Wednesday, 13 April 2016

My LT column - Referenda and dysfunctional government

Holidays, holidays, holidays. We're all going on plenty of summer holidays!! That's MPs of course. Off in part in April, May, June, July, August, September and off in October!! But wait… Whilst cynics and those that stare with bitterness see this issue through the bottom of an empty beer glass the rest of us, the shrewd, probably recognise that there's something more to the story. There is. It's serious and it's worrying.

This is a government that can no longer effectively run the country. A Tory government so badly split on the Europe question it can no longer afford to have votes in Parliament on difficult matters where EU rebels seek opportunities to undermine the Prime Minister and his Remain campaign. It happened recently with Sunday Trading vote where the PM lost by a staggering 27 votes as EU rebels lined up to sink the bad ship Cameron. Governments don't lose votes and this was a signal that we are indeed in extraordinary times. As recrimination and revenge becomes the new politic, parliamentary paralysis is descending.

A weak and wounded retiring Prime Minister whose authority is draining away by the day. A zombie Parliament unable to sit or make tough decisions. A PM who has had to bring forward the state opening of Parliament and the Queens Speech to before the EU referendum vote on 23rd June to avoid a rebel Tory amendment that would trigger his exit. This is an existential fight for the soul of the Conservative Party and under no circumstances will Cameron be allowed to negotiate the terms of the UK’s exit.

Should however it be a narrow victory for Mr Cameron and Remain, the knives will still be out for him as anti-EU Tories feel a sense of ultimate betrayal. They will chatter about a different result. That if the ‘It's a Knockout’ larger than life character, Brexiteer Boris Johnson had been at the Tory helm the result would have been different. They would have won. Instead and worse, they will see a Tory Prime Minister in Cameron in cohoots with the Labour enemy to deny them their lifetimes ambition.

A post 23rd of June that may not usher in a period of normality. Government business that may well remain sparse thin gruel with MPs on extended gardening leave in their constituencies as Tory recriminations continue into a post-referendum apocalypse.