by Martin Odoni

Tonight’s Motion of No Confidence in the Government, as expected, was defeated by 325 votes to 306. Not exactly a huge chasm, but reasonably decisive. It is noteworthy though that if the ten Democratic Unionists had voted against the Government, the motion would have passed by 1. Ironically, if Theresa May’s Brexit deal had passed the Commons last night, the DUP would have supported tonight’s motion and the Government would have fallen.

The atmosphere in the House of Commons tonight was as childish and yobbish as I have ever heard it, and never worse than during the Tories’ closing statement, delivered by the obnoxious Michael Gove. The bleating, the drunk-sounding chants and the juvenile bellowing were more reminiscent of brawling rugby players than intelligent, considered debate. I have written more than once of my suspicion that the alienation of so many of the public from politics in modern Britain is partly a result of the horrendous ‘lager-lout’-style of behaviour in the Commons. Tonight will probably have made that even worse.

However, I mainly wish to offer observations on Gove’s speech itself. While it was, as one might expect, a disgraceful tissue of distortions that he would not dare repeat outside the House, where he would be subject to the law of the land, more noticeable was the theme of it. It was largely about Jeremy Corbyn.

Michael Gove

Gove’s speech in ‘defence’ of his Prime Minister was largely just an uncivilised hatchet job on the Opposition leader instead.

Interestingly, early in the speech he mocked Tom Watson’s closing speech on behalf of the Opposition on the grounds that Watson did not mention Corbyn at all. Why Gove imagines that Watson should have to do so is quite inexplicable; the debate was a Motion of No Confidence in the Government, not in Corbyn, and to an extent, it really had nothing to do with Corbyn, at least directly.

But having mocked Watson for not mentioning his leader, Gove made a similar mistake; he scarcely mentioned Theresa May throughout the speech, even though the Motion was about her and her Government. Instead, Gove just spent minutes on end ranting out a malicious hatchet job on Corbyn, regurgitating various tired and debunked myths from the last couple of years about ‘anti-Semitism’ and his supposed lack of credentials for defending the country .

Whether you agreed with all of this, or any of this, or none of this, there is a fundamental flaw in the speech. Hardly any of it had anything to do with whether the present administration is fit to govern. And yet it made up a good three-quarters of what Gove had to say. (My brother has described it as “the Parliamentary equivalent of Kryten’s legal defence of Rimmer” from Red Dwarf.)

Is it just that no one had actually explained to Gove beforehand what the subject of the debate was?

Or was Gove keeping his praise for May to an absolute minimum because he plans to make a new bid for the leadership at her expense in the near future?

Or is it just – and this I suspect is the likeliest answer – that the performance of Theresa May and her administration since 2016 has been so shambolic, so destructive, and so mired in inertia and non-achievement that Gove simply ran out of good things to say in its defence after the first couple of minutes?

These are the only explanations I can think of, and all of them are bad.

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230 – wow.

January 15, 2019

by Martin Odoni

Not exactly a shock that Theresa May’s Brexit deal was voted down in the House of Commons tonight, but good grief, did anyone picture such an annihilation? Just 202 MPs voted in favour – and May can count herself lucky that three Labour MPs rebelled to support the deal and get the ‘Ayes’ past 200 – and 432 voted against.

brexit vote in parliament - breakdown

The way they voted, 15th January 2019

This is unprecedented. The size of the Government’s support was comfortably less than half its total opponents. With 118 on the Government benches rebelling, the total number of Tories favouring May’s deal was substantially less than two-thirds. Every Liberal Democrat, every Scottish National Party member, every Plaid Cymru member, every Democratic Unionist, and the sole Green MP, all voted against the deal.

Most of us have known since the details were published that May’s deal was dead in the water – many of us suspected it back in June 2017 come to that – but surely none of us thought that it would be beaten this decisively? My personal projection was that May would lose by about 80 votes, which would still have been a powerful blow, and I thought anything near 200 was on the barest fringe of the possible. But two hundred-and-thirty? That is absolutely extraordinary, and the biggest defeat in the Commons for an incumbent Government ever.

Since the catastrophic Conservative backfire of the 2017 General Election, this administration has been a zombie Government. Now it is not even that. It is no Government at all, it is just a giant hole in the air of Westminster and Whitehall. It has no right to exist, and no function left except to keep itself in office. Having suffered the humiliation of the biggest defeat any Prime Minister has ever conceded, Theresa May, if she truly had any honour at all, would accept that she has to resign. But of course she does not, and so of course, she will not.

This is yet another victory for Jeremy Corbyn of course – he scores a surprisingly large number of them for a supposedly ‘useless’ Leader of the Opposition – and a victory that, had it been achieved by Tony Blair in the 1990s, would have been hailed as one of the greatest in the history of Opposition Leaders. Which of course it is, but as usual, Corbyn is being damned with faint praise at best in the media. He has at last tabled the expected motion-of-no-confidence in the Government, judging rightly that now is the likeliest time for it to succeed – certainly likelier than it was before Christmas. The odds are still against it, especially as Tory rebels and DUP MPs have reaffirmed that they will continue to oppose it. But if nothing else, this move keeps the Government on the defensive at a time when it is reeling.

As for Brexit, where can we go from here? I think the UK now has to apply for an extension to Article-50. We are basically back at the metaphorical ‘drawing board’ in terms of a withdrawal agreement, and that means we need a lot more time than the two-and-a-half months that are left before we have departed the European Union. But even then, the EU are less-than-sympathetic about the idea of renegotiating, after the enormous amount of time May has wasted, and they are now pushing for the UK to abandon Brexit once and for all.

I am as pro-democracy as they come, and I have done my best to accept the outcome of the 2016 referendum. But still, it is getting more and more difficult to argue with the idea of calling the whole wretched business off, is it not?

Oh well. “Coalition of chaos”, and all that.

12th doctor 1st doctor and strong & stable may

More of a joke than ever, isn’t it?

by Martin Odoni

The Tories are clearly gearing up for a General Election. Theresa May probably sees it, however reluctantly, as the likeliest way out of the unending Brexit logjam at Westminster, as others have been warning since the last Election that it would be. I will not waste time going into the reasons why an Election is so necessary, as I imagine anyone who has not spent the last three years in seclusion on the moons of Neptune will have a more-than-passing familiarity with why. However, I wish to point out that the Tories are engaged in a form of Election cheating once again.

The indicators that a snap Election is imminent are three-fold.

Firstly, returning officers up and down the country have been put on standby.

Secondly, the Conservative Party has released a (very disingenuous) Party Political Broadcast (PPB).

Thirdly, Tory campaigners have started leafleting their constituencies.

Tory leafleting

Even in safe seats, the Tories are campaigning, a clear sign that a General Election is in the offing.

It is possible that if, by some miracle, May’s Brexit deal is not voted down next week (presumably while Tim Henman comes out of retirement to win Wimbledon later this year…), the dissolution of Parliament will not be called. But for the moment, these are the obvious clues that the Tories are ‘gearing up’.

But they are also clues that the Tories are trying to get around Election Expenses laws, which they have of course been in trouble for transgressing before. By campaigning before the Election is even announced, the leafleting and the PPB will not, they hope, be counted against the amount they officially invest as a party in the Election, allowing them to invest more than other parties while staying under the spending ‘cap’. The money counting only starts from the moment the Election is called.

This is yet another example therefore of the Tories using dirty tricks to get an unfair advantage on rival parties. Even though it is not, to the best of my knowledge, against the letter of electoral laws in this country, it is undoubtedly against the spirit of them.

The degree to which the Conservative Party resorts to these kinds of behaviours is amazing. Sure, other parties are guilty of dirty trickery from time-to-time as well. But the Tories do it so routinely and so instinctively that it belongs in a different world. It even gives the impression that the Tories are powerless to grasp that such conduct is wrong. They imagine that, so long as it helps them succeed and they do not get caught, cheating is justified.

They really should be called the Psychopaths’ Party.

by Martin Odoni

So, did Jeremy Corbyn really say it? Did he call Theresa May, “Stupid woman” at Prime Minister’s Questions today?

Well, judging by slow motion replays of the moment of Corbyn’s irritated muttering, the answer appears to be No. It looks fairly clear to me that the word Corbyn uses begins with the letter P, and probably the first letter of the second syllable too, suggesting that, as his spokespeople claim, he was saying, “people”. He was referring to the childish hooting and catcalling from the Tory backbenchers.

But it amazes me the barefaced effrontery of so many anti-leftists that this is causing such a furore. Say Corbyn did call May a stupid woman; so what? This was PMQs, for Pete’s sake! It was the House of Commons! Of all the childish abuse, personal insults and schoolchild moments-of-mockery that happen in that most juvenile of debating forums day-in-day-out, Stupid woman is the one that everyone is getting their underwear in knots over? Seriously? All right, so the utter pig’s breakfast May has made of Brexit kind of indicates that she is indeed a stupid woman, but whether it is a fair description or otherwise, is this really causing so much fury?

Well of course not. No one really cares, it is of course being used as a distraction from the shambles of Brexit and the serious threat to the Prime Minister’s position, even from her own party. And given the Tories were saying only on Monday night that they would not indulge a Vote of No Confidence debate in the Prime Minister, apparently due to regarding it as some kind of a waste of time, it is pathetic how much time they are instead happy to waste on this. Apparently a man muttering under his breath is a more urgent issue than the Prime Minister carrying the whole country over a Brexit cliff. What a country we live in.

But let us for a moment indulge the theatrical whining from the Conservatives. This means they are getting self-righteous about ‘misogyny’.

The Conservatives?

The Conservatives, only a little over a week ago restored the whip to two MPs who had been suspended for acts of sexual depravity against women, and were still under investigation. One of them is an alleged rapist.

Tory MPs restored to Parliament while under investigation for sexual depravity

Charlie Elphicke and Andrew Griffiths have not been cleared yet of serious sexual misconduct.

The Tories are also the party who gave us one-time (and one-dimensional) Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who has merrily talked about having Theresa May “chopped up in bags in my freezer”.

And then of course, there is the small matter of Boris Johnson, with his charming history of patronising female colleagues while he was Mayor of London.

(EDIT TO ADD: And then there is this little gem from ‘Spreadsheet-Phil’ Hammond to Andrea Jenkyns. And this hot little number from David Mundell to Yvette Cooper. Or this delightfully not-very-female-friendly policy from no less a figure than the Prime Minister herself.)

This is the party lecturing the Labour leader on misogyny? For real?

Among Corbyn’s treacherous troops, I expect Jess Phillips to jump on the Tory bandwagon for about the one hundred-thousand-million-billionth time. (Why on Earth is she even in the Labour Party?) Given her own tendency to joke about “knifing” Jeremy Corbyn, even symbolically – doubly tasteless in light of the assassination of Jo Cox – it would probably be advisable that she kept her foul gob shut instead. But when did she ever listen to sensible advice?

All of this outrage though, from the right. And the further right they are, the more outraged their reaction. The half of the spectrum that always bemoans ‘political-correctness-gone-mad’ is once again blowing its top about being ‘offended’. They never seem to notice the irony.

In other words, the Tory sneers at political correctness, as ever, translate as, “It’s only wrong to be offensive when you’re offending us.”

So careful now, Jez, and careful, everyone else. We have no wish to hurt the Tories’ feelings while they send homeless people to their deaths, do we?

Stupid woman - everyone loses their minds

The Joker making more sense than anyone in the real world, as usual.

by Martin Odoni

I see a lot of people on social media at the moment – especially supporters of the Scottish National Party – have still not figured out the real reason many of the smaller parties are pushing for Labour to call a Motion of No Confidence in the Government. Jeremy Corbyn did call a Motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister last night, but only such a Motion in the whole Government can trigger a General Election.

Some are trying to argue that Corbyn is being either cowardly or indecisive, and that he lacks the courage of the leaders of the smaller parties, like Nicola Sturgeon, Vince Cable, Caroline Lucas et al. In reality, these other leaders are being no braver or more decisive at all, and nor are they, on this evidence, noticeably honest. That is a particularly sad reflection in Lucas’ case, who historically has tried hard (not always successfully, it must be conceded) to avoid fighting dirty.

Opposition leaders trying to beseige Corbyn

The leaders of the smaller parties are trying to beseige Corbyn with demands for a Motion of No Confidence in the Government

Now what a lot of people are missing is that, if a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons wants there to be a No-Confidence Motion in the Government, all they have to do is call one. There is no restriction on any Member, bar the Speaker, from calling such a Motion. They do not even have to be a party leader, let alone the leader of the Opposition, to call one (although only a Motion from the Leader of the Opposition is actually binding). So when Sturgeon, Cable et al try to insinuate cowardice or half-heartedness on Corbyn’s part, they are carefully avoiding all mention of the fact that what he is refusing to do is precisely what they are also refusing to do. And Corbyn is not being indecisive. He has decided not to table the Motion yet. Deciding not to do something differs sharply from not deciding whether to do something.

So why are the smaller parties pressing for Corbyn to ‘do their dirty work’ for them? Well, there are two reasons; –

The lesser reason is that if, or rather when, the Motion is voted down – which Tory and Democratic Unionist MPs have made clear will happen – the MP who called it gets most of the opprobrium for it.

But the second and more important reason by far is that the smaller parties all know that Labour’s policy, agreed at the Party Conference in the Autumn, is to try and force a General Election as a first resort if they can, and if they cannot, switch to trying to force a second referendum on Brexit.

At present, the smaller centrist/leftist parties mostly want a ‘People’s Vote’ (as a second referendum has been recently renamed in the vain hope that it sounds less controversial) only, but know they have no hope of forcing one without support both from Labour MPs, and from Remainers in the Conservative Parliamentary Party. Therefore, the smaller parties want to push Labour into calling a Vote of No Confidence when they know it cannot be won, so that Labour is then compelled by its own policy commitments to move on to supporting the second referendum. (If the other parties table the Motion themselves, it will not be a ‘Labour motion’ and will therefore be unlikely to trigger the policy-switch in the Labour Party.)

This has nothing to do with ‘greater SNP/LibDem courage’ or ‘Labour indecision’, and everything to do with cynical, theatrical politics, and trying to crowbar another party into co-operating. This cynicism is just as prevalent among the smaller parties as it is among Labour and the Tories.

What a clever move by Corbyn!

December 17, 2018

by Martin Odoni

Jeremy Corbyn tonight tabled a Parliamentary Motion of No Confidence in the leadership of the Prime Minister. The timing and the wording of the move were just brilliant.

Brexit VONC motion tabled

Corbyn tables a Motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister

Corbyn appeared to have veered away from such a Motion during the course of today’s debate over Theresa May’s failed Brexit discussions in Brussels late last week. He appeared to use it as a threat at first today, in case May continued to resist setting a date for the vote on her (obviously-already-doomed) Brexit deal. After she set the date (sort of) for the week commencing the 14th of January, the threat appeared to have been withdrawn. However, just as the media were heading on a very predictable tirade of Corbyn chickens out! headlines, right at the end of the debate, he went and tabled the Motion anyway, and in the process clearly caught the Tories completely by surprise.

The move was a moment of inspired political cunning. By tabling it so late in the day, he did not give May a chance to have the last word – not that she was likely to have known what to say anyway – and that would explain why she scarpered from the House of Commons in such a panicked rush. (Who is chickening out really, media people?) But Corbyn also worded the Motion, not against the Government, but against the Prime Minister herself. This was genius.

After last week’s wholly-unimpressive victory for May in a party Confidence Vote, Corbyn knows that over a hundred Tory MPs do not want her to remain in charge. By tabling the Motion in this form, he has presented the Conservative backbenchers a way to support him in the vote without bringing down the Government, making them likelier to back it.

This means that May knows that she is now in dire, dire trouble, and if the Motion succeeds, Corbyn will not only have outlasted two Prime Ministers in his time as leader, he will also have brought one down.

Who could be so stupid as to claim he is not an effective Labour Party leader after that?

by Martin Odoni

Following on from what I wrote last night about the Vote Of Confidence in Theresa May (and please consider that many a football manager down the years has received the dreaded ‘Vote-Of-Confidence’ from their clubs, and look what usually still happens to them in almost no-time-at-all); –

On social media, I am seeing that a lot of Labour supporters in particular seem really disappointed that May was not voted out last night. That is an understandable instinctive reaction, but they are not thinking things through. If May had lost, that would have given the Conservative Party a possible way out of the mess they have mired themselves in. A really uncomfortable and messy way out, but navigable. What happened instead has in fact intensified their log-jam. The odds were always strongly against May losing the vote, and with the actual numbers involved, last night really was the worst possible outcome of the vote for the Tories; –

The ideal result for them would be an overwhelming vote of support for May, probably, as it would be ideal for party unity and reinforcing her authority.

But the next-best would have been for May to lose outright. That way, the party could at least elect a new leader, who will be given a nice Honeymoon period without serious opposition and whom the ranks could unite around, and with whom the Democratic Unionist Party might have been able to do business again.

As last night has turned out though, the Tory Party got an indecisive victory for the incumbent, of the type that falls precisely between two stools for them. If the leader of the Conservatives survives a No-Confidence-Vote within the party, there cannot be another one for twelve months. So now, the Tories will, for at least a year, have to keep following a Prime Minister whom the DUP no longer trust (because she has negotiated a Brexit deal that leaves a serious chance of there being a Hard Border in the Irish Sea, despite her repeated assurances to them that she would not), and whose credibility has been seriously undermined by having over 33% of her party vote for her to go.

So last night has done exactly what most Tory opponents should have been hoping for; the DUP are now in the corner all the opposition parties have been waiting for, while at the same time May is now completely hamstrung by over a hundred rebels on her own backbenches who have tasted real blood.

This leaves the DUP in a ‘no-further-hedging-possible’ scenario, in which they have to decide once and for all whether they are going to keep the Confidence-&-Supply Arrangement with the Government going. They must now seriously consider supporting a Parliamentary Vote of No Confidence in the Government, if one is called. Because if they do not support it, they are stuck with May’s Brexit plan until long, long after time runs out at the end of March. They will be powerless to prevent the dreaded ‘Backstop’ if May is still in 10 Downing Street in April 2019.

And some Tory rebels on the Brexit-extremes may even contemplate supporting it too, for the same reason.

In short, this was a really good outcome for opposition parties, and it makes the possibility of forcing a new General Election stronger, not weaker.

SO FEEL ENCOURAGED! THE MAY-HEM COULD SOON BE OVER.

Miles May Hem

The evil Miles May Hem, from the MASK cartoons