Saturday, 16 September 2017

Boris Johnson, digging for Brexit

Photo by Peter Adams

"If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging" - Anon

The quote above is an old adage, sometimes referred to as former Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey's First Law of Holes. Translated, it essentially means that when you are trapped in an unsustainable position on something, it's best to just admit it and stop dragging it out.

Boris Johnson, UK Foreign Secretary to Her Majesty's Government has surfaced in a flurry of articles in the last few days, having invoked a campaign message from the Vote Leave campaign. He insists that the UK is still in a position to get £350m spare each year to spend on the NHS when it leaves the EU. The problem is that his pledge is built on flawed numbers. The Vote Leave campaign erroneously asserted that EU membership cost the UK something akin to £350m per week, or £50m per day.

Fact-checking website Full Fact debunked this claim almost 2 years ago in the run-up to the referendum, citing the UK Statistics Authority. The number is not a fact, they claimed, saying that it is "potentially misleading". How is this so?

Photo by Peter Adams

Firstly, the UK has received a rebate from the EU for years. The UK also gets some of the money it puts in back from the EU in the form of EU spending on things like agriculture and regional development, to alleviate poverty in the UK's poorest regions. This money we receive back effectively cuts the so-called £350m a week figure roughly in half, according to Full Fact number crunchers.

The Foreign Secretary's comments come at a sensitive time in the life of Theresa May's fragile premiership. Having failed to secure a majority in the snap election in June, Mrs May has since vowed to stay on as Prime Minister until at least the next election, due in May 2022. She made it through the summer, but her poll lead has evaporated almost entirely. Some polls put Labour in the lead by a narrow margin. Some are tied.

The mood within the Conservative Party suggests that the PM's vow to stay might not come to pass, if the party stays true to its ways. Ailing or weakened leaders have typically not lasted a terribly long time and once they lose that shine, the party can make dramatic if not ruthless decisions to ensure its own survival.

In November 1990, Margaret Thatcher vowed to "fight on...fight to win", after narrowly failing to win the first round of a leadership ballot. She resigned as Prime Minister the next day. In October 2003, leader Iain Duncan Smith made an attempt to rescue his failing leadership when he addressed the party faithful at the 2003 conference, saying "I promise you - I will fight, fight and fight again to save the country that I love". He was ousted as leader within the month.

The Foreign Secretary's words come as a form of enticement to leave voters who need encouragement or better still, a reason to vote for the Tories. The election served as a re-alignment for the parties, with UKIP's collapse offering millions of votes to the main parties in a once-in-a-generation opportunity. UKIP is now in the process of evaporating into a super-concentrated version of itself with a smaller audience; it is too busy holding yet another leadership ballot, the third since the referendum, to be in a position to provide meaningful resistance to the main parties' views on Brexit.

Much of this benefited the Tories but increased engagement from younger voters has helped Labour avoid falling behind too much, despite its internal inconsistencies over Brexit. Economic weakness as the Brexit negotiations intensify could be a crunch point for the May administration. Low interest rates have helped keep job creation going but wages are falling in real terms.

Pressure to scrap the 1% wage cap for public sector employees has grown considerably, especially in the NHS, where some have called for a rise of 3.9% to offset the real terms fall in earnings over the last few years. Mrs May's claim that there is no "magic money tree" looks very difficult to comprehend when considering the sudden availability of money to secure the DUP deal and looks like a bad joke, when you realise that £140m of public money got spent on a snap election that the governing party didn't actually win.

The Tories are stuck in a hole and Brexit could bury them when people begin to realise it has resulted in them becoming materially worse off than they otherwise would have been. The Eurozone economy, labelled sclerotic and weak during the referendum campaign is actually growing faster than the UK economy now, according to the latest data. This could be just the beginning of a new chapter in UK history, where the UK economy grows and the government is able to avoid technical recessions, but when it surveys the performance of the UK relative to its peers, it will see how we have underperformed our neighbours, having cut our nose off, despite the face. In this hole, the Foreign Secretary can't resist the urge to get his shovel out and test the ground to dig just a little deeper.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Wet or Dry: Can the Tories stand the heat?

Photo by Peter Adams 

As the UK swelters during a week-long heatwave, attention turns to Westminster for the Queen's Speech, the traditional state opening of Parliament.

One week on from the shocking events at Grenfell Tower, such pomp and ceremony feels more at-odds with the mood of the country than before. A series of terrorist attacks in multiple locations in the last couple of months have also changed the tone of political debate, and brought security and defence to the top of the agenda.

Rarely have we seen a government going into this ceremony with such a disappointing draft of proposals. The Conservative project for this year began to come undone during the 2017 election campaign when the social care plans were unveiled, and they began jettisoning parts of the manifesto before a single vote had been cast.

Cancelling free school meals? Gone. The social care plans? Also gone. Grammar schools? It's now up to Parliament to decide how best to improve educational standards as members see fit. Free vote on fox hunting? Not on the agenda anymore. But what about Brexit? The Great Repeal Bill has now been included into the speech, as the UK prepares to leave the European Union, following the triggering of Article 50. Hard Brexit? It might be safe to say the appetite for this is waning. Some of Mrs May's own MPs (as many as 30) have told her to rethink the strategy of no deal being better than a bad deal. Deals with the DUP might revolve around the UK's membership of the Customs Union. Work in progress as of writing.

The main manifesto pledges that have been excised in this Queen's speech are Mrs May's social policies; Mrs May's first speech as Prime Minister was one where she pledged to try and amend the social injustices in the country. Instead, she has bound her own hands, by losing her majority in a snap election she pretended she wouldn't call. Her pre-election promises just don't have the support she needs to get them through Parliament.

The last time the UK had a minority government presenting a Queen's speech was in 1978. James Callaghan was the Labour Prime Minister at the time, presiding over a delicate Labour minority government, which had backing from Liberal MPs in a confidence and supply deal known as the Lib-Lab pact. The deal only lasted a few months and the Liberals eventually withdrew. Callaghan decided not to call an election in late 1978, something Gordon Brown would do himself in 2007. This decision backfired, and following the Winter of Discontent, the emboldened Tories under Mrs Thatcher called a vote of no confidence; they won the motion by one vote. The rest is history.

Minority governments have a habit of being snuffed out by divisions within the governing party sooner or later. Labour's 1979 defeat precipitated a full-on split between Bennites and its centrist faction and led to the formation of the SDP. The resulting chaos this caused plunged the party into a long and weary battle which left deep wounds on both sides.

Mrs May is approaching the DUP in a bid to keep the Tories in government, but she has more to lose from any deal than the DUP. The deal would risk muddling the peace process in Northern Ireland, as the UK government is now likely to be beholden to one of the factions in Northern Ireland's highly sectarian political environment, when it should actually be remaining above the fray and trying to maintain stability.

Mrs Thatcher and her successors as leader have presided over a Conservative Party split between Wets (who favoured a closer relationship with Europe) and the Dries (the original Eurosceptics). Now that the Brexit timetable has started and the end result edges closer, the Tories may find themselves split between softer Brexit and those who are keen for a more protectionist hard Brexit, whether they want to be or not.

The Conservative Party now faces a long summer of tough decisions. Mrs May's tenure is unlikely to last to 2019 when Brexit negotiations end, as suggested in an article by Channel 4's Gary Gibbons. Tories have a habit of removing ailing leaders, with mixed results. The party is shifting from within, as possible contenders for Mrs May's successor sound out Parliamentary colleagues. Old divisions within the party might start to re-emerge like dormant fault lines. The summer of 1976 is remembered for its intense heat and longevity. The London clay on which the city rests upon began to crack as the water boiled away. The summer of 2017 may cause cracks to emerge in the Tory party's facade. Can they stand the heat?

Monday, 20 February 2017

Things UKIP probably doesn't want to talk about before the Stoke-on-Trent by-election

Photo by Euro Realist Newsletter / CC BY

Stoke-on-Trent Central should be a piece of cake for UKIP this Thursday. It is something of a baptism of fire for new leader Paul Nuttall, who also happens to be the candidate for said seat. Labour are sliding to as low as 24% in some polls, with a new ICM one showing an astonishing 18-point lead by the Conservatives. Labour hasn't done this poorly since the bowels of the 2008-09 recession, just before it started its latest spell in opposition. Stoke-on-Trent Central is one of the most eurosceptic seats in the country, so why are UKIP floundering at the moment?

1.) Paul Nuttall's presence at Hillsborough is in the spotlight (for all the wrong reasons)

Mr Nuttall has claimed to have been present at the April 1989 disaster at Hillsborough, in which almost 100 people losts their lives and another 800 or so were badly injured. It was an incident which turned Liverpool against the Sun newspaper for its accounts of the event, which claimed fans were urinating on medics and picking pockets of victims, accusations which have now been seen by many as fabrications in stark contrast to the accounts of survivors themselves.

Paul Nuttall was aged 12 and has consistently claimed he was present at the stadium on the day of the disaster for much of his political career. Controversy flared up over a week ago, when the Guardian posted an article which investigated his story and presented evidence which appears to be at odds with it. Mr Nuttall's own MEP website even claimed he had "lost a close friend" on that day, but it has since emerged the article had been written by a press officer, who has since tendered her resignation. The entire website has since been closed for maintenance without explanation.

To make matters worse, UKIP donor Arron Banks attracted criticism for telling his Twitter followers that he was "sick" of hearing about the story, provoking many with the comment: "It was a disaster...not some sort of cultural happening". In the last few hours, two UKIP officials have been reported as having quit the party for what they termed Mr Nuttall's "crass insensitivity".

As of 20th February, Mr Nuttall's website remains "offline for maintenance"

2.) UKIP's own Twitter page has passed off a Bolton campaign picture as a Stoke by-election one

On 18th February, UKIP's official Twitter account posted a snap of what it claimed to be were a group of leafleters/general campaigners on the ground for the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election. However, eagle-eyed residents in Horwich, Bolton were quick to point out that the picture had apparently been taken in the carpark of the Macron Stadium in Bolton, some 50 to 60 miles north of Stoke-on-Trent.

It's perfectly understandable to find this point a bit nit-picky, but it does help to get the town name right for a campaign photograph. So far, it's not clear if the UKIP Twitter page has acknowledged the discepancy yet.

3.) Accusations concerning an incident involving a pensioner and a leafleter in Stoke-on-Trent emerging

Over the last couple of days, allegations have surfaced of an incident in the constituency between a 73-year-old resident and a man purported to be a UKIP leafleter on the ground. The man is alleged to have tried delivering the woman a leaflet, then he is alleged to have proceeded to have urinated on the house before the woman saw it on CCTV and went outside to confront him. A relative of the woman shared footage of the alleged incident on Facebook, and it has since been carried as a story on a couple of publications including the MirrorThomas Pride and Skawkbox.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

2017 - The same, but a little bit different

As the final pages of 2016 are freshly printed, a sense of change is in the air. We’ve entered into a chapter of world history as yet unprecedented. The celebrants of change are perhaps using language that some would find coarse and unintelligible, but change is what we have, whether some of us asked for it or not.

America has given the Republicans power again, but not as we’ve seen before. It was probably always going to be like this; the party of big business slowly shifting ever further right, to capture a diminishing pool of ageing reactionary voters, now taken over by an actual businessman. It’s certainly not what it seems though. America has chosen a businessman to lead it on the road to tax cuts, greater government involvement in private enterprise and galvanised it with a sheen of neo-exceptionalism. Rising national debt will be a statistic to watch out for during the infancy of the Trump administration. How will a Republican administration reconcile Trumpism with supposedly being the party of fiscal prudence?

It would be wrong to assume history always follows a progressive course no matter what. History is littered with the remnants of structures people presumed were infallible. The only difference is that the rise and fall of these structures is happening faster than ever before because of globalisation. The Roman Empire rose and fell over about five centuries. The British Empire seemed invincible until two world wars drove a truck through the idea of European imperialism. Back on New Year’s Even 1913, the finest brains were probably insistent that world wars were an impossibility because they would be so destructive.

As we head into 2017, we see the centenary of the October Revolution in Russia, a pivotal moment where an imperial monarch-led nation began evolving into a socialist state. 73 years later, Russia had become the heart of a union of socialist states that was dying by a thousand paper cuts. By the early 1990s, the union had collapsed and we were left with a load of new nation states that had never properly existed in and of themselves in such a way before. Sometimes, decades of change happen in just one year. Sometimes, a year’s worth of change happens over many decades.

2017 offers even more pinch points where public opinion will be exercised across Europe. There’s even a distinct possibility that fresh elections might be called here in the UK, if Theresa May sees the need to have a solid mandate to enforce her administration’s will. Gordon Brown famously chose not to call an election in late 2007, and when crisis after crisis hit his government, his enemies were able to use his lack of mandate as an attack line in and of itself. Theresa May might hold off from calling an election next year, simply because the risks may be too great. In any case, Labour is willing to vote in favour of a fresh election, whatever she does. If an election is held, Labour will have to spend an intensive amount of resources in a small window of time on its old industrial strongholds in the north, many of whom voted for Brexit.

The UKIP situation is complicated. Diane James was leader for 18 days then quit, throwing the party into disarray for a time. UKIP has seen the Brexit vote go its way but it now needs to justify its existence beyond the vote or it will evaporate. Eurosceptic conservative-types have appeared to return to supporting the Conservatives, who will be the arbiters for much of the Brexit plans. Paul Nuttall is now turning his party’s attention to vulnerable Labour positions.

2017 could prove to be every bit as surprising as 2016 turned out to be. The experiences of the year just gone have shown how the internet continues to evolve as a tool. We’re being led to believe we live in a post-truth society, and that’s probably quite an unhelpful admission of defeat. The war of truth and post-truth is ongoing and the matter at hand shifts. Brexit is supposed to mean Brexit; a meaningless phrase in itself, but it’s actually whatever the government needs it to be, to match what they think the public wants. Brexit means so many different things to so many different people, and we can be sure that a significant chunk of the population will be dissatisfied, whatever it ends up meaning.

The situation remains volatile going into the new year. Markets may be jumpy, the fall in the Pound will likely cause prices to steadily rise, which risks snuffing out the recent recovery in real wages. The most powerful jobs in the world have changed and the faces will be fresh, but 2017 will be something of a baptism of fire. Can Mrs May make a success of Brexit, or will the electorate grow impatient? Can President Trump deliver a meaningful economic recovery, or will his trickle-down approach simply repeat the mistakes of the last Republican administration? Let’s see in twelve months’ time.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Autumn Statement 2016 roundup

It's the end! Chancellor of the Excehquer has announced that a switcheroo is in order, concerning Autumn statements and Spring budgets.

Data provided by the OBR
National debt as a percentage of GDP is now expected to be higher

In the traditional Parliamentary address, Philip Hammond outlined a number of measures for Theresa May's administration. Aside from the stats and policies announced, Mr Hammond also chose to declare that budgets will shift to the Autumn, with a Spring statement; an effective mirror image of what we have at the moment. It enables Parliament to better scrutinise budgetary matters well in advance of the new financial year, which starts in April, Mr Hammond claimed.

Acoording to the fiscal targets from the March budget, the new statement fails on multiple fronts. The national debt was supposed to peak around now, but due to an extra £122bn worth of extra spending owing to Brexit and other matters, the debt burden as a percentage of GDP will continue to rise until about 2018-19.

Brexit uncertainly is likely to hammer growth next year, with just 1.4% pencilled in for 2017, along with 1.7% for 2018, followed by 2% or so for 2019 and beyond. This slowdown will likely put downward pressure on wage growth, and nudge up unemployment from its 11yr low of 4.9%. By 2020, GDP will be 2.4% lower than previously expected, as a result of this slowdown. That's billions of Pounds worth of output up in smoke, from a couple years of slow growth.

The Chancellor cited the so-called productivity puzzle affecting the UK economy at the moment. The UK economy has seen a large amount of job creation since 2010, and yet output growth remains slow and steady, with low wage growth compared to the boom years.

What the statement lays bare is the implication of Brexit; the public finances are going to face yet another Parliamentary term seeing little progress despite a large amount of pain. As the BBC's Andrew Neil pointed out during live coverage of the statement, despite the 2p cut in the taper rate in Universal Credit, people on said benefits will likely be worse off by 2019. The Chancellor painted the policy as an effective tax cut.

One of the casualties of the statement was the surplus target for 2019-20. Instead, by that financial year, the government will still have a deficit of £17bn. Of course, this is all based on the assumption of just two years of slow growth. On this basis, it's expected that a surplus won't be seen until the 2020-25 Parliament. If growth disappoints a whole lot more than expected however, the deficit could remain substantially larger, as it was during the Coalition government's austerity drive.

So maybe we're finally starting to understand the real meaning of Brexit. No, it's not that Brexit means Brexit or other kinds of doublespeak. Brexit means a hit to the domestic economy, and not just an unfortunate hit, but a preventable one. Between now and the next election, the cost of Brexit is expected to be worth some £10-15bn per annum for the government.

The OBR assumes that wages will be able to outpace inflation, despite the devaluation of Sterling. Even so, real wages won't surpass their 2008 peak until well into the 2020s, according to today's statement. That will make the 2010s something of a lost decade for UK workers, and Brexit has just made that lost decade that bit more painful.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Garden Bridge: Oasis in the city or bridge to nowhere?

The Garden Bridge: a glowing tribute to London's enduring ability to create greenery amidst concrete and glass, or is it all just a stitch-up? Left Handed Dude investigates.

The intended site for the Garden Bridge
Photo by Peter Adams

Picture the scene: 1970s-era London. In the decades since the world wars, the city was receiving something of a facelift. Like a phoenix, the post-Blitz London emerged, remade in the form of concrete structures such as the Barbican Estate and the Royal National Theatre.

An architect by the name of Richard Rogers was tasked with an ambitious task: to help construct new office space between the riverfront and Waterloo. Part of Rogers' plans included ideas for a bridge that would stretch from the South Bank to the riverfront close to Temple Chambers.

The office project went full-steam ahead, but by the mid-1980s, the plans were abandoned for the accompanying bridge. Left Handed Dude understands that there was concern over the project back in the 1980s, particularly in Temple Chambers, as it reportedly feared a bridge in the area would lead to an increase in unwanted foot traffic around Chambers. The bridge was effectively put on ice at this juncture.

Fast-forward to 1998. The country was feeling the aftershocks of the frenzy over the death of Princess Diana the previous summer. As a tribute to the so-called people's Princess, actress Joanna Lumley proposed a memorial garden footbridge. It was another fifteen years before the Garden Bridge Trust is established, and this is where things start falling into place.

The design is unlike anything London has seen before. Back in May, the bridge was expected to be completed by 2018, but now this has been pushed back to 2019 at the earliest. When finished, it is envisaged to consist of two elongated ovals, with pathways amidst trees and shrubbery. The two ovals are designed to meet at the midpoint, and the designs mean the bridge would be 30m at its widest, but would then narrow down to a puny 4m at the middle.

"The maximum amount of people who are allowed on the bridge is 2,500 people", claims Wai-King Cheung. The narrowing of the bridge is "an obvious, obvious bottleneck", she adds. Ms Cheung is a leading member of local pressure group Thames Central Open Spaces (TCOS), which is opposed to the Garden Bridge.

A quick end-of-week visit to the spot where the bridge is due to be built, and flyers are clearly visibile, posted onto trees, bearing the TCOS name. The Southbank-side of the bridge is currently a plot of land, dotted with benches and trees close to the ITV studios block.

The bridge is expected to be higher than the ground level on both sides of the river. As a result, once construction is completed, some of the land on both banks will be lost to the access ramp/stair structures leading up to the bridge.

Addressing concerns about a bottleneck, a spokesperson for the Garden Bridge Trust confirmed to Left Handed Dude that although picnics will be permitted on the Bridge, the design is such that visitors will be able to leave the main paths and make use of garden spaces amongst the planting, avoiding the aforementioned bottleneck. TCOS is keen to point out that when they say they'll allow picnics, they don't mean setting down a rug on grass, as you'd expect, owing to the fact that there's no grass to sit down on. Visitors are encouraged to use benches or eat on the move instead.

TCOS shows a great amount of concern about the lack of information about the whole project, from the very beginning. Wai-King Cheung explains:

"We weren't told, 'would you like it?'...they [the trust] did all the preparatory work without even bothering to consult any of the residents...they landed it to us as if it was a fait accompli at a public meeting in the summer of 2014..."

TCOS isn't just concerned about the Bridge's capacity. It's also concerned about Joanna Lumley's role in the whole matter. Critics of the Bridge might say it was a final hurrah for Boris Johnson before he left the Mayoralty. Ms Cheung thinks otherwise:

"It’s not just Boris Johnson, it’s a massive Joanna Lumley and Thomas Heatherwick vanity project...for one person to impose her will on the whole of's incredibly selfish".

It's no secret that Joanna Lumley has history with the Johnson family. Ms Cheung points out that the Absolutely Fabulous actress has been a family friend of the Johnsons since Boris was at least four years old.

To members of TCOS, the whole idea feels a bit like an establishment arrangement, with shadowy players making moves behind closed doors, that have a material impact on their very own doorsteps.

The main purpose of the Garden Bridge project is its intended use as a recreational space, in the heart of Europe's most-populated city. It's hoped that the bridge will last, especially given that fact that the bridge supports are arranged to be constructed using a special copper-nickel alloy called cupro-nickel.

Mining giant Glencore has been in a position to donate the cupro-nickel, a special alloy designed to prevent corrosion, thus keeping the bridge spotless for decades to come; a blemish-free vesitage of the Johnson mayoralty perhaps.

However grand the Garden Bridge may be, some turn to satire to voice their concerns about the project. Will Jennings is an artist and photographer, who set up the Folly for London project in mid-2015. Mr Jennings explains:

"Whereas most competitions look for aspirational, utopian responses, my brief called for the most disrupting, damaging designs that could be imagined...something as environmentally-damaging, pointless and plain stupid as the Garden should also cost at least £60m to build..."

Mr Jennings approaches the project in this way, saying "I think art and satire have an increasingly important part to play in activism and the mediation of information". Mr Jennings has close ties to TCOS, with a friend being a member. He believes the supporters of the bridge project have wrongly dismissed the likes of TCOS as NIMBYs. He continues:

"The Garden Bridge is a hugely troubling thing in itself, but I also quickly realised it was a powerful symbol of so much which I dislike about many things today: lack of public consultation, greenwash and the fa├žade of environmental improvement instead of actual action."

Folly for London is a one-man band right now. Mr Jennings established the Folly for London project as a one-off event back in 2015, and expected to move onto newer projects. However, once he realised this project was attracting as many as 50 ideas from around the globe, he realised he had set something in motion which, in conjunction with TCOS, could serve as a multi-prong attack on the bridge idea.

When asked what the bridge represents, Mr Jennings believes it's all just another example of the following things taking place:

"The privatisation of urban spaces...the blatant waste of public finance in a declared time of austerity, and the cronyism and connections which give the few privileged priority over democratic process."

London Assembly
Photo by Peter Adams

So what is the fate of the Garden Bridge right now? It's complicated. The new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was seemingly in favour of the idea during the Mayoral race, but people like Will Jennings believe he was just doing this to appease sections of the media, whilst actually being against the idea.

Things seemed to be going swimmingly, until Mr Khan paused approval on further funding in mid-July 2016. The Trust was keen to confirm that the project is still full-steam ahead, but in the last week or so, Newsnight has uncovered a £22m-sized gap in funding. The £175m cost for the project is as follows:

1.) £60m is ready and waiting, collected from taxpayers

2.) £115m is needed from the private sector. What was thought to be a £30m-sized gap is now believed to be £52m, owing to what a BBC article referred to as "a small number of pledges made by interested organisations [which] did not progress to formal funding contracts."

Mr Khan admitted last week in an interview on LBC radio that it was no "state secret" that the Garden Bridge could potentially be scrapped, but in an interview in May, he also claimed that it would be more costly to the taxpayer to scrap the project entirely. For now at least, the waters around Temple and Southbank flow unimpeded. The tree-lined riversides remain intact for another day. For how much longer though? We'll just have to let some water pass under the bridge before we know for sure.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Who's the Nasty Party now?

After hours of waiting, the Labour NEC has voted so that leader Jeremy Corbyn will be automatically included on any upcoming leadership ballot.

The Labour Party's very existence is at stake, this week. After hours of speculation from the rebels and the Corbynistas, the party's national executive committee finally decided to vote in favour of Mr Corbyn, with 18 votes to 14.

Some had believed the vote being a secret ballot might indicate a possible anti-Corbyn mood in the meeting, but as it turned out, the NEC were satisfied that  Mr Corbyn wasn't compelled to find 51 MPs and MEPs, in order to run for his own job again.

As indicated in the previous post, Labour's rules regarding a leadership challenge when there is no vacancy for the job make no mention of the leader themselves, instead choosing to say "challenger". Angela Eagle has already acquired the 51 nominations to ensure her own spot on the ballot, but it remains unclear what Owen Smith is deciding to do.

It all seemed set. Or was it? Once Mr Corbyn had left the meeting, reports emerged that a new vote had been made by the NEC, concerning the grounds on which members would be able to vote. 

It is now the rule that any members who joined after mid-January are deemed ineligible to vote,  and any members who signed up by paying £3 last summer will need to pay a heftier £25 fee. It's a move that will effectively whittle the eligible voter base down to the core pre-2015 members, if the new intake prove unable to sign up again or lose enthusiasm to do so.

Having apparently got what he wanted out of the day, Mr Corbyn left the NEC meeting in a chirpy mood, and later in the evening, Guardian journalist Benn Quinn filmed John McDonnell and Diane Abbott addressing a rally in Camden (view here). Mr McDonnell was filmed by Quinn saying the following:

"They have been plotting and conniving...the only good thing about plotters, they're fucking useless..."

Diane Abbott, who was onstage with Mr McDonnell, is shown grinning, as she looks out at the crowd watching them. It feels like the "kind and gentle politics" motto that the Corbynites wanted to strive for has run out of legs to stand on. There's just no way the party can heal from such a toxic show of disapproval, when the upper echelons show such contempt for the democratically elected members.

Angela Eagle woke up on the morning of 12th July, to find her constituency office had been vandalised; a mystery assailant had thrown a brick through a window, and she has reportedly been offered police protection. Just let that sink in for a moment. You read that correctly: A British Member of Parliament is being offered police protection, simply for deciding to run against the opposition party leader. It's a phrase that feels unsettling to have to write, but that's how bad things have become.

In a Newsnight interview broadcast just a matter of minutes ago, Angela Eagle reiterated that she has been a Labour member for 40 years, and slammed Mr Corbyn over of bullying in the party, especially through social media, saying he has not shown leadership. She also added that:

"He is a protester; he's not a persuader of people"

As Labour continues to devour itself on the altar of post-Brexit mayhem, the Conservative government has got its act together, and is preparing to welcome our second female Prime Minister, Theresa May, into No. 10 in just a few hours time.

In an infamous 2002 Tory Party conference speech, Theresa May spoke of the perception of the Tory Party being the "Nasty Party". After a day like today, starting with a window shattered by a brick, most of the PLP being branded "fucking useless" and Twitter being fit to burst with vitriol yet again, it might be easy to dub Labour the recipient of such a mantle.