Mr “Cake and Eat It” Johnson has being lauding the fact that his Withdrawal Bill (WAB) got approval from the House of Commons to move on to a second reading whilst simultaneously claiming that parliament is blocking its passage since they refused to agree to do so on a Programme Motion which only provided three days for full scrutiny of the act.
There was a meeting between Mr Johnson, Mr Corbyn and their advisors about possibly agreeing to a more appropriate period of scrutiny which would have allowed the WAB to be moved forward, but it ended without agreement. One suspects that the major reason for this is that Johnson wanted the matter ended before the final day of October so that he could keep his “come what may, do or die” pledge. This implies that appearance means far more to the PM than substance in this regard. Johnson has a commons majority of minus 43 (!) which means that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him to pass contentious legislation. Even if he could lure most of the 21 rebels from whom he withdrew the whip back, he has plainly lost the support of the DUP and, with defections to other parties, he would still fall short of a working majority. The only solution, therefore, is to call a general election and hope that the electorate give him a working majority which would allow him to push through his deal, or a “no deal” Brexit.
Therefore, to nobody’s surprise, the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, announced that the government would be laying a motion on Monday, under the Fixed Term Parliaments act (FTP) seeking an election on the 12th of December. The government then graciously consented to allow parliament time to debate the WAB, if it grants the government an election, into November.
Whilst all the opposition parties are in favour of a general election, they are not in favour of letting it happen under Johnson’s terms and when a “no deal” Brexit remains a possibility (there is a provision in the deal which would allow a “no deal” Brexit to happen if a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU has not been reached by December 2020 – an almost impossibly tight deadline). Since the FTP requires a 2/3rds majority of MPs before an election can be triggered, it is unlikely that Monday’s motion will pass. Mr Corbyn is unwilling to commit to an election before the EU has decided if an extension will be granted to the UK’s A50 notice and how long it will be (that decision may now be deferred to next week).
A possible course of action open to the opposition would be to call a vote of no confidence in the government. This (if passed) would open a 14-day window in which MPs could seek to form an alternative government. If this happened, it would avoid the requirement to call an election. There are people who propose that such an action could lead to a caretaker administration with essentially two aims: hold a confirmatory referendum on Brexit (remain against (say) the Johnson deal) and then in the light of that decision, a fresh general election. The appeal of such a move is it would resolve Brexit one way or the other and the electorate would be making a choice between two known alternative visions. However, common sense and politics make strange bedfellows.
Current polling gives the Conservative Party a 10% lead over Labour.
As a result of the political uncertainty, Sterling has been giving up recent gains against all the major currencies.