Tory People’s Vote Campaign Loses Most of its MPs Despite Burning Through £40,000 of Dark Money

The Tory awkward squad launched their own “distinctive” People’s Vote campaign last month under the excruciatingly bad name-pun of ‘Right to Vote’. At the time of their launch Right to Vote widely claimed to have 10 Tory MPs on board, although Phillip Lee only counted eight at the launch event – Sam Gyimah, Heidi Allen, Dominic Grieve, Justine Greening, Guto Bebb, Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and himself.

That number appears to have shrunk even further by the time of their latest ‘intervention’ this week, with just four MPs putting their name to their letter calling for Brexit to be delayed – Gyimah, Lee, Grieve and Bebb along with two hardline Remainer Lords. They seemed so desperate for MP support that the letter even originally listed “Baroness Altmann MP” as a signatory before the amusing mishap was corrected…

Incredibly, Right to Vote have reportedly spent a whopping £40,000 so far, despite not even having a website or a Twitter account at the time they launched, and their woeful lack of impact generally. As a campaigning organisation specifically made up of members from only one party they also clearly satisfy the Electoral Commission’s definition of a ‘members association’, which means they have should have registered with the Electoral Commission and declared every donation they have received over £7,500 by now – they haven’t. By law, the public have a right to know exactly whose dark money they’ve been fruitlessly burning through…

Dominic Grieve’s Amendment Defeated 321 to 301

Dominic Grieve’s Slippery Letter to MPs

Dominic Grieve has been spamming MPs with a letter trying to convince them to back his amendment (g) tomorrow, which would suspend Parliament’s Standing Orders every Tuesday from 12th February until the end of March. Giving Grieve and his cronies free rein to disrupt Brexit on a weekly basis with Bercow’s assistance…

Naturally Grieve adopts his avuncular ‘impartial defender of the constitution’ persona in the letter, while using misleading arguments to justify doing the complete opposite. Grieve writes that the amendment “presupposes no specific outcome to the debates it would help initiate”. Yet Grieve himself personally tabled two Bills calling for a second referendum just two weeks ago…

Grieve claims that “Government control over the Order Paper is not an ancient constitutional principle, but the product of 20th Century Standing Orders.” Grieve is wilfully misinformed on this point – as the literature states it is in fact a centuries old convention, with origins dating back to 1811…

Grieve was claiming last week that his amendment wouldn’t be used to force through minority legislation such as Yvette Cooper’s Bill to delay Brexit. In today’s letter he specifically says that his amendment will give MPs further chances to get Cooper’s Bill through if it “fails for any reason to reach the statute book”…

The ongoing mystery about Dominic Grieve is how his softly-spoken manner and well-crafted sophistry continue to trick MPs into taking his arguments at face value when he has overtly been front and centre of the efforts to reverse Brexit altogether for months. Any MPs who truly believe they have a duty to respect the referendum result are simply kidding themselves if they get taken in by him again…

How MPs are Plotting to Stop Brexit

Despite the second ‘meaningful vote’ not being for another week, scheming MPs have been getting their anti-Brexit amendments in early. The following amendments are all already tabled, although they may change between now and next week:

  • Corbyn: “all options on the table” amendment. Corbyn continues his vague policy towards Brexit with an amendment calling for the Government to give time for Parliament to vote on options aimed at preventing no deal, including a Labour-style “strong single market” deal or “legislating to hold a public vote on a deal or a proposition that has commanded the support of the majority of the House of Commons”. Heavily-qualified support for a second referendum that likely wouldn’t be binding on the Government in any case…
  • Cooper, Boles, Morgan, Grieve: “coup” amendment. Seeks to give an entirely arbitrary grouping of backbench MPs the power to take over the Parliamentary timetable and bring in a Bill that would force the Government to extend Article 50 if a deal is not agreed by the end of February. Literally a coup…
  • Benn: “indicative votes” amendment. Commits the Government to holding a series of so-called “indicative votes” – MPs would hold non-binding votes on a range of different Brexit scenarios. Likely generating more heat than light…
  • Grieve: “endless debates” amendment. Somewhat similar but more tedious, this attempts to create a slot for weekly six-and-a-half hour debates for MPs to debate a meaningless motion while adding their own amendments to it. The most pernicious aspects allowing a minority of 300 MPs to take over Parliamentary business have been removed. Grieve claims the debates won’t be used to try to force primary legislation through…
  • Reeves, Benn, Grieve: “two-year extension” amendment. Attempts to force the Government to seek a two-year extension to Article 50 if no deal is agreed by 26th February. Not going to happen, not least because the EU won’t agree…
  • Creasy, Nandy: “citizens’ assembly” amendment. Extends Article 50 and creates a “citizens’ assembly” of 250 people along with an “expert committee” appointed by Sarah Wollaston’s Liaison Committee to advise the Government how to proceed. Very Green Party…

The one amendment which hasn’t yet been tabled but could also be highly significant is some variation of Andrew Murrison’s from last week which Bercow refused to call. This is looking like the most likely route for the Government to try to get its own MPs and the DUP back onside by voting through the Withdrawal Agreement but only on the condition that the backstop is time limited. Would give the EU some tough choices to make…

Government Entitled to Ask Queen Not to Give Assent to Brexit Wreckers’ Bills

Devastating argument from Policy Exchange this morning. Sir Stephen Laws QC – who was until 2012 the Government’s most senior lawyer on legislative and constitutional matters – says don’t assume that MPs could engineer a change to the law to postpone or cancel Brexit without persuading Government to acquiesce and participate in securing the change.

Attempting to change the law without the Government’s participation, he argues, could jeopardise fundamental constitutional principles based on centuries of history, especially if the Speaker dispenses with or ignores a rule that gives Government complete control over increases to public expenditure.

Sir Stephen Writes:

“If the Speaker chose to allow this rule to be dispensed with or ignored, that could have unpredictable, and potentially horrific, constitutional consequences. It could raise a question whether the Government would be entitled or might feel required to reassert its constitutional veto by advising the Queen not to grant Royal Assent to the Bill.

How should the Monarch react to such advice? The answer is not straightforward and the prospect of it needing to be considered in a real life political crisis is unthinkably awful. It is a sacred duty of all UK politicians not to involve the Monarch in politics. They have a constitutional responsibility to resolve difficulties between themselves in accordance with the rules, and so as not to call on the ultimate referee.”

If the Speaker and Dominic Grieve are going to vandalise the constitution and overturn established parliamentary conventions, don’t expect the government to just roll over. The Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will be studying this argument closely as no doubt will the Brexit sympathetic Queen. Bercow is only the Prince of Parliament, though he might not want to believe, the Queen still outranks him constitutionally. Grieve isn’t as clever as he thinks he is…

Grieve’s Minority Coup D’etat

Alex Wickham has scooped the Sundays by getting hold of Grieve’s Proposed Amendment to let a minority take control of the parliamentary legislative agenda:

PROPOSED AMENDMENT 1 TO SECTION 13(6) MOTION

As an Amendment to the Motion tabled for the purposes of section 13(6) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2017
Leave out from “House” to end and insert “believes that [INSERT DECLARATORY WORDS RELATING TO NEED TO PREVENT NO DEAL BREXIT), and orders accordingly that — (1) On [DATE OF SUBSEQUENT SITTING DAY TO BE INSERTED] —

(a) Standing Order No. 14(1) (which provides that government business shall have precedence at every sitting sa. as provided in that order) shall (subject to paragraph (e)) not apply;
(b) a Motion in connection with the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union in the name of at least 300 Members of the House elected to the House as members of at least five parties and including at least 10 Members elected to the House as members of the party in Government shall stand as the first item of business;
(c) that motion may be proceeded with at any hour though opposed, shall not be interrupted at the moment of interruption, and, if under discussion when business is postponed under the provisions of any standing order, may be returned, though opposed, after the interruption of business; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) will not apply;
(d) at the conclusion of debate on that motion, the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on that motion (including for the purposes of Standing Order No. 36(2) (questions to be put following closure of debate)) shall include the questions on any amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; and
(e) but if no motion which meets the requirements of paragraph (b) is tabled by 6.00 pm on [DATE PRIOR TO INTENDED DATE OF DEBATE), the provisions of paragraphs (a) to (d) shall not apply”

If his amendment passes a minority of 300 MPs across five parties – with only 10 Tories needed – would be able to control the parliamentary agenda. Effectively creating a minority opposition controlled legislature.

It is possible that this draft might be a ruse, so that it looks more like a reasonable compromise when they go for a straight majority in parliament taking control of legislative agenda from government. This is all designed to stop Brexit happening on March 29th without a deal in place. It is a coup against the expressed will of the people…

Leadsom Outwits Bercow and Grieve on Brexit ‘Plan B’

Dominic Grieve and John Bercow’s attempts to force the Government into a corner have fallen flat thanks to a loophole which allows the Government to avoid another humiliating defeat just three (working) days after the last one. Andrea Leadsom confirmed that the Government would lay its motion on its Brexit ‘next steps’ on Monday as required by Grieve’s rogue amendment, but that the debate and vote on it would not be held until the following Tuesday 29th. Backbenchers who have worked with Grieve on amendments before privately whisper that his drafting skills are not as tight as they are made out to be…

Leadsom also announced that the Government would not be bringing any more Brexit legislation back to the Commons for the foreseeable future, including the Trade Bill and the Immigration Bill. No legislation, nothing for Remainers to attach hostile amendments to…

Remainers To Formally Launch ‘Conservatives For A People’s Vote’ on Thursday

This morning Philip Lee, Dominic Grieve, and Heidi Allen met to plan the launch of ‘Conservatives for a People’s Vote’ which formally relaunches on Thursday at 8 in the Shard. A shiny skyscraper in central London, surrounded by bankers… That’ll win over Mansfield…

The group is expecting to receive explicit support from eleven Tory MPs, and plan to use the defeat of the PM’s deal to recruit more. Heidi Allen, who is voting for May’s deal, attended the planning meeting in the knowledge that it would be voted down. Her plan is to argue that she tried to pass the deal but now the only way out is a second referendum. Duplicitous…

Guido understands that public affairs agency Hanover Communications is managing the campaign. In other news, Hanover Senior Adviser Steve Richards appeared on Sky News earlier today arguing for a second referendum. Fancy that! 

Commons Clerk Torpedoes Remainers’ Brexit Sabotage Hopes

Commons Clerk David Natzler has torpedoed the wishful thinking of Dominic Grieve and others that they will be able to use motions in the House of Commons to force the Government into any particular course of action on Brexit, be it preventing no deal, extending Article 50 or forcing a second referendum. Natzler confirmed that the Government would have no legal obligation to follow any such motions. Remainers can pass as many motions as they like but none of them will stop Brexit…

As ever, the Government can only be bound by statute – although this does mean the Government is still vulnerable to amendments to primary legislation. Natzler also didn’t have a view on what would happen if the Meaningful Vote motion itself was amended, saying it would be a question for the lawyers. Brexit not entirely out of the woods yet…

Grieve Surrenders, Government Fudges

After all that, chief Remoaner Dominic Grieve surrenders and calls off his rebellion after the government comes up with yet another fudge. Each side can now argue about whether the meaningful vote will give parliament control in the event of the deal being rejected. As ever the can is kicked down the road. Real leadership on both sides as ever, well done everyone…

UPDATE: The government wins the vote 319-303.

Labour Poll Lead as Grieve Threatens to Collapse Government

A well-timed reminder of the consequences for Tory rebels backing Dominic Grieve’s threat to “collapse the government”. BMG has Labour three points in front this morning:

Guido has averaged out the Tory poll lead over the last two months (via UK Polling Report) – it is around 2%, well within the margin of error. If Tory Remainers defeat May today that could mean the end of her premiership and possibly a general election. Which Tory MPs want to join Grieve and Soubry in risking Prime Minister Corbyn?

Julian Smith Must Hold Firm Against Isolated Grieve

Over the last 48 hours there has been speculation that the whips are going soft and considering a further compromise to Dominic Grieve ahead of tomorrow’s Commons vote.

Guido isn’t sure what else there is to concede on. Number 10 has given Remainers absolutely everything they want, short of the ability to stop Brexit entirely. We are heading towards a very ‘soft’ Brexit, closely aligned to Brussels. We are staying in a customs union for years after Brexiting, possibly longer. By the end of the negotiation, things might be even closer to the Hammond / Remainer vision of Brexit than that. Further concessions are not acceptable.

Remain MPs who Guido has spoken are increasingly unimpressed with the Grieve / Soubry / Hailsham attempt to block Brexit. Most Tory Remainers accept that Brexit has to happen, and that it would be a dangerous betrayal of democracy to allow Grieve and co to get their way. Indeed, Tory Remainers are privately accusing Grieve of dishonesty over his motives. His talk of blowing up the government went down spectacularly badly, too. At least Hailsham and the rebels in the Lords are honest about wanting to stop Brexit. 

How many Tory Remainers have come out to endorse Grieve’s plot to keep us in the EU this week? The likes of Nicky Morgan have been quiet for days. Julian Smith must hold firm, win round the majority of the more sensible Remain rebels, and see Grieve off tomorrow with no further concessions…

Grieve: “We Could Collapse the Government”

Friday Caption Contest (Grieveous Error Edition)

Entries in the comments…

Lee and Grieve Dined Together Last Night

According to the popular Eye Spy MP account, quitter Philip Lee dined with arch-Remain rebel Dominic Grieve last night. Lee and Grieve are old friends. Did Grieve put him up to it? 

Meanwhile, Guido hears there is some doubt as to whether Lee told his wife he was quitting. Mrs Lee came into the back of the room halfway through his speech at Bright Blue. When he resigned, according to someone sitting near Mrs Lee, she went white, looked completely shocked and exclaimed to someone next to her: “He’s just resigned!”. The Lees have a new baby and Philip has just given himself a £30,000 pay cut. Surely he told her what he was about to do? Lee didn’t tell his Secretary of State and his association chairman found out via Twitter

Grieve: Brexiteer Tory MPs “Unhinged”

Dominic Grieve spent five minutes on Pienaar decrying certain Leave-supporting newspapers for their OTT language, then labelled his Brexiteer Tory colleagues “unhinged“. Well done.

Remain Chaos After Brexit Vote ‘Concession’

Remain MPs are split on how to respond to the government’s so-called ‘concession’ of a vote on the terms of a Brexit deal – something to which they had already committed. Even Theresa May’s spokesman admits nothing has changed, though despite this Labour are claiming victory. Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer says:

“This is a significant victory for parliament, and follows months of concerted pressure from Labour.”

Yet Open Britain Labour Remainer Chris Leslie says the opposite:

“The Government’s so-called ‘concession’ falls short of giving Parliament a meaningful vote… This simply isn’t good enough.”

Some Tory Remain rebels are convinced, like Dominic Grieve:

“I take view that it [the Government’s concession on a Brexit vote] is significant step forward.”

And Open Britain’s Nicky Morgan says it’s an important concession too:

“Welcome concession that both Houses will vote on final agreement before it is concluded & before EU Parliament votes”

Yet others like Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry say it is not. Remainers can’t even agree on what it is they are opposing…

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