A Government of National Unity?

9 August 2019, Blog

Boris Johnson has been Prime Minister for less than a month, and already his premiership is being challenged.

After a significant win for the ‘Remain Alliance’ in Brecon and Radnorshire, the Conservative Government’s majority was cut to just one. Unsurprisingly, the Johnson administration carries on – down but not yet done.

Right now, remain-leaning MPs and Her Majesty’s Opposition, wait eagerly in the wings of Westminster, waiting to claim Number 10 for their own. Uncertainty is a noun that has never been used so often.

Will there be a general election? If there is, will it be before October, before December or next year? Will there be a further extension to Article 50? Will there be a second referendum? Will the UK leave the EU?

There are no easy answers, and the challenges for Johnson’s top team of parliamentary arithmetic, the EU’s unwillingness to reopen the withdrawal agreement, and the ever-decreasing time to find a solution, mean that de-facto Chief of Staff and former Vote Leave mastermind, Dominic Cummings has his work cut out.

With a No-Deal Brexit seemingly just around the corner, MPs frantically explore what avenues are available to stop the new Prime Minister from pursuing what many MPs feel will be a disastrous crash out of the European Union.

One direction, and something that we have often heard in relation to Johnson’s predecessor, is a vote of no confidence in HM Government. Now it has been largely rumored that the PM would just power through, ignoring the vote should it go against him. But, for Remainers, this could offer a pathway to Number 10 and remaining in the EU.

A Government of National Unity is another proposition. This would see a united group of MPs, cross party, form a government for a short period of time. The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee believes that the aim should be to ask for an extension to Article 50 and during that time seek a referendum and/or a general election.

The major problem, if this were successful, is who on earth leads this government?

Already several names have been floated such as: Hilary Benn; Yvette Cooper; Margaret Beckett; Jo Swinson; Heidi Allen; Sarah Wollaston; Caroline Lucas; Dominic Grieve; Rory Stewart and Jeremy Corbyn.

Each have their own benefits. Each have their own weaknesses.

Any candidate that comes from Labour, which isn’t Jeremy Corbyn, will find themselves in an awkward position vying for leadership against their own party leader. After all, Corbyn makes the most sense as leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. Yet with deep fractions within the Labour Party and the loss of a handful of MPs just a few months ago, doubts arise as to whether Corbyn could keep any government together. Not least because the Labour position on Brexit is still blurred, but there is also an unwillingness for this approach as both the Shadow Chancellor and Shadow Business Secretary rule this option out and want full, permanent governance.

An outsider therefore seems the most logical.

The problem is who has the mandate, the respect, and the authority. Many of those named come from small groupings in Westminster and surely cannot command any true leadership in the House. Perhaps that is what is needed, an outsider who can take charge and deliver an extension, without underlying political ambition.

However, each party will be looking to gain the ‘kudos’ of taking the Conservatives out of Government, leading the country and delivering their preferred version of Brexit, if at all.

They will have to balance the needs of country, the needs of their party and their voters with their own ambition. It is not an easy task, scrutiny will be unparalleled and the future of the country rests in their decision making.

Party politics has never been played this exhaustively.

JBP Public Affairs Team

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