THE remarkable feature of the current Parliament is how the length of its most recent session was so long. No one seems to have missed the absence of a State Opening, despite its usually being an annual event. This absence was probably because Mrs May’s government would lose the vote on the Queen’s Speech, either by the refusal of the DUP to include it in their confidence and supply agreement, or the defection of numerous Conservative MPs. Thus there were not one but two types of can being kicked down the road by the Right Honourable Member whose constituency contains arguably Britain’s most pathetic motorway.
There was a tradition many years back of naming Parliaments. In the 1600s, we had the Long, the Short, the Rump, and the Barebones Parliaments. So here is a Naming of Parliaments, with my suggested epithets for them. Please disagree in the comments.
44th 1966 Devaluation: The 1967 devaluation of the pound, coupled with Harold Wilson’s ‘pound in your pocket’ televised speech, was when the shine went off his 1966 poll victory, when Wilson had substantially increased his majority from 1964. Things did not get better as state intervention in the economy and union militancy replaced the so-called post-war consensus with strife. Wilson thought Labour’s polling had recovered by 1970 and called a snap election. He was wrong.
45th 1970 Power Cut: Heath’s policy of confrontation with restless unions failed spectacularly, culminating in a three-day week and power cuts caused by a global energy crisis and miners’ strikes. He went to the country, asking ‘Who governs Britain?’ He was told it was not him.
46th February 1974 Surrender: The power in the land was not the government, which we could vote in or out, but the unions, with which we could do neither. So Wilson, and later Callaghan, gave in to their demands to avoid further nation-stopping strikes.
47th October 1974 Sick Man: The UK was the ‘Sick Man of Europe’. Inflation and strikes abounded and the government ran out of cash, having to beg for more from the IMF and surrendering its domestic economic policy to that international organisation. And Glam Rock.
48th 1979 Reform: It’s tempting to call this the Thatcher Parliament, but her dominance stretched beyond one Parliament and well after she left office. What she did was reform the British economy, moving it away from a corporatist statist straitjacket to taking government and socialism out of wealth-creation and leaving it to the private sector and market forces. Hurrah!
49th 1983 Confrontation: Nothing diverted the Thatcher government from its purpose, be it militant miners and printers or the USSR. They were all seen off by the Iron Lady. The landslide victory and multiple defeats of the unions meant reform was not just for a single Parliament.
50th 1987 Consolidation: With the unions at bay, Reagan in the White House and Gorbachev in the Kremlin, capitalism was winning all over the world, especially in the UK.
51st 1992 Sleaze: Here is where it all went wrong, but not horribly so. Britain’s ejection from the ERM destroyed the Conservatives’ reputation for economic competence, especially as membership had ushered in a recession. Ironically the economy settled down thereafter, perhaps fuelled by the peace dividend following the end of the Cold War. However, the media felt cheated by John Major’s surprise defeat of Neil Kinnock and they focused on the misconduct of some bad apple Conservative MPs, further damaging the party’s reputation.
52nd 1997 Blair: He dominated this Parliament, thanks to a landslide majority, but he did not use it to dismantle the Thatcher reforms. Rather, New Labour made social and cultural changes, not the least replacing quangocrats with people seen as more ‘politically reliable’, something that persists to this day as conservatives have been edged out of public life and public bodies across the country. Blair’s domination was a front for the ongoing struggle for dominance with Gordon Brown, which might have been more important to both of them than running the country competently.
53rd 2001 Iraq: 9/11 and Iraq dominated this Parliament as the public and politicians were hesitant about taking on Islamist mass-murderers and a genocidal fascist Arab dictator. You’d think the Left would be on board. They weren’t. They hated the USA even more.
54th 2005 Brown: Gordon Brown was the polar opposite of a risk-taker, and he made sure there were no risks whatsoever in succeeding Tony Blair as Prime Minister. He used backroom politics to achieve this with confrontations and strategic resignations to undermine Labour’s most successful politician. Governing the country seemed to take a back seat. Blair stepped down barely two months before a run on a bank left Brown to clear up a growing mess for which Brown himself was largely responsible. The Parliament itself was tainted with an expenses scandal resulting in the first resignation of a sitting Speaker for over 300 years.
55th 2010 Coalition: Arguably the best government we have had so far this century. Remarkable because it was composed of two parties normally at each other’s throats. Rivalries were flung aside in the national interest during a global financial crisis. It worked very well indeed, and not enough credit for this has been given to its participants.
56th 2015 Referendum: Despite Cameron’s surprise victory, he was out of office a little more than a year later, and this one issue dominated the remainder of the Parliament.
57th 2017 Clueless: They had one job. One. Job. Just one. Instead these jokers decided to employ every trick, plot, plan, artifice, scheme, method, conspiracy, collusion, collaboration, and betrayal to ignore or dilute the expressed wish of a majority of the British electorate in a referendum. MPs have divided the country and caused lasting harm to public debate and political processes, the full impact of which we have still fully to understand. By their actions, they have moved this country closer to becoming a republic than at any time since Cromwell. It is almost as if this absolute shower had a look at the 54th Parliament and decided to see if they could further damage the low public reputation of politicians. Congratulations, they succeeded big time, and we are all the worse off for it. Calling them Clueless is actually a compliment.