The indicative votes on 1 April may have just revealed the Conservative government’s hand. The ‘moderates’ who claimed Theresa May wouldn’t go for no-deal could be in for quite a shock.
Headed for no-deal?
Conservative MPs overwhelmingly rejected every option:
Good IFG visualisation of the Indicative Votes yesterday:
To get a majority – some sort of combo of two below, or of PMs deal and one of the below:
Who gets there first? pic.twitter.com/4GWPb048RR
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) April 2, 2019
And that came after May’s government tried to block the second round of indicative votes even taking place:
The Govt are defeated in their attempt to block #IndicativeVotes2 today. 322/277 a majority of 45. The debate will last until 8pm with votes between 8-830pm on 📝
— Labour Whips (@labourwhips) April 1, 2019
This means that, at the 11th hour, May still appears to be trying to force parliament to choose between her deal and no deal. Parliament has rejected her deal by large majorities three times, including the first and fourth greatest government defeats of all time. So, under May’s watch, the UK could be heading for no-deal.
In stark contrast, on 1 April, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour backed every motion except one from the SNP that could see Article 50 revoked. These were two softer forms of Brexit (a customs union and alignment on the single market) and a confirmatory vote on any withdrawal agreement.
Why no-deal makes electoral sense for the Conservative Party
Other than passing May’s withdrawal agreement, no deal is arguably the electorally preferable option for the Conservative Party. And the party has previously shown self-preservation to be a primary concern. For instance, May only U-turned and called the general election in 2017 when she was way ahead in the polls. The party has also been prepared to stoke racism in order to elect its candidates.
Now, evidence suggests the Conservatives would be electorally damaged if they fail to deliver on Brexit, even if that means leaving with no deal. YouGov polling on 19 March found that 44% of the public would opt for no deal versus remain, excluding the “don’t knows” and “would not votes”. A look at the demographics shows that 85% of Leave voters, 72% of Conservative voters and 65% of over-65s would opt for no deal – that’s the majority of the Conservatives’ voter base.
There is also other polling that could nudge the Conservatives towards no deal. ComRes found on 22 March that 50% of respondents supported leaving the EU in some form, compared with 35% supporting ‘abandoning’ Brexit and remaining in the EU.
So everyone watching the indicative votes should be wary. Even if there is eventually a majority, May’s government doesn’t have to carry out any of the motions, because they are non-binding.
Indeed, May recently tried to pit parliament against the people. If she sticks to that line, she could brand any of the indicative vote options – should one be backed by a majority of MPs – a ‘betrayal’ of the 2016 referendum. The closer to 12 April (the new withdrawal date) we get, the easier May could run roughshod over parliament again.
A general election is another option for the Conservatives, because it essentially washes their hands of the process. But with Labour taking a five point lead in recent polling, the prime minister could well refrain. People should brace themselves for no deal, while doing everything they can to stop it.
Featured image via tiocfaidh_ar_la_1916/ Flickr
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