By a hefty majority of 41 – thanks to few Labour rebels, 17 Tories defying the whip in the ‘Aye’ lobby and a number of abstentions on the government side – MPs voted yesterday to make no deal via suspension of parliament more difficult. Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out using prorogation to prevent the Commons from having a say, and the amendment put forward by Hilary Benn and Alistair Burt was designed to protect against that extreme option. The government will be required to update MPs in the chamber on the Northern Ireland situation every two weeks and – if parliament is prorogued at that time – meet and sit for five days. That would be enough time for MPs to take decisive action on Brexit if necessary.
Dominic Grieve earlier this week talked about how Tory Remainers are expecting their ranks to swell once anti-no deal MPs currently in cabinet are booted from their posts. The result of this vote seems to bear out that assumption, as abstainees included Philip Hammond, Rory Stewart and others who don’t expect to still be in cabinet this time next week. But the Benn/Burt amendment doesn’t block no deal in itself and, if it turns out that bringing down the government in a confidence vote is what it takes to properly stop that outcome, we cannot assume that enough of those Tory rebels would bite that particular bullet.
In other (London-centric but incredibly important) news, Sadiq Khan is setting out proposals today for desperately-needed reform of our private rented sector. Noting that the average private rent for a one-bed in London is more than the average for a three-bed in every other region of England, the mayor is demanding new legal powers. These would allow him to introduce open-ended tenancies, end no-fault evictions, establish a register of landlords and implement rent controls, namely caps on increases. The government is not at all likely to listen, but it’s crucial that we hear these calls loudly, clearly and continuously. And for those wondering what Shaun Bailey is proposing: the Tory candidate has pledged to reduce Khan’s target for 50% “affordable” homes to 35%. Not kidding.
On LabourList today, we have Fabians general secretary Andy Harrop on Theresa May’s legacy and how her successor will be even worse, Clive Lewis MP on ramping up anti-Brexit pressure rather than relaxing now that progress has been made, and European Parliamentary Labour Party leader Richard Corbett on why they voted for Ursula von der Leyen (in response to Steve Hudson’s criticisms). More pieces are on their way, so keep checking LabourList and have a great weekend. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.