Sky Views: Party conferences gave us nothing but bluster on Brexit | Politics News

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The party conference season isn’t quite over.

The SNP are due to be meeting in Aberdeen on 14 October at the same time as Boris Johnson plans to have the Queen delivering her Speech in London at the state opening of parliament.

For politicians this means the tension between rallying the party faithful and doing the day job will continue at least until the middle of this month.

The Supreme Court ruling ordering the simultaneous resumption of business at Westminster made this year’s conferences like none we have seen before.

And all because of the great unique factor overshadowing all other debate: the days steadily ticking away to 31 October when the UK is set to leave the European Union.

Boris Johnson
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The politicians have all been playing fantasy politics

The main Great Britain-wide parties – Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – have at least concluded their annual gatherings.

Far from laying out serious choices for the electorate, it strikes me that the main parties’ offering have a lot in common. They have all been playing fantasy politics.

Never have the people and policies paraded before the public had a shorter shelf life.

If you weren’t paying attention this autumn, don’t worry, you won’t have missed any pointers on what is going to happen to our country next.

Let’s start with the Liberal Democrats.

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They spent most of their energy in Bournemouth reaching agreement that they will revoke Article 50 and stop Britain leaving the European Union after the next General Election, when Jo Swinson is prime minister commanding a majority of Lib Dem MPs in the Commons.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

In practice this Lib Dem pipe dream probably hindered Swinson from bringing about the election she plans to win.

In defining a distinct and radical position for her party she has made it more difficult for the opposition parties to club together at Westminster as they will have to in practice bring down and obstruct Johnson’s government.

The Lib Dems’ delusions of grandeur were trifling compared to Labour and the Conservatives.

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Jeremy Corbyn also concentrated on what he is going to do when he leads an untrammelled government, in his case a socialist one.

Again there is no objective evidence from current voting patterns that this is an imminent possibility.

Corbyn wasn’t even master in his own party.

In Brighton he had to back off from a bid to get rid of his troublesome deputy Tom Watson and his lieutenants wouldn’t allow a proper vote to prove that his party truly backs his latest wait-and-see Brexit policy.

For four days in Manchester the Conservatives pretended that what Prime Minister Boris Johnson says goes.

He threw down a take-it-or-leave-it offer to the EU and announced that the UK will be leaving on Halloween whatever happens.

In the real world it will not be up to him. He might not even still be prime minister by the end of next week.

If that’s a possibility the Conservatives’ carefully spun promises of spending for years to come on health, education and law and order are meaningless.

Lib Dem conference
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The Lib Dems’ delusions of grandeur were trifling compared to Labour and the Conservatives

The Conservative party does not command a majority of MPs any more.

Johnson has been defeated in the Commons on every proposal he has made since he took over from Mrs May.

It is entirely possible that the real plan is to antagonise the EU so much that they refuse to grant the UK an extension of membership beyond October.

This could enable Johnson to present parliament with the hard choice of leaving with no deal or approving whatever alternative he offers them.

But this is not what he told his conference he planned to do.

Which means what was being said on or off the record by ministers and officials was pure fantasy.

All three parties were focusing on what they will offer voters at the next general election but none of them know when that will be.

It seems it is almost certain that it will be in the next few months.

Strictly speaking the Fixed Term Parliament Act says it could be as late as the Spring of 2022.

Johnson wants an election now, but he doesn’t have the votes to get it. The opposition parties want to stop no-deal Brexit first.

The true appetite of either side for a vote is likely to vary radically as events unfold over the next few weeks.

Neither Johnson nor Corbyn can even be sure that they will be leading their parties into the election when it comes.

Any of the parties could have spent their conference honestly discussing what they think the UK’s relationship with the rest of the EU should be, given the fact of the 52%-48% vote to leave.

They could have examined the practicalities of how their competing power bases could attempt to reach a compromise in the national interest.

That really would have been fantastic.

Instead all we got was bluster and bullying by all sides.

Sky Views is a series of comment pieces by Sky News editors and correspondents, published every morning.

Previously on Sky Views: Ian King – As ‘Dracula’ steps aside, will his successor as EU’s top banker have teeth?