John Bercow is no longer the British Speaker of the House. He left office Thursday. Fun fact: it is illegal for an MP to resign. Instead they are appointed to a royal office, in Bercow’s case the Royal Steward of the Manor of Northstead, that precludes them from being an elected MP. Consequently the House of Commons then had to elect a new Speaker.
For my American audience, despite the same title as Nancy Pelosi, John Bercow had a very different function and came to it in a very different fashion. First, the position is politically neutral. Whoever the House elects resigns from his or her party (along with his or her three deputies) and the political parties abide by a gentlemen’s agreement not to contest the seat in general elections. (The Tories were so displeased with Bercow they were actually contemplating running somebody in the now 12 December election to get rid of him.) Consequently, the Speaker (and his or her deputies) do note vote unless there is a tie. (Bercow actually cast the first deciding vote by a speaker since 1980 back in April.)
Because the position is politically neutral, all MPs vote in the election and debate is chaired by the Father of the House, the longest continuously serving MP in the House. Today that was Ken Clarke, one of the 21 MPs Boris Johnson booted from the Tory party for voting down his No Deal Brexit and who is not standing in the upcoming election. The candidates for Speaker must receive the vote of 50% of the House. And so they are eliminated in successive votes until someone reaches 50% of the total votes cast, though not all MPs cast votes, since some have already started campaigning. (Today there were 562, 575, 565, 540 votes per round.)
Notably, today’s vote occurs just days before Parliament dissolves prior to the 12 December election. Bercow, who chose to retire on 31 October, essentially ensured that the next Parliament will have a Speaker not chosen what could well likely be a pro-No Deal Brexit, one of the things which the Tories have against him.
So all that said, who won? Well I made a graphic for that.
Yesterday the United Kingdom was supposed to leave the European Union. Again. Boris would rather be dead in a ditch. But he’s neither dead nor in a ditch. And the UK is still in the EU. So let’s enjoy the moment and reflect on this xkcd piece from the other day. And then enjoy the weekend.
I’ve been trying to work on a Syrian changing alliances graphic, but the Brexit news today scuppered that. Instead, we take a look at Boris’ deal, which differs from May’s in that it chucks out the notion of territorial integrity, creating a border in the Irish Sea where goods will have to be inspected. My old Brexit trilemma graphic shows the new deal’s fundamental choices.
But how does this exiting the customs union and single market work? Well, the whole of the UK is leaving the customs union, but on the single market, there Northern Ireland remains in, aligned to the EU, whereas the rest of the UK is leaving. Ports will screen for some goods to ensure compliance with UK officials ensuring EU standards.
The BBC graphic above is pretty straightforward, showing the new border as a dotted line. But the border is there. There is still quite a bit we don’t know. And most important of those questions is can Boris get his deal through Parliament? Remember, he tossed 20 MPs out of the party. And there are signals that the DUP, a conservative Northern Irish party that provides the crucial backing votes to the Tories to ensure the Tory majority (before, again, Boris kicked out 20 of his own MPs), will vote against the deal because it separates them from the rest of the UK.
Credit for the trilemma is mine.
Credit for the BBC graphic goes to the BBC graphics department.
This week is the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester where the Tories unveil their government programmes and platforms. Naturally it has been overshadowed by allegations that Boris Johnson groped one (maybe two) reporters at a dinner in 1999. Just prior to that scandal, however, there was another. In this, Johnson was allegedly having an affair with an American businesswoman for whom he then arranged lucrative business deals whilst in office as the Mayor of London. Johnson has been referred to a police unit for further investigation in that matter. Sounds like some, you might say, golden parallels to…someone or something.
But today’s big news about the government’s plans is that they might have one regarding Brexit. And that plan is to essentially create a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, violating certainly the spirit if not the letter of the Good Friday Agreement that brought the end to the Troubles.
Why is this a big deal? Well, one, remember all the debates during the Brexit Referendum campaign about the Irish border, how the different groups had different solutions to this fundamental problem?
Oh wait, yeah, nobody ever brought this up. Sorry.
So back to my trilemma graphic. I’ve updated it to show which two sides of the triangle Boris Johnson seems to be choosing. To be fair, as I’ve said many times, the UK cannot have all three points of the triangle. They need to pick two. And so, unlike Theresa May, Johnson is at least picking two. My problem is that this was never discussed during the Brexit debates and it seems a rather drastic decision to not have it be confirmed by the people since they never explicitly voted on it.
The British Supreme Court ruled today that Boris Johnson unlawfully advised the Queen to prorogue Parliament. And because the advice was unlawful, the act was therefore unlawful. And because the act was unlawful, the effects of said act were unlawful. And because the effects were unlawful, said effects are null and void. So, you know, prorogation never happened.
So the Prime Minister has misled the Queen. He has failed to pass all but one bill in Parliament (it was a bill for the restoration of the Palace of Westminster totally unrelated to Brexit). He lost three seats, one via a by-election and two by defecting MPs. And then he purged 21 MPs from his party to completely obliterate his working majority. In any other year, this would be cause for the immediate resignation of the Prime Minister. Instead he is sticking around in New York to give a speech about, what else, Brexit, before flying back to London tonight (Eastern US time).
So what’s next? Who really knows. This has never before happened in the history of the United Kingdom. But one possible option is that the opposition parties may hold a no confidence vote. But there will be significant pressure against that, because, as my graphic shows, any election that would likely result, would mean Brexit happening with Parliament dissolved. And that would, ahem, defeat the entire purpose of preventing a No Deal Brexit. Consequently, a no confidence vote or general election is unlikely. (Unless, the opposition and Tory rebels can agree to a non-Jeremy Corbyn caretake prime minister, e.g. Ken Clarke or Margaret Beckett.)
Regardless, get ready for a crazy day of Parliamentary procedure tomorrow.
If you’re among my British/European audience, you are probably well aware Boris Johnson has prorogued, or suspended, Parliament. He and cabinet ministers stated it was a normal, average-length prorogation to prepare for a Queen’s Speech. (The Queen’s Speech is the formal opening of a new session of Parliament that sets out a new legislative agenda and formally closes/kills any unpassed legislation from the old session.) Except that in documents revealed in a Scottish court case, we now know that the real reason was to shut down Parliament to prevent it from interfering in Boris’ plans for a No Deal Brexit. And just this morning the Scottish High Court did indeed rule that the prorogation is illegal. The case now moves to the UK Supreme Court.
But I want to focus on the other claim, that this is a prorogation of average length. Thankfully instead of having to do a week’s hard slog of data, the House of Lords Library posted the data for me. At least since 1900, and that works well enough for me. And so here we go.
So yeah, this is not an average prorogument. If you look at only proroguments that do not precede a general election—you need time for the campaigning and then hosting the actual election in those cases—this is the longest prorogument since 1930. (Also, a Parliament does not necessarily need to be prorogued before it is dissolved before an election. And that happened quite often in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.)
And as I point out in the graphic, Parliament was prorogued during the depths of World War II to start new legislative sessions. But in those cases, Parliament opened the very next day, during a time of national crisis. One could certainly make the argument that Brexit is a national crisis. So wherefore the extraordinarily long prorogument? Well, quite simply, Brexit.
This is a repost of sorts, but it is important. Now prime minister, Boris Johnson had an opportunity to seek a more reasonable approach to Brexit. Unfortunately, he is drawing even harder red lines than his predecessor, Theresa May. And that brings us back to my Brexit trilemma graphic from back in March.
Essentially, Johnson wants three things that are mutually—or whatever the word is for three, maybe tri-mutually—semi-exclusive. In other words, of the three red lines, the United Kingdom can only have two, because those two then make the third impossible.
I made the first version of this back in March. Sad it still applies.
The United Kingdom crashes out of the European Union on Friday. That means there is no deal to safeguard continuity of trading arrangements, healthcare, air traffic control, security and intelligence deals, &c. Oh, and it will likely wreck the economy. No big deal, Theresa. But what do UK voters think about their leading political parties in this climate? Thankfully Politico is starting to collect some survey data from areas of marginal constituencies, what Americans might call battleground districts, ahead of the eventual next election.
And it turns out the Tories aren’t doing well. Though it’s not like Labour is performing any better, because polling indicates the public sees Corbyn as an even worse leader than Theresa May. But this post is more to talk about the visualisation of the results.
The graphics above are a screenshot where blue represents the Conservatives (Tories) and red Labour. The key thing about these results is that the questions were framed around a 0–10 scale. But look at the axes. Everything looks nice and evenly spread, until you realise the maximum on the y-axis is only six. The minimum is two. It gives the wrong impression that things are spread out neatly around the midpoint, which here appears to be four. But what happens if you plot it on a full axis? Well, the awfulness of the parties becomes more readily apparent.
Labour might be scoring around a five on Health, but its score is pretty miserable in these other two categories. And don’t worry, the article has more. But this quick reimagination goes to show you how important placing an axis’ minimum and maximum values can be.
Credit for the piece goes to the Politico graphics department.
It is Monday, so it must be another Brexit vote day. And today we have Indicative Vote Day 2. If you recall from last week, the House of Commons wrestled control over parliamentary business away from the government and created a two-step process to try and see if any alternative to Theresa May’s Brexit plan can receive a workable, sustainable majority in the House.
The first step went about as well as could be expected. Nothing received a majority, but a customs union and a confirmatory vote by the public on the final deal both came very close to a majority: 8 and 27 votes, respectively. Likely, the vote today will be on those options.
But one reason for this lack of majority is that the idea of Europe has always fractured the Conservative Party. And in a recent piece by the Economist, we can see just how fractured the Tories have become.
Maybe a little bit counterintuitively, this plot does not look at an MP’s opinion on Brexit, but just with whom they are more likely to vote. The clearest takeaway is that whilst Labour remains relatively united, the Tories are in a small little divisions across the field.
In terms of design, there is not much to comment upon. It is not a scatter plot in terms of the placement of the dots does not refer to Brexit opinions, as I mentioned. It is more about the groupings of MPs. And in that sense, this does its job.
Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.
The key problem in the Brexit deal remains what to do with the Irish border. In essence, the UK faces the same trilemma it has since the beginning. It wants three things it cannot have at the same time: exiting the EU single market and customs union, so it can create a free and independent trade policy; no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, per the Good Friday Agreement that ended the Troubles; and territorial integrity, i.e. no hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in the Irish Sea.
Essentially, the UK can choose two of these three options. Below, I have attempted to show how they relate and what the result is once two of the options have been chosen.