Boris Johnson’s government is barely three months old but it has already scored its eleventh defeat, an especially impressive result given that during much of this period, parliament has barely sat.
This is the prime minister’s third defeat on the same thing: that of an early general election.
Though it had a gargantuan majority, it came nowhere near the 434 MPs required for an early dissolution of parliament, as specified by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA).
Thus on paper this government, and its overall parliamentary majority of -45, limps on.
Or will it? After the vote, the prime minister stood up and confirmed that the government will adopt the idea of the SNP and Liberal Democrat for a new bill, one which would circumvent the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and specify an election date in December.
The advantage of such a move is that it would require only a simple majority of 1, not the two thirds the FTPA specifies.
Will it work? The government has been reluctant to go down that “one line bill” route, for fear that the bill could be amended.
A whole shopping list of delights could await it: lowering the franchise to 16, limits on online campaigning, and shifting the date to early December so that students are more likely to still be at university.
The Lib Dems have indicated they will not go along with these changes, so as not to lose government support, while the SNP have reserved their right to do so.
It is easy to see how an uneasy alliance of the Tories, SNP and Liberals could come undone.
Several things, however, suggest a strong chance of success.
It is entirely possible, if not highly probable, that these amendments are ruled out of order by the Speaker, as the scope of the bill is so limited.
Even if they are ruled in order, then so long as the government doesn’t vote for it, as long as nothing passes that the government can’t live with, there won’t be a problem.
Moreover, the majority for such a bill could get bigger.
I’m told Labour will come to support it. Jeremy Corbyn seemed to allude to it in the House today.
His primary concern is that no deal is taken off the table. It must be no coincidence that I’m also told that the government has stood down “Operation Yellowhammer” – its no-deal planning – a clear signal of safety to the opposition.
I’ve also been told that Labour plans to introduce a vote of no confidence in the government this week, in an attempt to try to take control of the process one more time.
This could be one of those plans that disappears as quickly as the rumour spreads.
But nothing, in this tortuous Brexit process, has been smooth sailing so far.
It seems entirely likely that this week will conform to type.
Credit: Source link