Category: Westminster Parliament

Westminster Parliament. The heart of darkness

The terrible cost of political realignment


The Manchester Evening News reports:

A Parliamentary candidate who could lose out on £22,000 in taxpayer cash if she is not elected to a Trafford seat next month says it could leave her unable to pay her mortgage.

A leaked letter revealed MP Angela Smith, who is standing as the Lib Dem candidate in Altrincham and Sale West, has appealed for a change in government rules.

She could lose out on the cash if she’s unsuccessful at the General Election on December 12. She says she is ‘fighting for fairness in how MPs are treated’.

Ms Smith, who ‘hates injustice’, described her ‘horror’ at the thought of missing out on the money.

She previously served as MP for Sheffield Hillsborough, from 2005 to 2010.

Ms Smith is currently MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, having been elected to the seat in 2010.

She quit the Labour Party in February alongside six other MPs. They formed The Independent Group, later renamed Change UK.

Government rules state that if an MP loses their seat, they are paid two month’s salary in a ‘loss of office’ payment.

The cash gives former MPs time to find alternative employment and adjust to life outside Parliament.

But, because Ms Smith is standing in a different constituency to the one she currently servces, she would not be entitled to the money if she is not elected in Altrincham and Sale West.

Parliament cut off its own nose to spite the people’s face

Two things have been key pillars of parliamentary government’s ability to function for the past 330 years.

One is the government’s power of dissolution. Bagehot (‘The English Constitution’) explained that parliamentary supervision combined effectively with government functioning because:

“Though appointed by one parliament, it can appeal if it chooses to the next.”

The ridiculous fixed-term parliament act (passed to provide reassurance to the libdems during their 2010-2015 coalition with the conservatives) removed that pillar.

Another is its direction of the parliamentary agenda.

I am guided by and must operate within the Standing Orders of the House. (Speaker Bercow, 26 September 2014)

The Standing Orders are of course our rules, and by those rules we must all abide. (Speaker Bercow, 29 June 2017)

Those conventions and precedents are important to the collegiate operation of this House. (Speaker Bercow, 26 March 2018)

I am clear in my mind that I have taken the right course of action. (Speaker Bercow, ditching 330 years of precedent against the unanimous instruction of his law clerks on 9 January 2019 – and on several occasions thereafter, h/t the Spectator)

If parliamentary government could have functioned, it could have delivered Brexit, so, egged on by a cross-party coalition of MPs, most of whom were breaking highly-specific election pledges, and led (appropriately) by a speaker whose job exempted him from facing a contested election at all, they wrecked parliament’s ability to function rather than submit to the humiliation of obeying their promise to voters instead of their own opinions.

The result is: parliament has been non-functional for most of this year – and everyone sees it. People who think ‘parliamentary standing orders’ are how it pays the electricity company for lighting in late-night sittings see it. People who think ‘parliamentary standing orders’ are MPs’ drink preferences at the House of Commons’ subsidised bars see it. People who haven’t a clue what happened in 1689 see it. Every day in every way, this parliament is getting itself more and more despised – not the way I’d have chosen to show I belonged to an elite.

Boris, you must resign

It’s probably quite nice to be Prime Minister, going to all the best dos, having people listen to your bloviations, having the second best address in London and having the power to vaporise France but if you don’t have the ability to do anything useful – other the aformentioned services to French air quality – it’s pointless.

And you don’t have that ability. You don’t have a majority. The deal will be voted down again. If Parliament can make you send that grovelling extension letter – you know, the one you said dying a ditch was preferable to – what else is it going to make you do? Even if Brexit did get through you wouldn’t be allowed to get any of that Brexity goodness done like reducing tariffs, re-introducing traditional units and sorting out the railways. You are being turned into a cipher.

You must not allow yourself to be treated like this. You must resign.

Let the Queen find someone to be Prime Minister. Convention – for what it is worth these days – requires her to first of all call upon the Leader of the Opposition. Corbyn. That will be a laugh. Oh, he might just about be able to cobble together a coalition around stopping Brexit. They might even be able to hold their rigged referendum. But it doesn’t matter. Because, every day, every hour, every minute Corbyn and the federalist fossils stay in undeserved power the more hated they will become.

Remember, it can’t last long. Eventualy they will have to do some real politics at which point that Frankenstein coalition will collapse. And then we really will have to have a general election. Which you will win – not least because the interregnum will have given Cummings the chance to have that operation that he’s been putting off. And then you really will be able to get Brexit done. On your terms.

As our French friends might say: reculer pour mieux sauter.

Yours in the struggle,

Phineas Phosgene

Zombie Parliament

This parliament is not simply out of touch with public sentiment – something we already knew from the fact that 70 per cent of MPs, and a staggering 95 per cent of Labour MPs, voted Remain, while 52 per cent of the electorate voted Leave. No, it feels increasingly illegitimate, too. It lacks all political and moral authority. It is a zombie parliament. It has no real democratic mandate to govern.

Brendan O’Neill

The unity candidate

The Sunday Times reports,

Jeremy Corbyn ‘would support John Bercow as unity PM’

This is some new meaning of the word “unity” not previously known to me. I do not believe I am alone in preferring the honest fanatic Jeremy Corbyn to John Bercow.

Jeremy Corbyn has privately told allies that he will step aside and allow someone else to become prime minister if Boris Johnson is forced from power.

Sources say the Labour leader has concluded that he would not win the support needed to lead a government of national unity. Corbyn has signalled to allies that he might support another candidate as long as it is not a Labour or Conservative MP.

John Bercow, a Tory MP before becoming Speaker of the House of Commons in 2009, has emerged as the Labour leader’s favoured compromise candidate after he ruled out Kenneth Clarke, the former chancellor, who was expelled from the Tories last month.

I suspect that this is a trial balloon designed to make Jeremy Corbyn look good by comparison, but if John Bercow does “emerge” his way into being Prime Minister it will make his decisions made as Speaker during the last three years look as if they were nothing but a conspiracy to gain power, a process of emergence from the shadows brought to the threshold of completion by his recent meeting with the EU’s President-of-whichever-bit-of-the-EU-he’s-president-of, David Sassoli.

What was the point?

Parliament will be prorogued later today. It has been sitting since the court judgement – that is during the latter half of the Labour conference week, when it would normally have been recessed, during the whole of the Tory conference week, when it would normally have been recessed, and during yesterday and today, when it could normally have been prorogued.

What exactly has parliament achieved with this extra time? I know of no act passed. What was the point? (This is a real question, not just rhetorical. By all means inform me in the comments if you can answer it.)

It was claimed to be essential that parliament perform its functions during this time. What essential thing(s) did it do?

And fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling, Show’d like a rebel’s whore

The Independent‘s John Rentoul is scarcely likely to be happy at what the latest poll by Opinium says, but dutifully tweeted it anyway:

Opinium poll for Observer, Cons back to 15-pt lead:
Con 38% +2
Lab 23% -1
Lib Dem 15% -5
Brexit 12% +1
Green 4% +2
2,006 UK adults 3-4 Oct, change since last week

So after all those Remain victories in Parliament and the courts, Boris Johnson’s Tories are slightly more popular and the Liberal Democrats are significantly less popular? How can this be?

I thought Chancellors of the Exchequer were supposed to understand this sort of thing

In theory I ought to like Independent MPs. In practice they are often cranks. So strong is this correlation that I begin to suspect that there might be causation involved. Perhaps the bites on the neck that the party Whips administer to all MPs weekly under the pretence that it is an “old Parliamentary tradition” actually transfer a dose of sanity serum. Without that saving vampiroid saliva, the derangement to which everyone in Westminster eventually succumbs comes all the sooner.

Philip Hammond, former Conservative Chancellor and current backbench Independent Conspiracist has claimed in the Times that

… he is backed by speculators who have bet billions on a hard Brexit — and there is only one outcome that works for them: a crash-out no-deal Brexit that sends the currency tumbling and inflation soaring. So they, at least, will be reassured to see no evidence at all that his government has seriously pursued a deliverable deal; still less that it has been pursuing a deal that could get us out by October 31. The time available means that the only deal with any prospect of delivering that outcome is the deal that they have already rejected and that many of them have voted against.

There is an excellent fact-filled response to this nonsense by Frances Coppola writing in Forbes: The Mythical Bets On No-Deal Brexit.