Tuesday 3rd September 2019 will go down as one of the worst days in Parliament for a sitting Prime Minister. Boris Johnson suffered his first defeat in Parliament after less than 50 days, making it the shortest spell as PM without a commons defeat. Social media was dominated with the image of Jacob Rees-Mogg sprawled out on the front benches, making for an iconic picture and one which could become a metaphor for the Johnson government. it has been 48 hours to forget for the current UK Parliament.
The near infamous image of Rees-Mogg lounging on the bench whilst fellow MP’s talked and debated the upcoming prospect of preventing a no-deal Brexit. As well as the fume and reasoning from both sides of the political spectrum, the image was doctored into many superb memes across social media. It is amusing, but at the same time it highlights a worrying concept within Parliament: it is currently not fit for purpose.
This does not come as any surprise, but with the risk of needing yet another extension to the UK’s departure from the EU it feels as though the parliament stagnation is reaching incomprehensible levels. A snap election has been agreed by many experts, and some not so expert, would be the best way to break through the stifling stalemate. It felt close on Wednesday after a session of debate in the Commons, yet when it came to a vote the PM failed to see the majority required to trigger a snap election. Jeremy Corbyn had stated that Labour would not touch the idea of an election until no deal was removed from the picture and made illegal. This had been voted on and it was made so a no-deal departure from the EU would no longer be an option. However, Labour continued to hold their ground and the bill to trigger an election was not passed. This left Prime Minister Johnson without the election he now wants, and, after the rebellious moves of some MP’s on Tuesday evening, the number of Conservatives in Parliament shrunk considerably.
It was a double blow for the PM. With No Deal taken out of the picture plus no election yet, the pressure is well and truly on for Johnson to stick by his Churchillian stance of leaving the EU on October 31st in a ‘do or die’ scenario. His determination to get the UK out of the EU any means necessary has pushed the Conservatives to the brink with his sacking of the ‘rebel’ MP’s and most recently the resignation of his own brother. Johnson has become unstuck in Parliament and his time as PM could be over almost before it has begun.
The atmosphere in Parliament has become icy in the last few days, with the pressure on the government increasingly obvious. At times in the last 48 hours it has become somewhat resembling of a school yard squabble. Johnson distributed insults such as ‘big girls blouse’ and ‘chlorinated chicken’ in the direction of Jeremy Corbyn in a bizarre and pointless move. Corbyn made the Labour Party stance on backing a snap election very clear, nothing will change until the prospect of No-Deal Brexit is made officially illegal. This could happen tomorrow.
A shining light in parliament in the last two days was a rousing speech from Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley. In a passionate two minutes, she labelled the current Conservative government ‘cowardly’ and criticised how they had watched their colleagues leave and done nothing. Most clinically, she stated she had no faith in what the current PM has to say. It was a speech which gave hope amongst a parliament seemingly moving further out of touch with the people.
Further criticism of the PM came from another Labour MP yesterday. Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, who is the first Commons MP to wear a turban, branded Johnson racist and demanded an apology for comments made by the PM. The MP for Slough was cheered as he lay into the PM:
“For those of us who from a young age have had to endure and face up to being called names such as towel-head, or Taliban, or coming from bongo-bongo land, we can fully appreciate the hurt and pain of already vulnerable Muslim women when they are described as looking like bank robbers and letterboxes.”
“Rather than hide behind sham and whitewash investigations, when will the prime minister finally apologise for his derogatory and racist remarks?”
The confrontation of the PM over his track record of racist remarks and poor leadership from opposition MP’s was both necessary and rewarding to see.
Johnson's hopes for a snap election are not dashed completely and it still feels likely that the people of the UK will go to the polls next month. However, the damaging last few days in the Commons could be blows which the PM does not recover from.