When I worked in Papua New Guinea I discovered that meetings went on and on and on - and then on some more. Speakers 11, 12 and 13 had to have their say, even if speakers four, five and six had already said it. My "European"(?) attitude of,"we've already said that, so let's move on," cut no ice.
I realised eventually that, in a country which within living memory had had no or few national forces of law and order, making sure that everyone had had their say was an essential element in getting local decisions accepted in a (usually) peaceable manner.
It is in this spirit that we must view today's debates and "indicative votes" in Parliament. Just a pity that they're taking place in the week we were meant to leave, rather than a couple of years ago.
It is a commonplace that MPs know perfectly well what they are against but cannot come to any collective agreement on what they are for. I expect his to be confirmed when the results of the votes are announced tonight.
However, if the debating has cleared the air and demonstrated what has been plainly obvious to most of us for months if not years - that there is no deal, be it Norway + or Canada-style or EEC 2.0 or whatever, that is anywhere near as good as the deal we currently have by continuing as members of the EU, the day will have been useful.
Then one hopes that the Commons will move on to the crunch on Monday, when I hope the options will be either:
- revoke Article 50, or
- accept Mrs May's deal with the proviso that it be put to a Referendum against the alternative of Remaining.
I'm quite sure that some MPs feel quite genuinely that not to observe the referendum result would be some form of betrayal. After all, the then prime minister, David Cameron, although he had no right to do so (no parliament can bind a future parliament) had said that the result would be observed: "No ifs, no buts."
However, one suspects that a very large number of MPs are looking to the interests of their party (as Mrs May and Mr Corbyn are clearly doing), their possibilities of advancement, or their constituency majorities, rather than the ethics of the situation and the good of the nation
I'm sorry to go on and on about this, but if the pro-Brexiteers persist in distorting the narrow majority achieved in the 2016 referendum as a clarion call that must be obeyed, then it behoves those of us who believe that the true national interest is to remain in the EU to point out the more realistic analysis:
- the leave vote is not "the will of the people," but just over a third of us, with slightly less over a third of us wanting to remain, and over a quarter of us not voting:
- the referendum was flawed in construction and the campaign distorted by lies, illegalities and false promises:
- with many younger voters now on the register and a few older ones "on another shore and in a greater light" the majority opinion of the electorate has almost certainly changed: