They say a week is a long time in politics – so taking a few weeks off to head to France just as the Tory Leadership race was coming to a close was a always going to be difficult to keep up with.
Social Media Break
Having chosen a self imposed social media blackout I remained silent for a couple of weeks. It turns out this was far more painful than I imagined. Whilst I didn’t post I was of course keeping up to date with news from No10 and then the Cabinet reshuffle that followed. Obviously it was more of a massacre than a reshuffle. We have gone to a full ERG Brexit government, despite the fact that 48% of us don’t want Brexit!. Many of you may have got used to Johnson in No10 but I still find it impossible to watch and not weep.
So where do we go from here? The recess has given new Ministers some cover to get themselves into their roles without the need for any Parliamentary scrutiny. Quite handy really.
Over the last couple of years I have been telling everybody who asks me what’s going to happen next not to listen to anybody who is VERY sure of themselves. I am confident this still holds true for the period between now – the September parliamentary session – the 31st October Deadline for Brexit and the Possible November 1st General Election! Christmas feels like a long way off!
Normally I would say there will be a very small number of people around the PM who have an idea of what is going to happen. We saw with May that the surprise General Election was known only by a small handful of trusted advisors. I knwo when Gordon Brown decided not to call an election in 2007 it was a small number of his close team who were involved. I imagine the big game plan is only known fully by Dominic Cummings. I am not sure he will have even fully shared it with Johnson, never mind anybody else. Given the over inflated arrogance of the guy who is really running the government at the moment we all have reason to be really worried.
However, the difference is that Johnson and Cummings are not entirely the masters of their own destiny. Hopefully over the Summer recess the Tories could lose their ‘majority’ in the House if somebody like Philip Lee MP follows through with his threat to join the LIb Dems.
Although as there are a number of Brexit rebels on all sides of the House who may be willing to put their positions on the Europe question ahead of party loyalty the numbers are a little less certain for most scnenarios. The Vote of No Confidence to bring down th government isn’t guarunteed or that straightforwards even if it is won. Johnson has threatened to continue with Brexit even with the House not sitting. So much for ‘Taking Back Control’
For the Commons to take back control of the timetable is complex – as outlined in this article in the Times
Talk of a Government of National Unity is speculative but not impossible. Nothing at the moment if probably impossible. Although I have been disappointed over the last couple of years of MPs threatening these actoins and then mostly putting party self interest first.
There is much to be said about the first 100 days of any government. It is meant to define the directoin and feel of government. But look what happened to May. Those first words outside No10 about tacking injustice did feel as though there might have been something different. In the end it was all meaingless words as she didn;t mean ti and even if she had her whole time in government was consumed by Brexit.
Johnson and the team sent out some clear signals that we are now effectively in General Election mode with daily announcements of new spending commitments (Grand statements and aspirations about for example 20,000 police are easier to make than implement!) But it is clear they are trying to close down a number of Labour attack lines. Labour is depsperate to fight the electoin on Austerity again, but if the Tories convince people that is has genuinely ended they will have to fight on Brexit – their weakest card by a mile. Labour doesn’t seem to have a strategy for dealing with Johnson other than hoping we all hate him as much as they do.
I will return to the battle lines in a General Election fought against a backdrop of Brexit, but it will mean we need to be watching seats all over the country not just the marginals, which in a sense makes the title of this Blogging site rather redundant!
If we do have an election in November it will be fought against the new dividing lines in British politics. In England it will be a 4 way Party fight – or 3 if the Tories kill off the Brexit Party with their No Deal rhetoric. They will be hoping Labour continues to dither – which has helped the Lib Dems resurgence. It was easy in the past. ‘It’s the Economy Stupid’ and Who would most likley make the best Leader/PM. Those old dividing lines are now confused.
Across the nations things look very different. The Union is really under strain. Talk of 2nd Referendum in Scotland can’t be dismissed lightly. Talk of remving the backstop will completeley dynamics of Ireland/ Northern Ireland. I hope to do a special piece on this and interviewing leading politicians on both sides of the Border.
Things will move quickly. We have already seen the cancelling of the Spending Review, new money for areas of policy where Labour have made some gains. Planning for No Deal looks real, not just a bluff. The country is being used to play political games. It is utterly depressing. Even more so because the Labour Opposition should be exploiting this disastererous government but finds itself languishing in the 20% range in the polls. Corbyn’s personal ratings are asbad if not worse than ever.
So over the coming weeks I hope to add a few shorter updates based on simple themes rather than trying to capture everything in one Blog At the moment I would like to focus on the role of Cummings, a Boris v Corbyn election, the rise of the Lib Dems because of their clarity on #remain, and anything else that people mention on my timeline. It’s sort of up to you.
Normal day to day politics does carry on in the background but it will remain massively overshadowed by all things Brexit between now and November. This is depresing because there are so many major issues that need the same energy and resources being thrown at Brexit. You can see we need acton on housing, the NHS, Schools,Transport and the economy just for starters.
If you are bored of the whole subject of Brexit – don’t worry. Even after October 31st we have years of this as the UK will have to negotiate a new relationship with Europe. The issue isn’t going away any day soon. Sorry!