DUP switch puts removal of Johnson government within reach – if LibDems and few remaining ‘TIGs’ have backbone and principles
Boris Johnson’s latest parliamentary defeat has opened up the prospect of success for what was always the most likely route to defeating Johnson-Cummings-ERG and their no-deal plans: a no-confidence vote under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act (FTPA) moved by Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Up to a very short time before the vote, parliamentary insiders believed that the Tories’ previous DUP allies, the DUP were going to merely abstain on the ‘Letwin amendment’ to prevent Johnson passing his deal until all the necessary legislative measures were in place.
But the DUP ultimately voted against the government, making sure that the amendment passed – a sign of the intensity of their dissatisfaction and sense of betrayal over Johnson’s proposed arrangements for Northern Ireland.
The DUP’s anger – and readiness to express it by actively voting – against the Tories means that the parliamentary arithmetic has the potential to stack up in a successful no-confidence vote – which would require only a simple majority of one vote.
But only if the LibDems and the few remaining ‘TIG’ MPs that have not yet defected to them are prepared to back up their words about preventing a no-deal or bad-deal Brexit with actual votes in the Commons.
Since Boris Johnson’s petulant sacking of twenty-one MPs over an early defeat, the Tories have 288 MPs in the Commons.
The 312 MPs that might under normal circumstances vote down the government in a no-confidence vote stack up as follows:
- Labour 245
- SNP 35
- LibDems 19
- ex-Labour independents 3
- TIG 5
- Plaid 4
- Green 1
If the ten DUP MPs were to vote against the Tories, the potential total comes to 322 MPs out of the effective total (minus Sinn Fein MPs, who do not participate) of 642.
Even if all the remaining thirty-two independent MPs – ex-Tories plus right-wing former Labour MPs such as Frank Field, Ian Austin and John Woodcock voted with the government, it would give Boris Johnson a maximum of 320.
And in a no-confidence vote under the FTPA, a single vote would be enough.
The LibDems and TIG MPs have made stopping a no-deal Brexit their reason for existing. If they put that claim into action and vote against the government, MPs can bring down Boris Johnson’s government.
If their words are just cynical hot air and they either back Johnson or cravenly abstain, Johnson stays in place to pursue his race to the no-deal cliff edge.
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