Today's debate and vote in the Commons on the imposition of the Three Tier grades of lockdown for the country until the five day Christmas break illustrates the emptiness of our political system.
The debate and vote is taking place only because dissatisfied MPs have become resentful of the Downing Street clique's governing by fiat and feel, quite rightly, that Parliament should have a say.
Labour at the moment is promising to abstain on the vote because, although they are vaguely in favour of the lockdown, they feel that the government is giving insufficient financial compensation for the businesses forced to close or having their functions severely limited by the more stringent limits in Tiers 2 and 3.
The government is cementing its "catch up" reputation by trying to buy off its rebels, as usual at the the last minute, by offering increases in compensation. Whilst these are welcome they are unlikely to mollify the Tory rebels, whose primary reason for opposing the measures appears to be their libertarian belief that the government is exceeding the limits of its right to interfere with individual behaviour.
With respect to Labour's abstention, No 10 has issued this feeble bleat:
“Keir Starmer is playing politics in the middle of a global pandemic instead of working with the government to find a way through this difficult time for the British people. We will continue to engage, listen and work with MPs who have concerns.”
The truth is that the government has only itself to blame for Labour's operation of the political system as it stands. Sir Keir Starmer has offered time and again to work with the government in some sort of co-operative committee, as he has explained at Question Time. His offers have been ignored or rejected. Instead again and again Mr Johnson concludes his Question Time session like a spoilt child with a petulant grumble that "he" (that is Starmer) should be supporting him rather than criticising.
These remind us of a similar pleas from president Trump for suburban housewives to "love me."
However, we are where we are and I believe the priority of all the parties should be to act and vote in such away that as many of us as possible survive not just to this Christmas but to next year's and many more after that.
To that end the entire political establishment should vote for the measures, inadequate as they are.
An abstention or vote against provides an excuse for the less responsible in society (and the Tory libertarians) to ignore the restrictions on the grounds that "My party didn't vote for them so why should I observe them?"
Hence the title of this post. It is our adversarial political system which has prevented a co-operative approach to dealing with the most dangerous situation we have faced since the Second World War.
All-party co-operation could have generated the trust that is so essential in dealing with a situation requiring so much self-restraint. It is now too late for that, so the parties should unite to support the second best option.