Wednesday, 12 December 2018

It's uncertain what happens after a no confidence vote

A very timely review of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and the issue of confidence motions: Public Administration Committee

Should a vote of no confidence in the Government be passed, it is unclear what would happen next: 'The Act provides no guidance on what occurs during the 14-day period following an Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 no confidence motion being passed. As the Clerk of the House told us, what occurs during this period is a matter politics, and not of procedure. Evidence to this inquiry and the Cabinet Manual set out that the Prime Minister would be expected to continue in office unless someone else could command the confidence of the House.'

'If someone else could command the confidence of the House, the Prime Minster would be expected to resign. Not doing so would risk drawing the Sovereign into the political process, something the Cabinet Manual is very clear it intends to avoid. At any point during this period, a motion of confidence in Her Majesty’s Government under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 could be put down and that that would prevent the election. After 14 days a general election would automatically follow.'

Monday, 3 December 2018

Difficult issues surrounding a second referendum

Alan Renwick and Meg Russell take a long, cool look at some of the difficult issues that surround a second referendum: Key questions

They reckon that it would take at least 22 weeks to hold a referendum which would require an Article 50 extension. There are tricky issues in relation to next May's European Parliament elections.

Probably the most difficult issue is how a referendum question should be structured. They state, 'There is no perfect system that would allow all voters to express their preferences and guarantees an unambiguous result.'

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Labour's minority government ploy

John McDonnell has suggested that Labour could form a minority government if Theresa May's Brexit deal is rejected by the House of Commons, as seems likely. Labour would first have to defeat the Government in a vote of confidence. This would require the support of the Democratic Unionists. That seems unlikely to me, if it meant ushering in even a minority Labour Government. They would be more likely to abstain.

However, let's suppose that Labour did win. The Queen would then send for Mr Corbyn and he would have 14 days to form a minority government. Labour has already held talks with the Scottish Nationalists, although they disagree over freedom of movement. Caroline Lucas would presumably support Labour, as would Plaid Cymru. The Liberal Democrats would certainly demand a second referendum, something that Mr Corbyn does not want. If the Labour Government was defeated on a vote of confidence, there would then be a general election which is what Labour says it wants anyway.

It's an interesting scenario, but an unlikely one. What is possibly being underestimated is the 'Norway for now' option advocated by Nick Boles gaining more traction.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Jumping the Gun

You have to laugh at last night's Evening Standard front page. All the posturing by ERG Brexiteers has ended up with them looking foolish. Tactically the moment to challenge Theresa May would be when she loses (as seems very likely) her Commons vote on her plan. Mind you, her popularity is going up with the public and she is giving some attention to technological solutions to the border issue.

Captain Mainwaring is a rather ambiguous figure: pompous and with poor judgment, but also heroic in a low key way and in that sense an embodiment of the much vaunted 'Dunkirk spirit.'

It is certainly no help when one country is negotiating against 27 and a tactically astute Commission. The idea that a prime minister committed to Brexit could somehow face down the EU is a fallacy in my view.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Nothing will satisfy the DUP

Nothing that Theresa May can offer the DUP will satisfy, reckons Northern Ireland specialist Jon Tonge: Even turning up on bended knee with another billion pounds won't do it

So that leaves three outcomes: trying to get a better deal from Brussels; a general election; or a second referendum. (One might add a fourth: a Brexiteer Conservative PM who goes for a 'Dunkirk spirit' no deal).

The DUP has not really done anything to enhance sympathy for Northern Ireland in England as they appear to be intransigent and backward looking. No doubt they would say they are protecting the interests of their constituents who continue to return them with (in most cases) big majorities. However, more vision might protect their interests better in the longer run.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

A very political budget

'Fiscal Phil's' budget was very political and the main target was the benches behind him (I don't buy into the argument that it signals an early general election, the Conservatives aren't going to risk that again). He has enhanced his reputation with the benches behind him and given Mrs May some more breathing space.

It could all still go pear shaped if there is no Brexit agreement, but I still think it is more likely than not that there will be a fudge that will scrape through the Commons, leaving all the difficult issues to be negotiated during the transition period/implementation phase.

What was important was what was not in the budget: no changes to tax allowances on pensions, which cost a lot of money, but would hit Conservative stalwarts hard. Not only were the income tax allowances not frozen, they will be brought forward. Higher rate taxpayers will gain most, but you don't have to be in a top job or earning huge sums to be one of those. Domestic air duty was frozen, as was the duty on beer, cider and spirits, but not wine, drawing a shout of 'Oh no!' from behind the Chancellor.

Public spending is to increase, but not just yet. One billion pounds is going to defence which will please Conservative backbenchers. The £400m for schools will mean £10,000 for the typical primary school and will not help to save a single teaching assistant. It was also delivered with a patronising reference to 'little extras' which has not gone down well with the teaching profession. It should be paid for by the new digital services tax if it manages to raise £400m.

Getting multinationals to pay their fair share of tax has always been a challenge, but even more so now they are not moving goods around in many cases. What is required is international cooperation to deal with tax havens, but that is looking less rather than more likely.

The difficult decisions about where to increase public expenditure and how to pay for it will be deferred until the comprehensive spending review post Brexit. That makes sense, but it doesn't help local authorities teetering on the edge of bankruptcy or the stretched police and prison services. The £700m extra for social care, although welcome, addresses only part of the problem that local government faces.

The corny jokes by the Chancellor diverted attention from the seriousness of the situation: something, but not enough, has been done about Universal Credit which is being used to cut entitlements, particularly it would seem for the disabled and single parents. But there were no apparent gaffes and the antics of feisty Liz Truss provided another amusing diversion.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Why Mrs May and the Conservatives are survivors

For the Conservatives being in power, or at least in office, is the number one priority. An excellent article on why Mrs May and the Conservatives are survivors: Dead woman walking?

If I had a pound for every time I have heard or read that Mrs May was a dead woman walking or would be facing a leadership challenge by the end of the week, I could afford a weekend away in Lynton.