Breaking Whispers: Article 50 Bill passed for final commons reading

Within the last hour MP’s have voted overwhelmingly in favour of passing the governments European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill to the final stage of debate in the House of Commons.

The final stage, comprising a third reading of the bill was approved by a commons vote of 494 votes for to 122 votes against- a majority of  372.

What happens at a third reading?

  • Debate on the Bill is usually short, and limited to what is actually in the Bill, rather than, as at second reading, what might have been included.
  • Amendments (proposals for change) cannot be made to a Bill at third reading in the Commons.
  • At the end of the debate, the House decides (votes on) whether to approve the third reading of the Bill.

After that if the bill is approved, it passes to the House of Lords for its first reading and debate. Once the bill passes in the House of Lords it moves forward for Royal Assent and will eventually become law.

Why is this significant?

The passage of the bill into the third stage of reading stops opposition parties from tabling amendments which could derail the governments Brexit agenda.

Many amendments to the bill have been tabled as part of the second reading and have been successfully defeated in subsequent parliamentary votes.

Its a crucial victory in the governments timetable of a 31st March triggering of Article 50 and the commencement of the UK leaving the EU.

Commons Reaction

david-davis-boris-johnson-e1476175519793David Davis, Secretary of State for Brexit released the following statement after the vote:

“We’ve seen a historic vote tonight – a big majority for getting on with negotiating our exit from the EU and a strong, new partnership with its member states.

It has been a serious debate, a healthy debate, with contributions from MP’s representing all parts of the UK, and I respect the strong views on all sides.

The decision on EU membership has been made by the people we serve. It is now time for everyone, whichever way they voted in the Referendum, to unite to make a success of the important task at hand for our country.”

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage immediately took to Twitter to express his delight at the positive vote:

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Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP who chaired the Vote Leave campaign said: “This bill has passed with significant majorities unamended which is a clear signal to the House of Lords that they should do the same.”

The vote was not without some controversy however, as Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis resigned his post in order to defy the Labour parties three line whip and vote against passing the bill.

Newly elected Labour MPs

Mr Lewis, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement via the party saying: “When I became the MP for Norwich South, I promised my constituents I would be ‘Norwich’s voice in Westminster, not Westminster’s voice in Norwich’. I therefore cannot, in all good conscience, vote for something I believe will ultimately harm the city I have the honour to represent, love and call home.”

4c71bc1669a2e0dbf91fe4f69ebeef74Mr Corbyn said he understood the difficult position of some of his MP’s but said they had been ordered to back the Article 50 because the party would not “block Brexit”.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who was widely derided after she missed last week’s initial vote on the bill due to a migraine, backed it this time, saying: “I’m a loyal member of the shadow cabinet and I’m loyal to Jeremy Corbyn.”

Breaking Whispers-MP’s back Governments Article 50 bill

MP’s have voted overwhelmingly to back the governments European Union (Notification of withdrawal) bill in a parliamentary vote today.

The final count was 498 votes in favour with 114 votes against conferring a majority of 384.

The bill will now pass to the next stage in the political process, clearing the way for Prime Minister Theresa May to publish a government white paper on Brexit tomorrow.

Tonight’s vote followed weeks of speculation that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would impose a three line whip on Labour MP’s, urging them to vote in support of the government.


What is a three line whip?

In the UK a three-line whip is an instruction given to Members of Parliament by the leaders of their party telling them they must vote in the way that the party wants them to on a particular subject. Or more roughly translated, vote as we all vote or you’re out.


Forty-Seven member of the Labour party defied their leaders wishes and voted against the government, along with members of the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats.

Labour Shadow Cabinet members Rachael Maskell who served as Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary and Dawn Butler who served as Shadow Equalities Minister resigned their front bench posts in order to vote against the government.

Prominent europhile and former Conservative chancellor Kenneth Clarke voted against the government after yesterday likening the Prime Ministers Brexit plans to Alice In Wonderland: “Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole and emerge in a wonderland where suddenly countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that previously we’ve never been able to achieve.”

Today’s vote concludes two days of parliamentary debate on the Brexit bill.

The bill now faces further scrutiny in the Commons and the House of Lords before it can become law.

The prime minister has set a deadline of 31 March for invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, getting official talks with the EU started and this is the first of many steps to come in achieving this goal.

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Theresa May: Government to publish white paper on Brexit

Prime Minister Theresa May has today confirmed that the government will set out its Brexit plans in a formal government policy document- known as a white paper.

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Mrs May said she recognised an “appetite” for a white paper on her “bold” negotiations on exiting the EU

The move comes after pressure from the Labour party for greater clarity on the governments Brexit plans, initially set out in the Prime Ministers speech a week ago and after speculation that many in her own party (including some ex-ministers) wanted a white paper.

“It was a bit of a surprise but I’m incredibly delighted,” said Ben Howlett, the Conservative MP for Bath who had been calling for a white paper. “We haven’t discussed what amendments might or might not be put in. We’d been focusing our attention on getting a white paper.”

Speaking at Prime Ministers questions earlier today Mrs May said “I recognise that there is an appetite in this House to see that plan set out in a White Paper. I can confirm to the House that our plan will be set out in a White Paper published in this House.”

What is a White Paper?

white-paper-2Simply put, a white paper is a document or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s position on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. In this case the government is setting out it’s Brexit position in a way that is clear, concise and can be debated openly in Parliament.

Mrs May was quick to confirm that the white paper would be a completely separate issue to the article 50 debate, an action which will give the government much needed space to focus its efforts on the upcoming parliamentary debate on triggering article 50.

The Prime Minister said that the white paper would be “a bold vision for Britain for the future”.

Labour MP’s have called upon the government to have the white paper document ready in time for the parliamentary debates on the triggering of Article 50, scheduled in Parliament over the next few weeks in the run up to March 31st.

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Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at Prime Ministers Questions earlier today

A Labour spokesman said: “We now want to see the timing and it is clear the white paper needs to come to parliament in time for the debate … MPs have a right to be able to see what the government’s plan of action is. The speech is not adequate. It set out a wish-list of options.

“As we’ve said many times, Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the EU and therefore will not frustrate the will of the British people. But respecting the will of the British people is very different from respecting the will of the British government. We need to see the plan and make sure the process is held to account in parliament at every stage.”

 

International Whispers- “UK will be a world leader in trade” Theresa May tells World Economic Forum

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has addressed leaders of many of the worlds largest companies at the World Economic Forum in Davos and has said that the “UK will be a world leader in trade.”

In her speech, the Prime Minister launched an attack on the “politics of division” and globalisation which are only serving to fuel inequality between nations.

She said the world was enjoying an “unprecedented level of wealth”, but many people felt this was “not working for them”.

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The Prime Minister addressed some of Europe’s top business people in Davos, Switzerland

Mrs May said: “Talk of greater globalisation can make people fearful. For many it means their jobs outsourced and their wages undercut. It means having to sit back as they watch their communities change around them.

“And in their minds, it means watching as those who prosper seem to play by a different set of rules, while for many life remains a struggle as they get by, but don’t necessarily get on.”

After the speech, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the UK was “now making a choice to control migration, and they are paying a huge price because the economic growth rate of the UK will be impacted negatively by the fact that it will leave the biggest market in the world”.

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Dutch PM Mark Rutte said Brexit would “damage the economy of the UK”

German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble warned Mrs May her claim of the UK becoming “truly global” after Brexit would only be “taken seriously” if she did not slash taxes to attract business.

The speech comes after widespread European criticism to Mrs May’s  keynote speech outlining the governments Brexit position on Tuesday morning.

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IMF Head Christine Lagarde

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde has warned the UK there is still likely to be “pain” in its negotiations with the EU and that any deal with the EU will “not be as good” as membership, she said.

German MP Norbert Roettgen, who represents Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats said: “The UK’s two main economic weaknesses are its considerable trade deficit and a big budget deficit. As such [UK Chancellor Philip] Hammond’s threats with duties and tax cuts would primarily damage the UK and should be regarded as an expression of British cluelessness.”

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Mr Tusk, speaking in Brussels earlier this week

European Council President Donald Tusk sounded a more optimistic note comparing the Prime Minister to Winston Churchill saying “We took note of Prime Minister May’s warm, balanced words on European integration which were much closer to the narrative of Winston Churchill than of the American President-elect Trump.”

In other news, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has today confirmed that he has instructed his MP’s to vote in favour of triggering article 50, should the government lose its supreme court case and be forced to bring a vote to the house:

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Mr Corbyn speaking on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday

Mr Corbyn said “It is very clear. The referendum made a decision that Britain was to leave the European Union. It was not to destroy jobs or living standards or communities but it was to leave the European Union and to have a different relationship in the future. I’ve made it very clear the Labour party accepts and respects the decision of the British people. We will not block article 50.”

The Party Line is………………..Schism

The British parliamentary system of government is a system of duality. It is a system which requires two parties to function effectively: one in government and one in opposition. The principle function of this is for one to provide an effective counterpoint to the other and vice versa. This ensures that the opposing viewpoints are aired and a consensus prevails.

When one party ceases to provide this effective counterpoint the system becomes prejudiced towards the other. In the unfortunate event of both parties ceasing to provide counterpoints to each other you inevitably see the sort of political and economic confusion that has existed over the last few weeks in the post referendum world.

With its speedy appointment of Theresa May as prime minister, the Conservative party has been the first to emerge from this land of confusion to a state of reasonable (if only perceptually) stability, allowing them to get a hold of the Brexit juggernaut and move toward a coherent exit plan.

On the other side of the aisle, the Labour party however has become embroiled in a civil war between its members of parliament and its leader Jeremy Corbyn. The only recently elected leader has found himself the subject of an attempted coup from within the Labour party. Using the pretext of Labour’s failure to effectively campaign in the EU referendum, a group of dissenting MP’s resigned and have pushed the Labour party into its second leadership contest in as many months.

A Labour member of Parliament for almost 35 years, Mr Corbyn is a man of deep conviction and an entrenched socialist, who matured in the staunchly union version of the Labour party that existed under the tenure of Neil Kinnock. He is not a man who conforms to the New Labour stereotype and was never expected to be anything but a backbencher in the young dynamic Labour party.

Yet it has been a rise as meteoric as much as it has been unexpected.

Winning a leadership election with almost 60% of the vote has given him almost unlimited carte blanche to turn the Labour party into his version of socialism and to steer it away from the Blairite version of new Labour.

The politics of new Labour and its chief architect; Tony Blair have been the prevailing political sentiment within the Labour party for the last 20 years and have shaped many of the politicians which now form the Labour parties front and back benches. It is a politics of reform and accountability.

The nascent politics of Corbynism which finds its voice in more traditionalist Labour values has moved in to replace this ideological standpoint, but New Labour is so entrenched in recent Labour philosophy will not leave without a fight.

A fight which has created the first schism in the Labour party, but a schism of their own making.

By contradicting the party zeitgeist, he has won a legion of new supporters in the party, but very few friends in Westminster.  Not every Labour party leader has been popular amongst his peers, but popularity in Parliament does not matter as much as support from within the party membership.

Indeed, by their actions, Labour party front and backbenchers cannot be called upon to offer Mr Corbyn the kind of support he needs in this second leadership contest, so he must look to other sources for assistance.

Historically, the largest and strongest support that Labour party leaders can call on comes from the Trade Union movement. An integral partner in the party since day one, prospective leaders have had to court union support to succeed in their rise to power.  They are the largest proportion of membership within the Labour party and are also its largest donor.

The candidate who can call on Trade Union support can win the leadership contest, regardless of the popularity of the other candidates as we saw when Ed Miliband famously “stabbed” his more popular brother David in the back to win the Labour leadership election in 2010. He could not have done so without the crucial support of the trade unions.

Jeremy Corbyn with his socialist background appeals to the union mentality of Labour and as such the Unions have been unswerving in their support of him, despite the attempted coup by the rest of the party.

The traditional support mechanism of the Unions has been joined by a new political group, that of the organisation known as Momentum.

Momentum, inaugurated in the wake of Mr Corbyn’s victory in 2015 is a group made up of those individuals who so vociferously campaigned for Mr Corbyn to be elected leader. It portrays itself as a unifying presence, a grassroots movement designed to strengthen the Labour party, increase its support and unify the party behind Mr Corbyn. It has a manifesto of broad social reform very much in keeping with core Labour values but remaining an independent organisation within the Labour party.

It is currently embroiled in campaigning to get more of its supporters elected to the Labour National Executive Committee, the key ruling council of the Labour party. Councillors have found themselves being supplanted by organisation members in their own constituencies and individuals within the party have been coerced into supporting Momentum’s aims.

Momentum has become extension of the Corbyn political machine, which has now dedicated itself to keeping him in power.

The Labour party is a party of communities, of organisations, of unions, which finds its strength in the politics of consensus rather than focusing itself on an individual, as Momentum does with Mr Corbyn.  A conflict between these two ideologies is inevitable as each is an anathema to the other.

It is this conflict, if unchecked that has potential to split the Labour party in two. This will undoubtedly lead to the end of the Labour party as it is known today.

This is the second schism which is rocking the foundations of the Labour party. Both threaten the core if a political settlement is not reached.

But what of those MP’s who openly rebelled against Mr Corbyn’s leadership?

If he does, as expected win the upcoming leadership election they will find their position is almost completely untenable.  If they do nothing, they will be forced out of their positions by Mr Corbyn and Momentum, but if they do choose to act they risk their entire political careers by going against the party which they represent.

There is no easy answer.

The only winners in this sort of scenario are the other main parties, who can sit around in their stability and watch as the Labour party implodes. There is potentially every chance that many of the rebel MP’s will choose to defect to parties which more closely match their views.

We could see the growth of a new political party distinct from Labour which could amalgamate with the Liberal Democrat party, a virtual non-entity since it was cast out of number 10 in 2015.

Whatever the scenario, the Labour party has a rocky road ahead of it.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is………Open Season

The political campaigns of both sides of the European Union referendum debate used increasingly low methods to achieve their objectives, to the point where the referendum became a very ugly campaign.  Party divisions were magnified, mud was slung and no subject was untouched in the rush to win the vote.

Now that the referendum has been settled, the British public can be forgiven for expecting the frantic politics to stop and for everyone involved to take a breath.

Unfortunately, the divisiveness of the campaign and its subsequent fallout has infected each of the two main political parties, prompting a positively Shakespearean world where political loyalties are cheaper than House of Commons toilet paper and everyone is fair game.

It is a world of power broking, sudden political shifts and betrayal. It is a world of kingmakers and fall guys with backroom dealing becoming the practical exercise of political power. This is a world seldom seen by the ordinary voter and often only alluded to in the press but it exists just below the surface of political society.

In the aftermath of the referendum this hidden world has been thrust into daylight for all to see with the fall of the Cameron premiership.

In a scene reminiscent of Julius Caesar, Michael Gove has like Brutus betrayed his Brexit campaign brother in arms Boris Johnson publicly and finally. With one motion the Justice Secretary has seemingly dealt a fatal blow to the Prime Ministerial ambitions and political career of Boris Johnson.

However, like Brutus at Philippi, he will not be able to enjoy his victory as the perceived betrayal will not engender him to the Conservative hierarchy and membership. So Boris Johnson may have the last laugh as Gove becomes gradually ostracised from his own party.

Despite suggestions that the field of candidates be drawn directly from those who campaigned for Brexit, the defeated remainers were able to field three main candidates: Stephen Crabbe, Theresa May and Liam Fox.

Crabbe’s inexperience and status as an unknown quantity has led to his early withdrawal from the contest, but he remains a candidate for the future and could potentially form part of the new Prime Minister’s cabinet.

May remains a strong figure within the Conservative party and has garnered strong support from Ministers and backbench MP’s since she declared her candidacy last week. She has come into this campaign with a good record as Home Secretary and is the candidate to beat. It remains to be seen if she will survive the new climate of backroom alliances and skullduggery, but she stands a very good chance of succeeding Cameron if she does.

Although Liam Fox is an experienced political operator, he’s also been forced to withdraw early from the contest due to lack of support within the party. He has been keen to support Theresa May and will like Crabbe, look to be involved within her cabinet should she be elected.

With the excommunication of Gove and the demise of Johnson, Andrea Leadsom has moved forward as the only Brexit campaigner present since day one. A popular figure during the campaigns and debates, she should command a strong vote from the Brexit contingent of the Conservative party. That vote may not be enough in the contest against such a strong opposition figure as Theresa May.

Any prospective leader of the Conservative party must have a strong beneficial presence in the media, because the media is the most powerful tool to aid the success or failure of the candidate in the leadership contest and afterward in their government. The principle individual to negotiate with in this instance is Rupert Murdoch, owner of two of the UK’s biggest newspapers The Sun and The Times.  Candidates must have his support be it covertly or publicly, but great care must be taken in obtaining this support as Mr Murdoch has had a very fractured relationship with both the British public and political classes. That being said, an endorsement of this sort would carry great weight in the days to come.

While the travails affecting the Conservative party have been aired publicly, the problems within the Labour party have largely been confined to private infighting. Mass resignations have rendered the shadow cabinet a shadow of its former self and severely affected its ability to function as a political opposition.

These resignations and the subsequent activity in the media by those who have resigned have at their heart one aim: the removal of Jeremy Corbyn from his post as party leader. Many of these individuals were unhappy with the appointment of Corbyn as leader, but could not be seen to air their distaste for his appointment due to the groundswell of support from ordinary party members and the trade unions.

Using Labour’s lack of definite activity in the referendum as a catalyst, these individuals have finally found a platform on which they can attack Mr Corbyn’s leadership with any certainty of success, staging a coup d’état against him. The party has conducted a vote of no confidence, (the traditional signal for a candidate to resign) which he soundly lost. Perceptually Corbyn’s position as leader is becoming more and more untenable by the day.

But like a barnacle on the hull of a ship, Jeremy Corbyn remains unmovable because of two key elements: the aforementioned popular support of the ordinary party members (numbering almost 200,000) and the support of the largest trade union in the UK: Unite and its chief Len McCluskey.

The trade unions, being the kingmakers of the Labour party remain its strongest constituent part and as recent history has shown, if you have the support of the unions you get to be leader. In this fractured environment, McCluskey’s unwavering support of Corbyn remains his greatest political weapon, which he can wield to crush any opposition from within the party.  If the support disappears, Mr Corbyn will undoubtedly be cast into the political wilderness.

This sort of dog eat dog environment can challenge even the stoutest of political heart and doesn’t exude an image of trustworthiness to the average voting age individual. The candidate who emerges from this sort of contest will undoubtedly face even tougher challenges as they step up to the top job in their respective party.

However, in a world where a media mogul can change the destiny of an incumbent government with a few well-placed stories or a union leader can push an entire body of workers to favour one candidate over another, it is important to stay ahead of the game, otherwise you risk becoming the next casualty of the great political turkey shoot.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is……….Exit Strategy

We came, we saw, we voted and we left.  In the tumult of the hours that followed the result, that decision was cross-examined with the voraciousness of a person questioning his identity. Had we changed so much? Had we been so eager to leave that we had become something dark and twisted? What was next for us?

There can be no doubt, last Thursday’s vote was a watershed moment in British politics as despite all the warnings and trepidation, we voted to leave an organisation that had been an integral part of the British political system for the last 40 years.

It seemed that the decision took everyone by surprise, not least the voters who took to social media to express their disbelief, their dissatisfaction and their anger. The enfranchised but largely absent younger generation accused the older generation of robbing them of their future and their elders accused them of seeking to preserve the status quo at the expense of British sovereignty.

Division and infighting was not limited to the voters, as the politicians of all parties dissolved into factions and threw many of their colleagues to the press wolves. As the strongest advocate of the remain argument, the first casualty was Prime Minister Cameron albeit with a proviso to leave in October. Sensing opportunity, dissatisfied Labour MP’s have launched an abortive coup attempt against their leader Jeremy Corbyn and it seems that before long he will have to defend his administration from a rival within the party.

Amidst all the shock, political infighting and market uncertainty, the principal problem of delivering on the exit vote moved from an afterthought to the prime concern of the UK Government. Despite all the contingency planning, there is still a lot to do before the UK can officially leave the European Union.

A coherent plan and resulting legislatory changes are required before the UK can activate Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Committees are currently being drawn up to make such a plan a legal reality.

David Cameron, in moving quickly to resign his premiership has made one of the shrewdest political moves of his career. In making this move, he both physically abdicates responsibility for the next phase in the exit while at the same time perceptually abdicating responsibility for its potential failure and after effects.

The Brexiteers, newly legitimized by the vote are now the frontrunners to administer the new process as their dissenting voices now become the perceived democratic voice of the nation. They now have the burden of making the vote a reality placed upon their shoulders. The earliest indications seem to be that they were so unprepared for the prospect of winning the referendum vote that they didn’t feel it necessary to plan for the eventuality.  The centrist politicians within the campaign who have campaigned hard over the months are now losing political ground every day by not presenting the next stage in the process to the British people.

The only one still speaking is the right-wing leader of UKIP Nigel Farage, emboldened by both the vindication of his parties’ core aim and the prospect of now losing his job has taken the opportunity to vociferously attack the EU in speeches and prose. As the only one speaking from the campaign he devalues the legitimacy of the moderate Brexit argument with his right wing barracking of the EU.

The longer he continues to act without censure, the more the leaders of the EU are likely to make our exit harder. Moderate voices must act and show the EU that the British people are not a bunch of anti- EU zealots.

These moderate voices now have their own problems, in the forthcoming Conservative leadership contest with each member of the Brexit campaign now vying for a seat at the top table.  One may win, or none may win as the party could vote to select a candidate independent of the campaign to administer the next stage in the process and carry the UK forward alone.

The problem now is that the resignation of the Prime Minister and his commitment not to activate article 50 of the treaty of Lisbon have placed the next stage in the process on hold for the next four months. Europe cannot push us out and likewise we cannot see what the consequences of the result are. It is a quandary which creates a lot of uncertainty in both political society and financial markets.

Our former European partners also fall victim to this quandary, as continued UK presence within the EU makes it a poisoned partnership and drags the other nations into our uncertainty.  The EU cannot afford to keep us in but they also cannot be seen to accelerate our exit as it would give other dissenting nations the opportunity to voice their own concerns about the European experiment.

A nation reluctant to move quickly to the exit door and an entity motivated to move them out as quickly as possible with undoubtedly come into conflict. With the exit process taking potentially up to two years, European haste and British reluctance to proceed without a coherent plan will continue to make the environment of the EU a very uncertain place.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Resignation of Iain Duncan Smith: A second Conservative civil war?

The year is 1990, the Berlin Wall has fallen and Communism is in retreat around the globe, Apartheid is crumbling in South Africa and the Gulf war begins. In the UK a dominant Margaret Thatcher survives a leadership challenge from inside the Conservative Party by a huge margin.  Despite the poll tax riots and low approval ratings Thatcher remains confident in her leadership of the country and her party.

Beneath the surface however, it is a Conservative party filled with deep unrest, be it from grassroots party members through to cabinet colleagues.  Senior members were unhappy with her support for the poll tax and had big differences of opinion on the UK’s place in the European community.

One such figure was Geoffrey Howe the Deputy Prime Minister, who was the last surviving member of the 1979 cabinet.  Howe was unhappy with Mrs Thatcher’s refusal to agree a timetable for the UK to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.  On the 1st November 1990, Mr Howe resigned from the Conservative party and his position as Deputy Prime Minister.

This one event triggered a cataclysm of acrimonious resignations, party in fighting and a leadership challenge that would result in Mrs Thatcher would be ousted from the Conservative party.  Bringing to an end an 11 year tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Flash forward to early 2016: A dominant Conservative party has won a huge majority at the General Election sweeping aside all opposition.  David Cameron negotiates a new agreement with the EU which he deems to be the best deal for Britain and calls for a referendum in which the British People will confirm that belief.  His chancellor George Osborne delivers an early budget including a reform of pension tax relief and ending in a number of cuts to disability benefits.

Like the Thatcher government, the Conservative party of 2016 is deeply divided over Europe and Britain’s place in it, there is also concern that the policy of austerity is failing to address overriding economic issues. Factional lines have been drawn within the party and where there was once unity there is now discord and open opposition.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Minister, resigns in disgust at the watering down of proposed disability cuts and the compromises made.  His assertion being that the withdrawals and compromises are obviously an attempt to appease middle to high income voters who traditionally vote conservative and to keep them on side ahead of the EU referendum.

It is an assertion that is backed by many colleagues within the party, but rejected by even more.  Impartial observers cannot hearken back to the Thatcher government and wonder, will history repeat itself? Will the Conservative party implode as it did before?

The old saying “Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it” has never been more right. David Cameron, aware of the damage one resignation can do and the tenuous nature of the situation has been keen to smooth things over with those individuals who question both the budget and the Conservative parties’ role in Mr Duncan Smith’s resignation.

Whether the Conservative party slides into civil war and leadership contests will be determined by what David Cameron and his colleagues do next. Civil War in the party benefits nobody. The only winners from such a dangerous course may well be the Labour party, still licking its wounds from its worst election performance for a decade.

If I were Jeremy Corbyn, I’d be praying for more of the same resignations and infighting from the Conservatives. Only that could get me into power.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.