Tag Archives: backbenchers

So much for her £1bn bribe: DUP turns against May and joins the Eurosceptics

Partners no more? Theresa May (left) with Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, in happier times.

The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party is threatening to vote against Theresa May – and with as many as 40 Eurosceptic Tories – on a motion to make the European Union’s proposal for a border ‘backstop’ effectively illegal.

The tactic is the clearest signal yet that the alliance between the Conservative government and the DUP – the only thing keeping Mrs May in Downing Street – is at the point of collapse.

This is despite Mrs May having given the DUP a £1 billion bung in return for its support.

Mrs May’s position on the Irish border was muddied in a discussion of the issue in the Commons, when the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, seemed unable to give a straight answer. As if the government were unsure what to do in the light of the DUP’s threatened betrayal?

Mrs May’s position worsened in the debate immediately following, when Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab made a false statement. David Lammy explains:

Mr Raab was suggesting that Parliament could not delay the UK’s departure from the EU because it was subject to an international agreement. But this was not true because Parliamentary sovereignty means it is not tied to decisions made by other bodies (and it never was, even though that was one reason people were encouraged to support leaving the EU in the referendum).

When Mrs May herself stood up to provide a report on last week’s summit with other EU leaders, she fared no better. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn summed up her position thus:

Mrs May protested that a Brexit deal was 95 per cent complete – and this provided an opportunity for hilarity:

It seems the remainder of Mrs May’s Brexit journey may well mimic that of the Titanic.

With the DUP poised to betray her, and her own backbenchers preparing to stab her “in the front”*, it seems she may sink without a trace before the end of the week.

*Many have deplored the use of this kind of language, including Labour’s Jess Phillips – who has been ridiculed for doing so. After all, she once threatened to metaphorically stab her own party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in exactly the same place.

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The worm(tongue) turns – and not a moment too soon

I would like to apologise in advance to fans of JRR Tolkien’s epic fantasy Lord of the Rings for the content of this blog.

You see, it occurred to me today that – in Nick Clegg and David Cameron – we can see a real-life parallel with the relationship between Grima Wormtongue and Saruman, the evil wizard who plots to be a dark lord.

Can Clegg be compared to Wormtongue? I think he can. For much of LOTR, Grima spends his time telling the people of his country that the best policy is to put themselves at Saruman’s mercy and let him ride roughshod over them, their homes and their livelihoods – much as Clegg has advised us to let Cameron ruin the UK.

Can Cameron be compared to Saruman? I think he can. In LOTR, Saruman plots to be a Dark Lord, as powerful as Sauron (who, as everyone knows, is the principle villain of the piece, portrayed memorably in the film version by a flaming, computer-generated eyeball). However, it turns out that Saruman just doesn’t have the ability to be a successful Dark Lord. He’s bad – but he isn’t very good at it.

In reality, Cameron wanted to be the Prime Minister because he thought he’d be “good at it”. After two years, we can look at his back catalogue of failures and U-turns and see how wrong he was.

As the novel has it, Grima finally turns on Saruman and stabs him in the back, killing him – which brings me to this week’s events concerning House of Lords reform.

Clegg has long cherished the idea of delivering constitutional reforms to the British Parliamentary system. Deprived, by referendum, of the opportunity to change the voting system to the Alternative Vote (which would have improved his party’s chance of getting Parliamentary seats), he fell back on reform of the House of Lords – a scheme which, his party claimed, had nothing whatsoever to do with Cameron’s plans to change constituency boundaries, cutting the number of of seats in the Commons down to 600 (which would have improved HIS party’s chance of getting seats).

This week, that idea was dealt a fatal blow – more because Conservative backbenchers refused to support it in principle than because Labour took issue with the scheduling of the debate. Lords reform has been dropped.

In retaliation, Clegg has announced that he will be instructing his MPs not to support boundary changes when the vote takes place – stabbing Cameron in the back, just as Grima stabs Saruman.

And the parallel can be drawn closer still, because both incidents hinge on side-issues. In the book, Saruman is causing trouble in the heroes’ homeland, out of nothing but spite, when he is killed. In reality, the boundaries issue is about making it harder for Labour to win Parliamentary seats – a spiteful attempt, by the Conservatives, at punishment for being kept in Opposition for 13 years.

But will the wound prove fatal? Cameron was doing his best to play down its significance immediately after, claiming that both Coalition parties would continue to work together to rebuild the nation’s economy. That’ll be a hard slog, because it is under the Coalition that the economy has slipped back into a recession that has grown deeper with every month that passes – fuelled, as we saw demonstrated in the Workfare case (see the immediately preceding post), by Coalition policies.

Commentators have already suggested that one way out for Cameron would be if Scotland secedes from the Union. That would deliver a cut in the number of Parliamentary seats and an increased likelihood of Conservative victory, given the current state of voting intentions in the seats that remain. So it seems unlikely that the Conservatives will fight very hard to keep Scotland in the UK.

Even then, though, what will the voters do? We’ve had a little more than two years of the Coalition and already the vast majority of the population are feeling the pinch, while having to watch the Coalition’s leaders and their big-business friends getting their snouts in the trough.

Future developments could be stranger even than fantasy fiction.