Boris Johnson has been offered a route to securing the pre-Christmas election that he has been seeking, through a plan that would only require the support of a simple majority of MPs.Typical short-sighted tactics by the Lib Dems, undermining the one good thing to come out of the Coalition. Undermining parliament's control over its own destiny.
With most Labour MPs still against the idea of a snap election, the prime minister looks set to lose his bid to secure a December poll on Monday in a vote that requires the backing of two-thirds of MPs. Other parties are also opposing an election until the EU has granted a three-month Brexit delay, although the DUP hinted on Saturday it could back the move.
However, in a sign that the coalition opposed to an election is under strain, the Liberal Democrats have drawn up a plan allowing Johnson to secure a December poll with a simple majority of MPs, with the support of Jo Swinson’s party and the SNP.
This ploy could be used by government to bypass the FTPA and have an election at their convenience. If the Lib Dems do it now, they have legitimised it and any future PM will be able to use the same mechanism. The moral injunction against anyone doing it evaporates as soon as it is done. So they shouldn't do it, in case a some point in the future they want to be able to tell other people not to do it.
I want an election but I want it done properly and in accordance with the law, not through some wily subterfuge that will later on become a tool for cynical PMs.
Labour, meanwhile are calling on Johnson ruling out No Deal. I'm interested in seeing what Labour mean when they are calling for No Deal to be ruled out. That's consistent with what they have always wanted so it makes sense. I'm not sure how they expect it to work - unless it is based on a promise from Johnson, which isn't worth much - but I accept they *MAY* be smarter than me and know what they are about.
I wouldn't give them too long to sort it out though.
Surely the Lib Dems would be interested in preventing No Deal?
There is an alternative. It proceeds on the assumption we get a lengthy extension, which the EU seems to be about to announce. The main aims (as I see it) at this stage are: remove No Deal from the table as a 'default' option; secure a second referendum; secure a second election; humiliate Johnson to ensure maximum chance of doing well in that election.
The proposed route where the FTPA is by-passed is not satisfactory. It sets an unpleasant precedent that could be abused later on. Also, it gives Jonson control. He's not going to rule out No Deal, it won't get a second referendum, he's going to set the terms of an election and he's going to come out of it enhanced, not humiliated. So a big old fail there.
If I was Seamus Milne, this is what I might be planning:
- Demand the PM puts forward a bill (or something) pledging that No Deal is not an option. Argue it has to come from Johnson so he is honour bound to stick with it if he wins the up-coming election. Johnson, of course, refuses.
- Spring a VONC in the government when Johnson refuses to rule out No Deal. If Johnson survives, so be it. At least they tried. If the motion succeeds, Johnson's government falls. He is humiliated and loses control of the schedule.
- Try to set up a GNU, led by Corbyn. Dare the Lib Dems and pro-remain indies to vote against it. If they do, then Labour can campaign arguing their true colours were exposed and their commitment to the EU was found wanting; if setting up the GNU succeeds, then they have a short window to pass legislation ruling out No Deal, setting up a second referendum and having the election at the time of their choosing. They might even have time to grab an 'off the shelf' Norway style deal from the EU.
- If a Corbyn GNU can not work, throw the party's weight behind another candidate. The important thing is to be seen to be genuinely trying. If that doesn't work, an election follows.
- In the election, campaign like fiends, pointing out that Corbyn was PM for a month and the sky did not fall, or that he gallantly set aside his own ambitions to enable a GNU, or that he tried his utmost but the Tories, Lib Dems and supposedly pro-Remain indies frustrated his efforts.
You have to wonder about a party where the leader muttered something about supporting Johnson's deal (with the proviso of a second referendum) and which now is contemplating supporting his efforts to undermine a law the Lib Dems insisted on being passed in the coalition years.