Thick’s Turn, Parliament Facked

One of the characteristics of Tony Blair and New Labour was a delusional belief in their own intelligence and abilities. He and his cronies really did think they could open up the bonnet of the United Kingdom and rearrange the engine and gearbox so that it worked better. However, it soon became apparent they had no idea what they were doing. For example:

In 2003, Tony Blair chose his close friend and former flatmate Lord Falconer to be Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. At the same time, he announced his intention to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor and to make many other constitutional reforms. After much surprise and confusion, it became clear that the ancient office of Lord Chancellor could not be abolished without an Act of Parliament. Thus Lord Falconer duly appeared the following day in the House of Lords to carry out his duties from the Woolsack.

What is lacking in modern politicians is any sense of humility, the notion that perhaps things are that way for a reason and don’t need “improvement” from some grifter of average intelligence.

From 1911 to 2011, a British Prime Minister was allowed to call a general election at any time prior to the 5-year term limit. This meant that a government could, if they wished, go back to the public to confirm their mandate without having to wait in limbo until the 5 years were up. This seemed to work pretty well: early elections weren’t a feature of British political life, and we were mercifully free of constitutional crises.

Then in 2011 those two towering statesmen David Cameron and Nick Clegg introduced the Fixed Term Parliament Act, for reasons which could hardly be described as pressing. This removed the ability of a Prime Minister to call a general election, instead requiring a vote of no confidence or a two-third Commons vote. Fast forward to September 2019, and we have a Prime Minister who controls neither his own party nor parliament unable to move forward with his legislative agenda. The public have made their preferences clear, but parliament is defying both them and the government. Before the Fixed Term Parliament Act Boris Johnson could simply have called a general election, to secure a mandate for delivering Brexit (or not). But now he’s stuck: he can’t secure a two-thirds majority because the last thing these MPs want is to go before an angry public, and nobody is putting forward a vote of no confidence. So unless the antics of Jacob Rees-Mogg goads them into doing so, or Johnson somehow organises a no confidence vote against himself, we’re just stuck in deadlock.

This is the problem with modern politicians. They arrive in a bubble of hubris and set about meddling with things they know nothing about, consequences be damned. Regardless of your views on Brexit, it is revealing how utterly bereft of brains or talent our political classes have been for years.


37 thoughts on “Thick’s Turn, Parliament Facked

  1. I have to say, the spectacle of the various good and great jumping up and down about democracy, while fighting against any election that puts a no deal case to the public is quite something.

    Mr Ecks time has just about come….

  2. Then in 2011 those two towering statesmen David Cameron and Nick Clegg introduced the Fixed Term Parliament Act, for reasons which could hardly be described as pressing.

    Oh come on. The real reason was pressing and obvious: it was simply and only ever about removing from the Prime Minister of the coalition government the power to dissolve that government and seek a general election even if his coalition partners didn’t want it.

    That’s all it was ever about: short-term security.

    And in those terms it was quite necessary: no rational minor party could ever enter a coalition without something like it as a safeguard. But it was a major, major act of constitutional vandalism and I doubt its malign effects have even been fully felt yet.

  3. We will soon be faced with the scenario that Parliament will try to keep us in the EU, while simultaneously not allowing there to be an election for the people to have a say on the matter. This will not end well for those creating that situation.

    Boris (or rather Dominic Cummings) has played a blinder – he’s corralled all the Remainers and the Labour party (who aren’t entirely remain by any means) into a position that is fundamentally undemocratic, opposed to the wishes of over 50% of the electorate and utterly untenable. Not only that, if by various legal and Parliamentary shenanigans the Government can thwart Parliament’s attempts to block No Deal and extend the deadline, and we leave the EU by default, then Boris can legitimately claim it wasn’t him that took the UK out of the EU on a No Deal as Parliament was in charge of the process………

  4. The real reason was pressing and obvious: it was simply and only ever about removing from the Prime Minister of the coalition government the power to dissolve that government and seek a general election even if his coalition partners didn’t want it.

    Ah, okay. To be honest, I only became aware of the FTPA in the last month or so; the actual change passed me by. In my defence, I was in Lagos.

  5. S
    There have been previous coalitions without a massive rewrite of the rules, the “lib lab pact” springs readily to mind. Also the rule change bound Cameron but not Snr. Clegg so a stupid thing to agree to.

  6. But for the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (note orthographic pendantry) May could have made her Withdrawal Agreement a confidence vote a year or so ago; Parliament would have had to make its mind up between accepting it and a GE. The F-tPA (I refer the hon reader to the parenthetical comment I made some moments ago) has a lot to answer for.

  7. I’ve got to agree with others here that the Fixed Term Parliament’s Act is an abomination which cut a swathe through the constitution, removed a necessary balance from the monarchy and makes a mockery of parliamentary democracy.

    Like Nick Clegg, the man-child who birthed this abortion it should be consigned to the rubbish bin and the previous rules regarding proper government be restored.

    It enables governments weakened by division and strife (or governments set against their own electorate as seemed to be the case with Treason May) to carry on regardless. This is unacceptable and is an affront to those who call themselves democrats (very few in Parliament at the moment it seems).

    Labour is afraid of an election because they know their position on BRExit is unacceptable to a large minority within their party as well as Corbyn being the most unpopular political leader in modern history. However, the hard left entryists of Momentum have completely infiltrated all the levers of power within Labour, making him almost impossible to remove. This means that Labour will have to relearn the lessons of Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock all over again (with Momentum being the modern day equivalent of Militant of the 1980’s). Personally, I hope they DON’T learn the lesson and that Labour crashes and burns as it deserves to.

    Regardless, an election is both required and probably inevitable. I suspect that attempts to pass the 2/3rds majority required by the Fixed Term Parliament Act will be blocked by Labour and so a government bill explicitly calling an election will be moved (requiring only a simple majority). It will also (finally) demonstrate the pointless irrelevance of the FTPA.

    If the Tories are returned with a majority, then I hope one of their first acts will be to repeal this pointless travesty of parliamentary sovereignty before it does actual harm, because we know full well that Comrade Corbyn would use the FTPA to cling onto power, regardless of the feelings of parliament or the electorate. Better to kill it before it inflicts real damage.

  8. Guido reports this morning that there is a (?viable) plan in the Lords to filibuster debate on Hilary Benn’s deadlock Bill until Prorogation. That would cause Benn’s Bill to be lost because a new Session begins on Oct 14 when the Prorogation ends. So the opposition will have to repeat this week’s antics all over again. And the Lords will be able to filibuster again.

    Even if Benn’s Bill eventually completes its Parliamentary stages, there is precedent (courtesy of Tony Blair) for the Government not to present the Bill to the Queen for Royal Assent. Without Royal Assent, the Bill is not law…

  9. @ John Galt, September 4, 2019 at 12:58 pm
    I wonder what you make of this comment from one of Raedwald’s regulars (a Lefty Remainer, by the way!):

    “Momentum account for only eight per cent of Labour members on the other hand, and they are a pretty moderate, pro-European Union movement anyway”

    As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter if they only make up 1 per cent, when they have almost total control…

  10. @decnine

    If you read the Guido piece I think you did a few days ago, it was poorly written. The issue here isn’t “royal assent” – it’s too late by that stage – but “Queen’s consent” when parliament interferes with the exercise of the royal prerogative (in this case over conducting treaty negotiation). For the legalities see:

    Note that it isn’t as simple as the government deciding. In terms of political practicality I think it’s unlikely since the optics would be appalling (like prorogation it may be legal but “not the done thing” and looks really dodgy to voters who don’t have a taste for obscure constitutional law) and Boris might well prefer an election at this stage.

  11. “Note that it isn’t as simple as the government deciding. In terms of political practicality I think it’s unlikely since the optics would be appalling (like prorogation it may be legal but “not the done thing” and looks really dodgy to voters who don’t have a taste for obscure constitutional law) and Boris might well prefer an election at this stage.”

    Thats where the Cummins masterplan kicks in. IMO the plan is to provoke Parliament with prorogation (done), get them to act and seize control of the agenda (now done). They will then pass another Bill demanding Boris get another A50 extension (in progress). Boris in the meantime says ‘If you pass this Bill, I’ll demand an election under the FTPA’ (safe in the knowledge that he may not even get a simple majority, let alone the 2/3rds required). But crucially is ready to fight one, if it comes to it.

    We are then in a position where Parliament has denied Boris an election on the Brexit issue (because the Remain side know they’d lose it). He will then be in the moral and politically defensible position of being able to use the Executive powers that the Government have to stymie Parliaments demands for an extension to A50, on the grounds that they are standing in the way of Brexit AND an election to determine the way ahead. Its People vs Parliament, and there’s only one winner of that, either at the ballot box, or the court of public opinion.

    The whole run up to this has IMO been masterly. Cummins/Boris have herded all the anti-Brexit elements of Parliament into making a stand together, even the bits such as Labour which are not 100% Remain, and positioned the Tory party as the party of Brexit (in Parliament at least). They have campaigned from the word go as if an election is in the offing, and have been rewarded with a decent rise in the polls, which has scared the Remain camp from seeking an early election. If they can now get Parliament to vote for delay to Brexit AND no election, then I think Boris will force through No Deal by blocking any Parliamentary A50 Extension Bill.

    Cummins strikes me as a tough cookie, he won’t care about the jumping up and down by the usual suspects, he’ll have his eyes on the prize – getting the UK out of the EU. I don’t think he’ll worry about indulging in ‘ungentlemanly conduct’ if it gets him what he set out to achieve.

  12. @Jim

    I don’t know if your timings make sense – once the bill has passed, the government can’t stop it. The Queen’s consent issue can be used to kill the bill at third reading. I’m not sure how the timeline of threats and failed election votes you propose would have time to fit together to lay the groundwork for the refusal of consent you propose.

  13. Tim, the claim ‘the public have made their preferences clear’ could have been lifted straight out of BoJo’s Big Book of Post-Truth Politics. Three years ago ‘No Deal’ was ‘Project Fear’, now we’ve got the likes of Gove and Raab running around attempting to convince the public that statements they made on record are figments of public imagination, instead they were always warning about ‘No Deal’ it’s just all evidence has fallen down the same sofa as the technical details of ‘alternative arrangements for the Irish border’ (preventing the EU from seeing them). The same sofa had the cunning plan for ‘easy’ free trade deals, the EU ‘biting our hands off’ for a deal, and them ‘needing us more than we need them’ etc… until such ‘aspirations’ were redacted from official Cabinet history (but not public record).

    Analogies to Orwell are overused, even in the ‘post-truth’ era, but it’s getting ridiculous now. The current flow of revisionism is up there with ‘Oceania is at war with Eurasia. They have always been at war with Eurasia’. But the one hopeful thing about having dishonest ministers is you know they’re dishonest. So this week Boris & Co can claim the public preference was always for No Deal (with resulting food and medicine shortages etc); next week they could volte-face and claim exact opposite and say that was always public preference.

    As for an election, there will be one, the arithmetic makes it inevitable, but Boris needs it before a potential ‘No Deal’ exit at Halloween to have a decent chance of winning. Go after a ‘No Deal’ and no level of revisionism will convince people that ‘Project Fear” was what they wanted all along but didn’t realise it; go after selling out the hard-Brexit death cultists by signing a sensible deal with EU and the Farage bandwagon will run him over, in either case we’ll end up with a left of centre coalition government. Intriguingly it’s pretty much taken as read that Cummings is willing to throw the economy and civil society under a bus to get the Brexit he wants, but is Boris willing to go under that same bus?

  14. MJW–Lying Project Fear bullshit. Don’t you traitors EVER get tired of spewing the same old shite.

    MBE–Despite your airy dismissal both QC and RA can be withheld. The bill is not passed until RA is given. If withholding RA worked for Bliar it is good enough for BoJo to use. And again bollocks to the optics.

  15. There is also no reason that BoJo couldn’t order his own side to vote against him in a VONC. People would know well that it was a crazy antic forced on him by remainaic treason and abuse of Parliament. Jizz and all the rest would either have to support him–including the morons and treacherous weasels BoJo just sacked–or the GE would be on. It would be Jizz doing the latter hoop-jumping that would likely finish what little credibility he has. A man to whom treason is all is pretty much finished.

  16. Three years ago Leave told us the ‘No Deal’ scenario was a nightmare concocted by ‘Project Fear’ and Leave was the bunch of wonderous upsides now referred to as ‘aspirations’. Now, ‘No Deal’ is the people’s preference or the ‘will of the people’ or ‘what the public wants’ and we’re supposed to believe that when that Boris, Gove, Raab etc said we’d be getting unicorns and rainbows we misheard them and what they called ‘Project Fear’ back then, is what the public wanted all along!

    Btw I’m no fan of Corbyn, there’s lots of things I dislike about him, but it’s a stretch to blame him for the Conservative Party’s internal neurosis spewing out into a national psychiatric break. It was Cameron who thought he was going to shut the swivel eyed loons up with a referendum, then botched it and the death cult took over the party.

    But I’m sure it’s all going to be great, just as soon as we get whatever great benefits Brexit will give us that we don’t presently have (medicine shortages? food shortages? who knows?) Maybe we’ll be able to sell as much stuff outside the EU as Germany does? Maybe we’ll be able to import the sort of stuff you find in the world foods aisle at Tesco or in the Asian supermarkets, which we cannot have at the moment because of the EU. I’m really looking forward to it!

  17. @MJW et al. No deal is upon us as the government decided to make the negotiations about staying in the EU as opposed to leaving. If the May government hasn’t tried for BRINO then no deal wouldn’t have occurred at all. It’s disingenuous in the extreme to blame the current crowd for the screw up that was May.

    And besides parliament voted en mass for the referendum and to trigger Art50. Hardly the case they can just blame everyone else but themselves.

  18. @Ecks

    Withholding royal assent would rather be the nuclear option wouldn’t it? That really would look like a coup.

  19. “Like Nick Clegg, the man-child who birthed this abortion (the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act) it should be consigned to the rubbish bin and the previous rules regarding proper government be restored.

    Unfortunately, one gathers it’s not as simple as that. There never was legislation setting out when a PM could call an election. So repealing it would mean a PM couldn’t call an election at all.. Now they’ve got it, they’re lumbered with it. That’s what happens when you drive a legislative coach & horses through what was customary precedent. As the current bout of lawfare is doing. Writing legal precedent & legal interpretations into the law books where there was parliamentary custom.
    Whatever happens, parliamentary democracy in the UK is never going to be the same. You’re likely going to be getting yourselves a written constitution. And good luck with that. The US constitution was at least written by men who could count up to eleven without taking their shoes off. Just imagine a constitution written by this bunch of no-hopers.

  20. Tim: “Regardless of your views on Brexit, it is revealing how utterly bereft of brains or talent our political classes have been for years.”

    And right there you have put your finger on the unspoken downside of Brexit. Yes, the people of the UK get out from under the thumb of those Eurocrats — and instead find themselves back under the thumb of the incompetent Oxbridge metropolitans who in less than a generation took the UK from the ‘Empire on which the Sun Never Set’ to the ‘Sick Man of Europe’.

    Brexit without serious reform in the governance of the UK is going to be a serious disappointment for everyone — not least for the one UK citizen out of 8 who is a committed Brexiteer (i.e., voted for the Brexit Party in the recent European elections). And none of the current occupants is talking about serious post-separation reform.

  21. @thud

    “The third stage of legislation is normally a formality. It is that the Crown must agree to the legislation through the prerogative of Royal Assent. After all, the sovereign body in the United Kingdom is not Parliament, it is the Crown-in-Parliament. As every first year law student knows, the last time Royal Assent was refused was in 1708 under Queen Anne when the Scottish Militia Bill was rejected on the advice of ministers, according to Munro (54). In 1914, George V very nearly withheld his assent to the Irish Home Rule Bill but was persuaded not to, again on ministerial advice.”

    Don’t think Tony Blair was about in the 18th century.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible, and that article details some situations in which its use is plausible, but royal assent is absolutely nuclear option, constitutionally explosive stuff. Hence unlikely, especially given the ramifications it’ll have among the cabinet, loyal-ish pro-deal Tory MPs uncomfortable with Johnson’s direction and less hardline members of the electorate. If it happens I’ll give you and Ecksy a gold star for far-sightedness.

  22. “”.. And none of the current occupants is talking about serious post-separation reform..””

    That`s the point is with “Nazi Trap”. Canada is out of EU and they have mass immigration, poverty, guns forbidden, hate speech forbidden , plastic bags forbidden.

    Mao China was also out of EU and should I tell what college students and journalists and other funny folk arranged there ?

    I think that the most important task for post Brexit society is getting rid from the Nazis. UK must be paradise island like Haiti. Progressive people united with immigrants know what to do.

  23. I must find out more about the Scottish Militia Bill. The idea of private armies of Jocksters* running loose fair chills the blood. One can understand why Queen Anne had to put her foot down, sharpish.

    *Not counting Celtic & Rangers, of course.

  24. @Dave Ward – Regarding your quote

    “Momentum account for only eight per cent of Labour members on the other hand, and they are a pretty moderate, pro-European Union movement anyway”

    It MAY well be that Momentum only accounts for eight per cent of Labour members, but the thing with the way that Labour works is that it is “those that turn up and vote” that makes the difference. Momentum has a good record of getting folks to turn up and vote, either for their chap or against some Blairite.

    Same applies for Labour Party elections, that 8% of the membership only goes towards those that Momentum says “ARE THEIR RECOMMENDED CANDIDATES” (i.e. Hard Left or members of Momentum and usually both).

    This gives Momentum an amount of political leverage that is disproportionate to other groups within the Labour membership at large.

    As for being “moderate”? Don’t make me laugh. Even the “pro-European” is a bit of a stretch, given that they share Grandpa Deaths desire to leave the EU so that he can remove the shackles that prevent the country being a “true Soviet”.

  25. I think that the most important task for post Brexit society is getting rid from the Nazis.

    So who exactly are the Nazis in this context? The Brexiteers / Spartans of Leave or the various sorry groups “supporting” Remain (while it is to their advantage to do so)…like Momentum, Antifa, StopBrexit et al.

  26. @bis and @gavin

    Both good points about the constitution and general makeup of the UK political system and its functioning. Rather lost in the general noise about Brexit. Funnily enough I made a similar point to BiS on another discussion forum, that the codified constitution was becoming increasingly likely (and while I wasn’t a fan in general, the amount of messing about with precedent by this government, the speaker and Blair/Cameron was making it more desirable). Oddly I was shot down by a guy who’s a vocal support of the FTPA – it takes all sorts.

  27. MyBurningEars — Full disclosure, it will make no difference to me directly whether the UK post-separation from the EU turns into heaven or hell, since I am a foreigner. However, I suspect many of us foreigners will be paying a lot of attention to what happens to the UK after Brexit — Does getting rid of a layer of remote government help or hurt? I know what I hope the experiment demonstrates — but only time will tell.

    That is why it is so mystifying that the people who are most enthusiastic about Brexit don’t seem to have any plans for what they are going to do afterwards, except celebrate. It has been obvious all along that many of the UK’s problems and missed opportunities are home-grown, not the fault of Brussels. If the UK after Brexit slides back into the sorry status quo ante of the 1960s & 70s, it will be very sad.

  28. So what “deal” is it that we mustn’t leave without.

    They are happy for us to leave it would appear, just as long as we have a deal. The only one around is treason’s.

    So what happens if they say no extension and no negotiation? Is it just me or have they already sort of said that?

    I just can’t understand the smug triumphalism of the remainiacs. What is it they imagine they have just done?

    This country bankrupted itself saving Europeans from themselves and one of the problems it faced from 1945 was that sterling was no longer the international reserve currency it had once been. Holders of sterling were sending it back.

    The EU likes to boast of the status of the Euro as a global reserve currency with ambitions to match, or maybe exceed the dollar.

    What happens if holders of Euros start sending them back and what would this do to target 2? Germany basically underwrites that.

    Just askin.

  29. So what happens if they say no extension and no negotiation?

    Frustration of BRExit, giving the Remoaners (who are in cahoots with the EU) time to get on with Stage 2, which is find some way of repudiating BRExit without the blame landing on individual members or parties. My guess would be some procedural move on the EU’s part such as amending Article 50 such that failure to leave after a given time-frame equates to withdrawal of Article 50 Notification, at which point the argument will be “well it’s impossible to agree to leave, so we’ll just have to stay”.

    Just the sort of underhand and shabby deal we’ve come to expect from the Remoaners.

  30. @Gavin Longmuir
    It’s a very good point you make. There is much wrong with the EU, and the prospects of reform are limited, but the problems Brexit would apparently ‘solve’ are mostly nothing to do with EU, they are UK domestic policy issues. Germany currently exports far more out of the EU than the UK, the UK leaving the EU isn’t going to change that. Ending free movement of people will do nothing in regards to increased non-EU net immigration. Economic productivity issues require some sort of rebalancing of the economy away from financial services, but that’s not what ERG style hard-Brexit is tilting at. The EU was a bogeyman for the right wing of the Tory Party (and some fringey hard-leftists for other reasons), only now they’ve managed to convince a sizeable minority of the electorate into some kind of millenialist cult.

  31. @MJW

    The point – for me at least, don’t know about anybody else – is Brexit is escaping from a catastrophe. Economic, which is already creating the political.

    I believe a lot has been going on behind the scenes and this “unplanned leap in the dark” as far as I’m concerned is to remain.

  32. For all the talk up – thread about how Boris is going to magically block the bill with whatever constitutionally controversial mechanisms are in his possession, he’s given up even the basic Lords filibuster. Think he’s going to let it pass, folks, presumably so he can try for an election again afterwards. Still a change I might be wrong mind you.

  33. MJW

    Financial services are under 7% of UK GDP

    Higher than Germany and France but only by about 3% of GDP.

    Increased immigration from new accession countries was definitely an EU related problem – claiming that non-EU immigration is the main problem is utterly foolish – the bulk of working class leavers are definitely driven by a desire to keep out Eastern European low skill workers.

    I’ve found that remainers are about as ill informed as leavers in general.

  34. “””..So who exactly are the Nazis in this context?…”””

    I think that good educated people who are concerned about our children future, find them out.

    Like they found Nazis in Germany 80 years ago. Or there may be some problems with agriculture. Soviet Union was out of EU but somehow good educated people found out that some farmers may be kulaks and we ended up 50 million dead.

    Do not underestimate good educated people next to your door.

  35. good educated people

    So the local members of the Constituency Labour Party, Momentum, the unions, etc. all expect they are going to be part of the nomenklatura of a new regime. How very 1930’s of them.

    Can’t see it happening though really, this ain’t Germany, France or any of those other social-based countries which are subject to that sort of thing. There are “people who enjoy meetings” obviously and they are welcome to continue boring people in small, tired rooms with the paint peeling off the walls until kingdom come. Can’t see that sort of thing catching on generally in the native population. Maybe in the ethnics, but that’s a different matter.

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