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The Dichotomy of The Commons

by John Brian Shannon

After trying to pull-off an international Brexit treaty all by herself with only a small cadre of Conservative insiders — and without allowing her colleagues in the UK House of Commons to participate in the process, nor indeed to know much at all about how negotiations with the EU were progressing, UK Prime Minister Theresa May was recently forced by British MP’s and the (excellent) Speaker of the House, John Bercow into fully informing them about her Brexit plans, which has resulted in the political equivalent of a slow-motion car crash.

Yet, Speaker John Bercow’s decision to allow a series of indicative votes in the UK House of Commons as a damage control measure and as a frustration-lowering device may turn out to be the best thing to happen to the House and to British democracy in decades.

Such precedent will allow indicative votes in the future on thorny issues before the government, thereby allowing individual MP’s to pose questions to the House and receive the results in the form of votes For or Against their motion and allows constituents to gauge the voting record of their MP’s.

At the very least, it’s another tool in the toolbox of Parliament with which to conduct The People’s business and to help MP’s, stakeholders in the UK economy, and Britons to understand the will of the House more completely.

Good so far? Yes?

I agree.


Although Clearly Not Theresa May’s First Choice; Indicative Votes May Save Her in the End

Speaker Bercow’s decision to allow indicative votes will over time, funnel MP’s toward becoming part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

I doubt Theresa May sees that MP’s are and always should be (from the PM’s perspective) part of the solution instead of part of the problem. After all, how could she?

She’s been banging on about her cliquish Withdrawal Agreement / Political Declaration / Joint Instrument for almost the entire 986-days she’s been the Prime Minister and has tended to view colleagues in the same way she views Brexit and everything else in the world; As a series of obstacles to be avoided. (The mindset of a bureaucrat)

She doesn’t seem to realize that playing the bureaucrat isn’t what the job of Prime Minister is all about.


Politics in One Word: IRDIME

Once you move up to the big leagues, bureaucratese must give way to Identification (identifying items that legitimately require the attention of a UK Prime Minister) Research (getting the right policies from the get-go) Dissemination (communicating with colleagues / keeping them in the loop / thereby making them part of the solution instead of part of the problem) Informing (keeping the public informed) and importantly, Math (Do I have the necessary support to get my legislation passed?) which coincides nicely with Electability (Will I stay in power if I get these bills passed?)

Theresa May is in the situation she’s in — because she’s a ‘square peg in a round hole’.

Other bureaucrats who employ bureaucratic tools to accomplish political objectives will end up in the same quagmire that Theresa May now finds herself in — both in the House of Commons and in Brussels. And soon with the public who will blame her for getting the country into the mess it’s now in.

There’s no doubt she means well for the United Kingdom.

And there’s no doubt that (as you would expect from a world-class bureaucrat) she has crafted an excellent, perhaps exceptional Withdrawal Agreement / Political Declaration / Joint Instrument (except for the hated Irish backstop clause forced on her at the last-minute by unelected EU bureaucrats) and there’s no doubt she intends to make a success of Brexit even if it kills her dream of staying-on as Prime Minister. Admirable.


But a New Process Has Begun, Thanks to Speaker Bercow

During today’s indicative voting, not one proposal received majority approval from MP’s. Which may have surprised some of them who were wanting to hijack the Brexit process or those who wanted to kill it.

This is the back story of the indicative vote process: Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations, or feel they are being ‘kept down’ by the government which causes them to wonder that perhaps the present House of Commons isn’t as ‘democratic’ as it should be; Yet, there have been few examples of purer democracy than in the House of Commons yesterday where members voted on proposals offered by none other than MP’s from every party. An historic day!

And every one of them failed.

IRDIME works at the backbench level in the House of Commons exactly as the stock market works in the economy (the most perfectly balanced system in the universe, except for nature itself) and if an idea has merit people invest in it, and if it doesn’t have merit few invest in it, and if they do, they stand to lose. But feel free to invest or vote how you want!

And they’re now starting to see what Theresa May has been seeing all along; That there isn’t a magic bullet that can solve all of the various Brexit problems.

Which will have the (very odd, but predictable) effect of causing MP’s to respect Theresa May moreso than they’ve done over the past 986-days now that they see the limitations of democracy; How can you get what you want if you don’t know what you want? and; How can you get what you want if you can’t sell it well enough to the other members of the House?

It’s one thing to know what you don’t want, and that’s now been made clear by these time-consuming but necessary indicative votes.

Now, due to Speaker Bercow’s precedent-setting decision all that remains is for MP’s to find out what they do want.

All-in-all, a healthy democratic exercise is underway in the UK Parliament — a process that Theresa May should’ve initiated herself back in 2016 instead of locking MP’s out of the Brexit process for 2-years.

Including MP’s throughout the entire Brexit process could’ve resulted in Brexit done and dusted before June 23, 2018 (within 730-days, or 2-years of the referendum to Leave the EU) and both the UK and the EU would’ve been the better for it.

And there’s no excuse on Earth good enough to cover that failure.


The Obvious Way for the House to Proceed (From a Brexiteer Point-of-View)

  1. Continue with more indicative votes until every side has had their fair say (without undue duplication of proposals)
  2. If no clear winner arises, then straight to voting on the 400-page Withdrawal Agreement / Political Declaration / Joint Instrument (remove The Backstop) and every MP should vote to pass it with a clear conscience if they’re true democrats representing the will of The People.
  3. The House should then vote that Theresa May present the approved 400-page WA, etc., to Brussels for their kind consideration.
  4. If the EU answers, ‘No’ or if it doesn’t counter-offer — then, straight to a No Deal Brexit — which is what The People voted for in the first place.
  5. But if an EU counter-offer is made, then that must be respectfully considered by the whole House, first by indicative vote, and then by meaningful vote.

The end of this story is that separate from going through this interesting and necessary indicative vote session; The People voted to Leave, they didn’t vote for complicated Withdrawal Agreements, nor did they vote for high falutin’ Political Declarations, nor for weak fixes to the fundamental error in the Withdrawal Agreement (the Backstop) they voted to Leave the EU — and the job of government is to carry out the will of The People — whether individual MP’s like the instructions given by The People or not.

And come Hell or high water, I expect that in the end, that will be done.


Therefore, the Dichotomy of the UK House of Commons is This:

Theresa May tried to blast her secretive Brexit deal past MP’s using Shock and Awe tactics and failed twice (making MP’s part of the problem in her mind) but Speaker Bercow, by allowing a series of indicative votes helped MP’s to recognize that Theresa May’s flawed deal is actually a better deal than the House itself could arrange — and therefore, the Speaker, by treating MP’s with fairness and respect, may thereby help MP’s pass Theresa May’s twice-rejected deal.


This Can’t be Said Loudly Enough…

The Speaker of the House, John Bercow, used the strength of the House (its MP’s, its numbers, its experience, its longstanding systems and procedures, its ability to innovate and set new precedent) which allowed (facilitated?) members of Parliament to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

And that’s what politics and leadership is all about. Well done, John Bercow!

MP’s Back Brexit Delay: A Vote for Mediocrity!

by John Brian Shannon

London, March 14, 2019: British MP’s vote on a number of indicative votes in the House of Commons to help the government gain some understanding of where Parliament sits on each potential pathway forward through the final days of the Brexit process.

At least, that’s what we were led to believe.

What actually happened was that Theresa May loaded a Trojan Horse into the day’s festivities and thereby received permission from Parliamentarians for an Article 50 extension.

Which was her only goal methinks, the rest of it was for show.


One Good Thing…

One good thing that came about in the voting was the complete lack of enthusiasm for a so-called ‘People’s Vote’ (a 2nd referendum on leaving the EU) which was soundly defeated 334 votes to 85 — a margin of 249 votes.

So the 2nd referendum proposal dies in Parliament allowing MP’s to get on with sifting through the dozens of other indicative proposals in a process that will push the more popular propositions to the top of the government’s priority list. (Let’s hope)


And One Bad Thing…

But not everything went well as MP’s backed the government’s motion (413 votes to 202) to extend Article 50 beyond the promised March 29, 2019 deadline.

It’s the worst thing Parliament has done since Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1937-1940) decided to appease, rather than confront, the mounting threat in Europe. Which (policy) didn’t end well.

Nor will this end well, a vote that rewards Prime Minister Theresa May’s lack of accomplishment towards a viable Withdrawal Agreement (which UK voters didn’t vote for on the referendum ballot) but which Theresa May tells us is of the utmost importance (it isn’t) and which has worked to lower peoples’ perceptions of the quality of government and timeliness of government they receive from their elected officials.

I fully expect at the next General Election there will be a thorough housecleaning as voters won’t forget what they were promised ad nauseam since July 2016, and what The Government writ large has massively failed to deliver.

Let’s remember some of these oft-repeated Theresa May statements that the country was led to believe framed her will on Brexit:

  • “Brexit Means Brexit”
  • “Brexit Delayed is Brexit Denied.”
  • “No Deal is Better Than a Bad Deal”
  • “The UK Will Regain Control of its Money”
  • “The UK Will Become The Great Meritocracy”
  • “Nothing is Agreed Until Everything is Agreed.”
  • “The UK Will No Longer be Subject to a Foreign Court”
  • “The UK Will Regain the Right to Write its Own Trade Deals”
  • “The UK Will Regain Control of its Borders and Immigration”
  • “The UK Will be Leaving the European Union on March 29, 2019.”

Rewarding Theresa May and her government for failing to deliver on every promise made about Brexit over the past 3-years by giving her even more time to fail is outrageous.

MP’s should hang their heads in shame and walk humbly among The People wearing only sackcloth and ashes for the next 10-years to atone for their inability to hold the Prime Minister to account and for lowering the threshold of good government, generally.

A well-known truism states that “Every day, we teach others how to treat us,” and members of the House of Commons have just taught Theresa May that incompetence, false promises, and weak government, will be rewarded with more time to accomplish more of the same (which, on the Brexit file, is piss-all thus far) and it’s shameful what MP’s have done.

No government in history has accomplished less in 994-days on their main policy platform than the Theresa May government.

Let me be clear! If Brexit doesn’t occur on March 29, 2019 as promised by the government Theresa May should be fired for non-performance. If you can’t get the job done in 1009-days (June 23, 2016 – March 29, 2019) then you don’t deserve the job!

Is that really so hard for the snowflake generation to understand?


On Top of All That: The EU is Under No Obligation to Grant an Article 50 Extension

It should be noted that the EU is under no obligation to extend the Article 50 deadline and that many senior EU and EC officials have said that the UK government would need to provide a good reason to extend the deadline. Apparently, the EU won’t simply extend the deadline just because British politicians ask for it.

Which seems completely appropriate and I will support the EU if it won’t agree to an Article 50 extension. There’s already been too much economic uncertainty, and for too long.


Brexit: Theresa May’s Job-For-Life

Theresa the Remainer has said all the right things since she accepted the job of UK Prime Minister in July 2016, yet here we are 994-days later, and now she wants an extension to get the job done that she should’ve accomplished within months of the EU referendum vote.

It seems that if you let her, Theresa May will turn the job of securing a Brexit into a job for life — a job that never completes — so that we always need her at the helm to steer it through. (That appears to be the strategy for her to remain as Prime Minister forever)

Micheal Gove could’ve gotten the job done in 1-year although he might have ruffled a few feathers in Brussels. Jacob Rees-Mogg, for another example, could’ve gotten the job done in 2-years and it would’ve been a very gentlemanly Brexit indeed, however, he wouldn’t have understood the Eurocrat mindset which might’ve caused him consternation. And Boris Johnson would’ve made a titanic success of Brexit but may have caused hard feelings between the UK and EU governments.

Still, the job of Brexit would’ve been done and dusted long ago, minus gazillions of tons of uncertainty over the past 994-days were any of those three in the PM’s chair since July 2016. Theresa May certainly isn’t indispensable as regards Brexit.

So why keep her?

As Theresa May herself has said many times, “Brexit delayed is Brexit denied,” and sending an Article 50 extension request to the EU now would kick the Brexit can down the road. Significantly.

People are beginning to tire of all this Brexit talk, it’s already dying of overexposure in the media spotlight at Day 994. Imagine how Britons will feel at Day 1374! (994 + 15 more days until March 29, 2019 + a 365 day Article 50 extension)

As I said at the outset, Theresa May loaded a Trojan Horse into today’s House of Commons proceedings and in the excitement not one person recognized how profoundly she’s changed the Brexit story.

Now she imagines she has a job for life — and for the next 12-months she’ll only fan the flames of Brexit whenever she needs support to stay in power.

Eventually, she knows that Brexit will die of overexposure in the public domain. But not to worry, she’ll have found something else by then to keep her in power, thanks to those MP’s who choose to reward mediocre Prime Ministers.


“Brexit Delayed is Brexit Denied”

Theresa the Remainer was right! Brexit delayed, is indeed, Brexit denied.

I’m beginning to think that Theresa the Remainer decided long ago that the best way to keep her job for the longest amount of time and to stop Brexit was to delay Brexit for as long as possible.

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

And her enablers are those MP’s who reward Prime Ministers who can’t (or don’t want to) succeed at their primary (and oft-stated) goal.


Just in Case You’re Interested in What Britons Think About Delaying Brexit…

But it’s likely you aren’t interested in what Britons think if you’re one of the 413 UK politicians who voted for an Article 50 extension in today’s House of Commons vote, but some 43% of Britons don’t want any further Brexit delay, they just want it over and done so as to end the present period of economic uncertainty — while 38% of Britons want to delay Brexit in hopes that Brexit will simply fade away.

Brexit delay vote held March 14, 2019

A majority of the UK people don’t want an Article 50 extension. They want Parliament to get on with the job of Brexit and end the present period of economic uncertainty. So Parliament votes against a ‘People’s Vote’ — but votes for an Article 50 extension. Facepalm! Image courtesy of YouGov.com