Woodcock Won’t Back No Confidence Motion, Says Corbyn “Unfit to Lead the Country”

Ex-Labour MP John Woodcock has told MPs that he won’t be backing the no confidence motion in Theresa May tonight, instead dropping a truth bomb about Corbyn’s total unfitness to be Prime Minister:

With a heavy heart I have to tell the House that I cannot support the no confidence motion tonight. Some of my friends mutter disgrace, I hear some of them tutting, I have to say that many of them have privately said “Thank God that you have got the freedom to actually not support this”. Because they are wrestling with their consciences of wanting definitely a Labour Government, knowing that the leader of their party is as unfit to lead the country as he was when they voted against him in the no confidence motion of the party those years ago.

More than a few of his former Labour Party colleagues know he’s right…

McDonnell Distances Himself From Corbyn

Guido hears rumours that Corbyn and McDonnell’s teams may have had a little falling out over the timing of the no confidence motion. McDonnell’s body language certainly suggests something is up – he is nowhere to be seen on the frontbench, instead he’s lurking down by the Speaker’s chair with a worried look on his face. Trouble in socialist paradise?

Soubry Scorches Corbyn

Any suspicions that Tory Remainers could unexpectedly side with Corbyn to inflict a shock confidence vote defeat on May have firmly been put to bed with Anna Soubry nailing her colours to the Tory mast and tearing into Corbyn as he presented his motion of no confidence in Parliament. Hard to see how she could justify siding with the “most hopeless opposition leader we’ve ever had” in any subsequent confidence votes, even if no deal is approaching…

The ERG are also firmly on board. May will be fine this time round…

PMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

Q1 Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con)
Q2 Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab)
Q3 Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab)
Q4 Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab)
Q5 Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)
Q6 Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab)
Q7 Mr Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con)
Q8 Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP)
Q9 Mr Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) (Lab)
Q10 Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con)
Q11 Sir David Crausby (Bolton North East) (Lab)
Q12 Trudy Harrison (Copeland) (Con)
Q13 Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con)
Q14 Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
Q15 Ian C. Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab)

Comments in the comments…

May Loses Meaningful Vote

Theresa May has lost the meaningful vote. No surprise there then…

The loss is huge. 202-432.

In three Parliamentary days time the Government will have to come back to parliament with their Plan B. Will this deliver more EU concessions to get Tories on board, or more UK concessions to get more Labour MPs on board? We won’t have to wait long to find out…

Watch: Julian Lewis’ 21 Word Speech

“Because Brexit should mean Brexit and no deal is better than this bad deal, I shall vote no, no, and no.”

Now who does that remind Guido of…

Cox’s Case for the Defence

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has succeeded in significantly livening up the incredibly lengthy meaningful vote debate, giving a typically eloquent and impassioned case for why MPs should support the Prime Minister’s deal while taking aim at those trying to reverse the referendum. May must wish she had a whole Cabinet of Coxes. Whether it actually changes any MPs’ minds at this stage is another matter…

Bercow Ends May’s Last Hope In Amendment Selection

John Bercow has slapped down May’s hopes of winning over sceptical backbenchers with Andrew Murrison’s amendment, by not sdelecting it to be voted on. The four he has selected instead are:

  • Jeremy Corbyn Rejects the deal because it does not meet Labour’s criteria, including a customs union and strong single market relationship. Says government should “pursue every option” for avoiding no-deal or leaving on the terms of May’s deal.
  • Sir Edward Leigh States that a permanent backstop would constitute a change in circumstances compared to those in the Withdrawal Agreement and that this would give the UK the right to withdraw from it. Asks the government to confirm it would do so if this was the case.
  • John Baron Also says the deal should only be approved if the UK has the right to exit the backstop without the agreement of the EU.
  • Ian Blackford Rejects the deal, citing opposition from the devolved assemblies, and calls for an extension of Article 50.

These amendments will be voted on from 7pm. If, as expected, none of them pass, then the we can expect the meaningful vote to take place at 8pm, with the result at around 8:15. Get your popcorn ready…

Amendments Latest: Benn Backs Off, Murrison Moves Ahead

While most attention has understandably been focused on this evening’s main vote, a crucial sub-drama is playing out in the amendments which MPs will vote on first, assuming Bercow doesn’t go entirely rogue again. The two key amendments were Hilary Benn’s, which rejected both May’s deal and No Deal, and Tory MP Andrew Murrison’s, which insists on the Withdrawal Agreement being amended to specify that the backstop expires on 31 December 2021.

But Hilary Benn announced this morning that he was withdrawing his amendment, citing Bercow’s decision to alter Parliamentary procedure as one of the reasons his amendment was no longer necessary. The more immediate issue is that if his amendment narrowly passed, it would invalidate the subsequent meaningful vote, thus sparing the Government from a heavy defeat…

This leaves the Murrison amendment as the key one to watch. It has a weighty list of co-signatories, including Graham Brady, Damian Green and Rob Halfon, which strongly suggests Government support for the amendment. The Government may well accept the amendment in the hope that it limits the scale of their defeat on the meaningful vote tonight, then deal with the legal ramifications of it later…

UPDATE: Reportedly Business minister Claire Perry has been ringing round backbench colleagues pushing the Murrison amendment, suggesting at least an element of Number 10 co-ordination…

Boris: Let Us Not Continue to Flog this Dead Horse

When this deal is voted down, let us not continue to flog this dead horse. Instead we must get Brexit right and seize the opportunities before us…

Gove Tickles Labour’s “Testicular Nature”

Michael Gove tore into both the Speaker and the Labour Party from the dispatch box this afternoon during the Withdrawal Agreement debate. It’s well worth a watch…

“I know, Mr. Speaker, that there are some distinguished citizens in this country who have put on their cars a poster or sticker saying “bollocks to Brexit”, but we now know from Labour’s front bench, that their official Brexit position is bollocks.”

Leadsom Slaps Down ‘Mansplaining’ Smarmy Leslie

Chris Leslie launched into an incredibly patronising attack on Andrea Leadsom during Business Questions to the Leader of the House this morning. He might be regretting it now after her comeback…

Boothroyd: Bercow’s Behaviour “Disgusting”, “Absolute and Utter Disgrace”

Bercow’s brazen behaviour has not just been infuriating Tory MPs, earlier today the highly respected former Speaker Baroness Boothroyd was overheard in the corridors of Parliament reportedly telling a senior Tory MP that Bercow’s actions were “disgusting” and an “absolute and utter disgrace”. Guido’s well-placed source says the esteemed Baroness looked visibly shocked at the events unfolding…

One Tory MP is adamant that several pages of what looked to be Parliamentary guidance were removed from the desk in the Commons and taken away during the lengthy Points of Order session where Bercow was repeatedly challenged. Whatever they were, we will never know now…

Leadsom Challenges Furious Bercow To Publish Clerk’s Advice

Andrea Leadsom left Bercow squirming over his decision to overrule expert clerk advice in his constitutionally vandalising decision today. He twice refused to publish the advice he received…

He also was unable to confirm that he acted in the way the clerks advised him to. Because he didn’t…

UPDATE: Grieve’s amendment has passed by 308-297 votes.

Bercow Jeered by MPs

The row over Bercow’s decision to overrule his clerks and Parliamentary precedent to select Dominic Grieve’s amendment has triggered a barrage of points of order from furious MPs which is still ongoing half an hour after the end of PMQs. And is far more entertaining…

ERG Deputy Chair Mark Francois asked a particularly pointed question resulting in cheers from MPs and jeers for Bercow. Bercow knows he can continue to act with impunity as long as Remainers are happy to keep turning a blind eye to his behaviour…

PMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

Q1 Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
Q2 Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP)
Q3 Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con)
Q4 Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
Q5 John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
Q6 Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)
Q7 Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
Q8 Gill Furniss (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab)
Q9 Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
Q10 Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab)
Q11 Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con) What discussions she has had with the Mayor of the West Midlands on the creation of employment in that region; and if she will make a statement.
Q12 Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP)
Q13 Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab)
Q14 Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab)
Q15 Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab)

Comments in the comments…

Bercow Overrules Parliamentary Clerks In Desperate Bid To Stop Brexit

In an unprecedented move, John Bercow has chosen to overrule the advice of his clerks, selecting a Dominic Grieve amendment that forces the Government to hold rolling votes very three days following a defeat of the meaningful vote. Developing…

Bercow is behaving as outrageously as Guido predicted.

UPDATE: Grieve confirms his amendment has been selected saying,

“It is eminently sensible and I hope the Government will accept it. This solidifies and emphasises the key role of Parliament. It is going to be essential in dealing with Brexit.”

By applauding Bercow’s constitutional sabotage and defiance of the advice of his clerks, Grieve has revealed himself to be a far cry from the defender of the constitution he likes to paint himself as. Just as Brexiteers suspected, his high-minded talk of principle and the constitution was just for convenience’s sake…

When Parliament Debated Outlawing French Words

This fantastically bizarre Ten Minute Rule Bill debate from 1994 has been unearthed and is well worth a watch in today’s climate of a little cross-Channel rivalry. South Hams MP Anthony Steen proposed to outlaw the use of French words in the UK, following the French National Assembly and Senate passing legislation banning the use of English words and expressions in theirs. It turns out his tongue was firmly in his cheek…

This vintage Parliamentary TV has everything, young familiar faces of Nigel Evans, Michael Fabricant, Gyles Brandreth, and a youthful Jeremy Corbyn acting as a teller, Tony Marlow raising a point of order while the Commons rule of having to wear a top hat in order to do so during a vote still stood. The motion even went to a division before being defeated by 45 votes to 149. The UK remained open to the world even as Europe closed in on itself…

h/t Christian Calgie

Bercow Could Thwart Brexit if the Meaningful Vote is Defeated

Like most of you Guido has tried to put thoughts of Brexit away for Christmas, nevertheless something besides brussels sprouts has been nagging at him, which, whilst the news flow is slow can be explored at length. Labour remainers have of late turned a blind eye to Bercow‘s bullying, mistreatment of staff and gender specific language for one reason, they believe he will be an ally in thwarting Brexit. He has considerable leeway to do so…

The common argument is that although Parliament is sovereign, if the Government holds its nerve there is nothing opponents to Brexit can do to stop the UK leaving the EU on WTO terms. However, there are many things Parliament can do to get its way:

A Contempt Motion
If the House of Commons votes on a non-binding motion to extend or revoke Article 50, and the Government choses to simply shrug its shoulders and ignore the instruction, the Speaker could choose to hold the Prime Minister in contempt of Parliament. How realistic is it for the Government to repeatedly ignore the will of Parliament in terms of repeated contempt motions?

Amendments in Scope
Opponents of Brexit will table amendments to the meaningful vote motion on a second referendum, membership of the Customs Unions or extending or revoking Article 50. Although these votes would not be binding on the Government, John Bercow could use the votes as a demonstration of the will of the House of Commons. This could embolden the Speaker to be even more flexible about the amendments he deems to be in scope of Brexit legislation. So for example the Trade Bill, Immigration Bill or Agriculture Bill could all be amended to make the Act conditional on their being a second referendum. It’s been argued by some that the Government could simply pull these Bills. However, this legislation has a real-world purpose to help the country prepare for leaving. The immigration bill will end free movement. The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill will ensure reciprocal healthcare arrangements can be in place with other countries after exit. How realistic is it for the Government to pull all its Brexit legislation?

A Humble Address
We have seen how the Speaker has colluded with the Opposition frontbench to use the humble address and other parliamentary mechanisms for party political purposes. A Humble Address could call on the Government to release all its information on no deal impacts, to increase pressure. There could be an attempt to stretch the power of a Humble Address – for instance requesting an extension of Article 50 or committing not to leave the EU without a deal or committing to a second referendum.

The opportunities for parliamentary opponents of Brexit in league with a Speaker who is their ally are worrying;

  • Amending the motion for the Meaningful Vote to say that the UK must leave with a deal. The Labour amendment to the Meaningful Vote requires that the UK leaves with a Withdrawal Agreement but not this Withdrawal Agreement. An amendment by Hilary Benn seeks to reject leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement, require the government to bring forward a debate on its proposed way forward, and allow MPs to table amendments to the motion the government is required to bring forward.
  • Debate triggered under s13(4) of the Withdrawal Act. Under the terms of the Withdrawal Act a loss of a meaningful vote must be followed within 21 days by the laying of a statement, and that followed by a further debate within 7 sitting days of the statement. The debate and possibly an amended motion could signal the House’s view that the UK should not leave the EU without a deal.
  • Emergency motions under Standing Order No. 24. The House could make clear in emergency debates called under Standing Order No 24 that the will of the House is that the UK should not leave without a deal or must hold a second referendum.
  • Opposition Day Debates and backbench time. The Opposition could table motions to call on the Government to take action to prevent no deal or hold a second referendum. Backbenchers could use their allocated time to table motions calling on the Government to prevent no deal.

Pro-Brexit MPs who believe the parliamentary die is set for a no deal Brexit are being complacent. The Speaker is intent on stopping that outcome.

“Gaston the Turbo-Snail” Invades Parliament

In a sure sign that Parliament is more than ready to break up for Christmas, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins informed the Commons that not only does she have the “most beautiful cat in the world” but that his name is “Gaston the Turbo-Snail”, courtesy of her four-year-old son.[…] Read the rest ““Gaston the Turbo-Snail” Invades Parliament”

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Quote of the Day

Andrea Leadsom told BBC Radio 4’s Today

“He’s made his views on Brexit on the record, and the problem with that of course is that the chair’s impartiality is absolutely essential. … He’s made his views known on Brexit… it’s a matter for him but nevertheless it’s a challenge and all colleagues need to form their own view of that.”

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