Theresa May

Proroguing Parliament: What does it really mean for Brexit?

As predicted, Boris Johnson has decided to end the current parliamentary session (the longest in modern times), and trigger a new Queen’s Speech. Remainists are naturally going crazy, and talking of constitutional outrage.

But what does it actually mean for Brexit on 31 October? Is there time for fast-tracked, Bercow-enabled law that would either revoke Article 50, extend the deadline, or somehow prevent a “no deal”? What about passing a law that would stop prorogation itself? Is there even time left now in the parliamentary session?

We discuss all this and the finer details of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, and whether Boris has pulled a blinder.

Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 –

House of Commons Library Briefing Paper on Prorogation –

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Brexit isn’t threatening our constitution, Theresa May is.

It’s easy to say we are going through a constitutional crisis.

The assessment is a lazy one.

But this issue is bigger than Brexit (although that was the trigger) and dare I say it, it’s bigger even than the overturning of the clear democratic mandate of the referendum.

In most people’s eyes Theresa May, or indeed any Prime Minister that were to replace her, has the responsibility to implement the result given.

But there is something, I think, even more sinister happening that threatens our entire system of government, and that’s the overthrow of the executive in favour of the legislature.

In our system, as distinct from the US and others, the executive is appointed from members of the legislature. In particular, the vast majority are members of parliament, rather than members of the house of lords.

So they are each elected by their constituents, part of a political party, and on the winning side before they are then chosen by the Prime Minister to serve in the government.

But what happens if parliament “takes back control”. Well this is what media pundits like to tell you, although I’m not sure in its history it ever actually had the control it is purported to be taking back.

But the point is a serious one and it’s also important to understand who is enabling it.

One Theresa May.

Yes, we have a Speaker who doesn’t respect the office he holds, turning it into a specifically political and therefore ultimately party-political position.  The is dangerous in and of itself.

But it’s May who is continually letting MPs now call the shots.  MPs who lost. MPs who haven’t been chosen to form a government. MPs that’s function is to scrutinize law, not rule.

The Bill has been defeated. That should be it.

She could withdraw it. She could end this parliamentary sitting and reset proceedings.

But instead she enables potential policy outcomes that she says she is against while attempting to prevent the one outcome that is still government policy (just leaving).

In my eyes this now transcends Brexit.

This is about process. And process is important.

Not least of which because we need to hold our elected officials to account, but also because big constitutional change surely needs democratic support. Say… a referendum on what organisations and structures govern us and whether we have sovereignty?

This parliament with the support of Bercow and May, egged on by Anti-Democrats on all sides, is neutering the executive, but without a credible or warranted alternative.

So while Brexit is the catalyst, or at least the trigger of this spasm of protest and sudden flexing of muscles by MPs who five minutes ago were happy to be ruled from Brussels, to me it doesn’t matter that it’s about leaving the EU.

To me, in any circumstance where the executive feels it is being usurped, it should defend itself, and our very system of government, with its checks and balances and separation of powers.

I may not agree with the amount of power our government holds in general, but exchanging one set of useless despots for another is not my idea of liberal reform.

The larger mistake that Theresa May is making, and this is obviously saying something, is letting MPs over rule not only the referendum result, but the government’s control of negotiations with the EU when they have no authority to do so.

And the fact that she blames MPs now publicly for the mess she is in, just shows how delusional she has become and how she’s forgotten what it truly means to hold the office of Prime Minister and defend our constitution.

Photo by Deniz Fuchidzhiev on Unsplash

No deal but no no deal either

It turns out no deal isn’t better than a bad deal even though the commons has certainly expressed its opinion that the Withdrawal Agreement is very bad indeed.

The Irish Backstop is the clincher, and this week the power was firmly in the hands of Geoffrey Cox, the government’s lawyer in chief, who with one decisive blow, single-handedly ensured that the government would be defeated again.

We discuss the events of the day after, when the commons voted on a motion to take “no deal” off the table, and on the Malthouse compromise amendment.

Will members of the Cabinet resign after abstaining? What about those who voted for the Malthouse version of Brexit?

And finally, we discuss the shenanigans in the Labour Party, and how in “normal” times, this would have been big news.

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The Conservative Party splits. What happens now?

Only two days have passed, yet another Labour MP has quit and, more significantly, 3 Conservatives MPs have too.

Now that the Independent Group has 11 MPs and eclipses the Lib Dems in all the polls, what does this mean for Brexit, the two old parties, and politics in general?

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Withdrawal Agreement Principles and the Politics of Opposition

It was inevitable, wasn’t it? With so much going on about Brexit, we felt we couldn’t avoid it again. We do however, try to tackle it from angles other commentators haven’t discussed. This week we ask what comes first, a belief in democracy or a belief in the EU? Are the Labour Party secret geniuses or just plain stupid? And finally we discuss some good news about a local MP.

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200 MPs cheered a lame duck Prime Minister, and nothing changed

Why did they cheer?

Last night 200 MPs got to their feet to make some noise. But in their frenzy they forgot something.

They are the minority.

Those 200 MPs are the only ones out of a parliament of 650 that support the prime minister.

That they have a majority of their own party is irrelevant.

And this is the state of politics post 2015. Leaders that nobody really wants, that certainly don’t represent the collective views of the electorate.

Last night John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, thought nobody would notice when he pointed out how many of her own MPs didn’t have confidence in Theresa May as leader of her party.

How convenient that he’s forgotten that his own leader ignored a similar vote that he overwhelmingly lost.

But this is business as usual in the UK Parliament. If you don’t like the outcome of a vote then you try to ignore it.

Often you pretend that nothing actually happened or that somehow you are strengthened by the loss.

Are these days numbered? Will we actually get back to some semblance of normality, any time soon?

With no date set for a vote on the withdrawal agreement and the EU showing no sign of caving on the NI protocol it feels to me like Theresa May could end up being the person who leads us out of the EU with no deal. And that Jeremy Corbyn could just continue to vacillate without getting anything he really wants.

Will we be in exactly the same position in 12 months time? Article 50 extended or cancelled, Theresa May still “negotiating” with both her backbench MPs and the EU and Jeremy Corbyn still demanding but not getting a general election.

The Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition seem to have one skill in common. Doing everything they can to hang on to their current positions regardless of whether their MPs or the country want them to.

I don’t see that position changing any time soon.

Photo by Jordhan Madec on Unsplash

Is Jeremy Corbyn the political genius he’s being made out to be?

When it looked like Jeremy Corbyn would win the Labour leadership election in 2015, pundits and commentators were essentially speechless.

Sure, they could point to the Momentum movement, and a desire by members to try something different. They could easily identify the new leadership election rules and allowing £3 “members” to vote as having a huge and unexpected impact.

But essentially no one knew what to make of him.

I think most people were genuinely shocked when, after the general hilarity that he had actually won, the reality of having John McDonnell as shadow chancellor sunk in.

But still, the prevailing view at the time was that this must be the gift that it seemed to be to the Conservative Party.

And in the short term it was. For all his faults, David Cameron was at ease against Corbyn at the despatch box. It was merely sport to each week point out the attempted coups, the splits and the absurdity that the Labour Party had become.

Dressing improperly, not singing the national anthem and having no idea how to handle the media (Seamus I don’t think this is a good idea…) all fed into a comfortable narrative that Jeremy Corbyn and the new Labour leadership just weren’t credible.

And let’s be clear this is excluding all mentions of the IRA, anti-semitism, and dangerous socialist policies.

But then came the EU referendum and subsequently Theresa May.

JC was virtually silent during the campaign. As was TM. Both I think for different reasons.

JC, a long time advocate of leaving the EU, realised he would alienate his party if he came out in favour of leave.

TM, in one of her more canny political moments, realised that this thing could go both ways, and better not to piss off the leavers in case there was a chance to grab the throne.

She was right. And the staggering fumbling of the Tory Brexiteers ensured she became leader and Prime Minister.

Fast forward one disastrous general election (for the Tories at least) and a failed EU withdrawal negotiation and the politics of the UK couldn’t be more different.

If Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party could be accused of being consistent it would be in their inconsistency, in particular with EU policy.

At first it was highlighted as gaff by the media. Hang on, didn’t that shadow minister say the exact opposite of what Corbyn said yesterday?

Wait, Corbyn has now contradicted what he said last week.

And so it continued.

Now after months and months of this, commentators are starting to say that this is Corbyn’s genius. That he is actually a smooth political operator.

6 impossible tests. What a trap he’s laid.

By being all things to all people he has become the every-person leader. A man of all the policies.

Agreeing with everyone and disagreeing with the Tories.

We know he never thought he’d ever get this far. We know it’s McDonnell that we should be really worried about ever coming close to power.

And it doesn’t take a political genius to see that every move they make is about seeking power, at any cost.

But I’m reminded of the Soviet Union in the Cold War, when there was a genuine nuclear arms race between them and the west.

Western intelligence agencies could only find derelict and old missile silos. But how could this be when the rhetoric was that they had the most powerful arsenal in the world?

The intelligence agencies of the day concluded that the Russians were being so clever that they had indeed developed better weapons and the ability to make the other side think they hadn’t.

Ironically this hardened the resolve of America and its allies as they rushed to develop counter technologies to win the arms race.

History showed us that this was essentially unnecessary. The silos and missiles were exactly as they seemed. Dilapidated and under maintained. No match for their opponents.

So is Jeremy Corbyn wearing the Emperors new clothes? Political observers seem to think he has not only tapped into the current zeitgeist but is using his savvy political skills in a way that must be sheer genius.

Who else would come across as so untrustworthy and inconsistent. He must know something we don’t know.

The concern is that they are right. Not because he’s principled and just, but because the electorate will somehow be sucked in.

But I still can’t bring myself to believe that it isn’t anything other than Labour Party incompetence.

The 2017 election was a shock to me, having accurately predicted the previous 4 elections. I trusted the people to make the right decision.

Now I’m not so sure. I want to believe that the voters will, if presented with a Socialist Labour Party, will reject it, and we’ll all go back to saying how politically inept the whole experience was.

But with Theresa May at the helm of an increasingly interventionist Conservative Party, botching Brexit, with no credible free market, Liberal alternative in sight, I fear voters will waver, as I am, as to whether to vote at all.

And if voters become non-voters, then this absurdity, no matter how intentional, may yet be proved successful.

The One Where We Ramble On About Brexit

It was inevitable.  We had to talk about Brexit again, and this week we’ve dedicated an entire edition to it.  An awful lot has happened in the last week, with Theresa May releasing a draft withdrawal agreement followed by government resignations including Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Dominic Raab.

We talk about the possible outcomes, some off the wall suggestions of what might end up happening, and whether the Walloons can scupper the whole thing.

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Danny Dyer has a point about David Cameron, not about Brexit

Danny Dyer. Our new national treasure, because he dissed Brexit and speaks without cut-glass tones.

“You see?” The remainiacs say.

“If a normal, down to earth bloke doesn’t get it, then we have been right all along”.

The remain cause has shown no love until now for Danny Dyer.

But, say a few swear words on national TV and whip up a quick frenzy in the Twitter echo chamber and soon the mainstream media will report on how you should be PM.

Well done everyone.

But here is where I actually think Dyer has a point. It’s not about Brexit, where he probably voted to leave anyway. It’s his point about David Cameron.

Now we can talk at length about how the former PM made bad political decisions; whether it was calling the referendum in the first place, or not seeing the opportunity in campaigning for leave after getting handed nothing in the prior EU negotiation. But he promised he would stay to implement the result of the vote, no matter which side won.

I believed him.

But any final respect I had vanished when he immediately resigned.

When it turned out that absolutely no work had been done to prepare for a possible leave vote, it just doubled down my disappointment at a politician who had detoxified the Tory brand enough to convert a hung parliament to a majority government.

So the frustration expressed by Dyer as to where David Cameron is now, I totally get.

A true democrat would have implemented the decision of the people, not run away.

He could have been bullet proof.

Turning round to Brussels and saying “see, I told you you should have agreed to meaningful reform”.

“Now you need to agree to a serious deal or we’ll just walk away without giving you a penny”

But instead we have Theresa May and her ungovernables…

Now of course my alternate universe Cameron is doing what I would do in his situation.

Equally there has always been a way for Theresa May as PM to get a good deal and I’m not the only person saying very clearly how that could have been achieved.

Yet here we are, two years in and I’m actually pining for a Cameron premiership. What’s the world coming to?

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