There is a lot of crap being said in Westminster at present. On Radio 4 today, someone, I don’t who as I was only half-listening at the time, said that should Theresa May fail to get the Repeal Bill through, “Jeremy Corbyn automatically becomes prime minister”. This is unbelievable drivel. Imagine for a moment that May announces to the nation that the Tory-DUP agreement has hit a snag, and that as they cannot form a majority in parliament, Jeremy Corbyn has a fortnight to do so himself. There is a 0% chance that Corbyn could put together a government in the current House of Commons should this take place. For a start, the DUP, however annoyed they got with the Tories, would never form a government with a Corbyn-led Labour Party – even if Corbyn earnestly tried to talk them into it, which he never would. That’s before you get to the fact that Corbyn would have to get the Lib Dems, the SNP, the Greens and Plaid on board as well. So no, there is nothing automatic about a Corbyn premiership however badly Theresa May does in the next few weeks. It’s like pundits have taken the key lesson from the 2017 general election as being that everyone underestimated Corbyn, so now they must all overestimate him as compensation – as opposed to figuring out that saying things are “automatic” in politics is a bad idea.
However, Corbyn has an immense amount of power over what happens to Brexit and indeed, whether or not May hangs on as PM. The Repeal Bill should face no problems at Second Reading, but when it comes to Committee Stage there will very likely be an amendment put down by a Remainer Tory MP around Single Market membership. If Corbyn gets behind such an amendment and whips his MPs to vote for it (and against the government), he could both inflict a harsh defeat on May as well as making a hard Brexit that much more remote a possibility. Some left leaning outlets are assuming this is a done deal – a huge mistake given Corbyn’s recent history on this is so poor. Chuka’s amendment he crushed without consideration – why would he go with one put to the House by a Tory? A very likely way this could go down is Anna Soubry puts down an amendment on Single Market membership, which Corbyn whips his MPs to reject, causing it to fail. He then puts down a very, very similar amendment himself which now has no chance of succeeding because of the games he played with the Soubry amendment. And so, hard Brexit lives to fight another day, as does Theresa May as PM.
Jeremy Corbyn finally has a chance to prove people like me wrong on his abilities as leader of the opposition. I’m willing to give him credit if he plays the next few weeks right, but I’m not holding my breath.