Last night, Boris Johnson reaped what he had sowed. The programme motion, that which would have set out a timetable for him to get the WAB voted through parliament in time for him to keep his October 31st promise to the nation if every other step had worked out for him from there, was voted down by a mere 14 votes. Alienating the DUP was inevitable given he wants to sell Northern Ireland down the pan, but removing the Tory whip from 21 MPs came back to haunt him good and proper. Oh the perils of being prime minster with a majority of minus 45.
Boris Johnson paused the WAB, as widely expected. What now? It was interesting that BJ never mentioned a general election once in his speech to the House after the programme motion went down in flames. Perhaps he wished to gather his thoughts, as it were, yet it still seemed odd. If he isn’t going ahead with the WAB, what’s plan B?
There are, as ever, mixed signals from the Johnson government this morning. Yes, they might want a GE; no, they might not. As for Labour on this question, well, Richard Burgon was at his Burgony best this morning, saying that Labour definitely wanted to go for an election. For what it’s worth, I think that if the Labour front bench do want a general election and the Tories want one as well, then it will very likely happen. It requires 434 votes, and the Tories would supply 288, the DUP 10, the Lib Dems 19 and the SNP 35. That’s 352, which means there would only need to be 82 more votes to get it over the line. A lot of Labour MPs don’t want a general election, but I doubt that in excess of 164 of them are going to defy the whip and vote down the election. We do live in odd time though, so I’m not promising to drink tea naked with pictures of Nick Clegg on my nipples if it happens and we don’t get an election.
Does Number 10 even want to go to the polls? If not, what now instead? I suppose Boris Johnson could try and wait it out until the next cliff edge. But that has the massive risk of just incurring a Benn Act 2.0 and then another, possibly longer extension. Yes, an election is a risk for the Tories, with Farage on manoeuvres as ever, but isn’t avoiding one an even bigger risk for Johnson?