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Thu Sep 14, 2017, 10:26 PM

Theresa May Takes Her Darkest, Most Desperate Turn Yet

It is one of the great ironies of Brexit that the United Kingdom’s messy divorce from Europe, sold as an effort to reclaim parliamentary sovereignty, has instead delivered its opposite. Last Monday, the House of Commons voted in the early stages of the European Union Withdrawal Bill to give the government sweeping powers to make laws without parliamentary scrutiny. These powers are named after Henry VIII, England’s most authoritarian monarch, but they in fact bear a greater resemblance to Hitler’s Enabling Act of 1933, which allowed the Fuhrer to bypass the Reichstag and govern by proclamation.

Allusions to Nazi Germany are generally overwrought, but this is no exaggeration: Prime Minister Theresa May does not have an absolute majority in the British Parliament, just as Hitler didn’t in the Reichstag in 1933, which is why she has been forced to resort to his strategy. If the withdrawal bill is passed as it stands, May will be able to make laws by decree and reverse and adapt primary legislation without consulting Parliament. It is the greatest attack on the British constitution in at least a century. Parliamentary sovereignty—the very thing that Brexiteers said they were voting for in leaving the E.U.—may be about to be vastly reduced by a cabal of right-wing Conservatives who say they are obeying the people’s will. Such power grabs, of course, are always done in the name of the people. The full title of the 1933 Enabling Act was “The law to remedy the distress of the people and the state.”

The derangement of Theresa May’s minority government in the United Kingdom is something to behold, and it is also more than a little frightening. Even in the America of Donald Trump, there has not yet been any real attempt, save a few controversial executive orders, to strip Congress of its powers. But in Britain—the Mother of Parliaments, according to the Victorian reformer John Bright—we stand idly by as May attempts to neutralize our elected representatives. It seems incredible to me that I am reporting on this, but even more alarming is that there is so little concern expressed by the majority of the press and the generally acquiescent BBC. The point is that after the referendum last year, and despite the poor result in the General Election, the right-wing of the Conservative Party has continued traveling in an increasingly undemocratic direction and has, so far, swept all before it. The normally rather sober Hansard Society, an organization dedicated to promoting and strengthening democracy, has called the “broad scope of the powers in the Bill, the inadequate constraints placed on them, and the shortcoming in the proposed parliamentary control of them” a “toxic mix” that will undermine Parliament’s ability to hold May to account or to meliorate the most damaging policies arising from Brexit.

MPs are so caught up in the madness of Brexit that, for the most part, they cannot see the power grab for what it is. Fears are expressed and noble speeches given but in the dead of night on Monday, MPs voted by 326 to 290, giving May an effective majority of 36. This included seven members of the Labor opposition, who astonishingly defied their party, which has just begun to soften its line on Brexit so as to accommodate increasing worries about the economy, employment and workers’ rights. These seven Labor members—Ronnie Campbell (age 74), Frank Field (75), Kate Hoey (71), Kelvin Hopkins (76), John Mann (57), Dennis Skinner (85) and Graham Stringer (67) have an average age of 72, which underlines a truth about the Brexit vote and the lurch to the right in Britain. They are the product of something profound going on among an older generation, even among some left-wingers. These people yearn for a past that does not exist and they do not give one solitary damn for the future of young people who will be forced to inherit the economic mess.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/09/theresa-may-takes-her-darkest-most-desperate-turn-yet


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Reply Theresa May Takes Her Darkest, Most Desperate Turn Yet (Original post)
Denzil_DC Sep 2017 OP
hedda_foil Sep 2017 #1
T_i_B Sep 2017 #2
muriel_volestrangler Sep 2017 #3
Denzil_DC Sep 2017 #4
hedda_foil Sep 2017 #5
Denzil_DC Sep 2017 #7
Jim Lane Sep 2017 #6
Denzil_DC Sep 2017 #8

Response to Denzil_DC (Original post)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 01:11 AM

1. Please tell me I'm not reading this correctly. Did they actually pass this terrible Bill?

Does that mean that Parliament has given all its powers to the current government?

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Response to hedda_foil (Reply #1)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 01:47 AM

2. Yep.

We have some atrocious politicians. Basically a lot of them are afraid to do anything that is seen as obstructing leaving the EU, no matter how sensible for fear of riling elderly bigots.

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Response to hedda_foil (Reply #1)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 07:21 AM

3. It's not passed yet, but it's proceeding through the stages

There's talk of amendments, but who knows if they'll be adequate or passed?

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Response to hedda_foil (Reply #1)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 07:42 AM

4. As Muriel says, it's not passed yet.

The most recent vote was the Second Reading in the House of Commons. Bills get batted backward and forward between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, committee stages, etc. before finally becoming Acts and passing into law through Royal Assent. The current state of affairs and the stages to come are set out here:

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/europeanunionwithdrawal.html

The next stage is consideration by a Committee of the Whole House (of Commons).

There's hope that serious concerns will be raised in the Lords (the reviewing chamber which will also be bypassed by the proposed legislation; the Tories don't have a majority there, but I'm not holding my breath for the Labour Lords to put up concerted opposition), which may make some amendments of its own, though how meaningful they'll be is another matter.

A number of us saw this coming from the moment it was proposed, and apart from the idiocy of Brexit as a whole, it was a major objection. It's also likely to grab and centralize powers over matters until now devolved to the Scottish, Welsh and Irish assemblies.

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Response to Denzil_DC (Reply #4)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 08:50 AM

5. Horrible. Is there such a thing as a royal veto? Might the queen save democracy?

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Response to hedda_foil (Reply #5)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 10:23 AM

7. Well, yes, there is.

But it's more for show than something the Queen (or a successor) would ever wield. It would provoke another constitutional crisis and likely see the end of the monarchy (I reckon there's an outside chance Liz might be able to weather the storm, but once she goes, I think we'll see the role of the monarchy downgraded anyway: the younger generation of royals don't seem to have much appetite for all the palaver beyond meets and greets, and none are likely to command the respect Liz has).

She might express concerns and dissatisfaction at her regular audiences with May or through other channels, but that's as far as it would go.

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Response to Denzil_DC (Reply #4)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 09:25 AM

6. Thanks for the details! One follow-up question...

 

With a bill so outlandish, is there any possibility that the Queen would withhold the Royal Assent? I know that's an extraordinary step but this seems to be an extraordinary situation.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #6)

Fri Sep 15, 2017, 10:23 AM

8. Hi, Jim. See my reply above! n/t

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