Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Week Ahead

Theresa May in her zig-zagging wants to put her deal forward again, but is advised to hold back, see other options fail and then put hers in again.

A Prime Minister by virtue of the office holds cards, and plays them, and most Prime Ministers look at the values on the cards and realises weaknesses as well as strengths. Theresa May could be doing two things this weekend at Chequers:

1) Saying goodbye to the staff, before announcing her end.
2) Still trying to force her way through.

However, everyone is fed up with this bunker mentality. She placates one side and then the other. By having two extensions, the EU has boxed clever. Both sides have their chances, both sides see their losses ahead. In this, there needs to be movement, and we cannot be having Theresa May imposing herself.

She said next to nothing in supporting remain in the referendum campaign, where her strategy was to pick up the leadership if Cameron won - the Tory right would have turned against him and he would have had to resign anyway - and she received the leadership after he lost, partly through the attack of Gove on Johnson and the incompetence of Andrea Leadsom's mouth - a quality she is now demonstrating against the Speaker of the House of Commons.

But the signs were there with Theresa May in the Home Office. She took ages to make a decision and then became utterly rigid. Windrush and the Hostile Environment were both her legacies, and disasters they were. It was Tory Party politicking then, and populism. She really does not believe in anything much. That flexibility was a charade for the rigid loyalty to the football team. The Tory Party had brought her up and now she owed it for giving her pole position.

But as it was for the British West Indians' human rights, so she became for us - a disaster. Both David Cameron and Theresa May have been the most disastrous Prime Ministers ever in recent times. Both have gambled the country for the sake of their Party.

The British Constitution does not say that party leaders should be chosen to then command the House of Commons. It says someone comes forward to be chosen by the Monarch who can command the House of Commons. This is why a Cabinet coup is entirely legitimate.

One can see David Lidington taking over, and he will do so without a personal agenda. Other people will effectively run his show. But it has to be highly likely that the Cabinet will split, and many exit of the EU types will resign. The sensible thing then would be to appoint people from around the House of Commons. This is because the Tory Party will be at war with itself. Stability will come if people like Liz Kendal, Chuka Umunna, Jo Swinson, Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve, or variations like them get appointed to Cabinet positions with the task of sorting out the Brexit mess. But even without this, the main players will be the likes of Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Philip Hammond.

There are at least two, maybe three Tory Parties. There is the hard right (leavers), the compromisers, and the left (remainers). The election of a leader from any wing but the compromisers will itself be enough for formally split the party, but the war in the party should be enough to divide it regardless. It may go three ways or two, forcing compromisers to choose. Why? Because the party is incapable of presenting itself for a General Election.

As for Labour, it isn't in much better shape. Its leader has shown sectarian party first attitudes recently, and has shown his own 'tin ear' and not a little incompetence in running his party. Unless there are wide-scale deselections, and there are not, the right wing elected will prevent the socialist wonderland Corbyn and close would like to pursue. Despite the fact that the Tory government is a shambles beyond all expectation, Labour have been behind in the polls. It's incredible.

Vince Cable is solid but not an inspiring leader; it is good that he is going but a new leader must relaunch the party, and do so with The Independent Group (by whatever name they choose suitable for elections).  I can only think that The Reform Party makes sense. Dominic Grieve calls them Social Democrats. Heidi Allen is, but I'm not sure about Anna Soubrey or Sarah Wollaston. It does not follow that the Tory left split will join this group: it is more likely that they will form their own. Each new Tory group will try to become the replacement Tory Party.

There may be a Norway plus result to the May-free search, but in the end that arrangement is EU without having a vote: there is a place for EEA and EFTA membership and not all of its institutions and policies are those of the EU. But it is a grouping that is for countries that may join sometime, not those who left - or not until up to now. It may be all that the UK can manage.

I do not underestimate a revoke happening: because a revoke allows a full stop, a pause and the political spill-out (painful as it will be) to debate without pressure where we want to be, and allow political parties - like a right wing Tory party, to make the case for exiting, to win parliamentary seats, form a majority, and enact its policies. Parliament makes the decisions, managed by the executive branch, not referenda. Referenda should be reserved only for the people to support or reject a major decision already taken by government and parliament, not to pass the buck on a gamble like Cameron did.

The Cabinet Coup to be Completed?

The Press is predicting a cabinet coup. Blow my own trumpet time. I was on the case last year. I didn't predict everything, especially the timing, but the internal logic has unfolded.

Sunday, 2 September 2018: New Political Season: A White Knuckle Ride

But, in the meantime, there is enough co-operation for someone like Chuka Umunna to be the man of the moment to rise up beyond his front bench and do some informal leadership...

So I am predicting that there will be a new informal leadership in the House of Commons bypassing both front benches. Chuka is the leader, and the group covers many Labour MPs, all the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Nationalists for the purposes of the EU legislation, and the Tory pro-Europeans. Each Party will have its own sub-leaders too. This is important for co-ordination. In such a situation, Theresa May will fall, the House of Commons will organise itself, Corbyn will also be sidelined.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018: Brexit Crunch Pincer Movement

For a while now Downing Street has had a bunker mentality, believing it can fix this and fix that. One should never underestimate the ability of government to get its way. The government controls the parliamentary agenda, and has since the Blair government. It now timetables procedures, and long gone are attempts the extend and ruin the timetable. Secondly, an agreement is' boots on the ground', rather as people have learnt that the EU is 'boots on the ground'...

In that the Government holds the cards, the Government will try to make it a binary deal or no deal scenario, and thus the 20 plus Labour MPs may well grow in number. The number of remainer opposers on the Tory benches may well shrink. Nevertheless, the betting has to be that the draft agreement cannot get through Parliament.

What then? May would have to go, although she is likely to try and hang on. A Brexit Tory Prime Minister simply will not carry the Tory Party: it will be 1846 all over again...

Somehow, Parliament has to become itself the executive because this is where the hole is going to appear. There would have to be a huge political realignment at a time of national crisis, perhaps to organise a second referendum, or, better still (or both), ram on the brakes.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018: Surely This Could Not Be a Treaty

I have tried to imagine what this agreement would look like as a treaty. It won't get there, of course, but what if it did? It means we have no political representation in the EU, an extendable transition period, a backstop that means a sort of customs union and Northern Ireland in the Single Market and Customs Union in effect.

What would future governments do with this? The trade agreement to be UK-wide must match Northern Ireland. Would they keep extending the transition period? Would the backstop be the model for the trade agreement?

This is like some or most of the advantages of being in the EU, without the political representation? What is the point of this?

Sunday, 25 November 2018: Come the Hour, Come the Woman?

A problem is that with a 'Brexit failure' the Tories will not vote for a General Election and it won't get the two thirds majority as required by the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which also removed calling an election by the Prime Minister, a one time monarchical power held by the Prime Minister. There is not a majority for a second referendum, and no one would know the questions to ask or have the rapid mechanism available to decide these. A Tory Party leadership election takes time and would be riven by division.

Oh dear oh dear? What will happen. There is a road forward, and no one has set this out. it is based on the fact that there is no requirement for a party leader to be the Prime Minister, and who is Prime Minister remains a monarchical power, this is to say the Prime Minister can be anyone who will present to the House of Commons and carry the vote in the house.

So we have the formal statement. The government may pledge to find a way to present the agreement back. Suddenly those 48 letters appear, to have a vote against Theresa May, but she would still win because Tories cannot agree on anyone else.

However, what matters is that the Cabinet itself implodes. In effect, the Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond faction of the cabinet, along with Jeremy Hunt and more, realise there is a crisis of an unprecedented kind, and effectively the five exiters (plus) resign - to begin with. The exiters cannot themselves force a cabinet coup. They can be replaced.

Sunday, 9 December 2018: The Movement Towards the Logic of Remaining

Saturday 8th December and Amber Rudd speaks out in a way that suggests she might emerge in the manner of my last blog entry to take the reins of government for the purpose of sorting out the exiting the European Union mess.

I need to adjust my crystal ball gazing, however, and in a manner away from what Amber Rudd was suggesting. The thought the Norway plus solution has potential in the House of Commons and Parliament as a whole. I rather agree with Anna Soubrey, however, that it seems to be receding.

Blame David Cameron and his gamble. He 'won' the Scottish Independence Referendum and thought he could do the double. Blame the Liberal Democrats for propping up the Tories: done in a previous crisis, but went on for too long and at too high a cost. Let's hope that the Conservative Party as it is reaps the destruction to them and benefit to us...

Sunday, 16 December 2018: The Strategy of a Cabinet Coup

But all this just goes back to what I have been suggesting here, and still no one seems to be saying this in the broader media. It is that the Cabinet has to remove her, via people who have not descended to May's brittle bunker mentality. It will be bloody, in the sense that someone must take over, many must walk out, and people from other parties come in, and start acting to produce legislation. The principal act has to be to pull out of Article 50, either to buy time or stop the thing altogether.

Saturday, 5 January 2019: Decisive New Year?

What I wrote in the previous blog entry stands. It will go to the wire. May's agreement with the European Union will fail to get through, and a crisis will lead to a cabinet coup, in effect, and a necessary rescinding of Article 50, ostensibly to buy time. The Prime Minister will have changed, and the Cabinet will propose such emergency legislation not based on party but on informal networks of MPs, some into the Cabinet. So I predict. And it will be a very rough time of reactions and betrayals.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019: Massive Defeat - What Next?

A second referendum is a dangerous strategy. It will be divisive, the proposers will again lose control of it like they did in 2016 (it became an expression of anti-austerity and looked to kick the government), and of course it could still result in a no deal exit. Such a referendum may happen, but only if Labour back it, and many MPs will not.

No referendum creates two tough choices. One is to leave with no deal on the 29th March later this year. The House of Commons can always produce a majority to stop this, and the Cabinet can also stop this, given the balance of opinion. But the only way to stop this is to revoke Article 50...

Even if there is a referendum, it does not follow that the EU 27 will approve unanimously an extension to Article 50. So it may still need to be revoked, which the UK government can do: the Cabinet can do it as an executive act of governing. However, done as the only viable means to prevent a no-deal, it should get a majority in the House of Commons - if it goes to a vote.

Expect Cabinet resignations, but also possibly expect across the House of Commons appointments into it. This will destroy the political parties as they are, but the predicament demands that incredibly difficult yet necessary decision. They will sell it to give the UK time to think. The Attorney General says we can only revoke if it is to stop it altogether, but (as Kenneth Clarke asked) does this mean for all time? Of course not. To invoke it again is surely allowed once. This is how they will sell it.

Monday, 18 February 2019: Labour Split: a Surprise and Due to Internal Incompetence

While the various 'remainer' MPs from different parties have worked together, it would be a big move to find several Tory MPs now joining Chuka Umunna and company at this stage. There may be other Labour MPs joining first, especially if Corbyn carries on in his usual moribund way of ignoring everyone except a small clique of people like him, plus the struggling Keir Starmer.

I am still expecting we get to a point where political forces, in the form of a Cabinet coup, revoke Article 50. Everything is pointing in this direction, a very binary crash out versus the revoke option.

The government is chaotic, trying to force people into its cul-de-sac and then try to force them to help it out by passing the dog's breakfast of a partial subservient attachment to the EU. It isn't going to happen, because the far right of the Tory Party have this blue-eyed mist that wants to send the country over the cliff edge. Cameron's gamble to hold his party together at the risk of the country has resulted in neither winning the bet. The country is going into a period of self-harm and the Tory Party will split.

One suspects Corbyn and company rather like leaving the EU because it will give them the opportunity to launch a socialist wonderworld - well, the MPs won't buy it. The result of the seven leaving is to constrain the next manifesto. Labour is likely to be conflicted for a long time.

Saturday, 23 February 2019: The Coup is On

My long predicted coup is on. After a week in which eight Labour MPs formed and joined the Independent Group, and three Conservatives then joined it, three Cabinet Ministers have written in a newspaper to signal that they will vote to give Parliament control and thus extend Article 50 if the Prime Minister has no deal to present to Parliament. There is also the possibility that the Prime Minister will receive a positive vote if she accepts putting it to a second referendum.

However, it is not clear that there will be anything to vote on in terms of a revised deal.The so-called Malthouse Compromise is dead in the water, and the issue remains the withdrawal agreement backstop - which the Brady Amendment a fortnight ago said should be replaced and now is only subject to legal reinterpretation, if that.

The Prime Minister with nothing (much) to report may well try to delay again, but really time is up for this...

Sunday, 10 March 2019: This Week Coming: Hold on to Your Seats

The late Robin Day used to say: "So here we are and here we go." This is the week of the crucial votes regarding leaving the European Union, or we think so. One has to give a little qualification to this, because they have been promised and pulled before, and frankly Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, as has achieved nothing at all...

Tuesday, 12 March 2019: The Dead Rabbit from Strasbourg

it would be a miracle if the whole agreement passes the meaningful vote. Plus the fact that many in Parliament tomorrow will have had little sleep. They will feel like they have been treated with contempt. It is not the way to get people on-side. Out of the hat came a dead rabbit.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019: Turmoil: and the Tory Split Coming Fast


Wow. Tonight in parliament turned out to be even more riveting than yesterday, with the government suddenly whipping against its own (amended) motion. It lost by 43, so the whipping was rather pointless. Seventeen ministers including four Cabinet ministers, including Rudd and Clark, abstained against its own policy, with one resigning by voting against...

Is the Cabinet going to allow the Prime Minister to keep dealing her low value cards? As I have put earlier, the Cabinet coup is operative, as seen tonight, but it is incomplete...

The Tory Party is so angry across itself tonight that it will surely split.

Also Wednesday, 13 March 2019: Chaos

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox marked his own homework and must have put Failed at the bottom. The unfolding disaster on Tuesday saw the Democratic Unionists say 'no' and obviously the 'headbangers' said no - and across the opposition. Even then some 40 or so votes switched. Only three Labour MPs voted with the government.

Theresa May may have symbolically lost her voice but I nearly lost mine when, after the 149 votes defeat, Nicky Morgan MP, in an interview soon after, considered a third vote on the Prime Minister's proposed deal. How dead does this have to be before it is buried? ...

The only good speech of leaders was that of the Scottish National Party Ian Blackford, who made the case for the European Union: the case that should have been made by the Yes campaign in 2016...

The disaster may be ended by revoking Article 50, with consequent negative effects for democracy. If people want to leave the EU, they should produce a majority in Parliament to do it. Parliament takes decisions and referenda confirm or reject decisions, rather than make a decision for Parliament. For this reason I remain opposed to a second referendum...

In effect, Labour's Shadow Shadow Cabinet (its influential driving backbenchers), Tom Watson's party within a party, a few Labour front-benchers, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Green, The Independent Group, a few backbench Tories and connected ministers, have to cohere and grow the will to put an end to this. Some of these people may well be consulted by a rump Cabinet in pursuit of tackling the crisis, revoking Article 50 and then going to the country.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019: The Prime Minister Must be Forced to Resign.

It is now time to for government members and Parliament to remove the Prime Minister. It should be done fast and with a caretaker leader, one that will allow facilitation of votes to find what is consensual in the House of Commons. I say this as a convinced and unapologetic remainer...

Why has this come about? Because, in her zig-zagging, last week a long extension was on offer that would allow 'The House' to find its consensus and act on it. What changed was half her cabinet revolted, to threaten resignations if she did go ahead with a long extension. And we had the free vote last week where the government sought approval for an extension beyond March 29th, and where eight cabinet ministers voted against, including the Exiting the EU Secretary who's just spoke in favour

Friday, 22 March 2019: Theresa May Zig-Zagging: Don't be Fooled

Don't be fooled by Theresa May's sudden change of tone: how wonderful MPs are doing their jobs and a reference even to alternatives to her deal. She zig zags and we have seen it too often: she will revert to type regarding this deal. The bunker mentality is still there.

She has to go. David Lidington could become a caretaker Prime Minister but he would be like the Fuhrer after Hitler: in the sense of chaos in defeat after political suicide and an inability to hold a divided Cabinet together. So half the Cabinet could walk out, presumably the harder exit half, and thus instead mean a Hammond or Rudd leadership and reference to other party personnel - to facilitate navigating the process through of indicative votes. This would complete the Cabinet coup I expected long back.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Theresa May Zig-Zagging: Don't be Fooled

Update:

The situation changes by the hour. As soon as I write a blog entry, there is a development! The announcement by the Democratic Unionist Party of not only no support for the May agreement with the EU, but a devastating criticism of her approach, means that Theresa May is now finished as a Prime Minister. The only route ahead now is that of indicative votes requiring a long extension that she said she would not countenance.  The DUP statement is almost an invitation for a confidence vote where they would vote against the government. Without that being explicit, Theresa May has to go.

Original Entry:

The European Union at the recent summit looked over the cliff edge and decided to do the opposite of coastal erosion.

Don't be fooled by Theresa May's sudden change of tone: how wonderful MPs are doing their jobs and a reference even to alternatives to her deal. She zig zags and we have seen it too often: she will revert to type regarding this deal. The bunker mentality is still there.

She has to go. David Lidington could become a caretaker Prime Minister but he would be like the Fuhrer after Hitler: in the sense of chaos in defeat after political suicide and an inability to hold a divided Cabinet together. So half the Cabinet could walk out, presumably the harder exit half, and thus instead mean a Hammond or Rudd leadership and reference to other party personnel - to facilitate navigating the process through of indicative votes. This would complete the Cabinet coup I expected long back.

The Tory Party will then tear itself apart. It deserves all that comes to it. The good news should be that the Tory right is sidelined and at the moment it thought it had won it loses. Unless, of course, we fall over the delayed cliff edge. It is still possible.

The simplest solution is to revoke; it would allow pause, time for other necessary political actions for social needs, and a debate without pressure about the relationship wanted with the EU. There isn't the vote for that yet, beyond the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Green and The Independent Group (the latter need to come on board). Labour might, most of them, but I wouldn't trust Corbyn to do anything. Walking out before engaging in opposition talks with the Prime Minister because Chuka Umunna was present displays nothing more than sectarian party politics when the pressing need was to contribute. Corbyn shows many parallels with Theresa May, including party over country, and a chaos in running his office, and tensions with shadow ministers, and therefore shows why he would be an inadequate Prime Minister.

A General Election of confusion beckons: candidates not lined up on the basic present political question of the moment. It may not resolve anything on this basic issue, but at least the Tory Party would be a leaderless divided entity that could be much diminished as a result. Hopefully the Liberal Democrats can get on with choosing a new leader, and work with the Independent Group if it wants a future as a Reform Party (?) in parliament in any numbers - or it will vanish as limited to this parliament alone.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The Prime Minister Must be Forced to Resign.

It is now time to for government members and Parliament to remove the Prime Minister. It should be done fast and with a caretaker leader, one that will allow facilitation of votes to find what is consensual in the House of Commons. I say this as a convinced and unapologetic remainer, and all my comments have been directed at how we might stay in the European Union. What was missing in the Prime Minister's statement of bluster against MPs, was no reference to other ways to achieve leaving the European Union.

Why has this come about? Because, in her zig-zagging, last week a long extension was on offer that would allow 'The House' to find its consensus and act on it. What changed was half her cabinet revolted, to threaten resignations if she did go ahead with a long extension. And we had the free vote last week where the government sought approval for an extension beyond March 29th, and where eight cabinet ministers voted against, including the Exiting the EU Secretary who's just spoke in favour, and where 112 Tories only voted with the government and 188 of the 202 against were Tories. Previously the government had a free vote that was amended, and then whipped against its own policy and thus saw four cabinet ministers abstain.

Yet again the Prime Minister with her low value cards is being allowed to keep dealing the pack. We thought the Speaker had stopped this, but then it can be a vote attached to a delay if passed. So there will be another. And she will likely position the vote inches from the cliff edge.

So all the swivel-eyed enthusiasts for the cliff edge, who were under pressure last week to support her deal or risk no exit, are now getting out the champagne. They have no incentive to vote for it. The DUP don't care, so long as Great Britain is not perceived to be different from Northern Ireland. They were under pressure last week, but they are no longer under pressure. So the vote will go down again.

The blockage is not MPs, but the Prime Minister. She has played this as a Tory Party problem, and yet her delay went through by opposition votes: a majority of Tories voted against. So why not extend that practical possibility.

Corbyn, who seemed to find higher ground last week, who might speak with other parties to produce a consensus, has reverted to type with his sectarian battle with The Independent Group. But the other opposition leaders who saw Theresa May offered her her deal if it is also put to the public. But she is uninterested. She seems not to recognise that she did not win the election in the sense that she could set the agenda, and yet she has gone on and on doing it.

Let's be clear. She won't revoke, she won't delay so that we get a chance for representation in the European Parliament, she won't do anything other than this deal that is all based on her own view about what constitutes leaving the European Union. So she won't have the alternatives of out either. This is reckless behaviour on her part, and is enough on its own that she should be gone.

The Cabinet coup that began a fortnight ago needs to be completed. We need a caretaker Prime Minister who will stop the crisis. It can only come from within the Cabinet, and it must include the Chancellor who seems unwilling to do what is necessary.

This is like the descent into the First World War. Nobody but a few mad generals want it, but no one seems able to stop it. But the revoke mechanism is there, and so are alternatives and so is (still) the delay to enact alternatives. It is not quite binary. But the bunker mentality is overwhelming.

Perhaps I should not refer to Adolf Hitler, but the film Downfall was shown the other day. What it showed was a leader who never budged, and was deluded about the state of the conflict, and he would rather his country was destroyed than he got out of the way. In the end, he shot and poisoned himself.

If the Prime Minister takes us over the cliff edge, she will be gone anyway. If there is a long delay, it is the opportunity to get her out and try different approaches. (The EU will give a delay based on the actual strategy - the question Donald Tusk faced today was a narrow one.) If the deal was voted through, she'd have done it and would go. So she should go NOW before she does this country real harm.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Turmoil: and the Tory Split Coming Fast

Wow. Tonight in parliament turned out to be even more riveting than yesterday, with the government suddenly whipping against its own (amended) motion. It lost by 43, so the whipping was rather pointless. Seventeen ministers including four Cabinet ministers, including Rudd and Clark, abstained against its own policy, with one resigning by voting against. Four Cabinet ministers voted for the Malthouse Compromise too, including Javid and Hunt, apparently, which went down and is gone.

The amendment wasn't expected to pass, dropped by its Tory sponsor and picked up by a Labour one, and it made the motion clear, toughened up, and giving the clarity of having no deal off the table. It still does not change the law.

The stupidity is that next week the Prime Minister likely returns the defeated deal: which was the logic (as I put before now) of having this no deal vote after and not before the Withdrawal Agreement vote, voted down by 230 and 149. The idea is that, just as David Davies did, MPs will vote for the 'rotten deal' instead of an extension. But there are not enough of them to get this thing through, even if the European Research Group cracks. How can the DUP vote for an agreement that still has the backstop without a moment of extra negotiation before a third vote. Even if they did, the government majority is so slim that the ERG people who cannot support it, the remainers who won't, and now some who voted for it who say it is dead and move on and vote against it - it will not go through. They surely now have to look at other possibilities.

It is unlikely that Farage from abroad can get a single State to veto an extension, should one be granted by the EU 27. If he did the anger would be such in Parliament that revoke would rise up rapidly.

Is the Cabinet going to allow the Prime Minister to keep dealing her low value cards? As I have put earlier, the Cabinet coup is operative, as seen tonight, but it is incomplete. Corbyn also sounded in 'take power' mode, to put and find proposals from his office among MPs across the House, doing what May should be doing anyway - and still is not. His deal or close might emerge, to then somehow go to the EU. Taken by Theresa May?

The Tory Party is so angry across itself tonight that it will surely split. The point also is that if there is no discipline applied to Cabinet Ministers who abstained and all the other ministers, then there is no certainty that ministers will obey any line decided and then just go ahead to abstain again. Sarah Newton resigned herself: 15 ministers have now gone since the 2017 General Election.

I am pretty sure that a further few MPs will join The Independent Group from the Tory side. The government's behaviour, but also the meltdown in the Tory Party, will take some off elsewhere including TIG. It also depends how, in a formal sense, that the Tory Party emerges as two entities. If we descend into a General Election then there would have to be an emergency way of choosing a leader - when one would be contested - and this might do it: all candidates would be effectively divide into leave and remain candidates, regardless of party. There would have to be a choice in each constituency.

Chaos

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox marked his own homework and must have put Failed at the bottom. The unfolding disaster on Tuesday saw the Democratic Unionists say 'no' and obviously the 'headbangers' said no - and across the opposition. Even then some 40 or so votes switched. Only three Labour MPs voted with the government.

Theresa May may have symbolically lost her voice but I nearly lost mine when, after the 149 votes defeat, Nicky Morgan MP, in an interview soon after, considered a third vote on the Prime Minister's proposed deal. How dead does this have to be before it is buried?

But that was my point: why the vote to approve no deal or not followed the vote on this deal, so that when all the votes were done: the deal, no no-deal and extension, the decision for no no-deal would result in, yes, this twice defeated deal being flogged again.

One can image that, a Commons vote for an extension to Article 50 results in a half-hearted attempt by government to stretch out the leave date and really, instead, come back on this deal again. But 150 defeat cannot be overcome. It is dead: bury it now.

The vote, Wednesday, today, to say no to a no-deal is to be a free vote on the Tory side because the Cabinet cannot agree.  Theresa May will plod on, only because to go will plunge the country into complete crisis. The Cabinet coup I predicted months back is in full swing, but a leader will emerge from within. It could be very bloody and very quick: it is not about a Tory leadership election. The Prime Minister is there is name only, taking instructions, including from Cabinet battles and an emergent leadership.

The only good speech of leaders was that of the Scottish National Party Ian Blackford, who made the case for the European Union: the case that should have been made by the Yes campaign in 2016. Cameron threw the dice and the Tory Party's divisions spilled out on to the streets, he said. The SNP is coherent in the way that Labour and the Conservatives are not. Tom Watson is trying to hold Labour together; the Malthouse Compromise was a feeble attempt to hold the Conservatives together that could never be realised.

The disaster may be ended by revoking Article 50, with consequent negative effects for democracy. If people want to leave the EU, they should produce a majority in Parliament to do it. Parliament takes decisions and referenda confirm or reject decisions, rather than make a decision for Parliament. For this reason I remain opposed to a second referendum, even one one or against the deal on which Parliament cannot agree. Nevertheless, if there is one, I will vote as I did in the 2016 referendum, and vote to remain in the European Union. But Parliament should have the guts to do it, by declaring in effect the 2016 referendum illegitimate. We were all fooled by both appalling and barely legal campaigns. I do see why we may well end up with a second referendum, but it will be divisive again.

The democratic crisis is upon us anyway, and we needn't add to this an economic and social crisis any more than we have already got. Perhaps as a result of this we may end up with a Council of the British Isles, with independent nations meeting to make joint decisions, rather like the EU is constituted - a confederation rather than either a federation or unitary (devolved) State.

Labour wants a General Election. How can it be behind in the polls when the shower in charge is so chaotic? Yes, it would catch up and may overtake this shower in charge. But what will the Tory Party propose for policies and who will lead whatever is left of it as a party? It is at least two parties with two agendas: such an election will not resolve the exiting the EU disaster.

In effect, Labour's Shadow Shadow Cabinet (its influential driving backbenchers), Tom Watson's party within a party, a few Labour front-benchers, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Green, The Independent Group, a few backbench Tories and connected ministers, have to cohere and grow the will to put an end to this. Some of these people may well be consulted by a rump Cabinet in pursuit of tackling the crisis, revoking Article 50 and then going to the country.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

The Dead Rabbit from Strasbourg

I spent much of Monday listening to BBC Parliament on television, and became astonished when the clock was ticking past a 10:30 pm (we're still on GMT, by the way) time give for the House of Commons to have documents agreed to be able to be scrutinised for the Tuesday (today) meaningful vote.

The House of Commons was full, for a statement that was not a statement until we had the Strasbourg statement. The MPs had nothing to see. The Speaker earlier had said that the House of Commons should be treated properly. MPs will make a huge decision based on less scrutiny than much minor matters. Yvette Couper MP complained the strongest.

So what rabbit came out of the hat? Two documents were agreed by the UK Government and the European Union. The first is a "joint legally binding instrument" on the withdrawal agreement. It is an add-on. It could be used to start a "formal dispute" against the EU if it tried to keep the UK tied into the backstop. However, it would go to an arbitration procedure, which is again joint and could still trap the UK in the backstop. This is why the Motion to be debated tomorrow states that there is a "reduced risk" of being held in the back stop.

What does this mean? Was it not always 'reduced' anyway in terms of intentions? How can the Democratic Unionist Party vote for something that retains the risk, that could still treat Northern Ireland separately from the UK? Only sheer political double-dealing could see it change its vote and say this revision of perspective on the same agreement is sufficient. If the DUP says no, so will the "headbangers" (Kenneth Clarke MP) of the European Research Group.

This is the crux of it. The second document is a wish document, a commitment of intention. The intention is in the UK and EU's future relationship in a commitment to replacing the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020. This is the best endeavours side, and if the EU doesn't have best endeavours then that dispute procedure starts, as in the first document. However, the example of these negotiations surely shows that with best endeavours we could well fall into the backstop. Of course we would come out of it eventually: this is the basis of why Kenneth Clarke will support the agreement.

Whilst we might accept that all those who supported the agreement last time will next time, e.g. Nicky Morgan, there is a possibility that some remainers will vote against afresh, because they see the opportunity of delay and of a different and softer agreement available. Nicky Morgan MP won't, because she has been part of a movement to keep the Tory Party together. Incidentally, along the Cabinet that met without Theresa May, being in Strasbourg, the line along the front bench did not include Amber Rudd. Just noted. I didn't see Kenneth Clarke either, in he packed House, because he was in the Newsnight studio.

Meanwhile there is the strange extra document that is a "unilateral declaration" a view that nothing prevents the UK leaving the backstop if discussions on a future relationship with the EU break down. This document must be pretty meaningless, as the result of this is arbitration.

Attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, will publish his legal advice on the changes to the deal before the vote. He is supposed to be independent, and yet he was involved in the negotiations. Nevertheless, the clue must be in the motion: that the changes "reduce" the chance of being stuck in the backstop.

And on this basis it would be a miracle if the whole agreement passes the meaningful vote. Plus the fact that many in Parliament tomorrow will have had little sleep. They will feel like they have been treated with contempt. It is not the way to get people on-side. Out of the hat came a dead rabbit.