The successful Letwin amendment "rules out No Deal", or so we're told. Doesn't that sound strangely familiar? How many times has such-and-such a vote or such-and-such an action supposedly ruled out No Deal? Presumably if No Deal had actually been already ruled out, it wouldn't be necessary to keep doing it again and again and again. I don't think the Letwin amendment will be any more effective at taking No Deal off the table than the previous attempts - although admittedly it does significantly reduce the risk of a No Deal exit on Halloween. Without Letwin, the government might have been able to hold a gun to the head of MPs and say that they had a straight choice between approving the legislation implementing the deal in unamended form, or an immediate No Deal crash-out in the absence of the Benn Act safety-net (although presumably they could still have got around that by seizing control of the timetable again and passing Benn Act II).
If there's any light at all at the end of the tunnel, it's the approaching clarity on the date of a general election. In principle, Johnson appears to have the numbers to pass his deal - but the devil is in the detail, and all it would take to kill the deal (at least this side of an election) is a successful amendment that makes the legislation depart significantly from what was agreed with the EU. If the DUP seek to amend the arrangements for Northern Ireland, for example, it's not impossible to imagine some Tory Brexiteers abstaining rather than voting with the government. Either way, though, we'll know very soon. If the legislation is passed to the EU's satisfaction, Britain will officially leave the EU in less than two weeks' time and it would make obvious sense to then move on to an election to ensure a proper mandate for whichever government enters into the next round of negotiations with Brussels during the transition period. If, on the other hand, the legislation hits the rocks, it's likely that the EU will reluctantly agree to parliament's request for a three month extension, which on the face of it would satisfy Jeremy Corbyn's stated condition for agreeing to an election.
Would Labour still look for an excuse for further delay, given their unpromising showing in most current opinion polls? Maybe, although it's no longer clear that playing it long will actually improve their position. They had previously thought that if they just held on for a bit, Boris Johnson would be boxed into campaigning for No Deal at the election, which would have allowed Labour to portray themselves as the only viable alternative to an extremist government. But whenever the election is held now, Johnson will be able to sell his deal as a grand compromise, and so arguably Labour might as well just get on and face the music.
If they do seek an excuse for a delay, it'll probably be the old favourite of "we can't annoy the voters at Christmas". But pretty much any party would be quite happy to interrupt people's Christmas preparations if they thought there was the remotest tactical advantage. Back in the day on Stormfront Lite, Tory posters used to complain that polls conducted over Christmas underestimated their party due to voters being away on holiday and whatnot, so who knows? Maybe Labour will calculate that they're better off going to the country while Tory voters are disproportionately likely to be away skiing in Saalbach-Hinterglemm.
If the election is held before Brexit, each party is going to have a very obvious pitch -
Conservatives: Get Brexit done with our compromise deal and bring the country back together
Labour: Only we will let the people decide on Brexit
Liberal Democrats: Stop Brexit
SNP: Stop Brexit and reinforce our mandate for an independence referendum next year
All of those sound like potential winners, but self-evidently they can't all be.
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Regular readers might remember that a few months ago I wrote about the absence of a Scottish Gaelic course on Duolingo, and urged people to add their name to the campaign for that to be rectified. After that post, I spoke to a couple of people who had been seeking to engage with Duolingo on the subject for many years, and they were extremely pessimistic that progress would be made any time soon. But just for once, there's an unalloyed good news outcome to report: Gaelic will shortly be added to the site! You can sign up in advance HERE. It'll still be a few months before the course is fully up and running by the looks of things. In the meantime, I can recommend the free Gaelic course on Glossika that someone directed me to. (Glossika is mainly a pay-site, but Gaelic is one of a small number of languages that are currently offered for free, presumably due to being endangered.)