In the House of Commons the Brexiteers were given a chance to keep their promises, and yet again they said no

The bad news is that MPs are not going on holiday early, and the worse news is that at the end of it they still plan to come back 

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Tuesday 17 July 2018 20:26 BST
Brexit vote: Government defeats EU customs union bid

Late on Tuesday evening the government decided that actually it wouldn’t, after all, make the House of Commons vote on whether or not the House of Commons should break up five days early.

Theresa May never actually formally confirmed whether the idea, abandoned 24 hours after having it, had anything to do with the fact that when the Commons isn’t sitting it is technically impossible for her own MPs to overthrow her.

But somehow, in the short hours between having the idea and un-having it and no one coming up with any reason for it being had apart from to stop her being overthrown, somebody somewhere must have whispered to someone that the general public just isn’t going to be down with the idea of MPs voting to start their summer break five days early. To those not well versed in the nuances of parliamentary procedure, it could look like taking the absolute piss. And to those who are well versed in said nuances, it could and indeed would look exactly the same.

All of which serves as a sort of background shitshow, a soft shitshow bassoon, if you like, almost imperceptible beneath the latest rising crescendo of the Biggest Shitshow Symphony of them all – Brexit, which is heading into the summer with some of its loudest, most cacophonic notes to date.

Unfortunately,Tuesday’s political acid trip only makes sense when lived within the k-hole of Monday, so we will have to begin with a quick recap.

On Monday, the government instructed its MPs to vote in favour of a series of amendments that had been tabled by Jacob Rees-Mogg with the express intention of wrecking the government’s own policy (the policy that it had “agreed” to at Chequers 11 days ago, in the “agreement” that led to both the foreign secretary and the Brexit secretary agreeing to leave the government).

But now the government was in favour of the amendments designed to wreck its own position – apart from a junior defence minister called Guto Bebb, that is, who wasn’t in favour of it, so he quit the government in order to vote for what had been the government’s own position, before Jacob Rees-Mogg decided to wreck it, and the government decided to agree with him.

The government won the vote to pass the amendments designed to bring down its own position by three votes). Had four Labour MPs not voted for the government it would have lost. And it would have lost by an even bigger margin if the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable, had managed to be there; and the former leader, the mysteriously unbeknighted Tim Farron, had not been otherwise occupied in a church hall in Dorset talking about “politics and faith”.

For the record, he was not talking about whether or not gay sex is a sin, the organiser of the event has since made clear. Whether or not he was the same organiser of the event that wrote the 22 word introduction to it on the Sherborne Abbey website, in which the words “gay sex” feature several times and nothing else really features at all, is something that has not been made clear by anyone.

And so, on Tuesday, emboldened by the near-death experience of their own government, the Tory Remain squad tabled an amendment that would, deep breath, compel the UK to stay in the EU customs union if it hadn’t found another way of guaranteeing “frictionless trade” by January 2019, two months before we leave the EU.

In the final moments before the vote, Tory remainer-in-chief Anna Soubry strode up and down the benches of the Commons with a feverish intensity. CCTV footage occasionally shown on Crimewatch has revealed men with tights over their heads looking far less stressed while firing sawn-off shotguns and telling bank cashiers to get down.

But, in the end, it wasn’t to be: 307 votes to 301 meant another government win.

The European Union, by the way, is telling its remaining members with ever more urgency to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, with all its catastrophic consequences. And it is watching with ever greater despair as the British government seemingly does everything in its power to make a no-deal Brexit more likely.

Those who wandered through the “no” lobby naturally included Boris Johnson, David Davis, Michael Gove and the rest. It is now just over two years since they toured the country, reminding anyone and everyone not to panic because the Germans will want to sell us their cars, the French their cheese, the Italians their wine and blah blah blah blah. Everything would definitely be fine.

And yet here they were, the loyal ones, the victors, asked to give their backing to an amendment that would mean that if, heaven forfend, it turned out they’d been wrong all along, there would still be a mechanism to make sure they kept their promise. To make sure that the assurances given to the general public about avoiding a hard Brexit, by the Brexiteers themselves, would be met.

And naturally they all lined up to say: no way.

When the crashing cymbals of the Brexit Shitshow Symphony are this loud in your ears, winning a referendum then actually keeping your promises is the thing that lands you on the front of the newspaper; the word “traitor” above your head in 96-point letters.

You really don’t need to go to a church hall in Dorset to find out that, in politics, there’s a hell of a lot of sinning going on that, in the end, is not going to be forgiven.

There will be no early holidays for anyone.

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