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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Have Labour missed their chance to oust May?

As Theresa May announced that she would no longer be asking the House of Commons to vote on her Brexit deal, the course of action open to the official Labour opposition seemed to be clear. The Tory party was split and in chaos, the DUP wanted shot of May and the other opposition parties were clamouring to join them in a vote of no confidence.

However, Jeremy Corbyn hesitated and his moment was lost. Instead the European Research Group gambled on using their own party procedures in an attempt to defenestrate May as Tory leader, and lost. May secured 63% of the vote in a secret ballot of all Tory MPs and survived to pursue her damaging and pointless Brexit deal in the corridors of European power.

So what has changed? Well, as far as the Brexit deal is concerned, the Prime Minister still has no majority in the House of Commons to get it approved. She will continue to try and find a formula to overcome that obstacle, but her efforts look to be in vain.

Meanwhile, the UK has become an international laughing stock and the majority of British voters are banging their heads against a wall in despair. Theresa May will plough on, but she is weakened and reliant on the Brexiteers in her cabinet for her position. If they turn against her and her deal, then her position really will be untenable.

The European Research Group, despite their bravado in the face of defeat, appear to have shot their bolt. They are now a spent force with little or no credibility. They talked a good game but when it came to acting on their words they failed to deliver. They are the modern political equivalent of the Grand Old Duke of York, marching their bedraggled troops to the top of the hill and back down again.

Labour too are diminished as an opposition party. Corbyn blustered at the top of his voice in Prime Minister's Questions yesterday. but Theresa May took him apart. His ineffectiveness in the Parliamentary chamber is becoming legion. More to the point, his opportunity to unite the opposition parties and Tory rebels behind him in support of a no confidence vote, appears to have passed. He failed to seize the day, and will pay the price.

Having confirmed May in her position as Prime Minister, it is my judgement that Tory MPs will not want to see Corbyn succeed where they failed. They may be in a position to block the Brexit deal, but surely even the most hardened rebel would not want to hand a victory to Labour by allowing him to oust May, when they couldn't. If Corbyn was doubtful about succeeding in a no confidence motion before, then he must be certain that it will not pass now.

Once more Labour have failed as an opposition. They have failed to take a coherent lead on Brexit, they have failed to effectively do their job in holding the government to account, and now they have failed to take the opportunity that presented itself to them to force the Prime Minister out of office, thus taking a step closer to the General Election they so crave.

The Tory rebels may still be asking themselves what went wrong, but the really burning question in British politics this morning is, what is the point of Jeremy Corbyn?

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