O Opinion

Opinion - 'Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others'

 

'Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.'

Winston Churchill

 

On 11th December the UK Parliament will vote, following five days of debate, on the withdrawal deal from the EU as presented by Theresa May. Unless there is some dramatic change it is almost inconceivable that the Conservative government will be successful in obtaining a majority with their wafer thin majority cancelled out by their own MP’s who have declared – before the debate – that they will vote against it on top of the DUP who have, effectively, pulled out of their loose alliance with the Conservatives. The question, therefore, is – what happens after next Tuesday’s vote?

 

May has stated that there is a choice of “her deal”, “no deal” or “no Brexit” in an attempt to force those MP’s on all sides who cannot contemplate “no deal” or “no Brexit” voting for her deal as the least worse option. Given those three alternatives what might happen after next Tuesday? It is hardly worth wasting time on Parliament agreeing the deal – although that does remain a possibility! - but if it does then Brexit negotiations rumble on and the UK leaves the EU next March. A defeat in the Commons leaves a number of interesting alternatives – Theresa May will be so politically damaged by a defeat that she might resign or the Conservative Party might turn on her and if 48 Conservative MP’s write to the Chair of the 1922 Committee expressing their lack of confidence in her she may be sacked. Neither of these options will trigger a General Election, but instead the Conservative parliamentary party and members will elect a new leader of the party who will become Prime Minister. Depending on who this leader is will determine what happens next.

 

Given that Conservative MP, Dominic Grieve’s amendment which allows Parliament a vote on “Plan B” (not that there currently is a “Plan B”) the chance of a most ardent pro-Brexit Tory leader being able to push through a “No Deal Brexit” is so slim as to be non-existent. A pro “Remain” Conservative leader would be in a better place with the party already committed to delivering Brexit and having rejected a second referendum. Whatever happens the splits in the Conservative Party are now so deep that there is a serious danger of the party falling apart.

 

The leadership of the Labour Party who are as keen to deliver Brexit as the Conservatives and have also set their minds against a second referendum are hoping for a General Election and will, potentially, be in a position to instigate one by calling for a vote of no confidence in the government following a defeat on the Withdrawal Bill. A simple majority in the Commons is all that they need to be successful after which the Conservatives as the largest single party will have 14 days to try and form another government. If the Conservatives are not successful in an attempt to form another government and, given their disunity, it is hard to see how they could, then a General Election will be called although this could not happen over night and March is probably the soonest that it could happen. The Labour Party, while keen to fight a General Election and then to try and re-negotiate the withdrawal agreement, trail the Conservative by

On 11th December the UK Parliament will vote, following five days of debate, on the withdrawal deal from the EU as presented by Theresa May. Unless there is some dramatic change it is almost inconceivable that the Conservative government will be successful in obtaining a majority with their wafer thin majority cancelled out by their own MP’s who have declared – before the debate – that they will vote against it on top of the DUP who have, effectively, pulled out of their loose alliance with the Conservatives. The question, therefore, is – what happens after next Tuesday’s vote?

May has stated that there is a choice of “her deal”, “no deal” or “no Brexit” in an attempt to force those MP’s on all sides who cannot contemplate “no deal” or “no Brexit” voting for her deal as the least worse option. Given those three alternatives what might happen after next Tuesday? It is hardly worth wasting time on Parliament agreeing the deal – although that does remain a possibility! - but if it does then Brexit negotiations rumble on and the UK leaves the EU next March. A defeat in the Commons leaves a number of interesting alternatives – Theresa May will be so politically damaged by a defeat that she might resign or the Conservative Party might turn on her and if 48 Conservative MP’s write to the Chair of the 1922 Committee expressing their lack of confidence in her she may be sacked. Neither of these options will trigger a General Election, but instead the Conservative parliamentary party and members will elect a new leader of the party who will become Prime Minister. Depending on who this leader is will determine what happens next.

Given that Conservative MP, Dominic Grieve’s amendment which allows Parliament a vote on “Plan B” (not that there currently is a “Plan B”) the chance of a most ardent pro-Brexit Tory leader being able to push through a “No Deal Brexit” is so slim as to be non-existent. A pro “Remain” Conservative leader would be in a better place with the party already committed to delivering Brexit and having rejected a second referendum. Whatever happens the splits in the Conservative Party are now so deep that there is a serious danger of the party falling apart.

The leadership of the Labour Party who are as keen to deliver Brexit as the Conservatives and have also set their minds against a second referendum are hoping for a General Election and will, potentially, be in a position to instigate one by calling for a vote of no confidence in the government following a defeat on the Withdrawal Bill. A simple majority in the Commons is all that they need to be successful after which the Conservatives as the largest single party will have 14 days to try and form another government. If the Conservatives are not successful in an attempt to form another government and, given their disunity, it is hard to see how they could, then a General Election will be called although this could not happen over night and March is probably the soonest that it could happen. The Labour Party, while keen to fight a General Election and then to try and re-negotiate the withdrawal agreement, trail the Conservative by 5% in the opinion polls and have angered many of their own supporters by refusing to offer a second referendum which could mean that they are not able to form a government with a working majority. The very result of a no confidence vote is not even certain because it would involve both the DUP and a number of Conservative MP’s voting with Labour which is unlikely.

It is not inconceivable that May herself might call a General Election in the hope of achieving a larger majority although that, like everything else, has no degree of certainty because she has already tried the tactic in 2017 and it resulted in the Conservatives losing seats. Although both Conservatives and Labour have ruled out a second referendum on the unlikely premise that a second vote is ‘unconstitutional’ such a vote would settle the Brexit Question once and for all.

The only thing that is certain in UK politics at the moment is that nothing is certain and this is damaging for the economy and the country in general while divisions in political parties are damaging for them electorally. I am not a betting man and I have sometimes been accused of being controversial but my bet is that although Corbyn wants a General Election he probably will not achieve it and his next biggest wish is for Brexit to go through so he might just possibly instruct Labour to abstain on the vote. In this scenario some MP’s will vote for what they perceive of as being in the best interests of the UK and vote for May’s Deal as the least worst option. If Conservative MP’s put aside their differences in order to save the party, while some Labour MP’s, frustrated with their leader, ignore the whip and vote with the government my prediction is for a comfortable win for the government even allowing for some rebels or, if Labour do vote against, then a narrow win for the government but, as I say, I am sometimes called “controversial”!