News in Brief UK Politics

Friday Update: 10th January 2020

Written by Callum Williams

This week, Labour’s leadership election kicked off, Johnson’s deal passed the Commons but the Scottish Parliament withheld their consent.

Labour Leadership Election

Following Labour’s disastrous General Election result, a leadership election has begun after Corbyn announced his intention to resign. The NEC, Labour’s governing body, set out the rules and the timeline for the leadership race on Monday.

Timeline

  • 7th – 13th January – Labour MPs and MEPs will make their nominations.
  • 14th January – 16th January – Labour supporters can pay £25 to become registered supporters to enable them to vote in the leadership election.
  • 15th January – 14th February – Constituencies Labour Parties, affiliated Trade Unions and other affiliated groups will make their nominations.
  • 20th January The deadline for new party members and affiliate members to join to be eligible to vote.
  • 21st February – 2nd April – Eligible Labour members will cast their ballots.
  • 4th April – The new leader will be announced at a special conference.

Rules

The leadership election is run in two phases. Firstly candidates must be nominated by at least 22 MPs/MEPs and must receive the backing of 33 Constituency Labour Parties or three affiliate societies of which two must be trade unions. All the candidates who reach the nomination threshold will get on the ballot of Labour members. All eligible Labour members, registered supporters and affiliate members will be able to vote in an alternative vote system to elect the leader.

Candidates

Six MPs have declared their candidacy, they are:

  • Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer
  • Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey
  • Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry
  • Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury Clive Lewis
  • Jess Phillips
  • Lisa Nandy

At the time of writing four candidates: Starmer, Long-Bailey, Phillips and Nandy have reached the nomination threshold. Keir Starmer is in the lead with 63 nominations and is the favourite to win with a YouGov poll predicting he would win a ballot of the membership.

Source: YouGov

Keir Starmer is more centrist than Corbyn but has said he is a socialist but believes Labour must become a ‘broad church’ again and so is likely to be tolerable to both centrists and the left.

In second place is Rebecca Long-Bailey, a strong supporter of Corbynism and so although she is popular with the left of the party, she will struggle to gain broad support. Starmer looks set to win however we will have to wait until April to find out the verdict of the Labour membership.

Brexit Deal

On Thursday evening, Johnson’s deal passed its third reading in the Commons with a majority of 99 votes. The deal will now go to the Lords where it isn’t expected to face much resistance, paving the way for Britain to ‘leave’ the EU by January 31st.

Johnson faced criticism for removing protections for child refugees in the Brexit legislation. Under current legislation, any child refugee who arrives in the EU and has family in the UK is allowed to come to the UK. When the withdrawal legislation was introduced to parliament, in an attempt to appease opposition MPs, the bill contained a provision to maintain the status quo regarding child refugees. However, now Johnson has a majority, he has decided, despite having no mandate to do so, he can remove protections for the vulnerable.

An amendment was introduced to reintroduce the provision regarding child refugees but was defeated by 98 votes. Johnson has promised to protect child refugees with his press secretary saying:

Protecting vulnerable children will remain our priority after Brexit, and this new clause [on refugees in the bill] reaffirms our commitment, while clarifying the role of parliament and government in the negotiations.

Johnson’s Press Secretary

Although based on his record, Johnson isn’t exactly trustworthy and like many of Johnson’s pledges, it will become just another broken promise.

The Scottish Parliament overwhelming refused to grant consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill by 92 votes to 29. Under the Sewel Convention, the UK Parliament generally does not legislate on devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, this convection was enshrined into law by the Scotland Act 2016.

It is recognised that the Parliament of the United Kingdom will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

Section 2, Scotland Act 2016

However, as the UK Parliament is supreme, it can override any previous law including the devolution statutes. So, the government will continue with the bill despite the Scottish Parliament’s refusal to grant consent, making the vote largely symbolic and setting the Scottish and Westminister Governments on a constitutional collision course.

Johnson faces another problem after the European Commission President Von Der Leyen said it would be ‘impossible’ to negotiate a full trade deal by December 2020 calling the deadline ‘very tight’. Johnson has promised he will not seek an extension to the transition arrangements, meaning he will have to break his promise or face another no-deal cliff edge.

Further Reading

Follow live updates on Labour’s leadership election on their election site here.

Want to find out more about Labour’s leadership election? Read Fraser Innes’s analysis here.

Friday Update will be back on the 24th January 2020.

About the author

Callum Williams

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