In the late 1940s and early 50s the cinemas put on "Saturday Morning Pictures" for we kids. There were highly comical "shorts" by Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello et al, various other bits and pieces, and always a serial, usually a Cowboy. This invariably had a weekly "cliff hanger" ending, though usually, rather than falling off a cliff, it was the heroine or similar tied to a railway line as an express, belching smoke and steam, rapidly approached. This was to ensure that we turned up, complete with our threpences (three old pence) the following week.
It is hugely embarrassing to find our British government behaving in the same childish was: an RAF plane on standby to fly Mrs May to Strasbourg yesterday, last minute "concessions" wrung from the EU, Mrs May presents her "triumph" to the public at 11h20 last night, just in time to swing the "meaningful vote" today.
We shall soon find out if "disaster" is averted: if the heroine is saved.
The plan, we are told, is that MPs will vote on the modified deal today.
If they vote it down they will vote tomorrow on whether or not to rule out a "no-deal" exit.
Then on Thursday they will vote on whether or not to ask for an extension to Article 50 .
Dull as all that sounds, the next thee days are the most crucial in Britain's post war political history. It is appalling that the issue, in one of the most experienced and sophisticated democracies the world has yet known, is as fictional and farcical as kids' cinema.
MPs should bear in mind when voting:
- the 2016 Referendum was called, not in the interests of the nation (until UKIP stirred up the mud, membership of the EU was about 16th on the list of voters' concerns) but to preserve the unity of the Tory party and defend it from seepage of support to UKIP;
- the referendum was ill-constructed, without any of the normal safeguards that even a music society or golf club would have in a move to change its constitution. All parties, MPs and peers are complicit in this, including the Liberal Democrats. What on earth do we pay all those posh lawyers £300 a day to attend the House of Lords if they let such a sloppy piece of legislation pass through?
- the referendum campaign was fuelled by lies, false promises, scorn for the facts, a biassed and largely foreign-owned press, marred by illegalities and even possibly subjected to foreign influence;
- the result was a narrow majority (52% to 48%) of those who voted in favour of Leave. Before he'd realised they had won, even Leave's leader said that if the result were so narrow, then there should be a re-run, and it has to be remembered that over a quarter of those entitled to vote didn't, and those on whom the result would have the greatest impact (16 and 17 year-olds, and EU citizens of other countries living in the UK) weren't allowed to vote;
- that vote is now nearly three years old. It never was "the will of the people" - :just a bit more than a third of us. Current polling suggests that, with the entry of most of those 16 and 17 year-olds who overwhelmingly favour Remain onto the register, the deaths of many of the mainly older Leave supporters, and in response to the facts which have emerged which show the damage Brexit will do, public opinion has changed;.
- Consequently, respecting the 2016 result as an "instruction" from the British people is not a valid stance: indeed, with the interests of the nation as a whole at heart, it would be irresponsible to implement it. In short: "When you're in a hole, stop digging."
If that provokes the Brexiteers to stir up a bit of "yellow vest" agitation on the streets, we'll get over it . (It will be nothing compared to the Miners' Strike)*. And if some MPs lose their seats for doing their best for their constituents, that's a small price to pay for the future respect and prosperity of the nation they are sworn to serve.
Failing that, MPs should vote to put whatever deal they come up with to the people, this time with proper safeguards.
* As depicted by local boy David Peace's "GB84", which , late in the day perhaps, I just happen to be reading.