The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What a silly bunt

British PM Boris Johnson is now, I believe, 0 for 8 in votes in Commons as the chamber voted 322 to 306 this afternoon (London time) to force the government to delay Brexit until January:

The prime minister will be legally obliged to request a Brexit delay at 11pm under the terms of the rebel Benn act, after the government lost the critical vote.

It came during a historic Saturday sitting of parliament, which saw the PM adopt an emollient tone, as he implored MPs to throw their weight behind his deal.

Letwin said he was minded to support Johnson’s deal, but the aim of his amendment was “to keep in place the insurance policy provided by the Benn act, which prevents us from crashing out automatically if there is no deal by 31 October”.

Downing Street has repeatedly insisted it will comply with the requirements of the Benn act, which forces the PM to write to the EU and request an extension if he has not received parliamentary support for his deal by the deadline. But Johnson has also insisted he will not delay Brexit.

Johnson could still force the UK out of the EU a week from Thursday, but doing so would run afoul of Parliament and would certainly trigger a constitutional crisis.

Meanwhile, if any of my UK readers would like some tariff-free Bourbon in exchange for some tariff-free Scotch, I'll be in the Big Stink on 9th November. I can bring two litres duty-free. Hit me up.

Boris Trump

I watched PM Boris Johnson's statement to the House yesterday as it happened, and I have to say, he seemed like a more-articulate version of Donald Trump. Instead of scowling, he smirked; instead of rambling incoherently, he banged the table succinctly. But otherwise, he demonstrated his unfitness for office and, as a bonus, the Conservative Party demonstrated theirs by giving him a standing-O.

Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee put it well:

If his party had some notion that the mantle of office would sober up this self-intoxicated scoundrel, they were wrong. If they thought charm and wit would be his winning political weapons, they were wrong. Not a scintilla remains of that “one nation”, “healing” and “bringing the country together” guff he talked in the leadership campaign. This is two-nation politics, deliberately driving the rift ever deeper. This is calculated contempt for parliament and the judiciary, designed to stir anger among his Brexit base outside against that imagined “elite”. That’s the definition of demagoguery, turning voters into “the mob” to force his way where he finds democratic and judicial processes barring his wishes.

ohnson’s strategy, devised with his unwise adviser Dominic Cummings, is to act so savagely that he provokes Labour into calling a vote of no confidence, as time and again he goaded Corbyn for cowardice, too frit to face the voters. Neither Labour nor the other opposition parties will be so foolish: they will call an election only when the no-deal danger has been delayed with an extension to the 31 October leaving date.

To date, the PM’s every tactic has been a disaster: losing every vote, his proroguing of parliament failed, blundering into the supreme court’s damning verdict. The net effect last night was yet again to bolster Jeremy Corbyn’s standing, his calm dignity of language casting Johnson as the wild-man extremist. The prime minister bawling insults at him as “a communist” fails when in front of everyone’s eyes is a grownup refusing to be riled by this spoilt adolescent.

Those who have left look back on their old party with horror: Amber Rudd warned yesterday of Johnson’s “dishonest and dangerous” language, but they have all quit. New candidates to replace the 21 departed will be of the Johnson stamp, chosen by the same aged firebrands who foisted this unspeakable prime minister on the country. It was never more imperative that this party should be resoundingly defeated at the next election – and that will take tactical collaboration by a progressive alliance of opposition parties. Johnson last night will have helped forge that determination.

Meanwhile, this government shambles towards a devastating no-deal Brexit. But make no mistake: Johnson, as PM, can lose every single vote and still crash the UK out of the EU on October 31st.

What a morning

PM Boris Johnson is now addressing the House of Commons, capping a crazy day in the UK. And that's not even the most explosive thing in the news today:

I'll be listening to Johnson now, daring the House to call for a vote of no-confidence, daring them to have an election before October 31st.

The institutions held; but at what cost?

In an unprecedented decision, the UK Supreme Court ruled today that PM Boris Johnson misled the Queen when asking her to prorogue Parliament, rendering the prorogation unlawful and void:

The unanimous judgment from 11 justices on the UK’s highest court followed an emergency three-day hearing last week that exposed fundamental legal differences over interpreting the country’s unwritten constitution.

“It is for parliament, and in particular the Speaker and the Lord Speaker, to decide what to do next. Unless there is some parliamentary rule of which we are unaware, they can take immediate steps to enable each house to meet as soon as possible. It is not clear to us that any step is needed from the prime minister, but if it is, the court is pleased that his counsel have told the court that he will take all necessary steps to comply with the terms of any declaration made by this court," [said Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court].

The court stopped short of declaring that the advice given by Johnson to the Queen was improper. It was a question. they said, they did not need to address since they had already found the effect of the prorogation was itself unlawful.

Speculation before the ruling was that the court would find against the prime minister; that they were unanimous came as a surprise.

Speaker John Bercow, in consultation with his counterpart in the Other Place and with party leaders across the House, said the House of Commons would sit tomorrow at 11am. According to the Parliamentary Calendar as of this writing (15:40 BST), nothing has been calendared, but it seems likely that things will be lively.

Guardian editor Martin Kettle hails the ruling as a triumph of Parliament:

The power to prorogue parliament has now followed, in effect, the power to make war and to make treaties. All were once prerogative powers exercised in the past by ministers on behalf of the crown, but without parliamentary scrutiny. That is no longer possible. The process that began in the court of appeal in the 1960s under Lord Reid – the development of judicial review of public law – reached its ultimate and triumphant goal this morning.

Constitutionally, this is a magisterial landmark in the assertion of parliamentary sovereignty against the residual power of the crown and ministers. But it also bolsters parliament against all the other forces that claim to have higher authority too – from referendums to the tabloid press to the crowds in the streets.

If he's correct, Parliament has the power (but not necessarily the political capital) to ignore the Brexit referendum, or call a new one, or hold an election where that's the principal question.

Seven times Johnson has challenged the institutions of the UK since becoming Prime Minister, and seven times he's lost. Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn suggested Johnson "consider his position," which is English for "resign now."

Of course, Johnson won't do that he believes he can win the next election, which will without doubt take place before the end of November. He may be right. This Parliament could win every battle and lose the war, but only because the next Parliament lets it happen.

Lunchtime link roundup

Of note or interest:

And now, back to work.

Long, long time to sit

After sitting for 824 days—the longest time since World War II—the UK Parliament prorogued last night in a scene reminiscent of 1629:

The chaos unfolded in the early hours of Tuesday morning, after a day of high drama in which Boris Johnson lost his sixth parliamentary vote in as many days and Bercow announced his impending retirement as Speaker.

As the prorogation got under way, Bercow expressed his anger, saying it was “not a normal prorogation”.

“It is not typical. It is not standard. It’s one of the longest for decades and it represents, not just in the minds of many colleagues, but huge numbers of people outside, an act of executive fiat,” he said.

As Bercow spoke, opposition MPs held signs reading “silenced” and some attempted to block his way.

One of those involved in the protest, Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West, said the action “echoes the action of members to try and prevent the speaker proroguing at the request of Charles I”, referring to the 1629 incident when MPs, furious at the closure of parliament, left their seats and sat on the Speaker, preventing him from rising and closing the house, allowing MPs to pass a number of motions condemning the king.

Bercow was not sat on, and was soon allowed to pass through the House of Commons to attend the House of Lords.

I found the whole session yesterday completely fascinating. PM Boris Johnson lost his sixth consecutive vote when the House declined to hold an early election (for now), as the opposition parties united in a demand that a no-deal Brexit be forestalled. But what will happen on October 31st is anyone's guess at the moment.

The Liberal Democrats have announced the will call for a repeal of Article 50 (i.e., Brexit) in the next election. The Conservatives, under Johnson and in collusion with Ukip extremists, will continue to support a no-deal Brexit.

This has been an historic Parliament. The next one will be even weirder.

Lords passes Benn bill

The Benn Bill, which would prevent Britain from crashing out of the EU without a deal in place, passed the House of Lords this afternoon and may receive Royal assent as soon as Monday evening.

Andrew Sullivan, meanwhile, sees a real possibility that the Conservative Party could win a snap election by a considerable margin, with or without an October 31st Brexit:

Here’s why: It seems inevitable now that a general election will happen this October or, at the very latest, November. If Brexit has not happened — and it’s pretty clear at this point that it will not have — then the election is effectively going to be a second referendum. This time, the choice will be starker than in 2016: a no-deal Brexit or staying in the E.U. And this week, by firing the dissenters, Johnson has succeeded in making the Tories the uncomplicated “Leave Now” party. By clearing up any confusion, Johnson will thereby stymie the threat to Tory seats by the Brexit Party, which stormed to victory in the recent European elections. He may even secure an election “nonaggression” pact with the Brexit party on a clearly “no deal” agenda. What Boris has effectively done is rerun the referendum as an election campaign.

His argument is a simple and powerful one: In the referendum, a majority voted to leave the E.U., and this decision should be honored or democracy itself is undermined. The E.U. will not let Britain eat its cake and have it too, and has insisted that the U.K. remain largely under E.U. rules even as it leaves the E.U., offering a compromise that was rejected by the U.K. Parliament decisively three times. So a “no deal” exit is the only realistic version of Brexit left. It’s the people’s will against the elites’. The idea that voters did not know what they were doing in 2016 is delusional. They were told endlessly that leaving would mean catastrophe in economic terms, and they still voted to leave. The real question is: Why have we not left on time? What’s left to argue about? Get on with it. (A more elegant case for the restoration of British sovereignty — not empire, as some ludicrously claim, merely sovereignty over its own citizens — is made by the invaluable Christopher Caldwell here.)

Caldwell's essay is quite good, but quite pro-Brexit:

Brexit was not an “outburst” or a cry of despair or a message to the European Commission. It was an eviction notice. It was an explicit withdrawal of the legal sanction under which Brussels had governed Europe’s most important country. If it is really Britain’s wish to see its old constitutional arrangements restored, then this notice is open to emendation and reconsideration. But as things stand now, the Leave vote made E.U. rule over the U.K. illegitimate. Not illegitimate only when Brussels has been given one last chance to talk Britain out of it, but illegitimate now. What Britons voted for in 2016 was to leave the European Union—not to ask permission to leave the European Union. It is hard to see how Britain’s remaining in the E.U. would benefit either side.

And yet, given that Britain is the first country to issue such an ultimatum, given that pro-E.U. elites in other European countries have reason to fear its replication, given the moral ambitions of the E.U. project, given that the British who support Remain have transferred their sentiments and their allegiances across the channel, given the social disparity between those who rule the E.U. and most of those who want to leave it, how could the reaction of Britain’s establishment be anything but all-out administrative, judicial, economic, media, political, and parliamentary war? The battle against Brexit is being fought, Europe-wide, with all the weaponry a cornered elite has at its disposal.

It has proved sufficient so far.

It's probably the best pro-Brexit argument I've heard. It didn't change my mind, but it did get me to think a bit more about the other side.

Not a slow news day

Let's see, where to begin?

Finally, RawStory has a collection of responses to the President's Sharpie-altered weather map. (This is not, however, the first time the Administration has tried to make one of its Dear Leader's errors be true.) Enjoy.

Long night in London

The House of Commons have just finished slogging through 10 amendments to a bill tabled by Labour MP Hilary Benn that would prevent the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal, and have started voting on the "third reading." If the ayes have it, the bill would then pass out of the House of Commons and go to the "other place" (the House of Lords) for passage. After that, the Queen would give her Royal Assent, and Bob's your uncle.

And to underscore how weird all of this is, an amendment passed by accident (because the government didn't put "tellers" in the No lobby, never mind what that means for the moment) that mandates the failed Theresa May deal lurch back to life in the next Parliament.

No one has a good handle on how Lords will vote, or how long it will take, though there was talk of putting a time limit on the Lords' debate so the bill can possibly receive Royal Assent before Parliament prorogues next week.

Earlier today, in his first Prime Minister's Questions, PM Boris Johnson didn't answer any questions put to him by the opposition. It was quite a show. And like another head of government on this side of the Atlantic, Johnson demonstrated his lack of respect for his own office and for the institution of Parliament.

The vote is just in as I'm writing this: Ayes, 327; Nays, 299. The ayes have it, the ayes have it. Unlock!

Now Commons will now consider Boris Johnson's motion to hold an election in October, which will not be agreed because the Benn bill hasn't got Royal Assent yet.

What a day in London

With support of 21 Conservative members, the UK House of Commons this evening voted 328-301 to allow the introduction of a bill tomorrow that would prohibit the country from crashing out of the EU on October 31st absent a deal with the trading bloc. In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to table a motion tomorrow calling for a general election on October 14th, and also expelling several of the rebels from the party:

The rebel lawmakers seemed furious on Tuesday. In another era, they would have been the past and future of the Conservatives, with lawmakers like Nicholas Soames, Churchill’s 71-year-old grandson, standing alongside Mr. Stewart, a rising star among younger voters who walks the country filming his conversations with people.

But they said the party was now being set adrift by “entryists,” right-wing newcomers who have rushed into the Conservative fold to push it in a more extreme direction on Brexit. Mr. Hammond accused Dominic Cummings, Mr. Johnson’s most senior adviser, of not being a Conservative at all.

“This is my party — I’ve been a member of this party for 45 years,” Mr. Hammond said in a radio interview on Tuesday morning, brimming with anger. “I’m going to defend my party against incomers, entryists, who are trying to turn it from a broad church into a narrow faction.”

Minutes after Parliament adjourned around 11pm BST, Hammond and other party stalwarts got phone calls from the Whip telling them they could not stand in the next election as Conservatives. With those expulsions and other defections, the Conservative government no longer holds a majority in Commons.

Guardian columnist Rafael Behr had some of the day's harshest (public) words for Johnson:

In part, Johnson is captive to the public school cult of effortless dilettantism that despises diligence as vulgar and swotty. He is also a hostage to his own breezy rhetoric. Even now that the technical complexities and economic hazards of Brexit are indisputable, the prime minister pretends that obstacles are trifling or illusory. He claims that leaving the EU without a deal would not be a calamity, but also that the threat of calamity is necessary to persuade the EU to grant a deal. He says that MPs’ demands for an article 50 extension make it harder to negotiate in Brussels because continental leaders will compromise only when they see that the UK is beyond reason. In short: there is no cliff, and even if there was one, the way to avoid it is by driving towards the edge at full speed with no brakes.

Johnson’s actions are best explained by his congenital aversion to things that are hard. He wants a deal but not the effort of getting a deal. He is lying to the public when he blames the opposition or Brussels for his predicament – but lying also, one suspects, to himself. A man who spent years in estrangement from the truth is unlikely to seek its company now.

I listened to Parliament TV this afternoon, and you can bet I'll have it on again tomorrow. At the moment, the calendar shows Johnson taking his first round of Prime Minister's Questions at noon BST. I can hardly wait.