Yesterday in the HoC: peacocking about


Finally the HoC turkeys have voted for Christmas! The GE is on. The Bill has still got to pass the HoL today but that ought to go smoothly. To reach this stage we were treated to yet another display of “Groundhog Day in the HoC”. Yes, I watched most of it. It was excruciating, but I learned something new which I’ll report below.

In order to save space I’ll not quote from the MSM reports on yesterday’s HoC session but just give the links to this article and this one in the DM. The paywalled ones are here, here, here and here. They are anyway not describing the tedium of having to listen to a blustering Johnson on one side and a spluttering Corbyn on the other, who yet again took this opportunity to give a ‘speech’ more suited to an election rally for the ‘faithful’.

I shall draw a veil of forgiving kindness over the speeches by the leaders of the Illiberals and the SNP. Regarding the latter, all you need to know is that as soon as he rose, Tory MPs on the benches opposite left the Chamber in double-quick time. 

Onto the Groundhog-Day reading of the bill, with more of ‘we just want to scrutinise the WAIB now that the EU has granted that extension’ and with innumerable arguments why 16-year-olds should have the vote: “it’s about their future, innit!”, because adults can’t be trusted to care for the future of their offspring. EU citizens living here must of course be allowed to vote because ‘it’s only fair’, and never mind that in no other EU country expats are given the vote in national elections. Many saw this as a blatant attempt at ballot-rigging by Labour.

There was social-media chatter: tweets from ‘sources’ said that the government would pull the GE Bill if these amendments of extending the franchise were voted through. That had observers to speculate that this franchise amendment might be the final ploy by Corbyn to get out of having a GE: “I wanted that election and now Johnson is refusing it’. 

This and the change of date for the GE – the 9th versus the 12th of December – were tabled as amendments, but there was of course first the ‘major amendment’, about allowing amendments to be tabled at the 2nd reading of the Bill.

Arcane? Oh yes it is, and it gets even more arcane! That amendment to allow amendments went through: Ayes: 312 – Noes: 295 – the Ayes have it. Next, the motion, with the amendment to allow amendments, was accepted on acclaim. Therefore the Bill went on to the 2nd reading, having been moved by the PM. It was then announced that the deputy speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (Lab), who had to select the amendments, did not select those on extending the franchise, only tabling the one about the date change. 

This 2nd reading is done ‘in committee’, with the whole House sitting in committee. The Speaker does not sit in the chair, but “it will be A.N.Other”. That was Sir Lindsay Hoyle. He is not addressed as ‘Mr Deputy Speaker’ but by name during this sitting.

The mace was removed for this whole house committee session, debating the one amendment about moving the date so as “not to disenfranchise students”.  It was presented by Cat Smith (Lab), aand – she sneaked in their demand for franchise for 16-yr-old and EU citizens, turning it into an election rally speech.

The interest on the opposition benches, especially the LibDems and SNP who were so keen to have that extended franchise was overwhelming: practically all of them had left the Chamber by then. When that amendment was put to the vote, the result wasn’t surprising. The vote to change the date from the 12th to the 9th Dec: Ayes: 295 – Noes: 315.

The GE date is thus set for the 12th December, so the next vote was on giving the Bill the 3rd reading. The Speaker was now back in the chair, bellowing his ‘division’ lustily. This is the result: Ayes:  438 – Noes: 20 – The Ayes have it. The third reading was then passed by acclaim and it’ll now go to the HoL. All that was too arcane or too complicated for our MSM who prefer to deal with gossiping sources.

Overnight the election gurus were wheeled out, playing their numbers games, talking about Johnson needing to ‘win big’ (paywalled here), about what TBP might or should  do (paywalled here and here), about ‘Tories begging TBP to stand aside’ in certain seats (here)  and about Labour still being split (paywalled here).

Polling gurus such as Matthew Goodwin wrote that this will be the ‘messiest election’ to predict (paywalled here) while Philip Cowley has a go in his non-paywalled article here. The polling ‘guru of gurus’ John Curtice predicted yesterday – before the GE had been voted for – that he expects to see ‘a “record number” of non-conservative MPs and non-Labour MPs in parliament after the election.” (link). No wonder Ministers are ‘nervous’:

“Cabinet ministers have privately admitted that they are nervous about the outcome of the election amid fears of a voter backlash. One minister said that […] there was considerable uncertainty about the result. While they had gone into most other elections thinking all was going to be OK, this time they said they genuinely didn’t know.” (link, paywalled)

The main point – Brexit – has already vanished amidst all those prediction attempts, these second-guessing articles and the imminent rah-rah-rah of a GE razzmatazz. The establishment parties will fight this election with their party political programmes, distracting us from the reason why this Parliament needs to be replaced. Sir John Redwood gives a nod to the Brexit question in his Diary today, but also doesn’t seem to regard this as the one, burning question.

Why would we vote for the Tories when Johnson is obviously not planning to get us Out? Why should we care about Labour Socialism or not when Labour also wants to keep us In? 

Why should we believe any of them or their wonderful election manifestos when we’ve learned by bitter experience that manifestos don’t mean a thing to them once they’re all back on their green benches? Why should we elect MPs who are bent on destroying our democracy by extending the franchise to all who happen to be here, citizens or not?

Above all – why should we elect MPs who’ve twice ‘promised’ to respect our vote in the EU Referendum, only to then kick that into the long grass, kicking us in the teeth while passing? Why would we believe the Tories were they now come out and say the Johnson-May deal is dead and we’ll leave on the 31st of January with No Deal? Once bitten twice shy …

There is one GE cloud already lurking on the horizon: the use of social media. This led to an article in RemainCentral by Lord Puttnam, Chair of the Lords’ Democracy and Technology Committee, demonstrating the establishment’s attempts to curtail free speech on social media even further:

“Far too often political messages can be placed online with no information as to who paid for them, which candidate they support, and why. It has become increasingly easy for campaigns to use micro-targeted messages to fan the prejudices of small groups, safe in the knowledge that the wider electorate won’t be aware of them. […] There is a real danger that following the next general election, the losing side can plausibly claim the result to be illegitimate due to dark messaging having subverted the democratic process. This in turn would undermine the legitimacy of our government; precisely the goal of every malign foreign actor wishing to influence the outcome of our elections.” (link, paywalled)

That is known as getting one’s excuses in early … and is a warning for us Leave campaigners as well. It is interesting that no mention is made of the use of ‘micro-targeting’ especially by Labour. The relevant article is paywalled, so it’ get the “From behind the paywall”- treatment tomorrow.

I leave you with this thought as we wait for the HoL to pass the Bill: there was no ‘cunning plan’, as so many had hoped for. The ‘Brexit Emperors’ in the Tory Party have been shown to wear no clothes.

Expect the establishment parties to present us with lots of fat squirrels, or rather with shiny baubles because: Christmas! And expect them to sweep any arguments about Brexit under the carpet. Expect the Tories to fight TBP and especially Nigel Farage, as is their usual procedure.

Expect to see Brexit betrayed, finally and once and for all when the establishment parties win. Meanwhile we’ll remember Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Beginnings”, keeping our anger ice-cold, channelling our inner Churchill for the time being and 




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