The no-deal parliament is hastily preparing for a return to Westminster. Questions on how MPs and campaigners can stop the incoming crash have settled on the spurious ‘government of national unity’ as a bricked-up tunnel to Boris Johnson’s runaway train.

First published in August 2019.

Of all the concepts and parlour sayings of Brexitology, the recent addition must be the most fanciful. In fact, it’s a deafening conversation between factions that is muting the realities of no-deal. A government of national unity, organised in the wake of a no-confidence vote, would form an administration made of multiple opposition sources and some on the government benches. The question isn’t how this ragtag band would get to perch on the opposite side of the Commons – but who would lead it.

You would expect the baton to thrust itself into Jeremy Corbyn’s hand, being the official Leader of the Opposition and head of the nearest party to a majority. He wrote to the leaders of other opposition parties, including rebel Tories, to lay out plans to stop no-deal. I can picture the room of these secret meetings to be something from a spy thriller. People hunched around a candlelit table, looking at documents and maps, jumping to fright whenever a door is slammed. Co-conspirators plotting their rational coup; an uprising to counter King Boris and his courtiers.

I must give Corbyn credit where it’s due. Nobody expected quite the cooperative gesture to parliament for a plan to the no-deal crisis. Given the previous months’ worth of can-kicking, I would have easily predicted an unimpeded quickstep into mayhem. However, since that call to action was sounded, the landscape of anti-Brexit discourse has turned more factional (if that were even possible). Jo Swinson, empowered by her victory over Ed Davey in the Lib Dem leadership election, made a stonking uproar about Corbyn heading this unity government. “Outrageous!”, Swinson shouted. “How dare the Leader of the Opposition form a government in this circumstance! I demand to speak to the manager!”

Since then, the Remain conversation hasn’t been about stopping Brexit or working to prevent no-deal disruptions. Instead you’ve got this inane debate over a unicorn so pink and sparkly it shits glitter. There’s no way Corbyn or some other MP will have the numbers to form government. They would need a majority to even knock on the Queen’s door, let alone pass the legislation to prevent no-deal. And can you imagine the discipline problems in that government? Worse than a children’s cooking class after someone replaced the icing sugar with cocaine.

Don’t dare tell me that another MP, a noble and distinguished veteran, would be a better caretaker. Jeremy Corbyn, for all his woes and party problems, is the official Leader of the Opposition. He’s not going to step down to let someone else do what his role is designed for. Especially not Ken Clarke. “Sorry Jez but we want Kenny to be PM. I know you’re angry but… he’s distinguished, ya know?”

What the ‘GNU’ debate has unravelled is the fragility of the Remain coalition. All the pejoratives were thrown out of the pram when Jo Swinson rejected Corbyn’s offer. Labour’s supporters did the same to the Lib Dems. And, rightly, they’ve all taken a hit because of simple stubbornness. The SNP and Greens did well to stay as far out of it as possible. If the hashtagged warriors struggle to hold back from reaching into their pockets for an insult – how will MPs manage?

YouGov here showing all sorts of divides and problems that will sprint past this debate to the next election, showing the instant problem of a GNU. We’ve not long till Westminster reconvenes after a needed recess. MPs will be greeted with that stark deadline, hopefully with renewed energy.

But instead of strategising and flummoxing the press and public with hints of a ‘wartime’ coalition, the debate should quickly shift to more realistic ways for no-deal to be averted.

Focusing on this unicorn will only postpone the inevitable – something that anyone with good conscience should be working to stop.🔷

Share this article now:

[This is an original piece, first published by the author in on 23 August 2019. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

Creative Commons License
(Cover: / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)