Brexit minus two months: prorogation edition

As the Conservatives move to a substantial lead in the polls, Boris Johnson controversially prorogues Parliament. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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 August 28, Boris Johnson announced that Parliament would be prorogued (suspended) from about September 11 to October 14. Most of the period of prorogation occurs from September 13 to October 7, when Parliament would have been scheduled for a recess owing to the UK party conferences. William Bowe covered the legal aspects of prorogation.

The Commons returns from summer recess on September 3. With Labour agreeing to pursue legislation to force Johnson to request a Brexit extension if no deal can be reached, a no-confidence vote is unlikely. Any such legislation would need to pass both chambers of Parliament and receive royal assent before prorogation, or the process would need to re-start after the Queen’s address opening the new parliamentary session on October 14.

If a vote of no-confidence were called by the opposition leader, it would be debated and voted on the next sitting day. However, passing legislation against the government’s wishes requires overturning the government’s order of business, and the government could attempt to filibuster. Rebel Conservative MPs are still not prepared to support a no-confidence vote.

As I wrote previously, I do not think such legislation would be effective in binding Johnson. If the Commons wants to avoid crashing out, there are two viable solutions: a no-confidence vote in Johnson followed by confidence in someone who will request an extension, or revoking Brexit legislation altogether. It is unlikely the numbers exist for either of these solutions, and with Johnson seemingly prepared to do whatever it takes, the UK is likely to leave without a deal on October 31.

Polls show the Conservatives increasing their lead over Labour as hard Brexit parties (Conservatives and Brexit) have mid to high 40’s support combined. Three polls taken after prorogation had the Conservatives 7 to 11 points ahead of Labour. As those who don’t want a hard Brexit are split between pure Remain parties and Labour, the Conservatives would win an election on current polls. In a Survation poll (normally Labour supporters’ favourite pollster), prorogation was only opposed 40-39, and by 49-42, voters did not want to delay Brexit to improve the deal.  Johnson had a +6 net approval rating.

In April 2017, Labour was further behind than they are now, but Corbyn accepted Theresa May’s offer of a June 8 election, and Labour surged during the campaign to cause the current hung parliament. I think many people want Brexit to be resolved before the next election. Polls taken before Johnson became PM suggested danger for him in holding an election before Brexit had occurred. The high current ratings for hard Brexit parties may be because people want Johnson to get on with delivering Brexit, not a pre-Brexit election.

If there is no no-confidence vote by prorogation, any new election would occur well after the October 31 deadline, as Parliament needs to agree by a two-thirds majority to hold a new election called by the PM. I do not expect Johnson to achieve a deal with the European Union, as any feasible deal would be unacceptable to Johnson’s supporters, and so would any delay to Brexit.  If the UK economy crashes after a no-deal Brexit, that’s when I would expect the polls to turn decisively against Johnson and the Conservatives.

Bolsonaro’s victory was far bigger than Trump’s

There has been much condemnation of far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro over the Amazon forest fires. At the October 2018 presidential election, Bolsonaro won 46.0% in the first round, to 29.3% for his nearest rival, the Workers’ Party’s Fernando Haddad.  Bolsonaro defeated Haddad with 55.1% in the runoff.

At the November 2016 US presidential election, Donald Trump lost the national popular vote by 2.1% to Hillary Clinton, winning only due to the Electoral College.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

144 comments on “Brexit minus two months: prorogation edition”

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  1. On Sept. 3, 1939, England declared war against Germany, and Winston Churchill was invited back from political exile to serve as First Lord of the Admiralty and later prime minister in the war against Adolf Hitler. Eighty years later to the day, his grandson said he would be expelled from the Conservative Party for voting against embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Brexit.

    Nicholas Soames, a member of Parliament representing Mid Sussex, was among the group of 21 Conservative politicians who defied Johnson’s wishes by voting for a motion that paves the way for Brexit to be delayed till 2020. Hours after the vote Tuesday, a spokesperson for 10 Downing Street said conservative MPs who did not support the prime minister “will have the Tory whip removed,” the Financial Times reported, meaning that they would not be allowed to stand as Conservative representatives in Parliament.

    Soames, 71, confirmed this in an interview with BBC Newsnight.

    “I have been told by the Chief Whip … that it will be his sad duty to write me tomorrow to tell me that I have had the whip removed,” said Soames, adding that in his 37 years as a Conservative member, he has voted against the party only three times. In the wake of the vote, Soames does not plan to stand for Parliament in the coming general election, he said.

  2. swamprat @ #102 Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 – 5:33 pm

    The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon will tell the UK to give the Scottish Government the power to hold IndyRef2 now. 🙂

    This has the feel of a warning shot and getting ready for a GE and should surprise no-one with its sentiment. But the rhetoric is interesting.
    * “…bad Westminster decisions should not be what this parliament is about.”
    * “Scotland did not vote for any form of Brexit and having a catastrophic No-Deal Brexit imposed on us is completely and utterly unacceptable.”
    * “We intend to offer the people of Scotland the choice of a better and more positive future as an independent nation.”

  3. ‘mick Quinlivan says:
    Wednesday, September 4, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    does a list exist of the 21 conservative mps who displeased Boris…. surely some would have a chance of reelection ?’

    The Guardian last night had such a list.

  4. Boerwar:

    Everyone keeps talking about how the progressive, ‘left of centre’ parties are in decline. But if you look at the US and the UK, it’s the conservative (reactionary) parties which are splintering. In America the Republicans are divided between the small but bullish Trump faction, and a ream of Republicans who have departed the party. The same seems to be happening in the UK, except the division is creating a bullish Brexit faction, with ever increasing number of members leaving the party or being disendorsed.

  5. I give Johnson credit for one thing, that his actions have brought things (including Scottish independence) to a head. The UK voted for a Brexit whose ramifications they arguably did not fully understand. Now, after slowly failing at a careful Brexit, the next thing for the UK to try is a quick careless Brexit. The option of cancelling Brexit seems a distant third.

    I don’t know, but there must be an ongoing cost to the Brexit distraction. The longer it takes for the ramifications to unfold the weaker the UK will be when they start.

  6. Late Riser,
    It’s just been confirmed that the UK is in Recession as Brexit affects British businesses.

    So I wonder how these tactical geniuses will go having to do something other than cause chaos in our political institutions?

  7. confessions @ 6:57

    Elective democracies should be no place for political dynasties. Nick Soames being the grandson of Winston bloody Churchill should carry no weight at all. Indeed, for me, it’s a warning sign because from observation the children or grandchildren of successful politicians who enter politics themselves tend towards being towering mediocrities. Part of it being they’ve never had to forge their own political identity through hard-won experience.

    I cheer any time some metastasising dynasty gets disrupted (e.g. here at home with Alexander Downer’s daughter not getting the easy run into politics she expected). I cheer now for Soames’ political career ending in disrepute and, I expect, failure (because I still think Brexit won’t be blocked).

  8. Honest Bastard,

    I’m not sure it’s fair to characterise Soames’s career as ending in disrepute. Some would say he paid the price for taking a principled stand, and it was probably the most reputable thing he ever did (an unlikely epitaph for the career of any Downer). And he did it knowing very well it might be in vain.

    I think he deserves a point or two of respect for that.

    But you’re right that his ancestry shouldn’t come into it.

  9. Honest Bastard:

    The bigger takeaway from the Soames article is the bleeding of traditional conservative support away from the actual party, and the simultaneous uptake by the numpty faction of hard Brexit.

  10. Ok, out of mild curiosity to see whether this particular example of a dynastic politician was yet another bloviating mediocrity, I looked up Nick Soames’ wikipedia article.

    I’m aware that the picture painted of politicians in their wiki articles can often be somewhat one-sided but still, I think my suspicion was well confirmed.

    * slandered Lady Di when she accused Charles of adultery (which Charles later admitted to)

    * infamous for making vulgar, sexist comments to women and harassing women speakers in parliament with rude gestures

    * did dodgy things to avoid paying inheritance tax

    * heavily involved with dodgy defence contractors

    * still chumming around with Robert Mugabe in 2017

    * repeated traffic offences

    In his plus column I will note that he condemned the US for recognising Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights. But that’s all I could find to put in this column.

    I did realise the broader point that confessions was leading to, but I wouldn’t have chosen this evident dickhead to make it with. It would appear parliament would be well rid of him.

  11. UK Labour are a cowardly disgrace. They’ve been calling for an election since the last one and now given the opportunity they run away.

    Labour, SNP and the Lib Dems have refused the opportunity for the people to decide on BREXIT at an election therefore I fully expect the PM to refuse to follow the BREXIT Coup Legislation if it comes into force and proceed with BREXIT on 31 October.

    If Labour, SNP and the Lib Dems have found their ovaries by then they should agree to an Election and get their arses handed to them with a side serve of Young’s Best Bitter.

  12. Obviously a fresh election will provide clarity and certainty. Just because the last one was called for exactly the same reason and produced the current quagmire of disaster is no reason not to try again and expect a different result.

  13. What, if any, consequences are there for Borris Johnson should he refuse to follow what will shortly be signed in to law, requiring him to request an extension from the EU?

  14. Swamprat; Haven’t been online until now so have only just seen your reply to my post on the backstop.

    My understanding with the backstop is that one of two things can happen. One option is that pending a trade deal between the UK and the EU, the UK would stay in a customs union with the EU, in order to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Naturally, this is unacceptable to leavers, because it keeps the UK in the EU trade block, needing to follow EU trade rules etc. The alternative is a Northern Ireland only backstop, keeping Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU. This is completely unacceptable to unionists, as it treats Northern Ireland as being apart from the rest of the UK, effectively creating a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Thus my comment about a united Ireland through the back door.

  15. Matt31says:
    Thursday, September 5, 2019 at 10:42 am

    The UK and Ireland can decide to keep running the border as it currently is and overtime make changes. What is the EU going to do? Hold their breath until they go blue?

  16. fixed term elections should be just that……….. the idea is to take away from the existing govt of the time the right to set the election date………… in my opinion only a carried no confidence motion should cause an early election


    With No Deal the EU would have little recourse about the UK`s actions in relation to the Northern Ireland, other than potentially taking them to the WTO (if other EU goods were not treated the same).

    However, the EU has far greater recourse against Ireland as it is continuing to be a member. The EU is a highly complex union that is among other things a customs union (with some quite heavily protected sectors, such as agriculture) and a political union. It would (almost certainly) use internal sanctions mechanisms if Ireland failed to uphold its part in the customs union, rather than risk WTO action against it or having open external borders.


    “I’m not saying there wasn’t a democratic mandate for Brexit at the time. I’m just saying if I narrowly decided to order fish at a restaurant that was known for chicken, but said it was happy to offer fish, and so far I’ve been waiting three hours, and two chefs who promised to cook the fish had quit, and the third one is promising to deliver the fish in the next five minutes whether it’s cooked or not, or indeed still alive, and all the waiting staff have spent the last few hours arguing amongst themselves about whether I wanted battered cod, grilled salmon, jellied eels or dolphin kebabs, and large parts of the restaurant now appeared to be on fire but no one was paying any attention to it because they were all arguing about fish …… I would quite like, just once, to be asked if I definitely still wanted the fish. “

  19. Let’s not forget the EU is still part of this dance.

    The EU fears that Boris Johnson has “lost control” and that any new negotiation on the Irish backstop is “pointless” because his government is powerless to push it through the House of Commons.

    “What is the point in prolonging this agony,” said one ambassador. “If there is any extension at all, the EU should take the short amount of time, may be six to nine weeks, to complete our own no-deal preparedness. We have had enough.”

    full article here.

  20. If that sentiment by the ambassador quoted in my previous post is widespread, “What is the point in prolonging this agony,”…
    * Is there an irony in the EU supporting Brexit?
    * It might be a long time before the UK recovers the respect it once had.

  21. what will happen at the election? well any one’s guess…….. does ukip help or hinder the conservatives? like wise the same question can be asked about the ldp . In Scotland the conservatives hold 13 seats . I bet they will be lucky to hold many if any. do people tactically vote that is the best placed of the ldp/ labour and the welsh and Scottish nationalists stand against the conservatives?

  22. Boris has said he won’t take request for an extension to the EU.

    The UK is leaving the EU as per the current law on 31 Oct 2019.

    UK Labour haven’t found their ovaries yet to go to an election. I wonder why?

  23. Pretty much agree with everything Bryan Gould (former Labour MP) says in this piece:

    Those who voted for the Benn bill have commited an act of gross political bastardry which they will pay for. That includes every Labour party member who voted for it (with the honourable exceptions of Kate Hoey and John Mann who voted against), every Green MP, every Liberal Democrat MP. Some leeway can perhaps be given for members of nationalist parties (SNP, Plaid Cymru) who do not recognise the primacy of the British parliament. But those Conservative MPs who voted for it are complete bastards and I fully support their expulsion from the party. It is fine to take a Remain position (although I personally do not agree with it); it is not fine to bind and hobble your own government in negotiations with another entity. I don’t agree with the use of the word ‘treason’ I’ve seen thrown around but it is certainly treacherous political action. Treacherous to their own state and people. And I think it will be recognised as such in the next election.

    The Lib Dems are (tactical) winners from this. The Labour party is the ultimate loser and Jeremy Corbyn, the Tony Benn disciple and long-term eurosceptic, has proved himself a fraud when it wasn’t just a matter of spouting empty words but real decisions had to be made. He has proved himself false to his professed convictions and, while I would have enjoyed seeming him enact some of his policies such as the renationalisation of the railways etc, I think his credibility is now shot and that he’s blown his chance to ever become PM.

  24. Thanks HB. Interesting article. The UK parliament 3 times rejected the Brexit deal that PM May had negotiated. Now parliament is busy both rejecting No-Deal and white-anting the negotiations so there cannot be any deal. (You could interpret PM Johnson’s actions as either he stupidly spooked parliament or cleverly uncovered what was really happening. I’m not sure it matters.) But by rejecting “Deal Brexit” and “No-Deal Brexit” it is now clear that the UK parliament as an entity seems to want “No Brexit”. Whether this is deliberate and conspiratorial or simply careless I can’t say, and again it probably doesn’t matter. The options now are stark, No Brexit versus No-Deal Brexit. If PM Johnson can be trusted in what he says, he will now go hard for a No-Deal Brexit. And because time favours a No-Deal Brexit, I can see PM Johnson winning this battle and, as you imply, being rewarded for it in the GE that will follow the No-Deal Brexit.

  25. I’ve just discovered that Boris Johnson is in line to become the shortest serving UK prime minister in history, should he lose an election or resign in the next couple of months. The current record holder is George Canning at 119 days, who has held the record for nearly two centuries.

    I was really surprised to learn that. I would have thought there would have been some caretaker PMs at just a few days or weeks.

  26. Honest Bastard @ #136 Friday, September 6th, 2019 – 11:25 am

    No wonder the Labour party are running scared from an election when their cabinet ministers are spouting utterly nonsensical position statements like this one from Emily Thornberry on BBC Question Time last night:

    How sad to see what UK Labour has become.

    I wonder about hindsight sometimes. Is it just rationalising? But that clip puts the logic of a negotiated Brexit into perspective. (Never mind the lame reply from Emily Thornberry.) It seems even clearer now that No-Deal Brexit is inevitable. My American friends have an analogy that might fit. Trying to get a Brexit deal is like wrestling a pig. You get covered in shit and you piss off the pig. In hindsight (?) maybe the referendum should have been Remain versus Leave (no deals). It could have saved a lot of time.

  27. Leave took a deliberate decision not to specify the type of Brexit they were supporting, so that everybody could imagine it was the Brexit they wanted, and they couldn’t be pinned down explaining the negatives.

    That leaves aside that with a country leaving the EU being unprecedented, nobody really understood how negotiations would go.

    One consequence of that is that because nobody really agreed the type of Brexit they wanted, they spent over a year thrashing out a vision that didn’t fly with the EU, then negotiated a deal not enough people from their own side wanted, and now have arrived at no deal by default.

    (One adds, you can extrapolate the actual popularity of no deal from the fact the Johnson babbles on about how all this is ‘sabotaging’ his ‘negotiations’ when there actually hasn’t been anything to ‘sabotage’)

  28. As almost everyone across the political spectrum has now realised:
    * A negotiated Brexit has proven impossible.
    * Brexit will happen, and sooner rather than later.
    * Post-Brexit will be difficult.

    So excuses and finding someone else to blame are now politically important, and I daresay most of the political blame and frustration is directed towards those ends. Perhaps this sentence, listing two, might be a good place to start.

    The Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, fulfilled his pledge to hold a referendum in 2016 following pressure from the Eurosceptic wing of his party.

    I’m morbidly curious how the last bits of Brexit will unfold but I mainly now look forward to the bun-fight over what should happen after.

    * I was wrong back in March and April when I predicted an imminent “Hard-Brexit”, as it was then commonly labelled. It just feels different this time. Frustration is everywhere.
    * “The search for someone to blame is always successful.” Robert Half

  29. Boris is arrogant and gives the impression of being too clever by half. There is no need for an early election unless a no confidence motion is passed. UK has been part of the the eec since the 1960s to unravel this is difficult and must be done properly a thing that a no deal brexit does not achieve .

  30. mick Quinlivan @ #140 Friday, September 6th, 2019 – 9:07 pm

    Boris is arrogant(1) and gives the impression of being too clever by half(2). There is no need for an early election unless a no confidence motion is passed(3). UK has been part of the the eec since the 1960s(4) to unravel this is difficult(5) and must be done properly(6) a thing that a no deal brexit does not achieve(7).

    Of your 7 points (enumerated) I am with you for the first 5. Regarding point (6), my only concern is that “properly” depends on your goals, which for some people actually is a no-deal Brexit, which argues against your point (7). And there is also Alexander’s solution to the problem of the Gordian Knot, which PM Johnson may be following. Personally, Brexit seems like a mistake but my opinion is poorly informed and invalid besides, since I am just watching from outside. All I can say is there appear to be widespread grievances inside the UK with EU membership and we are watching them play out.

  31. late riser . ….. this is fair comment……….. it is very hard to look at things from the outside……….. of course I don’t know all the answers……….. I sort of get the impression Boris is Trump lite

  32. Tweet from Matthew Green on new polling from Survation / Mail:

    Direct link to picture showing poling figures & graphs:×900

    Those figures don’t look good for the blockers and look particularly bad for Jeremy Corbyn.

    And a massive 75% don’t think Britain’s political class are serving the interests of the country.

    (Sorry, but numbers polled and other polling details not given in that tweet so I have no idea of the polling quality).

  33. That 75% includes many people who are Remainers upset at Brexit and how the political class have brought it about, not just Bexiteers wanting to have already left.

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