With just over a week to go before Christmas, last week’s scenes in the Mother of all Parliaments were less nativity and more farce, with the very notion of parliamentary democracy all but ended when the government pulled a meaningful vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Such hubris. A prime minister who lost a referendum, lost her majority, held in contempt of parliament, who cancels a vote on a deal that she knows she is going to lose and who is so loathed by her own side that she only won a vote of no confidence by offering peerages, restoring the whip to disgraced MPs, relying on a majority already on her ministerial payroll and, finally, agreeing to sign her own P45 before the next election.
Nothing has changed; we still have a prime minister despised by so many, a Brexit deal that won’t pass through parliament and a lame-duck leader who has fired the starting gun on a contest to replace her.
I have been struggling to try to sum up the last year in politics and Mhairi Black basically did it for me by observing that, when the PM deployed her cunning plan to not have her Brexit deal voted down by simply not having the vote, the day finished at Westminster with a woman with a sword chasing after a guy walking backwards stealing a big golden stick from underneath the Speaker’s chair, while some unknown bloke dressed as Santa Claus was peering into the Chamber beholding it all.
And yet, we have fallen so far down the Brexit rabbit hole that this all seems perfectly normal; we have become so inured to the increasingly bizarre behaviour of some politicians that now anything goes.
A Northern Ireland Secretary who was surprised to learn about sectarian politics in Northern Ireland, a Brexit Secretary who was shocked to discover that Britain is an island separated by water from France, his successor, and a lawyer to boot, who thought he could challenge a European Court of Justice decision on Article 50 in the Scottish courts, a Foreign Secretary who referred to his Chinese wife as Japanese during a visit to Beijing, and a Culture Secretary whose biggest boast is having a very large Lego collection.
And with Boris Johnson now casting himself as Aslan in some rambling Narnia metaphor and Tory MPs squabbling about having to stand next to each other during TV interviews, is it any wonder that the Germans activated the child-lock on Theresa May’s car during her last-ditch pitch to Angela Merkel?
This is exactly what they invented the word “schadenfreude” for.
It was May who told us politics was not a game and yet here we are, stuck in the middle, with clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right and with a prime minister pretending “nothing has changed”.
She said she wanted to take back control and has proved herself incapable of doing just that within her own party.
The question of the UK’s membership of the EU has cost countless Conservative PMs their job, so, perhaps it’s time to consider that the problem is not with Europe but with the Tories.