Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Tonight's votes reveal that the SNP are not uncompromising Remain ultras - they just have red lines, which they've rightly stuck to

So a few quick thoughts on tonight's parliamentary votes.  I was surprised that all four motions were voted down, because with Labour whipping in favour of three of them it seemed likely that at least one would scrape through, or possibly two, or possibly even three.  But those three were all pretty close.

The customs union only proposal was defeated by three votes, with TIG and the DUP voting against, the SNP abstaining, and the Lib Dems splitting three ways.  Given the SNP's red lines, I wouldn't have thought there's any prospect of them switching to outright support for this motion if it comes back (and rightly so), although it could pass if either TIG or the DUP switch to abstaining.  It was so close to being a dead heat tonight that in theory it wouldn't actually need an entire party to switch - even just a couple of individual MPs changing their minds could swing the balance.  On the other hand, there would be nothing to stop the SNP voting against next time to make sure it doesn't pass.

The referendum proposal failed by just 12 votes, with the SNP, TIG and the Lib Dems all voting in favour, as you'd expect, and the DUP voting against.  It's much harder to see where the extra votes are going to come from to get this one over the line, because there is no party that is realistically going to reverse its position.  The closeness of tonight's vote seems a bit artificial in any case, because the Cabinet were instructed to abstain, and presumably they would break (either wholly or mostly) against a referendum if it ever came to a binding vote.

The Common Market 2.0 proposal, which is better described as the softest Brexit on offer tonight, was defeated by 21 votes, and strangely enough the SNP and TIG voted in opposite ways on this one - the SNP actively voted in favour and TIG actively voted against.  So Kenny "Devo or Death" Farquharson will be disappointed at this vivid demonstration that TIG, and not the SNP, are the real Remain ultras.  The SNP are perfectly prepared to compromise on a soft Brexit that is actually consistent with their red lines, which the customs union-only proposal is not.  Theoretically if TIG change sides on Common Market 2.0 it would pass by 1 vote, although a) it's hard to imagine that they will back off from their distinctively hardline stance, and b) there's no guarantee that everyone else will vote in exactly the same way if the motion does come back.  Once again, the Lib Dems were split three ways on this vote, which is a peculiar division on strategy and principle for a traditionally pro-European party.

The requirement-to-revoke proposal was doomed to defeat as soon as Labour declined to whip in favour of it, and sure enough it failed by 101 votes.  Keir Starmer will have lost a lot of friends tonight with his condescending (and frankly baffling) reply to Joanna Cherry when she challenged him on Labour's stance.

Having an interest in political history, I quite enjoyed watching Nick Boles theatrically announce his departure from the Conservative party and then physically walk away from the Tory benches.  I believe he's the first MP to cross the floor in that very literal sense since Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler defected from the Tories to the SDP in 1981.  (I said on Twitter that it was in 1982, but according to Wikipedia it happened a year earlier.)  There may have been a more recent example than that, but I can't think of one off the top of my head.  Although according to Boles' tweet, he's going to continue calling himself an "Independent Progressive Conservative" rather than joining a different party or group, so it remains to be seen whether he'll return to the Tory benches out of habit or sit with the opposition.

Either way, the Commons arithmetic has just got even tighter...

Conservatives 314
Labour 245
SNP 35
Independent Group 11
Liberal Democrats 11
DUP 10
Sinn Féin 7
Plaid Cymru 4
Greens 1
Independents 11

Excluding the abstentionist Sinn Féin, that works out as...

Conservatives + DUP: 324
Combined Opposition: 318

Even on the confidence and supply arrangement which the DUP happily ignore when it suits them, that's an effective government majority of just six.  A Labour win in the Newport West by-election is likely to reduce it to five.  In days of old, anything below ten wasn't really considered a "working majority" at all.  Whatever happens from here, a general election before this calendar year is out is surely going to be extremely hard to avoid.  This parliament is simply not viable.

*  *  *

UPDATE: Just a passing thought - if Theresa May feels she has no option left but to seek a further Article 50 extension for the specific purpose of calling a general election, I wonder if we might end up going to the polls on 23rd May, ie. the same day on which the European elections would take place if they're held.  Probably the most effective way of minimising the embarrassment of having to hold European elections is to drown out coverage of them with a general election campaign. 

If both elections are on the same day, it would also hugely boost turnout for the Euro-election, which might prevent UKIP and Farage's new Brexit Party from reaping the benefits of a differential turnout.


  1. Is that the Sinn IRA Fein murder squad rehabilitated in an old folks home telling tales of their murder hits? Gerry I killed some Protestants. Sean I killed merr than you. John Paul I tortured some before I killed them, beat that ya muppets. Are our salaries being paid?

    1. More bigoted late-night drunken rage from Cordelia. Its bloodlust for a return to the Troubles is sickening.

    2. Shut your twiggling glimp. You' re flinting again.

    3. Oh dear. Cordelia's trying out its self-created Polari again. Its supervisor really needs to get that taken care of.

  2. Angus-Brendan McN 'trapped on an island'... 'no-fly' zone declared.... SNP MPs can't possibly be that frightening..!

  3. https://twitter.com/nick_gutteridge/status/1112977968895275008

    Barnier says if there's no deal 'a few months after I'm sure UK will ask EU to begin negotiations' on trade. But warns 'In that case Withdrawal Agreement we put on the table at the beginning of this negotiation will be still here. Citizens rights, Ireland, financial obligations.'

    As I've said before, no deal doesn't make this go away. All it does is delay negotiations on the deal, but with an utterly trashed economy.

    The UK can't seriously trade on the global state without a trade deal with it's 27+ neighbours. Be that canada+ or EEA, it needs a deal. Other non-EU countries won't be interested in a deal with the UK if it doesn't have a deal with the EU as trade is never in isolation these days.

    Only shit for brains people think 'no deal' is somehow a solution. If you want to be North Korea it is, but that's it.

    1. I'm sure Cordelia will stagger back at some point to justify a Juche-style existence in the event of no deal. Alternatively, its new supervisor might try to do so.

  4. Interesting polling from CNN.


    'Is brexit making the UK a laughing stock?'
    93% Yes
    7% No

  5. Sorry to be pedantic James, but if Labour win that by-election, then the majority would be down to 4, not 5.

    1. Sorry to be even more pedantic, but no, it would be 5. The vacancy is already taken account of in the above figures.

  6. Strange statement from Ian Blackford today:

    A long extension will happen. I’m not just saying that: we know that will happen. We’ve been speaking to people in the EU and the EU is desperate for the signal to be given by parliament which gives them the excuse for a long extension. It will happen, I’m pretty clear on that."

    Very bullish and positive, very much going against what everyone else has been saying. If it was some other politicians could put it down to bluster, but can't see Blackford being that positive if something was 'in the bag' or close to it.

  7. Can see why now, no way EU are going for a short extension. Question is will Corbyn play ball, if he did he would be pushed pillar to post about what position to take by the factions in his party. If there are a rash of Cabinet resignations and hes confident enough that some of the ERG would vote against the Gov he might just pull the trigger on a VoC.

  8. First Leave terrorist group attack.


    'Pro-Brexit' sabotage devices left on train tracks

    Two "malicious" devices were left on railway tracks in a pro-Brexit sabotage attempt, police have said.

    1. Old Wooden BladderApril 2, 2019 at 8:19 PM

      We have to leave then because I use the train and it does not hiv a lavvie oan it very often.

    2. Silly non news about Brecit. This is rubbish and shows how SOME media like to paint everything to do with British prosperity. Litrely.

    3. Poor Cordelia, completely missing the point as usual.

    4. Left on the tracks near Yaxley in Cambs. With a picture of John Lennon on the box.

    5. Interesting.

    6. I made up the bit about Lennon. But Yaxleys true

    7. Nothing if not consistent, then.

    8. Castanets McKinnonApril 10, 2019 at 10:01 PM

      We used to sing a hymn at assembly by Anonymous. Are you related?