Dr Martin Farr, Senior Lecturer in Contemporary British History at Newcastle University, explains why there is no agreement between opposition parties and what the prospects for bringing some order to the chaotic political situation in the UK are.
Sputnik: Opposition parties will not call for a vote of no confidence in the government to topple the PM this week. Can you tell us a bit more about events leading up to this move from opposition groups?
Martin Farr: The situation we have in Parliament is that there's a government's without a majority and this is one of the reasons why there's no majority for any of the possible routes out of the current Brexit conundrum. Usually, in the past when a government didn't have a majority or the House of Commons and have confidence in the government, the government would fall and then there would be a general election - that's one of the conventions of the Constitution. As of 2011, there's an act which requires there to be mechanisms in place, which makes it harder for a prime minister calling an election. So now we have this extraordinary situation of a prime minister in office, but not in power. The devices available to the opposition to call a vote of no confidence and if they won that there would be 14 days to form a new government and if one wasn't available then a general election will be called so that's now part of the law of the land. So far they've resisted a vote of no confidence in the government and there are several reasons for that. The first is they're not sure they would win it and the reason they're not sure if they'll win it is they can't be sure who would be the likely temporary prime minister or the like a new leader of a new government. Convention would be that the leader of the opposition i.e. the leader of the second-largest party will be the natural alternative Prime Minister in this situation. But the current leader of the opposition is Jeremy Corbyn who is the most divisive leader of the Labour Party in history and none of the Conservative MPs who might support a vote of no confidence will do so if it might lead to Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister. The Labour Party is therefore also reluctant to have someone who is not Jeremy Corbyn stand as the alternative Prime Minister and there's no agreement between the Labour Party, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, and Plaid Cymru as the major opposition parties as to who should be the person who would replace Johnson.
Sputnik: Focusing on the inherent differences between parties; what problems lie on the horizon for opposition parties wanting a no-confidence vote?
Martin Farr: The essential problem is who would be a unifying candidate to lead this government and there isn't one at the moment essentially. Each party has its own interests; the Labour Party has a clear interest in wanting Jeremy Corbyn to be prime minister, even if only temporarily so that at least the notion of his prime minister is no longer unimaginable. The SNP are very keen on a general election as soon as possible and will do anything to facilitate that - even as they made it clear at the weekend supporting Jeremy Corbyn, that's unusual developments over the last 72 hours, but the SNP are very key on an election because they are likely to win almost all of the seats in Scotland and that will assist them in their campaign for independence in Scotland. So they have an agenda - a perfectly open and public agenda. The Liberal Democrats did very well in the last few months with their new leader Joe Swinson and with their very pro EU anti-Brexit line and they say certainly don't want Corbyn in power not least because they think of Corbyn as the Conservative Rebels do, the 21 Conservative MPs who lost their whip, think of Corbyn as being unfit for office for different reasons like the opposition of thinks that Boris Johnson is unfit for office. So we have really for the first time I can think of both a leader of the opposition and a prime minister who is thought to be unfit for office for a variety of reasons by most parliamentarians. It's another illustration of the extraordinary times we find ourselves in.
Sputnik: How does the government feel about the looming prospect of a no-confidence vote? What steps is the government taking in preparing for a general election?
Martin Farr: The government has been in election mode since Johnson became prime minister. This conference in Manchester is clearly a pre-election conference and his speech tomorrow will be a pre-election speech. They've been pushing the very simple and probably very effective line, deal with Brexit and then we can invest in police hospitals and schools - all the kind of things that are polling well with the public and also polling well with Labour voters. The Conservatives are very keen on the general election, they expect to do well in that and they've been obviously campaigning for that to take place as soon as the opposition would allow it. We have an election due very soon. The question is whether it comes before or after, or what point after October 31st, and that is in a way the more pressing issue - the terms on which we leave and whether we leave on October 31st or whether an extension is granted. That really is a background to all of the present uncertainties and confusions.
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