Splitting Labour


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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24 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Given the calendar, I have to wonder if this isn’t really just some sort of thing to try to avoid being blamed for the impending Brexit train wreck. At this point it doesn’t look like there’s a majority in Parliament for anything that’s actually feasible.

    Time for out-of-the-box thinking. I wonder if anyone has asked the ROI how much they want to take Northern Ireland? At least then Parliament and the PM could say to the EU, “There. No hard border in Ireland. We’d like another year to negotiate a customs deal like Canada’s.” I assume the price tag would be large.

    Easy for me to say, it’s not a part of my country that I’m giving away.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      The government is partially held up by a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party. They would 100% bring the government down rather than cede Northern Ireland.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        I admit to not understanding all the ins and outs of what can bring down a government in a Westminster system. If a sufficiently large majority in Parliament across multiple parties decided that throwing Northern Ireland under the bus was the best available option, could DUP do anything about it?Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          As far as I’m aware, Parliament could indeed cede Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland over the objection of the DUP. However, the Conservatives would have to vote for it to get a majority (they would probably have to introduce the Bill too, if their Parliament works like ours), and if they did the DUP would call a vote of no confidence in retaliation. At that point, the Conservatives would have trouble assembling a majority so the vote would pass, leading to May no longer being Prime Minister.

          At that point one of two things would happen:
          1) Labour gets a majority of seats and becomes the new government. This is unlikely as I don’t think the DUP like labour very much.
          2) No one can form a government, the Queen dissolves Parliament and a new election is called. Naturally this would suspend all Parliamentary business until the election could be undertaken – it would likely take a bout 6-8 weeks, which would be problematic from a Brexit standpoint.

          Someone more familar with UK politics could correct me, but as far as I can see this idea is a total non-starter.Report

          • Avatar Brent F says:

            I’m pretty sure this is broadly accurate. Although the DUP goes beyond not much liking Labour right now, they with some justification view Corbyn as an IRA sympathizer so Labour under him is completely toxic to them.

            If there was some sort of consensus that the best thing to do was to jetison the Northern Irish, that could be done. As the current imbroglio is due to their being absolutely no consensus for anything in the UK right now, its not a practical threat. A move from the Tories that screws over the Irish Protestants results in their government falling and then rampaging chaos across the landReport

            • Avatar Marchmaine says:

              Are we 100% sure that even a DUP led vote of no-confidence would pass (or technically a vote of confidence fail?).

              Does Labor have a plan for Brexit? That’s one of the weird things… Labor is also split on Brexit so they have been oddly content to watch the Conservatives manage the process.

              Calling a new election as possibly winning during a de-facto crash-out (once elections are called, no major deal would happen) is not necessarily something they would sign-up for, is it? I could see designated labor votes to keep May in power…?

              The DUP is just an odd twist to the odd twist of losing the snap election.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Labour doesn’t seem to have a plan for Labour right now.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                Right… so do they want to go to elections by voting no confidence?

                That might be a weird thing not without some political cost… but is the alternative better?

                On the matter of Northern Ireland, I think May can do whatever it is she wants… not that I know what that is, or what that should be – but she (I think?) has a weirdly strong hand… or at least needn’t fear that particular sort of rebellion?

                Else… maybe she punches out to let Labor deal with two divided factions.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Rapidly concluding that nobody in UK politics has any idea what the hell they’re doing.

                And not just normal levels of politician dumbness either.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                I think its much more interesting than that.

                In some ways Brexit happened *before* there was a political movement to support broad re-alignment… so there’s a political agenda/mandate without a political class to support it.

                And, making it even more interesting, the support/opposition for it cuts across Conservative and Labor lines.

                That’s also what makes the recent defections interesting… are we seeing the birth a realigned Neo-Liberal party?

                Will there be a new Radical Left/Populist Right?… and/or more significant splintering? That’s not what we’d expect in the UK, but the Major/Blair/Cameron consensus is dead, long live the consensus.

                Edit: purposefully omiting UKIP which has elements of populism, but was rather more single issue focused than a movement.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                Considering how Brexit initially broke down via location; ie rural vs. urban, absent Scotland (Though the Orkneys and Shetlands voted leave) I feel that the closeness to a power center is a better indication of the realignment. See also France and the yellow vests.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David says:

                Scratch that about Orkney and Shetland, I misread the maps.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                Sure… that’s the genus of all the various populist movements… the centers of power have what they have and believe what they have is what they ought to have. It’s the ought that’s the neo-liberal blind-spot.Report

    • Does the ROI want Northern Ireland? The IRA might have wanted that (and Sinn Fein might want it today) but I’ve never gotten the impression that ROI wants to reignite the Troubles as their problem.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Three Conservatives have joined the now-eight former Labour members in The Independent Group. The Conservatives-plus-DUP are technically no longer a majority (only 324 seats) but I don’t think that would matter except in the case of a no-confidence vote on the government that was split solely along party lines.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      This is truly remarkable.


      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        This is truly remarkable.

        Watching from the outside, the whole process has been remarkable, although not in any good way. A non-binding referendum passed 52-48. Parliament took that to heart and authorized the government to send the Article 50 notice by a much wider margin. The government sent the notice. And then everyone split up into groups that didn’t align with party, each believing that their own special unicorn was going to show up: the EU folding in negotiations, a second referendum overturning the first, etc.

        I suppose I was optimistic in expecting the PM to be publicly blunt by this point: “Look, folks, the choice is make some hard decisions about Northern Ireland, or kick the can down the road. I negotiated a deal to kick the can. If you don’t like that, make the choice on NI. Or let the EU do it for you on March 29.”Report

  3. Avatar J_A says:

    One peculiar thing of the UK parliament is that only the Government decides what motions are brought up to be voted, and also which ones of those are Amendable. Only in the case of amendable motions can the members present amendments and have them voted, though the Speaker, and not the Government, chooses which amendments are to be voted upon, at his discretion. Backbenchers and other parties have limited to no ability to propose legislation, even if, like now, there’s a significant cross party majority that would support a soft Brexit

    In the UK constitution, it is assumed that the government is an extension of, and speaks on behalf, of a majority of parliament. Hence it the “the majority” who is presenting legislation to be voted.

    It used to be that if a [major] proposal was voted down, the government “did no longer command the majority of Parliament” and new elections would be called (*). But as per the Fixed parliaments Act, that’s no longer the case. A new election needs to be voted on specifically, and the proposal brought forth by the Government (as May did for her snap election), or go through a very cumbersome voting process called in by the Leader of the Opposition, which Corbyn tried for, and failed.

    (*) Parliament’s rejection of the Brexit Deal was the largest defeat a Government has suffered since Queen Victoria’s times. Before the Fixed parliaments Act, the government would have collapsedReport

    • One peculiar thing of the UK parliament is that only the Government decides what motions are brought up to be voted, and also which ones of those are Amendable.

      Where in a sensible system like ours, that’s done by Mitch McConnell.Report

      • Avatar J_A says:

        There can’t be divided government in the UK system

        In theory Parliament is Supreme – in practice, the Executive controls what Parliament can vote onReport

  4. Avatar J_A says:

    Ever since assuming power, May was faced with a dilemma:

    In addition to the 48% of Remainers, the vast majority of Leavers did not want a significant change in the status quo (*). Something like the status of Norway, Switzerland, or even Turkey, would be a compromise that the vast majority of the country could accept.

    The problem is that a significant minority of the Tory party wasn’t willing to accept anything but a hard Brexit: not only no Freedom of Movement, but no common customs area, no alignment of regulations, no jurisdiction of the ECJ.

    May could deliver a soft Brexit that could command cross party support, and keep the UK aligned with the EU, even if formally out, and break up the Conservative Party, or she could keep the two fractions of the Party together at the cost of a significantly harder Brexit (or a No Deal Brexit), one which will all parties agree will economically (and politically) damage the UK. But she couldn’t do both.

    So she decided to keep party Unity at the expense of anything else. Her Red Lines, thus, were the Hard Brexiters Red Lines, which made a soft(er) Brexit impossible. It also made Corbyn’s recent Brexit proposal unacceptable even for discussion, even though the EU has recommended May to engage in it as a preferable alternative. She will only consider alternatives that will keep the hard Brexiters inside the tent, and its trying to put together the flimsiest of parliamentary majorities to pass a deal, any deal that will get the most Tories on board. And given the size of the Hard Brexiters ERG faction, about 1/6 of the total conservative MPs, it means she will only consider a deal that will get the ERG’s support.

    Very soon she will have to decide whether to break the Conservative Party and plunge into a cross party alternative that will ignore half or her own Red Lines, or crash Britain into No Deal territory. I’m betting a six-pack of good beer that she will, once again, chose her party over her country.

    She’s rather be remembered as the PM that brought Britain into disarray, than the last Conservative Party PM ever.

    (*) the main (almost only) issue of (most) Leavers was Polish plumbers, aka Freedom of MovementReport