I see a lot of people on social media at the moment – especially supporters of the Scottish National Party – have still not figured out the real reason many of the smaller parties are pushing for Labour to call a Motion of No Confidence in the Government.
Jeremy Corbyn did call a Motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister last night, but only such a Motion in the whole Government can trigger a General Election.
Some are trying to argue that Corbyn is being either cowardly or indecisive, and that he lacks the courage of the leaders of the smaller parties, like Nicola Sturgeon, Vince Cable, Caroline Lucas et al. In reality, these other leaders are being no braver or more decisive at all, and nor are they, on this evidence, noticeably honest. That is a particularly sad reflection in Lucas’ case, who historically has tried hard (not always successfully, it must be conceded) to avoid fighting dirty.
Now what a lot of people are missing is that, if a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons wants there to be a No-Confidence Motion in the Government, all they have to do is call one.
There is no restriction on any Member, bar the Speaker, from calling such a Motion. They do not even have to be a party leader, let alone the leader of the Opposition, to call one. So when Sturgeon, Cable et al try to insinuate cowardice or half-heartedness on Corbyn’s part, they are carefully avoiding all mention of the fact that what he is refusing to do is precisely what they are also refusing to do.
And Corbyn is not being indecisive. Has decided not to table the Motion yet. Deciding not to do something differs sharply from not deciding whether to do something.
So why are the smaller parties pressing for Corbyn to ‘do their dirty work’ for them? Well, there are two reasons; –
The lesser reason is that if, or rather when, the Motion is voted down – which Tory and Democratic Unionist MPs have made clear will happen – the MP who called it gets most of the opprobrium for it.
But the second and more important reason by far is that the smaller parties all know that Labour’s policy, agreed at the Party Conference in the Autumn, is to try and force a General Election as a first resort if they can, and if they cannot, switch to trying to force a second referendum on Brexit.
At present, the smaller centrist/leftist parties mostly want a ‘People’s Vote’ (as a second referendum has been recently renamed in the vain hope that it sounds less controversial) only, but know they have no hope of forcing one without support both from Labour MPs, and from Remainers in the Conservative Parliamentary Party.
Therefore, the smaller parties want to push Labour into calling a Vote of No Confidence when they know it cannot be won, so that Labour is then compelled by its own policy commitments to move on to supporting the second referendum. (If the other parties table the Motion themselves, it will not be a ‘Labour motion’ and will therefore be unlikely to trigger the policy-switch in the Labour Party.)
This has nothing to do with ‘greater SNP/LibDem courage’ or ‘Labour indecision’, and everything to do with cynical, theatrical politics, and trying to crowbar another party into co-operating. This cynicism is just as prevalent among the smaller parties as it is among Labour and the Tories.