In a dangerous constitutional change, Oliver Letwin took control of government for one day and threatens to do so again on Monday next week. Whether or not you like what he was proposing, the very fact that it was possible for Parliament, whose job it is to scrutinise the Executive, to pretend to be that Executive, is extremely damaging to our parliamentary democracy. Who is to scrutinise what the Letwin mini-government does? Who is to hold them to account? Government’s job is to govern, Parliament’s job is to scrutinise what they are doing.
At all events, the exercise failed, since the House simply voted against all of the eight options. Mr Letwin promised to bring it back next week with fewer options, and of this I am sure – that if he whittles it down to two options, one or other will have a majority. However, that in itself is not sufficient to indicate any merit in that outcome.
Parliament is unusually sitting on Friday in an attempt to prevent that constitutional outrage occurring, by once again considering the Withdrawal Agreement. It is as yet unclear whether or not the Speaker will allow such a third vote or whether it will be necessary for the Government to ascertain the views of the House by some other means. That might for example be the Second Reading debate on the Withdrawal Bill itself, incorporating the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. As you will know, I remain deeply unhappy about the agreement, which seems to me to have dire consequences for the future. However I have concluded that it is less bad than any other option available to us. I, together with a number of other colleagues from the ERG, have therefore signalled that we will support the third Meaningful Vote, in whatever form it comes back. The DUP are currently indicating that they will not support it, in which case we will need the support of a substantial number of Labour MPs if it is to pass. I am at all events confident that the deal will secure more votes than any of Oliver Letwin’s bogus alternatives.
My hope is that by Monday, Parliament will have agreed on the way forward, based one way or another on the Prime Minister’s deal, and we can then move forward to the second stage of negotiations – on the trade agreement, with a new leader at our head by the summer.
On a personal level I respect Mrs May’s integrity and her strength and determination, but fear that she has been a wholly unsuccessful Prime Minister. She simply did not have the ability to secure something as difficult as Brexit in a minority government and has now paid the price for it. I wish her well in her retirement and look forward to new and dynamic leadership from the Brexit wing of the party from the Summer.