Rachel McLean

Author of Twisted Realities

Votes of Confidence (Or, it’s happening again)

I’ve written before about my uncanny (and unwanted) habit of writing plot lines that have a tendency to come true. From the ban on travel from Muslim countries in A House Divided (attempted by Trump long after I first wrote it), to the murder of a politician called Jo in a book I simply didn’t have the stomach to continue writing when Jo Cox was killed.

And it seems it’s happening again. But this time it’s the politicians turning on themselves, so I don’t feel quite so guilty.

Here in the UK, we’re going through political turmoil. The Brexit decision to leave the European Union, due to take effect next March, is causing chaos and uncertainty. We still don’t know what Brexit will look like or even if it will happen.

And this week, there’s been drama at Westminster. Drama that made me think of Jennifer and her challenge to Michael Stuart in A House Divided.

When I was writing about Michael attaching his immigration ban to a vote of confidence in his government, the only event I had for reference was in 1979. This was when the Labour government, led by Jim Callaghan, lost a vote of confidence and had to call an election. Margaret Thatcher won that election, something of which I’m pretty sure Jennifer didn’t approve.

I was nine years old and have little memory of it. So I talked to family members who lived through it as well as digging out archives and accounts online. All of which helped me to imagine how Michael would become so desperate he was prepared to put his government on the line.

And this week, it seems that history is repeating itself. Theresa May had to face a confidence vote of her own MPs on Wednesday, which she won after promising them she wouldn’t fight the next election (not something I’d imagine Michael promising).

But her government is in such disarray that it could face a vote of confidence from MPs and eventually have to call an election. This will only happen if the Labour Party decides that it (and the rest of the opposition parties) could win such a vote. And if it’s got the courage to do so, given that it too is arguing internally about Brexit.

Theresa May’s position reminds me of Michael Stuart’s. She’s got MPs from her own side against her, she’s fighting a new battle every day, and – worse than Michael – her government doesn’t have a majority in the House of Commons. She was only able to form a government by agreeing a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the DUP after the last election. Which may crumble thanks to the ramifications of Brexit on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

So by this time next week, politics may have entered even more upheaval. I doubt it though – things do have an annoying knack of dragging on in British politics, especially when you expect them not to. It’s normally when we think things are stable that a surprise is landed on us. And they certainly aren’t stable now.

I wonder what Jennifer would think of what’s happening now in Westminster. A few people did ask me if I would include Brexit in the book, given that it’s set in the very near future. My firm reply was ‘Hell, no!’

And if you get that quote, you’re as much of a politics nerd as I am.

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