It’s late again! I’m back in my office in parliament after a very long day, after a very long week, but it’s worth it because tonight we defeated the government and the result will be more power to you as to how Brexit plays out.
Since the day Theresa May took over as prime minster a worrying trend emerged. Her attitude to leadership is simple: ‘Do as I say. Do not question it. Do it now’.
Think about it. In the first six months after the referendum she should have been reconciling our divided country. She should have been up and down the country listening to the anxieties of people who voted Remain and the hopes of those who voted Leave, and found a way forward with sensitivity and humility. Instead she spent her time in court trying stop parliament having a vote!
The same thing has been happening in parliament. The Withdrawal Bill currently being debated gives parliament no power to scrutinise the final deal and no guarantee of a vote before we leave the EU. It also brings power back to Britain but bypasses parliament altogether and gives them to ministers and civil servants.
Instead of listening to the deep, well considered, and heartfelt concerns of MP’s, we were simply told to do as we were told. We were sneered at by the prime minister and some ministers and accused of being undemocratic or even a traitor if we did our constitutional job which is to scrutinise, challenge, and improve legislation
Today we had another eight hours of debate and finally voted on Dominic Grieve’s ‘Amendment 7’. Dominic is a Tory former cabinet minister, and his amendment simply says that government must legislate – pass an Act of Parliament – before final notice of withdrawal can be sent to the EU. It also means that we will be able to scrutinise the whole deal that government delivers from negotiations to judge if it is good enough.
All day, government and right-wing Tories were dismissive to MP’s of all parties. The Brexit minister spoke for a whole hour and refused to give a single concession. But then something remarkable happened.
Tory after Tory got up and made powerful brave speeches saying that it would be impossible for them to represent their community’s interests unless parliament is respected. The atmosphere in the chamber was very tense as it became clear the government were losing their majority. Fifteen minutes before the vote the minister suddenly announced that he was prepared to make a ‘verbal concession’. After three weeks of solid debate, often going beyond midnight. After eight hours of debate today, and they make a pathetic and mean-spirited concession fifteen minuets before the vote. It incensed MP’s.
When we voted I was furiously trying to count Tories and see if we had enough to win. I didn’t count enough and was deeply upset.
But back in the chamber when the result was read out and we won with a majority of four votes, I leaped to my feet and cheered like I’d just won the lottery!
I can’t tell you how important this is. David Davis has been lazy and dismissive, Theresa May has been dictatorial, and Liam Fox revelling in the destruction Brexit is likely to have on our welfare settlement and economic model. Each of them has treated parliament as an irritation.
But because of this vote they know there will be a reckoning. If they don’t match their words with a brilliant deal, each MP will have the power to judge it and do what is in the best interests of their community.
I have to tell you, I was getting pretty depressed and suffering defeat after defeat after defeat, seeing the power slip away from parliament and into the hands of a small number of hardline Brexiteers who acted with impunity.
In a few moments though I’ll leave parliament absolutely exhausted but with a spring in my step. They wanted sovereignty and today they got a taste of what that means, and MP’s from across the House decided not to listen to the few people who shout teh loudest but instead put the interests of our whole country first.
Next week the battle continues…and I can’t wait to get stuck in once more. Good night! Peter