The Tories meet this week in Manchester in an effort to revive a series of tired promises, failed slogans and meaningless rhetoric, and the people of the city know it. But as they continue to peddle their false narrative – it’s important to also remember the way in which they’ve treated the democratic process since the general election in June.
Theresa May went to the country demanding a landslide, now because the people did not oblige the Government think they can bend the rules to their own will and act as if general election didn’t happen. We should be outraged that this government, with the help of the DUP, and their £1 Billion bung, have given themselves a majority that the public had taken off them at the General Election only three months ago. Since then the Tories have continued to play fast and loose with the rules, reaching new low’s not taken by any political party in the UK since the end of the second world war.
On a Monday in early September, when most of us were busy getting our kids ready for their first week of school we saw the most audacious power grab of any government, of any makeup, in modern times. Hidden away in the (incorrectly named) EU Withdrawal Bill are powers that would make even a hardened dictator slightly embarrassed.
Unless the Bill is changed drastically the powers granted to Ministers after we leave the EU will allow them to change laws on a whole range of issues without a full vote of Parliament. Even when our nation has been in a state of emergency or war, Parliament has never granted such sweeping powers to individual Ministers without the full accountability of Parliament. So much for “taking back control after we leave the EU”…. it’s almost the resurrection of the Divine Right of Kings, but handed to Tory Ministers.
Since the end of the war we have seen a handful of minority governments, and the make up of parliament has reflected how people voted in the preceding general election. Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan led slim majority and minority governments respectively in the 1970s. John Major in the 1990s lost his small majority and in 2010 Cameron’s Tories and Clegg’s Lib Dems formed a coalition when no one secured a majority; and now in 2017 Theresa May’s government is operating as a minority administration. But never before has a government without a Commons majority had a majority on powerful Commons committees.
During the 1974 minority Labour Government parties had equal government/opposition membership on committees. Likewise, when both Callaghan and John Major lost their Commons majorities, and they were stripped of their majorities on committees too. That’s democracy; but the Tories seem to follow a different rulebook. Before Conference season began, Tories in Parliament effectively overturned the General Election result returned by the country and gave themselves, with the help of the DUP, majorities on powerful Parliamentary committees.
The final insult was seen just before Parliament went into recess prior to conference season. On a sunny Wednesday afternoon there were two Labour motions presented to the Commons: one on ending the pay cap in the NHS, and one on scrapping University tuition fees in England.
The DUP, despite propping-up the Tories on other things, indicated they’d vote in support of both these Labour motions, meaning there would have been a Parliamentary majority for them and the government would be defeated. Instead, the Tories ignored the whole vote and decided against voting at all.
By not voting, the Tories think they can ignore the will of the House of Commons and your elected MPs. Worse, they’ve said they won’t vote on any Opposition motions for the remainder of the Parliament.
How arrogant. They’ve rendered Parliament to an irrelevance. It’s not British democracy as we know it. It’s not Cricket!