When Prime Minister, Theresa May, ran a campaign on ‘strong and stable’ leadership at the 2017 General Election, it is very unlikely last week was what she had in mind. Mrs May suffered another embarrassing defeat when she brought her deal to the House of Commons for a second time, with MPs, once again, overwhelmingly rejecting it by a significant majority of 149.
Second time very unlucky, the tweaks to her deal which the Prime Minister had sweated over for more than a month to achieve were seemingly futile. Messy and mismanaged, the Meaningful Vote 2 was the sequel Parliamentarians never wanted.
A New Day Has Come
Tomorrow is a new day! Unless, of course, you are Theresa May. After a catastrophic defeat the night before, the Prime Minister dusted herself off on Wednesday to bring a vote to the House of Commons for MPs to rule out No Deal. It was a sure-fire way to appease the worries of her Parliamentary colleagues who were concerned about the implications of No Deal, except however, crashing out of the EU would still be the default option, regardless of how much MPs flexed their muscles. An arguably pointless vote by anyone’s standards which, nonetheless, saw the Government defeated once more.
In what was, quite possibly, the biggest fiscal non-event of the year, the Spring Statement was commended to the House on Wednesday by Chancellor, Philip Hammond, who chanced his luck by using public money as leverage to tempt MPs into voting for the Prime Minister’s canned Brexit deal.
Overall, it was a lacklustre statement with little to get excited about. However, after a vociferous national campaign to tackle ‘period poverty’ in schools and widespread pressure from opposition MPs, The Chancellor of the Exchequer did, however, announce funding for the Department for Education-led scheme to offer free sanitary products to girls in secondary schools across England. A glimmer of good news in troubling times, the move was a victory for activists, not Mr Hammond.
How Does a Moment Last Forever
If you listen carefully, you can just about hear the deep, shuddering sighs of EU politicians at the thought of the UK prolonging the agonising Brexit process. Westminster was swamped with noise and fury on Thursday night, a maelstrom of division and chaos, as MPs voted to extend Article 50. But only if the EU unanimously agrees to it.
Parliament may have been in meltdown but the silence from the EU was deafening. After making it explicitly clear it was either Mrs May’s Deal, No Deal or No Brexit, will or won’t they agree to an extension? What conditions could they demand and how long would Brexit be delayed by?
Like ever, in this long game of Brexit, no one was a clue.
If That’s What It Takes
Eight cabinet ministers, including the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, voted against Theresa May’s plan to delay Brexit, despite saying it was in the ‘national interest’ hours before.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, Business Secretary, Greg Clark, Justice Secretary, David Gauke, and Scotland Secretary, David Mundell, all abstained from the vote on No Deal despite being whipped to approve leaving the EU without a deal in a last minute u-turn.
Brexit superfan, Jacob Rees-Mogg, quickly condemned the move and said: “Collective responsibility requires Ministers to support government policy or to resign. It is a basic constitutional point.”
Convention dictates Cabinet ministers resign if they step out of line but the gang of four have all refused to give up their Government jobs and it is highly unlikely, at this crucial stage, Theresa May would give them the chop.
While cracks in the political system bore deeper than ever before, the Labour Party experienced another divide as Tom Watson launched a mutinous new ‘social democrat’ faction. A move that has already hoovered up 150 Blairite and Brownite Parliamentarians, it was the latest in a bid to distance themselves from the hard-left and increasingly unpopular Labour Leader.
A packed week by anyone’s standards and ongoing political uncertainty bordering on the profligate, it is anyone’s guess as to where the country will find itself at the end of the week.
by Jake Johnstone