Speaker Bercow – voice of the ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ party

The issue is not about parliamentary rules, but ‘who rules?’.

Mick Hume

Mick Hume
Columnist

Share
Topics Brexit Politics UK

John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, has unilaterally sought to nuke Theresa May’s Brexit deal, by ruling that the prime minister cannot ask MPs to vote on her agreement with the EU for a third time unless it is ‘substantially’ different.

Nobody who cares about democracy should mourn the potential loss of May’s (non-)Withdrawal Agreement – a betrayal of the mass vote for Brexit which would leave the UK kowtowing to EU diktat.

But we should also be clear that the aim of Mr Remainer Bercow’s intervention is to torpedo Brexit altogether. The supposedly neutral chair of the Commons claimed he was simply following parliamentary convention. Yet Bercow has recently proved willing to rip up those same rules when it has helped him advance the Remainer cause.

The real meaning of Bercow’s ruling is not to be found in a volume of Erskine May, the dusty ‘bible’ of parliamentary procedure. It is spelt out more succinctly in the sticker that reportedly adorns Mr Speaker’s car window: ‘Bollocks to Brexit.’

The ludicrous Bercow claimed yesterday that ‘Part of the role of speaker is to speak truth to power – and no matter what, I always will’. In reality, Mr Speaker speaks for the powerful Remainer establishment.

As I have argued before on spiked, Bercow’s backdoor attempt to thwart the popular Brexit revolt is the exact opposite of the heroic role played by the speaker in the English revolution of the 17th century. In 1642 speaker Lenthall defied Charles I when the king entered the Commons with armed soldiers in a failed bid to arrest rebel MPs. By contrast, Bercow has parked his tanks on the people’s political lawn.

Who exactly is taking back control through the Battle of Brexit? First it was the demos – the people – as 17.4million voted Leave in the 2016 EU referendum. It was the biggest democratic mandate in British political history, defeating the 16.1million cast for Remain – the second biggest-ever vote. Many voters from both sides told the Electoral Commission that, for the first time, they felt their vote had truly counted.

But those votes would not count for long, if the political elites had their way. They have spent almost three years plotting to take back control from the revolting demos. The Remainer Tory prime minister tried to act more like Her May-jesty, an absolute monarch forcing through her deal with the EU despite the inconvenient fact that nobody supports it. Then Remainer MPs sought to take control, with parliament taking a stand not just against the government, but also, primarily, against the people.

Now Bercow has decided that he will take control of the Brexit debate. The egomaniacal speaker believes in ‘one man, one vote’ – and he’s the man. In the end, what all this elitist manoeuvring could mean is that control over Brexit effectively passes to… the EU, the very empire 17.4million voted for independence from. May now seems likely to seek what she calls the ‘longest possible extension’ to Article 50 at this week’s Euro-summit. Reports suggest that EU rulers might demand major concessions in return, such as the promise of a second referendum designed to overturn the first. So much for democracy in action.

As the establishment has taken back control, the options on the table have been distorted and narrowed. We started with the straight, clear choice to leave or remain. May’s deal tried to reduce that to a choice between her version of Brexit, better described as Remain-by-another-name, or outright Remain. MPs rejected May’s agreement, but also voted to take a clean-break, No Deal Brexit off the table. Bercow wants to take May’s deal off the table and further reduce the ‘choice’ to Remain now, or Remain later.

Brexit, and with it democracy, is suffering death by a thousand cuts. You need only look at the excitement of the Remainstream media over their ‘hero’ Bercow’s interventions. Some Tory Brexiteers are also said to be happy that May’s third vote has been scuppered for now. However, as a government spokesman points out, ‘anyone who thinks that this makes No Deal more likely is mistaken – the speaker wouldn’t have done it if it did’. Bercow’s allies and admirers, notably in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, object to May’s deal because they think even that betrayal goes ‘too far’ towards a meaningful Brexit.

There is much talk of Bercow’s actions causing a ‘constitutional crisis’. The real crisis is not about dry parliamentary procedures. It is a political crisis of democracy and our increasingly unrepresentative system of government. Parliament has set itself up in opposition to the people, and the speaker of the Commons speaks for the establishment in seeking to silence the voice of the ‘common’ voters.

Of course, this anti-democratic activity is publicly justified in doublespeak about ‘democracy’. But the public are not as gullible as our rulers assume. The one good thing about Bercow’s bombshell is that it has helped blow the cover off the anti-Brexit conspiracy and brought the real issues into the open. The question for all to see now is not ‘what are the rules?’, but ‘who rules?’.

There is extra excitement today among supporters of the ‘People’s Vote’ (sic) campaign, who believe Bercow’s ruling has advanced the prospect of a second referendum. Yet the speaker ruling out another vote on May’s deal is arguably also symbolic of the large number of MPs who do not want any more votes on Brexit – particularly no more referendums, no General Elections, nothing that might involve asking the untrustworthy demos to decide. The one downside of a long extension of Article 50 for Remainers is that it should mean the UK holding elections to the European Parliament in May, a prospect made all the more unpredictable and panicky to them by the spectre of Nigel Farage’s newly registered Brexit Party taking part.

Leave-supporting democrats may not want their second referendum either, a blatant and outrageous attempt to ‘fix’ the result of the real ‘people’s vote’. Yet if there is to be one, or an election, bring it on. A crisis is also an opportunity to debate the question of who rules.

There was an irony in speaker Bercow citing a 1604 convention to rule that the government could not keep bringing the same motion back to parliament. The Sun reports that convention dates from a moment when King James I ‘interfered in the Sheriff of Buckinghamshire’s election – by demanding a second vote, so his candidate could be elected’. That sounds much like what the Remainer ‘democrats’ are attempting in parliament now, with the connivance of a speaker declaring ‘order, order – Brexit is out of order!’.

Mick Hume is spiked’s editor-at-large. His latest book, Revolting! How the Establishment is Undermining Democracy – and what they’re afraid of, is published by William Collins.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.