By former MP for Stirling, Steven Paterson
The Meaningful Vote on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal should have been the defining moment of her premiership, but after three days of the scheduled five days of debate in the House of Commons, and speeches from no less than 164 members of parliament, the government used a technical device to postpone the remainder of the debate. It was an act of political cowardice necessitated by a desperate misjudgement over the Prime Minister’s deal.
Given this Government’s record on keeping its promises, it remains to be seen if the debate is ever concluded, but for what it’s worth, the Government has guaranteed the debate and the vote on it will be revived before its own deadline of 21 January 2019. We’ll see.
The whole episode was an absolute shambles, and the most compelling evidence yet that this government has lost all authority and credibility. But for as long as it stumbles on, it will be assailed and harangued from all sides, including its own, and will lurch from one crisis headlong into the next.
That’s not to say there wasn’t logic to the Prime Minister’s decision to pull the vote on its penultimate day. She was facing a certain and catastrophic defeat, which would likely have been too much for her tenuous grip on the title of Prime Minister to bear, and the calculation that a shameful retreat was better than a career-ending defeat wasn’t difficult. The real puzzle is how she ever thought her deal had a snowball’s chance of passing given the implacable opposition on her own backbenches.
By Steven Paterson, former Stirling MP
The viciousness of the Tory factional infighting intensified this week, as the cooker was turned up in the Brexit kitchen.
First in to ratchet up the heat was the Tory’s confidence and supply partners, the DUP, keen to ensure their threats to either bring down the Prime Minister or her entire government were taken seriously.
They have now proved what some naïve Tories don’t seem to have understood: that the spending of £1 billion of taxpayers’ money in order to purchase confidence and supply from the ten DUP MPs doesn’t necessarily mean that they will provide the Tory Government with either confidence or supply. Anyone who harbours any remaining doubt that the DUP always had the whip hand in this one-sided deal should simply consider that they have already had almost half the £1 billion bung of our money paid out, and yet can still effectively and believably threaten to collapse this parliament. And, of course, collapsing political institutions is something of a speciality of theirs.
By Former Stirling MP, Steven Paterson The Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this week presents yet another critical test for a Prime Minister whose entire premiership seems to have involved crisis management. Now I’m the first to admit that her durability in the face of the constant onslaught, most viciously […]
By Former Stirling MP, Steven Paterson
The reality of the UK’s bargaining position was made abundantly clear this week when the Prime Minister faced abject humiliation at the EU Summit at Salzburg.
In no uncertain terms, the EU27 demonstrated both their unity of purpose and complete rejection of Theresa May’s Chequers Agreement. Dismissed by her extreme hard Brexit opponents at home and now explicitly rejected by the EU27 she is attempting to negotiate with on the continent, the Chequers Agreement is officially dead and buried.
So where does this leave us? Well, perhaps hurtling towards a ‘no deal’ that only the hard right Brexit brigade on the Tory backbenches yearn for. Make no mistake that this is the worst outcome possible, but with the Prime Minister having gambled the last of her credibility on Chequers or bust, she’s bust.
Indeed, on Friday lunchtime when it was announced she would be making a statement from Downing Street, I thought Mrs May had finally realised the impossible position she was in and was going to bow to the inevitable, but instead we were treated to yet more unconvincing fighting talk from a Prime Minister hanging on for dear life in Number 10.
By Steven Paterson former MP for Stirling
Such was the surrealism of the week just witnessed that the Prime Minister reminded me of that scene from the classic Mel Brooks spoof Western Blazing Saddles, when the new sheriff arrives in the town of Rock Ridge to find himself somewhat less than welcome.
Pointing a gun to her head, the Prime Minister warned: ”Hold it! The next man makes a move, the United Kingdom gets it!” Hold it, men. She’s not bluffing.
It seems that every day that passes sees one development or another that pushes any kind of deal between the UK and the EU27 over Brexit further out of reach and less attainable, and underlines the deathlike grip the extreme hard Brexiters have over this process. They want no deal, and it looks increasingly as if they will be able to force such an eventuality on a reluctant parliament which has become as paralysed and powerless as the Government which tries to lead it.
Take the knife-edge votes on Monday and Tuesday for example. The hard line European Research Group, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg and supported by Stirling’s Tory MP Stephen Kerr, tabled amendments to the Government’s customs bill designed to gut the recent “Chequers Agreement”, leaving the Government with the invidious choice of rolling over and accepting the amendments or facing a catastrophic defeat which would likely have ended Theresa May’s premiership.
This week’s comment from Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling
The tedious creep towards the Brexit endgame suddenly accelerated in the past week or so, as the looming negotiation deadline in September finally forced the Prime Minister to nail down some actual proposals at her Chequers showdown.
Cue the resignations of the Brexit Secretary David Davis, who had clearly been side-lined and ignored by the Prime Minister, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, whose political calculation after seeing Davies resign on a point of principle was that his chances of becoming the next Prime Minister were better served in resigning too.
possibly your future PM and to quote Frankie Boyle, “a cross between a serious head injury and an unmade bed……” scary thought.
Image licensed from depositphoto.com
Any question that the Prime Minister has seen off her extreme hard Brexit opponents is entirely illusory, of course. Both Johnson and Davies will be vociferous critics of her Brexit negotiations from the backbenches and in the press, and the precarious arithmetic for the minority Tory Government in the House of Commons means that each time a significant vote on the matter comes along, the risk of defeat is very real.
It’s anyone’s guess how many such defeats May’s administration can take before collapsing, but we are probably about to find out. Votes on customs arrangements take place in the Commons today (Monday), and the hard Brexit brigade, whose leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has been scathing in his criticism of the Prime Minister’s position and the White Paper published following the Chequers conference, may seek to derail the Government depending on the level of support he can count on.
I watched First Minister’s Questions on Thursday and witnessed the poorest performance from Tory leader Ruth Davidson in quite a while as she was resoundingly trounced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
It wasn’t just that she didn’t land a glove on the First Minister, it was the fact that she raised an issue – the Cambridge Analytica scandal – which everyone and their dog knows the Tories are mired in up to their necks, it was that she shamelessly raised it anyway with the full knowledge that our gleeful, servile mainstream media press pack would chase the stick she threw regardless. Even as the First Minister humiliated her in the embarrassingly one-sided clash, Ms Davidson retained the same silly grin on her face as she knew that simply by raising the issue, she had succeeded in her mission of deflection.
The Prime Minister’s Cabinet reshuffle was supposed to be a re-launch of her flagging premiership but instead served as a New Year reminder that what serves as a Government at present is a zombie administration somehow continuing to exist despite having expired some time ago.
The omens were not good for the Prime Minister when an overeager staffer at Number 10 incorrectly broadcast to the world via Twitter that Transport Secretary had been moved to Tory Party Chairman. The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before it had been widely promoted by the media.
After this early gaff, the live coverage of Theresa May attempting to exert her authority over her government quickly went from boring to utter tedium, as it became clear that there was precious little shuffling of ministerial posts going on. To nobody’s surprise, blunderbuss Boris couldn’t be moved for fear that on the backbenches, he would act as a magnet for the malcontents and quickly lead a challenge that would finally put the current Prime Minister out of her misery. It says it all about the wretched state of Westminster politics that this awful prospect is taken seriously by anyone, but it is.
And Boris’s fellow big beasts were also too powerful to be confronted. Hour after hour went by with the only updates from number ten confirming which Minister’s weren’t being shuffled about or out of the Government. Number 10’s Twitter account broke exclusive news with mundane regularity: “Philip Hammond to remain Chancellor of the Exchequer” – shock. “Amber Rudd to remain as Home Secretary” – stunning.
By former Stirling MP, Steven Paterson
The metaphor “death by a thousand cuts” probably has its origin in the tortuous and brutal form of execution known as Ling Chi, which was used in medieval China for heinous crimes such as treason.
The phrase which is now commonplace in English means a slow, painful, incremental and inevitable demise. Such a certain death can hardly be more accurately applied than to the slow collapse of the present UK Tory Government.
We have had Tory Governments imposed on us here in Scotland for the majority of my lifetime, and democracy for Scotland is at the heart of my politics. In the most basic of terms, Scotland should always get the government Scotland votes for.
Unfortunately, the cherished Union means that in governance terms, “we get what we’re telt”. Or to put it more bluntly, “shut up, Scotland, and eat your cereal”. However, even comparing the present incarnation of the Tory regime with its predecessors, Theresa May’s class of 2017 is as weak as dishwater to a degree unprecedented.