Could Jeremy Corbyn please just call a vote of no confidence in the government so I can have a more concrete target for my indigence?
I really don’t enjoy saying I told you so (OK I do a little bit, but I’d much prefer to have been proven wrong on this one) but it’s all us EU lovers have left!
Disappointing, but not unsurprising
As I wrote in my post on the eve of the referendum in summer 2016, one of two reasons that completely convinced me to vote remain was my assessment of the Westminster leadership. I asked, “Do you understand and support this future? Do you trust those who will attempt to enact it?” and concluded that “When I consider the past actions of Gove, Johnson and Farage, I wouldn’t trust them at all to deliver the kind of political future I want for my country. Far from it.”
What do you know, the Conservative party have outshone themselves in their display of incompetence, deception and undemocratic abuse of power over the last two and a half years.
This government is SO BAD and SO UNDEMOCRATIC!
The Prime Minister refuses to bring a vote on her deal before Parliament, now announcing it will happen in the week commencing January 14th.
Under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Section 13), Parliament must approve the terms of the government’s proposed withdrawal deal before January 21st. To put the vote before Parliament days or even hours before this cut-off is against the spirit of the legislation. That vote, when it comes will not be a meaningful vote.
Yes, if she calls the vote before Christmas, May’s deal is not going to pass on the first vote, but the government has the right to ask Parliament to vote on legislation as many times as it likes. In fact, this is exactly how a Parliamentary system of democracy operates!
Recommend, amend, vote.
Thesis + antithesis -> synthesis.
If, after a period of Parliamentary negotiation, no way forward can be found, then the government must consider its authority and legitimacy.
In the National Interest?
But Theresa May, so afraid of losing face, so afraid of looking weak, so unable to comprehend the meaning of the term “compromise”, would rather put the future prosperity of our country and well-being of every British citizen in jeopardy than put her own position of power in jeopardy. This is not some change to the tax code, it’s the biggest loss of rights by any British citizen in possibly forever. Could she take it seriously, please?!
I’ve written before, too, about how authoritarian Theresa May is, which is something that still hasn’t been taken seriously by any political commentator I’ve listened to, much less by the public who still seem to hold the view that her obstinance is for their benefit; the hero we deserve, prepared to pick up this shitshow and selflessly deal with it.
No! The position Theresa May has taken this last fortnight is, “citizens of Britain, I cannot trust your democratically elected representatives to represent you. Even though you elected them just 18 months ago, and no-one elected me leader of the Conservative party. Even though they have held regular surgeries with you, their constituents, and are directly accountable to you and your local and often even personal issues. I, Theresa May, grand leader of the United Kingdom cannot trust them, and neither should you. I am the one guarantor of Brexit and I will do everything in my power to ensure that your local MP has as little voice in this process as possible.”
If you still doubt me, I ask you, what is May going to spend the next month doing? She will spend it going back to the EU commission in search of further “assurances”, but they’ve already said in all 24 languages of the EU that the treaty is closed to edits, and the backstop is a legally binding international treaty. No further ‘political statements’ can change the legal fact that under Mays deal we become bound to most EU law in perpetuity without any say over that law nor any sovereign right to end the agreement. She already spent the last week doing exactly this, and it was a predictable failure.
She could spend the next month negotiating with Members of Parliament, like Cameron did on the days leading up to his vote on airstrikes over Syria, or Ted Heath did in 1975 to win the vote to take us into the European Community. May could reach out to the other parties, and could have reached out throughout this whole process, to produce a compromise that could unite a deeply divided country, and pass her legislation. She could ask for public consultation – either informally or another referendum – or she could hold a series of indicative votes in Parliament to transparently navigate a way forward.
If May is to have any chance of her deal passing the House of Commons, she will require votes from MPs of other political parties. There’s already more Conservative MPs who have resigned ministerial positions because they can’t support her deal than her Parliamentary majority. In fact, May needs a lot of opposition MPs, as newspaper tallies estimate the number of Tory and DUP rebels to be around 80-110. In light of this inescapable reality, May has; challenged Corbyn to a TV debate, continued to use the dispatch box to ridicule Corbyn and threaten that a Corbyn government would be worse for this country than a no-deal Brexit, and failed to respond to Labour MPs who have publicly indicated that they would like a private conversation on the deal and a way forward.
May has no interest in using her delay to the vote to find compromise, unite the country and get the best possible outcome for the British people. No, it is a cynical tactic to hold MPs over the cliff edge, forcing them at the barrel of a gun to vote for her deal or be held personally responsible for the chaos that will follow. After this behaviour, a no-deal Brexit will be May’s responsibility alone.
This executive overstep is what Parliamentarians in 1642 took up arms and went to war against.
Democracy held Hostage
By refusing to call a vote until the last possible minute, Theresa May has made it abundantly clear that her government is done. This is an admission that there is no amendment that can fix this legislation. Further scrutiny will only cause support for May’s deal wilt even more. Hers has never been a stable or productive government, facing constant rebellion and ministerial resignation and bringing almost no new legislation before the House, but now it so clearly cannot pass its signature bill – the European Withdrawal Agreement – that it refuses to table a vote. Powerless, the government has held democracy hostage.
“Vote my way, or you don’t get a vote”
It must fall.
Within Parliament there is great clamour about this grand subversion of democracy, but where is it in the press, on TV, on the airwaves or in public discourse?
As David Lamy MP said, “when the politics of this place is broken, you either resign, or your go back to the people in a General Election or a referendum. No-one gets to play for extra time.”
But May won’t go of her own accord (and don’t the Conservative Party know it?!), so where is the vote of no confidence to force her? This government is rotten to its core!
Well, thanks very much to Cameron and Clegg, in all their privately educated wisdom, for concocting the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011. Under these rules a rotten government, so long as it is supported by thoroughly rotten Members of Parliament, can persist for five decaying years.
The Democratic Unionists have already voted against the government on secondary bills and abstained from votes on government on manifesto legislation, but continue to announce that they would support the government on a vote of confidence.
The government has already lost more Cabinet ministers for the reason “cannot support May’s deal” than its majority in Parliament, yet none have announced that they would vote against the government on a confidence motion.
As a result, all we get from Corbyn is the attempt to call a vote of no confidence in May as Prime Minister, which she is not required to allow Parliamentary time for, and would be non-binding anyway. Of course May immediately refused to give time to the vote. If she isn’t going to let MPs vote on her Brexit Deal, she obviously isn’t going to let them vote on her personally.
Corbyn won’t call an official vote of no confidence in the government because he knows that it will fail. Under these conditions it will always fail, but must be called anyway, along with a concerted media blitz, to show up the sham of this rotten government!
As it stands, the media narrative continues to be “well May ‘aint great, but no-one else is taking charge”. She must not be permitted this veneer of credibility any longer. The sooner that goes, the sooner her government can be forced, by public pressure, out of power.