News analysts are only now realising the full significance of last Monday’s events in the House of Commons, involving scenes to which only the brush of Hieronymus Bosch could have done justice. Here, newly published, is the relevant extract from Hansard for that historic 10 November 2014:
Mr Speaker: Order! Order! Could you change that camera angle to get my good side… that’s right… okay. The next item is our Mystery Package – a basket of measures delegating justice and home affairs powers to Brussels, which members are invited to vote on. I recognise the Honourable Lady from the Labour benches, wearing a fetching t-shirt with the slogan ‘This is what a champagne socialist looks like’ – only 62p from Sweatshops-’R’-Us – what’s troubling you, pet?
Honourable Lady: I would just like to know what is in this Mystery Package. Does it include that Euro-Plod, collar-feeling thingy the Little Englanders on the opposite benches are so excited about?
Mr Speaker: Search me, love. You’ll have to ask Her Indoors, the Minister for Increasing Immigration and Police Powers.
Minister for Increasing Immigration and Police Powers: Mr Speaker, I should like to commend these measures – whatever they may be – to the House. While I am not at liberty to be more specific, I can confirm they include the Metrication of Handcuffs Sizes Order, which I know is a reform honourable members will welcome. Overall, I can assure the House this is a package of sustainable measures that will enable hardworking Bulgarian police officers to apprehend British criminals who have pilfered coat hangers from hotels in Sofia, as well as helping to fight climate change, homophobia and hate crimes such as voting UKIP. These new laws will put Britain at the heart of Europe and I commend them to the House.
Mr Speaker: Order! I call the division… The Ayes have it.
Hon Members: Shame! Resign! Suez! Remember the Alamo! Abolish the Qing and restore the Ming…!
Mr Speaker: I recognise the Prime Minister who, I note, is wearing his Bullingdon Club costume, having been called away from dinner to control this omnishambles.
Prime Minister: What the House has achieved tonight is truly historic. My good friend Ken Clarke tells me has never witnessed anything like it in all his days in the Commons and he is so venerable he can remember having a comment posted on the Daily Telegraph. Tonight we have established a key modernising principle: it is not what you vote about that matters, it is the vote itself. Why should hardworking MPs have to know what legislation is about before they vote to approve it?
Hon Members: Hear, hear!
Prime Minister: Now that the vote is over and there is no danger of prejudicing the outcome, I can tell the House it has just directly approved 11 out of 35 justice powers to be returned to Brussels. But, more importantly, it has also indirectly passed the other 24 – including the European Arrest Warrant – by indicating its support for the package. It was an indicative vote.
Mr Jacob Rees-Fogey: I want my Nanny!
Prime Minister: This new voting method is the crowning achievement of our Conservative modernisation process. It will hugely streamline the business of the House, in line with modern management techniques. The indicative vote is the democracy of the future. By voting to improve rural bus services, for example, honourable members would be indicating their support for HS2, without any need for a specific vote on the topic.
Minister for Increasing Immigration and Police Powers: I congratulate the Prime Minister on this major reform. Would this great achievement not be a suitable occasion for him to step down and make way for a woman successor?
Prime Minister: Only if she is Asian. However, tonight I want to notify this House of Commons of the momentous step it has just taken. By expressing their overwhelming approval of a package transferring so many justice powers to Brussels, honourable members have indicated their support for our continued membership of the European Union. I can confirm, therefore, that the Government regards tonight’s vote as a referendum on EU membership and our continued presence at the heart of Europe has been confirmed. We promised an in/out referendum and we have delivered. This is a government that delivers – on the deficit, on immigration and now on a European referendum…
Monday’s farce in the House of Commons showed the moral detritus on the slime-green benches in classic form. Dave had promised a Commons vote on the European Arrest Warrant before the Rochester and Strood by-election and this was his way of honouring that commitment. The real scandal was the failure of MPs to derail Baldrick’s cunning plan by stopping the bogus debate. This was a demonstration of the utter contempt in which the Tories hold the electorate, by voting on other measures than the European Arrest Warrant and treating that vote as an indication of approval of the EAW. In response, we now await an indicative vote from the people of Rochester and Strood.