Brexit: Tories Launch No Confidence Vote Against May

We said if May was to go, the Tories would do it quickly, since it’s hard to imagine a worse outcome for a Prime Minister in a very long time to admit to expecting such a huge defeat on far and away the most important initiative of his Government as to scuttle a vote.

From the BBC:

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will face a vote of no confidence in her leadership later on Wednesday.

Conservative MPs will vote between 18:00 GMT and 20:00 GMT.

The challenge to Mrs May’s position comes after the required 48 letters calling for a contest were delivered.

One wonders if the timing was because some MPs wanted to sleep on their decision before submitting their letters, or they wanted to see if May got some receptivity from the EU for her pressing to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, particularly on the Irish backstop. Yet even May’s own statement to Parliament before her quick trip to the Continent acknowledged that she wasn’t expecting any changes, and Donald Tusk quickly said the same thing on Twitter.

ConservativeHome debunks some earlier misreporting about the process. For May to win just over half of the 315 votes of MPs won’t be enough to save her:

It is being claimed that “158 is the magic number” – since 157.7 is what one is left with if one divides the 315 MPs in receipt of the Conservative whip in half.

But imagine for a moment that 159 MPs express confidence in her leadership, if a ballot takes place, and 156 do not. Could she then carry on as Party leader? We don’t think so. The ballot would not have found sufficient consensus for her leadership. We cite a precedent. 204 votes were cast for Margaret Thatcher during the 1990 Conservative leadership contest, and 168 were not – 152 Tory MPs opted for Michael Heseltine and 16 abstained. She won a clear majority of those voting. But she was forced out none the less.

In reply, you may quote the 1995 leadership contest, in which over a third of Conservative MPs didn’t back John Major – a substantial proportion. But he stayed on. We would counter-object that there is a difference between a third and, say, just under half.

At which point, others might join the conversation, pointing out that the rules of Tory leadership contests have changed since 1995, let alone 1990. Which reinforces our point: deciding what does and doesn’t count as success in a Conservative leadership contest is an art, not a science. As much depends on expectation – not to mention who spins loudest and longest – as figures. Personality, mood, psyops and that glorious Burkean word, circumstances: all play their part in deciding the drama. There is no magic number at all.

Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and other Cabinet members with leadership aspirations will tremble at the possibility of the Prime Minister winning any ballot, but not winning well. That would set up a conflict between loyalty and ambition from which they might not emerge unscathed.

As we’ve said, May’s best hope of staying put is that enough MPs either have considerable antipathy for the alternatives to May or are starting to recognize that the choices on offer are poor: May’s deal, no deal, or no Brexit which means going against the Tory party promise to deliver on the referendum outcome. In other words, some may recognize that there isn’t any prospect of a new leader getting a different answer from the EU than the one it has been giving for the last month: “We’re done, take it or leave it.”

I have no insight into who might prevail if May is turfed out. The contenders include Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Amber Rudd, Andrea Leadsome, and the aforementioned Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid. The readers of the Financial Times have an obvious pro-City bias, and their call seems to be that BoJo and Javid will be the final contenders. They seem to favor Javid as someone who would conceivably deliver Remain. For instance, from Jackdaw:

And my only hope is if it is Sajid Javid, he courts the moderate Tories and remainers and vows to immediately ask to extend A50 for a few months. Solely in order to ask the people to vote on May’s deal or Remain. The EU would readily agree. And if he did that and campaigns to firmly eschew a No Deal scenario then I think he’ll squeak in and become PM…,

No, I can see Javid come through this. If he can just get his head up and see the right and obvious way out of this morass we’re in. But does he have enough true courage and leadership? Those crucial attributes our country desperately needs right now but sadly lacking in for far too long a time.

The assumption above is that the party will gravitate around a centrist, which is how May had positioned herself, and reject Boris. I believe Gove has tried to position himself that way, so I am not sure he should be written off so quickly, particularly since he has more Cabinet experience than Javid, who is still pretty wet behind the ears.

Financiers and businessmen on the whole presumably prefer Remain, but that does not make them representative of the members of the party. And as the comment above indicated, the Tories have not yet come to grips with the idea that there isn’t even time for a referendum, even if the EU were to give an extension to the end of June, the longest time that multiple sources have said they’d be willing to offer. And due to continued terrible press reporting, they may fall for a leader selling the unicorn of “Norway plus”.

And we have the wee complicating factor that if a leadership contest is on, this chews up time while the Brexit clock is ticking.

Update 4:00 AM. More details on process. From the Guardian:

A ballot will be held on Wednesday evening between 6pm and 8pm, Brady said, with votes counted “immediately afterwards and an announcement will be made as soon as possible”.

And even before the move to oust May, which European leaders have to have known was likely, the message has become even more firm: May’s deal is the only one on offer:

And please read this tweetstorm on the the process (hat tip Richard Smith):

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  1. none

    This just means the Conservatives decide whether to replace May as PM but if they drop her, they pick another Conservative, right? It would take a general election to get Corbyn?

    Can someone explain what an Ultra is? I found some football related descriptions but for Brexit it must be different.

    Is it still looking like a crash-out Brexit regardless of the UK parliamentary gyrations?

    It seems to me that US politicians spew bullshit and expect you to not call them on it, but they don’t expect you to actually believe it and nobody in conact with reality actually does. Is it different in the UK, meaning do the politicians expect people to believe the BS and do people believe it more than here?


    1. boz

      Hi none

      Ultra = hard line Brexiter. Look up the ERG or Jacob Rees-Mogg.

      Yes: GE to get Corbyn.

      In my view it is now crash out or BINO (Brexit in Name Only). I can’t see the EU27 entertaining a rehash of the negotiations.

      A third option is no Brexit, but that will come at the cost of civil unrest. Remainers are dreaming if they think things can be reset and we all get back to normal. A second referendum will make the sense of betrayal prominent enough.

      Re the [familyblog]: its interesting. In the UK I think there is widespread cynicism about politics and a long standing sense of alienation. I’d say similar to your description, but with less of the mutual understanding.

      But more broadly, who on earth would want to be leader of the Tories and PM at the moment? Anyone who wants it must have a plan to stuff Labour/the country so bad it would make Machiavelli blush.

      1. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

        “A third option is no Brexit, but that will come at the cost of civil unrest. ”

        How do you calculate that there would be civil unrest? I don’t really sense this as an outsider to the UK.

      2. paul

        A third option is no Brexit, but that will come at the cost of civil unrest.

        I just don’t see any prospect of civil unrest on any scale. Rees Mogg, Farage, Yaxley-lennon and a few headbangers perhaps, hardly an attractive bunch.

        A collective sigh of relief and resignation is a more likely response.

        1. Toni M

          In London, perhaps, but that is underestimating the deepening resolve of a large segment of the populace in the UK. They are willing to go no-deal Brexit, and some are even yearning for it just to quickly and irrevocably sever the cord and live through the pain afterwards.

          1. paul

            Since when has the population shown any deep resolve about anything? They might grumble down the boozer/chatforum but they’re hardly likely to take to the streets.

            1. makedoanmend

              Hiya Paul,

              I find for most people Brexit just doesn’t register. At all – it’s become like “elevator” music. Maybe daily coverage induces boredom with the subject combined with the fact that nothing has changed – especially economically. If it was crap before for you, it’s crap now and vice versa.

              Occasionally, I find someone who has a strong opinion one way or the other.

              At the University of Edinburgh @ King’s Buildings, it seems most teachers are silent remainers as they see the EU as a source of funding and job opportunity. For the most part, the student body seems rather oblivious as they are caught up in intense study and loans. (I don’t know which the Liberal Arts brigada sway.)

              I just don’t foresee any unrest in Scotland due to Brexit being cancelled, but I could see unrest in England. Political careers could be built on fomenting disturbance and right wing populism seems to be gaining some prominence at the moment.

              Instability tends to breed instability.

              (I see where some hack in the Guardian was extolling the virtues of Sturgeon’s leadership abilities. If Brexit goes ahead, I expect that viewpoint will radically change if Sturgeon opts for another independence vote. Fair weather friends and all that.

              And is it requisite for SNP leader’s to be named after a fish?)

        2. Clive

          I agree. Other countries’ citizens don’t seem to get how, for a lot of E, W, S and NI people, we just don’t do the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the event of a humiliating defeat and subsequent climb down. We’d had more humiliating defeats than most other nations put together. We’re just not, I don’t think, as a whole, that bothered. As you say, apart from the Ultras, most would shrug their shoulders and say, well, that was a total waste of everyone’s time and effort, but never mind, got to go, I’ve got a stew on. And the Ultras a barmy anyway, so few would care what they thought.

      3. D M

        I don’t see likely civil unrest either. Most people just don’t care or if they did are now wholeheartedly bored by the whole shambles. Far more important to get down the pub for xmas shenanigans.

        1. Paul O

          Mostly agree.

          No doubt there would be some who will try to stoke things. Anything wide spread just feels unlikely to me.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      We’ve said it was very unlikely that there would be a General Election. Corbyn did not call for a vote of no confidence yesterday which meant he did not have the votes.

      UK parties have strong party discipline and on top of that, the Tories loathe Corbyn. The DUP said it would support May in a no-confidence vote (the cross party kind) if her bill failed. The DUP is in the catbird seat as the key member to a coalition and they’d almost certainly lose that spot in a General Election.

      1. Antonbruckner

        Surely, the best time for Corbyn to move is with the withdrawal deadline (and a no-deal exit) staring everybody in the face (early March?). In that situation, will the DUP blink? Will Tory bedwetters blink? If they don’t, the whole show goes over a cliff. Corbyn will surely promise to seek an extension of the withdrawal deadline and a general election in the meantime.
        If I was a Tory remainer, I would want to get rid of May pronto because she will not seek an extension of the withdrawal deadline. Boris would be better than that. He will scare the bejeezus out of everybody. But he will sure as hell focus everybody’s mind on the end-game.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          First, Corbyn could not ally with the DUP. And the DUP isn’t going to be held responsible if there is a crash out. The Tories are in charge. The DUP is a small coalition partner with no ministers in the Government which loses if there is a general election. As Milton said, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” And there are tons of ERG people saying a no deal Brexit is nothing to worry about.

          Vlade pointed out it is actually the ERG types who were most likely to bring down the Government, particularly late in the game to increase chaos and the odds of a crash out.

          You also assume that Labour stands for Remain. It doesn’t. Corbyn has been selling unicorns so as not to jeopardize MPs in constituencies that voted Leave. Both parties are split.

          The UK public also tends to punish the party that calls or engineers a snap election, see:

          Finally, if you are a Tory Remainer, there are things worse than May, such as Boris Johnson or Rees-Mogg.

    3. Toni M

      “Is it different in the UK, meaning do the politicians expect people to believe the BS and do people believe it more than here?”

      If you want to be thoroughly depressed, read the comments section on the BBC’s article on an ONS report yesterday, dozens of people claiming that a slight uptick in wages and drop in unemployment is the ‘Brexit Dividend’ already paying off and doing victory laps. This is the level of the populace, and we’re about to get everything we deserve.

      1. Mirdif

        Indeed. I’m still more impressed by those who say what amounts to: no deal is fine; we’ll put tariffs on their goods and they can then pay us. These are educated people in well paid jobs. But that is the level of stupidity in a very large portion of the populace.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    I think the only certainty with May is that as usual she will cling on by her fingertips until she is dragged kicking and screaming to the exit. I don’t think she’ll go unless a majority vote against her. I don’t think its the same as with Thatcher – she had clearly gone over the hill politically and the Tory Grandees knew the party needed a new look. But a huge chunk of the Tory party now fear who might replace her – I don’t think they trust their own members, so they will not deliver the coup de grace no matter how wounded she is. And of course she is aware that if she clings on, she is bulletproof for 12 months.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This vote will wind up crystalizing the choices, though, although it may take too long for the Tories to wise up.

      Voting down May means the end of her deal. The choice is Remain or no deal, but the new leader will waste a month having the EU tell him “no” regarding renegotiating until he gets “no means no.” He might ask for an extension and the EU would presumably give it, since it means more time for them to prepare for a no deal Brexit and more time for the UK to sober up and give revoking Article 50 without a referendum a serious think.

      Keeping May means she’ll continue to reject extending the Brexit date and a second referendum. Even though she gives lip service to “no Brexit” as an option, she’s been blocking avenues that could increase the odds of that being politically viable. So the choices with her are her deal or a crash out, unless she is secretly prepared to go into a high speed reverse, say as of the last week of February.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, I think keeping May actually means a no-deal Brexit is more likely than even if she is replaced by an Ultra, especially if the Ultra is a cynical opportunist like Johnson or Raab.

        The only ‘hope’ if you want to put it like this, is that if she wins decisively, she may be able to push the deal through Parliament if the Ultras decide (and I think its possible they might) that it would be better for them strategically to accept the deal and fight another day than to find themselves isolated within the party.

        I’m actually surprised she hasn’t kept the door open to withdrawing A.50 if for no other reason it gives her leverage over the Brexiteers.

        1. vlade

          The problem is that the Ultras have the lever to bring down the government, and justify it to their party members as “it was a government that was going to go back on Brexit” – and I suspect they might be cheered as they do so, at least initially.

          The main ultras are (I believe, Col Smithers may correct me) in constitunencies, where as Clive says “they weight the votes, not bothering to count”. And those constituencies will vote Tory no matter what. So they can be only taken out if deselected. And that would be very unpopular move with the members, where Ultras (JMR, Boris etc.) are very popular.

          And, in this game of chicken, May is the one to blink – Ultras have nothing to lose.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Yes, the Ultras can bring down the government, but they would find it very hard to justify this to their constituents if it resulted in Prime Minister Corbyn. I do believe that even for the most die hard pro Brexit Tories, they would pull back at the last minute if it meant Corbyn would take power – the DUP have already admitted as such. Their ultimate nightmare of course is that Corbyn attempts ‘disaster capitalism’ in reverse and succeeds.

            1. vlade

              The point is they don’t need to justify it to their constituens – because those will vote Tory pretty much no matter what. They need to justify it to the selection committe. Which is unlikely to do things massively unpopular with the membership.

              1. vlade

                Also, at least Johnson and JRM might figure out that they would be done for either way (see Clive’s post), and decide to go out in a blaze of glory.

                Unlikely for someone like Raab/Davis though, who are party boys through and through and would have no idea what to do outside of it.

      2. Harry

        Well the UK seems to be sure May has the votes.

        So someone did her a favor getting the 48 letters. If true, Tory party has shot its bolt. Now down the Parliament.

        I have to say, getting Labour and Tory Remainers to rally around Corbyn will be no mean feat. The problem is it will entrench Corbyn. Im a supporter, but he is anathema to a lot of people – particularly within Labour.

      3. Mattski

        “Voting down May means the end of her deal.”

        Agree, and I don’t see anyone in the Guardian drawing this simple deduction. The most clear-eyed outcome for the Tories looks to me like bringing in a relatively fresh face like Javid–not the same tired sh*te and a possible election winner–letting him withdraw Article 50 (making noises about his duty as the new PM to consider the whole matter afresh), weathering the storm from the right while the establishment breathes a sigh of relief and quietly works to legitimize him, and. . . Corbyn firmly left in the corner wishing to heck he’d shown vision or backbone.

        Not sure I would wish for such an outcome or not. Would love to see the Tories discredited and collapsing, but the consequences of a hard Brexit look to me to be anything from economic collapse, to assertion of a still more mean-spirited neoliberalism, the jackals quickly descending, or some real revival of English working class self-help, victory gardens, etc. with a fresh face. Some mix of these. . . Going in February and very keen to size things up from there.

        EDIT: Oh well, I imagine Clive is right (as below). At least in loathing Johnson his blue hairs get something right. That might place them half a cut above anything one can find on the right in the U.S. these days, where decency is in increasingly short supply.

    2. makedoanmend

      EU: “this is the deal, we’ll clarify issues but not change it…”
      May: “It’s my deal, crash out, or maybe remain… who knows?”
      Tory Rebels: “We’ll replace May with someone who will either:
      1: negotiate a better deal
      2: show them foreigners what we’re made of and crash out…”
      Corbyn: “I’ll negotiate a better deal…”

      Junker in EU Parliament: “…Ireland will never be left alone…”
      Ultras/DUP: “the six counties are British (ignore nearly 50% of the population that isn’t)…”We’re outa here…”

      British Public Opinion Poll: “we don’t really want another referendum on Brexit, but we would like the privileges of the EU without ?????, and we don’t really want to crash out…but we can’t stay…”

      Apparent Intersections of Mutual Interest = 0 (A Venn Diagram where no circles intersect)

      Days to the Rapture: 107

      Unicorns for Sale: Never Used – no, really, not even used on Sunday to go to church

  3. Clive

    As luck would have it, I bumped into my neighbour yesterday (she doesn’t actually have a blue rinse, but she herself identifies as a member of the blue rinse brigade — Conservative party stalwarts, mostly but not exclusively women, who more-or-less run the local associations in the deep blue Tory heartlands). We discussed May, Brexit and any possible leadership challenge.

    Her view, and she claimed this to be the predominant one, is that the word has gone out to the constituency groupings that May is to be backed, on no account are any of the Ultra (Leave) crazies be allowed to take control of the party and anyone who ends of letting Boris Johnson anywhere near any lever of power will be kicked into touch. Johnson is utterly loathed in the majority of the party — and that goes for any of his acolytes, too.

    So, based on that here’s Clive’s projection — and keep in mind I have been known to be wrong, from time to time, which is that May will be re-elected, probably on a margin of 200-225 MPs in favour of her continuing. This will be after the first round, there won’t therefore need to be a second.

    Check back at later this evening (UK time), say 6 o’clock Eastern, to offer either congratulations for my predictive abilities and on-the-ground knowledge, or, like so many before you, say “Clive, you’re a complete cretin and know nuffin’ “.

    1. Ignacio

      Let me, as an experienced analyst with so many failings in my back, concur with your prediction and add that, if it occurs, we already have an agreement that will be valid in march.

    2. vlade

      Interesting. My intel was that Boris (and other ultras) was well liked by the members, but I’ll admit it’s not as recent as yesterday :)

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I can’t claim personal knowledge of this, but I was listening to a vox pop done by RTE yesterday in one of the Tory constituencies, and there seemed plenty there willing to say nice things about Boris. I don’t think there are neutrals in the Party about him – he is either loathed or loved – I think you might say that the lower ranks love him, the upper levels are horrifed by him. But by definition I think such a divisive person is highly unlikely to win. From the viewpoint of an outsider, it seems to me that his bubble burst last summer and it would take a very unlikely sequence of events for him to win. But as David points out below, Tory selection contests are notorious for coming up with unlikely winners.

        1. Clive

          Yes, there’s an important point your raise there. There was a very interesting discussion in Comments yesterday which unfortunately due to competing time demands I couldn’t chip in as I wanted to. It was remarked how the first and pretty much only consistent job of the Conservative party is to either stay in power or get into power. Everything else is amenable to being sacrificed.

          It’s worth remembering that the modern Conservative party can trace its roots back to the early 1800’s — so keep in mind this is a political institution which has existed with not that much change since almost, for example, the time when the US became a state with the Declaration of Independence.

          And it has often been not so much as a political party more as something which resembles the Bene Gesserit. The actual wielding of power being a secondary consideration to behind-the-scene influence of the things which power enables — control of public finances, fiscal and monetary policy, favourmongering to trusted, loyal and aligned interest groups and skewing the constitution to embed a particular order or a particular direction of travel.

          Plus, when we talk of “party”, it is a useful shorthand. But “party” lacks agency. A party is composed of members. Those members have different ranks and different theatres of operation and different power bases as a result. A Conservative MP, for example, is one type of actor. They have certain strengths (being able to support or thwart a Conservative government) and certain weaknesses (being reliant on party support for constituency grass-roots organisation, being dependent on constituency party members and especially the chair of the local association for boots-on-the ground campaigning — these are more a factor in marginals or seats where they don’t weigh the votes and a swing of 5 – 10% could turn the seat into a Liberal Democrat or Labour gain). Similarly, the members — and especially those in the local association, have little power to remove a selected candidate as MP in party rules terms, but, boy, can they make his or her life an absolute misery if they lose their support.

          So, cutting to the chase, people like Johnson (amongst other ERG’ers I could cite) might have some popularity in the ranks of ordinary members. But they might (as I am led to believe) have little if any traction in the local association movers and shakers. Or Conservative Central Office may be such a nest of vipers that they’ll never forgive those sorts for causing them a load of unnecessary aggravation. Or fellow MPs might resent their getting all the media coverage and attention. And so on. When we talk of “party”, therefore, it’s important to consider that — in regards to the Conservative party — it can’t be considered as a single, malleable, block. It is, rather, comprised of individuals, factions and groups. Sometimes these are all aligned and following the same agenda. More often than not, they’re not.

          1. vlade

            I agree with that – which is why it’s unlikely that Boris gets into the final two (when it goes to the members, and the mover and shakers are cut out).

            But IMO paradoxically that could be a reason why Boris might be willing to torpedo the government – as he’d just go back to his journalism, taking snipes at all and sundry and keep claiming things would be better if he was given the chance.Of course, he needs a few more co-consipirators, who (apart from JRM) may be harder to persuade.

          2. Avidremainer

            An excellent analysis of the Tories’ past. The trouble, for them, is that too many of their current MPs and members have discovered ideology and have put principle before power. The party is dying in the country-scared to publish member ship numbers for instance. At the last GE it was amazing to see hordes of eager momentum members flooding the constituency
            for Corbyn. This was in contrast to the then conservative MP, on his own, posting his election leaflets.
            Then there is the money factor. For the first time ever the opposition is flush with cash. The Labour party now raises more money than the Tories. This does not bode well for May or any successor to her.
            Keeping in mind that we are in such a state that anything might happen in the UK in the next hour that upsets all calculations the Tories do not appear to have the apparatus to mount a national campaign in any GE that may happen in the near future.

            1. Grebo

              The current Tory membership is estimated at around 124,000. That’s 200 per constituency on average. It’s likely to be much lower outside the South East. Half are over 60 years old. Each constituency seems to have at least one ‘club’ with cosy bar. It costs £25 per year to join.
              Just sayin’

              1. Avidremainer

                ‘ Estimated ‘ that’s the problem. The Labour Party boasts about the 580,000 members they have. Over 60s will not relish canvassing in February.

          3. Mattski

            Good stuff. I saw someone using similar analysis–of what a real political party may actually consist of–to argue that the Democratic Party in the U.S. has in recent times been anything but.

          4. NotReallyHere

            Pitt the younger!! awesome dude ….. refuse to resign even though you lost a vote of no confidence.

            Anyway, different times, but same old human nature. The Ultra’s know that executive responsibility today is poison. May got the booby prize when she won PM after the referendum. Assuming a no-deal Brexit (the only logical conclusion in my opinion), it becomes a game of “when does the UK hit bottom?”. The ambitious right wingers are watching for that.

            Better to throw peanuts from the gallery until you sense that events are bottoming out then step in when circumstances look to be at their worst. It’s an old old strategy employed by, Thomas Jefferson (serial retirements), Winston Churchill (years in the wilderness), FDR (refusal to bail out banks ahead of assuming power in 1933), Eamonn DeValera (for the Irish on here when he disappeared for the signing of the free-state agreement) Germany’s Military in 1918 when they refused to sign the Armistice but had the socialists moved into power to protect their credibility.

    3. Mirdif

      Congratulations, Clive on your predictive abilities.

      Putting this here early to demonstrate my agreement and possibly to look like a fool tonight. However, I estimated early this morning 200 votes for her will destroy the psychos and then with the exception of the hardcore of about 20 the rest of the Tories will push her plan through.

    4. David

      It’s helpful to think of the Tories not as a political party in the normal sense, but as the Political Department of the Ruling Class, whose job is to ensure that the Ruling Class gets what it wants. This may include (but doesn’t have to) forming a government. It certainly doesn’t include any great attachment to democracy. But the Tories have been under some strain since the 1980s, when the used-car salesmen and estate agents began to take over the party apparatus, and it may be that the tensions have now become unsustainable. It could mean the Party will implode, but it may also mean that the Ruling Class is obliged to make Other Arrangements, whatever they may be.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you and well said, David.

        It’s noticeable in my home county, Buckinghamshire, how the Tories havebchanged since Thatcher got in and estate owners and Old Etonians made way for estate agents, second hand car dealers and Old Estonians.

        Ian Gilmour sat for next door Amersham. He was MP for local grammar school boy Dominic Raab.

    5. Foy

      Nailed it Clive! And thanks for all your comments over the time as well on Brexit and other issues. I just love the NC commentariat.

  4. m-ga

    A change of leader would buy the Tories some time domestically – the so-called “Honeymoon period”. However, this is likely to be shorter than usual, due to the March 29 Brexit deadline.

    There would be further pressure (from public/press) due to having a new PM inheriting Theresa May’s very shakey parliamentary coalition, itself a result of her disastrous 2017 General Election. So, there will be pressure to call another GE quite soon.

    Is there time for a GE before the March 29 deadline? Probably not. So, A50 extension would be required. This looks very messy.

    Assuming a GE in the first half of 2019, and with A50 extended, I’d guess at the following play for Labour:

    1. Manifesto pledge to revoke A50.
    2. Manifesto pledge to renegotiate Brexit.
    3. Manifesto pledge for in-out referendum on Labour deal versus remain, within the five year parliamentary term (i.e. probably set in stone for 2024, with GE following immediately).

    The objection to this is in step (2). Firstly, the EU won’t renegotiate. Secondly, there is little renegotiation to be had, even if the EU were to cooperate. However, both of these can be finessed with some sparkly unicorn language. The reality is that any Labour Brexit would be an EEA/Efta variant (not in itself too bad – some variation on Richard North’s “Flexcit”). More importantly, though, the Tories can’t object to step (2) because they’re already the Nightmare Moon of the unicorn herd. So, the objection won’t be made, and thus won’t gain traction with the press or public.

    To remain in power, the Tories would need a leader offering something more compelling to a weary electorate. The proposal of Javid extending A50 to offer an in-out referendum on May’s deal (perhaps rebadged) versus remain might work.

    Alternatively, the Tories can try to muscle through May’s deal (perhaps rebadged). Or they can elect a leader who will run out the clock, and force a hard crash-out. Maybe the Hard Brexit does have play if they can use the ensuing chaos to cement their control over the UK (e.g. through emergency powers, or doubling down on blaming the EU for all the UK’s woes). It seems risky though. Because they run the risk of limping through to 2022 or 2024, and then being voted out of power for 15–20 years.

  5. Musicismath

    Another (remote) possibility is a National Government of the kind led by Ramsay MacDonald from 1931 to 1935. This would involve MPs from the three main parties deciding to bypass their own party leaderships and form a new centrist/centre-right ConLabLib government to handle the crisis under a mutually acceptable figurehead PM. I think Martin Kettle was advocating for this in the Observer last week.

    Of course, aside from its unlikelihood, this option would no doubt be read as a massive betrayal by the Parliamentary parties of their own supporters. An elite conspiracy against the masses, if you will; one that would antagonise both Brexit supporters and the Labour left. But it could suit elements in the PLP just fine, because it would seem to be a way of defenestrating Corbyn, gaining a degree of power, and implementing a No Brexit solution simultaneously.

    Of course, it would start out by seeming to offer those things. How it would play out further down the line is anyone’s guess. Failed revolutions have a way of blowing back on those that thwart them.

    1. emorej a hong kong

      This would seem to be very beneficial to Corbyn, because:
      1. Whatever happens on Brexit would not have his fingerprints on it;
      2. The Labour MPs forming the ‘non-party’ government would be relatively easy for Labour to de-select, reducing the risk to him that winning a later general election would merely set him up to be sabotaged by Blairite Labour MPs;
      3. Even if the non-party government kept the UK in the EU, and tried to slow down the damage that neo-liberalism does to low income people, that damage would continue to sink in from long-term trends and the extra damage of May’s Brexit circus — thus Corbyn’s de-Blaired Labour Party would be able to mobilize more poor and young against the government and any new parties (and the Liberal party, which I assume would be expanded by entry of Blair-ites and perhaps Remainer Tories)

    2. Musicismath

      Nicky Morgan (in parliament) and Anna Soubry (on radio) have both raised the trial balloon of a cross-party Government of National Unity in the last 24 hours. From what I can see, this has gone especially well on Centrist/Liberal/anti-Corbyn Twitter, where users are lining up to post their fantasy cabinets of “sensible” MPs from both sides of the House … led most often by fantasy PM Yvette Cooper, of all people. “Ed Miliband” is also trending.

      Certain people really do like reliving the (lost) battles of the recent past, don’t they?

      1. Musicismath

        Also, what does it say about people that, given the universe of possibilities and carte blanche to indulge every whim and fantasy, the best political superhero they can conjure up is Yvette Cooper?

  6. David

    I think it might be helpful for readers not versed in UK politics to headline stories like this “leadership bid” rather than “confidence vote” since the two are quite different, and the latter is an attempt to bring down the government (conventionally “This House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government”). I know the Grauniad confused the two, but we can do better.
    This is the beginning of a leadership contest in the Tory Party, and traditionally, anything that can go wrong, will. The process is complicated, and the electorate is not, shall we say, famed for its intellectual acumen. Thus, even if the orders described by Clive’s source have gone out, there’s no certainty they will have the effect hoped for. In 1978, Thatcher won the contest unexpectedly, as a result of a protest vote organised by the Right that got out of control, and gave her a majority she was never supposed to have. In 1990, John Major was regarded as the least likely candidate to succeed Thatcher by insiders: indeed, Private Eye magazine, trying to explain to its readers how stupid a particularly stupid Tory MP was, noted that he was stupid enough to believe Major would be the next PM. It’s still not clear whether he was supposed to win. Even in normal times, the cocktail of hatred, jealousy, fear and ambition which characterises the Tory Party can produce unexpected outcomes. Heaven alone knows what extra confusion Brexit will bring.
    The other point to note is that this is an election for the leadership of the Tory Party, not the post of Prime Minister. If May loses, or is forced out, then by convention a new party leader will be asked to form a government, and become the new PM. But in the meantime business goes on as usual, and the UK government machine (or what’s left of it) keeps turning, and existing policies (including Brexit in theory) are applied unless they are explicitly changed by the Cabinet. There are no vacuums in British politics, and May will continue as PM until someone else is elected. This is what happened in 1990 (I was there) when normal government continued among the smoke and fire of the leadership contest. This was at the moment of the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union: trivial stuff compared to Brexit. Critically, therefore, any future leader other than May will be stuck with the Withdrawal Agreement as negotiated, because this agreement was negotiated and signed by the government (technically on behalf of the Queen) not by May. If she goes, her departure will have some impact in practical terms (eg a desperate attempt to re-open talks or agree parallel declarations) but it can’t affect the underlying situation.
    Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it got worse.

      1. Anonymous2

        I agree. Thank you, David.

        Talking of things that could wrong, I notice that there is talk of accelerating the process if there is a Tory contest. If this means hasty changes to rules (or even ignoring them/interpreting dubiously) that could create the possibility of a disputed result. Imagine if we had a situation where there was a declared winner but there was a challenge to how the process had been conducted – mayhem would result, I think. A bit like a disputed Papal election of the sort that caused the Great Schism?

        My wife says she can always look to me to look on the bright side.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Oh, and thanks for the reminder – something rarely appreciated – that Thatcher was not taken seriously at all as a politician until she became leader almost by accident. Neither of course was Major.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        She wasn’t taken seriously even when she became leader! I remember the quiet horror in the Economist, the too-obvious subtext being, “Well, it probably is time for a woman PM….but her???”

        And you had the revival of the taunts from her days of leading the Home Office: “Maggie Thatcher, the milk snatcher.”

        1. David

          She was the education secretary (her only previous government job) when she put an end to free school milk. In Whitehall in the early days she wasn’t really taken seriously: her nickname was “Attila the Hen.”

          1. windsock

            “Attila the Hen.” Wasn’t that a Denis Healy classic?

            The thing about Thatcher is that she was loathed throughout the UK and was headed into the dustbin of history until the Falklands invasion by Argentina, where she won the day by exercising the iron fist of patriotism/nationalism to rally a majority of voters (who were previously disposed against her) behind her.

            Thanks Galtieri. Without you, Thatcher – and maybe a lot of the “neoliberal” crap that followed/accompanied her – would not have wrought the damage she managed upon the fabric of UK society.

            I think in many respects, May sees, and is trying to get the rest of the country to see, her withdrawal agreement as her “Falklands moment”. It might succeed if she hangs on tonight.

            1. David

              Yes but this can be overdone. What really did for Labour was the defection of Jenkins and co to form the SDP in 1981. Without that, Labour would probably have won the 1983 election.

            2. PlutoniumKun

              Yes, the ‘Falklands Moment’ is a deeply embedded part of Tory mythology. History is full of knife edge moments, a whole series of things went very right for Thatcher in that war which led ultimately to the triumph of the neolibs. With a bit of luck and some half decent leadership, the Falklands war could have been an Argentinian victory and history would have been so very different.

              I do think that May things that if she can ride out the storm she will lead a post-agreement party to the sunny uplands of… well, another electoral victory. And its entirely possible that she’s right.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            Oh, sorry re saying she was Home Secretary….shouldn’t rely on memory for things that long ago…and having been only Education Secretary would make her elevation to PM seem even more untoward.

  7. shtove

    Just watching some chaotic interviews outside parliament on BBC – a couple of times Tory MPs have chosen not to appear together on camera in case they get into a row with each other. Very little emphasis on Labour.

    My impression is May will have about 125 against her in this evening’s vote – 40% – subject to abstentions. What if it’s 52% remain, 48% leave?

  8. Redlife2017

    The Guardian in their live update on today’s [family blog] noted at 11:08 am the following:

    It is also worth remembering that Boris Johnson, the current favourite among the membership (see 10am update), has in the past advocated a Trump-style approach to Brexit. (“There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos.”) There are leading candidates who voted remain but, as the New Statesman reports, people like Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt have reportedly started to say they favour “a managed no deal” – which basically means a no deal.

    It is conceivable that electing a new leader could lead to Brexit being delayed. But it seems much more likely that, if May loses her vote tonight, a no-deal Brexit will become even more likely than it already is.

    The zombie shuffle to no-deal Brexit is becoming rather a likely event.

    I’m feeling two Dr. Thompson quotes are in order:
    “With the truth so dull and depressing, the only working alternative is wild bursts of madness and filigree.”

    “It was like a scene from the final hours of the Roman Empire: Everywhere you looked, some prominent politician was degrading himself in public.”

    Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is charming too:

      Catherine West, the Labour MP, asks which is worse: no deal or no Brexit.

      May says it is important to deliver on Brexit. She wants a deal, she says. The worse thing for the country would be a Labour government, she says.

      1. Redlife2017

        Yes, it is interesting to watch (well, in my case read) how much spitting hatred the Tories are coming out publically for Corbyn with. Generally they keep it just under the surface.

        It does make my feeling that we are going to have a zombie government for sometime not look unreasonable. They will vote the deal down and then keep hanging on. I guess we’ll just have to have some sort of “Dead Pool” waiting to pick off constituencies here and there if a marginal MP dies.

        1. shtove

          They instantly labelled Corbyn a threat to national security when he became leader – probably afraid he’ll unleash the bloodhounds on our military/secret service shenanigans since 2001.

          1. Redlife2017

            Oh yes. They know he says what he means, means what he says. I’ve seen him speak to both small and large groups quite passionately about many subjects that the military/secret services would like to memory hole at a minimum. I believe him when he says Blair will be held to account. And if Blair would be, that could hardly stop there, now could it? It’s no surprise that the Tories have been able to use government resources to smear Corbyn when you think about that context (as well as the anger over having someone try to take their toys away).

            My hope is that there are enough traitors to the security services to keep him safe. I believe that the man who was in charge of Corbyn’s security during the 2017 election was so absolutely astounded by him that when he retired soon after he became a Labour Party member. And has pledged to help Corbyn personally.

      2. flora

        an aside: what sort of Brexit do Mrs. May and the Tory’s want? Report in the Guardian earlier that some UK hedge fund company CEOs both strongly supported the original Brexit campaign and are now shorting UK business stocks* in hopes of making a bundle in the anticipated chaos. Disaster capitalism. May thinks a Labour govt would be worse than essentially turning UK business over to vulture hedge funds?

        This is probably not the kind of Brexit most people thought they were voting for, or how the original vote was pitched to the public.


        1. Clive

          May is definitely trying to get her not-too-soft, not-too-hard Brexit Deal over the line. And you’ve hit the Referendum Result Main Issue nail on the head there. It isn’t what anyone voted for in the referendum, myself included. But since there were as many (almost) Brexit possibilities as there were voters, it was with the benefit of hindsight, always going to be impossible to deliver a Brexit which pleases anybody let alone everybody .

          The only — I’m hesitating here, I was going to say “good” outcome, but I’ll settle for “less awful” — less awful outcome is, as far as I can tell, something that makes everyone mostly miserable but in largely equal measure. May’s mesmerising mashup of misery fits the bill totally.

          As May herself could have* said:

          “With our leadership matches and my necklaces, we shall free our country!”

          * but didn’t actually

          1. vlade

            TBH, it’s says something about the UK politics when we get a vote for “Pick a result. Any result will make you miserable. Hey, but we will be ALL miserable together!”

            Does it beat “some will be happy, some will be miserable” outcome?

          2. ChrisPacific

            The little bear tried the porridge and said: “This porridge is too cold!”
            And the big bear tried the porridge and said: “This porridge is too hot!”
            And the May bear tried the porridge and said: “This porridge is just right! Yum yum!”
            And the other bears all said: “Are you kidding? This porridge is awful!”
            And the May bear said: “No it’s not! It isn’t rotten, and there are no maggots! (Well, hardly any).”

            And all the bears complained and tried to get rid of the May bear. But they couldn’t agree on what the porridge should taste like, so it didn’t work.

            And the May bear stayed the leader of the bears, and everyone had porridge, even though they didn’t like it!

        2. PlutoniumKun

          Well now, that’s the key question isn’t it? The problem for the Brexiteers is that they wanted Brexit, but never had a clear idea of what Brexit meant. They just wanted ‘freedom’ from ‘Brussels’ whatever that meant.

          Of course some on the fringes of the libertarian right and on Trotskyist left did have a clear idea, in the sense that there are certain rules they wanted to be free from. For Libertarians it was ‘all of them’, for Trots it is those imaginary rules about State ownership (which don’t actually exist, but its not stopped them opposing them).

          But I strongly suspect that for most Tories its simply a cultural thing, a belief that England (and they really mean England when they say Britain) was always somehow better and more prosperous when it never had to pay attention to anyone else.

          1. Anders K

            To be fair, there are some things a socialist leadership might want to do (nationalizing the assets of an international company, taking over London based hedge funds that are deemed enemies of humanity due to their portfolio in Big Oil and whatnot) with which the EU would take a jaundiced eye, and probably would not pass ECJ review. Most of these would not be unproblematic outside the EU, but being inside the EU would probably prevent them from being pushed through.

            This is not to say what a Corbyn-led UK inside or outside the EU would do any of those things, especially the latter part since leaving the EU would be a full-time job for any government to do right.

            As for England being better off when it could ignore everyone else, isn’t that the benefit of Empire? I mean, from the perspective of the Tory leading class, back then it was better (I mean, worse sanitation and worse doctors, but at least you could whip the servants and run down some poors on your horse without anyone bothering you).

      3. efschumacher

        Parliament TV is absolutely the most gripping thing on The Box these days. Everything else is endless reruns of murder mysteries and Historical paeans to all our various pasts, this last 5000 years. It’s cheap to produce too just let the cameras in the chamber roll. Every program needs a hero, and the absolute standout in this one is The Speaker, John Bercow – who recently faced down a coup attempt against him. Apparently certain actors on the Tory benches don’t like that he is doing a competent job of maintaining Process, and ensuring a fair hearing for everyone.

        Too, too bad he couldnt overrule the Maybot in her attemp to stall the vote on ner Withdrawal Agreement.

        If she survives tonight, it will increase the chance of her WA prevailing. If she fails, it increases the chance of rolling off the cliff.

    2. vlade

      While it is less likely, the question here is whether some of the Tories would not be willing to cross the benches to avoid no-deal (same but opposite to a few of them crossing the benches to create a no-deal Brexit).

      We’re assuming the party loaylty is first and foremost – and it is, for a large percentage of them. But we also need to take into account that all it takes is 7 rebels. That’s not a lot.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        And the magic number of ‘seven’ is precisely the number of Sinn Fein MP’s. Its enormously unlikely, but there is growing pressure on the party to lift its boycott of Westminster and vote against anything the DUP is for. We are in extraordinary times, and nothing could be ruled out.

        1. vlade

          With SF it would be actually still 4 – as SF absence reduces the quorum (and their presence would increase it). I suspect they decide to sit it out, and hope for no-deal Brexit as it’s IMO extremely likely NI will ask for referendum shortly afterwards.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Ah yes, I’d forgotten about the quorum issue. They won’t do it, as it could split the party if it happens.

            But yes, it was only yesterday it was raised here that Sinn Fein will push for a border poll in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and the Irish government will find it very hard to resist pressure to oppose it (their worst nightmare is that a border poll is passed in the teeth of a crisis).

            1. ChrisPacific

              I saw Varadkar’s immediate reaction to that was to rubbish the idea on the grounds that it was ridiculous to assume that the alternative to May’s deal was crash-out Brexit, and it made far more sense for it to be revocation of Article 50.

              That struck me as a rather, um, bold statement on his part given the current UK positions on that point. Granted it’s eminently defensible but it’s also thoroughly divorced from the current political reality in the UK.

              1. vlade

                SF are calling for this in case of no-deal Brexit, so his comments are a bit, well, irrelevant, as by then the alternative to May’s deal would have materialised.

                1. ChrisPacific

                  He seemed to be upset that they were even mentioning the possibility for some reason. I don’t pretend to understand Irish politics.

                  1. vlade

                    PK can comment better on it, but I believe that while the Irish republic nominaly says they would like the reunification, in reality they fear it a lot. It would be like German re-unification, except for having the rich part (apologies to Irish, it’s relative).

                    As in look at how much money Germany had to pour into the former East Germany, and it still didn’t make much difference – and politically, it’s turning into a problem for Germany now.

                    Ireland does not have anywhere near that amount of resource it could mobilise. NI now runs basically on Bombardier and one or two other private companies and a plethora of public jobs. That’s likely to be gone under re-unification.

                    1. PlutoniumKun

                      Thats basically it. There are a number of reasons why Irish governments fear a united Ireland. One simple one is the sheer cost and disruption. The other is the fear of an insurrection by loyalists leading to open civil war.

                      Varadkar, it must also be remembered, is the leader of FG, who while they occasionally make noises about a united Ireland, essentially represents the more anglophile culture of the country and are instinctively hostile to republicanism and all it represents. They are the descendants of the establishment who put themselves in front of the parade when Ireland became independent, pretending they were in favour of it all along.

                      Most Irish people are distinctly in two minds about a border poll. Yes, there are dreams of a united ireland, the four green fields, etc., but after decades of conflict most southerners simply don’t feel northerners are ‘like us’. They see them as quarrelsome and self absorbed in their conflicts and don’t see why they should have to pay more taxes to help them out (which in reality is what would happen).

                      So if there was a Border Poll the Irish government would be officially either neutral or supportive of nationalists in the north, but would be quietly praying for a ‘no’. And most likely, they’d be representing most of the Irish public in doing so.

                    2. vlade

                      PK, I can’t comment to your one (too nested I guess) – but isn’t the GFA agreement that both sides would have to have referendum? As in NI + Ireland?

                      I’m sure that would go well with any Irish government.. And with NI, if the “mother country” told them to go their own way.

  9. vlade

    BBC says >158 Tories publicly declared support for May. The question is now, whether there will be more. If she gets to 200, I suspect she will not cave in.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      May does it again….looks to be politically at death’s door and comes back.

      I am now annoyed at not going public with a remark I made to Lambert, that this week would be Peak ERG.

        1. Clive

          It’s like Appointment in Samarra, but the protagonist keeps deciding to, rather than going to Samarra, spend the day doing some housework instead.

          1. Ignacio

            But come on, take a look to any other of the so called candidates… and you inmediately fall in love with May. In love by comparison.

            1. voteforno6

              “Not as bad as the other guy(s)”

              So, are we talking about the Tories, or the Democratic Party in the U.S.?

          2. shtove

            Surely it’s more English eerie – Whistle And I’ll Come To You: a stuffy Englishman unearths an ancient bone whistle on the Brexit east coast and, when tempted into using it, is pursued relentlessly by a terrifying spectre!

    2. Darthbobber

      But just to keep it mildly interesting, the ballot for this is secret. (How’s that for profiles in courage?) So there’s no guarantee that public declarations of support are backed by similar votes.

      That said, I expect she survives this handily, due to the lack of viable rivals.

      In fact, since the failure of this effort will preclude launching another for a year, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the last letters needed to detonate a leadership challenge at this time came from May backers who wanted to have this happen now in order to foreclose the possibility of it happening later, thus reducing the number of threats by one.

  10. Alex morfesis

    Well that was a nice way for her to solidify her position as queso grande of the Tories for a year…but is she smart enough… Take that back…are those around her smart enough simply to withdraw the A50 and reset the clock by a refile…Terri the terrible wins today…and then reboots the negotiations by withdrawal of the A50…and then times out the remaining geniuses which MI (bright enough to notice) has not been able to flush away in Europe… Macron is wounded…who is left ? The rest of Europe is weak kneed other than the drunken fool being puppeteered by his chief aide and that whole kiffhauser krewe…

    Withdraw… And then…oh…okay….

    the “people” didn’t really like that…so we will file again..

    Ruthless perhaps…but….

      1. alex morfesis

        groundhog day ala number 10 and company…if the belgium mafia can negotiate in bad faith…what is good for the goose…

  11. carolyn_f

    It wouldn’t surprise me if a few years down the line we find this ‘leadership vote’ was a set up. Mrs M is ruthless enough to have a trusted colleague engineer a couple of extra letters to the 1922 Committee Chair – the whips calculating that she will win because the alternatives are seen to be even worse.

    I get the impression that if she wins by more than two or three votes she won’t resign. She’s home and dry and gets a leadership challenge off the agenda for a year. Plus if she wins, the Ultras can be made to look like they couldn’t organise xyz in a brewery… and that naturally raises serious questions about that faction’s political accumen… All without May having to do or say that much.

    The ‘challenge’ distracts attention form May’s can-kicking, clock-running-out exercise – designed to get the result she wants (insists on?) just before we drop over the cliff. And momentarily it distracts ‘ordinary voters’ from the slowly dawning awareness that the country really is between a particularly nasty rock and a truly hard place.

    If May wins, cabinet members have to put up or shut up – there might be a few resignations but she’ll have factored that in, methinks.

    Plus, in some areas all this ruckus is gaining her sympathy… increasingly, I hear: “that woman has a lot to put up with, she has my sympathy” – this from the ‘blue rinse’ area of a safe Tory seat.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  12. ljones

    May will win this vote probably with a majority.

    Not that I’m any supporter of may or the tories but that is what’ll happen – in the HoC there’s been support of may. And also (noticably BBC people) although reporters are saying “Oh, it is a private vote – they’ll express support for the PM in public but quite another how they will vote in private” it is worth remembering some tory MPs have already said they won’t vote for may.

    Never forget the politicians’ rubber backbones!

    Best guess? May wins and rams through her dreadful deal/withdrawl agreement and we get the disaster of may’s brexit. Then as trade deals are done (2019-,) the tories use that as a context to slip in lots of legisation that they would never normally manage to get through (eg NHS privatisation).


    1. William Charles

      I have just watched JRM saying that he accepts the result but that Mrs May should now resign (so he does not accept the result?). Is the Tory Civil War going to go on forever? If JRM has his way that seems likely.

      Sooner or later, the UK electorate will turn on these clowns.

      1. vlade

        You mean after about 40 years of the circus? I’d argue though they are not getting enough theatre for their money..

    2. vlade

      Indeed. But Torygraph already says:
      (@Steven_Swinford):So what next for the Tory rebels, assuming that they lose tonight?

      Eurosceptics already thinking about the ‘nuclear option’ – a non-binding motion of no confidence against their own PM

      Note this is “non-binding”, so not a full blown no-confidence vote. Question is, will they dare to do that?

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I find it very hard to believe that they would actively work with Labour – it would set off complete civil war in the Conservative party, and for what end? By continuing to snipe away they can get their no-deal Brexit, which is what they want in the end.

        1. Clive

          Plus, May holds a MAD retaliation option — to rescind A50. It’ll get challenged in the UKSC, but I’ve a strong suspicion they’d judge it can be done via just the Royal Prerogative — no parliamentary vote needed. All the cabinet would have to offer as a token justification is that everything needs to be reset to allow “a proper period of reflection” or other rubbish, but arguable, reason

          1. vlade

            Now that would be fun (legally speaking), if a government after a vote of no-confidence revoked A50.. Which it could argue was “to make space for any new incoming government”.

            That said, I don’t think May is that smart. Unless she’s super-smart, and all the stuff that seems a total chaos to us mere mortals (starting with her stint at the Home Office, me having a personal experience of it), is in fact a perfectly planned, and executed to perfection something (we will know what in due time).

  13. David Walsh

    Bit of light relief.

    Clive disecting and describing (thanks so much) above what a ‘party’ is and entails gave me a flashback to The Thick Of It. Satire set in UK Politics (is it Whitehall?) The Parties are never named or identified as such but the party who are definitely standing in for the Tories, in the show, have a Minister for Information called Stuart Pearson who is utterly pretentious, really new age and into thoughts and concepts and revolutionising everything. He was having brainstorming think tank retreat one bank holiday and was saying ‘So when is a party not a party?’ and going off on a bizarre tangent, and one Minister replied he felt like he’d just joined the Scientologists.
    Anyway, the link above is from one of the final episodes in the final series, where many of the members have to face up to an Enquiry over leaking. It’s one of the most brilliant episodes in the whole show.
    Stuart Pearson above. the very beginning is cut off – it starts with one of the Lords saying ‘ so, Mr Pearson, it says in your submission here you describe yourself as a human rooter, is that correct?’
    Stuart Pearson says ‘ A router, yes, a human router, that’s what I am’

  14. Andrew D. Thomas

    I am very thankful for not only the brilliance of Yves and Lambert, but also for the informative and lucid discussion here on NC. It occurs to me that some of you should get together and complete Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples. I can suggest a title- Epilogue: FUBAR. Between the USA and U.K., our cynical, corporatized elites can’t even kick a can down the road without turning it into a demented spectacle. Your words have made the U.K. version of this farce understandable to this American who knew much , much less about it than he knew. Bravos to you all.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I’m a Yank. BREXIT and the details of the politics in Great Britain are beyond my kin. I’m not aware of how the European experient stands, how it worked in the past, or how it might work in the future after BREXIT. Is it too early to ask what BREXIT could mean for the future of Europe? The City of London sits at a nexus of financial relationships. Who in Europe hopes to benefit from the collapse or decline of the London financial centers? What will Europe look like without Great Britain? What will Great Britain be like after BREXIT? Are tectonic plates of economy and power shifting? As the many trees fly by I cannot fathom the forest.

      1. fajensen

        Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris are eager to take some of the (mostly) legal and (sort of) above board financial services currently provided by London.

        Latvia, Estonia and Slovakia would be after the more dodgy parts with LLC’s and various cookie-cutter ownership obfuscation and tax-evasion schemes also provided by London.

        Hedge funds are always on the prowl looking to asset-strip and loot. A weakened UK desperately needing some kind of trade deal and some kind of funding would be a nice buffet for them.

        I think post-Brexit Europe will be at the same time a lot “quieter” and “noisier”.

        Quieter because the Brexit Fiasco will make most of “our” nationalists chancers, wannabes and their supporters at least plan and think a bit about what it means to be leaving the EU.

        And a lot nosier because the British Intelligence Services will ramp up their disinformation and agit-prop services against “Brussels”, “Russia”, “China” and “Iran” all the to war-like levels, partly to keep the lid on the growing discontent back home and prevent the election of a George Corbyn government, party because the US tells them to and they will need the US support and Donald Trump will have them over the barrel.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Thanks! I am far more curious about the outcomes of BREXIT than the UK politics which I really don’t understand.

    2. flora

      I’m in the US and don’t understand UK politic either.
      Reading about the ERG’s and ultras’ drama and theatrics in opposing May’s WA, which seems to me a lot closer to their desires than is withdrawing the A50, I keep thinking about the old US children’s story about Brer (Brother) Fox, Brer Rabbit, and the briar patch. In this story the ultras are Brer Rabbit wailing ‘don’t throw us into that WA, whatever you do, don’t throw us into the WA’. While knowing that passing the WA will end any possibility of withdrawing the A50; will clear that ‘danger’ to their plans from the politcial field. One step ‘forward’ at a time.
      But, I don’t understand UK politics.

  15. The Rev Kev

    She did it.

    Who do you think you are kidding Boris Johnson
    If you think May’s on the run
    We are the boys who will stop your little game
    We are the boys who will make you think again
    ‘Cos who do you think you are kidding Boris Johnson
    If you think old May is done
    Mrs. May goes off to Europe on the morning run
    But she comes home each evening and he’s ready for some fun…

  16. bob

    It’s getting better- Someone nicked the mace!

    “The presence of the gigantic silver-gilt mace that stars in this clip, it turns out, is very important in the House of Commons, where it symbolizes the queen’s authority; in its absence, Parliament cannot legally meet or pass laws.”

    Remember kids- Britain, England, the UK and the NK are all sovereign as long as The Queen doesn’t steal her mace back. Its against the rules for anyone to touch the mace. You may look at it, as long as you are wearing a wig.

    We have RULES!

  17. antonbruckner

    I think it is very interesting to imagine what will happen in early March if the MayBot does not have an exit deal approved by parliament and the UK looks like crashing out of the UK. That will be a disaster for everyone INCLUDING May. She won’t want that as her legacy. Surely it is quite possible (indeed likely) that, at that point, she will change her tune and agree to an extension of the exit deadline and a fresh election. She’s a lunatic. But a no-deal crash out is far from “mission accomplished” for her. Indeed, it is a disaster. Labor, of course, would fully support an extension and fresh election. But nothing much will happen until what Alex Ferguson called “squeaky bottom” time.

  18. antonbruckner

    Oh, and hasn’t Theresa’s pledge not to stand for election in 2022 significantly raised the prospect she will call a snap election. Indeed, in early March, she may be absolutely craving one! It will be the only way to reset her leadership.

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