As politicians breathe fire about the ‘constitutional outrage’ of proroguing Parliament, can I remind readers of this column that I first suggested this strategy to the former Prime Minister on the floor of the Commons in December of last year. My suggestion was tongue-in-cheek, because the circumstance then would indeed have been an outrage: proroguing parliament purely to avoid being defeated in a parliamentary vote.
Let me give an example of such an outrage: Suppose that either a vote of confidence, or proceedings on a bill to prevent a no-deal BREXIT were scheduled to be debated the Commons later next week, and the Government -in fear of defeat, announced the prorogation of Parliament on the eve of the debate. Yes, that would indeed be a constitutional outrage!
My generation will remember the Mysterons: aliens from Mars that waged war on Earth, which was defended by Captain Scarlet. It was a Children’s TV drama using puppets not dissimilar to Joe 90 or Fireball XL5.
At the start of each episode the Mysterons abandoned any concept of surprise by publicly announcing their plan, giving Captain Scarlet every opportunity to thwart it.
The Government has just adopted the Mysteron strategy: no subterfuge; no surprise; it has clearly laid out the Parliamentary timetable, giving notice to its opponents how and when to organise in order to prevent a no-deal BREXIT. In effect, the Government has thrown down a challenge to its opponents.
In terms of the planned siting days that will now be lost, the three days in question are hardly worth the fuss that is being made of them. With our ‘activist’ Speaker, there will be no shortage of time for the Government’s opponents to rise to this challenge.
In my estimate the Government’s action further reduces the possibility of leaving the EU without an agreement, because it sends an even stronger signal of the Government’s determination to leave on 31st October whatever the circumstance.
The EU, never hitherto believing that we would do it (a belief re-enforced by the parliamentary ‘5th column’ insisting that they would prevent it), now has to -for the first time- contemplate this real possibility and negotiate to avert it.
As I have always said, taking no-deal off the table, increased the possibility of a no-deal BREXIT because it reduced the strength of our negotiating hand to secure a deal that could get through Parliament.
It is ironic that most of those who are most vehement in their opposition to no-deal, were overwhelmingly the ones who voted against the current Withdrawal Agreement. For so many of them, what they really oppose is our leaving the EU at all.
Good luck to the Mysterons, it’s time they had a win.