We’ve got to get Boris Johnson out of Number 10. Now!
- Credit: AFP/Getty Images
ANDREW ADONIS argues that the focus for the anti-Brexit movement must now be the immediate removal of the prime minister.
Parliament came back from the brink this week. Faced with the stark reality of a brutal Brexit on October 31, it applied David Cameron's emergency brake in the nick of time.
Brexit is again on hold. Johnson is again in disarray. And when Cummings briefed after Tuesday's votes that "parliament has blown its last chance", the only explosion was the hand grenade going off in his own pocket.
It is important to understand that the first of the two votes on Tuesday - the majority of 30 for the second reading of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill - wasn't a vote to support Johnson's deal. As the prior debate exposed starkly, it was a vote to consider lots of different Brexit deals and a second referendum.
The second vote - a majority of 14 against the government's proposed guillotine motion to curtail debate on the bill - was an emphatic defeat for pushing through this deal.
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The sequence of events is vital to what happened. Tuesday's votes came after the failure of Johnson's brinkmanship last Saturday. He and the Tory media has tried to bludgeon parliament into agreeing his deal, sealed with EU leaders only 48 hours previously, in a single vote before it was even published and the necessary legislation enacted.
He lost that vote by 16, which is why he was forced to go to Plan B: Seeking immediately to ram through approval legislation with virtually no debate as if it were a decree, in defiance of all precedent and convention. This too was rejected on Tuesday.
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The cross-party majority which resisted the government in the two key votes on Saturday and Tuesday was virtually identical - recording precisely 322 votes in both divisions - and it will continue to resist.
The key question now is whether this same majority will embrace a second referendum. Former Tory ministers Philip Hammond, , David Gauke and Sir Oliver Letwin are prime movers in the anti-Johnson coalition. Hitherto they have been against a referendum, but their antipathy to Johnson increases each day.
It is mutual. Rumour has it that despite his assurances to the contrary to the former chancellor, Johnson has instructed Hammond's constituency association in Surrey to start selecting a new Tory candidate to oust him at the coming election. Hammond now has nothing to lose.
At stake is not the length of scrutiny of Johnson's deal. It can't withstand scrutiny. Every day it disintegrates. The contradictory promises given to the ERG, DUP and Labour rebels are exposed and enrage their recipients.
The only scrutiny Johnson can withstand is no scrutiny. This is true of virtually everything in Johnson's life - including his precise number of children - but as prime minister he can't hide so easily and the impact on the public is obviously gigantic.
But don't celebrate yet. Johnson remains prime minister, with the government machine and the diplomatic service at his disposal. He is ahead in the polls. The big mistake of the opposition parties and the Hammond group was not to take the government away from the Prime Liar during the prorogation crisis in early September, when there was probably a majority available to do so.
Instead, unable to agree on who would lead an interim government and whether or not it would proceed immediately to a referendum, Johnson was left in No.10. He promptly persuaded Varadkar and Merkel that he was the only serious British show in town and they had to deal with him - which they did, albeit wholly on their own terms.
If we are serious about stopping Brexit, we have got to get Johnson out. Now.
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