It’s a quiet day in politics today. I say quiet, because all things are relative. Except Iain Duncan Smith, who is absolutely and not relatively a spaffpuffin. Anyway, these days we’re at such a fever pitch of delirium that quiet means the Prime Minister getting telt by the Irish Taoiseach with a nicely placed Classical jibe, losing a second vote on an early General Election, proroguing Parliament in order to escape scrutiny, and airing ways he might be able to get around the law obliging the Prime Minister to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50. And then some of the opposition announced that they’re taking steps to impeach the Prime Minister, and the Speaker John Bercow announced that he’ll be standing down on 31 October.
So yeah, quiet. It almost makes you long for the days when the biggest event in British government was Gordie Broon flinging a Nokia at someone. At least you could grasp the concept of Nokia chucking without wrestling with Ancient Greek mythology and the arcane procedures of the British Parliament and equally mythical British constitution. All it involves is picking up a mobile, and taking aim at Dominic Cummings’ head. This has a lot to recommend it as a way of out the current Brexshittery, but it’s unlikely to happen. Pity.
The Classical jibe, in case you hadn’t noticed, what with us all being comprehensive school oiks and not Etonians like Lyin Bastert Johnson, was when Leo Varadkar told LBJ that he’d have to make herculean efforts to get Free Trade deals in less than three years. Then he added that the Irish hoped to be his Athena in doing so. In Greek mythology, the goddess Athena was the ally of Hercules as he performed his twelve labours, but her most famous intervention was when she knocked him out so that he couldn’t do any more damage, because he’d gone mad. So that was LBJ telt, or rather ἐνῐσπών, which is telt in Ancient Greek. Or even atcóas, which is telt in Old Irish.
Even Ruth Davidson is attacking LBJ now. At least that’s what it says in the Herald. However on closer inspection “attacking” turns out to be the former ex no longer ran away to avoid responsibility manager of the Conservative branch office saying that the actions of Johnson could prove “short sighted”. Which is hardly Athena punching you in the gob with divine force is it. It sets a new standard for “attack”, and it’s possibly the first time that anyone has been attacked by a person who has already run away. Hint to Ruth, you’re supposed to do it in the opposite order.
Back in the House of Crazy that passes for a UK legislature, there’s to be yet another attempt today at getting the House of Commons to agree to a General Election at the time of LBJ’s choosing. It is highly unlikely to succeed, as the House of Commons has been channelling Athena since last week and has knocked out the Government’s majority on account of the Government going mad. The only question is the size of the defeat.
The Government has announced that Parliament will be prorogued today. They do actually have a window of a few days, starting today, in order to do so, but the few days that the Commons has been sitting have only resulted in yet more humiliation for Johnson. The Government thinks he has suffered enough. The rest of us think he hasn’t suffered anything like enough.
Plaid Cymru certainly don’t think he’s suffered anything like enough, and have decided to start impeachment proceedings against the Prime Minister if he ignores the law and refuses to request an extension to Article 50 from the EU. It’s unlikely to succeed, but would be richly amusing if it did. No Prime Minister has ever been impeached, and if LBJ did decide to ignore the law the remedy against him would most likely lie in the courts, not in an impeachment process.
The truth is that LBJ’s options are limited. He can ignore the law, but that will leave him open to court action. If he is found to be in contempt, which if he’d simply refused to obey the law is highly likely, then he could theoretically be sent to jail. However he could also be found personally liable for the costs to the UK that would be incurred by the no deal Brexit his illegal action had created.
The strategy which is being touted by the Government is the petulant toddler channelling the Grinch. The Prime Minister could write the letter asking for the extension as required by the law, but also write another letter saying that he didn’t really mean it and doesn’t want an extension. And then threaten that if it’s granted he’ll do his best to bugger up the EU’s Christmas. My money is on this one. It would be in character.
Alternatively he could resign, or he could call a no-confidence motion in his own government. Neither of these are politically good looks. The first simply means that Jeremy Corbyn or someone else would request the extension instead and then if the sky didn’t fall in and he didn’t turn the UK into a cross between Venezuela and a Mad Max movie, a lot of the fear factor would go out of the Tory warnings against a Corbyn government. Besides, a man who has spent his entire life scheming to become Prime Minister won’t want to become the shortest serving PM in history. This is a man whose ego trumps all other considerations.
The vote of no confidence does mean that a simple majority is required for an election. But there’s still no guarantee that the Government would win. A failed attempt by the Government to call a vote of no-confidence in itself would be an utter humiliation. Boris Johnson would become the Prime Minister who couldn’t even succeed in failing. However even if it did succeed it would mean that this would be the first government in history which won a vote of no confidence in itself. This would lead to the most rubbish election slogan in history, “Vote for me because I’ve got no confidence in myself.”
Finally he could try and persuade another EU government to refuse the extension. Although since the UK isn’t exactly flavour of the month in EU circles, and the British Prime Minister is regarded in a somewhat similar light to that scary clown who lives in the sewers, it’s difficult to imagine that any of them are going to oblige. It’s not like there would be anything in it for them sufficient to compensate for the grief they’d get from other EU governments. The EU doesn’t want to be seen to have forced the UK out.
John Bercow announced that he’s standing down. The Prime Minister couldn’t be arsed to turn up. Possibly he’s still trying to get up from the floor after being walloped by Athena. The Tories were as churlish about the announcement as it’s possible for a Tory to be, which is to say extremely churlish indeed. They’d already said that they were going to break with Parliamentary convention and put up a Conservative candidate against him in the election to come in order to make him lose his seat. But Bercow has got the last laugh, as by announcing his resignation now he’s ensured that the next speaker will be elected by this Parliament and not the next one. And as we all know the supporters of LBJ in this Parliament have no majority.
So that’s where we are today. Still mired in uncertainty. Still as stable as a drunk man balancing on one leg on a bridge railing in a gale. That’s the UK these days. How’s that security and stability that Better Together promised us working out for everyone?
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