Another eventful 24 hours in Westminster. The Prime Minister announced she’ll be standing down earlier than expected, and for the first time ever, Parliament had a series of votes set by MPs to see if there was a majority around other EU options.
In addition, the government is likely to bring back the PM’s Withdrawal Bill for the third time this Friday, if Speaker Bercow allows it, but as I write this column on Thursday morning to meet the deadline, I don’t know yet if this is confirmed.
Reading the runes, what does all this mean? Theresa May’s early departure announcement was necessary, apparently, to bring over a chunk of her colleagues from the hardline ERG group within the Conservatives. It also appears to have persuaded a few of the key leadership contenders such as Boris Johnson, that her deal is worth backing after all. The BBC reporter Nick Robinson put out a wry tweet which rather hits the spot: “What about the chance to become Prime Minister within weeks first attracted @BorisJohnson to the idea of backing a Brexit deal he’s spent months condemning?” However, the PM also told her colleagues that her standing down was conditional on the government’s deal succeeding on its third attempt, which still remains a stretch. The DUP insist they’re not budging and there appears to be a core 10 - 15 from the Tory ERG group saying the same. Once on the table though it becomes a reality, so I can’t see her being PM for much longer. On the votes to determine different options, it was a pick and mix of eight choices. None won an overall majority, but the winner came close. Leaving the EU with a customs union lost by only eight votes. Next up was a second referendum losing by twenty-seven. Third highest being the Labour proposal of leaving the EU with a customs union along with access to the single market. In keeping to my promise to Eastbourne I backed options leaving the EU, did not support the second referendum proposal and voted to revoke Article 50 ‘only’ if it becomes a straight choice between that or No Deal.
I anticipate that Theresa May will have another go on her Withdrawal agreement, and the top three of the MPs’ options will also be revisited to see if Parliament can coalesce around any one of them. From the EU’s perspective, they’ve said a delay will be given until May 22 if MPs approve the PM’s withdrawal deal or a shorter one (April 12) if not. It’s all coming down to the wire, but I think we’ll be clear, one way or t’other, by the end of next week. Of course, it’s no way to run a railroad, let alone a country, but we are where we are.
Other news from Westminster, I quizzed Theresa May at PMQs on setting up a Police Royal Commission. For many months now one of the campaigns I’ve been leading on in Parliament has been to persuade the government to implement such a body. It would take a root and branch look at policing needs for the 21st century, and as the last one was in 1962, we can all agree the nature of crime and policing has changed somewhat since then. The momentum is building in Parliament with 50 MPs, cross-party, backing my campaign. The Police Federation has also come on board along with 370,000+ members of the public who’ve signed a petition put up by retired, local police officer, Kevin Moore.
The premise of a Royal Commission is simple - there’s so much spin, party politics and misinformation around policing nowadays that the public don’t know who or what to believe. And a respected group such as a Royal Commission would be wholly independent and expert in sifting through all the evidence. Consequently, its final recommendations, about what we want our police to do and what resources they need to keep us safe would, in my view, be welcomed by the public. They’d also know it’s not tainted by party politics, spin or the myriad of vested interest groups.
Unfortunately, the Prime Minster pushed back on my question. I won’t give up though because the public, rightly, demand a police force that is properly resourced and equipped to effectively fight crime in the 21st century. And the many thousands of police officers who put their lives on the line for us every day deserve nothing less. The way to get a factual, accurate report on the future of policing, along with sensible recommendations, is to keep party politics out of it.
Finally, as we go into the local election period my column will be taking a break. I won’t be, so do feel free to come to my office (100 Seaside Road) if you ever need my help or you can email me on email@example.com
That’s it folks. Have a good weekend and I hope to see you around town.