Why A Spring Election May Be Corbyn’s Only Way To Stop Johnson’s Brexit Bus
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Back in early 2018, Jacob Rees-Mogg issued a not-so-veiled threat to Theresa May. “I’m sure that the prime minister knows her history, and I’m sure that she knows how Lord Peel got the repeal of the corn laws through,” he said. “No Conservative leader would ever wish to get through so major a piece of legislation again on the back of opposition votes.”
Well, here we are in late 2019. There’s a new prime minister, Rees-Mogg is in his cabinet and, guess what, they look like they can only get their Brexit deal through on the back of opposition votes. Peel needed the Whigs and the Radicals. Johnson needs the Nandys and the Kinnocks.
I’m sure that the Commons leader knows his history, and a glance at the recent past would reveal that the DUP never bluff. With the unionist party coming out firmly against the PM’s plan, the numbers are certainly looking extremely tight for this Saturday’s vote.
As we report, there are some Labour MPswho are seriously considering backing Boris Johnson’s deal. One told me there were around 10 who were now so fed up with all the delays that they would back ‘any deal’. Beyond that, another tells me they and their colleagues could vote for it, if all the stuff on workers’ rights in the new political declaration was written on the face of a Brexit bill and given legal force.
Every single one of those Labour MPs is going to come under massive pressure in the next 48 hours not to ‘back Boris’. Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t quite said it yet, but many around him want him to make clear the whip would be withdrawn and with it any chance of representing the party at the next election. Still, I know of at least one Labour MP who has given Dominic Cummings their personal mobile phone number.
The People’s Vote campaign have pulled their amendment from Saturday not just because the Tory numbers aren’t there yet. It’s also a fear of needlessly provoking Labour backbenchers in Leave areas. If those MPs are forced to make a hard choice between a second referendum or Johnson’s deal, some would feel backed into a corner to vote with a Tory prime minister.
To some it looks like Johnson has thrown the DUP under the bus, in the shape of his big red Vote Leave coach. In reality, he just drove off to Brussels without them. But of course, the group that No.10 are really worried about are the Brexiteer European Research Group (ERG) and just how many of them will stay true to their talk about never, ever being divided from the unionist allies.
One Brexiteer was on his mobile phone today, angrily warning someone in No.10: “If you try and co-opt me, I’ll fuck over the government, the prime minister, don’t push me.′ That doesn’t mean they won’t actually vote with Johnson (though a few certainly will stand firm with the DUP).
Andrew Bridgen only two days ago said that “if the DUP can’t support [the deal]... that then causes me more concern.” Yet up he popped on Channel 4 News tonight saying ‘I’m willing to suck up quite a lot on the Withdrawal Agreement I don’t like to facilitate getting to Brexit.’
The DUP won’t be over-impressed with all their new-found admirers on the Remain side of the argument, many of whom are ditching their frequent ridicule of the unionists to cheer on their enemy’s enemy. Similarly, Tory rebels won’t be too taken in by Nigel Farage’s attack on Jean-Claude Juncker because he, er, was seen to be “overriding the Benn Act”. This whole affair has made some odd bedfellows indeed.
However, it’s worth remembering that Boris Johnson believes he is now in a win-win scenario. Win Saturday’s vote and he’s got the perfect platform for an election. Lose the vote and he can claim that it’s only through an election he can get the majority to finish the job.
Regardless of the Commons vote outcome, he may still win a lot of credit for being seen to have done more in three months on Brexit than Theresa May did in three years. TV images of him getting a result at his very first EU summit may well convince many voters that this just a bloke who ‘gets things done’. Just imagine what other things he could ‘get done’, will be the Tory campaign message.
Yes, there will be a lingering doubt that his ditching of the DUP proves once again he can’t be trusted by anyone. But the pitch to the electorate that he’s someone who can simply end the UK’s inertia could prove more powerful come polling day. For him the election could prove a busman’s holiday, as he combines his Vote Leave-style Brexit-Plus-NHS campaign techniques with a Tory National Express.
That’s probably why Labour’s most powerful weapon of all could be to bog him down, deny him that electoral catharsis, and let the Tory/DUP/Brexit Party divisions fester over the winter.
And that’s why many around Corbyn want to not just vote down the deal, but also abstain once more in a vote of no confidence this side of Christmas. If they can hold up the Boris bandwagon until spring, the polls may have improved, and Labour could retain some hope it can defy the odds once more.
Quote Of The Day
“I’m happy about the deal, but I’m sad about Brexit. Have a good time.”
– Jean-Claude Juncker wishes his new friend Boris Johnson well. Kind of.
Boris Johnson predicted MPs would back his Brexit deal after it was agreed by the EU27. But the DUP said the plans to remove their veto in Northern Ireland involved “driving a coach and horses” through the Good Friday Agreement.
Jeremy Corbyn said the proposals were worse than Theresa May’s deal as they allowed greater divergence between the UK and EU in a range of areas. “This sell out deal won’t bring the country together and should be rejected. The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote,” he said.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there would be enough time to ratify the deal by the 31 October deadline.
Former Tory minister Mark Field announced he would not stand in his Cities of London and Westminster seat at the next election. He said he disagreed with No.10’s “impatient approach to getting Brexit done”. He will vote with the government, but “we must be clear what lies ahead will not be plain sailing.′
Northern Ireland Assembly members are set to return to the Stormont chamber for the first time in nearly three years after 31 members signed a petition triggering a recall. The move is an attempt to stop the UK government reform of Northern Ireland’s abortion law.
We are joined by former shadow cabinet minister Owen Smith to chat through Brexit, Northern Ireland and Labour’s second referendum stance. Listen on Audioboom or search for Commons People wherever you get your podcasts.
What I’m Reading
Trump’s Narcissism Makes Him Increasingly Unfit For Office | The Atlantic
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