In the last few weeks you could be forgiven for forgetting that Britain is meant to be a parliamentary democracy. Theresa May and her government have shown such contempt for parliament that the average voter must wonder what the point of the archaic institution is. Not only did May’s government become the first in history to be found in contempt of parliament over their refusal to publish Brexit legal advice, they then cancelled the meaningful vote simply because they knew they would lose. In doing this, the Tories did not just show contempt for parliament, they showed their contempt for democracy and the British public.
It is difficult to stress just how worrying the Tories being found in contempt of parliament is. A key theme of Brexit has been restoring sovereignty to the UK parliament. Whether or not this notion is built on myths is largely irrelevant as it easy to see the attraction of a society in which its own parliament is sovereign. It is in this context that the government’s refusal to publish the full Brexit advice is. Parliament had clearly ordered the government to do so, and the government’s rejection of the command shows that they view parliamentary decrees as optional rather than compulsory. For the Tories, democracy is something to be ignored when its outcome does not suit them. The irony that this is a charge that many Tory Brexiteers level at remainers should not be lost on anyone.
After showing such contempt for parliament, most would assume that the Tories would make at least some attempt to demonstrate their respect for democracy. Instead, May followed this by refusing to allow parliament to have a meaningful vote on her deal. This is simply staggering. The Prime Minister allowed days of debate to take place, wasting parliament’s time, before pulling the vote because she realised that she would lose and lose heavily. May did this because she feared a defeat in parliament would lead to her eviction from Downing Street. In doing so, May flouted the will of parliament because she wished to desperately cling to power. It shows that May, and the Tories, do not care about democracy, they care about power. If the Prime Minister cannot get legislation through parliament, which May clearly cannot do with the Withdrawal Agreement, then they must resign and make way for the Opposition. The Tories are playing party politics with Brexit and our futures. It must end now.
Contempt for parliament is commonplace with the Conservative party. Both Esther McVey and Amber Rudd were both caught lying to parliament at various points. While Rudd resigned (eventually), McVey stayed in her post until just weeks ago, resigning on a matter of principal over Brexit, instead of in shame at her parliamentary transgressions. On top of this, who could forget Christopher Chope? His name has become synonymous with ‘upskirting’ after he objected to the criminalisation of taking pictures up women’s skirts, before doing the same with a bill on female genital mutilation. To do this, Chope exploited obscure parliamentary laws to block bills that the majority of parliament supported, such was his support for ‘upskirting’. While Tories may prattle on about the ‘will of the people’, they only care about the will of the powerful. For them parliament is not meant to be reflective of what the British public want, it is simply a tool to advance their own ambitions and aims. ‘Democracy’ to the Conservative party is a meaningless term that they tolerate to hide their contempt for representative politics.
The Tories’ disregard for parliamentary democracy is important as it shows that they will attempt to force their policies on Britain whether or not parliament supports them. They have exploited obscure parliamentary procedures, lied to parliament, cancelled votes and even refused to comply with the binding votes by parliament. This must be objectionable regardless of which party you support. If the governing party refuses to govern democratically then they should not be allowed to govern.
The sad reality is that the Tories do not care about democracy and that they do not care about the British public. As I write this they are having a pointless confidence vote while Brexit stagnates and millions languish in poverty. Rather than attempt to solve these problems they bicker about the best way to stay in power. The amount of real issues that are being neglected while the Tories play party politics is incredible. While Tory MPs cry at May’s speech to dissenting colleagues, children cry with hunger in the UK. As she promises changes in the Withdrawal Agreement, EU negotiators and heads of state say there will be no negotiation. The UN has saw strongly condemned levels of poverty caused by Tory rule, yet Tory MPs are more concerned with deciding which morally bankrupt politician will be the face of their party. The Tories are living in a fantasy world and are making a mockery of both British democracy and the British public. They are fiddling while Britain burns.
Unfortunately, the only way only way that the Opposition can put an end to the Tories’ tyranny is through a majority no confidence vote in parliament, which, due to May’s £1 billion bung to the DUP, they do not have. It is clear though that a general election is desperately needed. Not only will it help alleviate the Brexit impasse, it will hopefully rid Britain of this loathsome government. While May has been given a stay of execution tonight, the result shows she cannot govern. No wonder she and the Tories despise democracy so much. May must listen to Corbyn and put her deal before parliament. When it fails Labour must bring a no confidence motion against this shambolic government to force a general election and a return to democracy. Bring on a general election and with it a Labour government.