The Speaker is right to seize back sovereignty for the Commons against the abuse of power by May and her chaotic government
Brexit fatigue and Brexit bullying are Theresa May’s instruments of torture to grind recalcitrant MPs into passing her destructive deal. No more, says the Speaker: this war of attrition must stop. Her deal must change and if she brings one back, it must be “fundamentally different”. How different? He can’t say until he sees what plan, if any, she will present.
Rightly John Bercow complains of time wasted, of running down the clock as she tries to crush MPs against the concrete wall she herself constructed. No 10 was not forewarned of the Speaker’s ruling. Oddly, the Brexiteers were sounding pleased, presuming her deal as it stands can’t pass. They hope that no-deal beckons – still the legal certainty unless parliament passes something else. But the champion of the house will guarantee that MPs get the chance to stop no-deal dead. Continue reading...
A Labour peer's concerns are echoed by others in the House of Lords worried about "hoodlums in Lycra".
The Commons equivalent of the double jeopardy rule is rightly invoked to impose sense on a government elevating a plebiscitary politics over a parliamentary one
This country has been in a political and constitutional quandary since the results of the Brexit referendum in June 2016. Today the crisis deepened in a dramatic and decisive way. The Commons Speaker John Bercow said he was minded not to allow the government to bring back its Brexit deal for a third meaningful vote because it breaks parliamentary convention. Mr Bercow has history – going back all the way to 1604 – on his side. Under the “same question, same session” rule MPs cannot be asked to decide a question they have already decided in the same session. It’s the parliamentary equivalent of the double jeopardy rule. “Decisions of the house matter. They have weight,” he said.
Theresa May has tried to use votes in parliament to grind her opponents down until they accepted the only Brexit that would work was hers. This strategy involved ignoring decisions of parliament. MPs voted to take the date of the UK leaving the European Union of 29 March 2019 out of law – but ministers did nothing. Parliament voted against a no-deal Brexit – but it remained as the default option in statute. It is time to stop the prime minister playing a game of chicken with the future of the country. The speaker, representing the collective voice of parliament, has a duty to uphold the legislature’s supremacy over the government and the judiciary. Mr Bercow is right to remind the government that it cannot go on ignoring the will of the House. Continue reading...
As the proportion of SEN children in alternative schools continues to rise, it’s time to stand up for inclusion
A showdown between parents of children with special needs and the government is coming. Three families from different parts of England have won the right to a judicial review of the funding allocated to local authorities to fulfil their obligation to educate the 253,680 young people in England with an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC) – or “statement” – and the 1,022,535 other children also entitled to some form of SEN support. Such budgets have been stretched beyond breaking point, while the number of children assessed as having special needs has increased for two years in a row until these groups now form 14.6% of the school population – with autistic spectrum disorders the most common type of need for pupils with a statement.
In December the Local Government Association predicted a funding shortfall of £1.6bn by 2020/21. Paul Whiteman of the National Association of Headteachers believes the code governing special needs education has been reduced to an “empty promise”. Yet so far the response from ministers has served to underline the problem rather than solve it. This is because, while additional resources are urgently needed, there is another aspect to the special needs crisis in England. Namely, that decades of progress towards an inclusive model in which, as far as possible, all children are educated together, are being rolled back. Continue reading...
Move might convince Commons Speaker John Bercow that deal before MPs has changed
The EU is set to offer Theresa May a helping hand after her plan for a new meaningful vote was derailed, by formally agreeing on a new delayed Brexit date at this week’s summit and keeping it on offer until shortly before midnight on 29 March.
A change of the UK’s departure date in the draft withdrawal agreement – potentially from 29 March until three months later on 1 July – might convince the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, that the deal before parliament has changed, sources in Brussels suggested. Continue reading...
Backing calls from the TaxPayers’ Alliance to face down ‘NGO cartels’ shows a profound misunderstanding of how the aid system works
Priti Patel is not known for her transparency or her subtlety.
The former international development secretary was forced to resign over misleading prime minister Theresa May over an undeclared “family holiday” to Israel that – among other things – saw her fail to tell the British embassy that she would be meeting with Israeli politicians and visiting the occupied Golan Heights, against all British government conventions for a serving minister. Continue reading...
How can the government get round the Speaker's statement and get another vote on its Brexit deal?
The Speaker’s ruling out of a third meaningful vote on the same deal has blasted the prime minister’s plans off course
It has been clear for some time now that John Bercow sees himself as a leading protagonist in our political drama, not some bystander. Even before Theresa May’s deal was bogged down in parliamentary trench warfare, the Commons Speaker had styled himself as a warrior on behalf of the legislature, defending it against arrogant incursions by government. But kicking May’s withdrawal agreement out of the chamber altogether is a ferocious escalation.
The premise is procedural and venerable. Erskine May, the vast tome in which are accumulated the various rules and conventions governing parliamentary business, decrees that the same motion cannot be debated twice in one parliamentary session. And since May’s Brexit deal was rejected last week, Bercow believes that the prime minister cannot simply come back tomorrow – as had been planned – and ask MPs to reconsider. What was billed as a third “meaningful vote” would need some substantial revision of content to qualify as truly meaningful in the Speaker’s eyes. Continue reading...
Speaker John Bercow rejects further Brexit votes without substantial changes to the motion on the PM's deal.
Nick Clegg sells his soul to Facebook, and the Cyril Smith revelations have been shocking … something quite astonishing has happened to the Lib Dems over the years
Vince Cable confirmed last week that he will stand down as leader of the Liberal Democrats in May. Sure, it has been busy – but did anyone notice? Something quite astonishing has happened to this anti-Brexit party over the years, even as it seems to plunge itself into irrelevance. Nick Clegg sold his soul to Mark Zuckerberg. Tim Farron, who faced constant questions about whether he regarded homosexuality as a sin, could no longer lead a party of liberals and “hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching”. Who remembers Charles Kennedy – a principled man who died too soon because of alcoholism? Now we see that David Steel, another former leader, has been suspended from the party for remarks he made to the Cyril Smith inquiry. Smith was a councillor in the 1960s in Rochdale and then a Lib Dem MP there between 1972 and 1992. Continue reading...
Jane Kennedy says she made the decision after Luciana Berger left the party.
Storm Hannah gave the March to Leave protest a geriatric Duke of Edinburgh bronze award vibe. You couldn’t make it up
How was your weekend? I am hoping that you had a good one. But if you didn’t, console yourself that it cannot have been as grim as the leave voters who were walking from Sunderland in the driving rain, the churning wind and the sea spitting in their cliffside faces. To wit: Continue reading...
Without an exit deal with the EU, the whole NI agricultural industry will be destroyed. The DUP must take note
• Ivor Ferguson is president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union
As president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), my last three years have been dominated by Brexit and what it means for farming families. More than 33 months on from the referendum all we have are unanswered questions and uncertainty.
The threat of a no deal is still there. Parliament’s vote to reject a no-deal Brexit, and to seek an extension to article 50, are positive steps but the legislation is clear. If the UK does not agree an exit deal with the EU, we leave with no deal. This is a terrifying prospect for Northern Ireland farming families and their businesses. Continue reading...
David Lammy MP had criticised the charity telethon for promoting the idea of "white saviours".
The country will not get the sensible bipartisan Commons compromise it needs until May’s rigid plan is defeated
Theresa May must fail. Her first two attempts to get her Brexit deal through the Commons deserved support. They forestalled “crashing out” of the EU with no deal next month – and they took the referendum process forward.
She failed twice to persuade the Commons of this. As a result, last week her “least worst Brexit” strategy lost legitimacy. When the Commons voted to debate other options, she voted it down. She insisted she put her deal to a third vote. Continue reading...
Senior DUP member says he believes up to 30 Conservatives will still vote against plan
A senior Democratic Unionist has predicted that even if the party backs Theresa May’s Brexit plan in a third Commons vote it will be defeated because of the number of Conservative rebels.
Amid a final scramble by the prime minister to bring her informal coalition partners on board before a probable vote this week, Jim Wells, a DUP member of the Northern Ireland assembly, said he believed up to 30 Tories would still vote against the plan. Continue reading...
Breaking international treaties unilaterally is seldom possible – as I know from personal experience
A quarter of a century ago I was entrusted by Hungary with the task of persuading the international court of justice (ICJ), in The Hague, that it was entitled to terminate a treaty it had signed in 1977 with Czechoslovakia, on the grounds there had been a fundamental change of circumstance.
The court decisively rejected the argument in its judgment of 25 September 1997. The experience of arguing the point – a thrill for a young international lawyer – and the court’s judgment left an indelible impression: it is crystal clear that any effort to argue that article 62 of the Lisbon treaty might be invoked to allow the UK to get out of the Irish backstop envisaged by the withdrawal agreement is entirely without merit, however convenient it may become for the government to argue otherwise. Continue reading...
The prime minister is poised to try again. But whether she wins or loses the vote on her deal, she has lost the argument
Back in February, ITV’s Angus Walker reported on a very public conversation he had overheard in a Brussels hotel bar. The person doing the talking was the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, Olly Robbins, who was chatting to colleagues over a drink. Mr Robbins voiced his view that the eventual choice for MPs in March would be whether to back Theresa May’s UK-EU Brexit deal or to extend the article 50 talks. The possibility that the extension might be a long one could focus the minds of MPs who had previously voted against the deal, Mr Robbins argued.
In the vertiginous rollercoaster of argument over Brexit, few predictions have survived with much dignity for as long as five weeks. Yet, five weeks on, Mr Robbins’ prediction still looks shrewd. Less than a week after she heavily lost the second “meaningful” vote on her Brexit deal last Tuesday, Mrs May’s agreement has come back from the dead. She is now gearing up for one more heave, perhaps as soon as Tuesday. Over the weekend, Downing Street has been pulling out the stops to bring Tory Brexiters and the Northern Ireland DUP into line. Brinkmanship abounds, especially from the DUP. But there are unmistakable signs of life again in the prime minister’s my-way-or-the-highway approach to Brexit. Continue reading...
Chancellor Philip Hammond says that even if there is a Brexit deal in the coming days, a "short extension" will be needed.
Ross Thomson, MP for Aberdeen South, told Sunday Politics Scotland that he will make up his own mind on the deal.
Conservative MP Nick Boles tells Andrew Marr he will not be 'bossed around' into supporting a no-deal Brexit.
The chancellor also warns the PM's deal may not return to the Commons if it doesn't have MPs' support.
The MP, who quit his local group over his Brexit stance, says he does want to be "bossed around".
A member of the Commons' digital and culture committee says the platforms created their own problems.
European leaders now get to dictate terms to a supplicant Britain
The rich history of these islands includes a Blessed Parliament, a Good Parliament and a Loyal Parliament. Also a Merciless Parliament, a Rump Parliament and a Barebone’s Parliament. The current one could go down as the Addled Parliament or the Useless Parliament if those nicknames had not already been awarded in earlier times. So let us call this the Broken Parliament.
It has been bust by Brexit. During the referendum three long and painful years ago, it was the Leavers’ boast that they would restore parliamentary sovereignty to all the powers and glories they claimed had been lost to Brussels. What they have instead done is to turn Britain’s legislature into a theatre of anarchy that daily demonstrates that it cannot agree on anything. A country once widely admired for the functioning of its democracy and the robustness of its institutions has been turned into a global joke. Continue reading...
Theresa May’s effort to agree a Brexit deal began with deadlock and ended with the collapse of discipline in her own party
It is Thursday afternoon and 20-year-old art student Sonya Woodruff has taken time off from her studies to make a point about Brexit outside parliament. She is standing quietly against the black railings as the rain comes down, holding a purple sign which reads: “No one voted for this Brexit mess.”
Inside the Commons, MPs are preparing for a third consecutive night of voting on Brexit as they try to break the interminable deadlock. They have already, in the previous two days, taken two big decisions which seem to some of the protesters outside rather contradictory. On Tuesday they voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal for a second time and the next evening rejected leaving the EU with no deal. Later on Thursday they will decide whether to ask the EU for a delay – more than two and a half years on from the referendum and with just over two weeks to go until the UK is due to leave the EU. Continue reading...
Of course Brexit creates uncertainties. But the chancellor has funds available now to fulfil the pledge to end austerity
Low-income families will be hit hard in April by government spending cuts and tax rises. Philip Hammond might have considered the double whammy that awaits them when he stood up last week to deliver his spring statement. There was an expectation, especially among some anti-poverty charities, that the chancellor would open his wallet to ease their financial pain following his promise last year to end austerity.
Families in the bottom fifth of earners will lose, on average, £400 a year from a freeze on benefits. Universal credit will be cut for all but the lowest-income households, and council tax bills, which affect the poorest much more than those in higher income brackets, are set to rise by an average of 4.5%. Continue reading...
The former foreign secretary was forced to apologise after his latest outbreak of foot in mouth
Do you remember the bad old days of shopping when you would go into a shop, approach an assistant with a specific request, only to be met with an indifferent: “I’m sorry, sir, we don’t stock those, there’s no call for them nowadays”?
Well, that sort of slipshod and insolent attitude simply won’t wash these days, certainly not if you’re Olga Kotsur, co-founder and chief executive of retail technology platform Mercaux. (I’m not sure what one of those actually is, but we’ll let that pass.) She writes: “Stores now serve as a showroom and marketing channel... a hub for brands to cultivate loyalty among customers via a personalised in-store experience... sales personnel are not only expected to sell products, but are also increasingly viewed by retailers as valued brand ambassadors, personal stylists and product experts.” Continue reading...
The current focus is all about the potential damage to national wealth. But other riches are threatened
Three years ago, 48% of us voted Remain. If another vote were taken in the near future, the figure would probably top 50%. But perish the current leading politician or businessperson who makes the case for ongoing membership of this remarkable international organisation on our doorstep. Apart from a few outliers, it is taken as a political given that Britain must leave the EU; the divisive question is in what form.
For although the focus is largely on the undoubted deleterious economic impact – the worse the harder the Brexit – the bigger question is what country do we want to be. The EU has rightly become the talismanic issue of our times. Continue reading...
The prime minister is seeking to persuade MPs to back her Brexit deal at the third time of asking.
May’s last-gasp dash to Strasbourg, the midnight press conference with Juncker … EU officials and politicians looked on with growing incredulity
It was the week in which the EU’s governments had hoped that British common sense might seal the deal, putting a painful first chapter of the Brexit psychodrama to bed.
By Wednesday the French daily Le Monde had concluded that the hoarseness of the prime minister’s throat “symbolised the state of a supposedly pragmatic country left voiceless by its incapacity to accept compromise with its neighbours”. Continue reading...
As we concentrate on events in Westminster, unsavoury alliances are being forged in Europe
Conventional wisdom has a remarkable capacity to recover from the many batterings it receives and carry on as if nothing has happened. Like Doctor Who, it doesn’t die but regenerates.
Last week, it was anticipating the defeat of the populist right – that combination of opportunism, utopianism, victimhood, wilful ignorance, conspiracism and racism, for which we do not yet have a satisfactory label. Even though Theresa May’s government is collapsing as if it has been hit by a wrecking ball, even though her withdrawal agreement has been defeated by the two of the largest majorities ever, conventional wisdom assures us that the Brexit ultras must support it on her third attempt. Continue reading...
Chris Riddell responds to the mosque attacks in Christchurch Continue reading...
Arlene Foster demanded the changes to the backstop. Now this disarray threatens what her party holds most dear – the UK
On Wednesday, when Westminster was turning spectacular disarray up to 11, Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist party, was in two places at the same time. One was Washington DC. The other was a sea of tranquillity. Her message was that no doubt the universe was unfolding as it should: “Brexit is only two weeks away. When you come to the end of a negotiation, that’s when you really start to see the whites of people’s eyes and you get to the point of a deal.” All good, then – except that something seemed a little awry with her allusions.
She was thinking of the well-known instruction: “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.” Shooting people is not exactly the same as negotiating with them. Moreover, the phrase comes from the battle of Bunker Hill at the start of the American war of independence in 1775. It was issued by one of the American commanders – the people about to be shot were the British. And Bunker Hill was a famously pyrrhic victory for the British, after which General Henry Clinton remarked in his diary that “A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America”. Continue reading...
Estimated extra cost of £28m will be fresh blow to transport secretary Chris Grayling
Any delay to the UK leaving the European Union could cost the government tens of millions in extra payments to keep its no-deal ferry contracts in place.
The extra costs will be a fresh political blow to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, after the collapse of one contract with an operator that had no ferries and a lawsuit by Eurotunnel that was settled out of court at a cost of £33m. Continue reading...
The Conservative MP had faced calls for his deselection over his stance on Brexit.
Letter says pupils screamed at in order to establish discipline when trust took over a school
Concerns have been raised about discipline policies at one of the country’s biggest academy trusts, after teachers described assemblies in which pupils were routinely humiliated and made to cry.
In a letter passed to the Guardian, three former teachers at Outwood Grange academy trust (Ogat) confirmed reports that the chain staged “flattening the grass” assemblies, in which children were screamed at in order to establish discipline when the trust took over a new school. Continue reading...