With Theresa May finally prepared to subject her Brexit deal to a Commons vote - which is expected to come on Tuesday - the media is going into Maximum Crisis Build-Up mode. So BBC Politics Live will have extra early evening editions, and no doubt news bulletins will be even more extended that usual. Our free and fearless press is not immune to this arms race, and so the Murdoch Sunday Times has gone totally OTT this morning.
“‘A very British coup’ …Revealed: Commons plot to seize control from May” howls the headline, telling readers of a coup that isn’t going to happen. The dubiously reasoned supporting article has come from Tim Shipman, and from the off it is clear that Shippers has been shipping an exclusively serious amount of bull.
“Theresa May has been warned that her Government ‘will lose its ability to govern’ after Downing Street uncovered a bombshell plot by senior MPs to seize control of Brexit negotiations and sideline the Prime Minister” he tells, somehow missing that Ms May’s Government hasn’t been able to govern for some time now. Thus the problem.
But do go on. “A cross-party group of senior backbenchers - including former Tory ministers - plan what one senior figure [note that we aren’t told if this is even an MP] branded a ‘very British coup’ if May loses the crunch vote on her Brexit deal on Tuesday … At least two groups of rebel MPs are plotting to change Commons rules so motions proposed by backbenchers take precedence over Government business, upending the centuries-old relationship between executive and legislature”.
And which beleaguered Prime Minister briefed Shippers on this one, then? But there is more. “Downing Street believes that would enable MPs to suspend Article 50, putting Brexit on hold, and could even lead to the referendum result being overturned - a move that would plunge the country into a constitutional crisis”. Yeah, right.
Two things here. One, there would have to be a majority of MPs willing to back any overturning of the referendum result (one can almost imagine the Goon Show’s Eccles saying “Ooh … I never thought of that”). And two, given the referendum was advisory, there is bugger all chance of such a move triggering a constitutional crisis.
That is why Shippers is shipping bull on an industrial scale with this one, complete with talk of Chief Whip Julian Smith overhearing a conspirator in the MPs’ cloakroom, and legal advice using cod phrases like “clear and present danger”. The more mundane fact of the matter is that Theresa May leads a minority Government where the splits are beginning to open up, and a party in danger of breaking apart under the strain.
Worse, the constant attempts to paint Commons Speaker John Bercow as some kind of challenger to the Prime Minister’s authority is the same tedious right-wing press drivel that was wheeled out last week, backed by the same tedious right-wing part of the Pundit Establishment. Even some Tories are already calling out the apparent briefing.
But good to see the Murdoch press once again not interfering in this country’s politics, honestly. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.
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