16 February 2017
Westminster through the looking glass: Parliament back to front post Brexit
The historic Commons debate showed how everything in Parliament is suddenly back to front: the only certainty is that the Government’s authority is unchallenged
As Kenneth Clarke evoked the idea of Alice in Wonderland during the historic debate on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) at the end of last month, he did so with the intention of mocking the surreal fantasy world imagined by those who believe that the country’s future course will be an easy one. It was a powerful metaphor in an important speech, which will certainly resound for years longer than any others made from either of the front benches of the House of Commons.
But I think Mr Clarke picked the wrong book. The state of British politics today is more like the world Alice found in the Lewis Carroll sequel when she climbed on to the mantelpiece and slipped dreamily “through the looking glass”.
Everything now is back to front: here is a former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, a man who has sat on one front bench or the other for nearly 40 years, rebelling against his own government. Nothing looks quite like it should: there is Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, someone who has serially ignored his party whip more than 400 times in a lifetime of rebellious disregard for authority, imposing a three-line whip on his MPs to try to force them, the Opposition, to back the Tory government in contravention of Labour policy and their personal views.
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