Sketch: A meaningful proposal
The other votes meant nothing to me, I swear. They were just a spur of the moment thing. Short-lived passions. But this one is different; this vote really means something.
Well, third time’s the charm, they say. Of course, other people don’t say that. Other people say third time isn’t the charm at all. Third time is a staggeringly irresponsible, politically inept waste of everyone’s time. But then, admittedly, ‘third time is a damning indictment of UK democracy’ maybe isn’t as snappy.
Pressure had been growing on Number 10 to get the deal through for some time, with the build-up preceded by a letter from ‘leading Brexiteers’ – surely an oxymoron – to the Telegraph, calling for a no-deal Brexit on the basis it would “prove to be the precursor to a very good deal indeed”. If at first you don’t succeed, sigh, sigh, sigh again.
So something had to be done. Or, as Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski put it, people are “getting tired of the impasse and the imbroglio that Parliament has got itself into”.
Great point, Daniel! People are getting fed up of this Brexit chaos, aren’t they? Though before going any further, it’s worth pointing out Kawczynski was making his comments as a current member of the Conservative Party. It was like being lectured on public order by the Incredible Hulk.
And so it was we arrived at Meaningful Vote Three, tipped as the most meaningful one yet. Or we thought we had, anyway, until plans for the meaningful vote were shattered by a meaningful intervention from John Bercow, ruling the PM couldn’t just keep coming forward with the same deal over and over until everyone got so tired, they backed it.
So how is May trying to get a deal over the line after Bercow’s intervention? It certainly must be irritating to have your legislative agenda derailed by a man who looks like Mr Toad from The Wind in the Willows dressed up as a cheerful 19th-century judge, but they’re still going to need a plan B.
Presumably, she’s going to have to find a way to repackage the old deal. To make it look different, like when you have to change your appearance the first time you get refused entry to a nightclub. Could she change the paper the deal is written on? Add a paintjob and change the license plates? Glue on a cartoon moustache, and hope no one recognises it from before?
Well, if reports in the Evening Standard are anything to go by, the PM is set to embark on a bold new strategy. As the paper put it, ‘Olly Robbins could be sacrificed’.
Sacrifice the PM’s chief negotiator, to appease the Brexit gods? It was quite smart. The cash bribes to MPs have failed, so we’re now moving on to primeval tributes. Oldest trick in the book.
But why stop at Olly Robbins? People criticise cannibalism as a political strategy, but it could certainly help reinforce May’s authority. No one seems totally sure about the constitution at the moment anyway. Who among us would raise an eyebrow at the sight of the PM standing in the chamber, snarling “nothing has changed”, while gnawing at one of Boris Johnson’s arms? In fact, with May then laying the blame for Brexit squarely on parliament, it does look as though MPs could be next.
It does seem a shame for Olly Robbins, of course. It’s one thing to try and lead the UK’s most complex set of international negotiations over the last 60 years. It’s another to do it while worrying people are trying to eat you. That’s really no way to organise a work environment at all. In fact, that may well be the reasoning behind the long-term decline in UK cannibalism generally – it has a marked effect on workplace productivity.
But when you think about it, it’s actually quite surprising it took us this long to hit the human sacrifice stage of Brexit. With hindsight, if David Cameron’s resignation represented the moment in Lord of the Flies when Piggy broke his glasses, by now we’ve surely hit the point when David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg are ready to smear themselves in paint and mud and start dancing naked to pay tribute to ‘the beast’. Though it’s probably unfair to compare the European Research Group with the characters in Lord of the Flies. The cabal in that novel was far more organised.
At least they had a gang. But what do you call a gaggle of hard Brexit-supporting Tories? A ransom of Eurosceptics? A nostalgia of Brexiteers? Some would argue it’s better to stick with the John Major School of Linguistics and just go with ‘bastards’.
Whatever the case – and please do send in suggestions – ever since May threw away her majority, it’s felt like a matter of time before the Conservative Party turned to cannibalism, both as a means of tightening internal discipline, and of assuaging fears over potential food shortages caused by a central plank of the party’s policy agenda.
Well, it looks like the time’s come to start building up the kindling. Readying the pot. To ensure parliament’s sovereignty, the PM could cook rebel MPs in the chamber. Use the mace to stir it. Now, that would be meaningful.