Mr Pooter had it right:
‘In spite of my instructions, that blanc-mange was brought up again for supper. To make matters worse, there had been an attempt to disguise it, by placing it in a glass dish with jam round it. Carrie asked Lupin if he would have some, and he replied: “No second-hand goods for me, thank you.” I told Carrie, when we were alone, if that blanc-mange were placed on the table again I should walk out of the house.’
Mrs May first served up her draft Withdrawal Agreement on 5 December, but took it away on the 10th before Parliament could pass judgment. It reappeared on 9 January, already stale, and the House overwhelmingly rejected it on the 15th by 432 votes to 202.
She tried it on again on March 12, in a different dish (‘a number of legal changes’) and with jam (‘three new documents – two issued jointly with the EU and a unilateral declaration from the UK not objected to by the EU’), so Speaker Bercow risked it. No go: sent back with revulsion on the 15th (391:242).
The offensive dessert was to be offered yet again this week, but Bercow stood firm: unlike port, not everything is better crusted.
So Cook threw a tantrum – them upstairs is so unreasonable! – and went to her agency to ask for time to complete her menu; they have told the House that it cannot have the main meal unless it eats the pudding first.
Cook and her agency have forgotten who pays their wages. Cook may soon give, or have, her notice.
It is not for the EU to tell the House how to conduct its business. On Monday, the Speaker ruled that for the last four centuries it has been a principle that motions cannot be presented again in the same Parliamentary session without substantial change.
How is Mrs May to offer anything different?
M Barnier has mulishly kicked back at the idea of allowing any alterations to the Withdrawal Agreement. That is rather interesting, as the wording of Article 50 (2) of the Lisbon Treaty seems to imply that the initiative lies with him: ‘. . . the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State’. If anyone has failed, it is M Barnier as chief negotiator on behalf of the EU.
Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the Speaker made a second ruling on Monday as the House assailed him with attempts to find loopholes:
Alex Burghart (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con)
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Does the House have the authority to suspend the Standing Orders that prevent motions from being brought back to the House in the same form?
The Clerk of the House has confirmed my own understanding, which is that the House is the custodian of its own Standing Orders. The Standing Orders are a matter for the House, and they can be changed. That has happened before, and it could conceivably happen again. So the answer to the central inquiry is yes.
If Burghart pursues that approach, then in future the Executive will be further empowered to ‘bully’ (Angela Eagle’s word) the Opposition even more. Day after day, the Government will be able to force rotten fare on the unwilling.
One week to go.