If you wanted to describe the multicoloured shambles that passes for British governance these days, you’ll find that you’ve run out of the normal spectrum of colours. We’re now deep into ultraviolet. Parliament was prorogued by a rogue last night, another little death of democracy in a state whose checks and balances against the overweening power of unscrupulous politicians are weak and often ineffective. Meanwhile the British nationalist trolls are out in force in the comments sections of newspapers, screaming fiscal deficit at every opportunity. They’re clearly very worried.
However Parliament wasn’t closed down before it managed to inflict a few more humiliating defeats on Lyin’ Bastert Johnson the Pinocchio of politics who wants nothing more than to be a real Prime Minister, but who is really just a lump of rotten wood. He has been Prime Minister for 85 days now, but has only had to face Parliament for five of them. That in itself is scandalous, and an indictment of the weakness of what passes for a British constitution and its inability to hold the executive branch of government to account. In those five short days LBJ has managed to lose every single vote, six in total, meaning he’s already lost more votes in a few days than Tony Blair or Margaret Thatcher lost in the decade each were in power. All the clever tactics and wheezes which played out so well in his imagination have blown up. I’d say they’d blown up in his face, but that merely begs the question of which of his faces we’re talking about. No wonder he wanted to close down the Commons. He’s been well and truly slapped on all six of his cheeks.
It was a bad tempered session of the Commons. It was like watching an irate wasp on a steroid rage negotiating the Parliamentary rule book. The Speaker scarcely bothered to hide his anger, and allowed a couple of emergency debates, which the Government then went on to lose. The most important of these was a motion proposed by expelled Conservative Dominic Grieve, who was about to give LBJ an abject lesson in what a grievance was.
The motion was aimed at forcing Government advisors to release all documents and electronic communications relating to the decision to prorogue Parliament. This is because there may be some people who believe LBJ’s protestations that he only closed down Parliament so that he could have a Queen’s Speech and introduce a new programme of legislation, but those would be people who are either bereft of functioning neurones and /or anything approaching moral fibre. Which is decent description of the cabinet.
Additionally, the motion, framed in terms of a humble address, forces the Government to release the no-deal planning assessments in full. Then we can find out whether Michael Gove was being entirely honest when he said that the Yellowhammer documents represented a worst case scenario and in any case it was prepared for the previous administration and was out of date and the dog ate his homework. My guess would be no. Or neuww, since North British acceynts are so terribly in these days.
Dominic wielded the scalpel, contrasting LBJ’s characterisation of David Cameron as a “girly swot” with the Prime Minister’s own “manly indolence”. He surgically dissected the Government’s self-serving excuses, leaving what little had been left of LBJ’s credibility before the day’s session began lying on the floor of the House in tiny pieces. Now we will get to find out whether LBJ has been lying to the Queen, the Commons, and the entire UK about his reasons for seeking prorogation.
Not to be outdone, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson took the opportunity to showcase at least four of her accents, simultaneously. She’s been taking elocution lessons from Freayzeur Neahlsawn. Jo made a valuable and vital contribution to the debate. Well, I’m being kind. What she actually said was, “Bawrays Jawnnsin yeuuaaww oeunleey preureugayng thess heaawws seaww yeuuu kenn sayf yaah Cawwnsaaavataif paaataay fomm eaubleyveeyon.” Although I may be perraphraysayng. At least this week some Tory neanderthal didn’t yell “Sit down love” at her this week like they did last week. Patronising sexism is all that they have left, even when confronted with Jeeauuw Sweynseun. That’s how crap the Tories are.
Because of Jeeauww’s intervention, which is Lib Dem speak for “despite it” or even dayspayte it, the motion was carried. To add to his woes LBJ is now facing another constitutional crisis if he refuses to release the documentation demanded by Parliament. That’s every piece of paper, every post-it note, every What’s App conversation, every photo posted to instagram of Dominic Cummings with a cute kitten filter, every manly indolent pose that Boris Johnson has ever texted to whoever it is he’s currently courting. You wait ages for a constitutional crisis and then a whole load of them come along at once, like Boris buses.
Then there was the predictable loss of the government vote to bring about an early General Election. No one thought it had any chance of passing, and it didn’t. There will be no General Election until at least November. Following the inevitable defeat, the Government announced that Parliament was going to be prorogued until October 14. For the next five weeks LBJ will be spared further embarrassment from a House of Commons which he’s lost all control of, and he can get back to pretending that he’s serious about getting a Brexit deal.
Usually the prorogation ceremony is a sober and formal affair, but these are not normal times and this was not a usual prorogation. Speaker John Bercow made his disgust clear in a speech during which he described the prorogation as government by executive fiat, and didn’t try to hide his contempt for the government benches. A group of Labour MPs held up signs protesting against the silencing of Parliament, and briefly attempted to hold the Speaker down in his seat. As Tory MPs got up and filed into the Lords for the ceremony itself, led by a Speaker who had a face that could fry a pound of mince halfway across the solar system, they were accompanied by cries of shame on you from opposition benches whose MPs refused to participate in this sham of democracy. It was a farce, and was even played out with the fancy costumes.
The Government may have succeeded in closing down Parliament, but their problems haven’t gone away. France is airing the possibility that the EU might insist on a two year extension to Article 50 as the UK is mired in an impasse. Les trolleurs françaises le font pour des merdes et le fou rire. Which means “The French trolls are doing it for the shits and giggles.”
Today there are reports that the Government is exploring the possibility of getting a deal based on keeping Northern Ireland effectively within the customs union and single market and having a regulatory border in the Irish Sea. It’s the only option left to the Government if it is to avoid either asking for another extension to Article 50 or breaking the law. LBJ could employ the Grinch tactic, and ask for an extension in a way that makes it clear that he really doesn’t want one, but the EU is very aware of the current state of play in British politics. There’s going to be a General Election sooner rather than later, and they’ll know that there’s a reasonable chance that Boris Johnson won’t be Prime Minister after it. As far as they’re concerned they’d have little to lose by granting the extension no matter how petulant the language in which LBJ phrases the request. They also know that granting the extension makes it a bit harder for him to win that election. The EU is not currently disposed to do the British Prime Minister any favours.
There are problems with the NI only backstop, as it’s called. Senior figures in Ireland like former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, one of the architects of the peace process, are warning that a deal which is opposed by Northern Ireland’s Unionist community has little chance of working. It gets no one anywhere if we avoid sparking off violence from Republican paramilitaries only to spark off violence from Loyalist paramilitaries.
The DUP are implacably opposed, and so are the ERG Brextremists who refused to allow Theresa May to do something similar. The SNP would certainly oppose it too, since it means give Northern Ireland rights in Europe that remain voting Scotland wouldn’t enjoy. Labour and the Lib Dems opposed it before and nothing has changed to make them back it this time. It’s hard to see how the Government could cobble together a majority for it. The opposition parties would prefer an extension. They want to force this Government into an election where Johnson will have to defend all his broken promises and have his vote split by the Brexit party. Even so, it’s the only idea that’s currently in the running.
So that’s where we are at the moment. Still as confused as ever, only without a legislature which might try and find a way out of it and a Prime Minister who has a brief respite from being held to account. The only things that you can say with any certainty is that this mess is only going to get messier, the British nationalist trolls are right to be worried, and when Boris Johnson says he’s not going to break the law and he’s not going to ask for an extension he’s lying about at least one of those things.
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