Johnson and Corbyn will compete for power by selling out the Union

All the hooh- hah from Polly Toynbee and others about forming a government of national unity to stop No Deal – forget it. Boris Johnson won’t even have to bother committing  the constitutional crime  my constitutional expert friends have been deploring.  It’ll never get to that. Their best hope now is a general election but one called pretty much on Johnson’s terms and timing. Robert Peston’s trenchant piece saves me the bother of explaining. It’s so good I quote it almost in full. And if you still have any doubts, consider John McDonnell’s kite flying at doing a post election deal with the SNP to support a left Labour government in exchange for allowing a second referendum on Scottish independence and selling out the Union. So they could have their insane hard border on the Tweed. Good luck to them. As the Times reports:

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister and SNP leader, opened the door to a “progressive alliance” with Labour if the two parties were able to form a majority after a general election.

Ms Sturgeon said she was “no great fan” of Jeremy Corbyn, especially on Brexit, but that she would sign up to a pact that “could lock the Tories out of government”. Westminster is on high alert for Labour to table a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson when MPs return next month.

Hours after Ms Sturgeon’s comments, Mr McDonnell, who is Mr Corbyn’s closest ally, said that the question of another independence poll should not be decided by the “English parliament”. The shadow chancellor’s intervention goes further than Mr Corbyn, who has previously said he will decide what to do once Ms Sturgeon had requested a referendum.

Mr McDonnell’s move led to a backlash from his colleagues, especially on the Scottish wing of the party. Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, accused him of being “willing to destroy our United Kingdom”. Speaking at the Edinburgh Fringe, Mr McDonnell said: “It will be for the Scottish parliament and the Scottish people to decide that. They will take a view about whether they want another referendum. Nicola Sturgeon said by late next year or the beginning of 2021.”

He told the broadcaster Iain Dale: “We would not block something like that. We would let the Scottish people decide. That’s democracy. There are other views within the party but that’s our view.

A poll conducted by Lord Ashcroft after Mr Johnson’s visit to Scotland last week put support for independence at 46 per cent and opposition at 43 per cent.

Polling guru Sir John Curtice writes in The Scotsman.

Polls consistently suggested that most did not want a second independence referendum any time soon, and that if there were such a ballot voters would reject the idea by more or less the same 55 to 45 per cent margin that they did in 2014. That seemed to be confirmed by the loss by the SNP of 21 seats in the 2017 UK general election.

But has the tide now turned? For that seems to be the message from new polling from Lord Ashcroft. It uncovers a gulf between the views of Scots and the hard Brexit policy being pursued by the new UK Government under Boris Johnson.

Scotland is now two to one in favour of remaining in the EU. Nearly a half think that leaving without a deal would be ‘disastrous’ while only a quarter believe that the UK should leave the EU on 31 October come what may.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson himself trails Nicola Sturgeon badly in the popularity stakes – and especially so among those who voted Remain. All of which seems to have helped change some voters’ minds about independence.

Lord Ashcroft’s poll suggests there is now a narrow majority – of 52 to 48 per cent – in favour of independence. This is the first time a poll has put Yes in the lead since the 2017 UK election. There is also an equally narrow majority – of 47 to 45 per cent – in favour of holding a second independence referendum in the next two years.

Of course, not much weight should be put on a single poll. It might simply be an outlier. However, it is part of wider trend in the polls which registered a modest increase in support for independence even before Boris Johnson became Prime Minister and the prospect of a ‘no deal’ Brexit came firmly into view.

Now at last, Robert Peston

I am regularly asked whether MPs can block a no-deal Brexit, whether they will block a no-deal Brexit and whether there will be a referendum.

The short answers are:

  1. MPs have the power to block a no-deal Brexit
  2. The likelihood of them permanently and definitively blocking a no-deal Brexit is slim-to-none
  3. There is likely to be a general election to decide whether the UK stays in or quits the EU, and the prospect of a referendum or People’s Vote is now vanishingly small.

Here is why, if you can be bothered to read on.

First of all, MPs have already demonstrated that they have the power to take control of the Commons order paper, and then legislate to mandate the PM to sue the EU for a further Brexit delay or to remove a no-deal Brexit as the legislated default position in the event that a negotiated Brexit cannot be achieved.

Second, they have the power to bring down the Government by a vote of no confidence, install a temporary government of national unity and then sue the EU to postpone the date we leave the EU.

So yes, MPs have the power to block a no-deal Brexit.

But the reason they won’t is that – under the British Parliamentary system – the opposition is (almost by definition) a disorganised rabble.

When I talk with those at the top of the opposition parties, I hear contradictory and confusing views – a cacophony of madness – on whether to try to legislate to force Johnson to take no-deal off the table or to vote to replace him with a unifying, anti-no-deal PM.

Unless MPs can coalesce around a simple single strategy, Johnson and his most important aide Dominic Cummings win: the UK will be out, sans EU settlement, on October 31.

But Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems all have their own ideas about how to stymie Johnson. And they will not and probably cannot hunt in a pack.

In that context, the most important statement by John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, on my show on the day that Johnson was crowned as PM – which weirdly feels a lifetime away but is actually less than a fortnight ago – was that Labour had absolutely zero interest in participating in a government of national unity.

There were no ifs or buts. He was categoric.

Labour would form its own government under Jeremy Corbyn or Johnson would stay, he implied. And it is almost inconceivable that Corbyn can win enough backing from rebel Tories, as well as the other opposition parties, to command the confidence of the Commons.

There is only the remotest chance of Labour rallying round Ken Clarke or Jo Swinson as possible anti-no-deal PMs for however long or short would be needed to persuade the EU to provide a further extension of our membership of the EU.

And as for MPs seizing control of the order paper, if that prospect were to loom Johnson would call Labour’s bluff, say he wants a general election and dare Labour and other opposition parties to refuse his request – which I cannot conceive they would ever do.

Most paths seem to lead ineluctably to the people having the final say on whether the UK leaves the EU without a deal or whether it remains in the EU – but a final say through a general election rather than in a referendum.

And again, if you share my logic, Johnson probably wins – either because he succeeds in rigging the election timetable such that the new government cannot be formed till after the UK has left the EU on October 31, which is a prospect I regard as unlikely, or more likely because there is absolutely zero sign of Corbyn offering voters the necessary simple choice between a Tory party that would remove the UK from the EU, no ifs or buts, and a Labour party that would keep the UK in the EU.

Instead, and according to senior Labour forces, Corbyn seems wedded to the latest iteration of its complicated policy, which is to promise a further Brexit referendum.

And if voters were presented with a clear Tory policy to take the UK out of the EU without a deal, but an opposition divided between Labour hinting there could be a form of Brexit it might support and that in any event there must be a referendum, while other opposition parties were saying they would prefer simply to stay in the EU, then left-of-centre voters would understandably be muddled and anxious about who to support.

And if left-of-centre voters are disunited and unsure whether to vote for Labour, or Lib Dem or Green or Plaid or SNP, Johnson scoops the prize.

Like taking candy from a baby  – easy to do but horrible.

 

 


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