Still squab­bling ... but a deal can be done to­day

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - by Jack Doyle

What hap­pened in the Com­mons last night?

MPs voted by 299 votes to 0 in favour of a Gen­eral Elec­tion on De­cem­ber 12, but failed to de­liver the two thirds ma­jor­ity re­quired un­der the FixedTerm Par­lia­ments Act. Labour ab­stained af­ter Jeremy Cor­byn is­sued a ram­bling ex­pla­na­tion of why he was op­posed to an elec­tion – in­clud­ing that it would be ‘too dark’. Boris John­son ac­cused him of ‘run­ning away from the judg­ment of the peo­ple’.

Does it mean no elec­tion?

No. Im­me­di­ately af­ter the vote, Mr John­son stood up in the Com­mons and an­nounced he would pub­lish a short Bill to change the law and set the date for an elec­tion on De­cem­ber 12. This would re­quire only a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of MPs to suc­ceed. He said the Com­mons couldn’t ‘keep the coun­try hostage’ any longer.

Will the Bill get through?

It’s un­clear. Over the week­end the Lib­eral Democrats and the SNP, who both want an elec­tion, pro­posed a Bill sim­i­lar to Mr John­son’s but with the date set for De­cem­ber 9. Last night the Lib Dems sug­gested they wouldn’t vote for Mr John­son’s later elec­tion date, po­ten­tially throw­ing a huge span­ner in the works. The SNP said it wouldn’t be ‘danc­ing to Boris John­son’s tune’.

Would three ex­tra days make much dif­fer­ence?

In the grand scheme of things, no. But there is some sug­ges­tion the Lib Dems and Labour would pre­fer an ear­lier poll be­cause more stu­dents would be at uni­ver­sity, po­ten­tially hand­ing the op­po­si­tion par­ties an ad­van­tage. How­ever many ma­jor uni­ver­si­ties fin­ish for Christ­mas on Fri­day, De­cem­ber 13. Lib Dem leader Jo Swin­son is also con­cerned Mr John­son could try to bring the Brexit Bill back and rush it through be­fore polling day. That was ef­fec­tively ruled out by No 10 last night.

What is in store to­day?

Ei­ther the pro-elec­tion par­ties come to an agree­ment fast or they are go­ing to run out of time to get a poll be­fore Christ­mas. A full 25 work­ing days must be al­lowed between Par­lia­ment dis­solv­ing and an elec­tion tak­ing place. No 10 in­sists an elec­tion on De­cem­ber 9 isn’t pos­si­ble, be­cause there isn’t enough time to get the Bill through – along with other es­sen­tial par­lia­men­tary busi­ness – by close of play on Thurs­day. But if the elec­tion was slightly later there is enough time to get it through, in the­ory.

What is No 10’s view?

Down­ing Street sources sug­gested that the Prime Min­is­ter might be pre­pared to com­pro­mise, by sug­gest­ing a ‘range’ of dates were pos­si­ble between De­cem­ber 9 and 12. But a de­ci­sion has to be made quickly. If the Bill doesn’t pass its sec­ond read­ing in the Com­mons to­mor­row cleanly, then the preChrist­mas elec­tion is ef­fec­tively off. Min­is­ters can­not go any later than De­cem­ber 12 be­cause they risk run­ning into the Christ­mas pe­riod. Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Sir Mark Sed­will has warned that the 12th is the lat­est date or the elec­tion would mean turf­ing pan­tomimes, par­ties and na­tiv­ity plays out of vil­lage halls and schools used as polling sta­tions.

Are there any other ob­sta­cles to a poll?

In the­ory the House of Lords could cause trou­ble and de­lay the Bill and MPs in the Com­mons could try to amend it with votes for 16- and 1 - year-olds. But peers would be highly un­wise to try to block the leg­is­la­tion and chang­ing the fran­chise so late would make an elec­tion im­pos­si­ble. The Lib Dems and SNP would be killing off the elec­tion if they voted in favour of such changes.

What about the Brexit With­drawal Bill?

No 10 says the leg­is­la­tion to take Bri­tain out of the Euro­pean Union is dead un­til af­ter the elec­tion. Sources sug­gested the Prime Min­is­ter would have been pre­pared to bring the Bill back this week if Labour pro-leave MPs agreed to back it through the Com­mons. Those as­sur­ances were not forth­com­ing.

Hold­ing out? Jo Swin­son in the House of Com­mons yes­ter­day

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