Even now the prime minister fails to countenance any plan other than her ownby Jonathan Lis / March 26, 2019 / Leave a comment
After three long years, last night parliament finally took back control.
MPs have attempted to give their colleagues control of parliamentary time on more than one occasion in recent months. Each time their colleagues declined. Such a move was too drastic; the government needed the space to get its deal through; the British people would not accept diversion or delay. Last night, MPs exhausted their patience. They passed Oliver Letwin’s amendment to direct Wednesday’s parliamentary business by 329 votes to 302. It was a historic seizure of power from the government, and an historic rebuke to a prime minister who no longer even pretends to lead.
The game is now up. Last week Theresa May demonstrated that she is wholly in thrall to events. She once controlled her Brexit plan and now it controls her, but it cannot take her anywhere because it has ceased to exist. The EU knew that May could not lead the country from disaster in just one week, and so deferred the cliff-edge by a further fortnight. It was an open invitation for someone to assert power—and so 30 Tories joined the opposition parties to assert it. Three ministers were involved, including Richard Harrington, who accused the government of “playing roulette with the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of people in this country.” They even included the steadfastly loyal ex-deputy prime minister Damian Green. Chief revolutionary Letwin remarked ruefully that he had never previously rebelled in his 22-year parliamentary career.
Consider how extraordinary it is that parliament had no meaningful options to determine the Brexit it wanted until four days before our initial departure date. Then consider that parliament had to fight the government tooth and nail for the opportunity. An executive that was remotely democratic, collegiate or politically intelligent would have held these votes more than two years ago. But the government was never interested in parliament as anything more than a rubber stamp. In the most divisive policy of our lifetimes, which split the country clean down the middle, MPs were excluded from the start.
Of course the government pretended that it would offer indicative votes anyway. It damns the government that MPs did not believe them. Backbenchers asked why ministers were whipping against the proposal if they agreed with it, and ministers could not answer. The…