why the word humbug has shaken british politics

It's a been weird two weeks in British politics.

by Marie Le Conte
02 October 2019, 2:01pm

Hello and welcome to Political i-Deology, in which I, your in-house nerd, follows British politics and tell you what’s happened every two weeks.

Hello, hi, hi, welcome to this special edition of Political i-Deology. A Lads On Tour version of the column, if you will. I’m currently writing this from Manchester, where the Conservative party is having its annual party conference, one week after Labour had its own one down by the seaside in Brighton (I also went to Belfast for a wedding in between the two which isn’t strictly speaking relevant but really, I need you all to know how tired I am right now).

Anyway — a lot has happened in the past fortnight, as you can imagine, so let’s get on it:

One thing that actually mattered
Where did we leave things off a fortnight week? Right, yes, “Parliament has been prorogued”. Well, it turns out Parliament was in fact… never prorogued? As we discussed at the time, some campaigners took the government to court because they alleged that Boris and co had told the Queen they wanted prorogation for non-Brexit reasons when in fact they wanted it for very Brexit reasons.

The Supreme Court broadly agreed with them, and declared that the prorogation was unlawful, and because the law works in wonderful and mysterious ways, this means that technically, Parliament was unprorogued this entire time.

This all happened bang in the middle of Labour conference, because why would it not! So everyone had to schlep it back to London from Brighton as MPs suddenly found themselves sitting again. Fun!

At the end of the day, this doesn’t massively change things tbh, but it was a heavy blow to Boris and a sign that he can’t just get away with everything, which is… good.

One good thing that happened
Yeah, slim pickings again I’m afraid. As in, Boris has lost more votes in the Commons, which keeps being funny, but apart from that?

Well, the government has announced that it would raise the minimum wage to £10.50 an hour (yay!)... by 2024 (oh.) and only for over-21s (boo!), which is… technically slightly good news?

Oh and there may soon be a law making vaccination compulsory in schools, which would be good but hasn’t actually happened yet, so, idk.

One bad thing that happened
During a Commons debate on Brexit, Labour MP Paula Sherriff hit out at Boris Johnson for using inflammatory language at a time when MPs (especially women and minorities) are concerned for their safety and all too aware of what happened to Jo Cox — she said:

“We should not resort to using offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language for legislation that we do not like, and we stand here under the shield of our departed friend with many of us in this place subject to death threats and abuse every single day [...] We must moderate our language, and it has to come from the prime minister first.”

What did Boris have to say to that?

"I have to say, Mr Speaker, I've never heard such humbug in all my life."

Yikes! Honestly! Just yikes!

One puzzling thing that happened

Honestly, conference season usually means that quite a lot of random weird stuff happens, as you can’t expect MPs, advisers and journalists to spend days in small windowless rooms together and not end up going a bit funny.

For the sake of picking one from each, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner and shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth did karaoke together at Labour (you can watch a bit of it here), and at Tories, Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry announced that “the only homes we are not going to build in the north of England is Sherlock Holmes!”, which literally makes no sense whatsoever!

Anyway, by the time you read this everyone should hopefully be on their way back home and about to get some much needed sleep.

One person to watch
Jennifer Arcuri is an American businesswoman and, er, “close friend” of Boris Johnson’s, and back when he was London mayor, Arcuri found herself with a whole load of public cash for her company, as well as coming along on official trade trips.

The entire thing is a gigantic mess, tbh, but broadly speaking: Boris never declared his “close personal links” (lol) to Arcuri, Arcuri told her pals at the time that she was banging the London mayor, she got thousands of pounds in sponsorship grants, and now Boris is under investigation as no-one quite understand how she ended up with all that money and access.

This is a decent recap of it if you want to know more, as this is definitely not the last we’ve heard of her, or her links to Boris (oh and also: she denied the affair to the press this week, explaining that Boris would come to her flat for “technology lessons”, which, lmao).

One word/phrase worth knowing
VONC! Pronounced like “bonk”, in honour of our PM.

A Vote Of No Confidence is what probably awaits Boris Johnson once the Commons come back, as opposition parties are toying with the idea of just straight up making the government fall.

The only issue is that if Boris gets VONCed now, there’s basically a chance that the UK will end up crashing out with no deal at the end of the month, which would be less than ideal.

Are we in for an October VONCing? A late autumn VONC perhaps? An AdVONC calendar in December? It’s honestly not clear yet, but we know that 1) it is coming 2) I very obviously need to go to bed now. See you in two weeks!

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