It has been yet another day of extraordinary events in Parliament, with calls for contempt findings against the government and Labour’s leadership agreeing to table a motion of no confidence in the government when Theresa May’s Brexit deal fails as is universally expected.
But one of the most extraordinary passages came when Labour MP Chris Williamson asked Attorney General Geoffrey Cox whether he was prepared to be expelled from the House – terminating his standing as an MP – for contempt of Parliament in order to keep his advice to Theresa May secret.
Cox – who seems to prefer the use of twenty words to using one – did not deny that this could be the case, instead merely expressing regret and his hope that it would not happen:
Williamson was in no doubt what he’d just witnessed:
No government minister has ever before been held in contempt of Parliament – but Cox is not the only one at risk, as he is certainly not unilaterally withholding information the government has been ordered by Parliament to provide and Theresa May is certainly involved, as well as most likely others.
The government has relied on the fact that it has never happened before, indulging in a series of demonstrations of cowardice and disdain for parliamentary rules since May lost her Commons majority because of the ‘Corbyn surge’ at the last general election.
But with six opposition parties including the DUP calling for a contempt judgment and Speaker John Bercow expected to return his preliminary findings on the contempt call as early as this evening, Theresa May and her accomplices look like they may have pushed their luck too far.
A summary of Cox’s advice has been released and shows that May wants to tie the UK and Northern Ireland into a weak position they can only escape with the EU’s permission.
So how desperately damning must Cox’s full legal advice have been for him and others to be willing to risk expulsion to keep it from view?
And will the government even survive long enough for Labour’s motion of no confidence next week?
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