Theresa May’s government ‘cheated’ to win a crucial Brexit vote and narrowly avoid a general election. The Conservatives apparently broke an agreement with MP Jo Swinson who was absent on maternity leave, giving themselves an extra vote.
“Deliberate breaking of trust”
On 17 July, Lib Dem MP Swinson tweeted:
Just how low will your govt stoop @theresa_may? When @andrealeadsom delayed proxy voting motions, she *assured* those of us who were pregnant that we would be paired when necessary. Today your govt broke that agreement – @BrandonLewis paired with me but voted. Desperate stuff. pic.twitter.com/CcgF7z8MOV
— Jo Swinson (@joswinson) July 17, 2018
MPs who are unable to vote can ask to be ‘paired’ with MPs from another party, who then also agree to miss the vote to compensate. Swinson had been paired with Conservative chair Brandon Lewis. But instead of refraining from voting, Lewis cast his vote with the government.
Swinson said the move amounted to “cheating” and was a “calculated, deliberate breaking of trust” to “win at all costs”. Lewis apologised, and the Conservative whip took responsibility, claiming a “mistake”. But Swinson pointed out that Lewis did not vote for other bills on that day. Only in votes that were knife-edge for the government did he not cover for Swinson’s absence:
Don't try any nonsense about a mistake – this is calculated, deliberate breaking of trust by govt whips @JulianSmithUK to win at all costs. Brandon abstained in afternoon divisions, but voted in the two crunch votes after 6pm. There's a word for it – cheating. pic.twitter.com/JwRkvglKKX
— Jo Swinson (@joswinson) July 17, 2018
Government nearly fell
MPs voted down a Conservative Remainer rebels’ amendment. It stated that the UK must join a customs union with the EU if the government doesn’t reach a free trade agreement by January 2019.
If the amendment passed, it could’ve marked the beginning of the end for May and the Conservative regime. The Brexiteer hard right of the Conservative Party threatened a no-confidence vote against the prime minister if the government didn’t defeat the proposal. That could have led to a general election, where current polling suggests Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour would win. And during the 2017 campaign, Labour went from over 20 points below to just one point behind the Conservatives.
Seeing Labour MPs enable a Conservative government, supporters were unforgiving:
John Mann, Frank Field, Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer have voted with the Tories to save Theresa May's shambolic government and ensure a destructive Tory Brexit, or possibly a no deal calamity.
They should all be kicked out of the Labour Party.
— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) July 17, 2018
Several Labour MPs have just kept @theresa_may in a job.
Personally I think party members should be able to change the local MP when things like that happen. Its called mandatory re-selection.
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) July 17, 2018
Everything to play for
The Conservative government is hanging on by a thread. Corbyn is close to entering No. 10 and putting an end to an economic order characterised by privatisation, deregulation, and austerity. Labour’s programme of renewable energy revolution, democratic control over essential services, and a peaceful foreign policy are not far out of the public’s reach.
But the underhanded tactics and smear campaigns will only intensify. The British establishment won’t go down without a fight.
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