The security and stability of a constitutional crisis

Well that’s buggered that then. Today in the House of Commons the Speaker John Bercow blindsided Theresa May by telling her in no uncertain terms that her government can’t just keep bringing the same deal back to a vote in parliament in the hope that it will eventually get a different result to the two rejections it has already received. His decision has blown what passed for Theresa May’s strategy out of the water. That strategy was one of taking all the options off the table, until eventually MPs were left with just her deal. The speaker has now taken her deal off the table. Her tactic involved running down the ticking clock until enough MPs were alarmed into voting for her deal. John Bercow just silenced the clock.

A meaningful vote that has no effect other than to make the Prime Minister bring her deal back for yet another attempt is not a meaningful vote at all. John Bercow’s decision means that the meaningful vote held last week was a whole lot more meaningful than the Prime Minister had intended. She thought that she could keep returning for another go as often as she wanted. That was obvious from the language that she used when addressing the House in the immediate aftermath of her second defeat. She showed not the slightest awareness that her deal had been rejected and displayed every intention that, since she had just received the wrong answer, she was going to keep asking the question until she got the answer she wanted. And then she prattled on about respecting democracy. Self-awareness is not Theresa May’s strong suit.

There is a long standing parliamentary convention that a motion can’t be brought back for the consideration of the Commons if it has already been rejected earlier in the parliamentary session. Like all the conventions which underpin what passes for a constitution in the UK it’s not a law, but rather a tradition of practice which relies upon the willingness of governments and opposition to respect gentlemanly fair play. Or at least to repect fair play as far as other members of the British establishment are concerned, the rest of us have never enjoyed the same considerations. But that’s always been the British way.

This government hasn’t shown much interest in respecting those traditions. Might is right with Theresa May, and she’d have gotten away with it had she enjoyed a parliamentary majority. The British system allows, indeed encourages, the government of the day to act with the untrammelled powers of a dictator. If Theresa May had a majority, she would never have needed to keep bringing back her deal to parliament, because she’d have had the power to ram it through the first time. Theresa’s problem is that she persists in acting as though she has a majority and as though she has unlimited power, when she is in fact the head of a minority government which is riven with infighting and factionalism.

The effect of John Bercow’s ruling is unless there is major and substantive changes to the deal that it cannot be brought back for parliamentary consideration. Since the EU has already announced in no uncertain terms that it is done negotiating and the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation, Theresa May has no room left for movement. There is no new deal or substantially different deal that the government can bring before the Commons.

If Theresa May is still hell bent on bringing her deal back for another go, she has only two options left. She can call a general election, and hope to return with a majority in a new parliament. But that means she’ll have to ask for a lengthy extension to Article 50 from the EU, and the chances are that her exasperated party will seek to replace her with a different leader. Any general election will most certainly be fought over Brexit and would be an effective referendum on whether the electorate wants Brexit at all. The Conservatives might be facing a weak and ineffective Labour party, but that’s not who worries them. They’re far more worried by a resurgence of Ukip and Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party.

The other option is so prorogue Parliament for a few days and then to recall it in a new session in which the clock has been reset and the Speaker can’t block a vote on the deal on the grounds that it has already been voted upon during the same parliamentary session. But that means that the government will have to request permission to prorogue Parliament from the Queen, who acts in such matters on the advice of the Speaker as well as the advice of the government of the day. Politicising the monarchy is a very high risk strategy.

Brexit was all about English nationalists wanting to restore full power to the UK. They kept banging on about the sovereignty of parliament while practising the untrammelled power of the executive. The great irony is that Brexit has now surrendered the fate of the UK to the 27 other members of the EU. They’re the ones who will decide what happens next. They’re the ones who will decide whether to grant an extension to Article 50 which is long enough for the UK to try and sort itself out, or whether to kick the UK out of Europe on Friday of next week with no deal at all.

The EU doesn’t want no deal any more than anyone in the UK with a modicum of common sense, which clearly doesn’t include sections of the right wing press, a large part of the Conservative party, and the swivel eyed spittle flecked Brextremists. That means that the chances are that we are now facing a lengthy extension to Article 50.

The only deal which has any chance of getting through the Commons is for May’s deal to be accepted conditionally on confirmation in a public vote, which requires an extension of Article 50 long enough for the vote to take place. The vote would have to be between no-deal, May’s deal, or remaining. It’s the only sensible way out of this mess. But there’s no guarantee that a government which is in thrall to those lacking in sense will embark upon the sensible course of action.

This is an unprecedented constitutional crisis. No one knows what’s going to happen. Our jobs, our security, our futures are all at stake. Back in 2014 Scotland was told that we needed the UK’s institutions to guarantee our democratic stability and security. How’s that working out for you all?

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45 comments on “The security and stability of a constitutional crisis

  1. […] Wee Ginger Dug The security and stability of a constitutional crisis Well that’s buggered that then. Today in the House of Commons the Speaker John […]

  2. J Galt says:

    It may well be that a vote between no deal, May’s deal or remain is the only sensible way out of this mess.

    Just as long as everybody is prepared for the answer, which, reading the mood music, might well be a no deal landslide. For that reason I sense the remainer side backing off a new referendum, preferring instead delay, ideally a 2 year one leading to no Brexit.

    However could it be that Mr Speaker Bercow has just shot his own side in the foot?

  3. Steve ashton says:

    The house rejected May’s deal. The house rejected no deal. The only way now to respect the will of the house is to accept no Brexit, Repeal A50 and get on with the Euro election preparation as a distraction…. Sits back and opens yet another bag of popcorn!

  4. Steve ashton says:

    The house reacted May’s deal. The house rejected no deal. Surely the only option remaining (that respects our parliament) is to remain! Cancel A50 and get stuck in to the Euro elections. National stocks of popcorn must be running low now!

  5. Andy Anderson says:

    When we eventually get to a stable political situation we should have a special general election one where not one from any party that is or has been an MP can ever stand again. We need to bin them all.

    Then we have a referendum where we go for PR at Westminster.

  6. benmadigan says:

    excellent as usual Paul.

  7. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Mr Speaker is the Wee Boy! Bravo!

  8. All I want for Christmas is Scottish Independence and tae hell wi’ the lot of them

  9. Kangaroo says:

    There must be a hat and a rabbit somewhere in all this. Looking hard , can’t see one anywhere. Maybe later in the week I’ll try again.

  10. Robert Harrison says:

    So the Englishman finally found his spine again to bad those english with a back bone to stand up to westminster down there a so few in number Westminster can just blatantly ignore them that shows how mentally weak they are now from the days of thacther so it’s time to leave them clean the mess there policys did up here and wacth them go down like the titanic once did when it met that iceberg.

  11. Charles McGregor says:

    I hope this wasn’t to set a president for our presiding officer when it comes to indyref2 legislation.

  12. Rookiescot says:

    Even if May gets this through the commons the Lords are just going to fire it back at her.
    This would go on for months.

    • Robert Harrison says:

      We don’t have that long right now unless the eu grants an extention before March 29th

  13. Macart says:

    There isn’t enough snackage on the planet. I wonder if there’s something beyond omnishambles at this point? Mr Bercow has dropped both leaderships in the wossiname. 🙂

    Hopelessly divided government. Hopelessly divided and ineffectual (dishonourable) opposition, and motivations ranging from outright greed to exceptionalist ideologies and everything in between. A near systemic failure and brought about by its own bestest and (not too) brightest.

    Whoddathunkit? 😎

    • Marconatrix says:

      Someone was asking in another place, was there a stronger word than ‘omishambles’ etc. to describe Brexit and if not shouldn’t we invent one. But the answer is staring us in the face, to quote the lady, “Brexit means Brexit!”.
      So in years to come, will folk be heard to say e.g. “Look you’ve made a total brexit of that!”

      • Macart says:

        Yes. Yes they will. 😀

        Clocked Robert Peston’s summary of the recent happenings and he didn’t miss and hit the wall.

        ‘This is the greatest failure of our parliamentary and government system that any of alive have witnessed.’

        I think the quote says a lot, but the look on his face as he delivered it said a lot more.

  14. georgeclark1954 says:

    The best part for me was that Bercow didn’t give May any forewarning of his statement. I wonder how she felt being on the wrong end of the contempt which she continually shows to us.

  15. Robert Graham says:

    I haven’t read all the comments yet so forgive me if this has been raised before ,

    Question to the more knowledgeable folk here , the Speaker in his Statement yesterday quoted a convention that dates back to 1604 this along with the Hendry the Eight clause inserted into the EU withdrawal Act 2018 both pre-date the Act of union 1707 , surely these acts cant be refered to as they were originally used in the now dissolved English Parliament , do this mean we have in effect a English Parliament and not as we assumed a United Kingdom Parliament surely we cant have both .

    • Stuart Mcnicoll says:

      The Treaty of Union is the founding document of the United Kingdom, the Articles of Union( not the Acts) form the basis of the only written Constitution regarding the UK. English and Scots law are both enshrined in the Treaty, including both Kingdoms Constitutional law. Therefore it is appropriate to use English Constitutional law within its own boundaries. It shouldn’t obviously apply to Scotland.
      However, if English Constitutional law is accepted and used within the UK Parliament then it must also adhere to Scots law.

  16. James Cheyne says:

    I had the same conversation with my partner yesterday. 1604? Treaty of the union 1707.Did that go over the heads of many?well spotted Robert.

  17. Welsh Sion says:

    I will stand corrected if anyone can provide me with evidence to the contrary but my understanding would be:

    Acts of the English (pre-1534)/English and Welsh Parliament (1535-1605)/Great Britain (1606-1706)/United Kingdom Parliament (1707-date, as amended in 1922) can only be repealed by the UK Parliament that we currently have in London. That is why we still have the Treason Act of 1351 still on the Statute Book and is still in force for the UK. Just because a law (common law or statute is ‘old’ does not necessarily mean that the law itself is obsolete.) In this respect, any ‘Henry VII clause’ as it is informally known can be inserted into a UK piece of legislation – and providing it is not considered ultra vires (‘outside the powers of the Minister proposing it’ – a case for judicial review), then the clause (and subsequent section of the passed Act of Parliament) is law. The Acts of Union of 1535, 1542, 1706, 1707 and 1800 are irrelevant therefore as to the legality of valid and extant laws made before them by Westminster.

    The 1604 precedent is a different animal. It is what is known as a convention and something Parliamentarians have adopted by way of ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ (aye, right, it’s Westminster – I know) not to try and push a second vote on the same question in Parliament if they lose in the first instance. It is, as remarked a Convention – not a law – and is only there as a sort of ‘fair play’ marker between the Parties in Parliament. (We recall similarly the Sewell Convention – and WGD’s excellent dissection of it in a previous blog – and how being a ‘mere’ Convention, Treeza and Co. drove a coach and horses through the Devolution settlement – of both our countries – without breaking any ‘law’. The Sewell Convention was not written into law.)

    Now, whether that 1604 Convention (pre-1707 Union, obvs.) is binding on the (successor) UK Parliament and indeed on Scots Members thereof is surely moot. But do remember that in the first instance it’s only a Convention, anyway – and we will have to see how it plays out. The whole situation as I see it is a complete supercalifragilisticexpialidocioushambles.

    Yours, aye

    • Robert Graham says:

      many thanks for your time and effort Welsh Sion it is appreciated , one observation in passing, it looks like our illustrious MPs have been asleep on Duty in allowing a continuation of Laws and conventions from the extinguished English Parliament to still be relevant and be referred to in the UK Parliament .The Scots & Welsh equivalent appears to have disappeared why not the English ones it seems a bit one sided , or is it as usual sheer weight of numbers & might is right ..once again many thanks .

      • Welsh Sion says:

        Thank you for the acknowledgements. I’m also happy to accept any corrections to the above if I have in any way been mistaken. I do see already that I paid scant attention to the Act of Union of 1800 which created the United Kingdom of Greta Britain and Ireland’s Parliament and that a typo rendered “Henry VIII” as “Henry VII”. Apologies.

        Note that from 1535 to 1967 any reference to England in Westminster legislation automatically included my country and that in 1993 Westminster passed the Welsh Language Act, which, inter alia, repealed the so-called Acts of Union (Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542) between my country and England. This was, obviously, before Devolution.

        I have made these points on another pro-indy site and have had to counter a Unionist troll/fud thereon who could not be asked to read the relevant part of said Act. FYI, you will find it in Schedule 2 of the WLA 1993.


  18. As I read the 25 articles of the treaty of the union of the Scottish and English Parliaments the sovereignty of Scotland remained with the people, the sovereignty in England remained with the English parliament, not the Monarch. This was upheld, unanimously, in the Westminster Parliament in July 2018. The people of Scotland can repeal the Treaty of Union any time they wish.

  19. Robert Anderson says:

    of topic:

    BBC at it again tonight: Scottish unemployment is at all time low of 3.4% and the UK’s employment is at an all time high of……..” Comparing apples and oranges where UK is unemployment is at 3.9%

    makes you sick.

  20. markrussell20085017 says:

    One thing’s for sure, it’s the most exciting ‘deal or no deal’, ever….

  21. Today we have at last crawled out of one of the bleakest winters in anyone’s memory, into springtime.

    It is the vernal equinox today, where we have an equal amount of light and darkness.

    As if on God’s cue, our humble camellia bush which stands in the front garden dominating the view from our lounge window, has burst into flower.

    Every day from now onwards there will be roughly 4 ½ minutes of extra daylight, as our tilted earth provides more sunlight and warmth to the Northern hemisphere.
    For us and our neighbours, our wee tree is a perennial symbol of hope and a sign of better things to come.

    Let the good times roll; well, erm, not quite.

    The dark black Nuclear Winter clouds of Brexit relentlessly hover above, blotting out the sun, logic, reason, and hope.
    Brexit is the winter solstice that won’t go away.
    We are as much in the dark as we were in June 2016.

    We are within 9 days of Eurmageddon, and the madness continues unabated.

    This morning, through the wonders of i-Player I tuned in to last night’s Newsnight.

    Emily Maitlis, Cambridge graduate, married to a husband who peddles his wares in the City, who during the Grenfell tragedy revealed that she lived in Kensington, where the streets are paved with rhodium, gold being for the commoner, presented the programme, the content of which was wall to wall Brexit nonsense as per.

    They couldn’t get a Blue Tory Minister to appear, not even Fluffy The Teaboy.

    So Damian Green, disgraced former Deputy Leader of the Party, was dragged on as the voice of Blue Tory Brexit.

    I say ‘disgraced’, allegedly, because I don’t have an island of lawyers.

    I refer to the 1000’s of ‘legal’ pornographic images discovered on his office computer while he was in Opposition, during a Met enquiry into terrorist activity, while he was Shadow Immigration Spokesman, and a subsequent sexual harassment complaint by a young Blue Tory activist which led to his ‘stepping down’ as Blue Tory Chairman.

    According to a BBC Fluffy Warm Fuzzy piece by their very obliging Alt Right Propaganda Wing, his wife, Alicia Collinson, barrister, was Treeza May’s BF at Oxford, so that’s all right then.

    Damian Green is obviously ‘in the loop’ when it comes to Treeza’s and her Cabinet’s 11th hour thinking on Brexit; or maybe not.

    It was like a clip from ‘The Thick Of It’.

    The man made no sense, and regurgitated the same old ‘May’s Deal or No Deal’ nonsense which permeated this latest waste of 45 minutes Telly Time.

    He came across as a dithering idiot, which I am sure he is not.

    Maitlis interviewed the wonderfully named Sophie in’t Velt (Eng: ‘in the field’), the leader of the Dutch contingent in the European Parliament.

    The Pesky Dutch ‘field hand’ persisted on speaking the Truth.

    May’s Deal was the one agreed with the EU 27.

    If the Brit parliament couldn’t agree on this, then, it was up to WM to offer solutions, not the EU.

    Maitlis blurted that it would be ‘absurd’ (yes, you read right) for the EU not to grant May an extension regardless of the situation.

    Her Kensington High Street Oxbridge Establishment petticoat was showing now.

    Mme In ‘t Velt’s face was a picture.

    ‘Absurd’, indeed.

    She reiterated: Brexit was the UK’s problem to fix; not the EU’s to rescue for May’s failing Administration.

    Blair was on, looked wizened and grey and deflated despite the reported £70 million he has trousered in the 11 years since he left office.

    He wants a deferral for at least a year, a People’s Vote, and at worse, a Soft Brexit.

    Middle East Peace Envoy, for ding’s sake!

    Then a piece on Businesses Not Being Ready!!!!!
    Aye, right.

    The programme closed with three Dead Tree Scrollers spouting the same Brexit carousel of claptrap.

    I looked it up. 100 families are still to be rehoused following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2018.

    May visited the scene at the time and promised that all families would be rehoused in three weeks.

    Who will rid us of this troublesome pest?

    As Paul observes,

    “Brexit was all about English nationalists wanting to restore full power to the UK. They kept banging on about the sovereignty of parliament while practising the untrammelled power of the executive. The great irony is that Brexit has now surrendered the fate of the UK to the 27 other members of the EU. They’re the ones who will decide what happens next. They’re the ones who will decide whether to grant an extension to Article 50 which is long enough for the UK to try and sort itself out, or whether to kick the UK out of Europe on Friday of next week with no deal at all.”

    Rees Mogg, Mr May,and other City Carpetbaggers, will be rubbing their hands with glee.

    • astytaylor says:

      What’s the word on the street about Scotland going independent? Has Spring brought some new life there?
      Surely it’s about time?

      • Try and catch Ian Blackford’s ‘mansplaining’ (her offensive put down) of EU / Euro rules to Kay Burley and Beth Rigby on Sky News today, asty.
        Both women were openly hostile of the SNP and tried to slap down Balckford.
        Burley comes across as clueless as to EU terms and conditions; not a good take.
        Why was Jeremy Corbyn ignoring him? was her insulting retort when Blackford was urging the Red Tory Commie Corbynites to join the SNP, Plyd, the Greens and the Yellow Tories to back a People’s Vote.
        It is clear that she demonstrates the English Exceptionalism that is driving Scotland to the edge.
        perhaps time Sky ran a EU Rules seminar for their Talking Heads?
        Blackford set out clearly that the Scottish Government has a clear mandate to call a Independence Referendum despite the two women’s insistence that Ruth Davidson will be back in the autumn and that the Blue Tories ‘won’ in Scotland under Supermum, who has not uttered a peep about Brexit and her pal Big T’s reckless feckless Brexless.
        35 out of 59 MP’s at the last UK GE.
        May would bite your hand off to have that sort of mandate, Blackford reminded the Brit Nat Front.
        They are obviously rattled, lying about opinion polls already.
        The Brit Nat MSM, the English Goebbels.
        It’s coming down the line, asty, like an unstoppable runaway Flying Scotsman.

    • Dave tewart says:

      Aye Jack
      Putting money on the next Meaningless vote at 7pm on the 29th.
      The maybot , Promises not delivered.
      She was going to solve the housing problem, bring back fox hunting, along with 20 other problems like companies paying their executives mega money. Looking after the just managing, it goes on and on.
      On R4 ,leadsom blamed the SNP and the EU for the need for an extension, go figure.
      Time to go, at least it may be helpful for Nicola to call the INDEREF2 in MAy when the weather is better and we all know we’ll need a visa for SPain.
      The unfortunate thing is it gives the english more time to sell off the oil and gas fields West of Shetland.

      • B…but, Dave, I distinctly remember Lord Flipper of Darling telling Glenn Campbell and the BBC viewing public that Alec Sammin was exaggerating the amount of oil left ten fold, and that we’d be at the end of a ten year waiting list to get into the EU, which would fail because we couldn’t use the English pound without their permission…..
        Good old Flipper.
        Whatever did become of him?

  22. Dave tewart says:

    You know the answer Jack.
    All cosy with the rest of them in well paid sinecures, paid for out of the ill gotten gain from the oil and gas, which is oors.
    Think Tusk has just hit the Big Red Button, all the money is on the 2 option roulette wheel, RED OR bLACK, Deal or no deal.
    Only a few calling the Third Way, stop A50 closure date.

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