Two years ago, when 29 March 2019 was set up as Brexit Day – what Nigel Farage called the UK’s Independence Day – who could have believed that the British government would have descended so far into utter incompetence and shambles as to be in all seriousness offering up a totally blind Brexit to parliament and people today?
It must be the greatest failure of British statecraft of all time -all the government’s fault, all Theresa May’s fault, all the Tory Party’s fault. Yet would you realise this if you relied on the BBC for your information?
The Brexit end game now resembles the closing minutes of a football final where both teams are exhausted, have abandoned all footballing skills, and are just punting the ball up and down the pitch in the desperate hope that somehow the ball will go in the net before the whistle blows. It’s end to end stuff.
Today is Theresa May’s last desperate attack upfield. As a last minute step to “get the deal over the line”, it was long planned by the Prime Minister. Finally getting the ERG on board for her deal, it would come down to the arithmetic of getting more Labour MPs to vote for it than there were Tory remain rebels to vote against it. But since the move was planned, we have long since descended into farce.
Last Sunday the “grand wizards” of the Tory ERG – Boris, Rees-Mogg, IDS, babyface Dominic Raab – went to Chequers and agreed to vote for Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement today on the basis of a promise that she will resign and they could decide which of them would be the next Prime Minister by the means of a Tory party leadership election. It was a nakedly shameless performance by the public school Toryboys.
Mercifully it now looks like that not only is their last shot at goal going to fail, but it may banana into a fatal own goal. The DUP have told them to fuck off, and so have the true believer half of the ERG. Boris Johnson and the ridiculous Dominic Raab, who were willing to spaff the country up the wall just to get the keys to No.10 (to use Boris’s own language), may have ended up just spaffing their own support up the wall.
Yet even now, incredibly, it remains possible that some of the North of England’s Labour MPs are actually going to vote for the May withdrawal agreement tonight. Let’s see.
MPs take back control
On Monday the ball will be punted up to the other end of the pitch, and we will go into the second day of the indicative vote process led by backbench MPs, having wrenched control of the parliamentary timetable away from the government.
Monday – three days after “independence day” – could at long last be the day when the Brexit way forward comes into view. And it is then when the actions of Northern Labour MPs will be vital.
It is worth shining a spotlight on the behaviour of Northern Labour MPs in Wednesday’s indicative votes. As everyone knows, none of the eight options succeeded in getting a majority. (The BBC immediately followed the government propaganda line that this was a shambles and showed that MPs could not be trusted with charting the way forward. In fact, it was always intended that Wednesday’s vote would tee up a debate to be had over the weekend with Monday as decision day.)
What ought to be more widely known is that two of the propositions could have gained a majority on Wednesday if Labour MPs had not opposed it.
45 Labour MPs defied the Labour whip to either vote against or abstain on Margaret Beckett’s proposition that any Brexit deal should go to a confirmatory referendum. Of these, no fewer than 32 were MPs for Northern seats.
Just look at the list of places – all places where people voted for Brexit and where their MPs judge their constituents still want it, and want it so much they are not prepared to put the actual Brexit deal to the democratic test of a referendum.
That people in places like Wigan, or Jarrow, or Batley & Spen can still be believing in Brexit after the last 2-3 years is the North’s tragedy. When was the last time anybody even bothered to say what possible benefit Brexit will bring for people in the North’s towns? All anybody is saying is respect the 2016 vote or “just get on with it”.
Give credit to the grand wizards, they are doing what they are doing for a logical reason – they are doing it for the money and for the trappings of high office. They have made their promises to the City and to Wall Street that they will privatise the NHS, and allow all manner of looting of the British public realm, and offer up the British people as debt slaves to them. What reason have the people of Heywood and Middleton, or Don Valley, or Blyth Valley got for still going for Brexit?
Although more and more Northerners are grasping that Brexit is suicide for the region – either a fast demise under no deal, or a slow inexorable decline under May’s deal – it is a tragedy that so many people, especially the retired, have still not faced up to this. There comes a point in the face of the blindingly obvious that staying ignorant becomes an active choice.
We can still rescue the North from Brexit, and should, but a lot of damage that will take years to put right has already been done. The two main parties must pay a political price for this. Future posts will discuss what this should be.
So it was 286-344.
Jacob Rees-Mogg couldn’t even deliver half the ERG, never mind the DUP. He trooped through the lobby to vote for Theresa May’s deal and all he achieved was to spaff his own minimal remaining credibility up the wall, joining Boris Johnson in the Eton mess.
4 Labour MPs joined Jacob and Boris to vote for Theresa May’s deal, 3 of them from the North: Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), Rosie Cooper (West Lancs) and Caroline Flint (Don Valley). 2 abstained, both from the North*: Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) and Dennis Skinner (Bolsover). (*working on Northern Umbrella’s rule that north Derbyshire can count as the North if we want it to.)
It is rumoured that the going rate for a vote in favour of the deal was £10m per constituency. (Link to tweet to follow). Will they now get the money??