Chris Moncrieff: MPs trying to stop Brexit guilty of great Parliamentary betrayal

A pro-Brexit leave the European Union supporter demonstrates with placards outside the Houses of Parliament in London.
A pro-Brexit leave the European Union supporter demonstrates with placards outside the Houses of Parliament in London.
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Will the Brexit opponents succeed in outflanking the Prime Minister and reneging on what Parliament undertook to do?

Those rogue elements in the House of Commons who appear to be doing their utmost to prevent Brexit from ever happening will, if successful in their tawdry efforts, be guilty of one of the greatest parliamentary betrayals of all time.

They seem to be oblivious of the fact it was Parliament which ordained the referendum, and it was Parliament which vowed to honour the outcome of that referendum – a significant majority for those who want the UK to leave the EU.

It is to the eternal credit of Theresa May, who supported the Remain campaign and yet has throughout kept the faith of Parliament with the Brexiteers. Even though she has been assailed on all sides by those – including many in her own party – who take a different view, as well as suffering a veritable crop of ministerial resignations, she has stuck steadfastly to Westminster’s solemn undertaking.

It is quite possible that this sorry affair could cost her the Premiership. The front-page splash headline in the Sunday Times said ominously: “May In Meltdown”. If Brexit does force her out, she can leave in the knowledge that she has faithfully kept the promise that Parliament made. Meanwhile, the huge defeat of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal last week solved nothing. The future progress of Brexit events looks like becoming even more tortuous.

And why all this should have encouraged Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg to hold a presumably celebratory champagne party simply baffles me.

Nigel Farage may be re-entering front-line politics. The former Ukip leader is being sounded out about the possible formation of a new Brexit Party as the process of achieving Brexit is confronted by more hazards and obstacles as each day passes. Farage finally quit Ukip because he was frustrated about the increasingly hard-line right-wing position the party was adopting. However, single-issue parties, like single-issue MPs, simply do not thrive in the present political climate. It might start with a bang – and then abruptly end, sooner rather than later, with a whimper.

Remember the SDP with its famous Gang of Four in the early-1980s? That party was launched with massive razzmatazz – but within a few months it was moribund, and a short while after that was as dead as a dodo. If I was a gambling man, I wouldn’t touch the proposed new party with a barge-pole. So, be warned.

It may sound like political heresy, but the sooner Parliament ditches the so-called democratic procedure in selecting future Speakers the better. Some years ago, Parliament abolished the centuries-old system of choosing a Speaker, and adopted a system whereby MPs voted for their preference.

Since the change, there have been three Speakers chosen in this way. Two of them have been disastrous. Michael Martin was effectively forced out of the chair over a long-running expenses scandal, and the present incumbent, John Bercow has been accused – with some justification, many MPs believe – with showing bias against the Tories.

Before these two was Betty Boothroyd, the first female Speaker, who was magnificent at the job. But that is only one out of three. Before that, two or three grandees from the main parties would meet in what then were smoke-filled rooms and decide on the new incumbent.

It may not, on the face of it, have appeared to be the most democratic way of filling this vital role – but, my goodness, it worked. It meant that party political bias did not enter into the system, and this small cabal always seemed to produce the right person. But has Parliament the guts to revert to the old system? I would not put my life savings on that happening.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson needs to get out of his short pants and grow up. Some hawk-eyed sleuth has discovered in the Ministry of Defence loo paper with a portrait of the Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin imprinted on it, with a very rude phrase in Russian beneath it. How infantile is that? And what a waste of money. If it is public money involved, that makes it even worse. Please grow up – you are not in the Lower Fourth any more.

Chris Moncrieff is a former political editor of the Press Association.