The slow moving car crash that is Brexit continued last night with the government losing the vote to ratify the deal made with the EU by a unprecedented margin as predicted by everyone…… including most of Theresa May’s cabinet.
The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, had several options in front of him at that point. He chose to call for a vote of no confidence, which, if lost by the government, will result in a General Election.
We don’t really do predictions here but we’ll make an exception in this case – there is more chance Halle Berry will turn up at my house tomorrow evening wearing sexy lingerie and holding a bottle of Krug, a box of Godiva chocolates and a Barry White playlist on her iPhone than Jeremy Corbyn winning today’s vote.
To have called for a vote that he so clearly won’t win (the rebel Conservative MPs hate Theresa May’s deal but they aren’t going to allow the Labour Party have an early chance at government either – turkeys don’t vote for Christmas) shows a depressing lack of imagination.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone with more than a passing familiarity with Corbin’s history. He used to be my MP for a while during my years in London (no, I didn’t vote for him), during which time I learned enough about him to realise he fits the “useful idiot” description perfectly. His deputy, John McDonnell, in the other hand, would be truly terrifying if he got close to the reigns of power.
Corbyn has, in effect, been wrong and proven wrong about nearly everything for nearly all his adult life. His fundamental belief is that socialism is the ideal form of political and societal organisation and that we just need to implement it correctly this time. The 200 million or more dead bodies in the 20th century are simply a statistical side note during the experiments to find the right version.
No surprise then, that a pointless gesture would be his first choice tactic. But what were his other options last night when responding to Theresa May?
Here’s a few this non-political professional can think of;
1. Commiserate Theresa May and offer to form an emergency cross-party cabinet to thrash out a counter offer to take to the EU next week.
2. Commiserate Theresa May and thank her for her efforts to negotiate in good faith with the EU but state that this has clearly been a one way street. The EU have not intended to find a mutually acceptable compromise from the start of the process and, therefore, Labour recommend the government pivot to the assumption that they are dealing with a hostile foreign power and commence planning accordingly. Labour will fully support the government in a bipartisan approach during this period of national crisis.
3. Commiserate Theresa May and ask her to return to the house within 24 hours with an outline of her revised approach to ensure an orderly exit from the EU on March 29th. The house should be offered a vote of confidence on this approach and, if lost, she will resign as Prime Minister or a general election will be called (pick one).
4. Commiserate Theresa May and then read a prepared statement which sets out, in simple language, Labour’s alternatives to the contentious elements of the bill. Offer to support the government to pass the re-submitted bill if these amendments were made.
There are probably loads more versions of these suggestions that Corbyn could have taken last night. That he took the one least likely to succeed is in character but still confusing. He suffers greatly from cognitive dissonance but this takes it to a new level.
What’s going on?
I can think of a few possible explanations and, frankly, I’ve not settled on which one is most probable;
1. Everything is as it appears; we have an incompetent Prime Minister, an even more incompetent Leader of the Opposition and a foreign power acting in bad faith.
2. Losing the vote was a deliberate negotiation tactic by the Prime Minister, enabling her to put the EU under pressure to improve the terms of the deal or risk the “no deal” option. The Leader of the Opposition is incompetent and the EU are acting in bad faith.
3. It’s all kayfabe. What we are witnessing is a public play between the EU and UK government to give an impression of conflict and subsequent resolution while the terms of exit have already been agreed and the strategy to achieve approval has been meticulously planned. Jeremy Corbyn is still incompetent.
4. As (3) but Jeremy Corbyn is in on the secret too.
(1) and (2) don’t concern me; we will either see a “no deal” exit (i.e. WTO terms) or a reasonable but not perfect deal.
(3) and (4) are truly scary but, to be true, using our razor, have the most unproven assumptions.
Have I missed any potential explanations?
Which do you think is most likely?
“What this war needs is a futile gesture….”