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The change in the parliamentary arithmetic since he became PM makes Johnson’s task harder

August 28th, 2019

More ex-ministers expected to join the Tory rebels

It is worth reminding ourselves that for all but two days of its life the Johnson government has been able to operate without the need to face parliamentary scrutiny.  It has been able to control the media narrative and dominate the headlines. That all changes next Tuesday when MPs return after the summer recess.

One thing that will be different is that the parliamentary arithmetic, already very tight, will be even less favourable to the Johnson government than it was to TMay’s.

This is because, of course, the Tories lost the Brecon by-election and also because several of the former ministers like Rory Stewart and Phillip Hammond can no longer be relied on to back a government apparently hell bent on a no-deal Brexit.

Each additional rebel makes the government’s situation worse by two. For while ministers the could always being relied on to back the government they, on many key issues, could now be voting against.

This looks set to be significant because of the tightness of the parliamentary situation. We all remember the Commons rebellions in the spring when MPs were able to take control of the parliamentary agenda which is normally set by the government. Most of the really big votes were very tight with what became known as Cooper-Letwin passing by a majority of just one. That was the move to delay Brexit.

The first priority for the new grouping of opposition parties, aided by Tory rebels, will be to use the same formula to try to seize control of the Commons agenda in order to introduce a bill to make the PM seek a further extension of the Article 50 process.

On Betfair in the past 24 hours the odds on a no deal Brexit in 2019 have edged down from 43.3% to 38.9%.

 

Mike Smithson