BY JAMIE FOSTER
Brexit followers will know the story by now:
Last week the Speaker John Bercow used his office to change parliamentary procedure to advantage anti-Brexit MPs who are trying to stop Brexit. He refused to follow precedence when dealing with a government bill that government business managers had marked ‘forthwith’ meaning it was not amenable to amendment. He allowed a vote on an amendment to the bill put forward by anti-Brexit MP Dominic Grieve. The government lost the vote meaning they have only three days following the defeat of Mrs May’s Brexit deal to come back to parliament with alternatives to the deal.
There is little doubt that John Bercow is of an anti-Brexit mind set. It was noted in parliament that he drove a car with an anti-Brexit sticker in it. He commented that it was his wife’s car. This is a rather extraordinary defence to obvious bias on the part of the Speaker. Whosoever’s car it is, he shouldn’t be driving it with such a political slogan emblazoned in the window. It is of real concern to the government that the Speaker should be taking this approach to business surrounding Brexit.
The government can’t get rid of the Speaker. He is appointed by the whole house of parliament who are unlikely to get rid of him as he has so much support amongst Labour MPs and pro Remain Tory MPs. (I have seen an opinion from a senior Tory that the Speaker’s approach may make it impossible for any government to govern).
There is very little that Theresa May can do to stop Bercow if he has his mind set on trouble making. There is a great deal, however, that the Speaker can do to cause mischief and mayhem to a government seeking to get through its business in parliament. It is of real concern that a Speaker should choose to politicise his function in the way that John Bercow has. The smooth running of democracy is at stake. Speaker Bercow seems arrogant enough to think he can get away with doing what he likes.
The pro-Remain elite who wish to prevent Brexit don’t seem to realise that we are in a very unusual time in British politics. The Establishment’s bluff was called during the Referendum by a population who gave a clear instruction to leave the EU. If that were to be ignored or derailed the population is very unlikely to take it lying down. It is highly unusual for the general public to be asked their opinion on the way they are being governed. Having taken that step and asked the question it would be incredibly stupid to ignore the answer. If Bercow and others think it is just another political game they can attempt to win, they are in for a nasty shock.
At the moment no one in parliament is looking particularly good. Having been given their marching orders by the British public the government has made a pig’s ear of negotiating with the EU. The pro-Remain MPs have cocked a snook at democracy. The whole of the assembled horde of MPs seem to be unable to realise that they have a duty to the people to implement their will. Watching the Speaker’s games it just appears to be yet another confirmation that our ruling elite have lost the plot and are so busy trying to score points against each other they have lost sight of what it is they should be doing. It is ironic that Brexit has paralysed parliament so they appear incapable of doing anything other than Brexit while dealing so badly with Brexit.
Where this all leaves us is anyone’s guess. We appear to be heading for a no-deal Brexit. Opinion is divided on whether this would mean the end of the world as we know it or a real opportunity to take the reins back ourselves and steer our own course. Those who are trying to prevent Brexit will also want to prevent a no-deal Brexit. It is an open question as to whether they are able to prevent us leaving the EU under WTO terms as the ordinary function of Article 50. If we do leave with no deal one thing is for certain: politicians will have to rediscover the art of governing the UK and get good at it very quickly. We will need our leaders to guide us towards the new horizons that Brexit will afford us. During that time roles such as the Speaker’s will need to be well-defined in order to play their part. It may be that the real cost of the Speaker’s current machinations are yet to be felt.