The March, the PM and the Cabinet Coup
(Written on 28/3/19)
On Saturday, myself and a friend had the privilege of marching with hundreds of thousands of others in London for a People’s Vote. Later that day, news broke of a coup against the PM.
Saturday 23rd March is a day that will stay with me for the rest of my days. It was an honour for me, a humble politics geek, to see our parliamentary democracy in action. Fifth gear. Full throttle. Macauley Moseley, President Elect of the Law Society, and I marched along slowly, stunned and observant as we absorbed the rapture of activity surrounding us.
People shouted, music blared, witty signs were waved and at least two groups of drummers drummed as hundreds of the thousands marched with us. There may never be an exact number. Some, including the organisation behind the march, Put It To The People, claim that there was over 1 million in attendance. However, it was most likely just under. All I can say is that it certainly felt like 1 million people.
By the time we had reached Westminster, we heard from passers-by that the square was so full that people were being turned away. We managed to find our way in via an alternative route. The event officially ended late that afternoon after a remarkable speech from Sir Michael Heseltine. We were very glad that we managed to catch it, along with the raising of a Led By Donkeys’ banner, speeches by Dominic Grieve and Jess Phillips as well as youth organisations like Our Future Our Choice and For Future’s Sake.
After which, we retired to the surprisingly minute Westminster branch of McDonalds. Where else? Nevertheless, it was extremely busy, with a staff member understandably guarding the toilets against a potential torrent of protestors caught short. When Mac expressed some displeasure, the staff member replied, ‘there are 1 million people out there’.
A rest and a meal was much needed, as our legs felt like they had just been used to run a marathon. We sat down at window seats watching the still marching masses outside, catching up with the storm of posts regarding the event on social media. We then moved on to Trafalgar Square, where some crowds were bouncing up and down to some rather loud music accompanied with some vigilant police officers, before heading back home.
It was on the way back that Mac showed me a tweet concerning a reported coup against Theresa May. It was rumoured that Michael Gove and David Lidington were waiting in the wings to succeed Theresa May as caretaker Prime Ministers. Lidington preferred by Remainer Tories and Gove was the candidate for Brexiteers. That was until they realised that he would be open to a softer Brexit in the form of a Customs Union of Single Market with the EU. Although, very shortly afterwards, both renounced their claims to the Premiership in a rather anti-climatic fizzling out of a potentially significant development.
Since then, however, things have hotted up again. Wednesday saw Theresa May, with tears in her eyes, vow to step down if MPs give a green light to her widely detested deal with an emotion speech in Committee Room 14 of the Palace of Westminster. She has effectively sacrificed herself in an effort to pass legislation which has already been voted down twice by two massive margins. One of which the most significant in history. So-called Brexiteer ‘switchers’, like Boris Johnson, Ian Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg have now stated that they will support May’s deal as it initially seemed as though her decision had paid off.
Prior to that massive development, indicative votes on 8 different Brexit options, put forward by Conservative backbencher Oliver Letwin, did not go particularly well.
The speaker announced No after No after No after No as none passed with a majority; an outcome widely predicted by commentators. It was yet another illustration of the factionalism gripping the House of Commons during these torrid times.
On Thursday, the government announced a third meaningful vote on the Brexit deal, often referred to as #MV3 in an acronym closely resembling that of a Call of Duty title, is to be held on Friday. The day Britain was supposed to be leaving the EU. Representatives from the DUP have announced that they still cannot support the PM’s deal due to the enduring inclusion of the dreaded ‘Backstop’. They say that it would result in Northern Ireland being treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom. This is an understandable fear, yet the backstop will need to be ever present in any deal reached with the EU in order for the integrity of the Customs Union Irish peace to be protected. Support of the Conservative’s coalition partners is simply vital if May is to accumulate the 75 votes needed for a majority ‘Aye’ vote. Without it, her prospects are looking grim.
Political correspondents are stumped, not knowing what the future holds, as people across the country are as divided as ever. Brexit lethargy and boredom will endure as extensions have been granted by the EU to the British government. Macron’s suggestion of April 12th is the new scheduled date for Brexit Day if a deal is passed through the British parliament. If the deal is rejected again, which is extremely likely, there could be a general election, a Prime Ministerial resignation and there are still whispers of a People’s Vote. We shall see what Friday brings.