On the 11th of April 2019, the Prime Minister (Mrs Theresa May) made a statement in the House of Commons relating to the Europe Council Meeting held on the 10th April 2019, (Hansard Volume 658, columns 510 to 512).
In that statement, the Prime Minister said:
“The choices we face are stark and the timetable is clear. I believe we must now press on at pace with our efforts to reach a consensus on a deal that is in the national interest. I welcome the discussions that have taken place with the opposition in recent days and the further talks that are resuming today. This is not the normal way of British politics and it is uncomfortable for many in both the Government and Opposition parties. Reaching an agreement will not be easy because, to be successful, it will require both sides to make compromises….. I hope that we can reach an agreement on a single unified approach that we can put to the House for approval, but if we cannot do so soon, we will seek to agree a small number of options for the future relationship that we will put to the House in a series of votes to determine which course to pursue.”
So there we have it, in British politics it is not ‘normal’ for senior legislators on both sides of the House to come together, to consider and deliberate on the facts before reaching an agreement on a course to pursue in the interests of all the people of the United Kingdom.
It may be that the current cross-party, front bench negotiations will be successful but from the Prime Ministers statement it would seem that confidence is not high and thought is already being given to solving the issue by voting on options in the House. It seems that, even in the face of this major crisis, our politicians cannot bring themselves to break out of the ‘normal’ mould of adversarial, majoritarian, tribal politics to seek ways of building the consensus that is necessary.
Perhaps now is not the time, but in the not too distant future, it would be sensible for the country as a whole to consider what has become ‘normal’ in British politics and what might be done in future to; improve a system that is demonstrably failing, consider a fundamental reformation and restore faith in the institutions of our representative democracy.
Even ordinary individuals like me can identify areas in which improvements might be made, and scholars have written extensively on the subject, but the complexity relating to parliamentary and constitutional reform can only be addressed by experienced men and women assembled in an appropriate body, such as a Royal Commission or Constitutional Convention, working over several years in conjunction with parliament.
As far as I know, nobody has recently suggested that such an assembly should be formed but several sensible back benchers have already broken away from major political parties in recognition of the fact that change should be brought to the UK’s political arrangements and it may be that we might look to them to work towards the establishment of a process of parliamentary and constitutional reform. The leaders of the UK’s political parties will first have to be persuaded that change is essential to make the system more consensual. To that end, they should first of all agree, jointly, to set up an inquiry to examine exactly what has gone wrong with the UK’s governmental and political arrangements. With the findings of such an inquiry in the public domain, the country might then embark on a process of Truth and Reconciliation and Reform.