Brexit minus eight weeks: is it election time?

What’s next in the Brexit gridlock, plus updates from Italy and the Democratic race in the US. 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.

To try to ensure Boris Johnson follows Parliament’s laws, it needs to be sitting in late October, and not be dissolved for an election.

On September 3, the Commons changed the order of business to allow legislation opposing a no-deal Brexit to be debated by 328 votes to 301. As a result, the 21 Conservative MPs who opposed the government were kicked out of the Conservative party and will not be able to stand as Conservative candidates at the next election.

On September 4, the legislation passed the Commons comfortably, and has gone to the House of Lords, where it will pass easily. Boris Johnson attempted to call an early election, but won far fewer votes than the two-thirds majority needed to dissolve parliament.

Once this legislation clears Parliament and receives royal assent (expected on Monday), the question is whether Labour should support an early election. No other party can give Johnson the two-thirds majority he needs. Although a simple majority could pass legislation setting the election date, that legislation would also have to go through the Lords before prorogation. According to The Guardian, Jeremy Corbyn is poised to reject Johnson’s October 15 election.

Once Parliament is dissolved, Johnson could call the election for November 1 – the day after Brexit – and refuse to implement Parliament’s legislation attempting to force him to request a Brexit extension. The right-wing British newspapers and a large share of the public would applaud Johnson if he blatantly broke the law in this way. This applause would be very different from most cases where politicians flagrantly break laws. Johnson said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than extend Brexit.

If Johnson honours the October 15 election, his message would be simple: Vote Conservative to stop all the Brexit talk after October 31. Corbyn would have a more complex message on Brexit that would probably not appeal. At the 2017 election, Brexit was a comparatively minor issue. Asked which would be worse in a poll, 43% selected Corbyn becoming PM, while 35% chose a no-deal Brexit.

On October 14, the Queen reopens Parliament. On October 17-18, there is a European Union summit – the last chance to make a deal before Brexit day. If Johnson does not make a deal with the EU, or request an extension, and Parliament is still sitting, it is likely he would face a successful no-confidence vote. If the Commons did not vote for confidence in a new government by October 31, Britain would crash out.

In this scenario, an election would take place several weeks after a no-deal Brexit. My view is that people will not turn against Brexit until they are personally inconvenienced. A no-deal Brexit is likely to cause significant inconvenience. An election held several weeks after a no-deal Brexit will probably result in a Labour landslide and PM Corbyn.

Another scenario is that the Commons elects Corbyn or someone else to be PM, request an extension and hold an election. Corbyn is unlikely to allow someone else to be PM so close to an election, and many Conservative rebel MPs would still prefer no-deal to Corbyn. If, despite these problems, Corbyn became PM before an election, he could enact some of his popular policies by executive order, and use these policies as an election platform. Labour would never have done so well in 2017 if Corbyn did not have popular policies.

Trump trails leading Democrats by record margins; far-right Salvini loses power in Italy

I wrote for The Conversation on September 5 that Donald Trump trails the leading Democrats in a Quinnipiac poll by far bigger margins than any previous incumbent president at this point – sourced from CNN analyst Harry Enten. Joe Biden still leads the Democratic primary despite one outlier poll.

In Italy, there was a coalition between the far-right League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. I wrote for my personal website on September 4 that League leader Matteo Salvini broke this coalition to force early elections, but the Five Stars allied with the centre-left Democrats to form a new government. Also covered: Israeli polls ahead of the September 17 election, and the far-right surges in two German state elections.

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.

110 comments on “Brexit minus eight weeks: is it election time?”

  1. Fairly interesting interview with Dominic Raab by Sophy Ridge (Sky news) this morning:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ze3hWbwqyU

    It’s a bit over 17 minutes long and I know that might be too much Dominic Raab for some people on here to stomach. If that’s the case I’d still recommend watching the bit from around 10:20 where he discusses their approach to dealing with the Hillary Benn Bill (or “Surrender Bill” as he puts it). Basically, they’re going to look at it very carefully and see what it requires and doesn’t require them to do. And in his words “test it to the limit”.

  2. I’m seeing speculation that Johnson might organise a no-confidence motion in his own government on Monday (and whip his party to support it).

    At some point during the final term of the NSW Labor Government (2007-2011), there was some speculation that the party might decide to put itself out of its misery by engineering an early election in this manner. Such a prospect was short-lived, as it quickly became clear that the Governor would quite rightly view this situation as not constituting a genuine loss of confidence.

  3. itsthevibe, yeah, perhaps a bit silly of me to mention it. It’s certainly at the wilder end of speculation as to what might happen this week.

  4. I’d actually love to see Johnson try it on, because it would be good to establish a totally unambiguous precedent as to how a stunt of that nature should be treated. Also, if the Queen did knock Johnson back, he’d look like even more of a bumbling fool than usual! (Although, as with Trump, it’d probably make his base even more protective of him…)

  5. It would appear that the Lib Dems becoming a “broad church” anti-Brexit party is causing problems within the party due to its absorption of MPs with values contrary to the Lib Dems platform in other areas.

    Specifically, they have recently lost two chairs of their LGBT+ group and one member of the party executive after former Tory MP Phillip Lee joined the party this week. Lee voted against same sex marriage and has also campaigned to bar people with HIV from coming to the UK.

    There is also displeasure about plans for other defecting MPs to be ‘parachuted’ into new electorates, displacing the native LD candidates. This is being done for former Labour MPs Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger whose current seats are considered unviable wins for the Lib Dems.

    Sourced from this article in the Daily Express. I have to say this is a very tabloidy paper and quite clearly pro-Brexit so obviously they want to play up the ructions. But I also found a confirming article in Pride Life about one of the LGBT+ chair resignations.

    It’s not at all unusual for defecting MPs to cause digestion problems in their new parties and resentment when they displace native candidates. With the Lib Dems increasing their MP count by 4 in a short space of time and with the defectors coming from different parties (2 from Labour, 2 from the Tories), it’s not hard to see that there could be issues and the recent resignations would appear to confirm that they exist.

  6. This graphic from Ipsos-Mori polling, contrasting monthly UK polling in 2018 vs 2019 is quite spectacular:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/ED8ZPJ2W4AEsUgB?format=jpg&name=900×900

    (Tweet source)

    Matthew Goodwin, commenting on the graphic, says

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has helped make its politics more European. Once the world’s most stable 2 party system is now grappling with the same winds that are sweeping through EU states – fragmentation of electorates, high volatility & resurgent populism

  7. I congratulate all here on a reasoned discussion.we just don’t know what would happen …. To assume a Tory victory in a future election is beyond crystal ball gazing. It is even possible that another hung parliament occurs. With the balance of power held by multiple parties?

  8. Honest Bastard and itsthevibe,

    In Australia, governors and governors-general are allowed and even expected to make a decision once in a while (a few times every hundred years). Thus if a government were to attempt to pass no-confidence in itself, there’s a strong chance it wouldn’t work.

    The situation in the UK is very different. Although the queen could theoretically act against the advice of the PM, constitutional lawyers consider the possibility as too shocking to contemplate. The modern legal fiction is that the sovereign runs the country by always accepting advice from his/her ministers. The chance of defying the Prime Minister is virtually zilch.

    It’s extremely unlikely that Johnson will try such a tactic, but if he does I’ll bet you a hundred million billion gajillion dollars that it works.

  9. Mick, I think a hung parliament is to be expected.

    I was surprised to see the poll that said that labour gets a bigger share of the vote (albeit on a paltry 28%) than the tories in a post Oct 31 election if the brexit deadline is extended. I would have thought that the electorate would seek to punish labour for forcing the extension.

    Apart from that, current polling is consistently dire for labour – and its getting worse every new poll that comes out. Analaysis that I’ve read indicates that the exodus is occuring from both the remain side (to lib-dems) and leave side (to tories). I would have thought labour’s proposal of having a new referendum (that includes revoking article 50) is a good solution. However polls indicate that the electorate hates that option too.

    So given a) prolonging the brexit impasse demonstrably hurts labour and b) the public apparently hate labour’s idea of having a new referendum – I have no idea why this poll would have labour ahead of the tories if there is further delay. Unless its more to do with wanting to punish Boris for allowing the extension – after being so adamant that it wouldn’t happen.

    Unfortunately, I suspect the best and possibly only chance for a labour victory is for no-deal brexit to happen, then have an election 6 months to a year down the track. After which the full impact of no-deal will start to be felt by the public, the tories will have continued their implosion, and the lib-dems will be thoroughly irrelevant (their only relevance now is as an anti-brexit + anti-no-deal party).

  10. UK polls released at the weekend have actually been all over the place.

    In four polls (ComRes, Deltapoll, Survation and Panelbase), the Tory lead is 3-5 points.

    In Opinium, the lead is ten points, and in YouGov it is 14 points.

    Here are Britain Elect’s tweets on Deltapoll and ComRes: big move against the Tories in Deltapoll. In both these polls, there’s been a drop for the combined Tory/Brexit party vote.

    Britain Elects
    @britainelects
    ·
    12h
    [Britain Elects commissioned]
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 31% (-)
    LAB: 27% (-)
    LDEM: 20% (+4)
    BREX: 13% (-3)
    GRN: 3% (-1)

    via
    @ComRes
    , 04 – 06 Sep
    Chgs. w/ 11 Aug

    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 31% (-4)
    LAB: 28% (+4)
    LDEM: 17% (-1)
    BREX: 13% (-1)

    via
    @DeltapollUK
    , 05 – 07 Sep

  11. I just spotted this.

    The extraordinary plan would see the UK refuse to appoint a commissioner, putting the EU in breach of its own legal duty for all 28 member states to be represented on its executive branch. No 10 believes the UK would be “disrupting” Brussels life to such a degree that member states will then make it clear they will refuse to grant an Article 50 extension – even if asked for.

    But this analysis of EU perspective in The Guardian refutes the “UK gambit” and points out “If the UK is still an EU member it is that member state which would violate the treaty and could be brought to the EU court of justice.” The article also quotes EU diplomats using words such as “a farce”, “sham negotiations”, “frustration is growing rapidly among the EU27”, “No proposals on the idea itself were received and therefore discussed.”, “It just becomes more ridiculous by the day.” “We are not going to do this [extend the deadline] every three months” And so on.

    Johnson’s strategy appears to be to frustrate the EU to the point of exhaustion, leaving the EU with only two choices: Johnson-Deal or No-Deal. Either way, Brexit happens on October 31 and Johnson will claim victory.

  12. Adrian Beaumont

    I was listening to UK pollster this morning on UK radio.
    Can’t recall his name. Basically said that the polls are erratic and changeable on daily basis. There has been no way of getting a genuine picture of what the actual voters will do.

    Pretty much sums up what is happening within the political arena!

  13. Interesting comments by Dominic Raab yesterday – saying the government will be studying the text of the legislation very carefully to see what it does and doesn’t legally obligate them to do.

    Or in other words, they will “loophole the shit out of it”

  14. Late Riser, I saw that Independent piece and dismissed it as a scare story. It’s manufactured on a flimsy basis from anonymous quotes from a supposed government source. Frankly, I’ve found the Independent even worse than The Guardian in reporting on Brexit.

  15. Oops, posted too early.

    On the three circles of madness in the Tories (UK sect):

    “So to sum up: The members of the inner core aren’t mad (or only mad in the same way as the Nazi inner circle were – completely rational but with sick objectives that most people don’t share); the middle group are simulating madness to make the EU give in; and the members at large are actually mad.”

    🙂

  16. Big A Adrian @ #61 Monday, September 9th, 2019 – 10:11 am

    Apart from that, current polling is consistently dire for labour – and its getting worse every new poll that comes out. Analaysis that I’ve read indicates that the exodus is occuring from both the remain side (to lib-dems) and leave side (to tories). I would have thought labour’s proposal of having a new referendum (that includes revoking article 50) is a good solution. However polls indicate that the electorate hates that option too.

    My guess is that the electorate (as an entity) simply wants to move on. A large portion want to Remain. Another (larger?) portion want Brexit. Both want Brexit off the front pages. Any political party that wants it to continue will see an exodus of voters. Even a short extension let alone another referendum is too much. Brexit is about hearts, not minds. Once Brexit is done voters will resume traditional behaviour.

    Corbin’s strategy seems to be to position himself to be able to say, “I told you so.” He wants the “rash Conservatives” to wear the damage being forecast. I doubt it will work though against a winner/grinner who “stuck it to the EU”. So on reflection I think talk of a GE is premature. Corbin doesn’t want to get lumbered with making Brexit work. Johnson wants to be a triumphant British Prime Minister.

  17. It is interesting that Nicola Sturgeon has just been honoured with the M100 European Media Award. To be awarded at the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam on 17 September. Is it a hint of support for Scotland or are the German’s being mischievous?

    “Nicola Sturgeon is a crucial voice of reason at a time in which political discourse is sadly too often shaped by a lack of objectivity and short-term thinking. As a staunch European, Nicola Sturgeon conveys strong messages of cohesion and political rationality from Scotland to both Europe and the entire world……..With the M100 Media Award, her commitment to a unified Europe is rightfully honoured.”

    The Lord Mayor of Potsdam, Mike Schubert, emphasises as Chairman of the M100 Advisory Board: “Nicola Sturgeon is a strong politician and a passionate European. She has not only raised the flag of Scotland, but has also stood up to the Brexit protagonists in difficult times……. Her voice is heard when it comes to the question of European identity. She is a worthy laureate.”

    “No other part of Great Britain voted against Brexit with such an overwhelming majority as Scotland.”

    https://www.united-europe.eu/2019/09/nicola-sturgeon-receives-m100-media-award/

  18. Honest Bastard @ #66 Monday, September 9th, 2019 – 11:21 am

    Late Riser, I saw that *Independent* piece and dismissed it as a scare story. It’s manufactured on a flimsy basis from anonymous quotes from a supposed government source. Frankly, I’ve found the *Independent* even worse than *the Guardian* in reporting on Brexit.

    You’re right of course. Twitter is in there somewhere.

  19. Having lied about trying to progress a Deal, Johnson is now whipping over the Irish Sea to talk to Varadkar presumably in order to fake trying to progress a Deal.

  20. The English MSM has hardly covered itself in glory with respect to Brexit.

    It is just as well we have Mr Sheridan to set things right. He had extolled Ms May as the ‘Lioness’. He is now extolling Johnson as a Battler for Britain. IMO, Sheridan’s writings on Brexit have consistently been his worst.

  21. So we lead into the big and final day of parliament before it suspends through to October 14. I won’t post the link again but I found BrexitCentral’s daily news briefing for today useful, in summarising what had been said and written about Brexit matters over the weekend and some of what we might expect to see happen today.

  22. Has anyone ever made a post that never shows up but when you try and repost it says its already posted? If so does it ever end up appearing?

  23. @Big A

    No, but that sounds frustrating. Looking back over the thread I can see comments from you (disregarding your latest and the preceding test one) at 11:01 am and 10:11 am today.

  24. Big A Adrian @ #76 Monday, September 9th, 2019 – 6:19 pm

    Has anyone ever made a post that never shows up but when you try and repost it says its already posted? If so does it ever end up appearing?

    Yes. It has happened to me a couple of times over a 3 year period.

    What I *think* fixed it was logging out of PB, closing my browser, waiting a few minutes, reopening my browser, logging back into PB, changing my post slightly, and reposting. I don’t know which if any of these steps is critical, I might have just got lucky. And I’m not sure but I may have cleared my browser cookies. (Welcome to the internet.)

  25. this is absurd – I can make little posts like this but not my long one. Is there ae word limit? If so there should be a message saying so when you try and post it.

  26. part 2…

    At best this would prevent a tori majority, and most likely no-deal. But what then? Are the lib-dems going to hold their noses and allow a Corbyn government?

    Regarding the second referendum – which I assume will be the most likely outcome in the event of a) achieving an extension and b) defeat of the tories at the election:

  27. 1. Boris is no doubt basing his beligerant “brexit by October 31 no matter what – even if no-deal” stance on polls such as this: [removed for testing]

  28. I won’t spam you with the rest. This is effing ridiculous – I can post literally anything except this one post – which I can apparently post in smaller pieces, which I’m not going to do.

    Bottom line, my point was that ‘we should get a deal’ option + remain option combined defeats ‘leave no matter what (even if it means no deal)’ option. And furthermore these two combined form a small majority of the total voting public. It makes a strong case for tactical voting – pro-deal brexiters and remainers should therefore put aside their differences and vote tactically to defeat the tories and any chance of no deal. The unresolved impasse can then be sorted by a referendum in which ‘a deal’ (presumably May’s deal, being the only one the EU will accept) is pitted against remain.

  29. Big A Adrian @ #85 Tuesday, September 10th, 2019 – 8:26 am

    … It makes a strong case for tactical voting – pro-deal brexiters and remainers should therefore put aside their differences and vote tactically to defeat the tories and any chance of no deal. The unresolved impasse can then be sorted by a referendum in which ‘a deal’ (presumably May’s deal, being the only one the EU will accept) is pitted against remain.

    (I feel your frustration. WordPress is far from perfect.)

    Nevertheless, if I’ve understood you right you’re saying that a majority might want “Leave” but there are three subgroups. “Leave under any circumstances”, “Leave Without A Deal”, and “Leave With A Deal”. I could imagine a temporary political group made up of “Remain”+”Leave-With-A-Deal” might defeat the group made up of “Leave-Without-A-Deal”+”Leave-Under-Any-Circumstances”.

    It would come down to whether or not (1) British MPs, (2) the voters are sufficiently disciplined to do this, and finally (3) the October 31 deadline can be extended (yet again). I guess I’m not persuaded. I still see a No-Deal Brexit happening in just under 52 days.

  30. Bribe or salve?
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/10/duty-free-purchases-of-cigarettes-and-alcohol-to-return-under-no-deal-brexit

    Ministers, who think the announcement is certain to be popular with the public, are keen to counter some of the negative stories surrounding a no-deal Brexit with examples of how consumers will see some tangible and immediate benefits.

    Ministers, who think the announcement is certain to be popular with the public, are keen to counter some of the negative stories surrounding a no-deal Brexit with examples of how consumers will see some tangible and immediate benefits.

    I see the timing as more evidence that Brexit is imminent.

  31. After this I don’t see how the Lib-Dems would ever be able to join ‘tactically’ with any Leave-With-A-Deal group.

    The Liberal Democrats are set to officially back revoking article 50 in an attempt to position themselves as the most pro-EU political party. The move would effectively sever the chances of an alliance with Labour at a forthcoming general election.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/09/liberal-democrats-poised-to-back-revoking-article-50-brexit

    It seems like the Lib-Dems are after Labor’s Remain voters. Labor’s Leave voters on the other hand will go “Mild Conservative”. The Conservatives too are dividing. What remains to be seen is if the change is long term, post-Brexit.

    (Honest Bastard, I think you got it a couple of days ago when you described the realignment of British politics.)

  32. Richard Chambers
    (@newschambers)
    Updated: Parliamentary defeats for each Prime Minister

    Thatcher – 4 in 11 years
    Major – 6 in 7 years
    Blair – 4 in 10 years
    Brown – 3 in 3 years
    Cameron – 10 in 6 years
    May – 33 in 3 years
    Johnson – 6 in one week

  33. Excerpts from: https://brexitcentral.com/today/brexit-news-for-tuesday-10-september/

    That’s funny considering the “gaming” being done by Johnson’s government.

    John Bercow, the man who used the office of Speaker to frustrate Brexit, has been accused of “gaming the system” to ensure his successor is chosen by a Remain-backing Parliament.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/09/09/john-bercow-accused-gaming-system-ensure-successor-chosen-anti/

    Petty?

    Boris Johnson is planning to exact revenge on Mr Bercow for his ‘bias’ over Brexit by denying him a seat in the Lords.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7445445/Tory-revenge-John-Bercow-set-Speaker-230-YEARS-not-peerage.html

    Sorry. Not sorry.

    Senior judges and lawyers have warned that Boris Johnson would be in contempt of court if he applied for an article 50 extension while simultaneously trying to get the EU to reject it.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/09/boris-johnson-sabotage-letter-to-eu-would-break-law

    The Sun has worked it out and is asking Farage for help.

    If the Brexit Party poses a mortal threat to Boris Johnson’s Tories, it is time Nigel Farage ensured it did not.

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9896710/nigel-farage-leaver-tories-join/

  34. With its powerlessness against the Executive Government and its many undemocratic elements, Westminster is no longer the “mother” of all Parliaments (if it ever was).

    It is more accurately the Trollop of Parliaments. 🙂

  35. It is becoming a source of European amusement.

    “The Government may have succeeded in closing down Parliament, but their problems haven’t gone away. France is airing the possibility that the EU might insist on a two year extension to Article 50 as the UK is mired in an impasse. Les trolleurs françaises le font pour des merdes et le fou rire.

    Which means “The French trolls are doing it for the shits and giggles.”

    🙂

    https://weegingerdug.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/the-mess-thats-getting-messier/

  36. If anyone here is interested in Italy, the new coalition government between the Five Stars and Democrats easily won confidence votes in the last two days in both chambers of the Italian Parliament. I’ve updated my article at my personal website.

    Next Brexit article should be tomorrow.

  37. From The Guardian:

    “Journalist: Will you be supporting the motion from the crossbench re this climate emergency?

    Terri Butler: Well, it’s actually up to the government to decide whether there will be a declaration of a climate emergency, and frankly, I don’t have any confidence that they even believe in climate change.

    They’ve had their own minister out there saying that he’s not sure whether manmade climate change exists, he doesn’t know whether it’s even real.

    How can we be confident that this government will take any action on climate change, or take any serious action whatsoever, when they’ve got science-denying ministers in their own frontbench, which is threatening the prosperity of our country.

    Journalist: Will you be voting for the motion?

    Terri Butler: Well, as I say, it’s a matter for the government whether there is a climate emergency declaration.”

    Thank the gods we have the Labor Party with its inspiring convictions and tenacity in holding the Government to account! (Possible sarcasm)

  38. As Late Riser referred to above, the Lib Dems are now making it clear they are moving to a position of revoking article 50. So they are positioning themselves as the remain party who will end the whole thing, which will contrast them with Labour who will drag it on. Very interesting how this plays out; could be very popular with strong pro remain voters. My sense though is that the remain vote will end up the more split if a GE does happen, leading to a Conservative win.

  39. Tom Watson has his say.

    ——-

    Labour must prioritise reversing Brexit through another referendum, over winning power in a general election, its deputy leader Tom Watson is to say.
    He will warn that a snap election before the end of the year may fail to resolve the current deadlock.
    Putting himself at odds with Jeremy Corbyn, he will say there is “no such thing as a good Brexit deal” and Labour must campaign unequivocally to remain.
    Mr Corbyn has said Labour must offer voters both Leave and Remain options.
    Following meetings with trade union leaders on Tuesday, Labour’s leader promised a further referendum on Brexit with a “credible Leave option” versus Remain if his party wins the next general election.
    Its election manifesto will promise to reach a better Brexit deal, but is not expected to commit to either Leave or Remain.
    Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS union, said this was the “only common sense” position and the binary choice on offer in a referendum was a “huge gamble” which risked “perpetuating” existing political divisions.
    “I think Tom Watson’s intervention is irresponsible and not what Labour communities need,” he told the BBC’s Newsnight.

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