Comment /

The Hostage Parliament

We British find ourselves in a startling situation. For the first time in parliamentary history, the opposition has full confidence in the Government, yet the Government has no confidence in itself; the Executive cannot legislate, yet the Opposition can!

Simply put, the Opposition is holding the Government hostage. Before this bizarre chapter in the history of Parliament, the following could generally be relied upon:

  • The Government controls the business of the House
  • The Opposition opposes the Government, and so can be expected to vote against it in a No Confidence motion given half a chance
  • The Government supports itself in a vote of No Confidence
  • The Opposition has confidence in the Leader of the Opposition
  • A Prime Minister could dissolve Parliament to get a General Election – a gamble that could see them either gain or loose a majority Of course, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, 2011 put paid to the prerogative ability of the Government to call an election when it saw fit, in a (in-hindsight) short-sighted desire to hold-together the then Conservative & Liberal Democrat coalition. It requires a super-majority to trigger a General Election, but can be circumvented by a motion notwithstanding it, which would be amendable.

Now, this set of rules has been turned on its head. The Opposition MPs, who will readily denounce the Government as a shameful band of liars and charlatans who should seemingly apologise for their every shocking and outrageous utterance, can’t quite bring themselves to say as much formally, by voting against the very same government. They must somehow believe that they are bestowed with a moral prerogative to block a No-Deal Brexit, and that this supersedes their moral obligation to the electorate, and its right to an election when Parliament is so-clearly dysfunctional, the Government wishes to hold one, has no majority and cannot pass its business.

You have to wonder why… Perhaps they don’t think they’ll win an election? That Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party have been calling for an election incessantly but will now not vote for one until No-Deal is off the table just adds comedic value.

We must unstick this mess. And we must trust the people to make their choice. We cannot trust this Prime Minister. His time must be up! His days of lying, of cheating, and undermining the rule of law must be over!

Ian Blackford MP

House of Commons

His time must be up! If that is the case, do as you say – trust the people! There’ll still be ample time after an election, if they win it, for them in their new position as the Government to ask the EU for an extension themselves! And if instead they loose an election, how can they claim to be acting on behalf of the electorate now?

Mr Blackford, of course, still has full confidence in the Prime Minister and his Government, and retracted the suggestion that the PM lied. Clearly the PM’s days won’t be over on his watch just yet.

This Parliament is a DEAD Parliament! It has no MORAL RIGHT to sit! But the time is coming, Mr Speaker, when even these TURKEYS won’t be able to prevent CHRISTMAS!

Geoffrey Cox, Attorney General

House of Commons

MPs must ask themselves upon what mandate can they legitimately legislate through stretching the powers they have through Standing Order No. 24 Standing Order Number 24 gives MPs the ability to move an ’emergency debate’, with the Speaker of the House having it in their power to decide whether to give time to it, or not, if they deem it emergent enough. Standing Orders
and continuously frustrating the Government. Legitimacy in politics and law is derived from the electorate and the people, and Parliamentarians must remember this. Conservative, Labour and even SNP MPs were all elected on manifestos promising to implement some from of Brexit – that is their mandate. Not to obstruct, seize the order paper, pass ’emergency’ legislation and keep the Government hostage. The House has changed since the 2017 General Election, with MPs switching sides, and opinions surfacing that go against their 2017 manifesto pledges. Those that oppose the Conservatives or Brexit can achieve their ends legitimately by becoming the Government – but not by any other means.

The proper processes and mechanisms for stopping a Government advancing its business and using prerogative powers are well-known to all MPs – they are only to vote for an election, or vote No-Confidence. There is no-other constitutional or indeed morally right way to do so. Many of the conventions of parliament work only under the assumptions listed above – without them holding true, the stability of the parliamentary system under these conventions is questionable.

As a result of the continued breakdown of convention and constitution, many members of the public now view the House and its members with disdain. An election would return legitimacy to the House. Without an election, continued loss of legitimacy and falling public esteem for the House may even threaten the legitimacy of the law and government entirely.

There are many people calling for a calming of rhetoric. Although, the irony seems to be lost on some as they do so – saying we must moderate our language in a speech to then follow with the words inflammatory, offensive, dangerous, pejorative, and finish with a crescendoing shout that [The Prime Minister] should be absolutely ashamed of himself! is humbug indeed. Whilst I’m only half there with them – tempers are fraying for good reasons, and the weight of the issue at hand merits much of the gravitas – a compromise must be struck. Both sides of the House must reach that compromise, which is surely a Brexit deal, passed and agreed with the EU. If minds were put to that instead of the current game of prorogation, litigation and legislation, it could possibly have happened already.