Saturday, 17 August 2019

What Happens Afterwards?

If the UK crashes out of the European Union without a deal, the Liberal Democrats and a Remain Alliance can still function if they won government. Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty sets European Law for a State joining. It needs unanimity in the Council of Ministers (heads of government), consultation with the Commission (its civil service and initiator of legislation and guide of regulations) and a majority vote of the European Parliament. The UK House of Commons would pass retrospective legislation that we did not leave. Fast action can minimise economic disruption.

A General Election would be fast because of economic chaos coming, and even if the opposition parties could not agree an interim Prime Minister, they are likely to vote down the Budget even if the Tories remained in power.

Suppose we get an emergency fortnight plus government, and it delays Article 50? I think it would also take the leave date out of leaving legislation and vote money to the EU. What is likely then?

The Conservative and Johnson would go to the country humiliated and having failed. They'd be picked off in a critical number in each constituency by the Brexit Party.

A situation will have existed where Corbyn failed to become interim Prime Minister and someone else did instead: let's say Yvette Cooper.

In order for many Labour MPs to vote her in, some will have defected as a result of not wanting Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister and/ or being annoyed at his apparent selfish tactics, putting at risk getting a delay. Many would go independent, some join Change UK (as renamed) and some the Liberal Democrats.

Many Tories on the remain side will have broken with Johnson's actions and defected themselves, most I'd think straight to the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems will have to have worked on a Remain Alliance.

So Labour will go into the General Election is a distressed and confused position. The Conservative Party will be disintegrating. The Brexit Party might win some seats, but find breaking through difficult, and the Tories versus them will create a losers' result.

So there might be a very strong clear Remain Alliance, if it is handled well, and - surely - if it wins it is enough to declare this as good as winning a second referendum and then revoke Article 50 straight away.

Those who want to leave will have to achieve power through the ballot box and make their claim. There is no doubt that many will be uneasy with politics, but they are now. The damage was done by using Direct Democracy in 2016 when it does not work in the British Constitution - because we have MPs paid to discern and decide, who consider minorities and changes of view, even though they are guided by manifestos.

The Process of Deciding

On Politics Home, Caroline Lucas MP lays out the process I suggested in the previous blog entry. I myself question the need for a second referendum: Parliament is sufficient for taking decisions. For example, if the Liberal Democrats with the Remain Alliance won the General Election, then this is enough to revoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

She added: "I would back a vote of no-confidence if Jeremy Corbyn calls it, but what I ask him to do is to guarantee that if he fails to win the confidence of the House, even for a time-limited temporary Government, that he would commit to supporting an MP who can do that, then deliver the crucial letter to the EU asking for an extension of Article 50, then a People's Vote. https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/political-parties/labour-party/jeremy-corbyn/news/105925/lib-dems-reject-jeremy-corbyns-call
 So, again: MPs have a vote of no confidence. This is successful. MPs then vote indicatively on a new Prime Minister, beginning with Jeremy Corbyn. He loses this vote. Then MPs vote on Ken Clarke. He might win. Perhaps Labour would whip against him. But what about Harriet Harman or Yvette Cooper? Would Labour whip against either of them? So we get a temporary Prime Minister and Executive that can introduce legislation and make decisions: thus the same majority as selected, say, Harriet Harman votes through an EU extension and an end to having a leave date in UK legislation. They also may have to vote through money to the EU as a result of extending. Then Jeremy Corbyn, still Labour leader, as will Jo Swinson, Boris Johnson and Ian Blackford, can present manifestos and UK wide leaders can compete to be Prime Minister on a full programme of legislation.

Harriet Harman, say, would choose a Cabinet perhaps devoid of all party leaders, but capable people to run government for a short period. This would be the Executive during a General Election. We might often not have a Parliament, but we always have a Government.

Of course, Jo Swinson may have helped engineer a Remain Alliance, and if it was to win power it should revoke Article 50 altogether. It does not need a referendum if a General Election is won.

This is where I disagree with Caroline Lucas: we should not elevate snapshots of public opinion into anything beyond that: referenda are not part of the British Constitution and we should not make them so. Parliament exists to consider, think, act, taking into account minorities and changes of views.

If then people still want to leave the EU, they can vote for a party to do it. It might be the Brexit Party, if the Conservatives have disintegrated.

Friday, 16 August 2019

London, We Have a Problem

So now the parties are talking about an interim, emergency regime. It is not a unity government, because it is taking power from a leaving the EU side 'do or die' and replacing it with at least an extension in before a General Election.

So Jeremy Corbyn says he wants to lead it, and Jo Swinson says he does not carry sufficient authority - not among Tories needed to bring down the Johnson regime (to counter Labour ones who would, remarkably, prop him up), not among independents, not among her own party, of whom the odd number said bye to Corbyn and his leadership, and not among many Labour MPs either. Pivotal Dominic Grieve has said 'no' to Corbyn. Although Jo Swinson is here leader of the Liberal Democrats, she is also speaking for a wider group of MPs.

There is an obvious danger here, that Johnson is left in position, the opposition cannot agree, and a no deal exit happens anyway.

So, how to do it...

First, have the vote of no confidence, because that sets the marker.
Second, let Jeremy Corbyn put himself forward as interim leader. This fails.
Third, then let's have someone like Ken Clarke, and force Labour to vote against.
If too many do, then try Harriet Harman or perhaps Yvette Cooper or Hilary Benn.

For then it would be Jeremy Corbyn telling his troops, not anyone else being obstructive, to vote against such people. But it may be the point at which his MPs ignore him, and when all sorts of Conservatives and others come on board.

Such a person, different from Jeremy Corbyn, would have to win a vote of confidence two weeks after the vote of no confidence. It may well be that such a person needs to go to the Queen first; therefore, it would need a procedure of most MPs recording their support for such a person ahead of a vote of confidence, perhaps in a signed letter. The monarch is not passive, but nor is she doing the choosing and calling: on that, she would call party leaders - and this is the basis of Corbyn's action. But it is not the only basis on which a government can be formed.

But, to repeat, if Corbyn is not acceptable, it then becomes up to Corbyn to show his true colours by attempting to whip MPs to vote against someone who is acceptable, even from within his own ranks, or instead to let such a person govern as he plans his coming General Election campaign.

We can get such a different person in power, to control the executive. The person does the delay, takes the date out of the withdrawal Act altogether, and as the Government authorises extra budget contributions to the European Union.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Good Idea Wrong Person

So now we have a proposal for an emergency Government to stop no deal using the process of the Fixed-term Parliament Act. It has come from Jeremy Corbyn, and it is to make Jeremy Corbyn as the temporary Prime Minister.

Tony Lloyd, speaking on BBC Newsnight, said it's not about personalities. Well, if it is not, Jeremy Corbyn can wait.

Jeremy Corbyn heads a political party that has its own electoral programme for office. His programme seems to include, though no one is very sure any more, a plan to negotiate a Labour deal to leave the European Union and/ or to have a second referendum. He seems to want the latter in his proposal, if in power after a General Election.

Jeremy Corbyn does not command the widespread confidence of the House of Commons. If it is not about personalities, then we need a temporary Prime Minister who is someone else, for example a respected member of the Labour Party, or one or two Conservatives (Clarke, Letwin) there to do one job, and not necessarily to introduce a second referendum either. The task is to delay by rock solid legislation a no deal exit - take the date out of existing legislation.

I have written on blog entries here for months about using the Fixed-term Parliaments Act provision as the sound way to stop Johnson, and indeed remove him from power.

The people in government for the temporary period would come from the people active in trying to prevent no deal to date. There would only need to be a basic Cabinet for the duration: the short time would mean the Civil Service running a number of departments as if in a General Election period - which would follow.

We have the madness now of plans in a no deal exit to load large lorries full of medicines on to huge aircraft to come from Europe to the UK; we also have from this crackers government a scheme to put anti-knife crime messages on the side of chicken shop packets - reflecting an ethnic stereotype that says all one needs to know about this lot in charge at the moment.

 We have this notion, still heard from a few deal-wanting Tory MPs, that Johnson is loading up the gun pointed at our own heads as a way of bringing the European Union to heal. Well, Angela Merkel made that clear today - the agreement was made between the EU and the British Government and that is the basis forward. Even after a no deal exit, any trade agreement with the EU would have to include the Withdrawal Agreement with its insurance policy for the north of Ireland/ Northern Ireland. This government is stupid, gambling again (as Cameron did in holding the referendum) with this country to save the Tory Party. It is playing fire with Scotland and Northern Ireland in particular and seems not to care less about all the UK tensions exposed by the government's stance.

It is very pleasing that Sarah Wollaston has joined the Liberal Democrats, and this is earlier than I expected. It must be clear to her as it is to more MPs that we base assessing the Johnson government by what it does and not on what it says, and it is on this basis that it must be stopped. And for this we need a temporary government and a temporary Prime Minister: not Jeremy Corbyn, not Jo Swinson either. They have programmes for government.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Stopping Boris Johnson

There are two forces lined up against Prime Minister Boris Johnson. One is those who won't accept no deal and those who think we should remain. The fact is that the latter to some extent rely on the force of the former. The more Johnson pushes towards a no deal and does nothing to meet the European Union for a deal, the more the two opposing forces come together.

On Facebook, Boris Johnson has referred to a “terrible kind of collaboration” between people who think they can block Brexit in Parliament and the EU. This, yet again, castigates the EU as an 'enemy' and groups those once in government against himself.

The European Union is not an enemy and not another side. This is where the whole language has gone wrong, into the language of hostility, and we should not buy into it.

It is the British Government that intends to leave, and the British Government who therefore should go to the EU with a proposal. It has not done this, and thus leaves little doubt - by its inactions - that no deal is effective policy. It is an act of self-harm to be enacted by a government.

Meanwhile, the Speaker John Bercow has his concern over proroguing Parliament. It must be able to 'parle' and act with effect.

To achieve the first group's objection a delay is necessary for negotiating. This means nothing less than introducing legislation and changing the law - to asking for a delay, to removing the leave date from existing legislation, and (possibly) to have revoke as an action if there is no delay. The latter gets us to the second group, people like me, remainers full.

The reason Johnson opposes this is because he thinks leaving the EU is the last chance for the survival of the Conservative Party. The party is already split, so it seems rather a pointless road, but he fears that it will become demolished if this act of national self-harm does not take place. Those Tories who oppose this act of self-harm put the country above party.

People like Amber Rudd and Nicky Morgan used to have such a view, but they accepted Johnson's shilling and are now part of the government madness towards self-harm and have shown their lack of personal consistency at best and likely lack of integrity. But others haven't gone along with the charade, and understand Johnson for who he is, and there are about twenty of them to add to the others already opposing him.

These Tories with a limited objective are being lumped with the others, but it's the others (the actual remainers) I think who probably now have to change party. To this extent Johnson is right: the Tory Party will be toxic upon failure to deliver 'do or die'. (It is the UK that will 'die' - die economically and die into its various nations split apart.) Those who think that continued membership of the EU offers us the 'best deal' available, really now put themselves outside of the Tory fold; and why would they stand under accusation of such tribal disloyalty and stay with such a toxic brand?

Nevertheless, the Johnson government direction offers no choice, but than using all tactics and means to oppose him in Parliament. I maintain that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act alters the statute means to challenge the legitimacy of government, to form an Executive to 'dominate' the House of Commons by which legislation is introduced. It means the members delivering a no confidence vote forming the Executive and it put into action limited delay legislation as above and removing Johnson from the ability to delay a General Election until after the leaving date. This is what must be stopped. There may be other ways to do it, but I would not leave him in charge.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Tory Dissidents Must Change Party

At the same time as Kirsty Wark was failing to listen to what Vince Cable was actually saying about an emergency Executive - she wouldn't get off the tramlines of how no confidence votes used to work - Michael Portillo was fronting his slightly out of date Channel 5 documentary on the Tory Party's demise.

A lot of his two-parter trod over known events, but the emphasis was that if the Tory Party does not get 'Brexit' done then it is toast. Once again, this whole thing is about the Tory Party and the British electorate are subjected to its continuing machinations over time.

Nevertheless, there was enough in the programme to demonstrate that the Tory Party became ever more Eurosceptic, and that it is now reaching a crunch point in how the European Union and the Conservative Party cannot get on.

If the Conservative Party 'rebels' stop Johnson, via various means, including a vote of no confidence under the law of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, the Conservative brand at a General Election beyond an emergency Executive/ Fortnight plus Executive will be toxic. The Tory Party will have failed.

The fact is that the Johnson line is now set. They won't make proposals to Brussels and so there won't be any deal. The survival of the Tory Party, even if it wrecks the country, is based on getting out on the 31st October. This is Johnson's agenda - the survival of the Tory Party, do or die.

Those Conservatives who think about the British economic (and political) future instead will have to walk away from the toxic brand. I would expect a few MPs to cross the floor of the House in September, perhaps demonstrated during the political party conferences, but if most do their dissenting from the Conservative benches then they will go to a General Election under a toxic brand of the political party that has failed.

So, really, they ought to consider their stance on Europe and realise that it is better handled from a different political base. It could be as Independent Conservatives, or the Independent Group for Change, or indeed the Liberal Democrats. It won't be possible, in the future, to be pro-European and stand as a Conservative, but even if it is possible it would not be a brand to stand under. This coming to a dramatic climax in British political life is likely to finally break the Conservative Party.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

How Johnson Can Hang On - and Be Removed

A number of commentators think that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act does not force the removal of the Prime Minister, because he could just sit it out until a General Election conducted on a date after we leave the European Union.

It's worth examining...

Yes, within the fortnight between the vote of no confidence and the vote of confidence, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act is ambiguous on the sitting Prime Minister. So is a situation of a two-thirds vote that goes directly to a General Election.

 However, within the fortnight, a new leader can emerge chosen by those (or most of those) who voted no confidence in the government. Johnson might not budge, but this person would then receive the vote of confidence, and then the monarch would indeed invite that person to form a government.

Such a person would lead a government with the sole aim of introducing legislation to take a leave date out of legislation to leave the EU and to ask for an extension, and then give way to a General Election.

Labour says at present that it won't play ball with this scenario. The problem is that if it moves to a General Election, the sitting government might well set the plebiscite at the date after leaving, which an interim regime would prevent.
The dilemma is that caretaker governments do not innovate. But a) does this mean we stay in the EU with an extension? or b) do we come out of the EU according to existing legislation?

This problem is only solved by avoiding a General Election and having a new regime in place with a majority. If Labour saw that an immediate General Election takes us out of the EU, surely they would go along with the idea of an interim regime that does the Executive necessities before then moving to a General Election?

Power has to be taken from Boris Johnson. The issue of a caretaker government has to be based on a calculation: the Conservatives who vote his reckless government down minus the Labour MPs who would vote him out but then would not install a removal of no deal via a temporary regime. Think of the likes of Caroline Flint. If the necessity of a temporary executive can be explained, then we might get the Labour MPs voting for the interim regime (except Kate Hoey and one or two others, who might even support Johnson all along). If Corbyn and McDonnell do not play ball on this, then bizarrely they could see us fall out of the EU.

Johnson himself could go to the country saying, "We've done it!" but, on the other hand, the chaos of leaving could hit him electorally. But leaving without a deal would have happened. And this leads to a real dilemma: that Johnson himself would go to the country on the basis that we will have left the EU by the time the electorate gets to vote.

Here is the bizarre reality:

a) Johnson calls for a General Election but the opposition parties say no until no deal is off the table by legislation or a request for a substantial delay.

b) Labour and the opposition parties vote no confidence in the government and so does Johnson in order to get the two-thirds majority and immediately become a caretaker Executive and sit things out to a General Election that he announces to take place after we leave the EU with no deal!

A smart move might be the European Union doing a preemptive removal of the leave date: it is European law here that is superior. Our legislation may have said we have left but if the European end does not then a brand new (five year) government getting a delay or revoking would still be allowed at their end by our new legislation matching theirs afterwards.

Another smart move would be Parliament itself, before it folds to a General Election, grabbing the order paper to make sure that legislation removes the leave date and commands the executive to ask for a delay. Removing the leave date may be sufficient prompt for the Commission and EU 27 Council of Ministers to change their law to delay.

The issue here is that, whilst we sometimes do not have a Parliament, we always have a Government. The question is what the Government does when Parliament is no more, and this needs to be decided by law when a Government cannot be trusted. So, whilst the safest option is a temporary government, the fortnight-plus one, Johnson can still order his troops to vote towards a General Election in order to crash Britain out of the EU. Knowing this needs fast footwork by the House of Commons (and House of Lords too). The Supreme Court may also be needed for some rapid judgments on procedure: what constitutes the status quo, and for how long the Houses of Parliament can act once a General Election is called (having been signalled to take place after the leaving date).

Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's Special Advisor, seems to think he can railroad leaving the EU regardless. The House of Commons needs to remove Johnson and Cummings, to at least extend our stay in the EU, and then either achieve a withdrawal deal or in fact revoke Article 50 altogether under a new British Government.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

On Removing Boris Johnson from Power

It is quite clear now by its actions that this government is heading towards the disaster that would be a no deal leaving of the European Union. It is the British government that intends to leave and thus its duty to come up with proposals. It hasn't even bothered to make the effort. It holds a gun to its and our head and thinks that its threat to commit suicide will bring the other party to heel.

Even the Irish, who will lose the most after the UK, will not be pushed by something the British are doing. And if we crash out, then the demand for a trade deal will first have to be met by a withdrawal deal, including how to secure a free-flowing Irish border.

We need here to argue first principles, as laid out by Jonathan Sumption in the second Reith Lecture in 2019. We are a representative democracy, and this comes first and foremost, and what we this does - by giving selected people time and pay to consider - is absorb the concerns of minorities and allow for change. We do not do direct democracy, even though we could, which is a snapshot in time when each person considers no more than themselves.

Parliament, therefore, has every right and constitutional duty to consider and act differently, and in law that snapshot in time referendum was advisory. It doesn't matter that the government then said it would abide by the result. That government has since passed, and no House of Commons decision ever binds the House of Commons from changing its mind.

There is about a week for a vote of no confidence to happen that gets to a full new government before the exit date, so more or less the House has to move straight to such a vote. However, the second option is looking more and more likely, which is where the Fixed-term Parliaments Act provides for a fortnight to try a different Prime Minister to command the House. If Boris Johnson, on losing a vote, refused to resign, then indeed he would be sacked by the monarch in favour of someone who could. Labour says it would go to a General Election directly, but it would be foolish if a resultant government was only active after the leave date. It would be necessary to have a temporary executive to pass ask for a delay and pass delay legislation (removing a leave date in the future - a 'default position' prior to a General Election). Is Labour really going to sabotage this country because it wants power? Would it get such power, ever, the electorate having known that it deliberately allowed a no deal by lack of time to stop it?

And a note for the Liberal Democrats. They should make it clear that a vote for them into government is the equivalent of a second referendum. If they were (high odds, unlikely - but stranger things have happened) to form the government, that is a mandate in itself to revoke Article 50 altogether.

We have a government now chucking money about like it is confetti, so long as it is money that makes the headlines. It's a fake government, and it is time to bring this nonsense to an end. No one is fooled by Boris Johnson: he is a campaigner but he isn't believed by those who matter, and by an increasing proportion of the electorate. So we know where we are and it is soon time to unseat him.

Friday, 2 August 2019

When the Tories Could Have Won - But Did Not

The Liberal Democrat win in Brecon and Radnorshire has all sorts of fascinating elements. The Brexit Party polled poorly, but just enough for the leave seat to go to the Liberal Democrats. Without the 'Brexit' division, the Tories could have received 49% and beaten the Liberal Democrats 43% win.

That Labour received a 5% vote, just over, helps the narrative that the Liberal Democrats are the second and challenging party. That may not be so as the constituencies are stacked, in that Labour can get a lower percentage and get more seats, but the issue is always the tipping point in a first past the post system. One necessity for Labour, and yet unlikely, is to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader. The more he entrenches himself (he has been as tin-eared as Theresa May seemed to be) the more some Labour MPs may decide to ditch Labour and move along. They may just do as Alistair Campbell has done, which is to leave Labour but go nowhere else. Jack Straw is staying locally Labour, according to local loyalties. Whilst the Tory vote held up due to Boris Johnson being so chest beating about October 31st as the leaving date, the Labour vote did not improve with its further nudge towards remain. The problem is a) no one believes Jeremy Corbyn over this and b) Labour might still negotiate a deal to leave after a General Election, if it ever won (increasingly unlikely).

The Liberal Democrats are still damaged by their association with Tory austerity. It was Osborne rubbing the poor's noses into the dirt that led to a stronger than expected leave vote in 2016. Nevertheless, we are where we are, and the need is to stop the railway train hurtling down the tracks thanks to the rhetoric of Boris Johnson, despite continuing reports of the economic damage this will cause, and the waste of money on 'no deal' preparations, none of which will be significant.

With one Tory less and one more Liberal Democrat, that train might be led by the House of Commons down a siding away from the cliff edge and brought to a halt.