There have been dramatic scenes this afternoon in the House of Commons as the government tried desperately to prevent MPs having the opportunity to vote on an amendment calling on the government to come promptly back to the Commons for a new vote if Theresa May’s dismal Brexit deal is voted down, as expected, next week.
Bercow had ruled that MPs would be allowed to vote on an amendment demanding that Theresa May and her ministers return to give MPs a further ‘meaningful vote’ on the latest state of her deal within three days if her current deal is voted down next week, instead of taking another month.
The motion is not even binding, nor is the amendment – but May’s desperation to avoid it could not have been clearer as Tory MP after Tory MP, back bench and front, rounded on him during a ‘points of order’ session over an hour long a full to try to force, embarrass or browbeat him into changing his decision.
The attack began with procedural objections, but then moved onto accusations that Bercow was demeaning the dignity of his position and outright attacks on his integrity, punctuated with jeers and catcalls while Labour MPs and the very occasional Tory backbencher were forced to defend him.
When abuse and petulance failed, the Tories resorted to wild unreason. James Cleverly showed that his direness isn’t confined to social media by pleading that if Bercow wouldn’t change his decision, couldn’t he at least make it about something the government didn’t object to so much – before one of his colleagues then handed the moral victory to Bercow on a silver platter.
The excerpts below give a flavour of the unseemly, often dramatic and sometimes plain ugly behaviour of the government and its supporters – and the way in which a closing gaffe gave the bout conclusively to the Speaker:
However amusing the conclusion of the affair, the ugly Tory tantrum in attempting to block the vote on the amendment speaks volumes about the depths of sheer bankruptcy on the government benches at the moment.
The motion is not binding, so losing it – as the Tories eventually did – is a political embarrassment and puts political pressure on the government. If Theresa May ignores the amended motion, there will be a political cost – but a Prime Minister and government with any strength or credibility would be able to weather that cost if they had to.
The fact that May – even with the complicity and assistance of the vast majority of the ‘mainstream’ media – was prepared to put on such a naked display of desperation to try to avoid the vote is a clear demonstration of the utter hollowness of her position, intellect and morale.
And it’s just as clear a sign that if the Tories had the good of the nation even remotely at heart, May would be on her way to ask the Queen to dissolve the government and call a general election so the grown-ups can take over.
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