Category Archives: #donaldtrump

When Steve Bannon Leaves the Room

Donald Trump, McMaster, generals

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with H.R. McMaster (L) as his national security adviser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 20, 2017. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

“I want to pardon that Sheriff. I’m not kidding. That son of a bitch judge had it in for my friend. So the Hell with him. I’m going to pardon him. I can do that right.”

“You can Mr. President. But to weather that storm you have to clear the decks. Look Presidential. And nothing looks more Presidential than committing a few thousand of our soldiers to let Afghanistan be Afghanistan.” said a General.

“But that is lame. Go big or, better still, go home. I said that. The people loved it. Every deplorable knows no one wins Afghanistan and we’re all about winning.”

“Yes Sir!” said Kelly snapping to attention. “And we’re going to win. Win bigly. Because no one has ever had the commitment to winning in the Stan that you do, Sir.”

“Great. We’ll be great and we’ll make Afghanistan great again. Just like the US of A. Just like that. But we do the pardon for my buddy.”

“We do Sir.” said another General. “But we have, as the expression goes, a person of colour in the woodpile.”

“We do? Well, let’s nuke that woodpile. I hate disloyalty. Don’t much like the sort of people who hang around in woodpiles. But won’t they call me a racist? I mean, you told me that once we hired a person of colour there was just no way to say “You’re Fired.””

“Good news, Sir. He’s not actually a POC, he’s an anti-Islam, British Hungarian American. You can fire him anytime. He’s a friend of Bannon’s and Flynn thought he was a good guy.” said a General.

“Hungarian? Sad…My first wife was Hungarian.”

“Czech actually, Sir.” said a Colonel bucking for a promotion.

“Same fucking thing. Nasty bunch. Cost a lot of money that divorce. And then Marla. Wasted a lot of money there but how did this guy get into the woodpile in the first place?”

“Bannon.” said two Generals and a Colonel.

“He told you Gorka was a smart guy. You believed him and now look what he’s done. He basically said your Afghanistan strategy was idiotic. He had to go.” said a General. “But now that he has you can pardon that Sheriff  guy.”

“Great. That will be huuuuuge”

“It will, Sir.” said a General, “Unless I miss my bet, it will be bigger than Charlottesville. Too bad about the hurricane. Steps on the message a bit.”

“Hurricane, Smeriscane, Texas had it coming. You just watch. I’ll handle the hurricane.  Sure, the hurricane is coming in like Merryweather, (which is pretty funny ok), but I’ll hit it like McGregor. You guys got any money on that fight? Vegas is going to get pasted. I am so pissed that the Secret Service won’t let me sit ringside.”

Two Generals and a Colonel snap to attention.

“Yes Sir. Pardon papers will be on your desk in ten minutes. We already have the Gorka resignation. Troops out to the Stan next week. Sir!”

“And, Mr. President, I have a hundred bucks that says McGregor doesn’t land a punch. Not one.” said the very ambitious Colonel.

“Done.”

POTUS wandered back to the Family Residence secure in the knowledge that the Colonel had never heard of “clients golf”. He looked like an excellent candidate to run a firebase in…well, some God forsaken place in Afghanistan.

 

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Bannon out, Swamp wins

If you go back and read this blog you’ll find that, at best, my support for Trump per se was lukewarm. The negative reason for my support was that I thought and think that Hillary is a crook and would have made a terrible President. But the positive reason really came down to the fact I liked Steve Bannon and thought he had a pretty clear grasp of what has been going wrong in the US.

Now he’s out. Jumped or pushed? No doubt we’ll find out in due course. But it is the end of any chance of a usefully disruptive Presidency. Without Bannon Trump will become an increasingly conventional President. Any chance of actually changing the largely corrupt Washington culture vanishes.

Which means we are left with Trump and no good reason (other than at least he’s not Hillary) to support him. The markets surged on the announcement. (Update: and then fell back) More business as usual. No danger of disruptive change. In fact, with Bannon gone, there will be next to no pushback to GOPe policy or lack thereof.

Now the Trump administration will continue to careen from screwup to screwup but without even the possibility that there will emerge constructive change as well as endless goofs. Worse, the focus of the Whitehouse will switch to preserving the Trump Presidency which will mean a strict policy of risk avoidance. No doubt many of my American friends will welcome a renewed commitment to not rocking the boat. It is much less terrifying to simply sink beneath the waves of bureaucratic and political corruption without making too much fuss.

On the upside, as my son pointed out to me, with Bannon gone, I can join in the fun of mocking the orange vulgarian secure in the knowledge that whether he stays or goes, nothing is going to get any better in America and there is every chance things will get a great deal worse.

(Update for a pal: At a guess the Sage of Minnesota will be wrong as to Trump’s departure by Labour Day, it will probably be worse than that. Essentially, with Bannon out of the White House, Trump will remain President in name only. He’ll sign what is put in front of him, make the occasional, well-scripted speech and behave himself. He will become increasingly “Presidential” and his press will improve. But he will actually accomplish nothing at all.)

Upper Date: Steve Bannon himself is thinking along the same lines as he says in an interview with The Weekly Standard:

Bannon believes that those who will now try to influence Trump will hope to turn him in a sharply different direction.

“I think they’re going to try to moderate him,” he says. “I think he’ll sign a clean debt ceiling, I think you’ll see all this stuff. His natural tendency—and I think you saw it this week on Charlottesville—his actual default position is the position of his base, the position that got him elected. I think you’re going to see a lot of constraints on that. I think it’ll be much more conventional.”

 

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Bannon Uncut

This is a very interesting but rather surprising interview with Steve Bannon in, of all places, The American Prospect. Go read the whole thing but a couple of quotes:

“We’re at economic war with China,” he added. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

The reason why Steve Bannon draws so much fire is that he really does not give a rat’s ass for the established formulations of the Washington Establishment. “They got us” never passes the lips of the right sort of people. 100,000 artillery tubes pointed at Seoul are just not the sort of thing people talk about. But Bannon does.

My sense is that Trump’s Presidency is on the edge. If the MSM/GOPe/Dem narrative gains much more traction he’ll be locked in the White House with pretty much zero power until he quits, is hit by the 25th Amendment or is impeached for some sort of high crime the likes of which have never been seen before.

There is exactly one way out for Trump and that is to embrace Bannon and embrace his base. The trimming, the business councils, the McMasters down the hall. Ivanka and Jared down the other hall. None of that is actually getting the job done. For Trump to come out of the Charlotteville idiocy intact he needs to get back to his populist base. He needs to wage jihad against antifa and the demonization of the right as “Nazis”. And to do that he needs a real strategist. Bannon is the only one he’s got. Tell Kelly to keep the trains running, tell Bannon to figure out where they should go.

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Free Speech, Business and Donald Trump

Business, especially big business, has a complex relationship with free speech. On the one hand, companies like to be able to advertise their products and they like to be able to contribute money to the candidates of their choice. On the other, many feel the need to police their employees’ speech for fear of either offending other employees or their customers or both. In the US, while companies enjoy First Amendment protections for their speech, they are under no obligation to extend those protections to their employees or to users of their products. Twitter or Facebook are perfectly entitled to shut down the accounts of anyone they chose and there is no “free speech” legal leverage to protect those accounts. Firing an employee for expressing opinions at odds with a company’s diversity policy is on iffier legal ground (as Google is likely going to find out) but not for 1st Amendment reasons.

The CEOs of big companies have an odd relationship to free speech. They are, after all, the public face of their company and where they chose to place themselves may have an impact on that company. If they sit on a charitable board or a government advisory commission they may be accused of supporting the more controversial positions taken by that board or government. Which is why, when the furor over Trumps various remarks on Charlottesville blew up, a number of CEOs announced they were leaving his business advisory councils. So many that Trump has shut down the councils.

A couple of points. First, dropping off the advisory councils was a weird sort of virtue signalling on the part of the CEOs. They wanted to be seen to be putting daylight between themselves and Trump’s alledged support for, or lack of effective condemnation of, Nazis, white supremacist and the other eviltons who marched on the right in Charlottesville. And, because the entire Charlottesville furor has been framed as binary, had they not done so they were open to being accused of supporting Nazis. Better to go because the left is in full smear mode.

But there is another element to this: what was a populist President doing with councils composed of CEOs in the first place? An American President from either party is well advised to cultivate relationships with business leaders. But formalizing that into councils is unnecessary. In normal course the CEOs will try to meet with the President to push their agendas.

It is a mark of the general incoherence of the Trump administration that these councils were created in the first place. By all means have the occasional, informal, round table but what is the point of a business council with formal membership and, therefore, the possibility of formal resignation?

Business councils are the stuff of GOPe and guys who worked at Goldman Sachs. They are the very sort of thing Trump ran against. The Bannonite faction in the White House (and yes I do know Bannon worked for Goldman) was pushed out of the way when the councils were set up. Now that they are gone it might be a good idea for Bannon and his people to come up with a less formal, more effective, way for Trump to get the business perspective on the affairs of the nation.

 

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I Claudius: Whitehouse edition

My theory about Canadians commenting on American politics is that we need to focus on the entertainment values. Politically there is nothing we can do and we have lots of stuff to deal with at home.

That said, the Trump Whitehouse is brilliant. It is the classic clash of insiders versus outsiders. But it is also a three or four way battlefield over style. Reince Preibus is the consummate, slightly geeky Washington insider with great connections on the Hill and in the still shell shocked Republican Party. Steve Bannon is an outsider who actually reads books and thinks about policy stuff. And now, in the great tradition of pro Wrestling we have Anthony Scaramucci aka “The Mooch” who has had direct access to Trump from day 1 and speaks his language far better than the wussy Preibus or the, relatively speaking, cerebral Bannon.

When Trump took office Preibus was made Chief of Staff to make the trains run on time. I think it is fair to say that his hooks into the Republican Party and connections on the Hill have barely made the trains run at all. Worse, there have been a series of judgements by Trump which would have benefited from some savvy counsel as to timing and tone – Comey, the Special Prosecutor, some position on healthcare – which they clearly did not get.  As well, the message coming out of the White House has been, to put it charitably, diffuse. Trump, himself, seems to be settling into much of the role of the President; what he is not doing is effectively using the power of the Presidency to push his agenda. And that lands at the Chief of Staff’s door.

Preibus is a bit of a “pleaser”. He has had to be in his various roles with the Republican Party. A Chief of Staff is never a pleaser. He’s the guy who gets what the President wants done with a minimum of fuss and bother. The nature of the position is not conciliatory, it is actually pretty brutal. The Chief of Staff sets up the field so that the President can do what ever conciliation is required. Preibus is simply not up to that job.

Neither is Bannon. Because Bannon’s function is to develop the policy concepts and the strategy to “Make America Great Again”. In many ways Bannon should not be operational at all. In his own way, Bannon is a policy guy and it is always a bad idea to bring a policy guy into the rough and tumble of getting stuff done.

So, right now, my bet is that Trump sees The Mooch as a clear threat to Preibus. Along the lines of “Do your job Reince or The Mooch will throw you over the top rope.” I would say Preibus has about a month, call it to Labour Day, to prove he can get the trains back on schedule or over the top rope he goes.

In all of this the Trump children and assorted in-laws play the role of the Roman Emperor Augustus’s children and relatives. They may be important, they may not but they have no independent power, only influence. For the players, like The Mooch, Bannon and Preibus, the Trump children are, at best, temporary allies.

If you are an I Claudius fan the Trump White House is showing great promise of engrossing entertainment. And, best of all, it is driving the Democrats and the left into a perpetual tizzy.

My bet is that Trump will back whoever can show him results and a resolute sense of direction. Right now the foul mouthed new guy seems willing to kick butt and take names. We’ll see how that works out.

Update: Republicans just defeated their own “skinny healthcare repeal”. That train is not only late, it’s derailed and that is the sort of thing a Chief of Staff does not let happen.

Upper Date: So Preibus was out last week and today The Mooch vanishes as quickly as he came on the scene. Rumour has it that The Mooch was kicked at the request of General Kelly, the new Chief of Staff. Stay tuned.

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CNN Blackmails a 15 year old??

Out in Twitter Land at  there is a very interesting story emerging about the silly Trump WWF/CNN tweet. Apparently, CNN took it upon themselves to track down the perpetrator of this lese majeste. While they can’t quite find the evidence of Trump colluding with the Russians they were able to find the evilton. Who is 15.

CNN nobly declined to publish his name while referring to him as “the man” who created the video.

CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.
CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.
Huge mistake.
What CNN has now done is let loose the firestorm of Reddit, 4Chan and 8 Chan on their unsuspecting heads. Internet rule is you do not threaten to “dox” someone, especially some 15 year old kid with a silly sense of humour unless you are willing to reap the consequences.
At the moment Twitter is hosting the address and home details of Wolf Blitzer’s house. And it will get worse. Much, much worse.

Once the “anything goes with CNN” meme gets going there is an army of technically sophisticated, boundary free, kids out there ready, willing and able to hack feeds, websites and create brilliant memes.

End of CNN? Not likely. Rather the end of CNN as any sort of respected news source. Those kids are brilliant and seriously without constraints. Pretty much anything can happen when they take up a cause. And looking at Twitter tonight they are ready to roll.

You think BLM is irritating…wait until you see 4 Chan unleashed.

Update: Trump’s tweet tomorrow:

Kid had spunk. Funny guy. CNN blackmails him….He’s coming to the White House. Like the clock guy.

Update #2: So CNN is saying that it was not a 15 year old they were attempting to blackmail, it was an adult. Oddly, this does not seem to have helped their case much.
Plus, there seems to be a good chance that the meme Trump used was not the meme the “kid” actually made. (OK, it is Buzzfeed via Twitchy but still more reputable than CNN.)
As predicted the internet has gone nuts with the meme jihad dumping all over CNN.
Once again, the lefty media establishment’s total lack of any sense of humour is forcing errors. Add to that the MSM’s complete lack of any sort of crisis management skills and you have the perfect storm.
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You Can’t Do That

donald-trump (1)American Media (no doubt to be followed by what is left of Canadian media) are having a collective meltdown about President Trump’s Tweets.

Reaction ranges from tsk, tsking “not Presidential” all the way through to “this is evidence that Trump should be removed from office via the 25th Amendment because he’s crackers.”

Of course Trump is having a whale of a time because a) he loses nothing, b) the media are making themselves look like precious idiots, c) his base loves his body slams on what is generally seen as a corrupt and partisan media elite. Where Ronald Reagan was a movie actor (used to taking direction), Donald Trump was a reality TV entertainer where a good deal of the fun is in the ad lib.

The nice ladies in pantsuits and the chaps in the bow ties and horn-rimmed spectacles are, of course, shocked and appalled at these goings on. Largely because they know that they have no one who can play the game at the same level. In fact, they really have no response at all other than running to the principal and demanding that this disruptive person be medicated or something.

The right response would be to mock and be funny while mocking. But the po-faced media and left in general simply don’t have the sense of humour necessary. So they bleat and eash time they bleat Trump, and legions of righty, 4-Chan, Twitter enabled, meme shapers take the piss out of the media bleaters.

For the media and the left generally Trump’s election is still beyond comprehension. My pal Dr. Dawg wrote a long and mighty screed on the Trumpian Ending of the American Dream. Well worth reading to get a picture of just how deeply adrift intelligent lefties are in the face of Trump.

All of which Trump seems instinctively aware of. Where other people might have stopped at a food fight with Morning Joe, Trump wades ever deeper into the swamp of the media’s lefty derangement. He is completely willing to keep pushing their buttons and yanking their chains until he reduces them to howling, gibbering caricatures. It isn’t hard to do. Trump’s great insight was that the media had no sense of humour or proportion at all. Which means that there will be an over the top reaction to even the tiniest taunt. And that reaction will make the media look even sillier and petty and Trump will take another trick.

At some point some media type will realize that to preserve a shred of credibility the MSM are going to have to stop responding to Trump’s taunts. Which will give them tons more time to objectively report the news. And if they get on with actually reporting the news – rather than breathlessly whinging on about Trump’s taunts – they will cease to be a laughingstock for much of the American electorate. As every parent has said to a child being teased by another child, “Just ignore him and he’ll stop.”

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SCOTUS is filled with lawyers, who knew?

After the absurdities of the lower divisions of the Federal Courts inventing new and better ways to ignore the law to thwart Trump, the Supreme Court rightly went back to, er, the law and the Constitution.

The merits of the case will be argued in the Fall but today’s decision suggests that the Justices take an expansive view of the President’s powers to make Executive Orders for national security purposes and a very dim view of claims to First Amendment protection advanced on behalf of unidentified foreign nationals.

The Court was, correctly in my view, silent on the question of what legal weight to give Trump’s campaign statements or tweets. I would hate to be the lawyer who has to argue before the SCOTUS that they need to be taken as determining the basis upon which the law and the Constitution should be applied.

Score another win for Trump and, hey, the rule of law.

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Corbyn = Trump

jeremy-corbynDonald-Trump

As I write the British election is in the balance. What can be said pretty conclusively is that this election is not at all going as expected. Corbyn and Labour were supposed to lose. Bigly.

But they are not losing, er, right now they are winning. By 17 seats and 6% of the popular vote. Still early but this was not supposed to happen. The polling suggested a Conservative majority. The British MSM were pretty much either pro-Tory or deeply skeptical of Corbyn. But he’s winning.

Why? I suspect for many of the same reasons Trump won. Because people are fed up with business as usual. They don’t want to elect someone who will continue on in the same way. They want to shake up “the system”. In America the way to do that was to vote Trump and leave the “most qualified candidate in history” sitting in the weeds.

In the UK that same sentiment recognized that whatever else Corbyn is he is not “business as usual”. Exactly the opposite.

In the US the election of Trump horrified the political establishment and, as we saw in Comey’s testimony today, that establishment feels entitled to fight back. Comey felt entirely justified leaking his conversations with the United States President. In fact, he was willing to testify that he leaked them to forward the idea of the appointment of a special counsel to look into the nefarious Mr. Trump.

Corbyn’s people and Trump’s basket of deplorables are rather obviously different. The indications are that Corbyn had a very successful night with the young people: promising to end university tuition will do that for a man. Trump had virtually no support in colleges except for the boys who liked taunting SJWs with MAGA hats. No SJW voted for Trump except by mistake, every SJW in the UK – including many former Green supporters – lined up behind Corbyn. We’ll have to see how the rest of the tabs went but the argument that each man came from a radically, and oppositely, polarized base is likely to win out. People who like Corbyn really like him and he’s hated in the same measure. Rather like Trump.

If, by some chance, Corbyn wins we will see much the same sort of reaction from the British political establishment. Including the Parliamentary caucus of the Labour Party. He is not supposed to win and getting rid of him will become Job #1 for Westminster and Whitehall. The Blairites and the permanent secretaries will be on the job.

Like Trump, Corbyn has shown a rhinoceros hide to his detractors. He has survived the non-confidence of virtually his entire Parliamentary wing. He has the support of the militant left of the Labour Party and, so far as he seems to be concerned, that is more than enough.

[As I wrote this May closed within 15 seats and 1.5% of the popular vote…I’ll post this as a hostage to fortune because I think the same anger with the establishment which propelled Trump and Brexit is turning this election on its head.)

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Political Junkie 2fer

I’ll write a bit about Comey below but, realistically, the only major stories seem to me to be a) that Comey leaked to the NYT, b) that Loretta Lynch directly interfered in an ongoing FBI investigation for political purposes. The Russia Trump collusion story is dead and the “hope” = order view of obstruction of justice is on life support and failing fast.

Meanwhile, the exits from the UK from Order-Order.com (the comments range from hilarious to hysterical.)

Tories – 314 (-17)

Labour – 266 (+34)

SNP – 34 (-22)

Lib Dems 14 (+6)

Plaid – 3

Green – 1

UKIP – 0

If those hold May does not have a majority. A Lab/SNP/Lib Dem coalition could govern with periodic support from the tiny parties.

Early days but this was not what the polls or the betting markets were predicting.

Update: I suspect this is going to be a long night for the Brits. Having an eight hour time advantage means I can go to bed knowing who won. If any one won.

Imagine the joy of these words: Prime Minister Corbyn…Oh shit.

Meanwhile the pound is down against the dollar and euro but not by a lot, a couple of cents.

Update #2: About the only thing obvious in the UK election is that UKIP appears to be collapsing. Which makes a lot of sense with Brexit in train. It will be a while before any other trend will be detected.

Thinking about Comey I get the sense that Trump, while not out of the woods, had a good day. While Comey called him a liar a few times – mainly about opinions rather than facts – he also said that he did indeed tell Trump he was not the subject of an investigation three times.

For the anti-Trumpists the collapse of the “Russians and Trump collaborated to defeat the sainted Hilly” story is going to be sad. They will keep hope alive with the “Trump fired Comey because Comey would not back off Flynn” story alive for a while but that is pretty thin gruel for an impeachment story, especially as Trump apparently encouraged Comey to look into the activities of his “satellites”.

Politically the loonier Democrats will try to keep the story and the investigations alive; but the danger to the Democrats lies in the fact those investigations are slowly turning to the behaviour of the Obama White House. Unmasking for political purposes is an actual, serious, crime. Telling the Director of the FBI to refer to the “Clinton matter” rather than the “Clinton investigation” is not obstruction in itself, but it illustrates how far Lynch was prepared to go to protect Hilly. I suspect even the loonier wing of the Congressional Democrats will be happy to let the entire thing die when summer recess rolls around.

Update #3: Time for a G&T. The constituencies reporting are all pretty safe Labour or Tory enclaves and 22 to 10 is not unexpected given the seats reporting. The collapse of the UKIP vote puts a lot of Northern and Midlands Leave ridings into play. right now it looks like Labour has a slight edge in picking up that vote. We’ll see.

I have to bet that absent a majority May is gone in a week. But the really interesting question is whether Corbyn will be able to hold on given that the Parliamentary Labour Party thinks he’s a loonie.

Update #4: Again, it is fairly early but Labour seems to be holding a 4-5% margin in the popular vote. Over at Guido’s the comments are even nastier than usual about May’s failings. Apparently, she simply did not connect with the British electorate. Which I can believe given how Boris Johnston was trotted out in the dying days of the campaign having been under wraps for the first month and a half. Now it could all switch over in the next couple of hours; but this election was called when May had a 20-25% advantage in the polls. It is a rare politician who can turn that sort of a lead into a squeaker. And it is not as if Corbyn suddenly became any saner. Nope, if the Conservatives lose or lose their majority Mrs. May needs to be gone by the weekend.

Update #5: Votes are coming in from the South and while Labour holds a 15 seat edge its lead in the popular vote has dropped to 2%.  In other news, odds on Boris Johnston becoming leader of the Tory party which had been 60:1 this morning are now at 5:1. Still 400 seats to go and a lot of those are in the south and the rural bits of England. But now Labout is 20 seats ahead.

Update #6: 492 seats declared. Lab 218, Cons 219, popular vote tied.  This is going to take a while. What is evident though is that Labour is picking up seats and May isn’t. (Although there are Tories in Scotland for the first time in years.) Regardless of how the night turns out I can’t imagine May retaining the leadership.

Update #7: 303 for the Conservatives, 42 to 40 in the popular vote. Does not look as though May will get a majority. She says she’ll stay.

The night was very reminiscent of Brexit where it took several hours for the Leave vote to roll in. The home counties came through. But what Parliament looks like when the dust clears is complicated. Annoyingly, the Lib Dems increased their seat count, though the awful Nick Clegg managed to lose to my great delight. This may have been a “change” election in disguise.

Corbyn looks safer in his seat than May does in hers. He ran his campaign his way and picked up 28 seats. He will have a rather good argument to take back to his caucus. He increased Labour’s share of the popular vote by 9%. The Parliamentary party may not like him but I can’t see him going anywhere soon.

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