Wednesday 19 June 2019

The Political Sociopath and the Disgruntled Tory Minority

What the loss of Rory Stewart shows in the Tory leadership process is roughly the size of the disgruntled wing of Tory MPs. When Boris Johnson takes up the leadership, they will not be happy. Antoinette Sandbach made it clear that the one person she would not support was Johnson, as he lacks the basics to be a leader. So what happens when he becomes her leader? She's not the only one.

Some of us think he even lacks the basics to be a Secretary of State, and I am one of them. There is a man on Hunger Strike who can describe how Johnson's 'don't care' attitude to so much is partly responsible for the pain of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, held by the Iranians. Boris Johnson is a political sociopath, a manipulator of others without common feeling in order to advance himself.

The Tories forget that mixing Heineken and Marmite produces a truly disgusting taste. More practically, as soon as Johnson starts to bumble and mumble at Prime Minister's Questions, and shows the errors of performance from his inability, the House of Commons will close in on him and limit his room for manoeuvre. He will have further to fall, but fall he will.

Rory Stewart was still in favour of Brexit. He represents the deal pragmatist. He is not a remainer, but he took remainers with him. On the Press Preview, on Sky News, on Tuesday, the purist right-winger Brendan O'Neill stated that Rory Stewart should be a "Lib-Dem". Nothing could be more wrong. The Liberal Democrats are (with the exception of one MP, who has had a position similar to Stewart) committed to reversing Brexit. The policy is just that. Chuka Umunna MP joined the Liberal Democrats in part on that basis. Others may follow. The Tory Party is not now filled with purist Brendan O'Neill Manchester Liberals that the Thatcher period represented. We thought Theresa may was going to introduce a period of Joseph Chamberlain instead, but then she did nothing at all. Still, one might have more of a soft spot for an Etonian who was imbued with a right to rule that nevertheless comes with social obligation, over and above a social climber like Sajid Javid and Margaret Thatcher. I don't support any of them, and I look forward to the downfall of the Conservative Party as a reward for its dreadful putting of its party before the country.

Because this is what is happening now. It is party first, At root, this is about the survival of the Tory Party. The whole thing continues to about them. It is irrelevant whether the Tory Party as a whole has a vote or they arrange a coronation.

So let's see how disgruntled will be the minority of Tory MPs. The House of Commons needs to time a vote of no confidence, and bring in an Executive to introduce legislation to get the country out of the Brexit mess and stay in the European Union.

Labour, of course, still can't make up its mind. It has edged closer to a referendum, but would not campaign to stay in. If a little less quite in the middle of the road, it lacks the clarity needed of following the Highway Code on busy roads. The policy still lacks clarity and the disaster surely follows. Also, Corbyn continues to demonstrate the same brittle mindset as Theresa May and an equal inability to run his office well. He gives no confidence that he could run anything at all, never mind a government. It does remain possible that in a vote of no confidence in the government, some Labour MPs would even vote for confidence in the government, even with Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. So it is all now a question of numbers inside the House of Commons, and the decline of Labour as an electoral force outside the House of Commons, alongside the fall of the Conservatives.

Saturday 15 June 2019

Using the Fixed-term Parliaments Act

So the current national breakdown or political psychodrama moves on, as people detect that the chances of a crash out of the European Union increase.

Boris Johnson is almost now assured of walking into Number Ten Downing Street as Prime Minister. At the same time, enough Labour MPs failed to support their own party's motion which was to take control of the House of Commons business in order to introduce legislation to prevent (at least from our side) a no deal exit from the European Union. This is the effect of their action: causing serious economic damage to their own constituents mainly in the north of England.

At the same time Chuka Umunna has joined the Liberal Democrats. Of course he should be welcomed, even if it took him some rethinks to do it. He might seem to some to lack some credibility in his jumping about, but it does the Liberal Democrats no harm at all in its rebuilding at present. He may help others to come over more directly, or indeed go elsewhere if they have a problem with him and/ or the Liberal Democrats.

'Desperation is the English way,' sing Pink Floyd, and this is certainly why Johnson picked up 114 votes of Tory MPs. He is like drinking Heineken and Marmite at the same time. He is supposed to reach where other Tories do not, but also he is strongly disliked by many. He is offensive in his phrases, but also seems to lack political principle. This is supposed also to be a strength, but vacuousness in Theresa May was a definite weakness.

Johnson has no command of detail, so it is likely that at Prime Minister's Questions he will be a duff performer, trying to use words to get himself out of situations. It is unfortunate, perhaps, that he will face an equally lousy performer in Jeremy Corbyn. A better opposition leader could have pinned Theresa May down in her lacklustre and avoidance answers (she was, though, on top of her brief - such that it was), but it will be up to others to pin Johnson down and expose him.

The main task of all of the opposition will be to question his legitimacy (just as he did regarding Gordon Brown in 2007). Johnson is likely to win an immediate vote of no confidence, but this would be a starting point from which he will start to lose support. He is likely to tack this way and that as the same conundrums face him as they did Theresa May. As for others, deprived of the softer way of taking control and preventing a no deal exit from the European Union, Members of Parliament will have to keep its own eye on the clock.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 introduced Statute Law into calling a General Election, and took away the Crown power invested in the Prime Minister to dissolve Parliament. Instead, there are 14 days following a no confidence vote in which to hold a confidence vote, either in the government that lost it or some alternative. It's the alternative that then matters. It does not have to be the official opposition. It could be a government put together specifically for the purpose of preventing a no deal exit, and its Prime Minister appointed by the Monarch to gain confidence after 14 days and thus do the important tasks needed. This is then Government commanding Parliament, as in our constitution so far, rather than Parliament acting as Government, as in the 'take over' attempt that just failed its early stages.

There are Conservatives who will bring down Johnson if he leads the country towards no deal, and he likely will because the EU is in transition until beyond October 31st, the day we are due to leave. No doubt someone might negotiate with us, but until there are renewed institutions they cannot offer anything. The leadership election, save Harper, Stewart and, oddly, Leadsom (because she didn't expect to renegotiate anything), is a fantasy of promises about negotiating.

We presume that on a no confidence vote, the Labour MPs who recently kept no deal on the table will not vote confidence in the Johnson led Government, that they then will fall in with their party. But some may not, if they think it is a means to extend or revoke via a temporary Executive, even before a following General Election. One reason that the vote of no confidence may fail is Corbyn himself, a man increasingly a liability to get anywhere politically today. He almost has to agree to stand back somewhat, and delay his socialist dawn for the sake of national crisis.

Corbyn is as brittle and aloof as Theresa May, which is why Labour MPs became furious with him last week. He has to be overcome as much as she had to be overcome.

Nevertheless there must be cross-party work now, in order to get an Executive to do what is needed, including taking over from Johnson. The numbers are there to do this.

Of course the Executive may well try to prorogue Parliament, but this would involve the Monarch in the Privy Council doing what Charles I tried to do. This would in fact be the Prime Minister using monarchic powers with the Privy Council. Yet these high intsitutions might well say the House of Commons should vote on this first, to avoid what would be an extraordinary attempt at a coup by a Prime Minister without the legislature behind him. The Commons could quickly demonstrate its view, and then move rapidly to a vote of No Confidence to get Johnson's wings removed.

The man is unsuitable to govern. The House of Commons, indeed Parliament as a whole, must box him in quickly. He lacks legitimacy leading a minority government. But Parliament has to act to get Executive Power changed, and if the recent method has failed then the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 201l is the way to do this.