As if to underscore the ineptitude of today’s crop of what Robin Day memorably, and rightly, called “here today and gone tomorrow politicians”, we now have another example of our Government, and our almost democratically elected Prime Minister, being caught out trying to act without first securing the approval of Parliament. The potential consequences could derail much of the Tories’ upcoming legislative programme.
Someone knows what they're doing ...
After managing to lose her huge poll lead and squander her Parliamentary majority in an ill-judged snap General Election this year, Theresa May turned to the DUP to help prop up her administration. As a result, she was forced to bung the Northern Irish party around £1 billion. But she should have sought Parliamentary approval. We now know this because campaigner Gina Miller has once again staged a dramatic intervention.
As the Guardian has reported, “Parliament will need to approve the release of £1bn in funding for Northern Ireland promised to the Democratic Unionist party by Theresa May to secure its support after the general election, the government has conceded”. What?
“The Treasury solicitor, who heads the Government Legal Department, said it ‘will have appropriate parliamentary authorisation’, adding: ‘No timetable has been set for the making of such payments’ … Jonathan Jones said the government intends to use ‘long-established procedures, under which central government requests the grant of money by the House of Commons’ in order to pay out the funds it promised the DUP in the controversial agreement in June”. The DUP haven’t been paid off yet? Oh dear!
... but, worryingly, someone else doesn't
Ms Miller “said May should have made clear from the outset that a vote in parliament would be necessary … ‘It beggars belief that, neither at the time the government sealed its dubious deal with the DUP in exchange for their votes in the Commons, nor at any point since, has the government made it clear that the £1bn of taxpayers’ money for Northern Ireland could only be handed over following parliamentary approval’”.
To use a football analogy, this is the point at which your own supporters realise you’re not up to the job and start chanting “You don’t know what you’re doing”.
Theresa May and her cabinet thought they could trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without Parliamentary approval. Now we know they thought they could bung the DUP a billion notes in similar fashion. This combination of bravado and ineptitude is not an ideal base for negotiating an exit from the EU and getting it through Parliament.
The Tories are already under fire - including from their own side - for trying to make their Brexit bill into a power grab. Anyone who may have been undecided can now see that waving that bill through would not be a good idea, when those benefiting from the new powers it confers have such trouble distinguishing arse from elbow.
Gina Miller has once again done this country a Sterling service. It’s only a pity that our elected representatives need someone else to tell them how it all works.