Britain’s political system slid closer towards tyrannical rule by decree today when the Speaker of the House sabotaged an attempted rebellion by backbench MPs worried that far too much draconian legislation is being passed without debate or scrutiny.
The so-called Brady Amendment — named after the leader of the backbench MPs’ 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady — was proposed in order to hold the government to account over its increasingly profligate use of the Coronavirus Act 2020 to force through all manner of policy.
10 pm curfews for drinkers in pubs; the ‘rule of six’; local lockdowns; increased fines for failing to wear a mask; even bans on singing in pubs are just a few of the recent measures which a small cabal including Boris Johnson and his Health Secretary Matt Hancock have imposed on the country under emergency powers they have granted themselves through the Coronavirus Act.
The Brady Amendment, if passed, would have put an end to this ‘rule by decree’ by allowing MPs the chance to debate and reject these extreme policies.
But the Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle said that he was not prepared to grant a vote on the amendment – effectively killing the rebellion stone dead.
What was odd about Hoyle’s announcement is that he preceded it with a diatribe against the government’s behaviour.
“The way in which the government has exercised its powers to make secondary legislation during this crisis has been totally unsatisfactory. All too often important statutory instruments have been published a matter of hours before they come into force…This shows a total disregard for the House.”
Despite condemning the government’s ‘contempt’ for parliament, the Speaker mysteriously went on to give the government virtual carte blanche to carry on as before.
He would not allow the Brady amendment to be granted, he said, because
“I have concluded on the basis of the advice I have received that any amendment of the motion before the House risks giving rise to uncertainty about the decision the House has taken. This then risks decisions that are rightly the responsibility of parliament ultimately being determined by the courts.”
Even more strangely, leading backbench MPs such as Steve Baker – one of the Brexit ‘Spartans’ – seemed content to be bought off with promises of a backroom compromise with the government.
After Hoyle’s bazooka – Steve Baker says “Mr Speaker's decision is entirely reasonable and his statement will reassure all MPs supporting Sir Graham. I hope and expect to reach a good compromise with the Government shortly so we can advance as one team."… let’s see
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) September 30, 2020
Whether this ‘good’ compromise is negotiated remains to be seen.
But at least some influential Conservatives appear to have the government’s number. Here is newly ennobled peer Helena Morrissey telling it like it is:
So this is a new “strategy”? We were told months ago we needed these extreme restrictions on our liberty to help “our” NHS. Now this, when we have so few deaths & hospitalisations but huge problems with other illnesses. This is exactly why we need Parliamentary oversight. #crazy https://t.co/xxo5yg56NK
— Helena Morrissey DBE (@MorrisseyHelena) September 29, 2020
Baroness Morrissey is spot on. It is ‘Crazy’. And there are currently no indications that this craziness is about to end any time soon.