It’s perhaps fitting that a significant number of those who are hysterically screaming about a fascist coup having taken place in the UK, can’t even spell the word. Within hours of the announcement that the Queen had agreed to Boris Johnson’s request to prorogue parliament, not only was #StopTheCoup trending on Twitter but so, too, were #StopTheCoop and #StopTheCoupe.
In the three years since the vote for Brexit, that small but loud band of agitators determined to stop Brexit at any cost, has progressed from mild hysteria to outright derangement, rewriting history and mangling the English language in the process. When words like “Nazi” and “Fascist” no longer hold any particular meaning beyond “person to whose views I simply don’t wish to listen”, is it any wonder that the word “coup” is now being used not to describe the violent overthrow of a government, but rather government itself using every measure within its power to try to progress the main item on its agenda? And if you’re going to redefine the meaning of a word to be precisely the opposite of what it used to mean, you’re certainly not going to worry about how you’re spelling it, are you? When feelings trump reason, and outrage is the default setting, it really doesn’t matter if you talk about a coop, a coupe or a coup – the words themselves are beside the point; all that needs to be noted is that this coup – or coop, or coupe – is A VERY BAD THING and that the people behind it are NAZIS and FASCISTS and, above all, TORY SCUM!
I would suggest that those who know neither the meaning nor the proper spelling of the word “coup” should go back to school, but that’s exactly where many of them already appear to be believe they are. Where else but the school playground, would one encounter the type of logic of John Major, arguing that prorogation of Parliament is a constitutional outrage, while conveniently ignoring the fact that he, himself, used exactly the same tactic when he was Prime Minister, in order to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny of a report into the ‘cash for questions’ scandal? Or John Bercow complaining that the Prime Minister is playing fast-and-loose with the Constitutional rulebook, while expecting people not to remember that it was only a few months ago that he unilaterally changed the Parliamentary rules to allow a vote on a cross-party amendment to further weaken Theresa May’s chances of getting her Withdrawal Agreement passed. This is a “one rule for me and a different rule for others” mentality that should have no place in adult politics, yet has sadly become all too prevalent in recent years.
The real constitutional outrage, about which there is a surprising lack of discussion, is the fact that Parliament currently contains over 30 MPs who no longer even pretend to represent the parties and the manifestos on which they were elected. Spare me the melodrama about how Boris Johnson’s purge of 21 Tory ‘rebel’ MPs from the party, represents a shift to the hard right – on the contrary, it shows a Prime Minister who is willing to hold his party’s MPs accountable to the manifesto on which they stood and were elected in the 2017 general election. Any Conservative MP who is openly campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU, or who is actively trying to prevent our departure as those MPs are, should have been kicked out of the party months ago – and not only kicked out of the party, but forced to fight a by-election. When the majority of voters in a constituency have voted for a Conservative candidate, and now find themselves represented by someone whose views most closely align with the Lib Dems, it is only fair that they should be given a chance to decide whether they truly wish to be represented by the individual in question, or whether they would prefer to be represented by a new Conservative candidate. And of course the same goes for those Labour candidates who have defected from the party since being elected, but still continue to sit in Parliament as either Independent or Lib Dem MPs.
And let’s not have any further obfuscation about how those 21 MPs were not really trying to stop Brexit, but were simply trying to prevent us leaving without a deal. There is no option to leave with a deal – there never was, and MPs and commentators alike are well aware of this fact. Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is not a deal – it is an agreement to continue our EU membership in all but name, while giving up our voting rights, and continuing to rely on the EU’s good-faith efforts to actually negotiate a long-term free trade deal – a deal they will have absolutely no motivation to negotiate as long as we remain bound by their rules. Signing the Withdrawal Agreement – with or without the backstop – effectively amounts to the “Remain and Renegotiate” option that many on the Remain side argued for during the referendum campaign.
When the Leave campaigners promised that negotiating a free trade deal with the EU would be the easiest negotiation ever, the point they failed to drive home was that the negotiation can only start once we’ve actually left. The EU made that clear from the moment we triggered article 50 – they will not discuss any future relationship until we’ve agreed the terms of our departure. So, as painful as it sounds, if we are ever actually to properly leave the EU, there will have to be a period during which we do not have a free trade deal with the EU.
The line trotted out by many Remain-supporting MPs, that “of course we have to respect the referendum result but we also have to ensure we leave with a deal” is a straightforward act of misdirection, to try to convince the public that there is any type of Brexit to be had that actually involves retaining most of the benefits of EU membership while not actually being a member. Oh, the irony, that the same lies that the Leave campaign is accused of using to convince people to vote Leave, are now being used to try to convince Leave voters that Parliament actually respects their vote. So deep is the disdain that most MPs feel for ordinary voters, that they actually now expect voters to be convinced by the same lies that they’ve spent the past three years scorning them for believing.
If we are not to have a general election in the next few months, then at the very least, surely, we should expect a by-election to be fought by every one of the MPs who has either defected or been kicked out of the parties on whose manifestos they were elected? The vote to leave was all about taking back control – but it’s become increasingly clear over the past three years that we will never be able to take back control from Brussels until we take back control of our own Parliament, and remind our MPs that they serve at the pleasure of those who elect them.
These are not principled politicians putting country before party – they are self-important, selfish careerists putting their own interests and beliefs above both party and country. And if they truly were conviction politicians, they would have the courage of those convictions and allow their constituents a vote on whether or not they still wish to be represented by them, now that they have so publicly renounced the positions on which they were elected. But we all know they won’t.