Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
On April 1, four indicative votes were held that would have softened Brexit, and all four failed again. Conservative MPs were given a free vote with the Cabinet abstaining. A customs union lost by 276-273 (271-265 on March 27), a confirmatory referendum on a Brexit deal lost by 292-280 (295-268 previously), a Norway-style Brexit lost by 282-261 (283-189 previously), and revoking Article 50 to prevent no-deal lost by 292-191 (293-184 previously).
The Commons has 650 members. Owing to non-voting members, about 320 is needed for a majority. Commentator Stephen Bush says that none of the options received anywhere near 320 votes. Had the Cabinet voted and Conservative MPs been whipped, these options would have lost by more. There was some bickering between soft Leave and second referendum supporters, but in the four motions the most Conservatives to vote Yes was 36 on the customs union. The most responsibility for the failure of these motions lies with the Conservatives.
On April 2, much to the disgust of hard Leavers, Theresa May said she would attempt to negotiate a Brexit deal with Jeremy Corbyn. Any deal that is acceptable to Labour would be softer than May’s original deal, and would probably require a confirmatory referendum. Even if May sincerely wants to negotiate with Corbyn, it is unlikely they can come to an agreement in the time remaining. May proposed extending the Brexit deadline to May 22 from its current April 12, but this has little appeal to the European Union without a commitment to hold EU elections from May 23-26.
There will be an emergency EU leaders’ summit on April 10, two days before the current Brexit deadline. Unless May agrees to participate in EU elections, it is unlikely a further extension will be granted. It is possible that May wants this outcome, and that her move to negotiate is only intended to drain time that could be used to prevent no-deal. May does not want a no-deal Brexit, but she wants her deal passed. If the EU rejects her extension request, there would be just two days with only three plausible options: no-deal, revoke Brexit or May’s deal. If revocation failed again, many Labour MPs would face a difficult decision.
On April 3, a bill to require May to ask for a long extension if her deal is not approved by April 12 passed the Commons by just one vote – 313 to 312. As this is legislation, it must also pass the Lords. The bill does not require May to hold EU elections, and any extension must be approved by the Commons. A motion for more indicative votes on April 8 was exactly tied 310 votes each, and the Speaker broke it in favour of the government on the basis of precedent. It was the first Commons tie since 1993.
On April 4, a by-election occurred in the Labour-held seat of Newport West. Labour won it with 39.6% (down 12.7% since 2017), followed by the Conservatives at 31.3% (down 8.0%), the UK Independence Party at 8.6% (up 6.1%), and four pro-Remain parties had a total of 17.2% (up 11.5%). With both major parties losing votes to more pro-Remain and pro-Leave parties, it will be even more difficult for May and Corbyn to come to a Brexit agreement.
Netanyahu likely to be re-elected at Israeli election
The Israeli election will be held on April 9, with polls closing at 5am April 10 Australian Eastern Standard Time. All 120 Knesset seats are elected by proportional representation with a 3.25% threshold. Right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been PM since March 2009, will be attempting to win his fourth successive election.
As no party will come close to a majority, it is better to look at overall right-wing vs non-right wing parties’ support. Recent polls give the overall right between 62 and 67 of the 120 Knesset seats. The strongest parties are Netanyahu’s Likud, with 26 to 31 seats, and the left-leaning Blue & White, with 27 to 32 seats. Even though Blue & White is about tied with Likud, Likud has more potential allies, and it is thus likely that Netanyahu is re-elected.