Theresa May has, finally, told us that she’s going. Well sort of. She’s told Tory MPs that she’s going to go if her deal gets passed by the Commons, although that wish of hers remains as elusive as her reputation for human warmth and conviviality. Some of the Jacob Rees Mogg fanboys and girls have reluctantly decided to back her because they fear any sort of Brexit is slipping from their grasp. Jacob Rees Mogg said he’d back the deal if the DUP either backed it or abstained. But the DUP are still not keen and have let it be known that they’d prefer a long delay to Theresa May’s deal, they’re going to vote against. Others in the ERG remain as impacably opposed as ever. Steve Baker told a meeting of the ERG that he’d prefer to see the Palace of Westminster bulldozed into the Thames. So much for restoring the sovereignty of the British parliament.
Meanwhile any attempt by the Prime Minister to bring her deal to yet another vote depends on the Speaker, who is still blocking any attempt to bring about a third meaningless meaningful vote unless there is a substantial change to the offer presented to Parliament. There’s no such change in the offing, certainly not from a Prime Minister as bereft of influence and imagination as the dead career of the woman who currently occupies Number 10. She changes her mind constantly while claiming nothing has changed, yet she’s consistent in her refusal to allow the electorate to change its mind. She says another vote would destroy the public’s faith in British democracy. That ship has already sailed, hit the iceberg, and is now dead and lifeless on the ocean floor.
So Theresa May has promised to go, but she’s going to remain in place. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. What we do have is an assurance from a woman whose word counts for nothing that she will not lead the next stage of the Brexit process, the negotiations between the UK and the EU on the future relationship. She’s surrendering that to her successor, who is likely to come from the hard right Brexcrementalist wing of the party.
Theresa May came to power in the wake of the Brexit decision and promised to listen. She promised to fight against injustice. She promised a bold new confident role for the UK in the world. She promised to cherish and respect her precious precious union. She has failed on every measure. There has been no Prime Minister in living memory whose failures have been so conclusive, so overwhelming, so total. She combines the self-righteousness and lack of compassion of Margaret Thatcher with the emotional intelligence of a block of wood.
Foodbanks spread across the UK, trying to put a plaster on the gaping wounds of a social security system that is no longer social and no longer secure. The rich continue to get richer while working people struggle and the poor and disadvantaged remained marginalised. Hedge fund managers sprout while working people wither. Instead of a bold and confident new UK we have the humiliation of becoming the laughing stock of Europe and have a political class who are consumed by party interest and whose contempt for the electorate is inversely proportional to the number of times that they mention respecting the result of the EU referendum. We have a political system which is unfit for purpose, sclerotic, self-serving, and which congralutates itself on being the mother of parliaments while it condemns mothers and their children to poverty and social exclusion.
Worst of all, Theresa May has done absolutely nothing about the frustrations, the inequalities, the anger and the alienation which produced the Brexit vote in the first place. Her so-called precious union has been revealed as a comforting myth told by British nationalists who cover themselves in the fig leaf of a Union flag in order to pretend to themselves that they’re not nationalists at all. At every turn she ignored the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament, she used Brexit as an excuse to undermine the devolution settlement. Brexit has revealed the truth that there is nothing in this supposed union to protect the other nations of the UK from the baneful effects of English nationalism, and so the UK is not a union at all.
The one principle that Theresa May has consistently put before all others is her desire to keep her party together. Everything else, the fate of the UK, the economy, the jobs of hundreds of thousands of workers, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU, all of it has been sacrificed on the altar of the tinpot gods of the European Research Group in an effort to propiciate the unpropiciable and keep the warring factions of the Conservatives together. Yet Theresa May hasn’t even succeeded in doing that.
The promise to step down came as the Government lost control of Parliament and MPs took charge of business in order to vote on a series of indicative votes. The result of which Theresa May has already signalled that she may not respect.
The results were delayed until Parliament’s staff could sort through the various options selected by MPs and ensure an accurate count. The Speaker John Bercow announced that he’d suspend the sitting until the results were ready, and left the chamber. Then various Conservative MPs objected because the mace remained in place which usually means that the sitting is still on-going, and tried to raise points of order to an empty chair. Now they know how the rest of the country feels trying to get Theresa May to listen.
When the results came in, MPs voted against everything. It was like that line from Bohemian Rhapsody. No. No. No. No. No. No. Mama mia. There is no agreement in the House of Commons except for the agreement that no one can agree. The one small consolation was that the proposal to leave with no deal was rejected by the largest margin.
Ross Thomson voted against every motion except that one, and the motion to call on the government to seek preferential trade agreements with the EU. He was the only Scottish MP to vote for no deal. Way to go to protect the interests of your remain voting constituency there Ross. 68% of voters in Aberdeen South voted to remain. That vote is going to figure prominently in the next election in Aberdeen South. We’ll make sure of it.
Three of his Scottish Conservative colleagues abstained. The MP for Angus (52% remain) Kirstene Hair, and her colleagues Douglas Ross of Moray (50% remain) and John Lamont of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Remain 57%) all abstained on a no deal. Thanks for your support in protecting your constituents’ interests guys.
David Mundell abstained on all the options, as government ministers didn’t vote. Falkirk’s MP, the SNP’s John McNally, was absent due to a family bereavement.
Every one of the eight different options put before the Commons was rejected. But it was worth noting that two of the options, the proposal to agree to Theresa May’s deal subject to a confirmatory referendum with remain as an option, and Kenneth Clark’s proposal for a customs union, got more votes than Theresa May’s deal did. The proposal for a confirmatory referendum was rejected by 27 votes. 27 Labour MPs voted against it.
The UK continues its stagger into the unknown. There’s no plan, no direction, only the certainty that whoever succeeds Theresa May will be every bit as bad for Scotland. We’re facing the very real prospect of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, or Michael Gove, or Jeremy Hunt, or Dominic Raab. The next phase of negotiations with the EU, the negotiations on the future relationship, the part we were always told was going to be the hard bit, will be headed by someone even worse than Theresa May. That’s the dreadful prospect facing a Scotland that doesn’t opt for independence. It’s a future of paralysis, of being marginalised, of seeing our public services being trashed.
In the referendums of 2014 and 2016 there was no option on the ballot paper for Scotland to scream uselessly from the sidelines while being ignored and traduced. But that’s what we’ve got. The UK doesn’t deliver for Scotland. We need to do it for ourselves.
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