How this cyn­i­cal plot threat­ens democ­racy

Scottish Daily Mail - - News -

DRUNK on delu­sions of their own grandeur, a co­terie of back­bench MPs con­spires to over­throw the le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment and seize the levers of power.

No, this is not hap­pen­ing in some failed ba­nana repub­lic or cor­rupt Third World dic­ta­tor­ship, but here in Bri­tain – the Mother of Par­lia­ments.

Be­ing West­min­ster, nat­u­rally the lead­ers of this coup at­tempt wear grey suits rather than com­bat fa­tigues. And their weapons are not tanks and guns but ar­cane pro­ce­dural mo­tions.

But their am­bi­tion is the same as any such in­sur­gents – to wrest con­trol.

We are talk­ing of course about the bid by Re­main-sup­port­ing MPs to force through changes to key Com­mons pro­ce­dures that have lasted more than 130 years.

It would mean mo­tions sub­mit­ted by back­benchers would take prece­dence over Gov­ern­ment busi­ness – and it’s a recipe for anar­chy. In a House where there is no ma­jor­ity for any­thing – Brexit-re­lated or oth­er­wise – how could this loose af­fil­i­a­tion of back­benchers even pre­sume to lead the coun­try?

Even if they had the means to gov­ern, they cer­tainly don’t have the tal­ent or ex­pe­ri­ence – most be­ing failed min­is­ters, or se­rial at­ten­tion-seek­ers, or both.

True, Brexit was about re­turn­ing Par­lia­men­tary sovereignty from Brus­sels to West­min­ster. But not so it could be handed to a self-ap­pointed clique, whose main aim is to thwart the ex­plicit will of the peo­ple.

Yet they plough on re­gard­less with their hubris­tic grand plan, en­cour­aged by a par­ti­san and ridicu­lously vain Speaker. The last thing on any of their minds seems to be the na­tional in­ter­est.

And some of their pi­ous at­tempts at self­jus­ti­fi­ca­tion are truly ris­i­ble.

Tory Nick Boles (who, un­der David Cameron, rose to the dizzy heights of ju­nior busi­ness min­is­ter) was typ­i­cal. How could this be a coup, he asked, when those tak­ing part were ‘demo­crat­i­cally elected MPs’?

Well yes, they were demo­crat­i­cally elected – but on the plat­form of tak­ing Bri­tain out of the EU. Schem­ing to sab­o­tage Brexit now could hardly be more un­demo­cratic.

Per­haps we should re­mind the plot­ters of some hard facts. Just 18 months ago, 85 per cent of the gen­eral elec­tion vote went to par­ties whose man­i­festos pledged to up­hold the ref­er­en­dum.

By that time MPs had al­ready trig­gered Ar­ti­cle 50 of the Lis­bon Treaty – for­mal no­tice of our in­ten­tion to leave – by a huge 498-114 ma­jor­ity, and both main party lead­ers said they would take Bri­tain out of the sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union.

So what pos­si­ble moral au­thor­ity could there be in any gov­ern­ment, or pseudo-gov­ern­ment, which seeks to over­turn these prom­ises? An­swer: none. It’s noth­ing less than a fraud against the vot­ing pub­lic. Democ­racy is sup­posed to be the gov­ern­ment by the peo­ple, for the peo­ple – not by MPs, for MPs.

There is, how­ever, a so­lu­tion to the loom­ing sham­bles. One pro­posal on the ta­ble would hon­our the ref­er­en­dum with­out pro­pel­ling us to the eco­nomic chaos of no-deal. That is Theresa May’s deal (now sup­ported by a com­fort­able ma­jor­ity of Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers).

Sadly, all the signs are that it will be heav­ily de­feated in the Com­mons to­mor­row. But if the mar­gin of de­feat is not too cat­a­strophic, there is still a chance that a ver­sion of the deal – if bol­stered by more con­crete re­as­sur­ances from Brus­sels on the North­ern Ir­ish back­stop – could even­tu­ally suc­ceed.

If it doesn’t, we are in­deed in un­charted wa­ters – with jagged reefs on ev­ery side. MPs must ask them­selves if they would pre­fer to nav­i­gate such treach­er­ous seas un­der the cap­taincy of Mrs May – or a di­vided Com­mons that ap­pears to have lost its com­pass.

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