And do not give Johnson even the slightest wiggle room—he will use itby Raphael Hogarth / August 16, 2019 / Leave a comment
Once upon a time, Labour could tell the country a vaguely credible story about how it would ride to the rescue. The Conservatives, said Labour, would eventually pursue a disastrous no-deal Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn would put down a motion of no confidence in the government. The government would lose and a general election would follow. Corbyn would arrive in Downing Street, and ask the EU for an extension of the Article 50 period. The cliff edge would recede.
It may now be too late for that plan. Even if Corbyn tabled a motion of no confidence in the government as soon as parliament returned in early September, he could not now be confident that he would get access to the headed notepaper in Downing Street quickly enough to scribble out a letter to the European Council, asking for more time. In any case, it would be up to Boris Johnson to pick the date of the general election. Though the Labour Party has argued—with justification—that it would be unconstitutional for Johnson to set an election date after no-deal Brexit had already happened on 31stOctober, there may not be much that Labour could do about it.
That is why we are, instead, now talking about a so-called “government of national unity” (GNU). Under this plan, Corbyn would defeat the government in a confidence vote and then govern for a time without an election, propped up by the votes of some anti-no deal MPs from parties other than his own. The sole purpose of his government would be to seek an extension of the Article 50 period. After that, Labour would go to the people and seek a mandate to continue.
The idea must be politically irresistible to Corbyn and his allies, for a simple reason: it is easier to win an election from Downing Street than from the Opposition benches. There is also a relatively clear procedural route to this outcome, as the government is obliged to make time for a motion of no confidence.
There is also a problem, though. Corbyn does not have the votes. The GNU idea has had a lukewarm response from the Liberal Democrats, whose support Corbyn would need. It would be anathema, too, to even some of the most committed Europhiles on the Conservative backbenches.
Maybe someone else could cobble…