As the Tories become increasingly desperate to cling onto power, we have seen them bend the rules, break protocol and allow individuals to single-handedly change Government policy, while avoiding parliamentary scrutiny at all costs.
Make no mistake, the fear driving this behaviour is the fear of a General Election. Not only that, but the fear of what a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Government could do to the hostile environment and austerity agenda that the Tories have worked so hard to establish since 2010.
This has led to the Tory Chief Whip Julian Smith showing a blatant disregard for parliamentary protocol, blatantly disenfranchising Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson, who is on maternity leave. In any other place of work, we would not expect to be forced in while on sick or maternity leave and Parliament should be no different. Not only has Jo Swinson been disenfranchised after Smith ordered Tory MPs to break long-standing pairing arrangements, but the recent refusal of the Whip’s Office to “nod through” sick MPs forced Labour MP Naz Shah to go through the lobby in a wheelchair with a sick bucket on her lap.
Adding to this dishonourable behaviour is the fact that Julian Smith, who instructed Tory Party Chairman Brandon Lewis to break the pair during two crucial Brexit votes, has refused to come to Parliament to explain to himself to his colleagues. There is as much anger on the Conservative benches over this as there is on the opposition benches, as Government can only function with necessary understandings, such as the ones that Julian Smith and Brandon Lewis disregarded.
However, it is absolutely unprecedented that this attitude is not exclusive to the Whip’s Office, but runs to the very heart of Government. This week the Government has allowed Sajid Javid to throw away Britain’s long-standing opposition to the death penalty. By announcing that Britain will not interfere if the British Islamic State fighters captured in Syria receive the death penalty when tried in the United States, the Home Secretary has disregarded British values in favour of a cheap, populist whim.
Principles aside, Javid’s side-step of Parliament over this decision is typical of the Tory’s behaviour since May lost her majority last year. It boils down to the fact that they cannot command a majority in the House of Commons over, even slightly, contentious issues. The reasonable response to this would be to approach MPs, listen to their suggested amendments and reach a compromise. Instead, the Government is acting in a quasi-presidential executive manner, where it sets the agenda without consulting the people who are there to represent the views of their own constituents.
With repeated warnings from the Deputy Speaker ignored yesterday, the Government has pushed through several pieces of legislation on the final day of sitting. To avoid parliamentary scrutiny and extensive amendments, the Government has chosen to force through the sale of two RAF bases, including the base that currently hosts Britain’s famous Red Arrows. While probably the least repugnant of methods the Tories have been using to bypass Parliament, it is nevertheless not how any Government should behave in a true parliamentary democracy and it brings shame to this country’s reputation as one of the world’s best democratic institutions.
The fact is that, after several high-profile resignations, the Prime Minister is far too weak to sack the same people that are undermining her Government’s honour and are wiping the floor with her personal respectability. While not only making a mockery of Parliamentary sovereignty, which the Tory Party claims Brexit will reestablish, they are greatly undermining the trust put in them by the British public, knowing they will pay the price at the ballot box should they call an election.
Following DUP MP, Ian Paisley’s suspension from Parliament, the Government will be one very crucial vote down after the summer recess and Labour and the Liberal Democrats smell blood. If the Opposition parties agree to suspend pairing, the Tories will truly struggle to pass legislation later this year. Theresa May’s Party is split over Brexit and Tory Remain backbenchers have lost all faith in the value of their leader’s word. If it comes to a vote of no confidence in this Government, the Prime Minister’s inability to sack the most dishonourable members of her Cabinet means she will be the maker of her own downfall.