Let me get my head round this.
Point 1: About three years ago, the British people exercised their democratic right and voted in a referendum to leave the European Union.
Point 2: From time to time – and at least once every five years – the British people also exercise their democratic right and vote for their representatives in parliament. The political party that wins the most seats in parliament usually gets to form the government. Amongst other things, the role of parliament in general and of the government in particular is to execute the will of the people.
As a quick aside, I will mention that William Rees-Mogg thinks that a referendum and an election are the same thing. They are not. But then, I’ve never seen the purpose of William Rees-Mogg – other than to make Boris Johnson look less silly (or a different sort of silly).
It was left for the government and parliament to find a way for Britain to leave Europe. Which they failed to do – though, to be fair, it was always going to be a bit of a challenge. We had an election, got a bit of a change round in parliament and a new government and … same again. Basically, the democratically-elected government were unable to fulfil the democratic-expressed will of the people.
We had a change of Prime Minister. The new Prime Minster declared that Britain would leave Europe on 31 October, whether a deal had been agreed. Because the rest of Parliament might not have been too keen on this idea, the Prime Minister decided to suspend it. Yes, in the Mother of Parliaments, the very establishment of democracy, democratic debate was being curtailed.
The rest of Parliament, however, had another trick up their sleeve. They managed to pass a law that would make it illegal for Britain to leave the European Union without a deal.
Another aside: I have heard frequently on news interviews that “no one voted for a no deal Brexit”. Which is technically true. But then no one voted against a no-deal Brix either. And, indeed, no one (outside parliament) voted either for or against Thresa May’s deal. The simple fact is that we have never been given the opportunity to vote on these issues.
Back to this no-Brexit-without-a-deal law-passing. During all these parliamentary shenanigans, one MP from the ruling party crossed to the opposition side. This was very significant, as until then the ruling party had had a majority of one. Now it had a majority of minus one [do the maths: one side gains one and one side loses one; net result two]. But there was more. About two dozen other MPs from the ruling party voted against the government and were summarily dismissed from the party. The government now has a majority of around minus fifty. Not generally conducive to a long and happy government.
Now here’s another curious thing. Several prominent members of the current government repeatedly voted against the then government when Theresa May tried to get her Brexit deal ratified by parliament. But they suffered no punishment. Go figure.
The next stage in this rather bemusing ping-pong match was for the Prime Mister to try to call a General Election. The reasoning seems to be a) let’s try to get more MPs who will support my proposal and b) if there is no government at the end of October, maybe a no-deal Brexit will slip under the wire while no one is looking.
The problem now being that, for some reason that I don’t fully understand, a call for a General Election must be approved by two-thirds of the house, not just a simple majority (though when you are fifty-plus down, even a simple majority could be difficult to achieve). He lost.
So we now have a government that effectively can’t govern but can’t get out of governing because the rest of Parliament won’t let it.
And as if all this were not confusing enough how about this for a weird phrase: “Prime Minister, Boris Johnson”.