No one Likes A Quitter – Corbyn and May Loathe Them

Labour and Tory MP’s have quit their parties, mostly for a last throw of the Brexit dice. Many others could follow, including cabinet members. With little more than a month to departure day, all sides know if they’re to get their way it’s now or never. Our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports…

Scientists warning since forever about global warming? Yeah, yeah, whatever. Till bits of the polar icecaps fall off.

It’s where we’re at in Westminster. All that harrumphing, all those lower lips sticking out. And suddenly it’s an Agatha Christie story, except the other way round.

First, there were seven, then there were eight. Then eleven. Then yet another MP stomps off in a hump.

That’s just backbenchers. And just for starters.

Now we’ve got cabinet ministers telling the Prime Minister it’s our way or no way.

Not just having a good grumble for the benefit of journalists but actually coming out with it. In the Daily Mail of all papers.

What they’re telling her is if she doesn’t get a Brexit deal agreed by parliament in the coming days they will vote to try and delay departure. Government policy? Not.

Of course, there’ve been mutterings for ages both from Brexiteers and Remainers on the top table about what they really really want and what they really really might do if they don’t get it.

But now it’s sprayed across our eyeballs. This so-called government really is a loose confederation of warring tribes.

Spare a thought for Mrs May. Out there in that lovely resort in Egypt having a not very lovely time being told yet again by the EU’s movers and shakers to dream on. ‘You wanna change the deal we’ve already agreed with you? What bit of “no” do you not understand?’

Put another way, ’screw you’.

Ok, that’s a paraphrase, but an accurate one. So when the commons has another crack at voting on this week the poor dear could well finally be facing her moment of truth.

This could, just, be the point at which she stands up at the despatch box and all those jeering men just gawp. Ever wondered what she looks like in her birthday suit? No need to be rude now, but the emperor’s new clothes heave startlingly into view.

She’ll say that what Downing Street terms the ‘period of engagement’ is still ongoing and everyone must be patient. Seriously?
No. The house is not likely to back her.

Instead, various counter-suggestions will be put forward. Inviting MP’s to offer support, but only on condition she (a) rules out the possibility of crashing out without a deal. Or (b) only on condition she promises another referendum. Or (c) she asks our mates across the channel for more thinking time.

It may not turn out quite like that as the Speaker chooses what amendments to call. It’s also up to him whether the votes in question add up to merely would you mind awfully? Or obey or die.

He may well be tempted to give the remainers a fair wind. Remember, his wife’s car had a sticker on it that said bollocks to Brexit. And he’s already got form, as the big boys and girls would see it, by tilting the balance of power in favour of ordinary MP’s.

Meanwhile, if you’re still trying to expunge from your mind the image of the vicar’s daughter starkers, there’s more bad news, I’m afraid. Corbyn in the buff.

Yup, looks like it. Those nine Labour backbenchers who’ve told him he’s rubbish and voted with their feet were an awakening of the rudest kind. Flinging off the duvet, he’s freezing cold and all shrivelled up. Not a pretty sight. Sorry about that.

The first batch of defectors styled themselves the Magnificent Seven. Secret Seven, more like, seeing as outside politics they were mostly more legend in their own lingerie than lifetime. However, mighty oaks do grow from little acorns.

Others could flock to their banner. Loads of others. From both main parties.

But there’s a hefty caveat. The Social Democratic Party had a heady honeymoon with the punters back in the 1980s. Teamed up with the Liberals, it soon secured a quarter of all votes cast.

Thanks to the vagaries of the British electoral system, however, that translated into just 23 MP’s. And now you can fit the lot of them into a couple of cabs.

Scroll forward now to the current Labour refuseniks. All but one walked because of Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexiteer leanings and his failure to eradicate anti-Semitism within the party.

Far more ominous for him, though, is his deputy suggesting these guys have a point. And his Shadow Chancellor hinting he may have to shift on EU policy as well.

Like I say, that leaves him standing, stooping and trying to preserve his modesty by cradling his manhood. Nasty thought.

Much of the parliamentary party never did like him. So it’s possible plenty more will walk at some point. There could be more Tories too, maybe even some of those at the top.

Seems there’s something in the air at Westminster these days. All this burning of political bras. No surprise though, this coincidence of the biggest upheavals for forty years in parliament’s and the nation’s history.

And with factions finally fixing bayonets, just over a month before Brexit day, questions abound. When we’ll actually leave. On what terms. Even whether we’ll go at all.

All sides are psyched up for battle. Just a question of how far they’re prepared to go.

One of Michael Caine’s best ever lines springs to mind. “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off”.


Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

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