11.10.2019

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The Simple Politics guide to next week in Parliament.
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It's time.

We've waited a long time. 3 years, 3 months and 18 days ago, 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU. We've had deals. We've had votes in the Commons and votes in the Lords. We've had an election. We've heard about many, many negotiations. Barnier, Junker, Tusk have all become household names (right? I mean they are in my household...). It's been a while.

This week, though, we may find that the waiting is over. Or we may find that it really isn't. 

I'm not going to rant at you at this point. The detail this week will be in the day by day breakdown below.

The big question, though, is: will he send the letter? Even after the positive noises coming out of Ireland yesterday, it feels very unlikely we'll get a deal so quickly.  One reason why things sound a bit rosier is that nobody wants to be blamed for no deal happening. Leo Varadkar (Irish Supremo) has to say there is a path to a deal, or he turns into the bad guy. Notice, though, that the term was there is a path. It's positive, but it doesn't suggest anything is near.  Honestly, I think the chance of a deal in a weeks time is for the birds.

(I love the term 'for the birds'. It means that it's unlikely or not going to happen at all. Politicians use it all the time. Every day. They love it. But nobody else in the world ever uses it.)

Which means that we will get to next Saturday with no deal.

Which triggers the Benn Act demanding he sends a letter (that has already been written for him in the Act itself) asking for an extension to January 31st. Except he's said he'd rather 'die in a ditch' than do that. Is he going to break the law? Has he found a way not to break the law and not send the letter? He's got no backing from Parliament to go ahead for a no deal Brexit. 

One method being discussed is that he sends the letter, but says that if they accept we're going to make life miserable for the EU. Except, we can't.  There are no important votes that need unanimity before the January 31st extension is up.  In fact, there are no big unanimous votes until the budget in June. It's suspected that we'll be allowed to extend until then, but not after that.

On Saturday next week, there will be a special sitting of the Commons. I expect it to be explosive, but fundamentally pointless. Johnson will lose anything he puts to a vote. He'll protest about not wanting to send the letter. MP's will protest that he's thinking of not sending the letter.  Nothing will change. 

In the unlikely situation where there is a deal, of course, the Saturday session will be spent signing up to it in double-quick time. Or maybe not. It the alternative is an extension and an election, maybe MPs will vote down the deal. They've got form when it comes to doing that.

Oh, yes, before you pop down to the day by day guide, here's something to look forward to: if the letter is sent and we get an extension to January 31st, it looks like a General Election might be triggered almost immediately. That would give us a Big Vote on 28th November. Woop! Woop! Woop!

Queen's Speech


Ok.  Just before the day by day guide, I want to explain a bit about the Queen's Speech.

1) It's not about the Queen. Alright. Some people love a bit of watching Her Majesty arriving in a massive gold cart before having a wander through the corridors of Parliament. But. That's not where the action is.

The speech itself isn't written by her. It's not the Christmas Day message (which is also not written by her, but she has more of a say).  No,  it's written by the government and it's a list of things they will do over the year. But in a really dry way. It's so so so boring. Don't watch it, unless it's for a view of ol' Liz.

2) It's an ideology clash.  What you really, really, really should watch is the start of the debate a couple of hours later. Up for debate is, well, everything. All the plans of the government. 

If you're interested in who the parties are and what they stand for you should really buy my book, but failing that, watch this debate. The government will have put forward it's ideas for a better country.  Opposition parties will say why their plans are better. Competing solutions for the problems our country faces. How are we going to help the vulnerable? How are we going to increase productivity? How are we going to make our streets safer?

It's a wide-ranging debate with nothing off the table. It's one of the most exciting moments of the political year.

3) What if he loses the vote?  A few days after every Queen's Speech there is a vote on the contents. Traditionally, the government have a majority (even if it's a coalition government) and they win this vote.  If they were to lose it would be a huge upset and effectively a no-confidence vote. The PM would in all likelihood resign. This hasn't happened since 1924. These are not traditional times. Johnson has no majority. He will lose this vote. He won't resign. Nothing will change.

4) It's different this year. These things normally happen after an election, or once a year. This speech is coming just before and election. Which means all the things that are promised won't be achieved, at least not this side of the forthcoming Big Vote. So this isn't a plan for the next year, it's a promise of what they'll do if they win the election. It's a manifesto launch.

5) What about Brexit? Brexit will feature very little here. The concept here from the government is that we will definitely leave on 31st October and these are the plans for a post-Brexit Britain.  Of course, with the EU Summit and Benn Act Day looming, don't expect the Opposition to accept this.

The Week Ahead. 

Monday:

7.45ish - If you're interestedI'll be on BBC Radio London reviewing the papers and talking all things Queen Speech with Vanessa Feltz. It's on FM/DAB if you're in London and the BBC Sounds / website app if you're not. 

11.30 - The Queen does her thing and reads out the speech.

2.30 - That captivating and totes box office debate starts. Both Johnson and Corbyn will make major speeches before other leaders and senior MPs take over.  If you really can't watch it, join us on Twitter for live coverage and Facebook and Instagram for summaries.

Tuesday -  It's all a bit more chill today. After the headline act yesterday, the Queen's Speech debate moves onto specific policy areas with the minister and shadow ministers leading debates.  The second day of the debate (today) traditionally features economic plans, so expect Sajid Javid and John McDonnell to face off against each other.

Wednesday - By now, we'll probably know for sure if we have a deal for the PM to get signed off at the EU summit that starts tomorrow. We almost certainly won't.  There are rumours that if we don't, Johnson will not even attend the big meeting.  At this stage, it might be becoming clearer as to what will happen next. Or it might not.

Meanwhile, back in the land of green benches, it's day three of the Queen's Speech debate. By this stage the heat's gone out of it a bit. Expect a half empty chamber, although the ministers and shadow ministers will still be giving it everything.

Thursday - It's the big EU summit we've all been looking forward to. Or maybe I should say that I've been looking forward to. It's crunch time. Do we have a deal? Do we not? What does the Prime Minister do next? What do Team EU want to happen next?  Crickey. Exciting times, right?

The Queen's Speech debate normally lasts for five days. I'm not sure it will this year. With Brexit all kicking off big time at the weekend, it seems so much neater to have four days.  That would make the vote today. As we've seen so much recently, expect much heat and light, but no change or developments. Johnson loses. He carries on. 

Those wondering why he wouldn't resign and force the election might like to know that if he resigns there would be the opportunity for Opposition parties to form that unity government. The Conservatives could be pushed out the driving seat. It's even possible that Jeremy Corbyn would be the Prime Minister.

Friday - An oddly quiet day. No Parliament. The EU Sumit rumbles on, but we'll know for sure the outcome. Expect many, many talk heads on the news, but no action whatsoever.

Saturday - I don't normally cover events more than a week away, but there's an extra special, extra interesting sitting of the Commons on 19th. At this point, assuming there is no deal to rush through, I genuinely haven't got a clue what will be achieved by this bonus day of BBC Parliament action. The function appears to be to give the PM an opportunity to chastise MPs for the Benn Act and telling them how all this is all their fault. Still, it will drive up sales of popcorn in my local shop. Maybe we're just worried about the popcorn industry.

Whatever.  It's going to be well worth watching. Again, tune in or follow it with us.
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