Peter Bone: Why the next Speaker must be biased – not impartial

Peter Bone is MP for Wellingborough.

We need a biased Speaker in the Commons.  I can almost hear the howls of protest now – for that sounds like an indefensible proposition. For everyone says that the Speaker must be neutral and not favour one side or the other in Parliament – and that is of course correct.

Unfortunately, however, the current Speaker has not to turned out to be an impartial umpire, but has instead been a player for one of the teams. His decisions over recent months have not just bent the rules in favour of the Remainers, but broken the rules. He has created a situation in which Parliament cannot function properly.

His recent decision to allow a Standing Order 24 motion (emergency debate) to be a substantive rather than a general debate clearly breaks our Standing Orders. These are our Bible as to how our procedures are governed in Parliament. If we can’t rely on our Standing Orders, then Parliament cannot function properly.

The breaking of those Standing Orders led to a major constitutional Bill being rushed through the Commons in about five hours. This is outrageous – and just plain wrong. If the Speaker had not announced his retirement, I have no doubt that he would have faced a motion of censure.

One of the clearest indications of the Speaker’s bias was when he announced his retirement and the opposition side of the Commons stood, cheered and clapped him, while the government benches largely sat stony faced. Any Speaker that receives that sort of response on his retirement must know that he has failed Parliament.

For the first half of the Speaker’s tenure, he implemented wide spread and welcome reforms supporting backbenchers and Parliament against the Executive, but his desire to oppose Brexit and break Parliamentary rules has, in my opinion, greatly sullied his legacy.

Having said all of the above, all Speakers have to be biased in a certain sense. Their judgement on important issues of procedure must be based on a bias towards Parliament and away from the Executive.

It is fundamental to our constitution that the person who umpires the Commons is not batting for one side or the other, therefore, where there is a convention or Standing Orders are clear, the Speaker must make the decision in accordance with them.

However, we do not have a written constitution and many of the decisions the Speaker makes are based on their own judgement. For instance, whether to allow a motion to be put on the Order Paper or not. Let me give you a specific example – Standing Orders say that in any one session of Parliament the question on the same proposition cannot be put more than once. Equally, there is a convention and practice which is widely used that a proposition can be moved “notwithstanding the provision of standing orders”.

Therefore, Standing Orders say that something can’t happen, but there is a regularly used convention to overcome that. In such circumstances, the Speaker can rule that a subject can be voted on again or equally that the motion cannot be put. Now I would hope that a Speaker, where there isn’t clear guidance from convention or standing orders, would rule in favour of Parliament rather than the Executive.

In this regard, the Speaker is rather like an umpire in a cricket match when an appeal is made. Sometimes a batsman is clearly out, and sometimes he is clearly in, on other occasions it is not clear and the umpire must make a judgement call. In the case of cricket, the benefit of doubt will always be given to the batsman. Normally, in those types of cases where a judgement is required in the Commons, the Speaker should always give the benefit of doubt to Parliament and not to the Executive. There is however a gigantic, big but to that general rule – and that is Brexit.

Our sovereign Parliament delegated to the British people the decision of whether we should be in or out of the European Union. Unbelievably, 1,179 days have passed since that referendum and Parliament has not delivered what the people instructed it to do.

So, I would argue, in the case of Brexit, that wherever the question of Brexit arises in the Commons, and the Speaker is required to make a judgement call relating to it, that they should always give the benefit of the doubt toward Brexit and the British people. In these circumstances, the Speaker should be totally biased in favour of Brexit, since that was the decision of the British people, and it should overrule the priority to put Parliament before the Executive.  A biased Brexit speaker is essential.

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Boris Johnson heckled on stage and criticised in the street during trip to South Yorkshire

Boris Johnson has been heckled by members of the public yet again while trying to set out plans for his premiership, facing vocal criticism from people both while making a speech and in the street during a trip to South Yorkshire.

The Prime Minister visited Rotherham on Friday where he intended to discuss better devolution of powers to the region, and hoped to gain support for the Tory Party in the traditionally Labour-voting area that backed Leave in the 2016 referendum.

But instead of receiving praise during the speech about handing power to the northern leaders in Rotherham, Mr Johnson was heckled over his decision to suspend Parliament this week.

‘Get back to Parliament’

In the speech, which was broadcast live on Sky News, the Prime Minister said: “I know the transformative potential of local accountable leadership, someone with the power to sort out what matters most to local people.”

Interrupting the Prime Minister, a man shouted: “Like our MPs, Boris?”

“Yes, indeed,” Mr Johnson replied.

The heckler continued: “Maybe get back to Parliament. Yeah? Why are you not with them in Parliament sorting out the mess that you have created? Why don’t you sort it out, Boris?”

Mr Johnson said: “I’m very happy to get back to Parliament very soon, but what we want to see in this region is towns and communities able to represent that gentlemen and sort out his needs.”

‘Ample time’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech at the Convention of the North at the Magna Centre on September 13, 2019 in Rotherham, England. (Photo: Christopher Furlong – WPA Pool /Getty Images)

After being heckled, Mr Johnson insisted there would be “ample time” for MPs to debate any Brexit deal.

“Whatever the shenanigans that may be going on at Westminster, we will get on with delivering our agenda and preparing to take this country out of the EU on 31 October,” he said.

“There will be ample time for Parliament to consider the deal that I very much hope to do at the EU summit on October 17-18.

“There will be ample time, as the gentlemen I think… who left prematurely, not necessarily under his own steam, that is the answer to his question.

‘People died because of austerity’

Also in Doncaster Mr Johnson faced heavy criticism from a local, where one woman took him to task for the previous Conservative Government’s austerity programme, which was captured by Channel 4 News.

Photos of the scene captured many locals taking selfies with the Prime Minister as he visited the city’s market.

But one woman asked him: “Where’s the money coming from now? Why have we all of a sudden got loads of money? All your going to do is you’re going to put the same amount of police on the street is what you’ve took off.”

Mr Johnson answered: “Well, we’re putting 20,000 more police. That’s absolutely true. So we’re also putting a lot more into hospitals. We’ve got 20 hospital upgrades and that’s on top of the 34 billion we’re putting in. So I appreciate the things have been tight but that’s because of the mess of the finances…”

The woman cut in saying: “People died because of austerity, and then you’ve got the cheek to come here and tell us austerity is over and it’s all good now. We’re going to leave the EU and everything’s going to be great. It’s just a fairy tale.”

As some in the crowd shouted in support of Brexit the woman said that she would prefer “a Labour Brexit to a Tory Brexit”.

‘You’ve drained Doncaster’

Boris Johnson was criticised for austerity by a woman in Doncaster. (Photo: Channel 4 News)

As Mr Johnson responded that Labour wanted to “go against” Brexit, the woman told him: “I’m not really interested in Labour.  I’m more interested in the fact that you’ve drained Doncaster. Doncaster has had no funds on central government, every year there’s less money for Doncaster.”

The Prime Minister said: “We’ve got a huge new towns fund which is going to be giving £3.6bn pounds. Doncaster is one of the towns that is going to be eligible.

“And we’re putting money into the NHS, we’re putting money into schools. And I think there are very good times ahead. And then frankly, if you want to, you want to leave if you want to get out of the EU.

“The only way is to stick with us because at the moment everybody else seems to be wanting to reverse the result of the referendum and I think that would be a total betrayal of democracy.”

‘Leave my town’

Last week Mr Johnson had a similar experience in West Yorkshire with one moment a man told him politely to “leave my town” going viral after being captured by the BBC.

The Government is hoping to gain votes in Northern Brexit supporting constituencies with a combination of a hardline approach to Brexit and increased spending in the areas that have been hit hard by ten years of austerity.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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The plan to force a second referendum, and the prospect of party realignment

Oliver Letwin’s intervention in favour of a second referendum may turn out to be of real political significance.  To understand why, let’s start by returning to Boris Johnson’s options, assuming that he isn’t able to agree a deal with the EU before October 31.

They are, first, to extend, which would mean breaking his word.  Second, not to apply for an extension, which would mean breaking the law.  Third, to resign.  It may be that there is a fourth option unclear at present – for example, a legal appeal against some defect in the Benn Bill.  But at any rate, such appear to be the Prime Minister’s choices, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision next week on progogation, and other action in the courts.

ConservativeHome concluded earlier this week that, faced with these choices, Johnson might do best to resign.  We added that this anti-No Deal Commons might then tolerate Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister for as long as it took him to apply for the extension.  After which he would be no confidenced, and a general election would take place.

We added that there was a danger such a scheme might work too well.  In other words, that Corbyn might be kept in place by MPs as Prime Minister for months, not weeks.  Or that it might not work at all, because he would be unacceptable to the Commons, which would insist on putting someone else into Number Ten.

The Letwin intervention has further complicated these already mind-bending possibilites.  It should be viewed alongside Tom Watson’s almost identical proposal as a kind of pincer movement on Johnson, intended or unintended.  Both now support a referendum before an election.  Which suggests the following.

To date, the so-called rebel alliance has been unable to resolve a simple question about extension, namely: “what is it for?”  The referendum plan answers it by breathing new life into a familiar proposal.  “It is for allowing the Commons the chance to put Brexit back to the people,” comes the response.

Now there is still a majority, as far as can be seen, in the Commons against another public vote.  Motions supporting a second referendum have twice failed, though not by all that much: one fell short by 13 votes second time round, back in April; another by 27, the week before.

So there would almost certainly be a further struggle in Parliament over a second plebiscite.  But one can see how, were Johnson still Prime Minister in the event of extension, his premiership would slowly be bled to death while MPs debated a second referendum and other plans – with his Government still unable to obtain a majority for an election.

And were not still Prime Minister? At this point, further complexities kick in.

As we say, the Commons would be unlikely to settle on a second referendum quickly, if at all.  Were it to do so, a Bill to enact it would take time.  David Cameron’s original EU referendum bill took over six months to pass through Parliament, gaining first reading in May 2015 and royal assent in December of that year.

While it is possible to imagine MPs putting Corbyn into Number Ten briefly to agree an extension, before pitching him out again to ensure an election, it is very hard to picture them doing so for several months.  For even if a second referendum bill passed through Parliament faster than the first did, its passage would surely take many weeks.

It is here that the Letwin/Watson plan begins to run into problems.  One can see why most Labour MPs, perhaps the SNP and some of the minor parties would support a Corbyn-led, John McDonnell-driven government that would hold office for several months.

But Jo Swinson presumably would not, since propping up the Labour leader would run the risk of legitimising him among her party’s target voters.  Nor, it appears, would Letwin, and most of the 21 Tory dissidents who so recently lost the whip.

Instead, the rebel alliance would cast around for an alternative Prime Minister.  Let us call this person Ken Clarke.  Or Hillary Benn.  Or Letwin himself.  Or even Watson.  One can see that how such a premiership would suit all of these, and those who think like them.

For a Clarke premiership lasting several months, with all the above in place in Cabinet, would raise the prospect of realignment.  If they could all work together so smoothly, after all, wouldn’t the old party allegiances look a bit out of date?  Why should not this “moderate centre” coalesce permanently, and isolate “the extremes?”

Nick Boles would come on board.  So would Anna Soubry.  Philip Hammond would already be in place.  The Speaker would provide procedural aid.  This new force of “progressives”, cheered on inter alia by George Osborne’s Evening Standard, would begin to work as an alliance with the Liberal Democrats, who would already be well represented in this new coalition.  But you will already have spotted the red fly in this pinkish ointment.

For if we can work all this out, so can Jeremy Corbyn.  He would fight with as much of the Labour Party as he can command to stifle such a centrist infant at birth.  And would work in strange alliance with someone who has a mutual interest in doing so too: Boris Johnson, or whoever was Conservative leader at this point in time.  Seumas Milne, meet your new best friend: Dominic Cummings.

We apologise for burdening our readers with yet more speculation, all of which could be rendered out of date tomorrow by some new twist in the tale.  But the current floating of electoral reform – as by Amber Rudd in her recent speech which we carry today – isn’t coming from nowhere.

Behind the scenes, conversations are being had; possibilities are being broached; understandings half-reached.  Perhaps Johnson will get his deal after all.  Or the EU suddenly veto extension, and put us all out of our uncertainty.  In the meantime, though, watch Letwin, the man with a claim to the title of: our Real Prime Minister.

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Scottish court rules prorogation unlawful. Government says that Parliament won’t be recalled.

News has just broken that a Scottish court has decided unanimously that Boris Johnson’s advice to Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful.

It’s a shock ruling, which has delighted everybody you would expect it to delight and likewise outraged everyone it might be expected to outrage. It also flatly contradicts a ruling by an English court last week, which rejected a similar argument.

The Supreme Court will hear the case on Tuesday. It was already set to, as a result of the English judgment, but the Scottish ruling has now cast some doubt onto what until now seemed very likely to be a ruling in favour of the Government.

At the time of writing there is some debate as to whether or not this result immediately undoes the prorogation itself, although Dr Catherine Haddon of the Institute for Government says that it does not.

Yet the ruling does have some immediate political effects, the first of which is to put the Prime Minister on the back foot just as he’d hoped to find some breathing space to roll out his domestic agenda. He now faces a PR battle against suggestions that he deliberately misled the Queen in order to dissolve Parliament. Even experts such as Dr Haddon are framing the issue – I think somewhat unfairly – in ‘trust’ terms.

But it is also another step towards a looming constitutional showdown between the political and judicial elements of our constitution. One observer has noted that in making this ruling the Scottish judges have strayed some way beyond their normal constitutional bounds, and another suggests that the ruling effectively makes “vast swathes” of the works of authority which form the basis of UK law have been rendered “dubious” at a stroke.

Doubtless their defenders will claim that they are defending some worthy higher principle. But a constitution is about maintaining a common set of rules by which the game is played. Once a sense sets in that the rules are being unevenly applied, common consent for both rules and umpires erodes. That way lies the path to a real constitutional crisis.

The Government is appealing, and the Supreme Court may yet row in behind the English courts and avert any immediate crisis. But even if so, this is a battlefield we shall undoubtedly return to – whatever happens with Brexit.

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Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament early was ‘unlawful’, Scottish court rules

A court in Scotland has ruled that the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament early was unlawful.

MPs opposing Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament had their case dismissed by a judge last week after it was deemed to be a matter for the Commons, not the courts.

But, on Wednesday, they won an appeal at the Court of Session where three judges disagreed and ruled the controversial prorogation was, in fact, in breach of the law.

The case is now expected to go to the Supreme Court where the UK Government will challenge the ruling.

MPs leading the appeal said outside the court that this should be celebrated as a victory for those wanting to show Mr Johnson that he could not just do whatever he wanted.

Prorogation was unlawful

But it is unclear what the impact of the ruling will be on MPs, who have already left Parliament following prorogation in the early hours of Tuesday.

The rule paper said “all three judges have decided that the PM’s advice to the HM the Queen is justiciable, that it was motivated by the improper purpose of stymying Parliament and that it, and what has followed from it, is unlawful”.

It added: “The court will accordingly make an Order declaring that the Prime Minister’s advice to HM The Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful and this null and of no effect.”

Jolyon Maugham QC, on of the petitioners leading the appeal, said the case would go to the Supreme Court on Tuesday next week.

He tweeted: “We believe that the effect of the decision is that Parliament is no longer prorogued.

“I have never been able to contemplate the possibility that the law could be that our sovereign Parliament might be treated as an inconvenience by the Prime Minister.

“I am pleased that Scotland’s highest court agrees. But ultimately, as has always been the case, it’s the final arbiter’s decision that matters.”

This story is being updated.

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The shocking truth about Commons disorder. MPs during Brexit “have been almost shamefully well behaved”

Whenever the Speaker, John Bercow, rebukes rowdy MPs for setting a bad example, it is hard to avoid the thought that the representatives of a free people ought sometimes, when they think the Government is doing something intolerable, to behave very badly.

Bercow himself used to behave atrociously in the days when he was one of the handful of backbenchers who kept the Chamber alive. He has throughout his life displayed a “gift for giving unnecessary offence”, as the ConHome profile of him put it, and has himself said that during his first five years as an MP – he entered the House in 1997 – “my behaviour was spectacularly bad – I mean not just sort of bad but bad on an industrial scale.”

If MPs did not behave badly, they would fail in their duty to reflect public opinion, and our democracy would die of boredom. As Lord Lexden, official historian to the Conservative Party and to the Carlton Club, told ConHome yesterday:

“It would almost be a breach of the constitution if the Commons failed to exhibit its historic practices of disorder at a time of great national crisis.  MPs have been almost shamefully well behaved during the Brexit debates. Churchill in his Liberal days wore with pride the scar inflicted on his forehead by the bound copy of Commons Standing Orders hurled at him by an enraged Tory in 1912. Where are the free fights and  suspended sittings of yore? The verbal pugnacity of Speaker Bercow is a poor substitute for the ancient traditions of the House.”

The disturbances by Opposition MPs early yesterday morning during the prorogation ceremonies, condemned as “mob rule” by some Conservatives (for example James Cleverly, the Party Chairman, on Twitter), were of a relatively minor order.

In the present Commons, we see a battle between those who received their political education at the Oxford Union, and those who got it from the National Union of Students. On both sides, a degree of bogusness is apparent, underlain by deep feeling.

Chips Channon, Conservative MP for Southend since 1935, relates in his diary for 4 April 1938 the reaction of Manny Shinwell, a fiery Labour MP and son of a Polish Jew, who reckoned, almost certainly correctly, that another Conservative MP, Robert Bower, had directed an anti-semitic remark at him:

“An incident in the House of Commons. Mr Shinwell made himself highly objectionable, and unfortunately, Commander Bower, the member for the Cleveland Division of Yorks, shouted ‘Go back to Poland’ – a foolish and provocative jibe, though no ruder than many that the Opposition indulge in every day. Shinwell, shaking with fury, got up, crossed the House and smacked him very hard across the face! The crack resounded in the Chamber – there was consternation, but the Speaker, acting from either cowardice or tact, seemed to ignore the incident and when pressed, refused to rebuke Shinwell, who made an apology, as did Bower, who had taken the blow with apparent unconcern. He is a big fellow and could have retaliated effectively. The incident passed; but everyone was shocked. Bower is a pompous ass, self-opinionated, and narrow, who walks like a pregnant turkey. I have always disliked him, and feel justified in so doing since he once remarked in my hearing ‘Everyone who even spoke to the Duke of Windsor should be banished – kicked out of the country’. But the incident does not raise Parliamentary prestige, especially now, when it is at a discount throughout the world.”

Luciana Berger MP, great-niece of Shinwell and this month a recruit to the Liberal Democrats, referred last year to this incident in a speech in the House about the monstrous anti-semitic abuse to which she has been subjected.

The Speaker, Edward Fitzroy, reckoned Shinwell and Bower were as bad as each other, and once they had apologised, decided to take no further action.

In the age of photography, this prudent decision would be harder to make. But the Speaker quite often has to deal with such problems, and not just in the period before the First World War when the country trembled on the brink of civil war.

Wikipedia provides a rather dull list of “incidents of major disorder in the British House of Commons” – dull because a bare summary does not convey the drama of these occasions.

But the list does have the merit of reminding one that the House had to be suspended in 1976, when Michael Heseltine brandished the mace, and in 1988, when Nigel Lawson cut the top rate of tax from 60 to 40 per cent, as well as on many other occasions.

There is an admirable tradition in British public life of respectability. For most of the time, our public figures know how to behave, and for most of the time we like it that way. This code of manners is one reason why parliamentary government has endured.

But good manners are not enough. They cannot convey the strength of feeling when great issues are at stake.

Great parliamentarians have to be capable, for good or ill, of expressing and channelling popular passion. It is better, generally speaking, for such emotions to be vented on stormy days and nights in the Commons, than for the Chamber to preserve a dry remoteness from the issues of the day.

Brexit is a profoundly emotional question which is taking years to work out. The protesters come to Parliament to make their noise and wave their banners, and this is a very good thing.

We are having the necessary argument in the right place, the Commons Chamber, a process which Bercow, for all his faults, has facilitated.

The storm of protest raised by prorogation was a healthy sign. Only in the Commons can the great decisions which are impending be scrutinised and then endorsed or rejected.

The EU referendum, though instituted by Parliament, was also a direct challenge to representative democracy.

But it is our sometimes ill-behaved Parliament – whether the present House of Commons or a newly elected one – which now has to interpret and deal with the consequences of the referendum.

And in this sense, the acknowledged primacy of Parliament, one might say that Brexit has already happened.

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Why did MPs try to sit on Speaker John Bercow? The centuries-old tradition explained as Parliament is prorogued

The House of Commons exhibited rare scenes of chaos on Monday night as rowdy MPs who were angry with the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament early began protesting as it came to a close.

During the official Prorogation ceremony, opposition MPs attempted to disrupt the process in the House by sending chants of “shame on you” across the chamber.

They shouted as Lady Usher of the Black Rod Sarah Clarke – who controls access in the House of Lords and takes part in official ceremonies around the opening and closing of Parliament – tried to speak.

As she attempted to fulfil her constitutional duty, by announcing to the Speaker that the Parliamentary session was coming to an end, MPs on the opposition benches drowned her out with jeers and shouts.

Lady Usher of the Black Rod Sarah Clarke (C) entering the House of Commons during the ceremony to prorogue (suspend) parliament. – (Photo: Getty)

MPs protest

A group of opposition MPs waved signs reading “silenced” and some were involved in a small scuffle next to the Speaker’s Chair.

They attempted to stop John Bercow from leaving his seat and walking through the chamber into the House Of Lords, which is part of the prorogation ceremony.

Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle tried to throw himself across the chair in order to stop him leaving in a dramatic moment of protest, before he was pushed away by a member of Commons staff.

Mr Russell-Moyle went so far as to briefly lie across Mr Bercow’s lap before he was jostled out the way.

Green party leader Caroline Lucas was also seen getting involved in the kerfuffel as she jostled with other MPs heckling and shouting by the chair.

Another Labour MP, Clive Lewis, who was also involved in the protest, later tweeted that they “symbolically opposed the prorogation of Parliament” through their actions.

Angry scenes in the house of Commons (Twitter)

He said the move was supposed to be based on an event in 1629 when MPs pinned the Speaker to his seat in an attempt to prevent the prorogation of Parliament.

…1629?

Prorogation was first introduced in the 15th Century, which allowed a monarch to summon or dismiss Parliament as they wished. Unlike today it was not a decision taken by Parliament but by the Queen or King at the time.

One of the most famous cases of prorogation in British history was when Charles I prorogued Parliament in 1629 because it was hostile to him imposing certain taxes without the authority of Parliament.

King Charles I of England (Photo: Getty Images)

Under customs of the time, Parliament traditionally allowed the monarch to collect what was known as the “tonnage and poundage” levy for life – but in a bid to quell Charles’s autonomy, it only granted him the privilege for one year.

He collected the tax regardless, leading to resentment and opposition from MPs. He responded by ordering that Parliament should be adjourned.

Civil war

When he ordered the parliamentary adjournment, members held the Speaker, Sir John Finch, down in his chair so that the official ceremony of the ending the session would have to be delayed long enough for resolutions against Catholicism, Arminianism and tonnage and poundage could be read out and acclaimed by the chamber.

Circa 1649, A depiction of the ‘trial’ at Westminster Hall, London, King Charles (Photo:Getty Images)

Charles dissolved Parliament, imprisoned nine MPs and did not reconvene the Commons for 11 years.

During the years of “personal rule” he sidestepped laws that stated only Parliament had the authority to raise taxes and fuelled anger that eventually let to the civil war and his execution for treason.

Fortunately the events of the early hours of Tuesday morning were not quite so dramatic.

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The next Speaker. Will MPs be guided by party or by prejudice?

The election of the Commons Speaker in 2009 saw party loyalty win out.  In simple terms, most of John Bercow’s 221 votes in the penultimate round came from Labour, who had won 355 seats in the 2005 general election.  Margaret Beckett, the other Labour MP in that round, won 70 votes.

George Young, who came second in the round, won 174 votes: the Conservatives had won 198 seats in 2005.  The figures for the final round also help to spotlight the position.  They were: Bercow 322, Young 271.  (In retrospect, the latter did very well in gaining what was evidently at least 50 or so non-Tory votes.)

So an important question about the election of Bercow’s successor is: will it also break down on Party lines?  After all, Labour MPs have propped him up in office, while most Tory MPs voted, in effect, to oust him in 2015.

As in 2009, that doesn’t necessarily suggest Tories voting for another Tory – the leading contenders from the blue corner perhaps being Eleanor Laing, a Deputy Speaker now, and Charles Walker.  Some Conservatives might plump for another of the deputy speakers, Lindsay Hoyle.

Labour MPs, though, are more likely to plump for another “one of their own” – be that Rosie Winterton, the party’s former Chief Whip, or Harriet Harman, “the mother of the House”.

All in all, party is less likely to win out than prejudice, to use the word in its broadest sense.  If MPs want a Continuity Bercow, they won’t vote for Hoyle, who would be more of an old-fashioned figure in the George Thomas mould.  If they do, Harman seems to be the most likely beneficiary.

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WATCH: In the Lords 2) Parliament is prorogued – but two Opposition Lords Commissioners boycott part of the ceremomy

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MPs praising the Speaker’s record ought to read the Cox Report on the bullying of Commons staff

As the Commons – or at least some parts of the Commons – dissolve into an unrestrained John Bercow love-in, allow me to remind even those who might agree with him politically of an inconvenient truth:

My original analysis of the Cox report – including the severity of the problems it exposed and the failure of Commons authorities to get to grips with them – from 2018 can be found on Twitter here. Politicians lauding the Speaker today should perhaps give more thought to how their words come across to the staff they will walk past in the corridor once they have finished speaking.

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Can Boris Johnson be impeached? How impeachment works in the UK – and is Plaid Cymru’s plan to remove the PM viable?

Boris Johnson is facing threats of impeachment from opposition MPs if he attempts to ignore new laws designed to force him to delay Brexit in order to avoid a no deal.

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts, said opposition leaders should be ready to impeach the Prime Minister if he tries to ignore laws requiring him to seek another Brexit extension.

The new legislation, dubbed the Benn Bill after Labour MP Hilary Benn, is expected to gain royal assent today meaning the Prime Minister will have to write to the EU to request a three month delay if he cannot reach a deal.

But there are concerns that Mr Johnson, who said he is still determined to leave by the 31 October deadline, could attempt to find a way around the new laws.

Threats of impeachment

Ms Saville Roberts pointed out Mr Johnson backed an attempt in 2004 to impeach the then prime minister Tony Blair over the Iraq war and that he should face the same threat.

“Boris Johnson has already driven a bulldozer through the constitution, so no longer are ideas like impeachment far-fetched,” she said. “I will tell other opposition party leaders, we need to be ready to impeach Boris Johnson if he breaks the law,” she said.

“We cannot play the Prime Minister at his own cynical game. We need to be ready to fight fire with water, outsmart the smartest, think the unthinkable.

“No one is above the law, Boris Johnson shouldn’t risk finding that out the hard way.”

What does impeachment mean?

Impeachment is a method by which someone can be tried by Parliament for something like high treason or other misdemeanours that could be beyond the reach of the law or normal prosecution.

It is designed to be used, in particular, against government ministers but, according to Parliament’s website, the method is now “considered to be obsolete” and has not been adapted to be used in modern politics.

The exterior of the Houses of Parliament on January 21, 2019 (Getty Images)
Impeachment is not considered to be a modern political tool (Getty Images)

It is a procedure that is “directed in particular against Ministers of the Crown” – but the last recorded impeachment was in 1806.

Just one MP would have to make the accusation of “high crimes and misdemeanours” against a public official for the impeachment process to begin.

The Commons would then vote on an impeachment motion, which, if passed, could lead to prosecution and a trial which, historically, has taken place in Westminster Hall.

Could Mr Johnson be impeached?

Some ministers up until the 19th Century have underwent the trial, but no UK prime minister has ever successfully been impeached – despite attempts 15 years ago to bring a motion against Mr Blair.

Mr Johnson, when he was MP for Henley, was a supporter of impeaching Mr Blair during his time as prime minister over his decision to invade Iraq.

He wrote a comment for The Telegraph in which he accused Mr Blair of deliberately misleading Parliament and, as a result, called for MPs to support impeachment.

Former PM Tony Blair, pictured in 2004, faced unsuccessful attempts of impeachment over the Iraq ear (Photo: Getty)

Mr Johnson wrote at the time: “It is not so much that he lied (though many of his statements were at odds with reality): it is rather that he used all his lawyerly arts, and all the trust that is naturally reposed in his office, to communicate to the public a vast untruth.”

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Prorogation, general election vote and Royal Assent for the Brexit bill: Here’s what’s happening in Parliament today

He added: “The charge against Blair is that he wilfully misrepresented the facts to the Commons and to the country when we voted to go to war.[…] He treated Parliament and the public with contempt, and that is why he deserves to be impeached: that is, to be formally held to account…”

In November 2004 a motion was tabled in the Commons calling for Mr Blair to be impeached but it was never voted on because it was not supported by the three main parties.

It would have allowed MPs to debate whether they thought Mr Blair had lied to the house which is normally not allowed during Commons debates due to restrictions on Parliamentary language.

Although Mr Johnson could face legal action if he broke the law, this would most likely be carried out in the courts rather than using the rather archaic method of impeachment.

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Why the best course open to Johnson may be for him to resign as Prime Minister

It wasn’t the failure to deliver Brexit that did for Theresa May.  It was something even bigger: breaking her word.  She pledged over a hundred times that Britain would leave the EU on March 29, and it didn’t.  She then said that she was not prepared to delay Brexit later than the end of June, but did.  She declared that it would be “unacceptable” for European elections to take place, but they happened.  She denounced Jeremy Corbyn as a threat to the country, but then sough to deliver the Withdrawal Agreement by making a deal with him.

The most elemental trope about politicians, as Lord Ashcroft’s latest focus groups confirm, is that they are all liars.  So it came about that May dragged the Conservatives down to nine per cent and four MEPs in those Euro-elections.  Tory poll ratings slumped to 20 per cent.

It is Boris Johnson’s promises to take Britain out of the EU by October 31, “do or die”, that has dragged the Conservatives up the polls by their bootstraps.  If he backtracks on it, there can be no doubt that, once again, the Tory ratings will slide into the abyss, and drag him down with them.

By the time the Party crawls out, it would not only find a Marxist Labour Party in its place as the government but, in all likelihood, that the Brexit Party has supplanted it as the county’s main right-of-centre electoral force.  And the Conservative Party’s century-and-a-half run as the most enduring governing party in the world would end.

So it comes about this morning that the Prime Minister writhes amidst the grandmother of all pincer movements.  One the one hand, he cannot implement an extension.  On the other, he cannot (or rather, must not) break the law.  He must choose between the unspeakable and the unthinkable.

Now it may be that he can somehow slip out of the pinch.  Some ingenious means of doing so are being floated.  One is use of the Civil Contingencies Act.  The latest is that Johnson send a letter with the letter of extension contradicting the letter of extension.  Some are reduced to hoping that an EU state simply deploys a veto.

One suggestion put to this site by a reader, apparently in all seriousness, is that he send the first by carrier pigeon, so that it arrives after the deadline.  It may be that the Prime Minister and Dominic Cummings have a plan instead that will really fly.  But when matters reach this pass, you know that the game is up.

A Cabinet Minister this morning is reported quoting Sherlock Holmes: “how often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”  Quite so, though not perhaps in the context that the Minister intended.

If Johnson cannot deliver Brexit by October 31, and is barred from doing so by law, there is only one practicable course left open to him: to resign as Prime Minister.  “I won’t break the law,” he must tell the British people.  “But I won’t break my word either.  If Corbyn wants to sign this surrender document, so be it: I won’t.”

Johnson’s hope would be that the Labour leader requests and obtains an extension; that the Commons keeps him in place only for as long as it takes Corbyn to do so; and that it then brings him down in a no confidence vote, paving the way for an election in which Johnson marginalises the Brexit Party and sweeps the board.

There are problems with this course.  The first is that the plan might not work at all.  The anti-No Deal majority in the Commons might of course not let Corbyn become Prime Minister – even briefly, to request and obtain an extension.  It might settle on someone else instead (Ken Clarke?), with unforeseeable consequences.

The second is that it might work too well.  Corbyn indeed becomes Prime Minister, requests an extension and get it.  But the anti-No Deal majority in the Commons, fearing a Johnson victory at the polls, does not then no confidence Corbyn.  Instead, it props him up and keeps him in place, at least for the time being.

And as the weeks drag on, Johnson himself is subjected to a leadership challenge – in which the voluntary party, which backs him, would have no say.  It might well not be successful.  But even so, the consequences for the Party are necessarily unknowable.

It will also be asked: what’s the point of seeking to avoid a Corbyn Government by trying to put in a Corbyn Government?  The question is a good one.  But as so often in politics, we must find the least bad answer rather than search for the perfect one, which doesn’t exist in any case.

The choice may come down to the possibility of Johnson resigning as Prime Minister, Corbyn succeeding him briefly to agree an extension, and Johnson then sweeping a general election…or the certainty of Johnson, were he to agree an extension, consigning himself to the disposal dump of history, and perhaps the Conservative Party too.  Some will say that instead of disdaining the Brexit Party as a competitor, the Tories should embrace it as a colleague instead, and merge the two into an electoral alliance.

We will probe the matter later this week.  But one thing’s for sure: such a pact would have no bearing on the choice that now Johnson seems to face: request an extension, and you destroy yourself (and perhaps your Party too).  Don’t request it, and you break the law (and it doubtless happens anyway).   If there is an escape from this trap other than resignation, we would love to know what it is.

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Jonathan Clark: Brexit. Is democracy at risk?

Jonathan Clark was a Fellow of Peterhouse; at Oxford, he was a Fellow of All Souls College; latterly he has been Visiting Professor at the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago, and Hall Distinguished Professor of British History at the University of Kansas. His latest book is a study of Thomas Paine.

Observers agree that this is the most impassioned episode in British politics for over a century. But it has been so under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson alike. The last alone is not to blame. Why, then, is it so bitter? We ought to be able to debate whether GDP will be slightly higher or slightly lower in 15 years if we leave or if we remain in the EU without expulsions, mutual denunciations, threats, and lawfare. Other things are at stake, far beyond economists’ guesswork. At least two are at issue, for the Brexit crisis is at its heart a proxy war.

The first is democracy itself, for two conceptions of it are widely held in the UK, representative and direct. In 2019 they collide. What are they?

Representative democracy assumes that Parliament once seized sovereignty from the King, and the Commons then seized it from the Lords; or, alternatively, that if the People once had sovereignty, they surrendered it completely and for all time to members of the Commons, who, collectively, now have absolute authority. Being wise and restrained patricians, MPs rule in the national interest. This theory looks more unpersuasive the more one explores it.

Direct democracy assumes that sovereignty resides with autonomous individuals thanks to God’s gift or to Nature – thoughtful individuals who know all they need to know in order to govern, and who exercise their authority just as they please via universal suffrage. Again, this theory is not wholly plausible. Which of the two predominates is likely to depend on practice more than on theoretical argument.

Practice depends on logistics, and these continually develop. Representative democracy seemed obvious in days when communication was slow and expensive. Members of the Commons might visit their constituencies seldom. The franchise was restricted, newspapers reported little, the actions of most MPs at Westminster were seldom in the public eye. Members were unpaid, so normally had to be rich: they were seldom inclined to defer to the poor. But all that was long ago.

From the mid-1990s, and increasingly every year, the internet has transformed everything. For the first time, it is possible to conduct opinion polls in a shorter time than it takes MPs to file through the division lobbies. For the first time, I can watch my MP speak live in the Commons, or in a recording. I can monitor her every vote. I can email her almost instantaneously (I have even exchanged brief emails with one distinguished MP while he was in a debate). Thankfully, my MP is admirable, in her labours both in Parliament and in her constituency. But for voters who differ from their MPs, the potential for active involvement is far greater than ever before.

Kenneth Clarke speaks for the old school of Parliamentarians in insisting that the referendum of 2016 was merely advisory. But he is out of date. The European Union Referendum Act 2015, which made the arrangements, nowhere said that. Nor did the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. No legislation has ever provided that votes cast in general elections are merely advisory either. On the contrary, the electorate decides things.

We can only deduce the advisory status of referendums by implication, from the premise ‘Parliament is sovereign’. But no Act of Parliament can establish parliamentary sovereignty, any more than Kenneth Clarke can rise into the air by pulling on his shoelaces. Since the People elect members of the Commons directly, by binding votes, and of the Lords indirectly (via elected members of the Commons), it might plausibly be argued that the People are sovereign.

Yet representative democracy is widely championed, and here lies the second great point at issue: a culture war, over what might be called the recent hegemony of social democratic values. It was not so in 1962 when Anthony Sampson published his famous Anatomy of Britain; it shaped the subsequent understandings of ‘The Establishment’ as a closed social circle of the public school and Oxbridge educated who staffed the boardrooms, Parliament, the judiciary and the church.

But a wind of change has swept over Britain as well as over Sampson’s beloved South Africa. The public schools and Oxbridge are still there, but captured for other purposes. Rank derived from birth and class now derives from style and political correctness. The old boy networks are replaced by the luvvie networks. Sampson himself (Westminster and Christ Church) became a Social Democrat during the 1980s.

Set aside the party label; its opponents perceive a state of mind shared by larger numbers of people. They are the commentariat. They allegedly run the media, the universities, the civil service, the judiciary. They are not, indeed, socialist: that would be too uncool an ideology for the twenty-first century. But they are not democrats either, and instinctively reject the outcome of the largest democratic exercise in British history, the referendum of 2016. To them this is ‘populism’, the opposite of themselves.

In this sense, say their opponents with ever clearer definition, social democrats are ‘anywheres’ rather than ‘somewheres’: they have no particular loyalty to a country, let alone Bolsover or Sunderland. They encourage mass migration and multiculturalism. They have places in the sun. They countenance divorce, sex change, and gay marriage. They are secularists who favour religions that are loud against religious establishments. The EU suits them perfectly. Its Roman Law tradition fits their world view, since it works down from grand statements of principle; England’s common law tradition worked up, from specific concrete entitlements. In their eyes, social democrats champion correct, modern, enlightened values. These entail membership of the EU.

Against this perceived social democratic hegemony have developed two great protests: Momentum, and the Brexit movement. To simplify, Momentum wants real socialism; Brexit wants real democracy. They can only achieve either by championing an old ideal that now becomes a new one: the People are sovereign.

Both these conceptions of democracy are plausible, but flawed. They have historic force, but they are contradictory. A collision was inevitable sooner or later. What better ground on which to fight than the UK’s membership of the EU?

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Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament is legal, High Court judges rule

Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament for five weeks has survived a legal challenge after a claim brought by the businesswoman Gina Miller was rejected by leading judges at the High Court in London.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton and President of the Queen’s Bench Division Dame Victoria Sharp dismissed a claim brought against Mr Johnson.

Rejecting Mrs Miller’s case, Lord Justice Burnett said: “We have concluded that, whilst we should grant permission to apply for judicial review, the claim must be dismissed.”

Their ruling comes in the same week the Prime Minister fought off a similar legal attack in Scotland.

Argued ‘no justification’

Ms Miller’s QC had argued that Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks was an “unlawful abuse of power”.

The judges were urged to make a declaration that the decision taken on 28 August to advise the Queen to prorogue Parliament was unlawful.

The urgent judicial review application brought by Ms Miller – who successfully challenged the Government at the High Court in 2016 over the triggering of the Article 50 process to start the Brexit countdown – was supported by a number of other parties, including former prime minister Sir John Major.

Business owner and anti-Brexit activist Gina Miller speaks outside the High Court after receiving the verdict of an urgent judicial review brought by herself and former prime minister John Major, challenging the suspension of the UK parliament (Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

The action was contested by the Prime Minister, whose lawyers argued that the advice given to the Queen was not unlawful and that Ms Miller’s claim was in any event “academic”.

During the hearing, Lord Pannick QC, representing Ms Miller, told the judges: “The Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament is contrary to constitutional principle and constitutes an abuse of power.”

He argued: “There is no justification for closing Parliament in this way and, accordingly, it represents an unjustified undermining of parliamentary sovereignty which is the bedrock of our constitution.”

Decision to suspend Parliament ‘extraordinary’

Lord Pannick said the Prime Minister’s decision to advise the Queen to suspend Parliament was “extraordinary” – both because of the “exceptional length” of the suspension and because Parliament will be “silenced” during the critical period leading up to the 31 October deadline.

In submitting that the judges should reject Ms Miller’s arguments, Sir James Eadie, on behalf of Mr Johnson, said: “The exercise of this prerogative power is intrinsically one of high policy and politics, not law.”

Arguing that the claim was “academic”, he pointed out that each House of Parliament will sit before the UK leaves the EU on 31 October “and may consider any matter it chooses”.

He told the court: “The prorogation does not prevent Parliament from legislating on any matter it wishes. Parliament is capable of legislating at pace if it chooses to do so.”

The three judges are expected to give their reasons for dismissing the case in writing next week.

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MPs back Hilary Benn’s Bill to delay Brexit at Second Reading by a majority of 29 – How every MP voted

After just two hours’ debate, MPs have given a Second Reading by 329 to 300 (majority: 29) to Hilary Benn’s European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill which would delay Brexit until January in the absence of a deal or approval for No Deal as of 19th October.

329 MPs voted for the motion (331 if you include the two tellers) including 240 Labour MPs, all 35 Scottish National Party MPs, 30 Independent MPs, all 15 Liberal Democrat MPs, all 5 MPs from The Independent Group for Change, all 4 Plaid Cymru MPs, 1 Conservative MP, and 1 Green Party MP.

300 Voted against the motion (302 if you include the two tellers) including 287 Conservative MPs, all 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs, 3 Independent MPs, and 2 Labour MPs.

A further 6 MPs did not vote in the division: 3 Labour MPs and 3 Independent MPs.

The one new Conservative rebel was Caroline Spelman, who had voted with the Government yesterday to oppose seizing the Commons agenda for today’s debate. 20 of the 21 Tory MPs who lost the party whip last night voted for the Bill; the other, Caroline Nokes, did not cast a vote.

Details of further votes will follow later.

 

THE 331 MPs WHO SUPPORTED THE BILL AT SECOND READING
 
Conservative

  1. Caroline Spelman

Green Party

  1. Caroline Lucas

Independent

  1. Heidi Allen
  2. Guto Bebb
  3. Richard Benyon
  4. Luciana Berger
  5. Nick Boles
  6. Steve Brine
  7. Alistair Burt
  8. Greg Clark
  9. Kenneth Clarke
  10. Frank Field
  11. David Gauke
  12. Justine Greening
  13. Dominic Grieve
  14. Sam Gyimah
  15. Philip Hammond
  16. Stephen Hammond
  17. Richard Harrington
  18. Lady Hermon
  19. Kelvin Hopkins
  20. Margot James
  21. Oliver Letwin
  22. Stephen Lloyd
  23. Anne Milton
  24. Antoinette Sandbach
  25. Gavin Shuker
  26. Angela Smith
  27. Nicholas Soames
  28. Rory Stewart
  29. Edward Vaizey
  30. John Woodcock

Labour

  1. Diane Abbott
  2. Debbie Abrahams
  3. Rushanara Ali
  4. Rosena Allin-Khan
  5. Mike Amesbury
  6. Tonia Antoniazzi
  7. Jonathan Ashworth
  8. Adrian Bailey
  9. Margaret Beckett
  10. Hilary Benn
  11. Clive Betts
  12. Roberta Blackman-Woods
  13. Paul Blomfield
  14. Tracy Brabin
  15. Ben Bradshaw
  16. Kevin Brennan
  17. Lyn Brown
  18. Nicholas Brown
  19. Chris Bryant
  20. Karen Buck
  21. Richard Burden
  22. Richard Burgon
  23. Dawn Butler
  24. Liam Byrne
  25. Ruth Cadbury
  26. Alan Campbell
  27. Dan Carden
  28. Sarah Champion
  29. Jenny Chapman
  30. Bambos Charalambous
  31. Ann Clwyd
  32. Vernon Coaker
  33. Julie Cooper
  34. Rosie Cooper
  35. Yvette Cooper
  36. Jeremy Corbyn
  37. Neil Coyle
  38. David Crausby
  39. Mary Creagh
  40. Stella Creasy
  41. Jon Cruddas
  42. John Cryer
  43. Judith Cummins
  44. Alex Cunningham
  45. Jim Cunningham
  46. Janet Daby
  47. Nic Dakin
  48. Wayne David
  49. Geraint Davies
  50. Marsha De Cordova
  51. Gloria De Piero
  52. Thangam Debbonaire
  53. Emma Dent Coad
  54. Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi
  55. Anneliese Dodds
  56. Stephen Doughty
  57. Peter Dowd
  58. David Drew
  59. Jack Dromey
  60. Rosie Duffield
  61. Maria Eagle
  62. Angela Eagle
  63. Clive Efford
  64. Julie Elliott
  65. Louise Ellman
  66. Chris Elmore
  67. Bill Esterson
  68. Chris Evans
  69. Paul Farrelly
  70. Jim Fitzpatrick
  71. Colleen Fletcher
  72. Caroline Flint
  73. Lisa Forbes
  74. Yvonne Fovargue
  75. Vicky Foxcroft
  76. James Frith
  77. Gill Furniss
  78. Hugh Gaffney
  79. Barry Gardiner
  80. Ruth George
  81. Preet Kaur Gill
  82. Mary Glindon
  83. Roger Godsiff
  84. Helen Goodman
  85. Kate Green
  86. Lilian Greenwood
  87. Margaret Greenwood
  88. Nia Griffith
  89. John Grogan
  90. Andrew Gwynne
  91. Louise Haigh
  92. Fabian Hamilton
  93. David Hanson
  94. Emma Hardy
  95. Harriet Harman
  96. Carolyn Harris
  97. Helen Hayes
  98. Sue Hayman
  99. John Healey
  100. Mark Hendrick
  101. Stephen Hepburn
  102. Mike Hill
  103. Meg Hillier
  104. Margaret Hodge
  105. Sharon Hodgson
  106. Kate Hollern
  107. George Howarth
  108. Rupa Huq
  109. Imran Hussain
  110. Dan Jarvis
  111. Diana Johnson
  112. Darren Jones
  113. Gerald Jones
  114. Graham P Jones
  115. Helen Jones
  116. Kevan Jones
  117. Ruth Jones
  118. Sarah Jones
  119. Susan Elan Jones
  120. Mike Kane
  121. Barbara Keeley
  122. Liz Kendall
  123. Afzal Khan
  124. Ged Killen
  125. Stephen Kinnock
  126. Peter Kyle
  127. Lesley Laird
  128. David Lammy
  129. Ian Lavery
  130. Karen Lee
  131. Emma Lewell-Buck
  132. Clive Lewis
  133. Tony Lloyd
  134. Rebecca Long Bailey
  135. Ian C. Lucas
  136. Holly Lynch
  137. Justin Madders
  138. Khalid Mahmood
  139. Shabana Mahmood
  140. Seema Malhotra
  141. Gordon Marsden
  142. Sandy Martin
  143. Rachael Maskell
  144. Christian Matheson
  145. Steve McCabe
  146. Kerry McCarthy
  147. Siobhain McDonagh
  148. Andy McDonald
  149. John McDonnell
  150. Pat McFadden
  151. Conor McGinn
  152. Alison McGovern
  153. Liz McInnes
  154. Catherine McKinnell
  155. Jim McMahon
  156. Anna McMorrin
  157. Ian Mearns
  158. Edward Miliband
  159. Madeleine Moon
  160. Jessica Morden
  161. Stephen Morgan
  162. Grahame Morris
  163. Ian Murray
  164. Lisa Nandy
  165. Alex Norris
  166. Melanie Onn
  167. Chi Onwurah
  168. Kate Osamor
  169. Albert Owen
  170. Stephanie Peacock
  171. Teresa Pearce
  172. Matthew Pennycook
  173. Toby Perkins
  174. Jess Phillips
  175. Bridget Phillipson
  176. Laura Pidcock
  177. Jo Platt
  178. Luke Pollard
  179. Stephen Pound
  180. Lucy Powell
  181. Yasmin Qureshi
  182. Faisal Rashid
  183. Angela Rayner
  184. Steve Reed
  185. Christina Rees
  186. Ellie Reeves
  187. Rachel Reeves
  188. Emma Reynolds
  189. Jonathan Reynolds
  190. Marie Rimmer
  191. Geoffrey Robinson
  192. Matt Rodda
  193. Danielle Rowley
  194. Chris Ruane
  195. Lloyd Russell-Moyle
  196. Naz Shah
  197. Virendra Sharma
  198. Barry Sheerman
  199. Paula Sherriff
  200. Tulip Siddiq
  201. Dennis Skinner
  202. Andy Slaughter
  203. Ruth Smeeth
  204. Cat Smith
  205. Eleanor Smith
  206. Jeff Smith
  207. Laura Smith
  208. Nick Smith
  209. Owen Smith
  210. Karin Smyth
  211. Gareth Snell
  212. Alex Sobel
  213. John Spellar
  214. Keir Starmer
  215. Jo Stevens
  216. Wes Streeting
  217. Graham Stringer
  218. Paul Sweeney
  219. Mark Tami
  220. Gareth Thomas
  221. Nick Thomas-Symonds
  222. Emily Thornberry
  223. Stephen Timms
  224. Jon Trickett
  225. Anna Turley
  226. Karl Turner
  227. Stephen Twigg
  228. Liz Twist
  229. Keith Vaz
  230. Valerie Vaz
  231. Thelma Walker
  232. Tom Watson
  233. Catherine West
  234. Matt Western
  235. Alan Whitehead
  236. Martin Whitfield
  237. Paul Williams
  238. Phil Wilson
  239. Mohammad Yasin
  240. Daniel Zeichner

Liberal Democrat

  1. Tom Brake
  2. Vince Cable
  3. Alistair Carmichael
  4. Edward Davey
  5. Jane Dodds
  6. Tim Farron
  7. Wera Hobhouse
  8. Christine Jardine
  9. Norman Lamb
  10. Phillip Lee
  11. Layla Moran
  12. Jamie Stone
  13. Jo Swinson
  14. Chuka Umunna
  15. Sarah Wollaston

Plaid Cymru

  1. Jonathan Edwards
  2. Ben Lake
  3. Liz Saville Roberts
  4. Hywel Williams

Scottish National Party

  1. Hannah Bardell
  2. Mhairi Black
  3. Ian Blackford
  4. Kirsty Blackman
  5. Deidre Brock
  6. Alan Brown
  7. Lisa Cameron
  8. Douglas Chapman
  9. Joanna Cherry
  10. Ronnie Cowan
  11. Angela Crawley
  12. Martyn Day
  13. Martin Docherty-Hughes
  14. Marion Fellows
  15. Stephen Gethins
  16. Patricia Gibson
  17. Patrick Grady
  18. Peter Grant
  19. Neil Gray
  20. Drew Hendry
  21. Stewart Hosie
  22. Chris Law
  23. David Linden
  24. Angus Brendan MacNeil
  25. Stewart Malcolm McDonald
  26. Stuart C. McDonald
  27. John McNally
  28. Carol Monaghan
  29. Gavin Newlands
  30. Brendan O’Hara
  31. Tommy Sheppard
  32. Chris Stephens
  33. Alison Thewliss
  34. Philippa Whitford
  35. Pete Wishart

The Independent Group for Change

  1. Ann Coffey
  2. Mike Gapes
  3. Chris Leslie
  4. Joan Ryan
  5. Anna Soubry

THE 6 MPs WHO DID NOT VOTE IN THE SECOND READING DIVISION*

Independent

  1. Caroline Nokes
  2. Jared O’Mara
  3. Chris Williamson

Labour

  1. Kevin Barron
  2. Ronnie Campbell
  3. Derek Twigg

*Not including the Speaker, John Bercow, and his three deputies (Lindsay Hoyle, Eleanor Laing and Rosie Winterton) who, by convention, do not vote in Commons divisions and the seven Sinn Fein MPs who have not taken their seats. NB: Absence from the division may be for a number of reasons, such as being ill, on parliamentary business elsewhere, as well as a deliberate abstention.

THE 302 MPs WHO OPPOSED THE BILL AT SECOND READING

Conservative

  1. Nigel Adams
  2. Bim Afolami
  3. Adam Afriyie
  4. Peter Aldous
  5. Lucy Allan
  6. David Amess
  7. Stuart Andrew
  8. Edward Argar
  9. Victoria Atkins
  10. Richard Bacon
  11. Kemi Badenoch
  12. Steve Baker
  13. Harriett Baldwin
  14. Stephen Barclay
  15. John Baron
  16. Henry Bellingham
  17. Paul Beresford
  18. Jake Berry
  19. Bob Blackman
  20. Crispin Blunt
  21. Peter Bone
  22. Peter Bottomley
  23. Andrew Bowie
  24. Ben Bradley
  25. Karen Bradley
  26. Graham Brady
  27. Suella Braverman
  28. Jack Brereton
  29. Andrew Bridgen
  30. James Brokenshire
  31. Fiona Bruce
  32. Robert Buckland
  33. Alex Burghart
  34. Conor Burns
  35. Alun Cairns
  36. James Cartlidge
  37. William Cash
  38. Maria Caulfield
  39. Alex Chalk
  40. Rehman Chishti
  41. Christopher Chope
  42. Jo Churchill
  43. Colin Clark
  44. Simon Clarke
  45. James Cleverly
  46. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
  47. Th?r?se Coffey
  48. Damian Collins
  49. Alberto Costa
  50. Robert Courts
  51. Geoffrey Cox
  52. Stephen Crabb
  53. Tracey Crouch
  54. David T. C. Davies
  55. Glyn Davies
  56. Mims Davies
  57. Philip Davies
  58. David Davis
  59. Caroline Dinenage
  60. Jonathan Djanogly
  61. Leo Docherty
  62. Michelle Donelan
  63. Nadine Dorries
  64. Steve Double
  65. Oliver Dowden
  66. Jackie Doyle-Price
  67. Richard Drax
  68. James Duddridge
  69. David Duguid
  70. Iain Duncan Smith
  71. Alan Duncan
  72. Philip Dunne
  73. Michael Ellis
  74. Tobias Ellwood
  75. George Eustice
  76. Nigel Evans
  77. David Evennett
  78. Michael Fabricant
  79. Michael Fallon
  80. Mark Field
  81. Vicky Ford
  82. Kevin Foster
  83. Liam Fox
  84. Mark Francois
  85. Lucy Frazer
  86. George Freeman
  87. Mike Freer
  88. Marcus Fysh
  89. Roger Gale
  90. Mark Garnier
  91. Nusrat Ghani
  92. Nick Gibb
  93. Cheryl Gillan
  94. John Glen
  95. Zac Goldsmith
  96. Robert Goodwill
  97. Michael Gove
  98. Luke Graham
  99. Richard Graham
  100. Bill Grant
  101. Helen Grant
  102. James Gray
  103. Chris Grayling
  104. Chris Green
  105. Damian Green
  106. Andrew Griffiths
  107. Kirstene Hair
  108. Robert Halfon
  109. Luke Hall
  110. Matt Hancock
  111. Greg Hands
  112. Mark Harper
  113. Rebecca Harris
  114. Trudy Harrison
  115. Simon Hart
  116. John Hayes
  117. Oliver Heald
  118. James Heappey
  119. Chris Heaton-Harris
  120. Peter Heaton-Jones
  121. Gordon Henderson
  122. Nick Herbert
  123. Damian Hinds
  124. Simon Hoare
  125. George Hollingbery
  126. Kevin Hollinrake
  127. Philip Hollobone
  128. Adam Holloway
  129. John Howell
  130. Nigel Huddleston
  131. Eddie Hughes
  132. Jeremy Hunt
  133. Nick Hurd
  134. Alister Jack
  135. Sajid Javid
  136. Ranil Jayawardena
  137. Bernard Jenkin
  138. Andrea Jenkyns
  139. Robert Jenrick
  140. Boris Johnson
  141. Caroline Johnson
  142. Gareth Johnson
  143. Joseph Johnson
  144. Andrew Jones
  145. David Jones
  146. Marcus Jones
  147. Daniel Kawczynski
  148. Gillian Keegan
  149. Seema Kennedy
  150. Stephen Kerr
  151. Julian Knight
  152. Greg Knight
  153. Kwasi Kwarteng
  154. John Lamont
  155. Mark Lancaster
  156. Pauline Latham
  157. Andrea Leadsom
  158. Jeremy Lefroy
  159. Edward Leigh
  160. Andrew Lewer
  161. Brandon Lewis
  162. Julian Lewis
  163. Ian Liddell-Grainger
  164. David Lidington
  165. Julia Lopez
  166. Jack Lopresti
  167. Jonathan Lord
  168. Tim Loughton
  169. Craig Mackinlay
  170. Rachel Maclean
  171. Anne Main
  172. Alan Mak
  173. Kit Malthouse
  174. Scott Mann
  175. Paul Masterton
  176. Theresa May
  177. Paul Maynard
  178. Patrick McLoughlin
  179. Stephen McPartland
  180. Esther McVey
  181. Mark Menzies
  182. Johnny Mercer
  183. Huw Merriman
  184. Stephen Metcalfe
  185. Maria Miller
  186. Amanda Milling
  187. Nigel Mills
  188. Andrew Mitchell
  189. Damien Moore
  190. Penny Mordaunt
  191. Nicky Morgan
  192. Anne Marie Morris
  193. David Morris
  194. James Morris
  195. Wendy Morton
  196. David Mundell
  197. Sheryll Murray
  198. Andrew Murrison
  199. Robert Neill
  200. Sarah Newton
  201. Jesse Norman
  202. Neil O’Brien
  203. Matthew Offord
  204. Guy Opperman
  205. Neil Parish
  206. Priti Patel
  207. Owen Paterson
  208. Mark Pawsey
  209. Mike Penning
  210. John Penrose
  211. Andrew Percy
  212. Claire Perry
  213. Chris Philp
  214. Christopher Pincher
  215. Dan Poulter
  216. Rebecca Pow
  217. Victoria Prentis
  218. Mark Prisk
  219. Mark Pritchard
  220. Tom Pursglove
  221. Jeremy Quin
  222. Will Quince
  223. Dominic Raab
  224. John Redwood
  225. Jacob Rees-Mogg
  226. Laurence Robertson
  227. Mary Robinson
  228. Andrew Rosindell
  229. Douglas Ross
  230. Lee Rowley
  231. Amber Rudd
  232. David Rutley
  233. Paul Scully
  234. Bob Seely
  235. Andrew Selous
  236. Grant Shapps
  237. Alok Sharma
  238. Alec Shelbrooke
  239. Keith Simpson
  240. Chris Skidmore
  241. Chloe Smith
  242. Henry Smith
  243. Julian Smith
  244. Royston Smith
  245. Mark Spencer
  246. Andrew Stephenson
  247. John Stevenson
  248. Bob Stewart
  249. Iain Stewart
  250. Gary Streeter
  251. Mel Stride
  252. Graham Stuart
  253. Julian Sturdy
  254. Rishi Sunak
  255. Desmond Swayne
  256. Hugo Swire
  257. Robert Syms
  258. Derek Thomas
  259. Ross Thomson
  260. Maggie Throup
  261. Kelly Tolhurst
  262. Justin Tomlinson
  263. Michael Tomlinson
  264. Craig Tracey
  265. David Tredinnick
  266. Anne-Marie Trevelyan
  267. Elizabeth Truss
  268. Tom Tugendhat
  269. Shailesh Vara
  270. Martin Vickers
  271. Theresa Villiers
  272. Charles Walker
  273. Robin Walker
  274. Ben Wallace
  275. David Warburton
  276. Matt Warman
  277. Giles Watling
  278. Helen Whately
  279. Heather Wheeler
  280. Craig Whittaker
  281. John Whittingdale
  282. Bill Wiggin
  283. Gavin Williamson
  284. Mike Wood
  285. William Wragg
  286. Jeremy Wright
  287. Nadhim Zahawi

Democratic Unionist Party

  1. Gregory Campbell
  2. Nigel Dodds
  3. Jeffrey M. Donaldson
  4. Paul Girvan
  5. Emma Little Pengelly
  6. Ian Paisley
  7. Gavin Robinson
  8. Jim Shannon
  9. David Simpson
  10. Sammy Wilson

Independent

  1. Ian Austin
  2. Charlie Elphicke
  3. Ivan Lewis

Labour

  1. Kate Hoey
  2. John Mann

The post MPs back Hilary Benn’s Bill to delay Brexit at Second Reading by a majority of 29 – How every MP voted appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: An astonishing level of mutual scorn on the Tory benches

One of the great advantages of a good education combined with polite manners is that one can then be extremely rude about people, but the scorn leading Tories have taken to expressing for each other is still rather extraordinary.

When Sir Oliver Letwin explained to the House why he wishes to legislate against a no deal Brexit, he compared Boris Johnson to a man standing on one side of a canyon, shouting across it that if the people on the other side “do not do as he wishes he will throw himself into the abyss”.

Letwin, sitting high to the right of the Speaker in a group including Sir Nicholas Soames, Dominic Grieve, Philip Hammond, Justine Greening, Alistair Burt and Sir Peter Bottomley, added that the rest of us “are to be dragged over the edge” with Johnson.

Jeremy Corbyn spoke next, and could find no image that conveyed such murderous stupidity. He was so dull and diffuse that Letwin, Soames, Grieve and the rest started to look a bit embarrassed at receiving support from so inept an ally.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, rose and declared that “what is proposed today is constitutionally irregular”.

He accused Letwin of “stunning arrogance” for supposing that it was all right to engage in this constitutional irregularity in order to defy the will of the people as expressed in the referendum.

And he said that if MPs have lost faith in the Government, the proper course is to bring in a motion of no confidence, which if passed could make Corbyn Prime Minister.

But the Government’s critics won’t do that: “They are afraid, they are white with fear because they do not want the Right Honourable Gentleman to be in Downing Street.”

So they have instead, Rees-Mogg went on, engaged in “legislative legerdemain” – pronounced “legerdemane” rather than in the French manner – in order “to create a marionette government” and impose “possibly indefinite vassalage” upon this country.

How Rees-Mogg loves being the voice of the people. But soon after ten, when the vote was declared, it was demonstrated that he is not the voice of 21 Tory MPs.

“It’s not a good start, Boris,” someone shouted from the Labour benches.

Johnson rose and said the people must now decide who should go to represent Britain in Brussels at the European Council on October 17th. If the people choose Corbyn, “he will go to Brussels and beg for an extension”.

On the other hand, the Prime Minister declared, “If I go to Brussels I will go for a deal and I believe I will get a deal.”

Corbyn retorted that keen though he is on an election, he wants to get the Bill to avert a no deal Brexit through Parliament first.

Michael Gove, sitting next to Johnson, became extremely animated, gesticulated wildly at Corbyn, and was rebuked by the Speaker: “Yes, we know the theatrics he perfected at the Oxford Union.”

It was indeed a rather Oxford Union line-up on the Conservative front bench, Johnson and Gove both having been elected president of that debating society, an office for which Rees-Mogg, sitting on the other side of the Prime Minister, also ran.

How will these Oxonian tribunes of the people fare in an election? No one yet knows, but to begin the campaign by withdrawing the whip from 21 Tory MPs is a fairly astonishing way of going about things.

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21 Tories rebel as MPs vote to seize Wednesday’s Commons agenda for Bill to delay Brexit – How every MP voted

MPs have voted by 328 votes to 301 (majority: 27) for a motion tabled by Oliver Letwin that seizes control of the Commons Order Paper on Wednesday 4th September to allow time to push through in four hours Hilary Benn’s Bill which would effectively delay Brexit further. The Bill states that unless a deal is reached with the EU or Parliament approves a no-deal Brexit by October 19th, the Government would be required to write to the EU seeking an extension to the Article 50 period until January 31st 2020. Under the terms of the motion, the debate on the Bill will begin at 3pm on Wednesday. 

328 MPs voted for the motion (330 if you include the two tellers) including 241 Labour MPs, all 35 Scottish National Party MPs, 21 Conservative MPs, all 15 Liberal Democrat MPs, 8 Independent MPs, all 5 MPs from The Independent Group for Change, all 4 Plaid Cymru MPs, and 1 Green Party MP.

301 Voted against the motion (303 if you include the two tellers) including 288 Conservative MPs, all 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs, 3 Independent MPs, and 2 Labour MPs.

A further 6 (4 Independents and 2 Labour) did not vote in the division.

THE 330 MPs WHO SUPPORTED THE MOTION
 
Conservative

  1. Guto Bebb
  2. Richard Benyon
  3. Steve Brine
  4. Alistair Burt
  5. Greg Clark
  6. Kenneth Clarke
  7. David Gauke
  8. Justine Greening
  9. Dominic Grieve
  10. Sam Gyimah
  11. Philip Hammond
  12. Stephen Hammond
  13. Richard Harrington
  14. Margot James
  15. Oliver Letwin
  16. Anne Milton
  17. Caroline Nokes
  18. Antoinette Sandbach
  19. Nicholas Soames
  20. Rory Stewart
  21. Edward Vaizey

Green Party

  1. Caroline Lucas

Independent

  1. Heidi Allen
  2. Luciana Berger
  3. Nick Boles
  4. Frank Field
  5. Lady Hermon
  6. Stephen Lloyd
  7. Gavin Shuker
  8. Angela Smith

Labour

  1. Diane Abbott
  2. Debbie Abrahams
  3. Rushanara Ali
  4. Rosena Allin-Khan
  5. Mike Amesbury
  6. Tonia Antoniazzi
  7. Jonathan Ashworth
  8. Adrian Bailey
  9. Margaret Beckett
  10. Hilary Benn
  11. Clive Betts
  12. Roberta Blackman-Woods
  13. Paul Blomfield
  14. Tracy Brabin
  15. Ben Bradshaw
  16. Kevin Brennan
  17. Lyn Brown
  18. Nicholas Brown
  19. Chris Bryant
  20. Karen Buck
  21. Richard Burden
  22. Richard Burgon
  23. Dawn Butler
  24. Liam Byrne
  25. Ruth Cadbury
  26. Ronnie Campbell
  27. Alan Campbell
  28. Dan Carden
  29. Sarah Champion
  30. Jenny Chapman
  31. Bambos Charalambous
  32. Ann Clwyd
  33. Vernon Coaker
  34. Julie Cooper
  35. Rosie Cooper
  36. Yvette Cooper
  37. Jeremy Corbyn
  38. Neil Coyle
  39. David Crausby
  40. Mary Creagh
  41. Stella Creasy
  42. Jon Cruddas
  43. John Cryer
  44. Judith Cummins
  45. Alex Cunningham
  46. Jim Cunningham
  47. Janet Daby
  48. Nic Dakin
  49. Wayne David
  50. Geraint Davies
  51. Marsha De Cordova
  52. Gloria De Piero
  53. Thangam Debbonaire
  54. Emma Dent Coad
  55. Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi
  56. Anneliese Dodds
  57. Stephen Doughty
  58. Peter Dowd
  59. David Drew
  60. Jack Dromey
  61. Rosie Duffield
  62. Maria Eagle
  63. Angela Eagle
  64. Clive Efford
  65. Julie Elliott
  66. Louise Ellman
  67. Chris Elmore
  68. Bill Esterson
  69. Chris Evans
  70. Paul Farrelly
  71. Jim Fitzpatrick
  72. Colleen Fletcher
  73. Caroline Flint
  74. Lisa Forbes
  75. Yvonne Fovargue
  76. Vicky Foxcroft
  77. James Frith
  78. Gill Furniss
  79. Hugh Gaffney
  80. Barry Gardiner
  81. Ruth George
  82. Preet Kaur Gill
  83. Mary Glindon
  84. Roger Godsiff
  85. Helen Goodman
  86. Kate Green
  87. Lilian Greenwood
  88. Margaret Greenwood
  89. Nia Griffith
  90. John Grogan
  91. Andrew Gwynne
  92. Louise Haigh
  93. Fabian Hamilton
  94. David Hanson
  95. Emma Hardy
  96. Harriet Harman
  97. Carolyn Harris
  98. Helen Hayes
  99. Sue Hayman
  100. John Healey
  101. Mark Hendrick
  102. Stephen Hepburn
  103. Mike Hill
  104. Meg Hillier
  105. Margaret Hodge
  106. Sharon Hodgson
  107. Kate Hollern
  108. George Howarth
  109. Rupa Huq
  110. Imran Hussain
  111. Dan Jarvis
  112. Diana Johnson
  113. Darren Jones
  114. Gerald Jones
  115. Graham P Jones
  116. Helen Jones
  117. Kevan Jones
  118. Ruth Jones
  119. Sarah Jones
  120. Susan Elan Jones
  121. Mike Kane
  122. Barbara Keeley
  123. Liz Kendall
  124. Afzal Khan
  125. Ged Killen
  126. Stephen Kinnock
  127. Peter Kyle
  128. Lesley Laird
  129. David Lammy
  130. Ian Lavery
  131. Karen Lee
  132. Emma Lewell-Buck
  133. Clive Lewis
  134. Tony Lloyd
  135. Rebecca Long Bailey
  136. Ian C. Lucas
  137. Holly Lynch
  138. Justin Madders
  139. Khalid Mahmood
  140. Shabana Mahmood
  141. Seema Malhotra
  142. Gordon Marsden
  143. Sandy Martin
  144. Rachael Maskell
  145. Christian Matheson
  146. Steve McCabe
  147. Kerry McCarthy
  148. Siobhain McDonagh
  149. Andy McDonald
  150. John McDonnell
  151. Pat McFadden
  152. Conor McGinn
  153. Alison McGovern
  154. Liz McInnes
  155. Catherine McKinnell
  156. Jim McMahon
  157. Anna McMorrin
  158. Ian Mearns
  159. Edward Miliband
  160. Madeleine Moon
  161. Jessica Morden
  162. Stephen Morgan
  163. Grahame Morris
  164. Ian Murray
  165. Lisa Nandy
  166. Alex Norris
  167. Melanie Onn
  168. Chi Onwurah
  169. Kate Osamor
  170. Albert Owen
  171. Stephanie Peacock
  172. Teresa Pearce
  173. Matthew Pennycook
  174. Toby Perkins
  175. Jess Phillips
  176. Bridget Phillipson
  177. Laura Pidcock
  178. Jo Platt
  179. Luke Pollard
  180. Stephen Pound
  181. Lucy Powell
  182. Yasmin Qureshi
  183. Faisal Rashid
  184. Angela Rayner
  185. Steve Reed
  186. Christina Rees
  187. Ellie Reeves
  188. Rachel Reeves
  189. Emma Reynolds
  190. Jonathan Reynolds
  191. Marie Rimmer
  192. Geoffrey Robinson
  193. Matt Rodda
  194. Danielle Rowley
  195. Chris Ruane
  196. Lloyd Russell-Moyle
  197. Naz Shah
  198. Virendra Sharma
  199. Barry Sheerman
  200. Paula Sherriff
  201. Tulip Siddiq
  202. Dennis Skinner
  203. Andy Slaughter
  204. Ruth Smeeth
  205. Cat Smith
  206. Eleanor Smith
  207. Jeff Smith
  208. Laura Smith
  209. Nick Smith
  210. Owen Smith
  211. Karin Smyth
  212. Gareth Snell
  213. Alex Sobel
  214. John Spellar
  215. Keir Starmer
  216. Jo Stevens
  217. Wes Streeting
  218. Graham Stringer
  219. Paul Sweeney
  220. Mark Tami
  221. Gareth Thomas
  222. Nick Thomas-Symonds
  223. Emily Thornberry
  224. Stephen Timms
  225. Jon Trickett
  226. Anna Turley
  227. Karl Turner
  228. Stephen Twigg
  229. Liz Twist
  230. Keith Vaz
  231. Valerie Vaz
  232. Thelma Walker
  233. Tom Watson
  234. Catherine West
  235. Matt Western
  236. Alan Whitehead
  237. Martin Whitfield
  238. Paul Williams
  239. Phil Wilson
  240. Mohammad Yasin
  241. Daniel Zeichner

Liberal Democrat

  1. Tom Brake
  2. Vince Cable
  3. Alistair Carmichael
  4. Edward Davey
  5. Jane Dodds
  6. Tim Farron
  7. Wera Hobhouse
  8. Christine Jardine
  9. Norman Lamb
  10. Phillip Lee
  11. Layla Moran
  12. Jamie Stone
  13. Jo Swinson
  14. Chuka Umunna
  15. Sarah Wollaston

Plaid Cymru

  1. Jonathan Edwards
  2. Ben Lake
  3. Liz Saville Roberts
  4. Hywel Williams

Scottish National Party

  1. Hannah Bardell
  2. Mhairi Black
  3. Ian Blackford
  4. Kirsty Blackman
  5. Deidre Brock
  6. Alan Brown
  7. Lisa Cameron
  8. Douglas Chapman
  9. Joanna Cherry
  10. Ronnie Cowan
  11. Angela Crawley
  12. Martyn Day
  13. Martin Docherty-Hughes
  14. Marion Fellows
  15. Stephen Gethins
  16. Patricia Gibson
  17. Patrick Grady
  18. Peter Grant
  19. Neil Gray
  20. Drew Hendry
  21. Stewart Hosie
  22. Chris Law
  23. David Linden
  24. Angus Brendan MacNeil
  25. Stewart Malcolm McDonald
  26. Stuart C. McDonald
  27. John McNally
  28. Carol Monaghan
  29. Gavin Newlands
  30. Brendan O’Hara
  31. Tommy Sheppard
  32. Chris Stephens
  33. Alison Thewliss
  34. Philippa Whitford
  35. Pete Wishart

The Independent Group for Change

  1. Ann Coffey
  2. Mike Gapes
  3. Chris Leslie
  4. Joan Ryan
  5. Anna Soubry

THE 6 MPs WHO DID NOT VOTE IN THE DIVISION*

Independent

  1. Kelvin Hopkins
  2. Jared O’Mara
  3. Chris Williamson
  4. John Woodcock

Labour

  1. Kevin Barron
  2. Derek Twigg

*Not including the Speaker, John Bercow, and his three deputies (Lindsay Hoyle, Eleanor Laing and Rosie Winterton) who, by convention, do not vote in Commons divisions and the seven Sinn Fein MPs who have not taken their seats. NB: Absence from the division may be for a number of reasons, such as being ill, on parliamentary business elsewhere, as well as a deliberate abstention.

THE 303 MPs WHO OPPOSED THE MOTION

Conservative

  1. Nigel Adams
  2. Bim Afolami
  3. Adam Afriyie
  4. Peter Aldous
  5. Lucy Allan
  6. David Amess
  7. Stuart Andrew
  8. Edward Argar
  9. Victoria Atkins
  10. Richard Bacon
  11. Kemi Badenoch
  12. Steve Baker
  13. Harriett Baldwin
  14. Stephen Barclay
  15. John Baron
  16. Henry Bellingham
  17. Paul Beresford
  18. Jake Berry
  19. Bob Blackman
  20. Crispin Blunt
  21. Peter Bone
  22. Peter Bottomley
  23. Andrew Bowie
  24. Ben Bradley
  25. Karen Bradley
  26. Graham Brady
  27. Suella Braverman
  28. Jack Brereton
  29. Andrew Bridgen
  30. James Brokenshire
  31. Fiona Bruce
  32. Robert Buckland
  33. Alex Burghart
  34. Conor Burns
  35. Alun Cairns
  36. James Cartlidge
  37. William Cash
  38. Maria Caulfield
  39. Alex Chalk
  40. Rehman Chishti
  41. Christopher Chope
  42. Jo Churchill
  43. Colin Clark
  44. Simon Clarke
  45. James Cleverly
  46. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
  47. Th?r?se Coffey
  48. Damian Collins
  49. Alberto Costa
  50. Robert Courts
  51. Geoffrey Cox
  52. Stephen Crabb
  53. Tracey Crouch
  54. David T. C. Davies
  55. Glyn Davies
  56. Mims Davies
  57. Philip Davies
  58. David Davis
  59. Caroline Dinenage
  60. Jonathan Djanogly
  61. Leo Docherty
  62. Michelle Donelan
  63. Nadine Dorries
  64. Steve Double
  65. Oliver Dowden
  66. Jackie Doyle-Price
  67. Richard Drax
  68. James Duddridge
  69. David Duguid
  70. Iain Duncan Smith
  71. Alan Duncan
  72. Philip Dunne
  73. Michael Ellis
  74. Tobias Ellwood
  75. George Eustice
  76. Nigel Evans
  77. David Evennett
  78. Michael Fabricant
  79. Michael Fallon
  80. Mark Field
  81. Vicky Ford
  82. Kevin Foster
  83. Liam Fox
  84. Mark Francois
  85. Lucy Frazer
  86. George Freeman
  87. Mike Freer
  88. Marcus Fysh
  89. Roger Gale
  90. Mark Garnier
  91. Nusrat Ghani
  92. Nick Gibb
  93. Cheryl Gillan
  94. John Glen
  95. Zac Goldsmith
  96. Robert Goodwill
  97. Michael Gove
  98. Luke Graham
  99. Richard Graham
  100. Bill Grant
  101. Helen Grant
  102. James Gray
  103. Chris Grayling
  104. Chris Green
  105. Damian Green
  106. Andrew Griffiths
  107. Kirstene Hair
  108. Robert Halfon
  109. Luke Hall
  110. Matt Hancock
  111. Greg Hands
  112. Mark Harper
  113. Rebecca Harris
  114. Trudy Harrison
  115. Simon Hart
  116. John Hayes
  117. Oliver Heald
  118. James Heappey
  119. Chris Heaton-Harris
  120. Peter Heaton-Jones
  121. Gordon Henderson
  122. Nick Herbert
  123. Damian Hinds
  124. Simon Hoare
  125. George Hollingbery
  126. Kevin Hollinrake
  127. Philip Hollobone
  128. Adam Holloway
  129. John Howell
  130. Nigel Huddleston
  131. Eddie Hughes
  132. Jeremy Hunt
  133. Nick Hurd
  134. Alister Jack
  135. Sajid Javid
  136. Ranil Jayawardena
  137. Bernard Jenkin
  138. Andrea Jenkyns
  139. Robert Jenrick
  140. Boris Johnson
  141. Caroline Johnson
  142. Gareth Johnson
  143. Joseph Johnson
  144. Andrew Jones
  145. David Jones
  146. Marcus Jones
  147. Daniel Kawczynski
  148. Gillian Keegan
  149. Seema Kennedy
  150. Stephen Kerr
  151. Julian Knight
  152. Greg Knight
  153. Kwasi Kwarteng
  154. John Lamont
  155. Mark Lancaster
  156. Pauline Latham
  157. Andrea Leadsom
  158. Jeremy Lefroy
  159. Edward Leigh
  160. Andrew Lewer
  161. Brandon Lewis
  162. Julian Lewis
  163. Ian Liddell-Grainger
  164. David Lidington
  165. Julia Lopez
  166. Jack Lopresti
  167. Jonathan Lord
  168. Tim Loughton
  169. Craig Mackinlay
  170. Rachel Maclean
  171. Anne Main
  172. Alan Mak
  173. Kit Malthouse
  174. Scott Mann
  175. Paul Masterton
  176. Theresa May
  177. Paul Maynard
  178. Patrick McLoughlin
  179. Stephen McPartland
  180. Esther McVey
  181. Mark Menzies
  182. Johnny Mercer
  183. Huw Merriman
  184. Stephen Metcalfe
  185. Maria Miller
  186. Amanda Milling
  187. Nigel Mills
  188. Andrew Mitchell
  189. Damien Moore
  190. Penny Mordaunt
  191. Nicky Morgan
  192. Anne Marie Morris
  193. David Morris
  194. James Morris
  195. Wendy Morton
  196. David Mundell
  197. Sheryll Murray
  198. Andrew Murrison
  199. Robert Neill
  200. Sarah Newton
  201. Jesse Norman
  202. Neil O’Brien
  203. Matthew Offord
  204. Guy Opperman
  205. Neil Parish
  206. Priti Patel
  207. Owen Paterson
  208. Mark Pawsey
  209. Mike Penning
  210. John Penrose
  211. Andrew Percy
  212. Claire Perry
  213. Chris Philp
  214. Christopher Pincher
  215. Dan Poulter
  216. Rebecca Pow
  217. Victoria Prentis
  218. Mark Prisk
  219. Mark Pritchard
  220. Tom Pursglove
  221. Jeremy Quin
  222. Will Quince
  223. Dominic Raab
  224. John Redwood
  225. Jacob Rees-Mogg
  226. Laurence Robertson
  227. Mary Robinson
  228. Andrew Rosindell
  229. Douglas Ross
  230. Lee Rowley
  231. Amber Rudd
  232. David Rutley
  233. Paul Scully
  234. Bob Seely
  235. Andrew Selous
  236. Grant Shapps
  237. Alok Sharma
  238. Alec Shelbrooke
  239. Keith Simpson
  240. Chris Skidmore
  241. Chloe Smith
  242. Henry Smith
  243. Julian Smith
  244. Royston Smith
  245. Caroline Spelman
  246. Mark Spencer
  247. Andrew Stephenson
  248. John Stevenson
  249. Bob Stewart
  250. Iain Stewart
  251. Gary Streeter
  252. Mel Stride
  253. Graham Stuart
  254. Julian Sturdy
  255. Rishi Sunak
  256. Desmond Swayne
  257. Hugo Swire
  258. Robert Syms
  259. Derek Thomas
  260. Ross Thomson
  261. Maggie Throup
  262. Kelly Tolhurst
  263. Justin Tomlinson
  264. Michael Tomlinson
  265. Craig Tracey
  266. David Tredinnick
  267. Anne-Marie Trevelyan
  268. Elizabeth Truss
  269. Tom Tugendhat
  270. Shailesh Vara
  271. Martin Vickers
  272. Theresa Villiers
  273. Charles Walker
  274. Robin Walker
  275. Ben Wallace
  276. David Warburton
  277. Matt Warman
  278. Giles Watling
  279. Helen Whately
  280. Heather Wheeler
  281. Craig Whittaker
  282. John Whittingdale
  283. Bill Wiggin
  284. Gavin Williamson
  285. Mike Wood
  286. William Wragg
  287. Jeremy Wright
  288. Nadhim Zahawi

Democratic Unionist Party

  1. Gregory Campbell
  2. Nigel Dodds
  3. Jeffrey M. Donaldson
  4. Paul Girvan
  5. Emma Little Pengelly
  6. Ian Paisley
  7. Gavin Robinson
  8. Jim Shannon
  9. David Simpson
  10. Sammy Wilson

Independent

  1. Ian Austin
  2. Charlie Elphicke
  3. Ivan Lewis

Labour

  1. Kate Hoey
  2. John Mann

The post 21 Tories rebel as MPs vote to seize Wednesday’s Commons agenda for Bill to delay Brexit – How every MP voted appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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Hilary Benn publishes his Bill to delay Brexit again as Government threatens an election if MPs back it

Today the House of Commons returns from its nearly six-week summer recess (where were the petitions, protests and howls of outrage about that?) and we can expect parliamentary fireworks later today as Remainer MPs embark on their latest attempt to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Yesterday afternoon Hilary Benn published the text of his European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill, launched with the support of a cross-party group including former Cabinet ministers Philip Hammond and David Gauke. We expect Speaker Bercow to grant an emergency ‘Standing Order No. 24’ debate today and allow a vote on an amendment to a bland motion that, if passed, would allow MPs to seize control of the Commons Order Paper to provide time to try and ram the Bill through the Commons in a day later this week.

(A note on timing: these shenanigans won’t begin in the House of Commons until considerably later this afternoon – and it could even be early evening. The parliamentary day opens at 2.30pm with Dominic Raab making his Despatch Box debut as Foreign Secretary with an hour of Foreign Office questions. After that at 3.30pm – before we get into the emergency Standing Order No. 24 debate – there will be a statement from Boris Johnson on Brexit and the G7 summit, which will surely go on for a couple of hours. And there could be other ministerial statements covering issues that have arisen over the recess too.)

Benn’s Bill states that unless a deal is reached with the EU or Parliament approves a no-deal Brexit by October 19th, the Government would be required to write to the EU seeking an extension to the Article 50 period until January 31st 2020 – a further Brexit delay that would take us to a few months shy of four years since the referendum.

The Bill codifies the exact wording of the letter that the Prime Minister would need to send to the EU with the proviso that if the European Council agrees to an extension to 31st January 2020, the Prime Minister would immediately have to accept that extension. Extraordinarily, it goes on to state that if the European Council agreed an extension to any other unspecified date, at any point in the dim and distant future, the Prime Minister would have to accept it within two days (unless the House of Commons rejected it, and it’s unclear what would happen then).

As Zac Goldsmith – now a minister in the Johnson Government – tweeted last night: “This isn’t about creating a thoughtful delay; it is about stopping Brexit”. And lest we forget, most of those claiming to be against No Deal also opposed Theresa May’s horrific deal – because they don’t want a deal at all, because they don’t want Brexit.

There are several commentaries on the proposal I’ve seen that are worth a look: Open Europe’s Dominic Walsh notes here that the Bill would not actually take No Deal off the table (as some also erroneously claimed the Cooper-Letwin Bill did earlier in the year), but merely kick the can down the road a little further.

And Robert Craig, a lecturer in Public Law at the LSE, highlights here a potentially important but somewhat complicated issue relating to the exercise of prerogative power in respect of the procedure known as Queen’s Consent (totally separate from Royal Assent), which might provide an avenue for the Government to stop it in its tracks.

However, not long after details of the Bill began to emerge late yesterday afternoon, Boris Johnson emerged from Downing Street after a Cabinet meeting to deliver a message directly to the nation about his efforts to strike a new, better deal with the EU:

“If there is one thing that can hold us back in these talks it is the sense in Brussels that MPs may find some way to cancel the referendum – or that tomorrow MPs will vote, with Jeremy Corbyn, for yet another pointless delay… If they do, they will plainly chop the legs out from under the UK position and make any further negotiation absolutely impossible. And so I say, to show our friends in Brussels that we are united in our purpose, MPs should vote with the Government against Corbyn’s pointless delay. I want everybody to know – there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay.

“We are leaving on 31st October, no ifs or buts. We will not accept any attempt to go back on our promises or scrub that referendum. Armed and fortified with that conviction I believe we will get a deal at that crucial summit in October: a deal that Parliament will certainly be able to scrutinise – and in the meantime let our negotiators get on with their work without that sword of Damocles over their necks. And without an election, which I don’t want and you don’t want.”

You can read the full text of his statement here or watch it on our YouTube channel here.

Yet for all Johnson’s insistence that he doesn’t want to go the polls, speculation about an imminent election reached fever pitch yesterday. And last night, a senior Government source said that if MPs do back today’s cross-party move to seize control of Commons business, he would seek a general election on October 14th – a move which would require the support of two-thirds of MPs under the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FTPA).

The Government source said MPs would face a “simple choice” today and that the vote would be treated as though it were a vote of no confidence, with any Conservative MP voting against the Government having the party whip removed from them. The source continued:

“If they vote tomorrow to wreck the negotiation process, to go against giving Britain the ability to negotiate a deal, then they’ll also have to reflect on what comes next… If MPs were to vote tomorrow to take control of the Order Paper, so destroying the Government’s negotiating position, to make it impossible for the UK to negotiate a deal with Brussels, then the vote would then move to an FTPA vote, which I would expect to bring about a general election.”

“I think if you were to have any chance of securing a deal, which the PM has been very clear that he wants… you would want to have that election on October 14th so that you can go to European Council [on October 17th] and secure a deal.”

Yet last night there was increasing confusion over whether Opposition MPs would actually vote for a motion to call a general election if one were put to the House of Commons. Having been bleating for yonks about wanting to “go back to the people” and after all that outrage about there being an “unelected Prime Minister” and a “coup”, senior Labour figures seriously appeared to be suggesting that they would not want an immediate general election after all. Extraordinary times.

Moreover, if an election takes place before Brexit has taken place, with Johnson’s Conservatives standing on a platform of still pursuing a deal with the EU, there is the not inconsiderable headache of the Brexit Party challenging them in every seat across the country, as a spokesman reminded us yesterday:

“Nigel Farage has made clear that the Brexit Party would put country before party if Boris Johnson commits to an unambiguous, no-deal Brexit. We can make Boris a hero in that situation. A non-aggression pact Leave Alliance would deliver a very significant majority for this position. If Johnson brings back a re-hashed version of May’s Non-Withdrawal Treaty, just without the dreaded backstop, it’s not Brexit and we will oppose his candidates in every seat, denying the Tories hope of victory. Partnership is the best way to deliver what 17.4 million voted for.”

We really are in high stakes territory. And if anyone claims they can predict exactly what’s going to happen next, I would caution against believing them.

– – –

The above is an edited version of Jonathan Isaby’s BrexitCentral Daily Briefing, an email which is sent out every morning. To subscribe for free, click here.

The post Hilary Benn publishes his Bill to delay Brexit again as Government threatens an election if MPs back it appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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Stewart Jackson: No Tory acting in good conscience can back this ploy to defy the people

Stewart Jackson was MP for Peterborough from 2005-2017 and was Treasurer of the 1922 Committee 2015-16.

At 4.25pm yesterday, the Brexit Phoney War came to a long- and grimly-anticipated end. Battle commences in earnest today.

Not for the war weary voters, many of whom not unreasonably imagined three years ago that their decision to vote to leave the European Union, in an historic plebiscite, to rejoin the world as an independent, free and self-governing nation for the first time in 46 years, would be respected and honoured. They have long despaired of our Parliamentarians keeping their word and delivering a speedy Brexit. For this reason, Parliament’s reputation with the electorate is at a record low and many mild mannered people want to see the back of our modern Rump Parliament.

Yesterday, at a speech at Policy Exchange, it took a former foreign leader, Australia’s recent premier Tony Abbott, to articulate and crystallise the case for Brexit and British boosterism and renaissance after 31st October, in a way fresh and inspiring and absent from our own domestic discourse.

Meanwhile, for the political classes in SW1, yesterday was the denouement for which they had been waiting since Theresa May’s defenestration and Boris Johnson’s unlikely ascendance in June. It arrived with the publication of Hilary Benn’s EU (Withdrawal) No 6 Bill.

Seldom has the House of Commons seen such a deeply cynical and fundamentally dangerous piece of legislation, which might just as well be entitled the Usurpation of Awkward Referenda Bill No 1. It is the last throw of the dice for the Europhile elite in Westminster and Whitehall and the universities, trades unions, multinational boardrooms, charities, newspapers and TV and radio studios of the UK.

It contains an “enslavement clause,” no doubt the product of collusion and subterfuge with Benn’s friends in Brussels, which actually states that the EU can choose the length of an Article 50 extension – without a limit – and that our Prime Minister must be compelled to agree such a draconian demand.

Yes – three years after British voters decided to leave the EU, Conservative MPs and others will vote for an Act of Parliament which hands over that decision to the EU. This is nothing less than a slow-motion cancellation of Brexit. At the very least, it is a shameless ploy to give the EU an open-ended break clause until Remainers can conjure up the courage (if ever) to seek to Revoke Article 50 or to legislate for a second referendum. Meanwhile, the public would be shut out and ignored. Which Conservative MPs could contemplate giving it their support?

Did anyone say #StoptheCoup, maybe? Or “constitutional outrage”?

Make no mistake, at least three Conservative MPs – David Gauke, Philip Hammond and Alistair Burt, all former Ministers – have sponsored a Bill which seeks to de facto nullify the 2016 EU Referendum result, via primary legislation and without another referendum.

They tell us that they want to avoid a “crash out (sic)” Brexit – even though they have voted three times in statute law for legislation which would clearly and conceivably and most likely have this effect, in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

The idea propagated in last night’s Evening Standard by another ex-Cabinet Minister, Greg Clark, is that after 38 months we need to spend another few months “debating” Brexit! The Commons and the Lords have had endless opportunities since June 2017 to not just reject Theresa May’s ‘deal’ but substitute an alternative – and they have spectacularly failed. Indeed, the myth that Parliament has been excluded from the Brexit process is patently a canard.

Gauke, Hammond and their fellow rebel MPs all stood on a manifesto at the last General Election which solemnly promised that they would adhere to what the voters had willed, after a referendum that, inter alia, Peter Mandelson, Michael Heseltine, John Major, George Osborne, Sadiq Khan, Heidi Allen, Dominic Grieve, Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron had all described as a unique, once in a lifetime event.

It’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that many of them simply lied to their voters in 2017.

Frankly, these Remain refuseniks have contributed to this disastrous stasis and borderline national humiliation and near capitulation under Theresa May; a situation in which her appalling surrender deal – written in Berlin and passed to the then Prime Minister by Olly Robbins for dissemination to the Cabinet – was actually compared by Yanis Varoufakis to that inflicted on a conquered nation following wartime defeat.

They have undermined and then broken Cabinet collective responsibility and the basic tenets of Cabinet Government, in a way which would have embarrassed Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell; connived to starve Government departments of adequate funding to prepare appropriate contingency measures in the event of No Deal; worked with opposition parties to undermine their fellow Ministers in the Commons; plotted directly and indirectly with our direct EU interlocutors to cripple the UK negotiating stance and subvert our national interests; engaged in direct negotiations outside their remit with Ministers of a foreign government (Ireland) behind the back of the responsible ministerial team; and helped a deeply flawed and biased Speaker traduce and destroy Parliamentary conventions in order to subvert a referendum result in which voters participated in good faith and in the belief that their votes really mattered (for once).

These holdouts have little intellectual case for their actions; their moral or political rationale is threadbare. Whatever one thinks of Dominic Grieve or the Liberal Democrats or the SNP, they have always at least been fairly shamelessly insouciant in their contempt for the choice the voters made in 2016.

In all good conscience, the likes of David Gauke and Philip Hammond are now indistinguishable from them. They are all preparing to support a Brexit Blocking Bill but they cannot answer the straightforward question:

“What comes next?”

That is because it’s effectively unanswerable. The Withdrawal Agreement has thrice failed to pass the Commons and as a result of their disloyalty and duplicity in seeking to “cut the legs off” the Prime Minister’s negotiating strategy, the European Union has in essence no incentive and will wilfully refuse the chance to relent in its own tough stance. Furthermore, Theresa May’s abuse of the Royal Prerogative in extending Article 50 a full six months, without being mandated so to do by the Commons, was on the strict basis that such an extension would not be for the purpose of further Article 50 negotiations.

They’re obviously playing for time and hope their voters won’t notice their disreputable undemocratic antics. All the time, the corrosive rust of public disgust and opprobrium spreads across our politics and government, and taints all parties and all MPs. It will do so until we quit the EU.

This week, finally we will see if I’m wrong and whether these MPs demonstrate their vaunted principles and really do sacrifice their careers, without, as it happens, even the sure knowledge that their desperate and squalid Bill ever reaches the Statute Book. My guess is it never will.

I certainly don’t want anyone to leave or be thrown out of my party – and certainly not talented and decent people with whom I have been privileged to serve in the past as a Member of Parliament.

We are a broad church indeed and all the better for it but as the Prime Minister has asked:

“Whose side are you on?” Corbyn and the Establishment or the people?

For those who erroneously believe that honouring the biggest democratic vote in British history has turned our party into ‘an English Nationalist Party’, and Boris Johnson, who became Prime Minister with a mandate of two thirds of the party membership on an 87 per cent poll and the support of over half of our MPs, an ersatz Trump, my question is simply: why would you want to stay and carry our colours in such circumstances?

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The next few days will reveal where the heart of power lies in the British constitution

joelle groganThe government argues that the courts have no part to play in the row over prorogation, and that it is a matter for Parliament and the executive alone. But what happens when the executive has suspended Parliament? Joelle Grogan (Middlesex University) says a constitutional crisis now looks imminent.

On 18 July, I wrote on LSE Brexit that prorogation was a paper tiger – a false threat masking politicking – but that any effort to prevent it would take time which the Parliament doesn’t have. On 28 August, Boris Johnson advised the Queen to exercise her prerogative power to prorogue Parliament. She did so on the same day.

queen

The Queen leaves Parliament after the State Opening in 2014. Photo: UK Parliament/Roger Harris via parliamentary copyright.

There is little time for any alternative to a no-deal Brexit

There are eight weeks left until the UK’s (revised) scheduled departure from the EU. Parliament is to be prorogued for five of those weeks. The UK will leave on no-deal Brexit terms on 31 October unless Parliament legislates for an alternative among: revocation, a request for extension, or ratification of the current Withdrawal Agreement. After the last EU Council Summit before Brexit on 17-18 October, only the option of revocation will remain until 31 October and this is also the only option which does not require either the unanimous consent (extension) or a qualified majority (an agreement) of the European Council. Barring an emergency summit (which has precedence), it is misleading to argue that it is possible to agree an alternative arrangement without Parliament or in time for, or even after the final European Council summit.

Can prorogation be prevented?

On 3 September, Parliament returns from summer recess and will have only days before it is prorogued until 14 October 2019. Within the week, three cases will be heard in Belfast, Edinburgh, and London seeking judicial review of Government’s advice to the Queen, and a finding that such advice was illegal obligating the Queen to withdraw her order to prorogue.

The petitioners argue that the advice was ‘unlawful, unwarranted and unconstitutional’. The response of government turns on the separation of powers, and the argument that prorogation as a prerogative power is not a justiciable matter to be determined by the courts. Either as the exercise of a sovereign power, or as a matter of politics, the court is unsuited by nature and constitution to adjudicate, and that ‘[i]f Parliament had a problem with it, it was for Parliament to sort it out’. But this argument seems paradoxical: how can Parliament sort it out, if it is suspended?

Paul Craig has set out arguments of the limitations on the use of prerogative power to prorogue as a matter of both constitutional principle and law. The precedents he sets out in Proclamations, De Keyser and Miller all, directly or indirectly, protect the sovereignty of parliament and not the executive. In a searing passage:

“The sovereignty principle inheres in Parliament and the totality of members thereof at any one point in time. The very idea that Parliament can be swept aside because its view does not cohere with the executive is to stand principle on its head. We are constitutionally impoverished if we regard this as the new constitutional norm.”

To repeat from my last post, prorogation in the current context would be undemocratic as it would suspend parliamentary debate to ensure with near certainty an outcome without democratic mandate; and unconstitutional, because it would make parliamentary power merely contingent on government, and not sovereign apart from it.

While these precedents will appeal to the courts, the real limitation to the relevant impact of these cases will be time: any injunction granted (if it is granted) would be referred to the Supreme Court which would likely have only days to deliver judgment. However, the legislative efforts in Parliament to either avert a no-deal Brexit or to prevent prorogation are just, if not more, as time limited.

Is this a constitutional crisis?

In the July post, I said that the litmus test for constitutional crisis is where one institution (be it Parliament, the courts, the government or even the Crown) does not recognise the legitimate power of another, causing an ongoing and critical state of legal uncertainty. Such recognition of mutual authority is an aspect of the separation of powers which is at the core of a state based on the rule of law. Were government to ignore a Supreme Court judgment finding the advice to prorogue illegal, or even refuse to recognise an Act of Parliament directing action to prevent a no-deal Brexit, this would be a constitutional crisis. This will bring all institutions into conflict – most immediately the crown, which may be obligated (one way or another) to make an extremely polarising political choice.

To an external eye, such distinction may appear artificial: either the crown has a choice to exercise power or doesn’t. But the latest developments have laid bare some apparent paradoxes at the heart of the British constitution: the crown has exercised a legal power but was politically limited to do so on the advice of government. The government argues that this power is a sovereign power and so beyond the review of the courts, despite it being upon their advice. Precedent for protection of parliamentary sovereignty is found in and by the courts. Parliament is sovereign, but parliamentary time is dictated, almost exclusively, by the government.

Beyond these paradoxes, we are witnessing the politicisation of the courts and the crown, in equal measure to the legalisation of the government and the Parliament as the courts are called in with a second Miller litigation. There are few who could say with any certainty what the next few days will bring, beyond the conviction that they will reveal the very nature of power at the centre of British constitution.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor LSE.

Joelle Grogan is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Middlesex University.

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What will happen in the Commons this week? Here are 15 possibilites. They are not exhaustive…

  • The alliance of Opposition MPs and Conservative rebels fails to gain control of the Commons timetable.  Boris Johnson’s Government sails on into prorogation early next week.
  • The alliance of Opposition MPs and Conservative rebels gains control of the Commons timetable, but fails before prorogation to pass a Bill seeking to prevent a No Deal Brexit.  Johnson’s Government carries on.
  • The alliance of Opposition MPs and Conservative rebels gains control of the Commons timetable, and succeeds before prorogation in passing a Bill seeking to prevent a No Deal Brexit.  The Government advises the Queen to refuse Royal Assent to the Bill. She accepts the advice. Legal challenges follow.
  • The alliance of Opposition MPs and Conservative rebels gains control of the Commons timetable, and succeeds before prorogation in passing a Bill seeking to prevent a No Deal Brexit.  The Government advises the Queen to refuse Royal Assent to the Bill. She rejects the advice. Johnson seeks and then gains a general election under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.
  • The alliance of Opposition MPs and Conservative rebels gains control of the Commons timetable, and succeeds before prorogation in passing a Bill seeking to prevent a No Deal Brexit.  The Government advises the Queen to refuse Royal Assent to the Bill. She rejects the advice. Johnson seeks a general election under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, but fails to do so.  He resigns.  A Government is formed under another Prime Minister.  Or this doesn’t happen – and an election then takes place.
  • The alliance of Opposition MPs and Conservative rebels gains control of the Commons timetable, and succeeds before prorogation in passing a Bill seeking to prevent a No Deal Brexit.   Johnson believes that the Bill isn’t legally watertight, and attempts to subvert it – for example, by adding, if the Bill requires a further Brexit extension, conditions to it that he knows the EU will refuse.
  • The courts rule against Johnson’s prorogation decision. He seeks a general election under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Act, and gains one.
  • The courts rule against Johnson’s prorogation decision. He seeks a general election under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Act, but fails to gain one. He resigns.  A Government is formed under another Prime Minister.  Or this doesn’t happen – and an election then takes place.
  • Regardless of or in addition to any of the above, Johnson seeks a general election under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Act, and gains one.
  • Regardless of or in addition to any of the above, Johnson seeks a general election under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Act, and fails to gain one – largely because Labour actually votes against the election it is calling for, arguing that it is unwilling to do so if such an election takes place after Brexit Day, thus ushering in a No Deal Brexit.  Johnson then resigns.  A Government is formed under another Prime Minister.  Or this doesn’t happen – and an election then takes place anyway.
  • Or a no confidence vote is moved in Johnson’s Government by Jeremy Corbyn under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Act, and fails.
  • Or a no confidence vote is moved in Johnson’s Government by Corbyn under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Act, and succeeds.  But Johnson stays on as Prime Minister under the 14 day provision, and wins an eventual confidence vote.
  • Or a no confidence vote is moved in Johnson’s Government by Jeremy Corbyn under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Act, and succeeds.  But Johnson stays on as Prime Minister under the 14 day provision, and loses an eventual confidence vote.  At which point Corbyn or another MP becomes Prime Minister, and wins a confidence vote.
  • Or a no confidence vote is moved in Johnson’s Government by Jeremy Corbyn under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Act, and succeeds.  But Johnson stays on as Prime Minister under the 14 day provision, and loses an eventual confidence vote.  At which point Corbyn or another MP becomes Prime Minister, and loses a confidence vote. An election follows.
  • Or a no confidence vote is moved in Johnson’s Government by Jeremy Corbyn under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Act, and succeeds.  At which point the Queen sacks Johnson, and appoints Corbyn or another MP as Prime Minister. Cue a confidence vote – which that Prime Minister either wins or loses. In the latter event, an election follows.
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David Gauke: Why I believe that Parliament must stop a No Deal Brexit this week

David Gauke is a former Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, and is MP for South West Hertfordshire.

Following Nicky Morgan’s return to the Cabinet, the Editor of this website (and my esteemed former colleague in George Osborne’s Shadow Treasury team) asked if I would like to be a regular columnist. My role, as I understood it, would be to demonstrate that all strands of Conservative Party thinking was represented on this site and, in doing so, I should therefore stir it up a bit. I gladly accepted.

It hasn’t passed my notice that my views are not entirely in harmony with the majority of ConservativeHome readers when it comes to Brexit. And, given that this article is being published at the beginning of one of the most contentious and important weeks in the Brexit saga – and I have found myself somewhat in the thick of it – this is not likely to be a gentle introduction.

Before turning to the events of the week ahead, I should say a little about the evolution of my thinking. Like most Conservatives of my generation, I came to political age in the era of Margaret Thatcher. I admired her determination to transform the British economy, her willingness to take on vested interests, her belief in the free market, free trade, sound public finances, low inflation and the need for a pro-business tax and regulatory environment.

I also shared her instincts on Europe. I was opposed to our membership of the Exchange Rate Mechanism, feared that the Delors European Commission was trying to reverse her supply-side reforms and always believed that the UK should stay outside the single currency. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, I feared that, in the end, we would have a choice as to whether to become part of a United States of Europe or leave the EU altogether. If it came down to that choice, I would be a Leaver.

When I entered Parliament in 2005, I joined a small group of Eurosceptics who chipped in a contribution from their Parliamentary Staffing Allowances to pay for a researcher to ensure we were ever vigilant against the advance in Euro-federalism. I even had a spell as Treasurer of this organisation, called – accurately enough – the European Research Group.

It would be fair to say that the ERG and I drifted in different directions over the years. I came to the view that the UK could be part of the EU without being destined to be part of an EU superstate.

I also came to accept that it is only possible to bring down trade barriers on the basis of co-operation with other countries. There is a trade-off between regulatory autonomy and the openness of markets and I am a free trader.
By the time we got to the 2016 referendum, I was firmly in the Remain side. Not a starry-eyed, Ode to Joy-singing Europhile, still concerned about EU overreach but, nonetheless, a believer that, on balance, our interests were best served by continued EU membership.

I was on the losing side. Having provided a referendum, we had a duty to implement it. Failure to do so would ensure our politics would be scarred by the politics of betrayal.

The only responsible way to do so was with a deal, ensuring that we entered into a deep and special partnership and that we would have a smooth and orderly departure from the EU. But the problem with this is that leaving the EU was always going to be complex. It was never possible to maintain exactly the same benefits of EU membership whilst walking away from the institutions and the rules. Leaving in the abstract was one thing; the specifics of leaving – where detailed trade-offs have to be made – is another.

The Leave campaign made big promises in terms of our independence from EU institutions. It also reassured the public as to the minimal impact on businesses and sectors trading with the EU. The problem is that it is impossible to deliver on both sets of promises at the same time.

Theresa May tried and, in my view, got a good deal – a compromise that struck a pragmatic balance. But, as measured by the absolutist hopes of some Brexiteers, it fell short of delivering the dreamed for ‘independence’. Any deal will. But the cost of failing to reach a deal – in terms of our prosperity, security and the integrity of the UK – is far too high.

Leaving with a deal remains much the best outcome. But, given that Parliament has three times rejected a deal, this is not going to be easy. The Prime Minister clearly wants a deal but he has set out one big red line – the replacement of the Northern Irish backstop.

Will the EU change their position? The purpose of the backstop is to ensure that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This is an important and legitimate objective, and it is unrealistic to think they will abandon the backstop unless there is an alternative that works.

The Prime Minister has accepted that it is for the UK to propose a workable replacement to the backstop. To succeed, it must have the confidence of the people and businesses on both sides of the Irish border. If we engage positively in that endeavour, the EU has always said they would work constructively with us. But if we fail to come up with credible plans, threats of a no deal departure (which will obviously impact the UK more than the EU) will not force the EU to abandon its long-held position.

Assuming a deal is reached (and that is a very big assumption), the deal then needs to get through Parliament. It may well face opposition from a significant number of Conservative MPs who want wider changes to the Withdrawal Agreement. The more my colleagues say they want wider changes, the more remote it appears any kind of deal could be delivered.

Even with the numbers, there is the question of time. The European Council is on 17 October and the Queens Speech debates will conclude on 22 October. Is anyone seriously suggesting that a Withdrawal Agreement Bill can be concluded in nine days? All stages in both the Commons and the Lords in just over a week? Those of us who served in the previous Cabinet will recall that those responsible for managing House business would advise us that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would take two to three months to complete.

The conclusion is clear. If the Prime Minister is sincere that we leave on 31 October ‘do or die’ (and I believe he is sincere) the overwhelming likelihood is that, unless Parliament intervenes this week, we will leave without a deal. Some may welcome that. But for those of us who believe that this would be a tragic mistake, Parliament will have to step in.

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Speaker Bercow’s increasing partiality on Brexit is a grave constitutional concern

A mere few months ago, only those with copies of Erskine May on their bookshelves would have likely known the meaning of prorogation. It burst onto the centre-stage of the public debate framed as a tool by which besuited desperados could force their maleficent policies on us by snatching power away from the legislature. A ludicrous narrative was constructed in which a government could do whatever it wanted by phoning the Queen and asking if she wouldn’t mind awfully sending MPs home for a bit. As should be excruciatingly obvious, this can and will never happen.

Unsurprisingly, then, despite what some seem determined to believe, that is not what the Government is doing now. We have a new Prime Minister, keenly brandishing a fresh domestic agenda, nearly two and a half years into the longest parliamentary session since the English Civil War. Even in a world blissfully free of Brexit discourse and wrangling, those would be excellent and comprehensive reasons why the Government is well within its rights to call a Queen’s Speech. MPs do not have the right to demand the Commons sits on any given day; they have had years to propose anti-No Deal legislation.

Even so, it should come as no great wonder that the Church House Remainer coalition is rather unhappy, as is evidenced by its classless and unimaginative mud-slinging. MPs from all parties hurl straight-faced accusations of a disregard for democracy. This is, of course, despite the fact that the passing of a Queen’s Speech depends on Parliament’s approval. Nonetheless, throw a few references to ‘17.4 million people’ into the irate Remainer tweets and they could almost be a Brexit Party rallying cry.

The most troubling – and concerningly understated – aspect of this uproar is the fact that this rhetoric is being consistently echoed by one John Bercow. Questions have, of course, been repeatedly raised about the Speaker’s ostensible partiality on Brexit, ever since he abandoned his neutrality and told an audience of students in February 2017 that he had voted Remain. Then of course he rewrote Commons rules in January to give his chum Dominic Grieve a leg-up and toss a small but not insignificant spanner into the works of Theresa May’s Brexit plans.

Bercow is edging ever closer to the Remain camp. His condemnation of the Prime Minister’s announcement last week was drowned out by the near-identical censures from the likes of John McDonnell, Jo Swinson, Anna Soubry and Nicola Sturgeon. While they are fully entitled to unreservedly express their view on the Government’s actions, the Speaker is not. The mere fact that he is now consistently saying almost exactly the same things as those MPs is a cause for grave concern. Imagine the shrieks if the reverse were true.

One of the primary objections cited by the Boris-sceptics is the supposed risk of setting a precedent for the use of prorogation to political ends. Remain-leaning Tories in particular have taken to scare-mongering that Jeremy Corbyn could somehow use prorogations for Queen’s Speeches willy-nilly to force through deranged policies of sweeping nationalisation. This is fatuous; the reasons for having one now are ample and extend beyond Brexit. The genuinely disquieting precedent is that of a biased Speaker. It is disturbing in the extreme that we may soon find ourselves with a de facto co-Prime Minister in the Speaker’s chair.

Our parliamentary system only works when the Speaker is of impeccable impartiality. Across the pond, things are done differently; much American political manoeuvring consists of obsessing over the semantics of an ill-important centuries-old text in desperate attempts to discern whether James Madison really meant that everyone should be allowed to carry their six-shooters into Walmart. Our constitution is not codified, nor even written; it walks, talks and, worst of all, thinks.

This undoubtedly grants the Mother of Parliaments a great many advantages over the American structure, but it also brings with it a host of other democratic tripwires, many of which have been catapulted to the fore by Brexit. Bercow sits astride a stallion, hair blowing in the wind, fist raised in a triumphant declaration of power, staring towards Heaven, as he declares unto the people: “I am the Constitution!”

Thankfully, there are checks to the Speaker’s authority. Our structure of government as a whole is rather good at blocking spates of erraticism. What’s more, so far at least, no certifiable craziness has emanated from the Speaker’s chair. But all is not well. However angry he may be, Bercow has no legitimate reason to seek to impede the Queen’s Speech. For now, his conduct is merely “improper”, as the Leader of the House put it.

But the Speakership is the pillar supporting the glorious democratic ceiling above our heads. And that pillar is being determinedly chipped away at as Bercow’s veil of self-restraint rapidly slips away.

Photocredit: ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

The post Speaker Bercow’s increasing partiality on Brexit is a grave constitutional concern appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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John Penrose: Pro-EU campaigners’ fury is purely about power politics, not high constitutional principle

John Penrose is MP for Weston-super-Mare.

Suspending Parliament sounds terrible, right? The sort of thing that only happens in banana republics and dictatorships?

Well no, not really. In a normal year, Britain’s Parliament is suspended for several days in the Autumn, while men in tights polish everything furiously before Her Majesty arrives to give the Queen’s Speech. It’s the norm, not the exception.

So why all the fuss? What’s different this year, that’s given everyone such a fit of the political vapours? The answer is that all the claims about people not respecting the constitution, or behaving undemocratically, are a smokescreen. The reality owes a lot more to raw power politics and party-political point-scoring than high constitutional theories or principles.

Let’s start with the length of the suspension. The number of extra days Parliament will be closed is only three or four, because Parliament is normally in recess during Party Conferences. In fact the extra is about the normal time Parliament is suspended for the run-up to a Queen’s Speech.

So the fuss isn’t really about the length of time Parliament will be closed. It’s because it’s being done by a suspension rather than a combined recess-and-suspension which is what would normally happen at this stage before a Queen’s Speech. This year, the difference matters because Parliament has to vote and approve a recess, but not an suspension. And the people who are most upset are the ones who want to abandon the Party Conference recess entirely, and keep Parliament sitting so they’ve got more time to pass laws which will stop a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. If it was being done through a recess, they’d have a chance to vote and stop it.

But either option – of a suspension or a combined recess-and-suspension – is perfectly constitutional. Both processes are within the rules. So let’s stop pretending the fuss is about high constitutional principles; it’s not. It’s about which option the people who want to stop Brexit think will give them the best chance of winning. It’s straightforward power-politics; nothing more and nothing less.

They’re entitled to their view, of course. We’re a free society, after all. But cloaking their argument in concern for democracy, rather than being straight about what they’re really trying to do, doesn’t seem very democratic at all.

Nor does pretending that they only want to stop a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, when what it really, inevitably leads to is no Brexit at all. Taking ‘No Deal’ off the table, even as an unwanted worst case contingency, fatally weakens our negotiating position with Brussels. It makes getting a Brexit deal much, much less likely, and no Brexit much, much more so. Pretending you only want one thing, without being straight with voters about where it really leads, isn’t very democratic either.

So all the fuss about the constitution or democracy is a smokescreen for the real argument about political advantage for people who want to stop Brexit. Ultimately, the real question is whether the democratic decision which was taken in the referendum is going to be delivered at all, or not. And if it isn’t, then that would be really, really undemocratic, wouldn’t it?

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