Contempt of parliament? This government is in contempt of its people

Prime Minister Theresa May is no longer in charge. She will lose the 11 December vote on her Brexit agreement. Her party is in open revolt against her and she’s been forced to pluck unknown MPs from the backbenches to fill her cabinet.

Just this week, opposition parties at Westminster joined in an unprecedented accusation against the government. The charge of contempt of parliament has a sound foundation, which the Speaker, John Bercow, has essentially conceded.

At every turn, this government has tried to prevent the parliamentary sovereignty that Brexiteers so craved. May’s government did not want a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal. Now, her government is withholding legal advice which parliament must see. May’s ministers could find themselves suspended from the House of Commons for withholding this information.

The debate on contempt of parliament will take place today, but it’s little more than a sideshow in the permanent crisis that is Brexit. Theresa May can’t even organise a TV debate on her deal, let alone get it passed through a hostile house. And what happens when she inevitably loses the vote on 11 December, possibly by a huge margin? Will she finally do the decent thing and resign? Will the Tories who hate the deal finally get rid of her?

There are no clear answers to these questions. May has survived ordeals that would have destroyed other political careers. Much stronger and more popular prime ministers have lost their jobs after suffering a fraction of what May has endured. So why is she still in office?

Jacob Rees-Mogg and his misleadingly named ‘European Research Group’ couldn’t convince enough backbenchers to write letters of no confidence when May announced her universally unpopular deal. After the Rees-Moggian sound and fury, nothing happened. No challenger emerged. Perhaps no-one wants the job any more. Who could blame them? May is besieged on all fronts, desperately trying to square the circle, deflecting hard questions and getting weaker by the day. May’s career is effectively over, but her job goes on.

One glance at the Brexit-supporting press shows how much things have changed. Cheer leading newspapers now encourage their readers to accept May’s deal and to take short term pain for long term gain. This is far from the sunny uplands of Brextiland that were promised in 2016. Brexit fantasy has hit the wall of reality.

Brexiteers always held the British people in contempt. That was clear from the first appearance of the Brexit bus and the dog whistle racism of anti-immigrant posters. But the Brexit infection has spread throughout the entire government. Ministers make a lot of noise about resigning, and then do nothing to stop this terrible situation. Backbenchers threaten to unseat May if she crosses a red line, then slink meekly away when she crosses it. And May herself speaks out of both sides of her mouth, promising a deal that is both Brexit and not Brexit. How long can she expect the people to tolerate it?

It’s no surprise that the government could hold parliament in contempt, they’ve treated the British people with contempt for months now. The Tory government is a collection of ideologues, self-conscious liars and jumped up nobodies led by a woman who is politically dead. A defeat on 11 December must bring this fetid government to an end.

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