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Political Positioning? More Like Doing the Hokey Cokey

Political Positioning? More Like Doing the Hokey Cokey

Leader of the Labour Party jeremy corbyn

The Labour leader’s finally revealed his hand, and in so doing put the cat among the pigeons. Big time. And, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the poor little birdies have only got a couple of weeks to make the biggest and potentially last choice of their careers.

‘I put my right hand in, I put my right hand out, I give my right hand, shake, shake, shake, and turn myself about’.

The words from an 1872 version of the old hokey cokey song. This one titled ‘Ugly Mug’.

Which sort of says it all.

Parliament is back in action on September 3rd. Barely a hop and a skip away. Or, more likely, squawk.

Because by that time all those MP’s who really really want to prevent Britain leaving the European Union with no deal will have to have decided whether the only way is Jeremy.

Mr Corbyn has announced he will have a crack at toppling Boris Johnson. Definitely. And invited – or, rather, dared – MP’s from other parties to back him.

If he were to win the confidence vote he’d try to head a short-term national unity government, seek another delay to Brexit, then hold a general election and second referendum.

Two schools of thought on that.

One: It’s so bonkers it makes the fairies look sensible.

Two: It is a runner. Just.

‘Just’ being the operative word. The Lib Dems’ lovely new leader first off dissed it. Then had another think. Hokey cokey? Or hocus-pocus? Maybe both.

It’d take a savant, or more likely a super-savant, to figure out where it’s going.

A couple of things are clear, however.

Parliament will not be shut down in the run-up to Brexit, to allow Boris Johnson to slip it through before anyone can stop him.

The commons Speaker, who has a big say in such things, has made it clear he won’t let it happen. Or at least, to use his words, he’ll fight it ‘with every bone in my body’.

He’s also reported to have claimed the Commons could, if it so wished, prevent a no-deal departure. Hmmm. Discuss.

But a second thing we know for a fact is that any Tory who goes along with Corbyn’s scheme is not risking his or her neck. He/she is putting it on the block and inviting the axe.

Proof lies in the backlash from the local parties behind the clutch of Conservative MP’s who’ve signalled support. The activists’ response has been immediate, unanimous and final. Do that and you’re dead.

And consider the context. Three years ago the nation decided by a wafer-thin majority to leave the EU. There was no vote on the terms of departure, and chaotically crashing out was definitely not on the agenda.

But within the Tory party membership there’s been a sea change in attitudes. Two-thirds of them now back a no-deal Brexit. Hence Bojo’s decisive victory when he stood on a ‘leave, do or die’ ticket.

Which doesn’t change the fact that those folk who backed him add up to less than one per cent of the total electorate.

Besides which, their preference is starkly at odds with a clear majority of MP’s. Who obviously therefore have the power to bounce Bojo off his perch. In theory.

In practice, however, if they don’t agree on a way forward they go nowhere.

Boris Johnson and his tight-knit band of brave-all Brexiteers rejoice in the thought that one loaded Gatling gun is worth hundreds of flailing spears.

Think British Empire. Holding sway over almost a quarter of the world’s entire population. Divide and rule works. Or, rather, used to.

These days it’s not quite so clear-cut.

Across the channel they can’t decide whether to hate us, feel sorry for us, pat us on the head or send us straight to bed with no tea.

But, as the October 31st departure deadline looms closer, sensible people everywhere are bracing for a car-crash. And their musings in Whitehall don’t make for pretty reading.

Senior civil servants have discussed using the little-known Civil Contingencies Act to head off potential no-deal chaos.

It’d give ministers draconian powers to bring in curfews, redirect food supplies and even change the law without consulting parliament.

The act was passed in 2004, under Tony Blair, after a blockade of oil refineries nearly brought the country to a halt.

In the event, it wasn’t brought into force then. But it could be now, under what’s codenamed operation Yellowhammer.

This is being run in the Cabinet Office, to co-ordinate the day-to-day government response to any potential national emergency triggered by a no-deal Brexit.

Yeah, yeah, wot-ever, you might think. Remoaners love a good grumble, it’s in their boring bloody DNA.

But, at least in the short term, things really could go weird. And it’d be a dereliction of government duty if someone somewhere didn’t address the possibility.

Bankers are certainly fretting about it, and warning of potential chaos as they’ll have just hours to turn around their systems if there’s a no deal departure.

A problem compounded by the fact that November 1st is the first Friday of the month, when many people have their wages paid in and direct debits taken out.

Still, we shouldn’t be downhearted. After all, yee-haw, the US cavalry might ride to the rescue.

Donald Trump, Bojo’s new pardner, will have a pow-wow with him pronto, at the forthcoming G7 summit in France.

The Donald’s national security adviser says the relationship between the two men has got off ‘to a roaring start’. And the US is prepared to work immediately on sector-by sector trade agreements with post-Brexit Britain.

So what the Speaker of the US House of Representatives has said no dice to any deals if our departure terms threaten peace in Ireland?

Gotta remember Trump trumps all. After all, he’s said to be toying with buying Greenland. So surely he could take the NHS off our hands while he’s at it.

Sort of a buy-one-get-one-free arrangement.

Why not? This could be the brief moment between crisis and catastrophe. Might as well drink champagne.


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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