YES! We have another surreal turn in the Brexit saga. Amber Rudd is contemplating becoming Prime Minister. That’s the same Amber Rudd who was one of the few Conservative MPs who did not stand for the leadership (she thought about it, thought again and backed Jeremy Hunt).
She resigned the Conservative whip, she’s a Remainer opposed to no deal and pro a second referendum and yet she thinks she can now lead the Conservative Party if or when the government loses a vote of no confidence. The SNP and Labour are rumoured to be planning to call one this week as they are concerned that Boris may have found a way round the Benn Bill that forces him to demand an extension to Article 50.
A quick reminder of procedure: under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, should a government lose a no confidence motion it has up to 14 days to re-establish the support of a majority of MPs, who have to pass a motion of confidence. It does not appear that placing such a motion before the House is mandatory. In the current circumstance that means either a change of policy or a change of PM to someone who can woo back the 21 sacked, plus a few others. If this does not happen there is a general election. The FTPA is explicit as to timing: ‘The polling day for the election is to be the day appointed by Her Majesty by proclamation on the recommendation of the Prime Minister’, so all Boris would have to do is set the election for after 31 October and we’re out, as the moment Parliament is dissolved by calling an election all business ends and Brexit cannot be debated.
Which is one of the reasons why the Remainers have not yet passed a motion of no confidence; in effect it delivers no deal Brexit as Boris (who would still be PM) simply takes a cab to the Palace and says to the Queen: ‘Sorry, Ma’am, I can’t find anyone who would command the confidence of the House. I therefore advise you to dissolve Parliament and hold an election in five weeks’ time.’ Game over.
Now as far as I can tell there is no provision for Parliament to impose a new leader on a government within the FTPA. There have been caretaker PMs before (the last one was Winston Churchill in May 1945, when it was not contentious as he had a thumping majority); the process for appointing them is ad hoc. Which in today’s Westminster means by whatever process Mr Speaker deems fit.
Nicola Sturgeon’s first choice is Jeremy Corbyn. Quite why anyone cares who she backs is beyond me as she has no locus in Westminster; her screeching belongs north of Harridan’s Wall. However appointing Jeremy Corbyn would not be an ad hoc appointment: it would be a change of government without the inconvenience of a general election, and even Jo Swinson has noted that might be a tad controversial. As far as I can tell we have never changed the governing party without an election. It may even be too radical a change for the (theoretical) bastion of Parliamentary process, Mr Speaker Bercow.
Which means that the Remainers need to find someone who could lead an ‘emergency government’ from within the Conservative Party. With the Tory Remainers having had the whip withdrawn (which is, arguably, equivalent to expulsion from the Parliamentary Party), they are not part of the government – and are unlikely to be invited back.
Enter Amber Rudd, the Remainer former Home Secretary and Work and Pensions Minister who resigned the whip rather than serve under Boris. The thinking must be that if she cancelled her resignation she could be construed as part of the government. If the House appointed her ‘caretaker PM’, they would not have undone the result of the 2017 election and as PM she could request an extension to Article 50 and no deal (and indeed Brexit any time soon) would be off the cards. With that achieved she could then call for a general election.
There are still problems: Rudd would not be leader of the Conservative Party (that appointment is probably not a Parliamentary process) and I can’t see Boris resigning in these circumstances; I can’t really see him or the current Conservative MPs accepting the imposition of Rudd. We could end up with the ludicrous position of having two Conservative Prime Ministers at once. No doubt Mr Bercow would love to rule on who it was, but I’m not sure that there is a procedure for that.
This is clearly high-stakes stuff, all to be conducted during the Conservative Party conference for which the Remainers have, without precedent, refused to grant a recess.
Some Remain morons have been chanting ‘Stop the coup’ for a while. Since they brought the word up, quite how would you describe the imposed change of a head of government in an attempt to pervert the outcome of a referendum and subsequent election in which 80 per cent of MPs promised that they would carry out the referendum result?
I’m beginning to feel as if I live in a banana republic, not the world’s pre-eminent democracy. If the Remainers go down this road they are dragging Parliament into the last chance saloon in their efforts to overturn democracy. My strong advice is do not go there.