On Tuesday I walked through the media tents and contending Brexiteers and Remainers outside Westminster on a darkening January afternoon. I’ve reported from that patch of grass on and off for over 40 years, often urging people to take more interest in politics. I should have been more careful over what I wished for. People are interested now as they shout and tweet from wholly divided camps. The nation is ripping itself apart.
As Downtown’s Chief Executive explains eloquently in his blog, our parliamentary system is unable to cope. A system designed to give all power to a government cannot deal with the compromises needed in the current situation. The proportional representation that Frank calls for would result in coalitions requiring compromise. Just like our democratic participation in the European Union requires compromise. We aren’t shut out. Our voice is heard. Sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t but we are there with our democratically elected MEP’s and our democratically elected ministers.
Quoting Tony Blair approvingly has become the crime of the century according to Brexiteers, so here goes. The former Prime Minister says we are faced with a choice between a painful No Deal Brexit, and a pointless one where we have a close relationship with the EU but with no say.
The latter possibility is more real now as the Prime Minister is forced to hold talks with her political opponents. I am not optimistic they will go well.
Up to now she has only been interested in appeasing the Democratic Unionists and the European Research Group. At the last minute to seek the support of people who’s job it is to oppose the government, is unlikely to end well.
This is particularly because those stupid red lines all seem still to be in place. Jeremy Corbyn is right to say that No Deal must be off the table. The Chancellor, Philip Hammond and Business Secretary David Gauke are right to hint that a Customs Union can be discussed.
If the talks fail, then we are faced with several possibilities. Even though there is more support for stopping No Deal than anything else, it might just happen. The size of Mrs May’s deal defeat amazed me. I said I might get egg on my face and I apologise for thinking the majority against her could be under a 100. Bloody-mindedness is rampant in the House of Commons so don’t dismiss us crashing out. The idea of the Liaison Committee stopping a hard Brexit has just collapsed. The suggestion that MPs could take control is silly. Surely no government could stay in office as a bystander whilst the Commons ran things. Furthermore, will Labour want such a precedent for when they are in office?
Let us hope there are enough members of the Cabinet to force Mrs May to take an open approach to the talks which might lead to suspending Article 50 or a very soft Brexit. The latter would help those of us who will hope to point out soon that the whole project was wrong, and we can begin the campaign, with young people, to re-join an EU that is likely to be radically reformed by the challenges it will be forced to face.
Power to the North
I haven’t time to discuss this in detail today, but I note that Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister is talking about a Department for the North with tax raising powers! It seems to lack democratic accountability, but it looks like John Prescott’s turn of the century Northern Way with bells.
It’s a pity that the Tories, with the shameful connivance of their Lib Dem partners, scrapped the regional structure in place in 2010. It sent out a message that the North doesn’t matter that partly led to the Leave vote in 2016.
Follow me @JimHancockUK