I warned you. I warned you all.
We all knew that this was going to be an important week but holy f*cking shitballs has it spiralled.
This has quickly turned into a battle between democratic sensibility and process versus cynical, legal jiggery-pokery. When British people study history in fifty years’ time, this will be in the syllabus.
We are now living through one of the most dramatic political periods in our nation’s existence.
Let me explain.
Rebel Rebel – The Diamond Dogs Bite Back
Let’s start with the facts.
Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, lost a vote yesterday. He lost it, big time.
Johnson has recently championed the idea of proroguing Parliament in order to make Brexit happen. Through this process, he would be able to force Brexit through without Parliament approving it, especially a no-deal Brexit.
A no-deal Brexit is unilaterally condemned by leaders of business and human rights as being horrendously damaging for the UK.
Yesterday, the House of Commons rallied against Johnson by voting 328 to 301 to take control of the Parliamentary timetable. Usually, the timetable is set by the government. Now, however, Parliament will go against Johnson’s wishes to bring its own legislation forward today and pass a law making no-deal illegal.
Basically, Parliament has explicitly told Boris that, “Your no-deal strategy will hugely damage the UK, so now we will use our majority to prevent you from doing it.”
While many Brexiteer commentators will say that yesterday’s rulings are illegal or unfair, they are actually a perfect demonstration of our democratic system working well. We elect our MPs to make decisions for us, not to just mindlessly listen to the whims of their constituents.
And some MPs made those decisions, in the public interest, at great personal expense.
21 Tory MPs decided to destroy their own political careers last night rather than allow Johnson to continue on his path towards the no-deal cliff edge. They did this by voting against the Tory government.
They all had the whip removed after the vote. This means that they were all fired.
But, by sacrificing themselves, they have allowed Parliament a vote today that will force Johnson to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50 – to leave without a deal will be illegal, should the law pass.
And the law will pass – all those who voted against Johnson yesterday to allow the vote today will back an extension. Otherwise they wouldn’t have opposed Johnson in the first place.
Or they’re really thick. Anything, by this stage, is hypothetically possible.
To summarise: Johnson wants no-deal as an outcome/negotiating tactic. Opponents think that this is reckless/amoral/f*cking stupid. Opponents stopped him by having a majority in Parliament, and opponents include his own party members.
So… Now What?
The House of Commons now has control of the Parliamentary timetable today. They will use this to bring forward legislation that makes it illegal for Boris to continue pushing a no-deal Brexit.
It will pass, although it will not pass today – it has to go through the House of Lords and gain Royal Assent before it is law. Some Brexiteer peers might try to block its passing, but they only have so much time. Eventually, it will pass.
Boris knows this, as does Parliament.
Last night, Boris, in defeat, announced that he would ask Parliament to vote for a General Election today, assuming that the bill that bans him from a no-deal Brexit passes.
So, presumably, by the end of today, a bill will pass through the Commons that says a no-deal Brexit on the 31st of October is illegal. Seeing as this is a cornerstone of the Johnson administration, Boris will admit that he needs a new mandate (or justification) from the British people to continue with his Brexit strategy.
But it’s really not as simple as that.
So… Now What… Really?
Some things to note.
1 . Boris lost his majority of one before anything even happened yesterday. Dr. Phillip Lee, Tory MP for Bracknell, defected to the Liberal Democrats during Boris’ opening speech. This means that the government no longer has a numerical majority, making running the government impossible – they cannot pass legislation without opponents supporting them.
2. This, in any sane time, would mean that the government would call an election in order to create the numbers they need (or lose). This is what Johnson is going to try to do today.
3. The 21 Tory MPs who rebelled against Johnson are very likely to stand against a Johnson-led Conservative Party at an election as independent MPs. Johnson has created more opposition for himself.
4. Most importantly, just because Johnson is calling for a General Election doesn’t mean it will happen – 2/3rds of the House of Commons have to approve the idea for it to happen.
5. Labour, especially Corbyn, are desperate for an election. However, those who are tactically astute have told them that they will lose an election before the no-deal situation is resolved. Additionally, if Boris won before the law is passed, he could reverse the decision and plough on with no-deal anyway. As such, Corbyn said yesterday that the bill against no-deal must be passed into law before he’ll support a General Election.
6. Even if Johnson calls an election tomorrow, it will be rejected until Corbyn knows that he can campaign against BoJo after no-deal is gone for good. Only then will a General Election realistically happen.
For Christ’s Sake What The Hell Does Any Of This Mean?
No-deal will likely never happen, assuming the Bill is passed today.
It certainly won’t happen on the 31st of October.
Boris has had a searing-hot spotlight put on him and he has floundered, hard. His performance in Parliament yesterday was panicky, mumbled and uncertain. The Johnson bravado has been fully eroded, and his tenure as Prime Minister might go down in the history books as the shortest (or worst) ever.
Who will benefit? Maybe the Labour Party – Corbyn had a surprisingly good day. However, his long-standing weaknesses as perceived by the public mean that he will never win an election with an outright majority.
Instead, the other parties like the Lib-Dems, the Greens, the SNP et al have all had a profoundly good day. With the Tories veering right and the Labour Party veering left, a chasm has been left in the centre. Considering these parties are already discussing ways to form an alliance at the next election, they might be the new force in politics.
Brexit is about to be delayed again, and the threat of Article 50 being revoked has, realistically, never been higher.