• 30 Jun - 06 Jul, 2018
  • Shahed Sadullah
  • London Eye

Sometimes the politics of Britain really does not look all that different from the politics of Pakistan. In making this courageous statement one is, of course, not referring to the politics of Pakistan as it manifests itself today with the denial of a nomination ticket, meaning almost certain disillusionment with the party and all that it is supposed to stand for. Elections see Pakistani politics at their worst – indeed, elections bring out the worst in the politics of any country and to that extent the comparison is perhaps slightly unfair because Pakistan is having an election at the moment and the UK is not. But one very common feature noticeable is that in both countries, and perhaps many others as well – the United States certainly not excluded – the party and its interests trump those of the nation entirely and completely. In fact, there is no competition.

All this is coming to the fore with sharp focus in Britain with the Parliament going through a series of votes that will determine the process of wrenching Britain out of the European Union and then what sort of relationship this country is going to have with the European Union. In this matter, the House of Lords and the House of Commons seem to be at loggerheads with members of the upper House being in the fortunate position of not having to depend on popular votes for their existence. Thus, the Upper House recommended a series of measures to ensure a ‘soft’ Brexit, meaning largely that the UK continues to stay in the customs union and single market with the European Union. But before all that comes to the fore, there is the important issue of deciding just how the entire Brexit process will be conducted by the House of Commons. And it is here that British democracy has shown itself at its worst. For the government has tried every trick in the book to ensure that Parliament, whose sovereignty was one of the foremost rallying calls for the supporters of Brexit, should have as little a say in the Brexit process as possible. The reason is that the Conservatives do not enjoy an overall majority in Commons and with some 18 Conservative MPs not going with the bulk of the party in being seemingly desirous of a hard Brexit, i.e., a complete cessation of ties with the European Union, if the Europeans try and be uppity about it. The fact that such a ‘hard’ Brexit would be disastrous for the economy and thus, for the country, seems to mean little to those who support this mad idea. The majority of the Tory party seems to want it, they fear that if they do not get it, the ultra right wing UK Independence Party would again raise its head and large numbers of Tory MPs would defect to it. So the party has to be kept together in order to stay in government and that gets precedence over everything else.

A few days ago, the leader of the Tory rebels, the former Attorney General Dominic Grieves, tabled an amendment which, if accepted, would mean that the House of Commons would get the final say on Brexit. It said that in case the deal made by the government with the European Union is a poor one or there is no deal at all (a very real possibility) then the government should be bound by whatever course of action the House of Commons decides upon. One would have thought that that would have been standard democratic procedure anywhere in the world and particularly so in the country that gave birth to the idea of a representative parliamentary democracy, but one would have been quite wrong. The government did not like it one bit. The Tories were against it tooth and nail, but with some 18 people from their own party threatening to vote for the amendment, there were great fears in government ranks that the amendment may be carried which carried with it the potential of the fall of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government. We were all glued to our TV sets awaiting the outcome of this crucial debate when news emerged that Mr Grieve, the rebel’s leader, had attended a meeting with Mrs May wherein he had received certain ‘assurances’ that the main features of his proposed amendments would be included and that he had declared himself satisfied with the government’s word and that therefore he would vote with the government. However, when the amended bill came forth, it was found to have not the sort of assurances that Mr Grieve understood he had been given and there was much sound and fury over it, with the words ‘double cross’ being bandied about with gay abandon. The bill went to the Lords and again came back to the Commons and this time Mr Grieve and his rebels proclaimed that they were set to have what they wanted – along pretty much with the rest of Parliament except the ten members of Northern Ireland’s DUP party whose support the Tories have bought. Newspaper headlines awaited the momentous vote with much hyped excitement and expectation but they need not have bothered. For the second time in a week, Mr Grieve met Mrs May and was once again satisfied with the assurances given to him and so what was once being seen as a mighty battle frizzled out yet again into a first round knockout. We have since had protagonists of both sides come out and claim victory and a bewildered public left to believe what it may.

There is more of this sort of thick gooey fudge to come in the days which will be shovelled down the mouths of the British public in buckets. The Labour Party, hamstrung by Mr Corbyn’s own outdated views of the European Union, seems equally powerless to stop the Tories from getting their way as the country slides down the slope leading to a cliff edge exit from the EU, with no one knowing what will be the shape of things to come. Perhaps the only way by which Britain may be awakened from its current state of dalliance in wonderland is by the EU rejecting all its proposals and shaking the country up from its opium induced slumber. At the moment the chances of that seem a bit remote with seemingly half the arable land in the country being devoted to the cultivation of opium! •