Theresa May won her vote of confidence 200-117 and is off to meet with the EU Commission, still Prime Minister – though having lost the confidence of nearly one-third of her MPs.
So, where are we now?
The deal the EU negotiated for Theresa May is the only deal they’ll accept. The EU have, jointly and severally, made that clear. Any talk of changes to the deal is uninformed rubbish. At this point in time, the House of Commons has three choices:
- To ratify May’s deal and leave the EU on 29th March 2019
- To refuse May’s deal and leave the EU catastrophically on 29th March 2019
- To revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU
For many MPs, the fact that they have no ability to move the EU to a better deal is too unpalatable to be comprehended.
Last night Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, counted 48 letters in his cupboard and let Theresa May know she’d have a leadership challenge this week. This morning he let the world know.
The system for Tories who want rid of their leader is primarily in the hands of MPs. If one-sixth of the Conservative backbenchers have written a letter of no-confidence in their leader to the chair of the 1922 Committee, a vote of no-confidence is called: if the leader wins that vote, they can’t be challenged again for another year: if they lose that vote, there is a leadership election in which the current leader cannot stand, voted on by Tory MPs only until only two candidates are left standing: the Tory membership then gets to vote on the last two candidates.
Tonight, 315 Tory MPs will get to have a second vote to see if they’ve changed their minds since 2016. (Most of them have been arguing that we shouldn’t get to have a second vote to see if we have.)
(Darkness. On the stage, a single spotlight. One person, in a business suit, with a smartphone: the phone rings.)
“Hello, yes, it’s me.”
(Throughout the first speech, the person keeps moving around the stage, spotlight following, as if trying to find a good spot for their phone.)
“Yes, the signal is very bad. All of the tourists here, you know. They block the transmission, using their phones so much. Oh, here is a photograph of a beautiful castle. Here is a cafe where that lady wrote Harry Potter. Here is another cafe where she wrote Harry Potter. My, she got around a lot with her writing notebook and wizards. Here is a statue of a sweet little doggie. Here is a graveyard we are going to pretend is Hogwarts. Tourists are stupid. Ah, here the signal is better. No, I was saying nothing important. Now, please tell me what it is.”
According to rumour, Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, has 45 of the 48 letters required for a vote of confidence against Theresa May in his cupboard. No one knows the validity of this rumour, but no matter how many letters he has, I don’t believe that May will be unseated now until after 29th March 2019.
David Davis, the former Brexit Minister, resigned on Sunday after the Chequers meeting: Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Minister, resigned on Monday. Both cited Theresa May’s plan for Brexit as their reason for resigning. The only minister left of the three Brexiters appointed to the Foreign Office by May in 2016, is disgraced former Defence Minister Liam Fox, who is still drawing a salary as minister for International Trade (without actually accomplishing a single trade deal in his entire time in office). For about 24 hours at the beginning of this week, it looked as if Theresa May might be gone within days.
For the purpose of this blogpost, I’m going to suppose that I might be a Conservative Prime Minister.
By heritage and upbringing, I am a natural Labour voter: I’m a trade union member, my dad was a trade union member, his dad was a trade union member, and so on back to my great-grandfather: further than that family legend can’t tell me.
Further, since the Tories imposed the poll tax on Scotland, if not before, I’ve always been clear that I would not only never vote Tory, in FPTP elections I’d always vote for the even-slightly-leftier candidate with the best chance of beating the Tory.
So hold my hand: this is a big jump.
Few English people think about the constitutional settlement of the nations of the United Kingdom. And ordinarily, this doesn’t matter at all.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has an uncodified constitution: not a single document thoughtfully and carefully produced to give a country a good start in life, but a collection of legislation and even judicial rulings made over the centuries as the British people clawed our way into being a functioning modern democracy from a starting point of feudal monarchy. The 1689 Bill of Rights (and for Scotland, the 1689 Claim of Right) is part of the UK’s constitution: so is the 1998 Human Rights Act.
There is one thing which I think is true of most MPs across party lines: they do, by and large, care about their constituents.
They do so as a matter of practical politics: even a constituent who is not eligible to vote in a Westminster Parliamentary election can influence the vote in one direction or another (“oh yes so-and-so, well, he’s Wrong Party but he’s a nice chap: my neighbours were in trouble, no fault of their own, and he was really helpful”)
But to be fair: MPs are human*, and even the poshest and most privileged MP, come face-to-face with human tragedy, as they may be required to do with their constituents, is likely to have some kind of human feeling towards them.
Filed under Brexit, Politics