Tomorrow a bunch of unelected peers in the House of Lords will lecture the public on how they got Brexit wrong

Paddy Ashdown thinks a Brexit-slaying prince will come to save us all from leaving the EU. Not likely: the Messiah has already risen in the eyes of the public, and he’s in Islington North

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Monday 29 January 2018 17:39
Are those who sit in the Lords really convinced they can ignore the results of a massive popular vote?
Are those who sit in the Lords really convinced they can ignore the results of a massive popular vote?

Brexit continues to make its way through the British parliamentary system with all the ease of a python that’s just swallowed an alligator whole then immediately regretted it. And on Tuesday we may just see the first signs of giant teeth exploding out the wrong end.

That is when the EU (Withdrawal) Bill makes its first appearance in the upper chamber, pitting the two entirely unmanageable thermonuclear clusterf***s of British democracy right up against one another.

Brexit vs The House of Lords. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? It is the enduring paradox of the comic book world, a question ultimately left unanswered by Batman, Superman and everyone else right down to Hulk Hogan and André the Giant. But the most thrilling instalment of all is coming soon to a BBC Parliament channel near you.

The debate will run for two days. It will feature a load of ageing men and women, put there by patronage, explaining in great detail why the Government’s Brexit legislation is a disgrace, but it will not take too great a genius to see what they really mean – which is that the public has got it wrong.

We’ve seen the trailer already and it makes for enthralling viewing. A House of Lords report published on Monday morning concludes that the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, the legislation through which the Government essentially copies and pastes EU law into UK law in advance of our departure, is “constitutionally unacceptable”.

It has prompted unelected Liberal Democrat peers, of which there are 100, a number undiminished by the party’s electoral collapse, to go on Sky News and talk about a “power grab” by the Government.

It is constitutional carnage. A massive popular vote that, if it felt it was up to it, the House of Commons would not pass, mutated and held up by a gang of hangers-on accountable to no one.

Most intriguing of all – and here we do return to the realm of comic books – is an assertion by the best known Lib Dem peer of them all, Lord Ashdown, that it is through this process that some new Brexit-slaying prince might be born.

In an interview with Politico, the former Lib Dem leader is the latest to start agitating for a new centrist movement, as if Brexit is going to throw up a British Macron and save us from ourselves.

“I was saying to someone the other day that John the Baptist has arrived, the public is hungry – but Jesus Christ won’t turn up,” he claimed. “But cometh the hour, cometh the man or woman. Let’s wait and see.”

Oh, Paddy. How many centrist parties have to be formed, and how many times has the Great British public got to not vote for the Liberal Democrats, before they realise the centrists are not coming to save us?

There was a centrist party once – you led it – but its voters believed in high public sector spending and no tuition fees. They are no longer waiting for their Messiah. He has already risen, in Islington North.

Lord Ashdown does at least concede that, in the end, the Brexit crocodile will defeat the ermine-clad python. The Commons will get their way, but in his analysis a second referendum on the terms of the final deal is now “likely”.

Some of us are old enough to remember April 2017, when Tim Farron launched the Liberal Democrat election campaign, standing onstage inside a circumference of EU stars. We remember where it got him.

The answers to that comic book paradox are varied, by the way. The Joker told Batman, “I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. You and I are destined to do this forever.”

Personally, I prefer Superman’s answer, as once told to some Tutankhamun-headed chap called Ultra-Sphinx in a very old and obscure cartoon.

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

Answer? “They surrender.”

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