For background, see previous articles in this series:
David Gauke, one of the leaders of the Tory MPs opposing a No Deal Brexit has written an article at “Conservative Home” explaining why “Parliament must stop a No Deal Brexit this week”. My response is below:
Fine, Parliament steps in. On Tuesday 3 September it takes control of the agenda. By Monday 9 September legislation to make leaving only with a deal the default will have passed both Houses, with much sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Then what? There are still several days before prorogation by Thursday 12 September. Those days could be far more interesting. If Bojo is really determined on a “People v Parliament” election, assent will be refused. That would be more difficult if he had already been made a caretaker PM by an ordinary Vote of No Confidence (VoNC) not under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FtPA). The legislation is a matter of confidence, whether declared to be or not. The proper response of the government would be to propose an election. Since Bojo has openly threatened to pre-empt any decision by the people by setting the date in November and refusing to apply for an exension he won’t get the 2/3 majority of all MPs.
But a VoNC could still be moved under the FtPA, perhaps by Bojo himself. The Libdems have the same interest in a general election with Brexit still unresolved and could support it. It could succeed. No problem. It is still not too late to replace the PM.
But prorogation can occur at any time in those four days, for example immediately after a VoNC and before any Humble Address to HM to dismiss Bojo and appoint some named MP as PM. So the election proceeds.
If the House majority is serious it needs to replace Bojo as PM first. That is how the Constitution is supposed to work. The House replaces governments it has no confidence in. It does not legislate to block their core policies.”
Here’s a confusing and incomplete list of possible outcomes, also at “ConservativeHome”:
This week the UK Parliament should actually be interesting instead of the usual rituals in which a government majority routinely proceeds with business while an opposition minority remonstrates ineffectually. A minority government faces a split opposition majority determined to block core government policy. A likely result is legislation that changes the default from leaving the EU without a deal on October 31 unless there is a deal to not leaving unless there is a deal. That reverses everything about Brexit and inevitably leads to either No Brexit or a BRINO. The legislation may or may not be accompanied by replacement of the PM, a date for a general election before or after October 31 and various court orders, none of which matters as much as the fact that No Deal will be blocked. The rest can be dealt with later.
The Tory whip has declared such legislation a matter of confidence and threatens expulsion of any Tory MPs that fail to support the government. But there are enough retiring anyway to defeat the government and others could become extremely unwell and unable to attend the House. The threat implies that Bojo is actively demanding to be replaced as PM. Other measures to that end have included:
1. threatening to respond to a VoNC by pre-empting a subsequent general election on Brexit by setting the date after a No Deal Brexit has already happened on October 31
2. inciting hysterics about proroging the House
It is plain that Bojo knows he never had the confidence of the House and will be blocked by it. But why is he so desperate to be replaced as PM? Well, given that he cannot actually deliver Brexit and he was chosen to sideline the Brexit party he desperately needs credibility as heroic leader of nearly all Brexiteers fighting to the end, so that Farage has less success in splitting the Tory vote at the eventual general election. Tnat should save some Tory seats from the debacle.
Corbyn has offered to support the 2/3 majority needed for a general election under the FtPA, but since Bojo sets the date and said he would pre-empt the decision on Brexit by holding the election afterwards, that would presumably depend on the legislation blocking a No Deal Brexit having been assented to. I cannot think of any reason why the government would actually want to face a general election having failed to resolve Brexit and still stuck with no plan. Only the Libdems and the Brexit party benefit from that. What both government and opposition really want is for Brexit to be resolved by a “Final Say” referendum before any general election, but they cannot admit it.
My guess is that the week will end with Bojo still left roasting in that special place in Hell for Brexiteers without a plan, despite his best efforts. Corbyn and Hammond are both a lot less tactically inept than Blair assumes.
The middle of October could be more dramatic, but that’s a whole six weeks away so I’ll write about it after this week is over.
The process will be far more interesting than usual because with the Tory party split there are more than two parties and a non-deterministic outcome. There are many possible variations and the sound and fury could include expelling disruptive government MPs and contemptuous Ministers from the session with background noise from the Courts. Unfortunately it seems unlikely that anyone will be locked up in the Tower pending trial and the crowds outside will probably not engage in unlawful drilling in the use of arms to defend democracy.
The last time such parliamentary politics was not entirely pre-determined in Australia was when there were three factions at the convention called to propose a model for a Republican constitution. The Monarchists, who wanted an Australian “Head of State” to confer dignity on the local poliltical class were out maneuvered by the Traditionalists who preferred to keep such symbols entirely out of politics, safely on the opposite side of the globe, and the Republicans who wanted some relevant change rather than pretense.
Actual political conflicts debated through public institutions could be normal in both the UK and Australia as well as the U.S.A. and others stuck with a two party system inherited from medieval England if they managed to overcome resistance from the two parties that benefit and establish a fair electoral system with Proportional Representation (PR). That could even lead to serious public debate over actual policies between a full spectrum of viewpoints if mainstream politics was not completely bankrupt. But even in the current state of mainstream politics it would slightly open up opportunities for other views to get a hearing, as in most of Europe where PR is the norm.
In the current political crisis over Brexit there could be real public debate about sovereignty, national identity, globalization and ever deeper union, free trade, looming trade wars, stagnation and economic crisis etc.
Instead the entire time available will be spent on not discussing Brexit at all, but devoted to procedural sound and fury signifying nothing. But this too is worth analysing as it reflects a profound shift towards populist mobilization to resolve splits in the establishment under constitutional mechanisms that were supposed to ensure a conservative and a reformist party would rotate in government, each delivering their supporters to accept compromise policies in order to win over the voters in the middle and thus win a majority of single member seats to be able to govern, That arrangement has facilitated periods of relatively rapid change led by reformists, followed by consolidation and digestion of the changes so that they become the status quo defended by conservatives. Its breakdown opens up potential involvement of much wider layers than the “political class”.
Usually reformists focus on Parliament rather than street protests. Now that Parliament is briefly interesting, of course they are doing the opposite. If there was an organized left, it would be using the street protests to mobilize the participants to actually reach out to others and canvas every home and workplace in every region to win over those still not convinced. Instead they are talking to themselves, or rather shouting to themselves, rather hysterically, and just sneering at the large numbers still taken by Brexiteer fantasies. The pseudo-left populism united with “the establishment” and “our Parliament” is no more progressive than the right wing nationalist populism united against “the establishment” and “their Parliament. Both are led by different factions of the establishment and being set against each other to divide potential mobilization that could actually challenge the establishment.
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;” but neither can the rough Beast be born.
Still, things are happening, which enables more people to start thinking for themselves.