It’s late in the evening, the time of the day during the work week when I usually FaceTime Ros and we catch up on each other’s days. Except that, today, Ros’s day hasn’t finished, nor does it look much like finishing anytime soon.
The debate on a business motion to secure time to debate what is now the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill, has been scarred by the submitting of 101 amendments by Conservative Peers who have chosen now to conclude that, whilst they might well have been in favour of Parliamentary sovereignty at first, all they really want is to crash the country’s economy regardless of the impact that this might have on its citizens.
And so, methodically, each amendment has to be moved, debated and, after due consideration, moved to a vote. That means, in non-Parliamentary language, telling the mover or his colleagues to shut up and sit down, by order of the House. This takes time, lots of time. And that, after all, is the intention, to talk out the Bill and thwart Parliamentary sovereignty.
There is another convention at threat here, that of the elected House ultimately having the right to have its legislation passed, albeit after proper scrutiny - you wouldn’t believe some of the rubbish which passes for scrutiny at the Commons end.
But, of course, for the Brexiteers, the ends justify the means. Attack the judiciary, attack the neutrality of the Civil Service, undermine all of the supports that underpin our Parliamentary democracy, regardless of the long-term impact of doing so. And there is a long-term impact because, once you’ve scrambled the egg, you can’t unscramble it again. Because if you can do it, anybody else can too - “bad people”, for want of a better phrase, more dangerous people. And they can do it to you.
Now, in truth, whilst I respect our unwritten constitution, with all of its quirks and idiosyncrasies, I’ve always favoured a written alternative, laying out the rules so that anyone (theoretically) can find out how the game is played. And, if ever there was a time to move on this, it is now. The need to resort to procedural jiggerypokery to allow a majority in both Houses of Parliament (and that’s what we have, make no mistake) to make law, leads us ever further down the road to an American style of politics which would serve this country very badly.
And so, Ros and her colleagues are settling in for a long night of voting down wrecking amendments. It’s a terrible way to do business, but there’s a whole raft of principles at stake here, and somebody has to stand up for the rule of law and the notion of fair play.
Meanwhile, the radicalisation of the Conservative Party continues unchecked...