As we head towards dramatic events in Westminster in a few weeks, I thought it might be worth providing a handy guide to the state of play in the House of Commons.
So here is the state of the Parties as at 23.00 on Weds 14 August 2019.
Note: today Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) joined the Lib Dems, boosting them to 14 and reducing the “Independent” group to 15.
Source: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/current-state-of-the-parties/ (amended today)
Although this looks like a ‘tie’ between the Tory Government (Tory Party with DUP support) and the rest the situation is a bit more complex.
There are three Deputy Speakers who, unlike Mr Speaker himself, do not resign from their Parties. But they are expected to remain politically neutral in the House.
The “Independent” category is slightly misleading as it contains people who will largely vote with a Party although they don’t take the Whip or have had it withdrawn.
Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, is a Tory in the latter position (after having been charged with sexual assault in July). This adds one to the real Tory total – which is why most commentators say PM Johnson has a majority of 1.
Lady Harmon (North Down) also usually supports the Tory government but she is also a staunch ‘Remainer’. Though she voted against Jeremy Corbyn’s motion of no confidence in Theresa May’s government in January, she has also backed a new referendum and revoking Article 50 if necessary to stop a No Deal Brexit.
Other Independents like Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire), Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree), and Gavin Shuker (Luton South) are probably closer to the Lib Dem and ‘Change’ groups. That may also include Nick Boles (Gratham and Stanford), a former Tory.
Ian Austin (Dudley North) is closer to Labour, especially the Steven Kinnock led group of Labour MPs who favour leaving the EU with a deal.
Jared O’Mara (Sheffield Hallam) has remained close to the Labour leadership even though he is outside the Party. But he is standing down in a seat that is highly vulnerable to another Lib Dem gain, probably before the ‘crunch’ in October.
The full list of “independents” is below, but remember Sarah Wollaston has now joined the Lib Dems.
If, as expected, there are a series of crunch votes around Brexit, and a possible Vote of No Confidence in the Johnson Government, no-one can predict the outcome with any certainty.
Apart from the uncertainty around the Independents there are MPs in both Labour and the Conservatives whose votes would be uncertain. Some Labour MPs who want to see Brexit delivered have hinted they might abstain in a Confidence vote. A probably larger group of Tories – including some big names – have said they might do the same, or even vote “No Confidence” to bring down the Johnson government and help to block a No Deal Brexit.