I find it impossible, given my background, to restrain my intense delight in the disgraceful spectacle currently on show in the British House of Commons as they wrestle to give legislative authority to their traditional distaste at being considered part of the continent of Europe.
Hang on a minute, there, that’s not quite right. Let me reword that ever so slightly:
I find it impossible, given my colonial background, to restrain my intense delight at the glorious spectacle underway in the British House of Commons, as they wrestle to give legislative authority to their traditional distaste at being considered part of the continent of Europe.
The spectacle under way embraces superb eloquence, determination, arrogance, tradition, obtuseness, all British characteristics, and with an over-riding delicious spark of British mischief thrown in by the man presiding over it all, the ineffable Speaker of the House, John Bercow, who, when he last uttered, declared that it was forbidden for Ms. May, as she intended, to bring her agreed deal to the House for a third time, quoting, in favour of his block-busting ruling, statutes reaching back to 1604.
What’s not to like about all this, I ask?
I am loving every minute of this dust-up. I have been following it for months, minutely examining every twist and turn in its remarkable journey as the Prime Minister, Ms. May, who has so far received two huge defeats bigger than any known in modern times, but who ploughs on regardless, blind to everything except the deal she agreed with the EU after two years of shilly-shallying and prevarication, until the magical production of what she calls her hard-won deal.
As one watches it all one cannot help but wonder when the members of the House are going to realize that they are being led by a monumentally ineffective Prime Minister, concentrated like a laser beam on her own personal deal to the exclusion of everything else. Her one certainty is that she alone embodies the spirit of the British people. And what that spirit is, she believes, was decided three years ago in a narrowly Brexit-won referendum staged by her predecessor David Cameron, at the insistence of several near-loony members of the party, such as Boris Johnson, former mayor of London, but better-known as a jokey newspaper editor, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, a limp caricature of the British public schoolboy, (both men were educated at the ancient school of Eton, that even in the present times provides more than its share of British Cabinet ministers). They peddled a ludicrous tissue of lies and exaggeration as to the supposed benefits that would accrue to Britain once they had detached themselves from detested Europe. (I seem to remember that in the 1960s, William Rees-Mogg, Jacob’s father, was editor of The Times newspaper, who fought a redoubtable last-ditch battle against the enveloping socialism represented by the Harold Wilson government.)
It is beginning to seem that the Members of Parliament might have reached close to the point of no return, as Ms. May is, as I write, in the process of making yet another humiliating visit (it is worth noting that nothing seems to humiliate this woman, not even the biggest governmental defeats known since 1888) to the headquarters of the European Union to plead for an extension of the time-limit imposed on the withdrawal process.
She is talking of introducing what is now called “a third meaningful vote” on her deal, as if the Speaker’s ruling does not exist. He has warned that any deal introduced to the House must be of substantial difference from what has gone before. Never mind, Ms. May will introduce her motion next week, and say the EU willingness to extend the deadline is s substantive difference.
MPs are likely to find that if they vote against her deal for a third time, the most likely consequence could be that Britain would simply flop out of the EU, without any kind of deal as to future arrangements, a position that it is now agreed on both sides would be a solution costing both sides hundreds of billions of dollars (or Euros). So it would seem that through her intransigence and pig-headedness, she has them more or less over a barrel. Calls are being heard on every side for her removal from her position as Prime Minister, but in December her position was challenged,, she survived it, and it is part of her party’s regulations that she cannot be challenged again for two years.
Obtuse, pig-headed, blind to everything except her tunnel vision she may be, but her tactic of delaying the decision until the very last moment seems to be working in her favour.
I would not dare to guess as to the likely outcome: the army of trained political observers who have been prounouncing on this subject have no more idea than I do. So, as I finish this piece, the leaders have just emerged, the Europeans have given the short extension asked for, but it is conditional on the House of Commons passing a deal of some kind. So it can come down to what Ms May has always wanted: it is either my deal or no deal at all, with its drastic possibilities for the nation.
Reporters are talking about the growing anger among Members of Parliament at the cavalier way she dismissed them, brushed them aside contemptuously in fact, in a brief address she made to the nation last night. As I heard one woman reporter say, “When you’ve got a charm offensive, and you don’t have the charm, it’s, well, hopeless.” I have just heard Ms Merkel say, “We are dealing here with something that has a historical root,” a rare word of fact in it all.
The reporters, dazed by what is going on, keep saying, “We have no idea, with eight days before the deadline of March 29, as to what is likely to happen.”
Great stuff, no? Well, as I often remark, wot the hell, wot the hell?