Monday, 12 August 2019

The face seems to matter more than the substance

Whether the PM’s aide, Dominic Cummings, is right or wrong about it already being too late for MPs to prevent a no-deal Brexit remains to be seen; at the very least, they’ve left it very late to turn their talk into action.  The constitutional experts seem to think that if MPs act quickly when parliament reconvenes and pass an early vote of no confidence, and if they can then find a majority in the Commons to support the installation of an alternative PM, then there is still time to avoid a no-deal on 31st October.
Those are two very big ifs though.  The first is just about possible if enough Tories decide that allowing Johnson any more time to run down the clock on the assumption that he’s bluffing is no longer a safe option, and provided that there are not too many Labour MPs prepared to support a Tory PM in a vote of confidence.  The much bigger problem is the second 'if', because it seems that if MPs can’t agree an alternative, then Johnson can cling on and set an election date for after Brexit has already happened.
In theory, the second part ought to be quite easy; it’s simply a matter of identifying an individual who will agree to take on the job of PM for long enough to ask the EU27 for an extension during which a General Election is held and after which the new government decides on a Brexit strategy.  That’s a very short tenure in Downing Street, during which the selected individual would have to agree to take on a largely administrative / caretaker role rather than attempt to implement policies with which the disparate coalition of MPs putting him or her into office might not agree.  As long as that limited remit is agreed and adhered to, there’s no logical reason why it matters who the figurehead is.  But logic and politicians aren’t necessarily words which belong in the same sentence.
It seems that most Labour MPs won’t sign up to such a plan unless the figurehead is Jeremy Corbyn, and most of the non-Labour MPs opposed to no-deal won’t sign up unless it’s somebody – almost anybody, apparently – whose name isn’t Corbyn.  For all their talk about stopping a no-deal Brexit being the most important thing, and being willing to do anything in their power to prevent it, it turns out that whether Corbyn is or is not PM is even more important to most of them, and doing everything in their power excludes doing the one thing that would work.  They’re hung up on the personality rather than the substance in a way which will allow Johnson to do as he wishes.  And if they carry on in this vein, they’ll be as much to blame as he is for the consequences.


Jonathan said...

Labour has always treated Wales shabbily. And now it is seriously harming the whole UK. The Tories have a Leader elected by the party membership but not by a majority of electors. This is widely seen as bad. So you'd hope Labour would have done better. But they haven't. Having elected a Labour Leader by a vote by the Labour membership they are stuck with him. For them, it is unthinkable that people like Dominic Grieve can request that they dump their elected Leader.
Yes, we all suffer. Because the UK 'Constitution' has not basically changed since the 18th Century. When the US moved to a written constitution with a Chief Executive elected by the people, not just by a party, the UK did not move forward in the same way. Certainly we can respond by holding a Federal/UK Constitutional Convention AND a Wales Constitutional Convention in parallel. The US did this in the 1780s, no problem. But in the short term, what can we do to stop Brexit except hope that Margaret Beckett and Grieve succeed in blocking it?

Spirit of BME said...

You will recall, I suggested that in the days when Mrs May-Day was trying to force through the EU deal, that I put forward the case for extension, as there was a new team being put in place in the EU side. Add to that the new team under the Boy Johnson, then the EU position could well be to allow an exit without a deal, as their focus and priority has now moved on and the preservation of keeping the 27 from escaping is paramount, with a clear message of -our deal or no deal if you ever dare do this.
In terms of a vote of confidence the Boy might face, - if you put yourself in the position of a strategist in number 10, what paths are open to you?
The North of Ireland votes are a known factor with nothing more to give, Scotland voted to remain, but Wales voted to leave and has forty votes that might be up for sale.
So, what in broad terms would you offer. – a support package in any confidence vote up until the end of April 2020. This package would consist of transfer to HMG in Wales of the Courts and Police plus powers to deal with business tax incentives and charges, that would put Wales on an equal footing with England in determining the cost of doing business and thereby becoming a real competitor, which would establish a mini Treasury. All this would be put into law by the end of March 2020.
If this is rejected by the opposition in Wales the message would be that they are prioritizing UK issues and rejecting Welsh priorities and wellbeing, which in turn would still play out in the next Assembly election.

John Dixon said...


It seems to me that your suggestion is based on two assumptions, neither of which strikes me as being valid.

The first is that the votes of some or all of the 32 non-Tory MPs in Wales for a vote of confidence in Johnson can be bought by an offer of limited further devolution. I don't see any Plaid MPs going for that (the package on offer would need to be a great deal more comprehensive than your suggestion, and even then the knee-jerk anti-Toryism would probably overwhelm any brief temptation), and those few Labour MPs who might be persuaded to back Johnson tend also to be the most anti-devolution ones.

The second assumes that an Anglo-British not-nationalist-at-all government like Johnson's, which has already shown its disdain for devolution and, if anything, seems to want to use Brexit to reverse the process, would decide to accelerate the process in the vain hope of buying a few votes in parliament. Making an offer which they don't want to make and which will probably be rejected anyway doesn't seem at all likely to me.

Jonathan said...

Some comments on BME, and following Borthlas.
1. What should No.10 do? Well, if the aim is hold on to power and keep Corbyn out then No.!0 could offer a People's Vote after all. That way they might dodge a General Election, likely to be lost. Solve a lot of problems for us all.
2. BME, we already have a mini Treasury in Wales. Its called the Wales Revenue Authority. Very new, but the mere fact of its embryonic existence is life-changing for Wales. Its inevitable. More and more Welsh politicians and voters will be doing the calculations (1) should Wales (raise and keep) such and such revenue, APD, VAT, an endless list, and (2) is Wales steadily becoming truly self-sufficient, contrary to all the previous assertions that 'we can't survive on our own'?
3. Devolving Courts and Police. You need to unpick this. Very very easy to devolve the 'Court Estate' ie the buildings.Low hanging fruit and worth picking. Not so easy to devolve Judges. Magistrates, probably a stroke of the pen, so do it. With more serious Judges, the argument goes that being part of a large unit with England improves quality and independence. The Wales argument should be that England is grossly oversized by comparison with other common law jurisdictions. Look at Scotland, Ireland and at least 30 US States. But the discussion is only just starting. Devolve Police? Duck! Yes there is big body of opinion in favour. But for the Cairns of this world our (supposedly not) centralised police are up there with the Queen, the pound, cricket and Trooping the Colour and Brexit ie part of a blessed realm, which conquered Wales for its own good. Devolve criminal and family law? Same divide.

Spirit of BME said...

Firstly, (Jonathan)this is only a broad-based outline of a scenario that is designed to give elected members what they have been asking for and testing them to reject it and consider the electoral consequences.
Secondly,(Borthlas) the assumptions you draw are very logical ( as I would expect) ,but I fear my scenario is based not on any high principle of politics ,but my view that the quality of our “professional politicians” are driven by one thing, the need to get re-elected only, as they know that they are mostly unemployable at their current income and therefore need to keep their faces in the public trough.
Lastly, yes it would be amazing if the “BOY” would offer such a package, but he is in the business of survival at all costs and remember in a devolved scenario he is only moving administrative powers around and not committing the sin of giving away sovereignty.