit relationship with Europe. We will be left with our reputation damaged, but our spirits revived, our pride restored, our chest puffed out and our head held high. 


I note the following: “It is with some trepidation that I tender my tentative toryism, fearing that any thought I have the courage to poke above the parapet will meet with both barrels from your staunch socialism”. Not at all…..an intelligent exchange might show us to be more variegated than some of our grumpier social exchanges allow. How to go about it? Will get back to you on this, once I have come up with an idea.

In the meantime, here is a contribution from SP:

I hope you were not too disturbed by the triumphs of Mr Joker Johnson and his grim team of right wing operators.He is healing the nation and forming a new union of Blue and Red.  Yellow did not do so well.  Mr Corbyn and his team  really did not have the  skills,  nasty venom and  coherent sense of purpose to beat Mr ABD Johnson’s rhetoric and his golden vision of the future. 
The huge majority achieved means that in effect parliamentary debate and scrutiny has been neutered.  But really J Corbyn was using a 30 plus year old script.  I am trying to repair my deficit in knowledge of what Marx actually said.



The situation political is really perplexing.  Fudger Johnson continues but he does not look too well to me. His non appearances at meetings and so on suggest that he is not fighting fit – as his last televised meeting with the chairpersons of the Commons Specialist committees showed.
One has to wonder what his new love and mother of the new child feels about how things have turned out. She must have known about the nature of the beast  –  BJ –  but was overwhelmed by love or his animal magic.  I am amazed that the Fudger king is being named as the person to take the initiative in speaking with the Chinese about the changes in the legal provisions in Hong Kong – given how inept he proved to be in the role of Foreign Secretary – briefly.
I assume he cannot ask Carrie to get the scissors out to trim his hair because he has to show he is suffering along with the rest of the great British People.  I would have a go if he asked me!
BJ and the team continue to over promise in the area of resources and the ability to set in motion crucial steps in the containment of the Virus. So the claim that by June 1 there would be a functioning Contact, test, and direct potential carriers towards containment states is proving to be a very difficult operation. So many elements must be in place and in sync.
I know that so called `political leaders’ must set goals but why given the situation do we have to put up with unrealistic management and daily presentations which celebrate the `good news’ while evading/ side stepping the matters of the difficulties of implementation.
Still – keep yur chin up old friend.  
A Psychologist friend of mine who follows polling and political tactics closely reckons that BJ is betting that  the matters linked to  Cummings and his wife will disappear in the noise and confusion over time – to become  tomorrow`s chip paper as it were  –  given the problems with the Brexit negotiations and Employment and the Contraction of the Economy.
I find the argument about the Cummings family need to protect the four year old lad as a justification for the escape to the isolation and clean air near Durham  to be rather specious.
But given the media presence and hostile members of the public outside the house of Mr and Mrs Cummings I sort of understand that their situation was becoming very unpleasant. it turns out the Wakefield ( Mrs Dom) account in the Spectator was very selective about the actual details of the journey and stay in the Durham area.   
Still unless rioting breaks out , BJ has four more years to weather the storm before he has to hold an election.  And he needs his Dom.