I think my colleagues on the pro-Brexit side of the aisle have been a little unkind in their response to John Bercow’s announcement that he’ll be standing down as chief referee in the House of Commons. Yes, he’s clearly done everything in his power to make life as difficult as possible for those MPs who want to implement the result of the 2016 referendum. Yes, his attitude to parliamentary precedent has been completely inconsistent, citing obscure, supposedly binding conventions to obstruct Brexiters one minute, then casually disregarding longstanding constitutional conventions the next. And, yes, the language he uses to express his contempt for any Conservative MP who so much as grimaces at one of his nakedly partisan rulings is unparliamentary, to put it mildly. ‘I couldn’t give a flying flamingo,’ etc.
But all of this is to overlook the vital public service Bercow has performed. Not as Speaker, obviously, but as the living embodiment of Short Man Syndrome. I’m on the small side myself and am constantly at risk of developing a Napoleon complex. When asked how tall I am, I tell people I’m ‘five-foot-eight-and-a-half’ — and that ‘and-a-half’ tells you everything you need to know about how insecure I am. Someone only has to challenge my authority — my kids refusing to go to bed, for instance — and my first thought is that I’m not being taken seriously because of my height. Even if a car refuses to stop at a zebra crossing, I attribute it to my size. But to prevent myself flying into an indignant rage, all I need do is conjure up a picture of the Member of Parliament for Buckingham, spluttering with self-righteous anger like some red-faced, angry dwarf. Once I can see Bercow in my mind’s eye, I know that if I do take umbrage I will just come across as some ridiculous, shouty little twerp. (To read more, click here.)
I didn’t think the smug triumphalism of the Remainer Alliance could get any more nauseating, but this afternoon it did. I’m thinking of John Bercow’s announcement that he’s stepping down as Speaker of the House of Commons and the 90+ minutes of sycophantic tributes from all those MPs who think the electorate made a grave mistake in voting to leave the European Union.
Honestly, the Conservatives should produce a highlight reel and release it as a Party Political Broadcast during the next General Election campaign. Here was the political class in Westminster at its worst – lavishing praise on the Speaker because they’re so appreciative of his efforts to obstruct the will of the British people. (To read more, click here.)
Historically, the private sector has been conservative with a small “c”, acting as a counter-weight to the dominance of progressive ideology in the public sector. But in the past 10 years most large corporations have embraced the full panoply of virtue-signalling mumbo jumbo, from “safe spaces” to “gender neutral” toilets.
At Credit Suisse, they’ve even introduced a “reverse mentoring” programme whereby fresh-faced recruits take senior executives under their wing and teach them how to be better “allies” to their BIPOC and LGBTQ+ colleagues. (To read more, click here.)
Maria Caulfield, the local MP, describes it as “political correctness gone mad” and it’s hard to disagree. The Priory School, a co-ed comprehensive in Lewes, turned children away at the school gate earlier this week because they weren’t wearing the new “gender neutral” uniform.
Teenage girls turned up in skirts instead of the regulation grey trousers and the school’s headteacher had to enlist two community police officers to prevent them going to lessons. This may be the first time a school has called in the authorities to enforce non-attendance.
The school justified its new policy by claiming the new uniform will “address inequality”. You might think it would be simpler to keep separate boys’ and girls’ uniforms and allow the children to wear whichever one they feel most comfortable in. That’s the approach taken by some schools. But apparently that wasn’t sufficiently egalitarian for the Priory.
Not all the pupils share this ultra-liberal zeal. A petition started by a year 11 student objecting to the new policy has attracted 386 signatures. Female students protesting outside the school held up banners that read “choice” and several boys turned up wearing skirts to express their solidarity. Or perhaps just to have a laugh. (To read more, click here.)
The politicians trying to stop Brexit held a rally outside Parliament last night. Calling themselves ‘the Remain Alliance’ and demanding a ‘People’s Vote’, they claimed to be standing up for ‘democracy’ against the ‘unelected Prime Minister’ whom they accused of carrying out a ‘coup’. They included Jo Swinson, Ian Blackford, Caroline Lucas, Emily Thornberry, Dominic Grieve, Jess Phillips, Phillip Lee, Liz Saville Roberts and Diane Abbott.
Incredibly, nearly all of these MPs then trooped back into the House of Commons to vote against Boris’s call for a General Election. Yes, you read that correctly. They passionately denounced Boris for being unelected and then, without pausing for breath, blocked his attempt to hold an election. They pleaded for a ballot in which the British public can once again say whether they want to leave or remain in the EU, and then stopped one from taking place.
Welcome to the looking glass world of the Remainers in which the Conservative leader seeking the consent of the British people before taking us out of the EU is a ‘tinpot dictator’ and the Labour leader who’s been demanding an election on a daily basis for the last two years, but who’s changed his mind at the last minute because he knows the British people don’t support his position on Brexit, is a courageous man of principle who’s defending democracy. (To read more, click here.)
This is a tough piece for me to write. I like Nicholas Soames and I can see things from his point of view. On the face of it, it does seem unfair that someone who’s been in Parliament for 37 years and only defied the Conservative whip three times should be expelled from the party, as he pointed out. Many Conservative MPs have rebelled far more often than Soames but haven’t had the whip removed. Why should he and the 20 other Tory MPs who voted against the Government on Tuesday night be singled out in this way? The fact that he’s Winston Churchill’s grandson is neither here nor there – and Labour MPs banging on about that is absurd, as if one of the sacrosanct principles of parliamentary democracy is that membership of the Conservative Party is a hereditary right. But Ruth Davidson has a point, surely, when she tweeted: 'How, in the name of all that is good and holy, is there no longer room in the Conservative Party for Nicholas Soames? #anofficerandagentleman.'
I’m afraid she does not. (To read more, click here.)
If there is to be an election before we leave the European Union, some kind of non-aggression pact between the Tories and the Brexit party is essential. Without it, the risk is all too obvious: that pro-Brexit voters will be divided, allowing pro-Remain candidates to win, even in some constituencies where a clear majority are in favour of leaving.
A case in point is Boris Johnson’s constituency. Uxbridge and South Ruislip is in the London borough of Hillingdon, where 56.37 per cent of votes cast in the 2016 referendum were for Leave. But his majority in 2017 was only 5,034, and if the Brexit party fields a candidate against him — particularly if some of the pro-Remain parties decide to stand down in favour of Labour — there’s a chance he’ll lose. (To read more, click here.)
The Remainers are celebrating after last tonight’s defeat of the government and writing Boris off as a busted flush. ‘Johnson’s Brexit strategy in ruins as anti-no deal MPs inflict defeat,’ says the headline on this morning’s FT. But I’m not convinced this was such a bad night for the Prime Minister.
Boris’s response to yesterday’s loss has been to table a motion calling for a general election. Corbyn’s position, as I understand it, is that he will only agree to an election after the ‘anti-no deal bill’ forcing Boris to ask for an extension of the Brexit deadline on 19 October has been approved by both Houses of Parliament. (Boris refers to it as ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s surrender bill’.) Assuming the bill isn’t ‘talked out’ in the Lords, and assuming Boris doesn’t advise the Queen to withhold her assent, that would effectively prevent Boris from setting an election date after 31 October. Until now, Downing Street has maintained that if the government was defeated by a vote of no confidence, the PM would not resign, but sit on his hands for the 14-day period stipulated in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, at which point a general election would automatically be triggered. He would then set the date of the election for after 31 October, so the UK would leave the European Union by default during the campaign.
If the extension bill becomes law, by contrast, Boris cannot pursue that strategy. Even if he set the date of the election after 31 October, he would still have to ask for an extension on 19 October in his capacity as caretaker Prime Minister and the election would take place before we’ve left.
So Corbyn’s reasoning is that if he makes his support of a general election conditional on the bill becoming law, Boris will have no choice but to set the date of the election before 31 October. Assuming it plays out as expected, an election will still take place, but in mid-October – 15 October is the likely date – rather than after we’ve left. It will effectively be a second referendum on Brexit. Provided the Conservatives win that contest, the passing of the extension bill won’t tie Boris’s hands because he can use his majority to repeal the new law before it compels him to ask for an extension on 19 October. He can go then go to the European Council meeting on 17 October and credibly threaten no deal if there’s still no renegotiation and take Britain out on 31 October whether he gets a new deal or not. (To read more, click here.)