What an amazing day, yesterday! Rumours started to fly from late morning that Johnson could – might – would ask Parliament for a vote to hold a GE. When the Leader of the House rose for his customary ‘must-watch’ performance at lunchtime to announce the business for next week, that announcement was however not forthcoming.
Of course I watched – it’s now general consensus that Business Statements are the best ‘events’ to see Parliament in action, even better than PMQs. They have become exemplary of how a parliamentary session should be conducted by all sides and is unmissable. There’s wit, repartee, convivial laughter on both sides and in spite of the usual bipartisanship it’s very civilised. Even the Speaker enjoys it.
Eager watchers were dissecting JRM’s every word to get a hint of what might happen on Halloween. The general impression was that we could be out with No Deal since the Bill is ‘in Limbo’ and wouldn’t be debated as the business plan for next week made clear. Questioned, JRM answered with a poetic ditty. Since you ask – he was referring to ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’. You can watch that clip here.
With nothing forthcoming parliamentary business trundled on to the debate of the Queen’s Speech, to be voted on later that afternoon. The MSM correspondents sought the security of Twitter to blast forth their assessments based on rumours they had heard, trying to whip themselves and their readers into a frenzy by cataloguing who all went in and out of No 10, and what sort of faces they made.
By mid-afternoon it had become obvious that something momentous would be happening. Thus, while voting for the Queen’s speech was underway, watchers flocked to the Parliament TV channel. (The government won that vote with 310 Ayes to 294 Noes, btw.)
And then the moment arrived. It wasn’t Johnson making the announcement. Instead, JRM rose for his business statement. He said that a debate would be held on Monday, preceding the already tabled debate, on a Motion to call for a GE, the date having been set for the 12th of December.
Quentin Letts in the paywalled Times describes the scene in his inimitable way:
“Amid the throng stood Boris Johnson, not in his place on the front bench but standing behind the Speaker’s chair, merely another legislator among others. It was Mr Rees-Mogg’s moment and as he stood there at the dispatch box, surrounded by beady eyes, looking little more than a sprig of willow in a double-breasted suit. Yet in that fogeyish frame, there lurks a performance artiste. He is a most understated show-off.” (link, paywalled)
While the Tories were hugely supportive Labour was in total disarray. So was the SNP who has been hollering for a GE at every occasion but now regards having to vote for one as a dastardly trick by Johnson. Here is a description of Labour’s dithering dilemma:
“The Labour leader on Thursday night said he would only back a poll if “no deal has been taken off the table” but refused to say whether Brussels granting a delay until Jan 31 would satisfy his demands. He also declined to say whether Labour would back the Prime Minister’s motion, due to be voted on Monday, which would see an election held on Dec 12. However, just minutes beforehand, it emerged that Labour MPs had received an email from the party’s whips office ordering them to abstain, meaning Mr Johnson’s request is likely to be rejected. […] It means Labour will have turned down the opportunity to go back to the country three times in two months, despite Mr Corbyn’s repeated assertions that forcing an election is his number one priority.” (paywalled link)
The government has presented the Remain Harlots with a choice which, no matter how they decide, will be hugely detrimental to them. It’s a backdrop to the theme on which the government will run their campaign: People versus Parliament:
“Faced with a Parliament that has, in principle, backed his [Johnson’s] deal but supposedly wants more time to consider its details, he has called their bluff. By offering Parliament more time to consider his deal, but on the condition that they vote for an election on December 12 as a backstop, Mr Johnson is trying to enjoy the best of both worlds.” (paywalled link)
Awkward, that! It’ll be even worse should the hint from this ‘source’ turn out to be correct:
“But as Mr Corbyn refused to commit, Downing Street threatened to stage daily Commons votes on a snap election until he concedes, saying it would not let him ‘hold the country hostage’. A No 10 source said the Government would effectively go on strike by pulling all legislation, including the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and instead ‘campaign at every stage and at every opportunity for a General Election’. “ (link)
That threat – and it is one – was emphasised by another ‘source’ in No 10:
“Mr Johnson has threatened to effectively mothball Parliament if Monday’s vote falls. A No 10 source said the Government would do the “bare minimum” in terms of legislation if it lost and “focus everything on securing an election. We will ask the question if Parliament refuses to allow Brexit and refuses to allow an election then what is the point of Parliament?” (paywalled link)
It’s blackmail alright, as Mr Grieve wailed (link): they are being forced to actually make a decision, with the consequences of that decision being spelled out for all to see! There’s another millstone hanging above the heads of the Remain Harlots: the EU. EU leaders were to decide today if they were going to grant an extension and for how long. Apparently they are now going to wait for the outcome of that vote on Monday:
“The prime minister’s announcement of an election vote on Monday was initially seen in Brussels as removing French objections to the delay. After Labour failed to back the plan for an election on December 12, however, France moved to block any extension decision today. […] Donald Tusk will explain the problem to EU ambassadors today and is expected to wait until the situation in London is clear next week, which could push Britain to within two days of a no-deal Brexit.” (link, paywalled)
Awkward, this – for Mr Corbyn and the other Remainers. He and they are insisting on an extension and that a No Deal must be ‘off the table’ before they’ll agree to a GE. Now they must vote before the EU will help them out … apologies for secretly gloating …!
Moreover, if they do vote for a GE, meaning that Parliament business will come to a halt for at least five weeks before ‘that’ date, the WAIB will be off the table should it not have got onto the statute books by then. You can be certain that Johnson, Cummings and JRM are fully aware of this. Awkward, that, for the Remain Harlots.
Furthermore, the Leave date is set in Law, ours and the EU’s, as has been made clear again and again during the last week’s debates. It can only be changed by a statutory instrument, i.e. a Law, no matter what the EU says. Remainers might try over the weekend to prepare such Law and to get it onto the statute books before Halloween. After all, didn’t they push the Benn Bill through within three days? I doubt though that the government will be so compliant this time – remember they did not filibuster the readings in the HoL. And the clock keeps ticking …
Meanwhile the gloom-and-doom merchants are already predicting an electoral disaster for Johnson, pointing out that the last time a Tory government held an election in December, they lost. That was in 1923 (here). Also, they moan, it will be dark and the weather will be too horrible for the poor canvassers to go out. How on earth do they manage in Norway or Iceland?
One insignificant point overlooked by the Remain MSM is that the Speaker will leave on Halloween. There’s no way back for him, as JRM and Peter Bone MP appear to have confirmed in what looked like a well-rehearsed question-and-answer manoeuvre. Bercow has no choice now but to stand down.
Finally, since JRM invoked it yesterday, let me remind you as well: today is St Crispin’s Day – that is: Agincourt Day. In that spirit, let’s go forth and