It took three attempts. Three attempts to swim upstream against a torrent of human waste and chemical dumps. But, through all of Parliament’s efforts, victory was finally realised.
Theresa May’s vacuum of leadership was dealt a coup de grace yesterday when, at the third time of asking, Parliament voted to take power away from government. In an unprecedented moment for British politics, Parliament will decide what gets put before the House of Commons rather than Theresa May and her cabinet.
It truly is a day that will go down as historic.
And it could have been entirely avoided had May and her government shown any kind of direction, unity, or, at the very least, competence.
Instead, we find ourselves here.
Yikes, Sounds Important. What Actually Happened Yesterday?
The Letwin amendment, which was drafted by Sir Oliver Letwin, a Conservative MP, was passed through Parliament by 329 votes to 302. This amendment was created with support across multiple parties in Parliament, with Hilary Benn, a Labour MP, also heavily involved in its creation. 30 Conservative MPs openly rebelled and voted against May to make this happen, and three cabinet ministers resigned to vote against her, too.
This amendment rules that on Wednesday at 2pm, Parliament (all elected MPs) is able to decide what is discussed in the House of Commons instead of the government (the PM and her Cabinet). The government has, historically, always decided what gets voted on and when until now.
In this instance, Parliament will hold a round of Indicative Votes on various alternative strategies as to how we enable or cancel Brexit. A simple explanation of what this means can be found here.
It is worth noting that this is a one-off occasion, and government will take back control of timetabling after this anomaly – for Parliament to take control entirely from government would be to completely rewrite British democracy.
However, its significance is monumental.
It is the first ever example of a Prime Minister and her Cabinet being so totally tone-deaf to the sentiment of Parliament that they refuse to resign and Parliament is forced to take matters into its own hands. May’s strategy has always been to lead by sheer will of her own beliefs at a time where constructive debate and listening to opposition was not only preferred, but a basic necessity to find a means to see Brexit through.
She wasn’t at all helped by the fact that the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, has been about as decisive on his party’s own policy as a drunk student in a kebab shop at 4am on a Friday night, but she wouldn’t have listened to him regardless.
It will set a strong precedent: a Prime Minister is not a President and cannot have the final say in political matters. Parliament is designed to safeguard against autocratic rule by ensuring that there will always be a minority party that will hold the ruling party accountable – usually by finding counter-arguments to the ruling party’s policy and debating them in the House of Commons.
In this instance, it took rebellions in the ruling party’s ranks to enable this safeguarding, but our political system worked in the end.
May has done her best to bash her opponents into submission through sheer populiast Trumpism, but our politics fought back. Elected politicians said “Hell frikkin no,” to someone who thought they had ultimate power, and that should be seen as extremely positive.
Jesus, Right, OK. So Chairman May Has Been Defeated… Again. What Does That Actually Mean?
It means that she is even more of a lame-duck Prime Minister than she was before.
However, she did state yesterday that any Indicative Votes held by Parliament are non-binding due to the fact that they weren’t approved by government – i.e. that she could ignore the decision.
She has precedent for this:
- She brought her deal back to Parliament after it had already been defeated and then tried to again for a third time;
- She ignored the will of Parliament and asked the EU for a short extension (to pass her already-rotting-corpse of a deal) rather than a long one (to find an alternative plan);
- And she has tried multiple times to keep no-deal on the table as a negotiating tactic, despite it being heavily voted against by Parliament on account of the damage it could cause to the UK economy.
However, if she ignores what happens on Wednesday, it will cause a full-scale civil war within Parliament. She will likely be continuously defeated by Parliament, who will continue to take power away from her, until a proper consensus is formed.
To lead us through Brexit was always going to be a tough job, but May has succeeded only in managing to unite every single politician and a nearly all of the country against her.
Yesterday was a red-letter day in British politics.
But May, assuming she isn’t ousted from power, will probably manage to fuck things up even worse before the week is done.
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