The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 23rd November 2018

May in Deep Trouble

by New Worker correspondent

MRS MAY is in deep trouble, and there’s mounting speculation about a fresh election in the Westminster bubble following renewed attempts by hard-line Tory Brexiteers to unseat her and the rift with the sectarian bigots of northern Ireland whose MPs have propped up her shaky coalition since 2017.

The survival of the May government is now seriously being questioned in the corridors of power following threats from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to break with the Tories over May’s Brexit deal.

DUP leader Arlene Foster says her party will not back May’s deal, which they believe undermines northern Ireland’s links to Britain. And to show they mean business the DUP refused to support the Government in key Budget votes in the House of Commons this week. The northern Irish Unionists abstained on three Tory proposals in the finance Bill and voted with Labour on a fourth, to review the impact of increases to the personal tax allowance on child poverty.

Sammy Wilson MP, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman, said the May government has broken a “fundamental agreement…not to separate Northern Ireland constitutionally or economically from the United Kingdom”. He said their message was: “We’ve got an agreement with you, but you’ve got to keep your side of the bargain — otherwise we don’t feel obliged to keep ours.”

Although this is clearly a breach of their ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Tories, the DUP are hedging their bets and waiting to see if Mrs May can quell her backbench revolt at least until parliament closes for the Christmas break. But Labour says “we no longer have a functioning government” and that Mrs May’s “grubby deal with the DUP has come back to bite her”. Jeremy Corbyn’s number two, John McDonnell, said: “If a party in government cannot command a majority in parliament, it should stand aside and allow the opposition party the opportunity to seek to form a government.”

This week Mrs May staved off a Tory leadership challenge despite the recent resignations over Brexit of two members of her Cabinet and two junior ministers.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the implausible leader of the anti-European Union (EU) European Research Group in parliament, has failed to win sufficient support from the Tory ranks to trigger a new leadership contest. Rees-Mogg’s followers were confident that they would get the 48 Tory MPs needed to trigger a new election last week but he only got 26. His Tory enemies, who are legion, are now mocking his damp-squib revolt as “a bit Dad’s Army”, though writing him off completely may be a bit premature in these turbulent times.

Meanwhile Amber Rudd, the new work and pensions secretary, added fuel to the fire when she said that the Prime Minister simply cannot say it’s “my deal or no deal” because the government doesn’t possess a majority in parliament. Ms Rudd said a second Brexit referendum is a possibility if Prime Minister Theresa May’s draft withdrawal deal is defeated in the Commons, insisting “anything could happen”. That, of course, would have to be agreed by the House as well.

Labour’s preferred option is another general election but that would also need a majority parliamentary vote to over-ride the new fix-term parliament rules — which might be difficult to obtain. The alternative, John McDonnell says, is to call on the Queen as head of state to ask Jeremy Corbyn to form a minority government if MPs vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal. McDonnell says that Labour must be offered the chance to govern if Mrs May is no longer able to command a majority in the Commons.

But a Labour minority government in this current parliament would need the support of the Scottish nationalists and the Liberal-Democrats to survive, and their price will definitely be a re-run EU referendum.