MUCH indignant huffing and puffing earlier this week from Sarah Wollaston, the ‘Liberal’ ‘Democrat’ (well, this week, anyway – she does change parties so often) MP for Totnes, at PM Boris Johnson’s pulling out of yesterday’s scheduled meeting with the House of Commons Liaison Committee, comprising the chairs of the principal select committees.
Appalling that the PM is refusing to answer detailed questions from select committee chairs on behalf of the public, cancelling again at very short notice rather than face scrutiny pic.twitter.com/3y9XjAzhjG
— Sarah Wollaston MP (@sarahwollaston) October 23, 2019
Wollaston’s response unwittingly highlighted the questions hanging over the democratic legitimacy of this Rotten Parliament, which has long exceeded either its usefulness or its ability to represent the electorate. She is the perfect vehicle to illustrate these questions.
Always more of a false-flag, closet Lib-Dem inside the ‘Conservative’ Party than a true conservative, she nevertheless became its candidate for the Totnes constituency via an Open Primary which the Tories managed to botch spectacularly, firstly by not sufficiently checking the politics of the applicants, and secondly by allowing anyone to vote in it regardless of their political affiliation.
She initially declared for Leave in the run-up to the 2016 EU Referendum, only to defect noisily to Remain in mid-campaign in what many suspected was a put-up job aimed at discrediting the Leave campaign. More recently, she opposed a second referendum before U-turning and demanding one. In the last eight months, she has changed parties in Parliament twice, first defecting from the Tories to the ill-fated and serially multi-titled The Independent Group and subsequently to the LibDems.
Yet despite having twice in effect repudiated the manifesto which she endorsed and was content to stand on to get elected in 2017, she resolutely refuses to resign and trigger a by-election to give the voters of Totnes the opportunity to decide if they still want to be represented by her in the House of Commons. And she has the gall to criticise the PM for an unwillingness to ‘face scrutiny’. The hypocrisy is off the scale.
Wollaston epitomises a Parliament that is treating the electorate, and even democracy itself, with contempt. As Prime Minister, Boris Johnson was entirely justified in reciprocating in kind.
But it shouldn’t stop there. Including the 21 Tory Continuity-Remainer rebels who have either resigned the Conservative Whip or quite reasonably had it withdrawn from them, there are approximately 50 MPs who have defected from the parties under whose banner they were elected in 2017.
Like Wollaston, not one of them has had the integrity or courage to return to their constituents and seek a fresh mandate for their changed affiliation, or in most cases for their 180-degree swivel from the platform on which they sought and gained office.
It is time to start treating them with equal contempt. Not only the PM but all ministers should refuse to appear before the Commons Liaison Committee while Wollaston remains its chair. They should refuse to appear before any select committee chaired by one of those 50-odd MPs, and refuse to answer any question asked by any one of them at any select committee hearing.
This should be carried through to the House of Commons itself. Following the example which should immediately be set by Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions, ministers should refuse to answer any question, even about their own departments, coming from one of those 50-odd MPs. Their lack of democratic legitimacy, absent because of their refusal to obtain a fresh mandate from their constituents, should be cited as the reason, every single time.
This rolling disapproval should manifest itself in one other significant way, too. The PM and all ministers (with other MPs whose democratic legitimacy, regardless of their party, is not in question encouraged to join in as well) should with immediate effect refuse to refer to any of those 50-odd MPs by the title ‘Honourable Member’.
They are in no way ‘honourable’, and to continue referring to them as such compounds the contempt with which they are treating their own electorates. Would a newly-elected Speaker really want to start his or her period of office by standing up for them?
This abject, quisling, Vichy Parliament refuses to approve a Brexit Deal but also refuses to approve No-Deal. It claims to be acting on behalf of the electorate but refuses to hold an election. And then there’s this:
To recap: the House of Commons demanded a meaningful vote — then made it meaningless. It demanded an extension to prevent no deal — then used it to prevent a deal. Finally it handed the decision on when we leave the EU to 27 other countries.
— Matt Ridley (@mattwridley) October 23, 2019
It is treating both the electorate, and even democracy itself, with utter contempt. High time it received the same treatment.