Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The lesser ego

by Frank Schnittger Fri Aug 16th, 2019 at 01:28:48 PM EST

At last there are some glimmers of hope that the reality of a no-deal Brexit is beginning to dawn on a cross-party majority of MPs and efforts have begun to find a mechanism by which this can be prevented. Since no one trusts Boris Johnson to call an election before October 31st. even if he does lose two votes of confidence, these efforts are focused on finding an acceptable compromise candidate who can be elected a temporary caretaker PM during the two week period between the first no-confidence vote and the deadline for an alternative administration to be formed.

In the absence of an alternative caretaker PM being elected, Boris Johnson would remain as PM until the election is actually held, and in control of the process by which the election date is chosen. His hardline stance on welcoming a no-deal Brexit, and failure to even engage with EU leaders is making it easier for a more cohesive anti-no deal Brexit majority to emerge. However there are huge constitutional and political difficulties to be overcome if this scenario is to become a reality. What has changed is that a sequence of events, hitherto regarded as far fetched, has now taken centre stage in UK political debate.


The constitutional precedent is that the loss of a vote of confidence should lead to the Prime Minister either calling a general election or resigning, in which case the Queen calls on the leader of the opposition to attempt to form an alternative administration. This process has been complicated by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 which was intended to make it more difficult for a PM to call a snap general election at a time of his/her choosing in order to maximise his/her party's advantage.

The Act enacted two constraints on a Prime Minister's freedom to call a general election: Firstly, a decision to call a snap general election outside the usual 5 year cycle now requires the support of a two thirds majority of the House of Commons - effectively the support of the leader of the Opposition. However it would be a brave leader of the opposition who would seek to thwart the democratic process of consulting the electorate and Theresa May had no difficulty in securing Jeremy Corbyn's support in calling the 2017 general election outside the normal 5 year cycle.

The second constraint on the PM's freedom to call an election is that the Act provides the PM, and the House of Commons, with a two week window of opportunity to reverse the vote of no confidence by re-affirming confidence in the PM, or voting confidence in an alternative candidate for PM. If no one wins a confidence vote in that period, the PM remains in office and must call a general election but retains some discretion as to when it must be called. In 2017 the election did not take place until 7 weeks after it was called which takes us to Brexit day itself, too late for the winner to reverse or delay Brexit, if that is what they want to do.

The most obvious candidate to oppose the PM in any confidence vote within the two week period is the Leader of the Opposition, and Corbyn has duly offered to take on that role. However Tory dissidents and former Labour party MPs whose votes are essential to the formation of an alternative caretaker government have indicated that Jeremy Corbyn would not be acceptable to them as an alternative PM, even in a temporary caretaker capacity. No doubt Corbyn will continue to pursue his candidacy until such time as he actually losses a vote of confidence and the alternative is Boris Johnson remaining in office.

Rationally it shouldn't matter all that much who is the temporary caretaker PM as long as he/she requests and receives an A.50 extension long enough to call an election and possibly a referendum thereafter - and then actually calls the election. However polls of Tory members have shown they hate and fear Corbyn even more than the threat of the break-up of the UK or of Brexit not happening at all. This may be a totally irrational position for them to take, but then politics is often more about emotions than rationality. Right now it is about not handing a victory (however temporary) to someone they hate and fear.

In 1940 Churchill became Prime Minister with the support of the Labour and Liberal parties without a general election because of their united opposition to Nazism, despite the fact that they had opposed him on many other issues. The Nazi threat trumped all other considerations. It would be ironic if Boris Johnson were replaced as PM by someone elected through a similar process as his mentor, Churchill, because of the threat of a complete breakdown of all relations with the EU.

But if not Corbyn, who? Jo Swinson, the new leader of the Lib Dem party, has suggested someone like Ken Clarke or Harriet Harmon, the "father" and "mother" of the House, both of whom have a long track records of supporting EU membership. Ken Clarke would be ideal to attract dissident Tories because of his Tory pedigree, ministerial experience, and (presumably) lack of personal ambition. Conceivably he could even offer not to stand in the election so he can "focus exclusively on his caretaker PM responsibilities" and not pose a threat to anyone else's PM ambitions. Much the same could be said for Harriet Harmon except she might be more successful at consolidating the Labour vote rather than attracting dissident Tory and ex-Labour MPs.

However Corbyn is also in an exceptionally strong negotiating position, because only he can deliver the vast bulk of the votes required to elect any temporary PM. He may therefore feel no need to reward another Tory or former acting Labour leader and can satisfy the minimal Lib Dem/dissident Tory/ex-Labour MP demand that any temporary PM be "not Corbyn" by nominating his own choice as long term successor as leader of the Labour Party for the role of caretaker PM.

Provided his choice of potential successor is not a hard-left supporter also unacceptable to dissident Tory and Labour MPs, but is widely acceptable within the Labour party (and ideally the wider public), it doesn't much matter who it is. All anti-no deal Brexit MPs would be let off the hook of having to support Corbyn and be able to rally to the appointment of "anybody but Corbyn or Boris" on the grounds that it is a temporary appointment in the name of a greater cause.

Corbyn's nominee would remain (albeit "caretaker") PM for the duration of the General Election campaign and appoint a cabinet to hold a few cabinet meetings to deal with the A.50 extension issue and some routine day-to-day stuff. However even the appointment of someone acceptable to him would pose serious issues for Corbyn. Would Corbyn take a job in the cabinet or focus on the general election campaign? Would the caretaker PM have to appoint Lib Dem or ChangeUK/Green/SNP/Plaid cabinet members to be assured of those party's votes? Would he/she effectively be appointing a "national unity" cabinet?

There would be enormous pressure for Corbyn to stand aside "for the younger man/women" if the media decide the caretaker PM looks "Prime Ministerial," even if Labour becomes the largest party after the election. Would anti-no deal parties agree an electoral pact to stand aside for the most favoured candidate to defeat a Brexiteer candidate in the Election? Would they make such a deal conditional on Corbyn continuing to stand aside and not become PM after the election?

It is not unprecedented for the party leader of the largest party not to be the PM in a government - Merkel is no longer CDU leader, and neither was Churchill elected Conservative party leader until after his appointment as PM. Labour, and left wing parties generally, put huge stress on being policy rather than personality centred, but would Corbyn and his inner circle agree to him being effectively sidelined in order to create an anti-no deal Brexit majority and perhaps a "government of national unity" in order to defeat Boris? Would anyone he did nominate for PM be derided as a Corbyn puppet unless Corbyn subsequently stood down as party leader as well?

As has often been the case, the PM and Leader of the opposition are pivotal to how all of this plays out. Both would have to be prepared to lose a battle if they are to win the war. Boris would have to compromise on his no-deal stance in order to win over some Tory dissidents, to remain in office. Corbyn might have to sacrifice his own prime ministerial ambitions if he is to defeat Boris. Perhaps the man with the lesser ego will ultimately win out. A No deal Brexit is still the most likely outcome on Oct. 31st., but at least a serious debate has started on how this might be prevented.

Display:
TLDR: There's no way to prevent Boris Johnson from effecting a no-deal Brexit.
by asdf on Fri Aug 16th, 2019 at 05:56:06 PM EST
Not to worry, I have lengthened it a little more for you. No deal is still the most likely outcome but it is objectively wrong to say it cannot be prevented.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 16th, 2019 at 07:10:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course it can be.  It's just not very likely.

Granted, it's not "Humans get their shit together and prevent catastrophic climate change"-unlikely.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 12:44:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Independent: Only 34 per cent of voters want the prime minister to carry out a no-deal Brexit on 31 October if necessary - while 49 per cent urge him to either delay, cancel Brexit altogether, or stage a fresh referendum.

The survey, carried out by BMG Research, also reveals the public is overwhelmingly gloomy about Mr Johnson's chances of negotiating a fresh deal, with only 19 per cent believing he will.

Voters also favour MPs being given a final vote on the Brexit outcome - rather being shut out of the process, as the government intends - by 42 per cent to 39 per cent.



Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen
by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 05:44:54 AM EST
Decision time ... thus no more delay, it will never get better. UK has illustrated a referendum for Brexit w/o a plan ... devastating. The whole campaign ending in a slim majority 52-48 was not enough to argue for a fool's separation of a no-deal. The compromise of May's deal should have been accepted. As the clock is ticking the opposition has not been able to come together. It's now time for either Boris with a no-deal or a cancellation of Art. 50. People finale get yr act together! No other EU nation will follow in UK's fool's enterprise .. a chance once in a lifetime.

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.
by Oui on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 06:41:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think cancellation of A.50 without a second referendum is politically feasible without provoking widespread alienation from the political system to the point of civil disobedience and violence.

With the best will (and organisation!) in the world, a second referendum cannot be held for several months and probably only after a general election which leads to a change of government. Therefore, in all probability, it's either Brexit on Oct. 31st., or at least a 6 Months A.50 extension followed, if voting trends are to be believed, by no Brexit.

If Boris wins the general election on a no deal platform, no further negotiations or referendum is required and Brexit can happen straight away, although I suspect Boris would attempt to use his no deal "mandate" to try and force further concessions from the EU. After all "no deal" was only ever meant to be a negotiating ploy to force concessions from the EU...

I suspect the EU would be unimpressed with his "mandate" and tell him he can have his no deal...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 09:55:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
View from the British angle ... the EU27 needs to be unanimous to accept a further extension ... there will be a recession either way ... just get it over with. De Gaulle and Luns made the right call ... in 1975 the Labour Party under Harold Wilson voted 2 to 1 for withdrawal ... the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn still has no plan. His person is unacceptable to be leader of a caretaker Government ... not much time left 😐

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.
by Oui on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 02:33:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Corbyn hits back at MPs refusing recognition of his "right" to lead. Labour's imperial ambition has no chance to succeed.

@TheGuardian

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 03:29:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I've explained elsewhere, Corbyn holds the official position of Leader of the Opposition. That makes him quite officially the first person to be consulted, and the first obvious candidate, to attempt to bring together a majority. No need for the quotes "" around right.

As for time, there are two weeks of recess ahead. Time enough for people who are getting media attention by saying they would never have anything to do with Corbyn to change their minds. He is the major contender, and he holds the major bloc of votes that can veto anyone else's attempt.

IF Boris is voted down.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 04:12:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Extraordinary times requires extraordinary solutions ... there will be a very short window of opportunity to rid the UK of Boris Johnson ... any deal to get an agreement to block  a no-deal Tory-Brexit is fine with me ... in the first week of September I will accept any plan ... there is no one who should put his "position" first ... the caretaker Government should be just for a single purpose ... nothing else matters ... the UK will sink in a hole managed by all parties. There is no clear cut option ... what mess they created. Can Corbyn even manage to unite his "opposition" party ... no Constitution ... amazing country ... was Ireland united when the Titanic was launched in 1912? Another disaster waiting to happen ... just like a slow motion Hollywood film. No captain and the band keeps playing ... 🎭 🌘

Don't let Boris play his fiddle as London burns ...

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 06:15:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Often posted, never gets old.

by Bernard on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 08:35:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The first and most difficult hurdle to blocking Brexit which must be overcome is that Boris must lose a vote of confidence.  Achieving this is made much easier if their is an anti-Boris candidate all the anti-no deal Brexit factions can unite around.

If it becomes a straight vote between Boris and Jeremy, Boris wins every time.

However, as you say, Constitutionally, the Leader of the Opposition is the next in line to be consulted if Boris Were to lose a vote of Confidence. If he convinces the Queen he could win a vote of confidence, she might even appoint him PM.  However she can only do so if Boris resigns as PM.

Let us suppose Boris doesn't resign, saying he will regain the confidence of the House within two weeks or call an election after Brexit day.

The only way for the House to prevent Boris doing so is to vote confidence in someone else. Jeremy may well present himself to the House as a candidate for the caretaker PM role, but if he fails to win the confidence of the house to do so, the only way to stop Brexit is for the House to vote confidence in someone else within the two weeks.

Jeremy has the most important voice in determining who this someone else might be as he is delivering the most votes to the cause. He could suggest Harriet Harmon as a non-contentious choice, on the understanding she would stand aside as soon as the result of a general election became clear, and everyone else on the anti-Boris side would have no choice but to accept.

Or he could use the opportunity to promote his favoured successor, but this rather assumes he no longer sees himself as PM for anything but a limited period.

His choice. He is in the driving seat. But he can't force the anti-Boris factions to unite around himself. The best he can do is decide who that person should be.

But we are in constitutionally unprecedented times. A lot depends on who controls the business of the house and what Speaker Bercow allows. Boris could yet bully the House out of playing a decisive role.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 08:53:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Boris certainly intends to bully Parliament, and the media will no doubt assist by pushing the Bercow-enemy-of-the-will-of-the-people line. However, he can't stop a motion of no-confidence, and if he loses it, he will be searching for a majority, which is a significantly less powerful position.

As for Corbyn, of course being LOTO doesn't guarantee he'll get a majority together behind his name. It does give him considerable leverage, though: any candidature he doesn't agree with can be vetoed by the withdrawal of Labour votes.

Supposing a vote of no-confidence, there will be a period of intense tractations. The LOTO, having tabled the motion and obtained a majority behind it, will be in the driving seat for retaining the same majority for his (caretaker) PMship. If Corbyn himself falls short of a supporting majority, another person might be able to gather the necessary odd votes. Corbyn would, again, be in a position to weigh on that person's candidature: if there were not a clear understanding on 1) A50 extension; 2) immediate general election, he would be unlikely to support it.

There are going to be some Tory MPs who will be immensely solicited between now and mid-September. How many will put the interests of the country before their own re-election chances remains to be seen.

My prediction is that Boris will bully them into submission on the very first vote, and the rest of the suppositions above will be moot. Hope I'm wrong.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 07:28:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we are agreed on all of the above. Jeremy plays a key role, but only if Boris loses a VOC first. And even if Boris does lose a VOC, he is probably still in the driving seat because he has two weeks to regain it - by bribery, chicanery, charm, threats, or all other means necessary.

I don't hold out much hope of any Tory with continuing political ambitions voting against him, but there must be quite a few who:

  1. Intend to retire at the nest election in any case
  2. Know they have no prospect of advancement under Boris anyway
  3. Are going to be de-selected anyway
  4. Have their eyes on a lucrative career in the city or elsewhere

A few, probably, no more than a handful, may do so out of principle or a belief that No-deal represents the worst possible outcome.

There is a political ritual we have to go through, whereby Jeremy exhausts every possible option before conceding that he cannot command a majority of the house for a caretaker premiership, no matter how attenuated.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, he agrees to nominate Harriet Harmon for the role, a labour loyalist of considerable ministerial experience who has acted as Labour party leader and deputy leader and Leader of the opposition before. A credible choice in constitutional and political terms but who at 69, doesn't appear to have further political ambitions.

Even if she wins the confidence of the House, could Boris refuse to resign? Could he attempt to dissolve parliament and call an election in any case? Can the Queen force him to resign and make way for Harmon?

I'm sorry, but with a constitution as vague and open to abuse as the UK's it is almost impossible to take the UK political system seriously, and I certainly wouldn't regard the HOC as "the mother of Parliaments" or the UK as a serious or advanced democracy.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 10:08:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or have decided that being associated with the Tories after a No Deal Brexit will destroy their career anyway.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 10:49:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure we do quite agree. I don't regard the Westminster Parliament as the mother of anything, and I agree a constitution based on a number of laws and conventions has its drawbacks (so do written constitutions, which are open to interpretation, see 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution for an example).

But this

Even if she wins the confidence of the House, could Boris refuse to resign? Could he attempt to dissolve parliament and call an election in any case? Can the Queen force him to resign and make way for Harmon?

is nuts unless you ask if he also has the police, the army, the secret services, and a well-formed civil-service conspiracy on his side. Such acts could not be accepted. Another MP has the confidence of the House, the monarch will be advised to call that person to be PM, and that's it. Boris can't dissolve Parliament, the monarch does that (and would be advised not to listen to an MP who has no majority behind him). That is hard-and-fast convention. Boris could only break it, as I say, with a hard coup. And against those, written constitutions are no rampart, either.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we probably won't get to see all that played out, since Boris will in all likelihood survive a VOC.

What worries me more than the constitution, is the bully-pulpit power of the right-sliding-further-right in the British "national conversation". And there I am adding quotes.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 12:39:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you are saying that if Harriet Harmon wins a VOC in the House and Bojo doesn't leave 10 Downing street, she picks up the phone in her Commons office and asks the police to remove BoJo? Or does the Queen send for BoJo and tell him to resign?

I can see a caretaker cabinet trooping into Harriet's Commons office to be given their portfolios...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 02:14:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's pretty facile, frankly. "The Queen" means the advisers at the Palace and high civil servants who deal with Palace relations. Either they are sold out to a top-level conspiracy, or they will apply the conventional rules. Boris will be advised to resign, the leader of the new majority will be invited to form a government.

If Boris wants to hole up in N° 10 (or 11, where it seems he has his abode) is immaterial. He will no longer be running the government. If he really wants to get silly, he can hide out in the broom cupboard until some discreet political policemen show up to winkle him out of there.

But, unless he really has the guns behind him, this is all rather pointless speculation. And guns work fine against a written constitution, too.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 04:11:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At least with a written constitution, the Supreme Court has the final and definitive role on interpretation. As it stands, especially where no precise precedent exists, there seems to be scope for Boris to make things up as he goes along - and it will be far too late for any Court to reverse events afterwards even if his actions are found to have been unconstitutional.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 08:53:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the guns are out there, what use a Supreme Court waving a bit of paper?

If the guns are not out there, Boris will not make things up as he goes along. At least, not in the way you have suggested.

This argument just goes on and on, so this is my last comment on it.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Tue Aug 20th, 2019 at 06:22:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Times print edition today has a story in its Q&A section on how Boris might try to thwart the opposition even if they do elect a caretaker PM "by not advising the Queen to send for the proposed new prime Minister and instead either trying to run down the 14 day clock or proactively calling a general election ideally to take place after 31st. October." Apparently Nicki da Costa, Downing Streets' legislative director, pointed out that the incumbent PM chooses the election day, and it could be as late as January - "the legislation is silent on that".

So there is no law restricting how long it can take to hold a general election after Parliament is prorogued. The minimum period is 25 days, but there is no legal maximum, just a convention that it is normally held on a Thursday within 7 weeks. Conventions are essentially unenforceable. They exist only until they don't. Bojo could remain PM almost indefinitely without breaking any law. Wonderful constitution you have there...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 05:20:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 :
The Act specifies that early elections can be held only:

    if a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the whole House or without division; or
    if a motion of no confidence is passed and no alternative government is confirmed by the Commons within 14 days.

Two things to note:

it is not the defeated PM who chooses or confirms the new government, it is the HOC;

that is not convention, it is written law.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 07:54:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what I thought.

So what is the Times' political correspondent, Henry Zeffman, or, for that matter, Nikki da Costa, on about?

They seem to be implying that the Queen cannot "send for" whoever the HOC might elect without being advised to do so by the incumbent first. (He might claim he still has a chance of winning back the confidence of the House, within 14 days, regardless of the house having temporarily showered its affections on some other non-entity.)

They also seem to be implying that BoJo can run down the clock on the 14 days and then choose an election date of his liking, at his complete discretion, for the ensuing election despite having lost a vote of confidence. (I think they may be correct on this, unless the HOC elects someone else before the 14 days are over).

It may be that "the British Constitution" is very clear on this. But if The Times' political correspondent and senior advisors to BoJo can waffle on like this in seeming ignorance of its provisions, it doesn't bode well for the general populace being well informed...

You seem to be placing great faith in "the law". But you can usually find two lawyers to argue contrasting interpretations, and without an effective, and speedy judicial determination and enforcement mechanism, whatever the law says might well be moot.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 08:46:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See also violations of electoral campaign laws in referendum and general election - none of which have ever resulted in a result being cancelled or reversed. So what is the point of having those laws, if the most they result in is a slap on the wrist and a fine for those who can well afford them?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 08:50:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You seem to place faith in written laws because you prefer a written constitution. On which point you may be right. I am simply pointing out what I consider as fantasy interpretations of what might happen in the weeks to come. I show a statute law, and you say "oh, that doesn't mean a thing because it won't be applied." Same for all the constitutions and statute laws of all countries, then?

I also note that you place greater faith in correspondents of Murdoch's politically-biased rag than in official Parliamentary guidelines based on a recent and clear statute.

But have it your way.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Thu Aug 22nd, 2019 at 06:06:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only statute law you have quoted is the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 which I too have highlighted and quoted in the text of this diary. The provision relating to the 14 day waiting period has never been applied so convention and case law relating to same is scarce and speculation rife. I worry when senior advisors to Boris appear to advocate actions which appear to me to be illegal or unconstitutional.

The other main problem I am highlighting is that laws with limited if any sanctions applicable to actions many months after the event have not been shown to change that event even where those actions are found to have been illegal - in which case they are little more than window dressing.

In countries with written constitutions, clear precedents, and strong and independent enforcement mechanisms, respect for "the constitution" seems (to me) to be much stronger, and any government which has been found to act unconstitutionally faces severe consequences. The very fact that Boris doesn't have to face some kind of impeachment process for suggesting he might ignore the will of Parliament - and before he can actually do so - is also a matter of concern.

I have, for instance, also been critical of countries where this doesn't appear to be the case: for example where the pre-trial incarceration of Catalan separatist leaders seems to be motivated by an overly politicised judicial process. The separation of powers is an important constitutional principle.

The breakdown of respect for convention and the rule of law seems to me characteristic of a descent into authoritarianism and totalitarianism and the UK political class and media have not been slow to use the language of "traitors", "collaborators", "defeatists" and other xenophobic references to anyone associated with a less confrontational attitude to "Brussels".

I hope you are right and "the will of parliament prevails" and a "no deal" Brexit is avoided.  Perhaps my parents German background makes me overly sensitive to any creeping undermining of democratic norms.  However Rafel Behr also draws parallels to the onset of the Great War and notes a similar fatalism growing amongst Remainers that a no deal Brexit will happen in any case despite the catastrophic consequences they see coming.

"The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing"

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 22nd, 2019 at 09:10:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The outgoing PM would then try to stop the PM elected by the HoC by preventing the proper rituals. But would the monarch comply with being conscripted into such a scheme?

I would assume that the monarch only acts on the advice of the PM to preserve the monarchy. Has the UK had a crisis where the monarchs power to appoint the PM and cabinet was lost due to a conflict with the parliament? If so, then the reason not to act but on the advice of the PM is due to the power of the parliament, not the PM. So the only reasonable move would be to go with the PM that actually has the support of parliament, even if that would break the letter of convention. Just declare that the outgoing PM handed in his resignation, thank him for his services, and call for the PM who has support.

The Times is either getting lost in the letters of conventions, and losing their meaning, or they are throwing up any reason to prevent Johnson being voted down in the first place. Or of course they might be laying the propaganda groundwork for a coup, but I think that is less likely.

by fjallstrom on Thu Aug 22nd, 2019 at 06:58:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Queen is 93 and possibly not quite on top of what's happening.

So the horse trading would be done by her advisors, who would represent the Crown - a rather nebulous constitutional entity that is supposed to represent the State, but which in practice acts primarily to preserve the business interests of the monarchy.

Now - hypothetically - what if the current generation of advisors were all Brexiters? It wouldn't matter what the Queen wanted, because the advisors are literally the power behind the throne, and the Queen has very limited power of action without their support.

This is pure speculation. I have no idea if it's true. But the arrogance of Johnson etc worries me.

There's self-assurance, and then there's the kind of blind and stupid action that comes from a belief that the Establishment supports you and won't act against you.

Granted, Johnson isn't the most self-aware of all political operators, and it's perfectly possible he's simply a delusional narcissist.

But it's also hard to see how Brexit could have gotten as far as it has without at least some Establishment support. Considering how hard it is to make any big changes in the UK, it's been extraordinarily effective in a relatively short time. And that wouldn't have happened if the Establishment wasn't at least partially in favour of it.

So the question is - how much of the Establishment supports it, and from what power base? We can take the Home Office for granted, because it's Fascist Central anyway. The FO will be more pragmatic.

But the Queen's own office? It's impossible for outsiders to know what's happening there. But it's certainly impossible to guarantee it's a fervent Remainer outpost.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Aug 23rd, 2019 at 11:14:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure it matters much what the Queen thinks, but FWIW there was genuine warmth expressed by and towards the Queen on her 2011 state visit to Ireland. Given the Royal Family lost Lord Mountbatten to the Troubles, that was some achievement. I doubt she would be too impressed by anyone playing fast and loose with the Good Friday Agreement. Her role is to foster good relations with othoer states, and in the case of Ireland, she has been successful. Why would she want to throw that relationship under a bus?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 23rd, 2019 at 04:08:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would seem that the interests of the royal family would be roughly in parallel with the long-term interests of the UK as a whole. A problem with that viewpoint is that it also can be used to justify the old-style House of Lords. But still, one might expect that she would not want to go down in history as the queen who, after several decades of reasonable stability, ultimately oversaw the breakup of the kingdom.

Also, she's got a lot of real estate in Scotland that will pose an interesting question when they break off from England in about a year.

by asdf on Sat Aug 24th, 2019 at 12:10:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Parallel interests never intersect.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sat Aug 24th, 2019 at 03:30:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Boris refuses to leave 10 Downing Street, the elected PM goes through the proper ceremonies elsewhere, and then calls for the leaders of various government services and starts ruling. Boris then is an abandoned squatter, to be dealt with in time.
by fjallstrom on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 02:55:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Supposing a vote of no-confidence, there will be a period of intense tractations.

Intense and zero-time-required transactions? The scenarios for avoiding Brexit are getting hilariously convoluted. According to my limited understanding:

First, parliament needs to be back in session. Second, Corbyn needs to introduce a no confidence motion. Third, BoJo needs to lose the motion. Fourth, BoJo needs to lose his effort to regroup the wavering Conservatives by threatening them with Corbyn. Fifth, Corbyn needs to win his effort to group the anti-Brexit factions. Sixth, assuming that he fails, "somebody else" needs to get a majority. Seventh, either Corbyn or "somebody else" needs to pass a motion to retract or delay Article 50. Eight, that has to go over to the EU Brexit negotiating team, which needs to be gathered back together and put back into operation. Ninth, that team needs to approve it. Tenth, the EU states need to approve it.

All of these items, each one by itself thickly painted in emotion and politics and general craziness, and each one opening numerous avenues that BoJo can use to throw a wrench into the works, have to be completed in approximately six weeks.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

by asdf on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 06:09:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You were doing fine until about stage 7. Retracting an article 50 notification is a unilateral and definitive act which stops the entire Brexit process. Delaying Brexit by extending the A.50 notification is a matter for the EU Council alone - who have said they will do so in order to facilitate a "democratic event" such as a general election or second referendum.

Where there is a will, there is a way. The question, in this case, is whether the majority in Parliament and the country against a no deal Brexit is, or can be, as organised as the pro-Brexit forces. At the moment, the answer has to be no, but there are still some weeks available for this to play out.

Nevertheless "grasping at straws" is probably a fair description of the chances of reversing Brexit at this stage. If there has been any greater incompetence than on the part of successive UK governments, it has been on the part of those in the UK opposed to successive UK governments...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 09:04:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was under the impression that this was still under some debate, with a non-binding reading from the EU courts suggesting that the UK could withdraw unilaterally following a democratic process.

So does Corbyn or "somebody else" issuing a withdrawal letter before an election count as democratic???

It's a mess, that's for sure.

by asdf on Tue Aug 20th, 2019 at 02:28:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EJC issued a binding finding that the UK had the unilateral right to withdraw its A.50 notification until such time as Brexit had actually happened. After that A.49 applies, i.e. the UK would have to re-apply for membership like any other third party. Any UK government cold do so, in accordance with its own constitution - with or without "a democratic event" beforehand.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 20th, 2019 at 08:04:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Intense and zero-time-required transactions?

I wrote "a period of", therefore not zero-time. The period being the 14 days required by the fixed-term Parliament Act.

The minimum time for an election is 25 working days, ie 5 weeks. An election could be held before 31 October.

The EU has already signalled readiness to accept an extension for a major democratic event such as a referendum or general election. An extension could be very quickly granted.

Time is not the problem. The problem is that the opposition to no deal will not get their act together/ will not chip off enough Tories to beat the government.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
L. Cohen

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Tue Aug 20th, 2019 at 06:31:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The 1975 referendum on EU membership resulted in a 2:1 vote in favour of REMAIN....

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 08:19:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]

... or should we say "As the World Spins?"

Unbelievable, so much similar between 1975 and today ... except the magnetic North and South pole switched polarity ... meaning the Conservatives and Margareth Thatcher voted to Remain. The Brentry negotiations were done under Edward Heath, the Labour party was opposed. Odd times we live in for decades now. 😊

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 06:39:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]

feasible without provoking widespread alienation from the political system to the point of civil disobedience and violence.

There's  no way to avoid this. It's just a question of who does the rioting and whose heads the police have to break.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 05:41:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wait do the cops actually break the right's heads over there when they riot?  Usually they just blame the left anyway over here.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 12:06:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
34% is higher than I expected - but it's also close to the proverbial One-Third Moron voting contingent who make progressive democracy so hard.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 09:52:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm honestly surprised it's that low even given how the popularity of Brexit has fallen.  I'd have figured 40% or so.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 12:08:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The 49-34% margin in favour of no Brexit in the poll cited above is the widest I have seen and is equivalent to a 60:40 vote for remain in a second referendum where the alternative is no deal. I would expect that margin to widen still further as the referendum campaign drags on and that should put paid to any thoughts of further referenda in the future. Of course a lot depends on who wins any general election held before the referendum. 34% is more than enough to in a majority in the UK's magnificent FPTP electoral system...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 09:58:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"49 per cent urge him to either delay, cancel Brexit altogether, or stage a fresh referendum"

A majority not wanting no-deal Brexit is not the same as a majority agreeing on one specific alternative.

by asdf on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 03:05:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At this stage "delay, cancel Brexit altogether, or stage a fresh referendum" are all version of the same anti-Brexit position. They represent distinctions without a substantive difference...


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 08:23:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Neither rogue nor wily fixer, Varadkar confounds British.
UK cannot capture Taoiseach in limited parameters of Irish characters they can imagine.

You do not have to be overly perceptive to notice that the right-wing British press has a thing against Leo Varadkar. He's demonised as a lackey of the European Union, and the obstacle between Britain and the so-called green pastures of Brexit.

The disdain is unmistakable. Headline-dominating insults range from "naive" to "ill-informed" to "arrogant", and everything in between. Simon Heffer wrote in the Telegraph that Varadkar was "wrong to disregard the ancient ties between Britain and Ireland"; commentator Ruth Dudley Edwards called him a "useful idiot"; and a Sun editorial said his attempts to "wreck Brexit have been a suicidal failure of statesmanship".

Theresa May's former chief of staff, Nick Timothy, wrote in the Telegraph that Varadkar "doesn't understand the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement" and commentator Tom Harris claimed in the same paper that he "is not up to the task when it comes to Brexit".

It would be easy to dismiss this invective as anti-Irish. It parrots the tropes of 19th-century Punch cartoons: ignorant, small minded, a man who doesn't know How Things Really Work.

But that would be missing the point. The hostility borne towards Varadkar comes from a different place entirely - an ignorance of Ireland's political culture, and a starkly different perspective on what the EU is and what it is for. This comes down to an asymmetry in information. In Ireland, the UK press is read widely; in the UK, most people would struggle to name a single Irish publication. Until very recently, the man on the Clapham omnibus wouldn't know what - let alone who - the Taoiseach was. But Brexit and Ireland's central role in the negotiations has plastered Varadkar over the front pages of broadsheets and tabloids alike.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 11:03:12 AM EST
Just listened to Ireland's national anthem for sports ... the Irish playing the Dutch field hockey in Antwerp. Team consists of 12 Irish and 6 from NI. Beautiful support ...
Ireland's Call

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.
by Oui on Sat Aug 17th, 2019 at 01:53:54 PM EST

Which I think is a good point. Additionally to the risk of having the right wing of the PLP regroup around the "moderate" interim PM Corbyn would give up a real position of authority.

There is also this from interim hopeful Ken Clarke:

by generic on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 07:26:19 PM EST
Clarke should have kept his mouth shut. The whole point of appointing a temporary caretaker PM who is not Corbyn is that it has to be a non-person, ideally a technocratic non-entity without personal ambition, so that Corbyn can feel that said appointment is merely a bump in the road on the way of him becoming PM in his own right. A slight interlude delaying his ultimate accession to the role.

If the caretaker PM becomes a substantive figure in his own right, he becomes a blockage to Corbyn's claim to the role. The only exception to this is if Corbyn accepts he is never going to be PM and that his next best option is to promote whoever he wants to ultimately succeed him - assuming there is such a person, and assuming they would be more widely acceptable than Corbyn himself.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 08:31:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by generic on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 07:03:55 PM EST
The Liib Dems have been in coalition with Labour in the Scottish government, before the SNP overtook both parties.

The Lib Dem member of the Welsh Assembly is currently a member of the Labour led Welsh government.

Brown offered the Lib Dems nothing in terms of policy, at a time when a coalition needed to be formed in the national interest. It is impossible to say what deal might have been made with Milliband, if the numbers in the 2015 Parliament had made a Lab/Lib Dem coalition possible.

The pesent situation is quite different. The Lib Dems would support a government of national unity led by almost any pro-remain Labour MP except for Corbyn and his factional allies. This is even more the case for dissident Conservatives and ex-Labour Independents.

The difficulty is that Corbyn has no realistic possibility of gathering a majority, but is well placed to prevent any other opposition MP from doing so. As a result nothing will be done, which will result in no new government before 31st October.

by Gary J on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 08:41:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The pesent situation is quite different. The Lib Dems would support a government of national unity led by almost any pro-remain Labour MP except for Corbyn and his factional allies.

Possibly, but it would probably wipe them out at the polls.
To be fair I really don't see that there is any majority to be had. The Tories like their expenses accounts and should still remember what happened at their last snap election. Change UK is also dead and probably won't go for an election.

by generic on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 09:39:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No one else has a realistic hope of getting more of a majority.

Certainly not Clarke, whom the LibDems ("The Remain Party') now appear to be touting as a more realistic choice, even though he's a soft Brexiter who is dead set against a PV and won't have majority support on either the Tory or the Labour side.

The reality is that whatever the LibDem faithful think, with various degrees of self-awareness, the role of the the party and its precursors for the last 15-20 years has always been to make sure that European-style social democratic policies are kept well away from Westminster, while US-style social darwinism is rebranded as fiscal responsibility.

This extends to a rather robotic and mechanical aversion to allowing competent centre-left politicians anywhere near power. We saw it in the EU elections, where LibDem interference allowed the Brexit Party to topple a number of pro-European Labour MEPs who had been doing a good job for their constituents.

We're seeing it again now.

Swinson could easily say "OK, on condition that..." and set some limits. Then she could help bring some of the moderate Tory rebels on board. This would take No Deal off the table, set some precedents, and generally make everyone breathe a sigh of relief.

The fact that she'd rather make an outrageous and unrealistic demand - and parachute in a Tory Brexiter - than support Corbyn in ending No Deal makes it absolutely clear what's really happening here.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 11:49:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Am I alone in seeing all of this as a pre-negotiating mating ritual? Jeremy claims the caretaker PM role as his right. Cue outrage elsewhere. Jo Swinson proposes Clarke. Cue Labour outrage. Caroline Lucas throws in a green rabbit. Gradually we might get to someone least unacceptable to all sides, but only after all sides favoured candidates have been rules out.

Harriet Harmon seems like a possible option, but ChangeUK and Independent MPs will only vote for a general election if an electoral pact - guaranteeing them a free run at the Tory & Brexit candidates - is in place. Otherwise you are asking them to commit suicide. The best placed opposition candidate from the 2017 election gets to hold the Remain/people's vote banner supported by the others.

Surely there is someone with the negotiating nous to realize that everyone must have their red lines, but that these red lines are not mutually exclusive?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 04:51:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Peacocks incubation period 30 days ...

For British political parties not the faintest of chance ... expecially when not acting as grown-ups for over two years now.

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 08:40:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Looks like the Republic of Ireland is responding to No Deal in a sober, sensible, manner.

Brexit Contingency Action Plan
Publication of Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update, 9 July 2019


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 09:19:10 PM EST
In the Northern Ireland section (page 5) it is noted:

If the Institutions are not in place at the time of a no deal Brexit, there is a risk that the UK Government might initiate a move to Direct Rule in Northern Ireland as a response to managing the shift to new post-Brexit arrangements in the timeframe involved.

Direct Rule?

That'll be .... fun.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 09:23:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Bernard on Tue Aug 20th, 2019 at 07:08:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... NI gov requires domestication as does Tory gov. ...

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Tue Aug 20th, 2019 at 09:21:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I realize it's a desperate time o'er there.

And desperate times demand desperate measures.

Even so, some of these scenarios are getting jump-the-shark silly.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 10:14:19 PM EST
Not in a normal democracy where horse trading between parties to form temporary alliances or longer term coalitions are the norm. However the FPTP system has bred an adversarial political culture where the imagination and skills required for fruitful negotiations are largely absent. Herding cats doesn't begin to cover it...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 21st, 2019 at 10:23:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, but even in a FPTP system you can have a specified process for what happens and when. The voting system is orthogonal to there being a set of clear rules. Even the US doesn't have this problem, after a few bobbles along the way, subsequently corrected.
by asdf on Thu Aug 22nd, 2019 at 02:00:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
< wipes tears >

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Thu Aug 22nd, 2019 at 03:56:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Trump's message to G7 leaders this weekend: Be more like U.S.
"senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters on a conference call"

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Thu Aug 22nd, 2019 at 11:38:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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