“Woe, Woe and thrice woe” I feel like Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii. (Does that date me?).
I’ve been enjoying glorious sunsets at Druidstone on the Pembrokeshire coast (where Bob Marshall-Andrews used to have his Telly-Tubby house, I wonder if he’s still there) but despite the beauty of this place I can’t help dwelling on the approaching doom.
Next week Parliament will resume and we will begin a marathon slog on the Bill to Repeal the European Communities Act 1972. The Official Opposition has withdrawn from any pairing arrangements, so no quarter will be given. I was once the pairing whip, so I know exactly what that means: when a father asks if he can be absent in order to attend his daughter’s primary school nativity play, the answer has to be no. If an MP want’s to attend a constituent’s funeral, or that of a relative, the answer will be no. If you are ill, you will have to be on the parliamentary estate in order to be ‘nodded through’ the division lobby.
Whatever the question, the answer will be no. Even ministers on important government business abroad, including the Brexit negotiations themselves, must be ready to return at a moment’s notice.
There will be two years of very long nights and short tempers.
Only now is the enormity of the disastrous election result beginning to hit home. The purpose of the election was to secure a majority with which to negotiate Brexit from a position of strength. Now however, we have to negotiate from a position of significantly greater weakness, with Her Majesty’s loyal opposition undermining the Government’s negotiating position by tabling contradictory amendments to the Brexit Bill as the negotiations proceed.
Constituents have been writing to me (they always do) with their legislative priorities for the new parliament. I have to tell them to forget it. There will be no time for any other legislation. What many do not appreciate is that the bulk of the legislative process in Parliament, where all the time- consuming detailed work takes place, is in the standing committees. These committees are composed of a subset of MPs determined by a formula to reflect the composition of the Commons as a whole. The Democratic Unionists, on whom the Government relies for a majority, are too few in number to qualify for representation on the standing committees. It follows that the Government will not have a majority on any such committee, and therefore cannot risk it. As a consequence, any legislation will have to be taken on the floor of the Commons in a ‘committee of the whole House’ creating a complete legislative log-jam.
I see no light at the end of the tunnel, with the Government at constant risk of defeat.
It is at times like this that you have to concentrate on what you have already survived, in order to give you a proper sense of proportion.
We survived school, including liver like rubber that you had to hide in your pocket and hope to remain undetected; we survived those knee length bell-bottomed football shorts made of jaggy army battle dress fabric that chapped your inner thighs; and, hey, does anyone remember IZAL Medicated….
The Worst is always behind us: We will get through this.