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Is politics working?

20th February 2019

The leader of the Scottish National Party at Westminster declared today that "Westminster is broken!” I know that Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons is a fraught affair, when the political temperature ratchets up anyway, and I acknowledge too that Ian Blackford is an able orator who knows how to capture a sentiment in a sentence. But I have thought about his remark since and maybe it was more than a soundbite. 

Even in these crazy days of pre brexit political madness the events of this week stand out as being defining. The two main political parties in GB have lost between them 11 members, some admittedly low enough profile but also some who are high profile names on the national political scene. In the case of the Conservative and Labour party leaderships and rank and file they are confused as to how to respond. As seems to always be the case with Labour the split seems unsolvable. Corbyn is at odds with his own party policy on Brexit, refusing to countenance a second referendum. The alt left wing Corbynistas took to Twitter to dismiss the seven (now 8) dissenters as irrelevant, and worse. Meanwhile Tom Watson, deputy leader lamented their loss and openly contemplated what lessons must be learned so that others do not also quit. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell tried to ride both horses over the 24 hours that followed. What a mess. It certainly is not the irrelevance that Irish News commentator Brian Feeney described, it is more serious with more long lasting ramifications than that. 

The Conservative gang of 3 able, articulate women who left today to join the Independent Group all spoke with tangible regret of their decision and of what has become of the Conservative Party. 

Theresa May is already on very unstable ground when it comes to commanding a majority; that has just gotten a lot harder. Yes these MPs were always going to vote against Brexit and against the Prime Minister’s deal but as now departed Tory MPs her overall position is threatened and her majority further stripped away. 

We hear often, from MPs who mean it, that there is no majority for a ‘No Deal’ brexit and yet everyone can see very clearly that the Prime Minister has a tactic of running down the clock to leave a choice between that option and her deal. Again today she has put back the next ‘meaningful vote’ saying only she will bring her ‘revised’ deal to the Commons at an appropriate time. 

So at the moment the two main parties are shedding MPs, the Prime Minister is unchallenged by the opposition in her one remaining tactic on Brexit, the days disappear like wild horses over the hills and a No Deal brexit comes more sharply into focus. 

Is Westminster working? I get the feeling Blackford is right; the processes of Westminster and the policy of the Government are being used to facilitate the worst of all bad Brexit outcomes. 

No, as things stand now when it comes to acting in the interests of the population, Westminster is not working. 

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