The Simple Politics guide to next week in Parliament.
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On divorce, not as a Brexit metaphor

While all eyes are focused on the Conservative Leadership (and maybe that of the Lib Dems and UKIP, but those contests haven't quite taken the public imagination in the same way) Theresa May has been working on her legacy. She clearly doesn't want to be remembered as the Prime Minister who couldn't Brexit.  In the past few days and weeks, she's focused on human trafficking, pledging 'net-zero' emissions by 2050 and trying to get through an extra £27 billion on education.

Next on the list, in the dying days of her Premiership, is a Bill designed to make no-fault divorce a possibility for those that want one.  The current system is set up so that unless you have been separated for two years, one of a married couple has to sue the other for divorce. That has to be accompanied by a reason.

A couple might choose irreconcilable differences, but then a list of unreasonable behaviours must be created. There is no right of reply for the person who has been 'unreasonable'.  Another choice, with no list, is to blame adultery, in which case the document then includes a third person, normally listed as unknown.

In short - even if the split is perfectly amicable (and let's not forget that a marriage can break down for many, many reasons), the law enforces some kind of acrimony, accusation and antagonistic behaviour.  This makes what is already almost always a sad and difficult time even harder. Unnecessary pain is caused.

Which is where this new law comes in. The law wants to create no-fault divorces, where couples can just say that there is an 'irretrievable breakdown'.  There would be a six-month process to give everyone time to breathe and reflect. The idea is to allow couples to split in a way that's caring, loving, maintaining compassion, humanity and civility.

In many circumstances, there are children whose very existence means some form of relationship is necessary for many years to come. A different relationship from what has come before. One of the points of this legal change is that this new relationship, to be worked out going forward, doesn't have to be born in the anger and finger-pointing of the current divorce system.

There are those that oppose these measures. They believe that marriage is a life long commitment and shouldn't be easy to escape. People have made their vows to each other, often in front of their nearest and dearest people. These vows should mean something. Sometimes, if marriages are worked on and people take the time and effort, they are savable.

Over the decades of marriage, of course, there will be some bad times as well as the good. That's how this human experience works. But if you bail when it's difficult, you'll never experience the satisfaction of it coming right again. And if that's the case, a tempting and easy divorce procedure might encourage people to get out when the going gets tough. That's not how it should be. Nobody is suggesting that it should be impossible to get a divorce, just that it shouldn't be an inviting and painless process. That would create a single-use plastic marriage.

Regardless of those objections, it looks like the Bill will have a fairly easy journey through the Commons. Labour have suggested that they are in favour of the principles. The first steps come on Tuesday when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation BIll gets it's Second Reading, which is a general debate on the ideas, followed by a vote. 

Conservative leadership thoughts.

Well, here we are. The final two. Boris and Jeremy. It really wasn't very long ago that there were 12 candidates in the race. MPs have brought it to the boil and simmered it down to the ultimate pair. Has the process been a success? Are these the strongest two candidates? Possibly. I suppose the point is that it doesn't matter. We don't get the leadership battle we want, we get the one we deserve. 

So far it's been the 313 MPs who have had their say. That's the representatives of a little under half the country. It now goes to the 160,000 Conservative members, who are somewhat less representative of the country as a whole. They may or may not be representative of wider Conservative Party voters. To be fair, the point is rather moot. This was always going to be Boris' time. There has been a kind of inevitability about it for months if not years. 

Then there is the question of tactical voting to keep Gove out of the final reckoning. Since the results were announced last night and the former Education secretary lost by two votes there has been much debate about it. What do I think? I think it definitely happened, but not in that structured way. 

I don't think any MP was told to vote in a specific way. If that happened, there would be the risk of a leak of a whistleblower. No, all they had to do was flag up that it might happen. It was so clear that Johnson was going to win, nobody would have been concerned that by voting for Hunt might in some way unseat Boris. So, why wouldn't you, as an individual MP, take it upon yourself to do a bit of tactical voting and help keep Gove out?

Of course, the real genius of the plan is that it labels Hunt as a loser before a single Conservative Party member has cast a vote. There is a whiff of failure. Of only being there because you're not as good as other people. That's a hard reputation to shrug off at the best of times, but up against what feels like the unstoppable force of Boris Johnson in 2019? Hunt's got one heck of a job to do.

Members get their ballot sheets from 6-8th July and they must be back by 21st July. Some, maybe many will return their votes as soon as they get them.  That means that the time between now and 6th July is when the race will be decided. If, of course, it isn't already decided.

To use a line from the rather wonderful Esther Webber, perhaps the real Conservative leadership race is the friends we've made along the way.

The Week Ahead. 

Sunday - Who likes leadership chat? Good! That's what will be keeping both Ridge (9am, Sky News) and Marr (10am, BBC One) busy this morning.

Monday - The commitment to have a 'net-zero' emissions target by 2050 will be put into the book of laws. They'll do it by amending Labour's 2008 Climate Change Act.  There will be some opposition to this move. Right-wing website Guido Fawkes suggests it might cost a trillion pounds and that businesses and households might have to pay.  Despite this, expect the change to win by a fairly large majority.

Tuesday -  The divorce bill (discussed at length above) is up in the Commons.  The Lords are passing a Bill needed to free up some government money to help prepare Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

Wednesday - PMQs is odd at the moment. Last week there were many, many missing from the government benches. Presumably, it was all machinations over the new leader, but, whatever the reason, it doesn't feel like PMQs is very meaningful right now. We probably won't see one with Boris Johnson until September, so, for now, we must lower our expectations of the Wednesday lunchtime slot. 

After that, we've got an SNP Opposition Day. At the time of writing the topic hasn't been confirmed.  My hunch is that it will start with 'Br' and end with 'it'. Oh, and then we've got a General Debate on Armed Forces Day.

Over in the Lords, it's their turn to vote for the 2050 'zero-emissions' measure. 

Thursday-  To be fair, by recent standards, this is a fairly busy few days. With interesting debates and votes. Sure, it turns out that there is nothing at all worth mentioning about what's going on this Thursday, but we've had our spills and thrills for this week. Isn't it lucky there won't be anything to distract you from those important emails that need sending today?

Friday -  No Parliament today. Sri Lanka are playing South Africa in the cricket World Cup, though, so it's not all bad.
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