Is This Boris Johnson's 'House Of Cards' Moment?

The news seemed very reassuring overnight. Possibly the most British show ever conceived, "The Great British Bake Off," returned to double entendres and a record 30% share of tv audiences. All seemed well. Even the BBC was getting laughs on social media for developing its own Alexa service that will understand British accents.

And then Boris went and pulled the trick out of the bag he had aides deny he was even investigating just a couple of days before. It is straight out of a political thriller in which a highly questionable leader, such as Francis Underwood, uses a constitutional sleight of hand to force through the power-grabbing vision that he or she knew would never receive democratic approval.

But there you have it -- the die has been cast. Proroguing parliament for more than half of the time it will be sitting before the Brexit deadline of October 31st is an obvious ploy to force through a hard Brexit or use the threat of no-deal to play hardball with the EU to secure a last-minute free trade deal that does not share sovereignty over Northern Ireland's future with the EU.

For those who are not overly familiar with British politics, here is some very quick background. A Prime Minister is perfectly within her or his rights to ask the Queen to deliver a speech announcing a new swathe of measures that her government intends to carry out. However, doing so means parliament ceases to sit and everything it has been in the middle of comes to nothing when MPs take their seats again after Queen has spoken and a new session begins.

The timing here is particularly Machiavellian. Parliament will reconvene on September 3rd and Boris says he will cease its session somewhere between September 10th and 14th. The possible reason here is that if he loses a vote of no confidence over his Brexit stance, he would then have two weeks to defend himself and then win a vote of confidence to carry on his position. However, if just as the two-week deadline approaches parliament has been dissolved, the vote counts for nothing.

The process will need to be picked up again around the middle of October, and opposition MPs would really have to get their act together to get a vote of no confidence arranged and passed for a second time before October 31st. My reading is that this will be virtually impossible, given the lead-in time required to take control of proceedings to set up an initial vote and the delay required between this being approved and the vote taking place. 

That means the only chance is for opposition MPs to seize control of the proceedings and somehow force through a law forbidding a no-deal Brexit. The so-called "rebels" certainly have the Speaker of the House on their side. He has been vocal today on the "constitutional outrage" of proroguing parliament as a means to quell opposition to crashing out of the EU.

Again, the only problem is rushing through a law before parliament is dissolved or before Boris changes tactics and simply stands down to force a general election which, of course, would lead to parliament being dissolved. 

For what it's worth, my suspicion is that this is where we are headed. Boris is likely confident that with the support of Farage's Brexit party he will get a working majority that backs severing ties with the EU at any cost.

Again, for what it's worth, I would be very concerned if I were him about sentiment in the rural south and south east seats that make the political map of the country turn blue all around London stretching as far as Wales and into Devon and Cornwall. The power base of his party comes from these seats and voters may well swing to the Liberal Democrats. 

As for adland, which sits at the heart of this remain portion of the country, there can only be concern that the worst of all worlds seems a little more likely today as the Prime Minister shows he is willing to use any trick up his sleeve, no matter how legal, to break with the EU. For an industry that relies on EU talent as well as its position as a springboard into the EU, it's a dark day. 

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