We have a GE!
It’s Halloween and we’re still In. Johnson hasn’t ‘died in a ditch’. Instead of his BRINO we now have a GE – the HoL agreed to the Bill yesterday evening. More on that below.
Yesterday was the last PMQs for Johnson and it was the last one for Speaker Bercow. The sycophancy of all speakers congratulating him on his wonderful work was unprecedented. Mr Bercow himself gave a tearful thank-you at the end. It was nauseating. Not that this changed in any way the tone in the Chamber. Corbyn went into his usual rant about the NHS, other speakers for Lib and Lab tore into Johnson with their usual vituperations, calling him liar and untrustworthy, and the SNP Leader gave his usual performance about Sco’land fighting for independence. I expected him to shout “Freedom!”, like in that film ‘Braveheart’, but was disappointed again. So that, thankfully, was that
During the afternoon and early evening the number of MPs not standing crept up and up. At the last count it was 50, from all Parties (link). Readers of this column will be glad to hear that Sir John Redwood, writing in his Diary this morning, says that he is going to stand. So for the time being, that, thankfully, is also that.
Politics nerds then went ‘to the other place’, a.k.a. HoL, to watch how the noble lords were going to decide. It certainly was much calmer than what we saw yesterday in the House of Peacocks … must be those red benches … or the age of the noble lords and ladies.
First there was a ‘debate’, which was simply statement followed by statement of why they’d generally would reject the Bill but will vote for it ‘to heal the Nation’. Having watched so many sessions in the Hoc, I am familiar with names and faces there, but sadly could not put names to those speaking in the HoL. So ‘noble lords and ladies’ (they do address each other like that!) it’ll have to be, sorry.
The speeches were turgid. Labour lords and ladies were regurgitating the Labour speaking points which their colleagues in the HoC had been blasting out. A LIbDem lady was actually thanking Tusk and Barnier for their ‘support’ in stopping Brexit! She got slapped down for making a party political statement which is a no-no in the noble House for those who are not noble Labour lords.
Lord Wigley (I recognised him!) actually said that Plaid will campaign on a ‘revoke’ mandate, to maximise the anti-Brexit presence in the HoC. Voters in Wales take note – this also means that Plaid-Libdem pacts in Welsh constituencies are on the cards
The ‘Green’ lady, wearing both a red and a white poppy, wanted to give the Electoral Commission power to impose unlimited financial fines for electoral offenses. We all have learned how impartial that entity is!
After what felt like centuries of dreary speeches, the Tory Leader in the HoL summed up the debate and asked for the Bill to be moved. Watching how they ‘do’ this in the HoL was a revelation. There’s no shouting of ‘aye’ and ‘no’. The noble lords and ladies are asked if they are ‘content’ – that’s aye – or ‘not content’, that’s no. They’re posh that way, in the HoL!
As the noble lords and ladies were all agreed that this Bill had to be accepted, the whole thing, from first reading to acceptance, went through on the nod, i.e. the ‘contents’ had it on acclaim.
Next, let’s cast our beady eyes over the reports and articles in this morning’s MSM. The election is now in full swing, and everybody and their favourite oracle is into predicting what will or will not happen. The first news came from the LibDem Leader who will campaign to become PM (link). The Libdems also said that they would not commit to electoral pacts generally, but would stand down in constituencies of ‘select’ Remain MPs:
“The party has dashed predictions of a widespread Remain alliance by saying that they will only stand aside for former Tories in a few key seats. It is preparing to make way for Anna Soubry, the former Conservative and leader of the Independent Group for Change, in an attempt to raise the number of anti-Brexit MPs. It also will not stand a candidate against Dominic Grieve, the former Tory who led much of the campaign against a no-deal Brexit in parliament.” (link, paywalled)
That kicked off speculations about what TBP would be up to:
“The Mail revealed yesterday that chairman Richard Tice is receiving begging texts from Brexiteer Tory MPs calling for the Brexit Party to stand aside in their seats. […] A message to all [BP] candidates on Thursday morning said: ‘Important. Please all go DARK on social media. DO NOT respond to any questions about where we [are] standing, what the strategy or plan is from now on. Things will be made clear… very soon,’ […] The party will reveal at a launch event on Friday where it will stand candidates.” (link)
Johnson has made it clear that he’ll not enter an election pact with TBP. How clever that is, time will tell. The last two by-elections indicate that this actually might not be that clever. We suspected already that the Tories would rather fight TBP and prevent Farage from entering the HoC, so here’s the first ‘proof’:
“Yesterday, arch-Eurosceptic Tory MP Steve Baker said the Conservatives should reject a pact with the Brexit Party. The chair of the Eurosceptic European Research Group previously urged cooperation with the party, but now says the Tories should fight them.” (link)
Getting a Leave parliament which will secure Brexit is apparently off the table because the Tory Party aims to get a majority to push through Johnson’s WAIB. This may well backfire:
“James Johnson, who was Theresa May’s strategy and polling adviser when she was PM, […] warned: “The levels of anger and betrayal [amongst voters] do show the Conservatives have a vulnerability that Nigel Farage could exploit.” (link, paywalled)
Labour is already in full socialist propaganda mode:
“Jeremy Corbyn will urge voters to kick out the “corrupt” political elite and back Labour to take on “tax dodgers, bad bosses and polluters” as he launches the party’s election campaign today. In an attempt to frame the contest as a battle between “born-to-rule Conservatives” and ordinary voters, Mr Corbyn will single out hedge fund bosses, media owners and “dodgy” landlords as targets of a future Labour government.” (link, paywalled)
Writing in the DT, Tom Harris makes some points which Corbyn but also the rest of the party leaders ought to bear in mind:
“When the outcome of an election is thought to be a foregone conclusion it is entirely natural to assume that people think less carefully about how they cast their vote. Crucially, if you think the result is pre-ordained, what’s stopping you from “lending” your vote to a party you might not otherwise support, just to make a statement? That was assumed, in 2017, to have been a major factor in Labour’s surprising increase in support as polling day drew nearer. With everyone nervous about the outcome and so much depending on the result of the 2019 general election, that is one factor upon which Labour cannot rely this time.’ (paywalled link)
Tom Harwood in the DT also compares the situation today with that during the 2017 GE:
“Labour MPs […] had a free ride. Necessary scrutiny was avoided as the prospect of a Labour victory appeared to be fanciful. That will not happen again. […] People are now wise to the dangers of hung parliaments and duplicitous politicians.” (paywalled link)
I leave you with this warning given yesterday by one of the ‘noble lords’: “It’s voters who decide what an election is about, not the politicians”. Nor, I might add, is it for the MSM to decide. It’s up to us to see that Brexit isn’t being swept under the carpet in this election campaign aimed to get Johnson back into No 10 so he can give us BRINO.
It’s up to us to turn this campaign into “Leave versus Remain” and to show the candidates of all parties that, for this final time, they better listen to us voters. We have been very patient, but another Brexit Betrayal we will not permit!