Parliament in flames …
Yesterday wasn’t so much a ‘Super Saturday’ but a ‘Marathon HoC Watch’ for yours truly. The Brexit Wreckers were at it again but this time I cannot help but wonder if they were hoisted with their own petard. More on that below.
In a nutshell, the Letwin Amendment was passed with Ayes: 322 to Noes: 306. Johnson had said in his statement that passing the Letwin amendment would make the vote on his deal meaningless. In his speech after the vote, Johnson said that he would ‘obey the law’ and sent the letter as demanded in that Bill but that he would not negotiate for an extension because the Bill does not oblige him to do that, it only forces him to send that letter.
“Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s envoy to the EU, was simply sending Mr Tusk an unsigned “photocopy” of the letter taken from the legislation, in time for the midnight on Saturday night deadline required by the Act, along with a covering note saying that “in accordance with the Benn Act here is the letter from the Benn Act”. The letter itself “will not be signed”. In his own letter, Mr Johnson pledged that he would continue to seek Parliament’s approval. He said further delay would “damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners”. The Prime Minister phoned European leaders on Saturday night to declare that the letter MPs had forced the Government to send to Donald Tusk “is Parliament’s letter, not my letter”. (paywalled link)
This is where things get interesting:
“The move sets up a major new confrontation between the Prime Minister and Parliament after MPs insisted that the so-called Benn Act, introduced with the help of rebel Tories last month, required Mr Johnson to sign a two-paragraph letter seeking an extension until January 31.” (paywalled link)
Even if the Remain plotters and Remain Lawyers have already forgotten, I remember full well that they argued this letter could be sent by, for example, the Speaker, or indeed Sir Tim Barrow or even by Sir Mark Sedwill, the Civil Service chief. It’ll be interesting to see what the Scottish High Court makes of this – yes, the usual suspects are again in Court trying to get Brexit stopped.
There’s another disturbing piece of news that came out after that vote on Letwin’s amendment:
“Senior sources say that in a series of conspiratorial telephone calls, he (Letwin) received “instructions” from a lawyer they identified as Lord Pannick QC who had helped lead the case in the Supreme Court against the government proroguing parliament. One witness said: “He [Letwin] walked through No 10 giggling like an eight-year-old and had to keep calling Pannick on his mobile to find out what he was allowed to do. Pannick said, ‘Don’t change a word’ and Letwin said, ‘Sorry, I can’t do anything.’” Pannick denied talking to Letwin on Friday but confirmed that he helped write the amendment. A senior Tory said: “This isn’t Letwin’s amendment, it’s Pannick’s amendment. Pannick is the organ grinder. Letwin’s just the useful idiot.” (link, paywalled)
You can find a non-paywalled report for example here. It’s Remain Harlotry at its finest: Lord Pannick is unelected and certainly not unbiased. Who gave him the right to wreck government policies? There’s another juicy article here, on the whole Brexit wrecking plot having been prepared well in advance.
Our commentators and sketch writers were busy getting their pieces ready for today’s papers. They are mostly ephemeral, but two stand out. One is an article in the DT by Vernon Bogdanor (paywalled link) who writes that the Letwin amendment, like the Benn and the Letwin-Cooper Acts, is deeply unconstitutional:
‘Standing Order No 14 of the Commons, which the Speaker agreed to waive, was introduced in the early 1940s. It gives priority to government business. That is of particular importance for international negotiations. For MPs cannot themselves negotiate, nor can the EU negotiate with MPs, but only with the government of the day. Treaties, therefore, have always been negotiated by the government and the Commons has not refused to ratify a treaty since 1864.”(paywalled link)
The historian Andrew Roberts writes in the Sunday Mail (here) that it is time for an Inquiry:
“The humiliation that has befallen the United Kingdom over the past three years and four months as the direct result of the refusal of our political class to respect the EU referendum of June 2016 needs to be investigated by an official committee of inquiry. […] The prestige which we have lost as a country needs to be considered in terms of a major national catastrophe, and we need to recognise what has happened and why.”
He makes a very good case and if you have a minute to spare, it’s worthwhile reading.
One other incident which happened towards the end, as most MPs had already left the Chamber, showed the petard on which Remainers were hoisted. I watched it unfold.
Bercow was winding down the proceedings by taking points of order. Most MPs had already left. This is where the government, in the form of Jacob Rees-Mogg, landed their coup.
JRM rose on a point of order, stated that Monday’s business would be a debate on the withdrawal act (“The Deal”), particulars to be tabled Monday morning. He closed his folder with a loud snap and sat down. Thereupon, from the Speaker to the remaining Remain Harlots, confusion reigned. Inveterate watchers who were still present posted some delicious running comments:
“Mogg’s choice of introducing new business as a point of order has them stumped.” – “JRM seems to have flummoxed them” – “Bercow can’t intervene now and he knows it. Because he has to follow already laid out correct procedures.” – “Bercow and the cabal don’t know what’s happening, look at Bercow: he’s desperate for JRM to give him more info […] He keeps looking at Mogg in the hope that he can get some sort of direction from him. Nothing coming.” – “Seems like Bercow changing rules and precedent is coming back to haunt him as the government seems to be doing the same.” – “Bercow has been left floundering and obviously clueless in an act of public humiliation […]”
This last exchange drives the point home:
“Come on guys and gals…I can’t find it anywhere. What did JRM say to p*ss them all off so much?” “Nothing” – “Walked out.”
And so he did! You can watch that particular scene in the video clip in this tweet. He was followed immediately by Sir Bill Cash who had been watching this spectacle from the back. It was lovely!
Remainers were then showing their nastiness in a disgusting spectacle. Some participants in the much-vaunted ‘People’s March’ to prevent Brexit harassed JRM and his son on their way back home. Tweets showed immediately what happened, e.g. here with video, and here. The Times reports:
“Anti-Brexit demonstrators were condemned for “abusing, intimidating and screaming” at MPs yesterday as ministers needed a police escort to leave parliament. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the House of Commons leader, and his eldest child, Peter, 11, were protected by a dozen officers as they walked to their home nearby amid chants of “shame on you”, “traitor” and “Nazi”.” (link, paywalled)
Remain and all those politicians bemoaning the threats on social media they receive from Brexiteers have now lost their moral high ground. According to the DT this heckling was only due to ‘high feelings’:
“Feelings ran so high that although the march was overwhelmingly peaceful, Jacob Rees Mogg, the Leader of the House, and his son Peter were heckled as they walked home under a police escort. […] Police said no arrests had been made by the time the march officially came to an end.” (paywalled link)
I seem to recall that a heckler was arrested and sentenced for calling Ms Anna Soubry MP a ‘Nazi’. No arrests when Remainers heckle Jacob Rees-Mogg and his son using the same word? Odd, that, isn’t it.
But it’s a sad sign for the deterioration in our public discourse thanks to Remain. The contributions by opposition leaders in the HoC yesterday underlined this, and when I heard Corbyn claim that Labour was ‘the only Party offering Brexit’ I knew that we’ve been through the looking glass again.
Sir John Redwood concludes his Diary entry today with these strong words:
“The debate about Brexit needs moving on. […]This is not a debate about the minutiae of customs arrangements, but a debate about the restoration of a free and independent country. We want an accountable democracy. This Parliament is the lackey of Brussels, seeking to block the people’s Decision.”
As things drew to a close, some commenters were remembering the fire that destroyed Parliament in 1834 … While skulduggery and shenanigans are now the rule, the atmosphere inside and outside Parliament has been well and truly poisoned by the Brexit Wreckers. Will it all end in fire, or in tears?