Well, last night was something of a damp squib, as was to be expected. As I sat watching BBC Parliament and praying that it was all done and dusted before the start of the Chelsea/Tottenham game, I realised that a) everything was going as expected and b) I’ve now taken to watching BBC Parliament over football.
Funny how ‘maturity’ works, isn’t it?
But what did we actually learn from proceedings last night?
The Costa amendment was quite rightly voted in and accepted by government without needing to go to division (i.e. the floor of the Commons shouted ‘AYE’ louder than ‘NO,’ because a shouting match is what the first round of votes is in our democracy. No, I’m not making this up).
The amendment safeguards the rights of both EU citizens in the UK and British citizens abroad, which is undoubtedly a good thing. It got support from all corners of the HoC, from Rees-Mogg to Corbyn, and was a slightly heartening sign of good faith from politicians who haven’t always been clearly acting in the best interests of the people.
Costa himself, a Scottish Conservative MP, had to resign his post as a Parliamentary Private Secretary (a junior role, but a stepping stone to greater things) to table the amendment because, despite overwhelming support elsewhere, our fun-sponge PM Theresa May didn’t agree with it – he simply believed that it was vital to protect the rights of EU and UK workers so stuck to his guns.
Good work, Alberto Costa.
This absolutely flew to victory, winning by 502 votes to 20. Given Theresa May’s concessions the day before, this was never going to be the swashbuckling, lame-duck-government-kicking amendment it was before, but Cooper still tabled an amendment that enshrined those concessions into Parliamentary will.
Basically, before the amendment, May had promised Parliament that she would allow them to vote on no-deal and an extension to Article 50 in March, but she has gone back on promises before. Now that this amendment has passed, she is far more obligated to do, shock horror, what she said she’d do, because Parliament has officially stated its will for it to happen.
Additionally, one entertaining note from yesterday is that the Conservative Whips (policy enforcers) didn’t know that Cooper would still be tabling an amendment and so failed to properly brief Conservative MPs on how to vote, which is probably why so many Conservatives voted for it.
Isn’t democracy fun?
The biggest news of the night. Labour’s alternative Brexit proposals (protecting workers’ rights, having a customs union) were rejected fairly resoundingly by 323 to 240. Corbyn had previously promised that if this happened, Labour’s official stance would then be to back a second referendum.
After the result of the vote, Corbyn toyed with us politico-types by retweeting a tweet that was all about Labour’s alternative strategies.
“What are you doing, J-Corbz?” I cried, alarming the dog. “Does that mean you’re going back on your promise?”
But, a short time later, an official statement said that Labour were now indeed backing a second referendum!
…But also not giving up hope on their alternative strategies. Corbyn is nothing if not reluctant to budge on his ideas.
Watching Peston after the football, it made for fascinating viewing. Three Labour MPs (including John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor – a title I always think sounds like a sci-fi villain) all argued with each other about how to proceed. One MP from a leave-heavy constituency said that a second referendum was a terrible, divisive idea, and McDonnell himself said that he would actively campaign for remaining despite representing a leave-constituency himself.
On a day where one of Corbyn’s friends and allies, Chris Williamson, was suspended from the party for saying that Labour ‘was already saying sorry too much for antisemitism’ (what a clever thing to say in the current landscape, Chris), it must have been good for Corbyn to know that at least his party is united behind him, and not an anxious, divided mess.
For a while, the two main political headlines in Western politics, Brexit and Trump, have been incrementally building up to fever pitch, slowly but surely bubbling away in their respective kettles of destiny.
Now, both kettles are perilously close to boiling over and there seems like there is little chance of them being taken off the hob.
Trump’s former lawyer and soon-to-be jailbird Michael Cohen’s testimony yesterday was absolutely extraordinary (it’s easy to forget that he is talking about an incumbent President). Additionally, the Mueller investigation is drawing to a close, the FBI sharks circling ever close to Trump’s life-raft (which I like to imagine is a semi-inflated Baby Trump Balloon).
Brexit must, rationally and legally, reach a conclusion in the next few months (even assuming there is an extension). With the EU refusing to budge on renegotiating the deal and time running out, something will have to give.
Between the Lines will be there, folks, trying to make some profoundly serious politics a little bit more accessible through dodgy humour and bullet points.