Welcome to our weekly feature courtesy of Sebastian Salek, the brains behind Clear the Lobby, working to bring you all the laws MPs are voting on this week, and explained in plain English!
Last week I said I’d write again if stuff happens.
I think it’s fair to say: stuff is going to happen.
Christmas may be just round the corner, but Boris Johnson is cracking on with plans to shake up government and—you guessed it—get Brexit done.
Below is the rough plan for this week. But three other questions need answering:
What sort of Brexit will we get?
One theory is Johnson’s new majority allows him to pursue a softer Brexit, because he no longer has to answer to the hard right in his party. In a sense it’s a pragmatic move because the economic impact would be smaller.
But today’s Sunday Times cites a former Downing Street aide who says the prime mininster will reject close alignment with EU regulations. That gives Britain more freedom to set its own rules.
Labour has a lot of rebuilding to do if it’s going to win back voters in its heartlands. No one has announced their candidacy yet, but here are some of the names floating around:
Keir Starmer. Too London and too Remain, but Len McCluskey of the Unite union suggested he could support him.
Emily Thornberry. Same London/Remain problem.
Yvette Cooper. Also mentioned by McCluskey, but came third in 2015 so unlikely to win in 2020.
Angela Rayner. Would play well with the membership, but possibly tarnished nationally by proximity to Corbyn.
Rebecca Long-Bailey. John McDonnell’s protege. Similar situation to Angela Rayner above, but more extreme.
Lisa Nandy. Northern constituency, could be a unity candidate.
Jess Philips. Midlands constituency, but probably wouldn’t get past the membership.
Will the United Kingdom stay united?
The SNP was the other big success story of election night.
That fuels their argument for a second Scottish independence referendum. But they need permission from Westminster first, and Michael Gove has reiterated that this won’t happen. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon says she’ll make her case this week for a “transfer of power” to let the Scottish parliament organise one.
The issue will likely become an increasingly big thorn in Johnson’s side. There’s a stronger chance Scotland could vote for independence in a second referendum because of Brexit, and no prime minister leading a unionist party wants that happening on their watch.
But it’s not just Scotland. Pro-reunification parties now hold the majority of seats in Northern Ireland. The leader of the Alliance Party has said pressure for a referendum there is “almost inevitable” if there’s a hard Brexit.
Possible reshuffle Three ministers need replacing: Nicky Morgan, former culture secretary who stood down before the election, Alun Cairns, who resigned as Welsh secretary at the start of the campaign, and Zac Goldsmith, an environment minister who lost his seat. Other names who reportedly could be demoted include Jacob Rees-Mogg (leader of the House of Commons), Andrea Leadsom (business secretary), Theresa Villiers (environment secretary) and Liz Truss (international trade secretary).
TUESDAY 17 DECEMBER
Election of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle was picked last month, but because this is a new parliament he needs to be re-elected. Should be uncontroversial.
Swearing in of MPs The order is: Speaker, Father of the House, members of the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet, other privy counsellors and other Ministers, then other MPs by length of service. Continues Wednesday and Thursday.
WEDNESDAY 18 DECEMBER
No notable events
THURSDAY 19 DECEMBER
State opening of Parliament The government lays out its plan in another Queen’s Speech. It’ll probably be a slimmed down affair, with less of the usual pomp and circumstance. Michael Gove has said it’ll include a commitment to boost NHS spending by £33.9 billion by 2023-24.
FRIDAY 20 DECEMBER
Possible introduction of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill The government’s flagship Brexit bill could return to the Commons. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak has said the government wants to do this as soon as possible, ideally before Christmas.
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