“There are rays of hope. As tribal loyalties break down, thoughtful MPs have been emerging through the fissures of all parties, stepping over the wreckage and talking to each other.”
So wrote Camilla Cavendish in her article “Glimmer of hope as MPs attempt to step over the wreckage to avoid no deal.” (FT Weekend 19/20 January). Baroness Cavendish, journalist and senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, sits as a non-affiliated peer having resigned the Conservative Party whip in 2016.
In the article, Baroness Cavendish describes the way in which ‘reasonable people’ are now tabling amendments to government motions in an attempt to enable parliament to have a meaningful role in determining the UK’s future relationships with the EU and the rest of the world. She points out that the amendment process is a somewhat ‘tortuous mechanism. But the outcome of this whole debacle now rests heavily on mastery of parliamentary process.’
After reading the article a few times, I think that a number of points emerge:
- Tribal loyalties have broken down.
- The two-party, adversarial system that has evolved, without codification, over centuries is broken and failing us. Not just in dealing with Brexit but in our ability to deal with serious domestic issues such as the establishment of sustainable health, care and welfare systems.
- There is a need for cross-party deliberation or, more simply, deliberation amongst free-thinking (non-affiliated) Legislators, unfettered by political party diktat.
- A constitutional crisis has arisen to the point where the Executive-Parliament relationship needs to be reviewed and clarified.
With only sixty six days to go before we leave the EU, by law as it currently stands, there is obviously no time to fix the ‘system’. Nobody knows what the outcome of the current machinations in parliament will be but, whatever it is, it will be divisive. Which means that we cannot hope for a proper settlement of UK affairs in the short term. However, because the Brexit crisis has thrown the faults and weaknesses of our parliamentary and constitutional arrangements into stark relief, it may be possible for our political leaders to finally wake up and agree that there must be, at some point in the not too distant future, a fundamental reform of our governmental arrangements. In that sense there may be a glimmer of hope.