Thank God. It’s over.
…Again. Sort of.
Yesterday marked the final day of this Parliamentary session, and it was an absolute nightmare for Boris. It was also a nightmare in terms of any lingering bits of respect for our democracy.
The good news is that, after a week of high drama, high tension and despair from all those who watched it, it’s now done.
Parliament does not reconvene until mid-October. For the next few weeks, we will have some peace and quiet. Peace and quiet, it must be said, that should actually be vociferous and robust debate about Brexit.
Sadly, prorogation has blocked this.
Let’s review, breathe out, then have a few days’ peace and quiet, shall we?
Let’s start off simple.
Over the weekend, Amber Rudd resigned the Conservative whip. A popular, capable and prominent Tory, and a member of the government, her resignation would have been keenly felt by Johnson.
In any other time, this would have been massive news. In these strange times, it was just a precursor to a staggering day of politics yesterday.
John Bercow, the diminutive, angry little man that has been Speaker of the House of Commons for the last ten years, announced his retirement earlier today.
It is incredibly unfair that he leaves just as I have found this parody account of him on Twitter.
But, either way, Bercow announced he would leave on October 31st, allowing the current Parliament to choose his successor. This is important, as a new Parliament after a General Election might be biased towards a certain ideological extreme and elect a Speaker to reflect these views.
Many, however, especially on the right, have argued that Bercow is biased. Formerly a Conservative MP, it has been pretty startling to watch him turn on his own, old party recently.
The role of Speaker must always be entirely bi-partisan and unbiased, but Bercow has, undeniably, assisted anti-no-deal MPs. He has changed precedent to make advisory debates legally-binding, refused to allow Theresa May to bring her deal back without substantive changes, and has generally been a thorn in the side for the government.
However, while he has been biased, it is important to know what he’s been biased towards: allowing fair scrutiny of government.
In preventing May bringing back the deal again and again, he reasoned that Parliament had laid down a ruling when it had previously defeated it. Otherwise, it would set a precedent of bringing a bill back to the House, repeatedly, potentially blocking other legislation.
In allowing Parliament to make make a binding rule against no-deal, he ensured that Parliament was allowed its say in the face of it being blocked by prorogation. Prorogation enforced by BoJo’s government, no less.
In preventing the government from doing whatever it wanted, he prevented it from avoiding scrutiny – providing scrutiny is Parliament’s job.
He’s an egotistical little twerp who loved the sound of his own voice, and occasionally overstepped the mark. However, he did everything to protect democracy.
Whatever your opinion on Brexit, you cannot deny this.
Perhaps most pertinently, read on until the last part of this article for a Between the Lines exclusive on Bercow.
Giving Him Grieve
Next up, Dominic Grieve. Tall, gaunt and hawkish, Grieve has the air of a stern, yet caring deputy head-master from a Victorian school-house.
Anyway. He stepped up to ask Parliament to formally request documents from Johnson’s offices in No. 10 pertaining to no-deal planning. He won by 311 votes to 302. Yet another loss for Johnson.
And potentially one of the most damaging.
During the recent legal challenges against prorogation, documents from No. 10’s office were released to the public. Counter to what Boris Johnson had been saying publicly, these documents implied that prorogation was being considered as a tool to stop Parliament preventing his plans.
It was just enough to raise an eyebrow.
In Parliament today, Grieve said that he had sources inside No. 10. His little birds had told him that Johnson and his aides had always intended for prorogation to be used to stop Parliamentary scrutiny.
This implies that when he went to speak to the Queen to ask for her permission, he lied in order to obtain it.
As such, Grieve put the vote forward today and won.
Johnson and his aides immediately declared that they would surrender no documents whatsoever.
This will not end here.
And, in news that surprises no-one, Boris lost his vote on a General Election for a second time.
It was, ironically, Johnson’s best performance in the House of Commons. He called Corbyn and his allies cowards, and made some salient points along the way.
However, it was not enough. He was defeated by a greater margin than last week.
And despite Johnson’s improved performance, those who were watching were treated to the frankly appalling sight of what seemed to be most of the Tory party screaming, red-faced, at their opponents.
The vote wasn’t held until after midnight, and it seems, to this viewer at least, as though many were not entirely sober.
It was a pretty despicable display, and unfortunately many from the opposing benches rose to the bait. It was a sad indicator of where our politics has got to.
It wasn’t even the most startling confrontation of the day, however…
EXCLUSIVE : Bercow v. Black Rod
Ok, it’s not really an exclusive. It’s more that everyone else seems to have gone to bed.
But I’m weird. I love politics, hence why I write this blog. I stayed up to watch the prorogation be enacted, just for a bit of pomp and ceremony.
A nice, stupid example of people dressing up in funny hats to offset another troubling day in our democracy.
This is what I got instead.
A number of MPs held up signs saying “SILENCED” in furious opposition to the prorogation, and heckled Black Rod, the hilariously-named lady who summons the House of Commons.
Bercow, faced by the ceremonial figures who carry out the legal duties of proroguing Parliament, said that he considered this prorogation to be an “executive fiat”, or an authoritarian decree.
After he said his piece, he fulfilled his duties and set off to lead the House of Commons to the House of Lords, where the ceremony would be continued.
Then, the opposition refused to follow tradition and remained in their seats – only the Tory MPs went to the House of Lords.
Then, the Tory MPs refused to go back to the House of Commons. They left, not to be seen again.
Bercow read out the terms of the prorogation to the remaining opposition MPs like a teenager being asked to read from their school reports.
Then, after two and a half years that was that. The 2017 Session of Parliament was ended.
Even the act of prorogation itself, usually ceremonial, was incredibly confrontational.
We may have five weeks before these MPs sit again, but if the Opening of Parliament ceremony is anything like this, I’m going to stock up on popcorn.
What a week.