The country held hostage

A follow up to my previous post “stop bickering…

This government, since its election in May 2017, has had one defining mission – to negotiate a withdrawal agreement with the EU and ensure the United Kingdom leaves the European Union on March 29th 2019. Theresa May has promised that this will happen over a hundred times now.

While any government would be weakened by the inability to pass primary legislation, this government, above all others perhaps in our nation’s history, has single-mindedly pursued a single policy objective and barely concerned itself with any others. They got their deal, presented a Bill before the House, but can’t get it onto the law books. The government cannot achieve its one objective.

Prior to 2010, hundreds of years of precedence morally bound Theresa May to accept this reality and go to the Queen to seek the dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections. She could stand in those elections, or make way for a new leader and new policies, but either way she would be expected come back to the people to seek a fresh mandate to enact her policies.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act in 2011 diluted that moral responsibility and put the onus clearly on Members of Parliament to declare no confidence in the government when required. The below comes from a Parliament.uk briefing:

The Act specifies that early elections can be held only:

    • if a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the whole House or without division; or
    • if a motion of no confidence is passed and no alternative government is confirmed by the Commons within 14 days.

Following the first defeat of May’s deal on January 15th Corbyn brought a no-confidence motion before the house. After the single largest Parliamentary defeat in history, you’d think this would sail through. But no, over a hundred Conservative and Democratic Unionist (DUP) MPs switched hats from fundamental opposition to stalwart support to keep the government in power. In power but powerless.

And even today, after voting against their own party’s government to defeat the Withdrawal Act a second time, those MPs will tell any journalist who’ll listen that the current crisis is because “MPs in Parliament have never reconciled with the fact that the country said we wanted to leave the EU” (Esther McVey on the Political Thinking Podcast, from 26:30) – or something similar along those lines.

If May’s deal were being voted down by ‘remain’ MPs for the express purpose of not leaving the EU and frustrating the results of the Brexit referendum, then we might have quite an interesting constitutional question on our hands.

But this is demonstrably false. It’s just another Big Lie from the Brexiteers playbook – just like £350 million, or Turkish ascension, or bendy bananas – choose a simple line and say it often enough and it’ll become the truth.

The actual cold hard truth of voting records disproves their point:

Group May’s deal Confidence in the government
Majority of Cons. MPs For For
Opposition MPs Against Against
ERG Cons. & DUP MPs Against For

Most Conservative MPs, including those who openly tout their personal remain preference, are supporting the government whatever the weather.

All but a handful of opposition MPs – Labour, SNP, Lib Dem, TIG etc… – as you’d expect, are opposing anything and everything the government does and voting for any amendment and motion that gives them more power.

That leaves about 100-150 DUP and European Research Group (ERG) Conservative MPs who are voting against the government’s deal, but for the government to remain in power.

Hostage takers

Jacob Rees-Mogg like a Roman Emperor decides the fate of the country

With this inconsistency, they are holding the whole country hostage.

Hostage to their own personal desire for power, for they know their party is much too split to campaign effectively in a general election, and failed to remove the electorally toxic Theresa May as leader in December.

They’d rather watch the country burn do what is morally required of them.

Theresa May won’t go of her own accord, and the law doesn’t demand it from her. But it does demand MPs to think beyond personal aggrandisement, and their party, to act in the best interests of the country and uphold our democracy!

As further shown below, is it these MPs that are ensuring this crisis goes on. Other groupings are voting in entirely consistent ways (barring the few ardent Labour Brexiteers, and a continuing Parliamentary reticence to countenance the idea of a second referendum).

Group May’s deal Confidence in the government Confidence in May as leader Alternatives: Indicative votes, days of debate, Parliament orders govt. what to negotiate Consistent?
Majority of Cons. MPs For For For Against Yes
Other party’s MPs Against Against N/A For Yes
ERG Cons. & DUP MPs Against For Against Against No

If the ERG and DUP would just either support their government, or consistently oppose it – as they really, really want to, and happily would a Labour government trying to pass a similar deal – then the deadlock would be instantly broken and British politics could get moving again.

As it is, we all continue to live each day hoping and praying that this group comprising some of the most morally bankrupt, stupid and incompetent people in the country – from Christopher Chope, to Nigel Dodds to Chris Grayling – will decide to compromise either on their power, their beliefs or their party and let the country, broken and weary, move on.

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